Unformatted text preview: Mademoiselle, if
you really believe in his innocence, persuade him to come forward before it is too late.' Flora's face had
gone very white. 'Too late!' she repeated, very low.
Poirot leant forward, looking at her.
'See now, mademoiselle,' he said very gently, 'it is Papa Poirot who asks you this. The old Papa Poirot
who has much knowledge and much experience. I would not seek to entrap you, mademoiselle. Will you
not trust me - and tell me where Ralph Paton is hiding?' The girl rose and stood facing him.
'M. Poirot,' she said in a clear voice, 'I swear to you swear solemnly - that I have no idea where Ralph is,
and that I have neither seen him nor heard from him either on the day of- of the murder, or since.' She sat
down again. Poirot gazed at her in silence for a minute or two, then he brought his hand down on the
table with a sharp rap.
'Bien\ That is that,' he said. His face hardened. 'Now I appeal to these others who sit round this table,
Mrs Ackroyd, Major Blunt, Dr Sheppard, Mr Raymond. You are all friends and intimates of the missing
man. If you know where Ralph Paton is hiding, speak out.' There was a long silence. Poirot looked to
each in turn.
'I beg of you,' he said in a low voice, 'speak out.' But still there was silence, broken at last by Mrs
'I must say,' she observed in a plaintive voice, 'that & 121 Ralph's absence is most peculiar - most
peculiar indeed. Not to come forward at such a time. It looks, you know, as though there were
something behind it. I can't help thinking. Flora dear, that it was a very fortunate thing your engagement
was never formally announced.' 'Mother!' cried Flora angrily.
'Providence,' declared Mrs Ackroyd. 'I have a devout belief in Providence - a divinity that shapes our
ends, as Shakespeare's beautiful line runs.' 'Surely you don't make the Almighty directly responsible for
thick ankles, Mrs Ackroyd, do you?' asked Geoffrey Raymond, his irresponsible laugh ringing out.
His idea was, I think, to loosen the tension, but Mrs Ackroyd threw him a glance of reproach and took
out her handkerchief.
'Flora has been saved a terrible amount of notoriety and unpleasantness. Not for a moment that I think
dear Ralph had anything to do with poor Roger's death. I don't think so. But then I have a trusting heart I always have had, ever since a child. I am loath to believe the worst of anyone. But, of course, one must
remember that Ralph was in several air raids as a young boy. The results are apparent long after,
sometimes, they say. People are not responsible for their actions in the least.
They lose control, you know, without being able to help it.' 'Mother,' cried Flora, 'you don't think Ralph
did it?' 'Come, Mrs Ackroyd,' said Blunt.
'I don't know what to think,' said Mrs Ackroyd tearfully.
'It's all very upsetting. What would happen to the estate, I wonder, if Ralph were found guilty?' Raymond
pushed his chair away from the table violently.
Major Blunt remained very quiet, looking thoughtfully at her.
'Like shell-shock, you know,' said Mrs Ac...
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