Unformatted text preview: ing had been seen of him down here for nearly six months. They had been walking along, side by
side, their heads close together, and she had been talking very earnestly.
I think I can safely say that it was at this moment that a foreboding of the future first swept over me.
Nothing tangible as yet - but a vague premonition of the way things were setting. That earnest tete-a-tete
between Ralph Paton and Mrs Ferrars the day before struck me disagreeably.
I was still thinking of it when I came face to face with Roger Ackroyd.
'Sheppard!' he exclaimed. 'Just the man I wanted to get hold of. This is a terrible business.' ||^ 'You've
heard then?' He nodded. He had felt the blow keenly, I could see. His big red cheeks seemed to have
fallen in, and he looked a positive wreck of his usual jolly, healthy self.
'It's worse than you know,' he said quietly. 'Look here, Sheppard, I've got to talk to you. Can you come
back with me now?' 'Hardly. I've got three patients to see still, and I must be back by twelve to see my
surgery patients.' 'Then this afternoon - no, better still, dine tonight. At 7.30. Will that suit you?' 'Yes, I
can manage that all right. What's wrong? Is it Ralph?' I hardly knew why I said that - except, perhaps,
that it had so often been Ralph.
Ackroyd stared blankly at me as though he hardly understood.
I began to realize that there must be something very I'm sure Miss Russell knows far more about high
society than I do. I didn't attempt to argue with her.
'Just tell me this, doctor,' said Miss Russell. 'Suppose you are really a slave of the drug habit, is there any
cure?' One cannot answer a question like that off-hand. I gave her a short lecture on the subject, and she
listened with close attention. I still suspected her of seeking information about Mrs Ferrars. 'Now, veronal, for instance -' I proceeded.
But, strangely enough, she didn't seem interested in veronal. Instead she changed the subject, and asked
me if it was true that there were certain poisons so rare as to baffle detection.
'Ah!' I said. 'You've been reading detective stories.' She admitted that she had.
'The essence of a detective story,' I said, 'is to have a rare poison - if possible something from South
America, that nobody has ever heard of- something that one obscure tribe of savages use to poison their
arrows with. Death is instantaneous, and Western science is powerless to detect it.
Is that the kind of thing you mean?' 'Yes. Is there really such a thing?' I shook my head regretfully.
'I'm afraid there isn't. There's curare, of course.' I told her a good deal about curare, but she seemed to
have lost interest once more. She asked me if I had any in my poison cupboard, and when I replied in the
negative I fancy I fell in her estimation.
She said she must be getting back, and I saw her out at the surgery door just as the luncheon gong went.
I should never have suspected Miss Russell of a fondness for detective stories. It pleases me very much
to think of her stepping out of the housekeeper's room to rebuke a delinquent housemaid, and then
returning to a comfortable perusal of The Mystery of the Seventh Death, or something of the kind.
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