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|The Mysterious Affair at Styles||Agatha Christie|
IV. Poirot Investigates
|Page 1 of 13||
The house which the Belgians occupied in the village was quite close to the park gates. One could save time by taking a narrow path through the long grass, which cut off the detours of the winding drive. So I, accordingly, went that way. I had nearly reached the lodge, when my attention was arrested by the running figure of a man approaching me. It was Mr. Inglethorp. Where had he been? How did he intend to explain his absence?
He accosted me eagerly.
"My God! This is terrible! My poor wife! I have only just heard."
"Where have you been?" I asked.
"Denby kept me late last night. It was one o'clock before we'd finished. Then I found that I'd forgotten the latch-key after all. I didn't want to arouse the household, so Denby gave me a bed."
"How did you hear the news?" I asked.
"Wilkins knocked Denby up to tell him. My poor Emily! She was so self-sacrificing--such a noble character. She over-taxed her strength."
A wave of revulsion swept over me. What a consummate hypocrite the man was!
"I must hurry on," I said, thankful that he did not ask me whither I was bound.
In a few minutes I was knocking at the door of Leastways Cottage.
Getting no answer, I repeated my summons impatiently. A window above me was cautiously opened, and Poirot himself looked out.
He gave an exclamation of surprise at seeing me. In a few brief words, I explained the tragedy that had occurred, and that I wanted his help.
"Wait, my friend, I will let you in, and you shall recount to me the affair whilst I dress."
In a few moments he had unbarred the door, and I followed him up to his room. There he installed me in a chair, and I related the whole story, keeping back nothing, and omitting no circumstance, however insignificant, whilst he himself made a careful and deliberate toilet.
I told him of my awakening, of Mrs. Inglethorp's dying words, of her husband's absence, of the quarrel the day before, of the scrap of conversation between Mary and her mother-in-law that I had overheard, of the former quarrel between Mrs. Inglethorp and Evelyn Howard, and of the latter's innuendoes.
I was hardly as clear as I could wish. I repeated myself several times, and occasionally had to go back to some detail that I had forgotten. Poirot smiled kindly on me.
"The mind is confused? Is it not so? Take time, mon ami. You are agitated; you are excited--it is but natural. Presently, when we are calmer, we will arrange the facts, neatly, each in his proper place. We will examine--and reject. Those of importance we will put on one side; those of no importance, pouf!"--he screwed up his cherub-like face, and puffed comically enough--"blow them away!"
"That's all very well," I objected, "but how are you going to decide what is important, and what isn't? That always seems the difficulty to me."
Poirot shook his head energetically. He was now arranging his moustache with exquisite care.
"Not so. Voyons! One fact leads to another--so we continue. Does the next fit in with that? A merveille! Good! We can proceed. This next little fact--no! Ah, that is curious! There is something missing--a link in the chain that is not there. We examine. We search. And that little curious fact, that possibly paltry little detail that will not tally, we put it here!" He made an extravagant gesture with his hand. "It is significant! It is tremendous!"
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