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|The Mysterious Affair at Styles||Agatha Christie|
IV. Poirot Investigates
|Page 2 of 13||
"Ah!" Poirot shook his forefinger so fiercely at me that I quailed before it. "Beware! Peril to the detective who says: 'It is so small--it does not matter. It will not agree. I will forget it.' That way lies confusion! Everything matters."
"I know. You always told me that. That's why I have gone into all the details of this thing whether they seemed to me relevant or not."
"And I am pleased with you. You have a good memory, and you have given me the facts faithfully. Of the order in which you present them, I say nothing--truly, it is deplorable! But I make allowances--you are upset. To that I attribute the circumstance that you have omitted one fact of paramount importance."
"What is that?" I asked.
"You have not told me if Mrs. Inglethorp ate well last night."
I stared at him. Surely the war had affected the little man's brain. He was carefully engaged in brushing his coat before putting it on, and seemed wholly engrossed in the task.
"I don't remember," I said. "And, anyway, I don't see----"
"You do not see? But it is of the first importance."
"I can't see why," I said, rather nettled. "As far as I can remember, she didn't eat much. She was obviously upset, and it had taken her appetite away. That was only natural."
"Yes," said Poirot thoughtfully, "it was only natural."
He opened a drawer, and took out a small despatch-case, then turned to me.
"Now I am ready. We will proceed to the chateau, and study matters on the spot. Excuse me, mon ami, you dressed in haste, and your tie is on one side. Permit me." With a deft gesture, he rearranged it.
"Ca y est! Now, shall we start?"
We hurried up the village, and turned in at the lodge gates. Poirot stopped for a moment, and gazed sorrowfully over the beautiful expanse of park, still glittering with morning dew.
"So beautiful, so beautiful, and yet, the poor family, plunged in sorrow, prostrated with grief."
He looked at me keenly as he spoke, and I was aware that I reddened under his prolonged gaze.
Was the family prostrated by grief? Was the sorrow at Mrs. Inglethorp's death so great? I realized that there was an emotional lack in the atmosphere. The dead woman had not the gift of commanding love. Her death was a shock and a distress, but she would not be passionately regretted.
Poirot seemed to follow my thoughts. He nodded his head gravely.
"No, you are right," he said, "it is not as though there was a blood tie. She has been kind and generous to these Cavendishes, but she was not their own mother. Blood tells--always remember that--blood tells."
"Poirot," I said, "I wish you would tell me why you wanted to know if Mrs. Inglethorp ate well last night? I have been turning it over in my mind, but I can't see how it has anything to do with the matter?"
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