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|The Mysterious Affair at Styles||Agatha Christie|
VI. The Inquest
|Page 1 of 8||
In the interval before the inquest, Poirot was unfailing in his activity. Twice he was closeted with Mr. Wells. He also took long walks into the country. I rather resented his not taking me into his confidence, the more so as I could not in the least guess what he was driving at.
It occurred to me that he might have been making inquiries at Raikes's farm; so, finding him out when I called at Leastways Cottage on Wednesday evening, I walked over there by the fields, hoping to meet him. But there was no sign of him, and I hesitated to go right up to the farm itself. As I walked away, I met an aged rustic, who leered at me cunningly.
"You'm from the Hall, bain't you?" he asked.
"Yes. I'm looking for a friend of mine whom I thought might have walked this way."
"A little chap? As waves his hands when he talks? One of them Belgies from the village?"
"Yes," I said eagerly. "He has been here, then?"
"Oh, ay, he's been here, right enough. More'n once too. Friend of yours, is he? Ah, you gentlemen from the Hall-- you'n a pretty lot!" And he leered more jocosely than ever.
"Why, do the gentlemen from the Hall come here often?" I asked, as carelessly as I could.
He winked at me knowingly.
"*ONE does, mister. Naming no names, mind. And a very liberal gentleman too! Oh, thank you, sir, I'm sure."
I walked on sharply. Evelyn Howard had been right then, and I experienced a sharp twinge of disgust, as I thought of Alfred Inglethorp's liberality with another woman's money. Had that piquant gipsy face been at the bottom of the crime, or was it the baser mainspring of money? Probably a judicious mixture of both.
On one point, Poirot seemed to have a curious obsession. He once or twice observed to me that he thought Dorcas must have made an error in fixing the time of the quarrel. He suggested to her repeatedly that it was 4.30, and not 4 o'clock when she had heard the voices.
But Dorcas was unshaken. Quite an hour, or even more, had elapsed between the time when she had heard the voices and 5 o'clock, when she had taken tea to her mistress.
The inquest was held on Friday at the Stylites Arms in the village. Poirot and I sat together, not being required to give evidence.
The preliminaries were gone through. The jury viewed the body, and John Cavendish gave evidence of identification.
Further questioned, he described his awakening in the early hours of the morning, and the circumstances of his mother's death.
The medical evidence was next taken. There was a breathless hush, and every eye was fixed on the famous London specialist, who was known to be one of the greatest authorities of the day on the subject of toxicology.
In a few brief words, he summed up the result of the post-mortem. Shorn of its medical phraseology and technicalities, it amounted to the fact that Mrs. Inglethorp had met her death as the result of strychnine poisoning. Judging from the quantity recovered, she must have taken not less than three-quarters of a grain of strychnine, but probably one grain or slightly over.
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