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|The Mysterious Affair at Styles||Agatha Christie|
VII. Poirot Pays His Debts
|Page 4 of 7||
"Mon ami, do you remember the two points I laid stress upon? Leave the first one for the moment, what was the second?"
"The important fact that Alfred Inglethorp wears peculiar clothes, has a black beard, and uses glasses," I quoted.
"Exactly. Now suppose anyone wished to pass himself off as John or Lawrence Cavendish. Would it be easy?"
"No," I said thoughtfully. "Of course an actor----"
But Poirot cut me short ruthlessly.
"And why would it not be easy? I will tell you, my friend: Because they are both clean-shaven men. To make up successfully as one of these two in broad daylight, it would need an actor of genius, and a certain initial facial resemblance. But in the case of Alfred Inglethorp, all that is changed. His clothes, his beard, the glasses which hide his eyes--those are the salient points about his personal appearance. Now, what is the first instinct of the criminal? To divert suspicion from himself, is it not so? And how can he best do that? By throwing it on some one else. In this instance, there was a man ready to his hand. Everybody was predisposed to believe in Mr. Inglethorp's guilt. It was a foregone conclusion that he would be suspected; but, to make it a sure thing there must be tangible proof--such as the actual buying of the poison, and that, with a man of the peculiar appearance of Mr. Inglethorp, was not difficult. Remember, this young Mace had never actually spoken to Mr. Inglethorp. How should he doubt that the man in his clothes, with his beard and his glasses, was not Alfred Inglethorp?"
"It may be so," I said, fascinated by Poirot's eloquence. "But, if that was the case, why does he not say where he was at six o'clock on Monday evening?"
"Ah, why indeed?" said Poirot, calming down. "If he were arrested, he probably would speak, but I do not want it to come to that. I must make him see the gravity of his position. There is, of course, something discreditable behind his silence. If he did not murder his wife, he is, nevertheless, a scoundrel, and has something of his own to conceal, quite apart from the murder."
"What can it be?" I mused, won over to Poirot's views for the moment, although still retaining a faint conviction that the obvious deduction was the correct one.
"Can you not guess?" asked Poirot, smiling.
"No, can you?"
"Oh, yes, I had a little idea sometime ago--and it has turned out to be correct."
"You never told me," I said reproachfully.
Poirot spread out his hands apologetically.
"Pardon me, mon ami, you were not precisely sympathique." He turned to me earnestly. "Tell me--you see now that he must not be arrested?"
"Perhaps," I said doubtfully, for I was really quite indifferent to the fate of Alfred Inglethorp, and thought that a good fright would do him no harm.
Poirot, who was watching me intently, gave a sigh.
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