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|The Mysterious Affair at Styles||Agatha Christie|
IV. Poirot Investigates
|Page 6 of 13||
"And the sixth point?" I asked. "I suppose it is the sample of coco."
"No," said Poirot thoughtfully. "I might have included that in the six, but I did not. No, the sixth point I will keep to myself for the present."
He looked quickly round the room. "There is nothing more to be done here, I think, unless"--he stared earnestly and long at the dead ashes in the grate. "The fire burns--and it destroys. But by chance--there might be--let us see!"
Deftly, on hands and knees, he began to sort the ashes from the grate into the fender, handling them with the greatest caution. Suddenly, he gave a faint exclamation.
"The forceps, Hastings!"
I quickly handed them to him, and with skill he extracted a small piece of half charred paper.
"There, mon ami!" he cried. "What do you think of that?"
I scrutinized the fragment. This is an exact reproduction of it:--
I was puzzled. It was unusually thick, quite unlike ordinary notepaper. Suddenly an idea struck me.
"Poirot!" I cried. "This is a fragment of a will!"
I looked up at him sharply.
"You are not surprised?"
"No," he said gravely, "I expected it."
I relinquished the piece of paper, and watched him put it away in his case, with the same methodical care that he bestowed on everything. My brain was in a whirl. What was this complication of a will? Who had destroyed it? The person who had left the candle grease on the floor? Obviously. But how had anyone gained admission? All the doors had been bolted on the inside.
"Now, my friend," said Poirot briskly, "we will go. I should like to ask a few questions of the parlourmaid--Dorcas, her name is, is it not?"
We passed through Alfred Inglethorp's room, and Poirot delayed long enough to make a brief but fairly comprehensive examination of it. We went out through that door, locking both it and that of Mrs. Inglethorp's room as before.
I took him down to the boudoir which he had expressed a wish to see, and went myself in search of Dorcas.
When I returned with her, however, the boudoir was empty.
"Poirot," I cried, "where are you?"
"I am here, my friend."
He had stepped outside the French window, and was standing, apparently lost in admiration, before the various shaped flower beds.
"Admirable!" he murmured. "Admirable! What symmetry! Observe that crescent; and those diamonds--their neatness rejoices the eye. The spacing of the plants, also, is perfect. It has been recently done; is it not so?"
"Yes, I believe they were at it yesterday afternoon. But come in--Dorcas is here."
"Eh bien, eh bien! Do not grudge me a moment's satisfaction of the eye."
"Yes, but this affair is more important."
"And how do you know that these fine begonias are not of equal importance?"
I shrugged my shoulders. There was really no arguing with him if he chose to take that line.
"You do not agree? But such things have been. Well, we will come in and interview the brave Dorcas."
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