Unformatted text preview: stion. Their reply is that Mr Ackroyd did purchase a dictaphone from their
representative. Why he concealed the matter from you, I do not know.' 'He must have meant to surprise
me with it,' murmured Raymond. 'He had quite a childish love of surprising people.
Meant to keep it up his sleeve for a day or so. Probably was playing with it like a new toy. Yes, it fits in.
You're quite right - no one would use quite those words in casual conversation.'
'It explains, too,' said Poirot, 'why Major Blunt thought it was you who were in the study. Such scraps as
came to him were fragments of dictation, and so his subconscious mind deduced that you were with him.
His conscious mind was occupied with something quite different - the white figure he had caught a
glimpse of. He fancied it was Miss Ackroyd. Really, of course, it was Ursula Bourne's white apron he saw as she was stealing down to the
summerhouse.' Raymond had recovered from his first surprise.
'All the same,' he remarked, 'this discovery of yours, brilliant though it is (I'm quite sure I should never
have thought of it), leaves the essential position unchanged. Mr Ackroyd was alive at nine-thirty, since he
was speaking into the dictaphone. It seems clear that the man Charles Kent was really off the premises
by then. As to Ralph Paton - ?' He hesitated, glancing at Ursula.
Her colour flared up, but she answered steadily enough.
'Ralph and I parted just before a quarter to ten. He never went near the house, I am sure of that. He had
no intention of doing so. The last thing on earth he wanted was to face his stepfather. He would have
funked it badly.' 'It isn't that I doubt your story for a moment,' explained Raymond. 'I've always been
quite sure Captain Paton was innocent. But one has to think of a court of law - and the questions that
would be asked. He is in a most unfortunate position, but if he were to come forward '
CHAPTER 24 Ralph Paton's Story
It was a very uncomfortable minute for me. I hardly took in what happened next, but there were
exclamations and cries of surprise! When I was sufficiently master of myself to be able to realize what
was going on, Ralph Paton was standing by his wife, her hand in his, and he was smiling across the room
Poirot, too, was smiling, and at the same time shaking an eloquent finger at me.
'Have I not told you at least thirty-six times that it is useless to conceal things from Hercule Poirot?' he
'That in such a case he finds out?' He turned to the others.
'One day, you remember, we held a little seance about a table - just the six of us. I accused the other five
persons present of concealing something from me. Four of them gave up their secret. Dr Sheppard did
not give up his. But all along I have had my suspicions. Dr Sheppard went to the Three Boars that night
hoping to find Ralph. He did not find him there; but supposing, I said to myself, that he met him in the
street on his way home? Dr Sheppard was a friend of Captain Paton's, and he had come straight f...
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