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|The Mysterious Affair at Styles||Agatha Christie|
V. "It Isn't Strychnine, Is It?"
|Page 6 of 17||
"Do you think Mrs. Inglethorp made a will leaving all her money to Miss Howard?" I asked in a low voice, with some curiosity.
"Then why did you ask?"
John Cavendish had turned to Poirot.
"Will you come with us, Monsieur Poirot? We are going through my mother's papers. Mr. Inglethorp is quite willing to leave it entirely to Mr. Wells and myself."
"Which simplifies matters very much," murmured the lawyer. "As technically, of course, he was entitled----" He did not finish the sentence.
"We will look through the desk in the boudoir first," explained John, "and go up to her bedroom afterwards. She kept her most important papers in a purple despatch-case, which we must look through carefully."
"Yes," said the lawyer, "it is quite possible that there may be a later will than the one in my possession."
"There *IS a later will." It was Poirot who spoke.
"What?" John and the lawyer looked at him startled.
"Or, rather," pursued my friend imperturbably, "there *WAS one."
"What do you mean--there was one? Where is it now?"
"Yes. See here." He took out the charred fragment we had found in the grate in Mrs. Inglethorp's room, and handed it to the lawyer with a brief explanation of when and where he had found it.
"But possibly this is an old will?"
"I do not think so. In fact I am almost certain that it was made no earlier than yesterday afternoon."
"What?" "Impossible!" broke simultaneously from both men.
Poirot turned to John.
"If you will allow me to send for your gardener, I will prove it to you."
"Oh, of course--but I don't see----"
Poirot raised his hand.
"Do as I ask you. Afterwards you shall question as much as you please."
"Very well." He rang the bell.
Dorcas answered it in due course.
"Dorcas, will you tell Manning to come round and speak to me here."
We waited in a tense silence. Poirot alone seemed perfectly at his ease, and dusted a forgotten corner of the bookcase.
The clumping of hobnailed boots on the gravel outside proclaimed the approach of Manning. John looked questioningly at Poirot. The latter nodded.
"Come inside, Manning," said John, "I want to speak to you."
Manning came slowly and hesitatingly through the French window, and stood as near it as he could. He held his cap in his hands, twisting it very carefully round and round. His back was much bent, though he was probably not as old as he looked, but his eyes were sharp and intelligent, and belied his slow and rather cautious speech.
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