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openly that he'd had nothing to do with it. I knew that he was fond of Dr Sheppard, and I fancied that
perhaps Dr Sheppard might know where he was hiding.' She turned to me.
'That's why I said what I did to you that day. I thought, if you knew where he was, you might pass on the
message to him.' 'I?' I exclaimed.
'Why should James know where he was?' demanded Caroline sharply.
'It was very unlikely, I know,' admitted Ursula, 'but Ralph had often spoken of Dr Sheppard, and I knew
that he would be likely to consider him as his best friend in King's Abbot.' 'My dear child,' I said, 'I have
not the least idea where Ralph Paton is at the present moment.' 'That is true enough,' said Poirot.
'But -' Ursula held out the newspaper cutting in a puzzled fashion.
'Ah! that,' said Poirot, slightly embarrassed; 'a bagatelle, mademoiselle. A rien du tout. Not for a moment
do I believe that Ralph Paton has been arrested.' 'But then -' began the girl slowly.
Poirot went on quickly: 'There is one thing I should like to know - did Captain Paton wear shoes or
boots that night?' Ursula shook her head.
'I can't remember.' 'A pity! But how should you? Now, madame,' he smiled at her, his head on one side,
his forefinger wagging eloquently, 'no questions. And do not torment yourself. Be of good courage, and place your faith in Hercule Poirot.'
CHAPTER 23 Poirot's Little Reunion
'And now,' said Caroline, rising, 'that child is coming upstairs to lie down. Don't you worry, my dear. M.
Poirot will do everything he can for you - be sure of that.' 'I ought to go back to Fernly,' said Ursula
But Caroline silenced her protests with a firm hand.
'Nonsense. You're in my hands for the time being. You'll stay here for the present, anyway - eh, M.
Poirot?' 'It will be the best plan,' agreed the little Belgian. 'This evening I shall want mademoiselle - I beg
her pardon, madame - to attend my little reunion. Nine o'clock at my house. It is most necessary that she
should be there.' Caroline nodded, and went with Ursula out of the room.
The door shut behind them. Poirot dropped down into a chair again.
'So far, so good,' he said. 'Things are straightening themselves out.' 'They're getting to look blacker and
blacker against Ralph Paton,' I observed gloomily.
'Yes, that is so. But it was to be expected, was it not?' I looked at him, slightly puzzled by the remark.
He was leaning back in the chair, his eyes half closed, the tips of his fingers just touching each other.
Suddenly he sighed and shook his head.
'What is it?' I asked.
'It is that there are moments when a great longing for my friend Hastings comes over me. That is the
friend of whom I spoke to you - the one who resides now in the Argentine.
Always, when I have had a big case, he has been by my side.
And he has helped me - yes, often he has helped me. For he had a knack, that one, of stumbling over the
truth unawares - without noticing it himself, bien entendu. At times, he has said something particularly
foolish, and behold tha...
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