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|The Mysterious Affair at Styles||Agatha Christie|
VII. Poirot Pays His Debts
|Page 6 of 7||
"Oh, come now, Poirot! I won't cite Lawrence, or Mrs. Cavendish. But there's John--and Miss Howard, surely they were speaking the truth?"
"Both of them, my friend? One, I grant you, but both----!"
His words gave me an unpleasant shock. Miss Howard's evidence, unimportant as it was, had been given in such a downright straightforward manner that it had never occurred to me to doubt her sincerity. Still, I had a great respect for Poirot's sagacity--except on the occasions when he was what I described to myself as "foolishly pig-headed."
"Do you really think so?" I asked. "Miss Howard had always seemed to me so essentially honest--almost uncomfortably so."
Poirot gave me a curious look, which I could not quite fathom. He seemed to speak, and then checked himself.
"Miss Murdoch too," I continued, "there's nothing untruthful about *HER."
"No. But it was strange that she never heard a sound, sleeping next door; whereas Mrs. Cavendish, in the other wing of the building, distinctly heard the table fall."
"Well, she's young. And she sleeps soundly."
"Ah, yes, indeed! She must be a famous sleeper, that one!"
I did not quite like the tone of his voice, but at that moment a smart knock reached our ears, and looking out of the window we perceived the two detectives waiting for us below.
Poirot seized his hat, gave a ferocious twist to his moustache, and, carefully brushing an imaginary speck of dust from his sleeve, motioned me to precede him down the stairs; there we joined the detectives and set out for Styles.
I think the appearance of the two Scotland Yard men was rather a shock--especially to John, though of course after the verdict, he had realized that it was only a matter of time. Still, the presence of the detectives brought the truth home to him more than anything else could have done.
Poirot had conferred with Japp in a low tone on the way up, and it was the latter functionary who requested that the household, with the exception of the servants, should be assembled together in the drawing-room. I realized the significance of this. It was up to Poirot to make his boast good.
Personally, I was not sanguine. Poirot might have excellent reasons for his belief in Inglethorp's innocence, but a man of the type of Summerhaye would require tangible proofs, and these I doubted if Poirot could supply.
Before very long we had all trooped into the drawing-room, the door of which Japp closed. Poirot politely set chairs for every one. The Scotland Yard men were the cynosure of all eyes. I think that for the first time we realized that the thing was not a bad dream, but a tangible reality. We had read of such things--now we ourselves were actors in the drama. To-morrow the daily papers, all over England, would blazon out the news in staring headlines:
"MYSTERIOUS TRAGEDY IN ESSEX"
There would be pictures of Styles, snap-shots of "The family leaving the Inquest"--the village photographer had not been idle! All the things that one had read a hundred times--things that happen to other people, not to oneself. And now, in this house, a murder had been committed. In front of us were "the detectives in charge of the case." The well-known glib phraseology passed rapidly through my mind in the interval before Poirot opened the proceedings.
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