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Unformatted text preview: kroyd obstinately, 'and I dare say Roger kept him very short of money - with the best intentions, of course. I can see you are all against me, but I do think it is very
odd that Ralph has not come forward, and I must say I am thankful Flora's engagement was never
announced formally.' 'It will be tomorrow,' said Flora in a clear voice.
'Flora!' cried her mother, aghast.
Flora had turned to the secretary.
'Will y011 sen(^ ^ announcement to the Morning Post. And The Times, please, Mr Raymond.' 'If you
are sure that it is wise. Miss Ackroyd,' he replied gravely.
She turned impulsively to Blunt.
'You understand,' she said. 'What else can I do? As things are, I must stand by Ralph. Don't you see that
I must?' She looked very searchingly at him, and after a long pause he nodded abruptly.
Mrs Ackroyd burst out into shrill protests. Flora remained unmoved. Then Raymond spoke.
'I appreciate your motives. Miss Ackroyd. But don't you think you're being rather precipitate? Wait a
day or two.' 'Tomorrow,' said Flora in a clear voice. 'It's no good, Mother, going on like this. Whatever
else I am, I'm not disloyal to my friends.' 'M. Poirot,' Mrs Ackroyd appealed tearfully. 'Can't you say
anything at all?' 'Nothing to be said,' interpolated Blunt. 'She's doing the right thing. I'll stand by her
through thick and thin.' Flora held out her hand to him.
'Thank you. Major Blunt,' she said.
'Mademoiselle,' said Poirot, 'will you let an old man congratulate you on your courage and your loyalty?
And will you not misunderstand me if I ask you - ask you most solemnly - to postpone the announcement
you speak of for at least two days more?' Flora hesitated.
'I ask it in Ralph Paton's interests as much as in yours, mademoiselle. You frown. You do not see how
that can be.
But I assure you that it is so. Pas de blagues. You put the case into my hands - you must not hamper me
now.' Flora paused a few minutes before replying.
'I do not like it,' she said at last, 'but I will do what you say.' She sat down again at the table.
'And now, messieurs et mesdames,' said Poirot rapidly 'I will continue with what I was about to say.
Understand this I mean to arrive at the truth. The truth, however ugly in itself, is always curious and
beautiful to the seeker after it. I am much aged, my powers may not be what they were.' Here he clearly
expected a contradiction. 'In all probability this is the last case I shall ever investigate. But Hercule Poirot
does not end with a failure. Messieurs et mesdames, I tell you, I mean to know. And I shall know - in
spite of you all.' He brought out the last words provocatively, hurling them in our face as it were. I think
we all flinched back a little, excepting Geoffrey Raymond, who remained goodhumoured and
imperturbable as usual.
'How do you mean - in spite of us all?' he asked, with slightly raised eyebrows.
'But - just that, monsieur. Every one of you in this room is concealing something from me.' He raised his
hand as a faint murmur of protest arose. 'Yes, yes, I know what I am saying. It...
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