Unformatted text preview: st ask you one question, and you must answer it truthfully, for on it everything may
hang: What time was it when you parted from Captain Ralph Paton in the summer-house? Now, take a
little minute so that your answer may be very exact.' The girl gave a half laugh, bitter enough in all
'Do you think I haven't gone over that again and again in my own mind? It was just half-past nine when I
went out to meet him. Major Blunt was walking up and down the terrace, so I had to go round through
the bushes to avoid him. It must have been about twenty-seven minutes to ten when I reached the
summer-house. Ralph was waiting for me. I was with him ten minutes - not longer, for it was just a
quarter to ten when I got back to the house.' I saw now the insistence of her question the other day. If
only Ackroyd could have been proved to have been killed before a quarter to ten, and not after.
I saw the reflection of that thought in Poirot's next question.
'Who left the summer-house first?' 'I did.' 'Leaving Ralph Paton in the summerhouse?' 'Yes - but you
don't think ' 'Mademoiselle, it is of no importance what I think. What did you do when you got back to
the house?' 'I went up to my room.' 'And stayed there until when?' 'Until about ten o'clock.' 'Is there
anyone who can prove that?' 'Prove? That I was in my room, you mean? Oh! no. But surely - oh! I see, they might think - they might think ' I saw the dawning horror in her eyes.
Poirot finished the sentence for her.
'That it was you who entered by the window and stabbed Mr Ackroyd as he sat in his chair? Yes, they
might think just that.' 'Nobody but a fool would think any such thing,' said Caroline indignantly.
She patted Ursula on the shoulder.
The girl had her face hidden in her hands.
'Horrible,' she was murmuring. 'Horrible.' Caroline gave her a friendly shake.
'Don't worry, my dear,' she said. 'M. Poirot doesn't think that really. As for that husband of yours, I don't
think much of him, and I tell you so candidly. Running away and leaving you to face the music.' But
Ursula shook her head energetically.
'Oh, no,' she cried. 'It wasn't like that at all. Ralph would not run away on his own account. I see now. If
he heard of his stepfather's murder, he might think himself that I had done it.' 'He wouldn't think any such
thing,' said Caroline.
'I was so cruel to him that night - so hard and bitter. I wouldn't listen to what he was trying to say wouldn't believe that he really cared. I just stood there telling him what I thought of him, and saying the
coldest, cruellest things that came into my mind - trying my best to hurt him.' 'Do him no harm,' said
Caroline. 'Never worry about what you say to a man. They're so conceited that they never believe you
mean it if it's unflattering.' Ursual went on nervously twisting and untwisting her hands.
'When the murder was discovered and he didn't come forward, I was terribly upset. Just for a moment I
wondered - but then I knew he couldn't - he couldn't... But I wished he would come for...
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