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|The Mysterious Affair at Styles||Agatha Christie|
VI. The Inquest
|Page 7 of 8||
"Then what is your explanation of Mr. Mace's statement?"
Alfred Inglethorp replied imperturbably:
"Mr. Mace must have been mistaken."
The Coroner hesitated for a moment, and then said:
"Mr. Inglethorp, as a mere matter of form, would you mind telling us where you were on the evening of Monday, July 16th?"
"Really--I can't remember."
"That is absurd, Mr. Inglethorp," said the Coroner sharply. "Think again."
Inglethorp shook his head.
"I cannot tell you. I have an idea that I was out walking."
"In what direction?"
"I really can't remember."
The Coroner's face grew graver.
"Were you in company with anyone?"
"Did you meet anyone on your walk?"
"That is a pity," said the Coroner dryly. "I am to take it then that you decline to say where you were at the time that Mr. Mace positively recognized you as entering the shop to purchase strychnine?"
"If you like to take it that way, yes."
"Be careful, Mr. Inglethorp."
Poirot was fidgeting nervously.
"Sacre!" he murmured. "Does this imbecile of a man *WANT to be arrested?"
Inglethorp was indeed creating a bad impression. His futile denials would not have convinced a child. The Coroner, however, passed briskly to the next point, and Poirot drew a deep breath of relief.
"You had a discussion with your wife on Tuesday afternoon?"
"Pardon me," interrupted Alfred Inglethorp, "you have been misinformed. I had no quarrel with my dear wife. The whole story is absolutely untrue. I was absent from the house the entire afternoon."
"Have you anyone who can testify to that?"
"You have my word," said Inglethorp haughtily.
The Coroner did not trouble to reply.
"There are two witnesses who will swear to having heard your disagreement with Mrs. Inglethorp."
"Those witnesses were mistaken."
I was puzzled. The man spoke with such quiet assurance that I was staggered. I looked at Poirot. There was an expression of exultation on his face which I could not understand. Was he at last convinced of Alfred Inglethorp's guilt?
"Mr. Inglethorp," said the Coroner, "you have heard your wife's dying words repeated here. Can you explain them in any way?"
"Certainly I can."
"It seems to me very simple. The room was dimly lighted. Dr. Bauerstein is much of my height and build, and, like me, wears a beard. In the dim light, and suffering as she was, my poor wife mistook him for me."
"Ah!" murmured Poirot to himself. "But it is an idea, that!"
"You think it is true?" I whispered.
"I do not say that. But it is truly an ingenious supposition."
"You read my wife's last words as an accusation"--Inglethorp was continuing--"they were, on the contrary, an appeal to me."
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