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|The Mysterious Affair at Styles||Agatha Christie|
XIII. Poirot Explains
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"Poirot, you old villain," I said, "I've half a mind to strangle you! What do you mean by deceiving me as you have done?"
We were sitting in the library. Several hectic days lay behind us. In the room below, John and Mary were together once more, while Alfred Inglethorp and Miss Howard were in custody. Now at last, I had Poirot to myself, and could relieve my still burning curiosity.
Poirot did not answer me for a moment, but at last he said:
"I did not deceive you, mon ami. At most, I permitted you to deceive yourself."
"Yes, but why?"
"Well, it is difficult to explain. You see, my friend, you have a nature so honest, and a countenance so transparent, that--enfin, to conceal your feelings is impossible! If I had told you my ideas, the very first time you saw Mr. Alfred Inglethorp that astute gentleman would have--in your so expressive idiom--'smelt a rat'! And then, bon jour to our chances of catching him!"
"I think that I have more diplomacy than you give me credit for."
"My friend," besought Poirot, "I implore you, do not enrage yourself! Your help has been of the most invaluable. It is but the extremely beautiful nature that you have, which made me pause."
"Well," I grumbled, a little mollified. "I still think you might have given me a hint."
"But I did, my friend. Several hints. You would not take them. Think now, did I ever say to you that I believed John Cavendish guilty? Did I not, on the contrary, tell you that he would almost certainly be acquitted?"
"And did I not immediately afterwards speak of the difficulty of bringing the murderer to justice? Was it not plain to you that I was speaking of two entirely different persons?"
"No," I said, "it was not plain to me!"
"Then again," continued Poirot, "at the beginning, did I not repeat to you several times that I didn't want Mr. Inglethorp arrested *NOW? That should have conveyed something to you."
"Do you mean to say you suspected him as long ago as that?"
"Yes. To begin with, whoever else might benefit by Mrs. Inglethorp's death, her husband would benefit the most. There was no getting away from that. When I went up to Styles with you that first day, I had no idea as to how the crime had been committed, but from what I knew of Mr. Inglethorp I fancied that it would be very hard to find anything to connect him with it. When I arrived at the chateau, I realized at once that it was Mrs. Inglethorp who had burnt the will; and there, by the way, you cannot complain, my friend, for I tried my best to force on you the significance of that bedroom fire in midsummer."
"Yes, yes," I said impatiently. "Go on."
"Well, my friend, as I say, my views as to Mr. Inglethorp's guilt were very much shaken. There was, in fact, so much evidence against him that I was inclined to believe that he had not done it."
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