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|The Mysterious Affair at Styles||Agatha Christie|
VI. The Inquest
|Page 3 of 8||
"I should like to make a suggestion if I may?"
He glanced deprecatingly at the Coroner, who replied briskly:
"Certainly, Mr. Cavendish, we are here to arrive at the truth of this matter, and welcome anything that may lead to further elucidation."
"It is just an idea of mine," explained Lawrence. "Of course I may be quite wrong, but it still seems to me that my mother's death might be accounted for by natural means."
"How do you make that out, Mr. Cavendish?"
"My mother, at the time of her death, and for some time before it, was taking a tonic containing strychnine."
"Ah!" said the Coroner.
The jury looked up, interested.
"I believe," continued Lawrence, "that there have been cases where the cumulative effect of a drug, administered for some time, has ended by causing death. Also, is it not possible that she may have taken an overdose of her medicine by accident?"
"This is the first we have heard of the deceased taking strychnine at the time of her death. We are much obliged to you, Mr. Cavendish."
Dr. Wilkins was recalled and ridiculed the idea.
"What Mr. Cavendish suggests is quite impossible. Any doctor would tell you the same. Strychnine is, in a certain sense, a cumulative poison, but it would be quite impossible for it to result in sudden death in this way. There would have to be a long period of chronic symptoms which would at once have attracted my attention. The whole thing is absurd."
"And the second suggestion? That Mrs. Inglethorp may have inadvertently taken an overdose?"
"Three, or even four doses, would not have resulted in death. Mrs. Inglethorp always had an extra large amount of medicine made up at a time, as she dealt with Coot's, the Cash Chemists in Tadminster. She would have had to take very nearly the whole bottle to account for the amount of strychnine found at the post-mortem."
"Then you consider that we may dismiss the tonic as not being in any way instrumental in causing her death?"
"Certainly. The supposition is ridiculous."
The same juryman who had interrupted before here suggested that the chemist who made up the medicine might have committed an error.
"That, of course, is always possible," replied the doctor.
But Dorcas, who was the next witness called, dispelled even that possibility. The medicine had not been newly made up. On the contrary, Mrs. Inglethorp had taken the last dose on the day of her death.
So the question of the tonic was finally abandoned, and the Coroner proceeded with his task. Having elicited from Dorcas how she had been awakened by the violent ringing of her mistress's bell, and had subsequently roused the household, he passed to the subject of the quarrel on the preceding afternoon.
Dorcas's evidence on this point was substantially what Poirot and I had already heard, so I will not repeat it here.
The next witness was Mary Cavendish. She stood very upright, and spoke in a low, clear, and perfectly composed voice. In answer to the Coroner's question, she told how, her alarm clock having aroused her at 4.30 as usual, she was dressing, when she was startled by the sound of something heavy falling.
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