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|The Mysterious Affair at Styles||Agatha Christie|
IX. Dr. Bauerstein
|Page 4 of 9||
"But it isn't. I've had enough of the fellow hanging about. He's a Polish Jew, anyway."
"A tinge of Jewish blood is not a bad thing. It leavens the"--she looked at him--"stolid stupidity of the ordinary Englishman."
Fire in her eyes, ice in her voice. I did not wonder that the blood rose to John's face in a crimson tide.
"Well?" Her tone did not change.
The pleading died out of his voice.
"Am I to understand that you will continue to see Bauerstein against my express wishes?"
"If I choose."
"You defy me?"
"No, but I deny your right to criticize my actions. Have *YOU no friends of whom I should disapprove?"
John fell back a pace. The colour ebbed slowly from his face.
"What do you mean?" he said, in an unsteady voice.
"You see!" said Mary quietly. "You *DO see, don't you, that *YOU have no right to dictate to *ME as to the choice of my friends?"
John glanced at her pleadingly, a stricken look on his face.
"No right? Have I *NO right, Mary?" he said unsteadily. He stretched out his hands. "Mary----"
For a moment, I thought she wavered. A softer expression came over her face, then suddenly she turned almost fiercely away.
She was walking away when John sprang after her, and caught her by the arm.
"Mary"--his voice was very quiet now--"are you in love with this fellow Bauerstein?"
She hesitated, and suddenly there swept across her face a strange expression, old as the hills, yet with something eternally young about it. So might some Egyptian sphinx have smiled.
She freed herself quietly from his arm, and spoke over her shoulder.
"Perhaps," she said; and then swiftly passed out of the little glade, leaving John standing there as though he had been turned to stone.
Rather ostentatiously, I stepped forward, crackling some dead branches with my feet as I did so. John turned. Luckily, he took it for granted that I had only just come upon the scene.
"Hullo, Hastings. Have you seen the little fellow safely back to his cottage? Quaint little chap! Is he any good, though, really?"
"He was considered one of the finest detectives of his day."
"Oh, well, I suppose there must be something in it, then. What a rotten world it is, though!"
"You find it so?" I asked.
"Good Lord, yes! There's this terrible business to start with. Scotland Yard men in and out of the house like a jack-in-the-box! Never know where they won't turn up next. Screaming headlines in every paper in the country--damn all journalists, I say! Do you know there was a whole crowd staring in at the lodge gates this morning. Sort of Madame Tussaud's chamber of horrors business that can be seen for nothing. Pretty thick, isn't it?"
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