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|The Mysterious Affair at Styles||Agatha Christie|
IV. Poirot Investigates
|Page 3 of 13||
He was silent for a minute or two as we walked along, but finally he said:
"I do not mind telling you--though, as you know, it is not my habit to explain until the end is reached. The present contention is that Mrs. Inglethorp died of strychnine poisoning, presumably administered in her coffee."
"Well, what time was the coffee served?"
"About eight o'clock."
"Therefore she drank it between then and half-past eight-- certainly not much later. Well, strychnine is a fairly rapid poison. Its effects would be felt very soon, probably in about an hour. Yet, in Mrs. Inglethorp's case, the symptoms do not manifest themselves until five o'clock the next morning: nine hours! But a heavy meal, taken at about the same time as the poison, might retard its effects, though hardly to that extent. Still, it is a possibility to be taken into account. But, according to you, she ate very little for supper, and yet the symptoms do not develop until early the next morning! Now that is a curious circumstance, my friend. Something may arise at the autopsy to explain it. In the meantime, remember it."
As we neared the house, John came out and met us. His face looked weary and haggard.
"This is a very dreadful business, Monsieur Poirot," he said. "Hastings has explained to you that we are anxious for no publicity?"
"I comprehend perfectly."
"You see, it is only suspicion so far. We have nothing to go upon."
"Precisely. It is a matter of precaution only."
John turned to me, taking out his cigarette-case, and lighting a cigarette as he did so.
"You know that fellow Inglethorp is back?"
"Yes. I met him."
John flung the match into an adjacent flower bed, a proceeding which was too much for Poirot's feelings. He retrieved it, and buried it neatly.
"It's jolly difficult to know how to treat him."
"That difficulty will not exist long," pronounced Poirot quietly.
John looked puzzled, not quite understanding the portent of this cryptic saying. He handed the two keys which Dr. Bauerstein had given him to me.
"Show Monsieur Poirot everything he wants to see."
"The rooms are locked?" asked Poirot.
"Dr. Bauerstein considered it advisable."
Poirot nodded thoughtfully.
"Then he is very sure. Well, that simplifies matters for us."
We went up together to the room of the tragedy. For convenience I append a plan of the room and the principal articles of furniture in it.
Poirot locked the door on the inside, and proceeded to a minute inspection of the room. He darted from one object to the other with the agility of a grasshopper. I remained by the door, fearing to obliterate any clues. Poirot, however, did not seem grateful to me for my forbearance.
"What have you, my friend," he cried, "that you remain there like--how do you say it?--ah, yes, the stuck pig?"
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