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|The Mysterious Affair at Styles||Agatha Christie|
VII. Poirot Pays His Debts
|Page 5 of 7||
"Come, my friend," he said, changing the subject, "apart from Mr. Inglethorp, how did the evidence at the inquest strike you?"
"Oh, pretty much what I expected."
"Did nothing strike you as peculiar about it?"
My thoughts flew to Mary Cavendish, and I hedged:
"In what way?"
"Well, Mr. Lawrence Cavendish's evidence for instance?"
I was relieved.
"Oh, Lawrence! No, I don't think so. He's always a nervous chap."
"His suggestion that his mother might have been poisoned accidentally by means of the tonic she was taking, that did not strike you as strange--hein?"
"No, I can't say it did. The doctors ridiculed it of course. But it was quite a natural suggestion for a layman to make."
"But Monsieur Lawrence is not a layman. You told me yourself that he had started by studying medicine, and that he had taken his degree."
"Yes, that's true. I never thought of that." I was rather startled. "It *IS odd."
"From the first, his behaviour has been peculiar. Of all the household, he alone would be likely to recognize the symptoms of strychnine poisoning, and yet we find him the only member of the family to uphold strenuously the theory of death from natural causes. If it had been Monsieur John, I could have understood it. He has no technical knowledge, and is by nature unimaginative. But Monsieur Lawrence--no! And now, to-day, he puts forward a suggestion that he himself must have known was ridiculous. There is food for thought in this, mon ami!"
"It's very confusing," I agreed.
"Then there is Mrs. Cavendish," continued Poirot. "That's another who is not telling all she knows! What do you make of her attitude?"
"I don't know what to make of it. It seems inconceivable that she should be shielding Alfred Inglethorp. Yet that is what it looks like."
Poirot nodded reflectively.
"Yes, it is queer. One thing is certain, she overheard a good deal more of that 'private conversation' than she was willing to admit."
"And yet she is the last person one would accuse of stooping to eavesdrop!"
"Exactly. One thing her evidence *HAS shown me. I made a mistake. Dorcas was quite right. The quarrel did take place earlier in the afternoon, about four o'clock, as she said."
I looked at him curiously. I had never understood his insistence on that point.
"Yes, a good deal that was peculiar came out to-day," continued Poirot. "Dr. Bauerstein, now, what was *HE doing up and dressed at that hour in the morning? It is astonishing to me that no one commented on the fact."
"He has insomnia, I believe," I said doubtfully.
"Which is a very good, or a very bad explanation," remarked Poirot. "It covers everything, and explains nothing. I shall keep my eye on our clever Dr. Bauerstein."
"Any more faults to find with the evidence?" I inquired satirically.
"Mon ami," replied Poirot gravely, "when you find that people are not telling you the truth--look out! Now, unless I am much mistaken, at the inquest to-day only one--at most, two persons were speaking the truth without reservation or subterfuge."
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