Unformatted text preview: c.
'I wonder if Miss Russell has had her handkerchiefs starched!' I exclaimed on the spur of the moment.
Mrs Ackroyd's start recalled me to myself, and I rose.
'You think you can explain to M. Poirot?' she asked anxiously.
'Oh, certainly. Absolutely.' I got away at last, after being forced to listen to more justifications of her
The parlourmaid was in the hall, and it was she who helped me on with my overcoat. I observed her
more closely than I had done heretofore. It was clear that she had been crying.
'How is it,' I asked, 'that you told us that Mr Ackroyd sent for you on Friday to his study? I hear now
that it was you who asked to speak to him.' For a minute the girl's eyes dropped before mine.
Then she spoke.
'I meant to leave in any case,' she said uncertainly.
I said no more. She opened the front door for me. Just as I was passing out, she said suddenly in a low
voice: 'Excuse me, sir, is there any news of Captain Paton?' I shook my head, looking at her inquiringly.
'He ought to come back,' she said. 'Indeed - indeed he °ught to come back.' She was looking at me with
'Does no one know where he is?' she asked. 'Do you?' I said sharply.
She shook her head.
'No, indeed. I know nothing. But anyone who was a friend to him would tell him this: he ought to come
back.' I lingered, thinking that perhaps the girl would say more.
Her next question surprised me.
'When do they think the murder was done? Just before ten o'clock?' 'That is the idea,' I said. 'Between a
quarter to ten and the hour.' 'Not earlier? Not before a quarter to ten?' I looked at her attentively. She
was so clearly eager for a reply in the affirmative.
'That's out of the question,' I said. 'Miss Ackroyd saw her uncle alive at a quarter to ten.' She turned
away, and her whole figure seemed to droop.
'A handsome girl,' I said to myself as I drove off. 'An exceedingly handsome girl.' Caroline was at home.
She had had a visit from Poirot and was very pleased and important about it.
'I am helping him with the case,' she explained.
I felt rather uneasy. Caroline is bad enough as it is. What will she be like with her detective instincts
'Are you going round the neighbourhood looking for Ralph Paton's mysterious girl?' I inquired.
'I might do that on my own account,' said Caroline. 'No, this is a special thing M. Poirot wants me to find
out for him.' 'What is it?' I asked.
'He wants to know whether Ralph Paton's boots were black or brown,' said Caroline with tremendous
I stared at her. I see now that I was unbelievably stupid about these boots. I failed altogether to grasp the
'They were brown shoes,' I said. 'I saw them.' 'Not shoes, James, boots. M. Poirot wants to know
whether a pair of boots Ralph had with him at the hotel were brown or black. A lot hangs on it.' Call me
dense if you like. I didn't see.
'And how are you going to find out?' I asked.
Caroline said there would be no difficulty about that. Our Annie's dearest friend was Miss Gannett's
maid, Clara. And Clara was walking out with the Boots at the Three Boars.
The whole thing was si...
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