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|The Mysterious Affair at Styles||Agatha Christie|
V. "It Isn't Strychnine, Is It?"
|Page 5 of 17||
"She gave you no hint as to what that matter might be?"
"That is a pity," said John.
"A great pity," agreed Poirot gravely.
There was silence. Poirot remained lost in thought for a few minutes. Finally he turned to the lawyer again.
"Mr. Wells, there is one thing I should like to ask you--that is, if it is not against professional etiquette. In the event of Mrs. Inglethorp's death, who would inherit her money?"
The lawyer hesitated a moment, and then replied:
"The knowledge will be public property very soon, so if Mr. Cavendish does not object----"
"Not at all," interpolated John.
"I do not see any reason why I should not answer your question. By her last will, dated August of last year, after various unimportant legacies to servants, etc., she gave her entire fortune to her stepson, Mr. John Cavendish."
"Was not that--pardon the question, Mr. Cavendish--rather unfair to her other stepson, Mr. Lawrence Cavendish?"
"No, I do not think so. You see, under the terms of their father's will, while John inherited the property, Lawrence, at his stepmother's death, would come into a considerable sum of money. Mrs. Inglethorp left her money to her elder stepson, knowing that he would have to keep up Styles. It was, to my mind, a very fair and equitable distribution."
Poirot nodded thoughtfully.
"I see. But I am right in saying, am I not, that by your English law that will was automatically revoked when Mrs. Inglethorp remarried?"
Mr. Wells bowed his head.
"As I was about to proceed, Monsieur Poirot, that document is now null and void."
"Hein!" said Poirot. He reflected for a moment, and then asked: "Was Mrs. Inglethorp herself aware of that fact?"
"I do not know. She may have been."
"She was," said John unexpectedly. "We were discussing the matter of wills being revoked by marriage only yesterday."
"Ah! One more question, Mr. Wells. You say 'her last will.' Had Mrs. Inglethorp, then, made several former wills?"
"On an average, she made a new will at least once a year," said Mr. Wells imperturbably. "She was given to changing her mind as to her testamentary dispositions, now benefiting one, now another member of her family."
"Suppose," suggested Poirot, "that, unknown to you, she had made a new will in favour of some one who was not, in any sense of the word, a member of the family--we will say Miss Howard, for instance--would you be surprised?"
"Not in the least."
"Ah!" Poirot seemed to have exhausted his questions.
I drew close to him, while John and the lawyer were debating the question of going through Mrs. Inglethorp's papers.
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