en-de  The Mysterious Affair at Styles - Chapter III Easy
Die Nacht der Tragödie

Um diesen Teil meiner Geschichte verständlich zu machen, füge ich den folgenden Plan des ersten Stockes von Styles hinzu.

Die Räume der Bediensteten werden durch die Tür B erreicht.

Sie haben keine Verbindung zum rechten Flügel, wo die Räume der Inglethorps lagen.

Es schien mitten in der Nacht zu sein, als ich von Lawrence Cavendish geweckt wurde.

Er hatte eine Kerze in seiner Hand und die Aufregung in seinem Gesicht sagte mir sofort, dass etwas ernstlich nicht stimmte.

"Was ist los?", fragte ich, setzte mich im Bett auf und versuchte, meine zerstreuten Gedanken zu sammeln.

"Wir haben die Sorge, dass meine Mutter sehr krank ist. Sie scheint eine Art Anfall zu haben. Unglücklicherweise hat sie sich eingeschlossen."

"Ich komme sofort."

Ich sprang aus dem Bett, und folgte, während ich einen Morgenmantel überzog, Lawrence entlang des Durchgangs und der Galerie zum rechten Flügel des Hauses.

John Cavendish traf uns und ein oder zwei Diener standen in einem Zustand ehrfürchtiger Aufregung herum.

Lawrence drehte sich zu seinem Bruder um.

"Was, denkst du, was wir tun sollten?"

Ich dachte, niemals hatte sich sein zaudernder Charakter deutlicher gezeigt.

John rappelte heftig am Griff von Mrs. Inglethorps Tür, aber es war wirkungslos.

Sie war offensichtlich abgeschlossen oder von der Innenseite verriegelt.

Der ganze Haushalt war jetzt erwacht.

Höchst alarmierende Geräusche waren aus dem Inneren des Zimmers hörbar.

Offensichtlich musste etwas getan werden.

"Versuchen Sir durch Mr. Inglethorps Zimmer zu gehen, Sir", rief Dorcas. "Oh, die arme Herrin!"

Plötzlich bemerkte ich, dass Alfred Inglethorp nicht bei uns war -- dass allein er nicht erschienen war.

John öffnete die Tür seines Zimmers.

Es war stockfinster, aber Lawrence folgte mit der Kerze und in ihrem schwachen Licht sahen wir, dass das Bett unbenutzt war und dass es keine Anzeichen gab, dass das Zimmer bewohnt worden war.

Wir gingen direkt zur Durchgangstür.

Auch diese war von innen verschlossen oder verriegelt.

Was sollte man tun?

"Oh, mein Gott, Sir", rief Dorcas und rang die Hände, "was sollen wir nur tun?"

"Wir müssen versuchen, die Tür aufzubrechen, nehme ich an."

Es wird aber ein starkes Stück Arbeit sein. Lass jetzt eines der Mädchen nach unten gehen und Baily wecken und ihm sagen, dass er sofort Dr. Wilkins holen soll.

Nun also, versuchen wir es mal an der Tür. Einen Moment, aber, gibt es da nicht eine Tür in Miss Cynthias Zimmer?"

"Ja, Sir, aber die ist immer verriegelt.

Sie ist nie entriegelt worden."

"Nun, wir werden sehen."

Er rannte schnell den Korridor zu Cynthias Zimmer hinunter.

Mary Cavendish war dort und schüttelte das Mädchen - die einen ungewöhnlich festen Schlaf haben musste -- und versuchte sie zu wecken.

Nach kurzer Zeit kam er zurück.

"Nutzlos. Die ist auch verriegelt. Wir müssen die Tür aufbrechen.

Ich denke, diese ist etwas weniger stabil als die im Durchgang."

Wir zerrten und zogen gemeinsam.

Der Rahmen der Tür war stabil und widerstand lange unseren Bemühungen, aber schließlich spürten wir, wie sie unter unserm Gewicht nachgab und schließlich mit einem lauten Knall aufbrach.

Wir stolperten zusammen hinein, Lawrence hielt immer noch seine Kerze.

Mrs. Inglethorp lag auf dem Bett, ihre ganze Gestalt von heftigen Krämpfen geschüttelt, in einem davon musste sie den Tisch neben sich umgestürzt haben.

Als wir hereinkamen, entspannten sich ihre Glieder jedoch und sie fiel auf das Kissen zurück.

John schritt durch den Raum und zündete das Gas an.

Er drehte sich zu Anny, einem der Hausmädchen, und schickte es nach unten in das Esszimmer, um Brandy zu holen.

Dann ging er zu seiner Mutter hinüber, während ich die Tür entriegelte, die auf auf den Flur hinausführte.

Ich drehte mich zu Lawrence, um vorzuschlagen, dass ich sie besser nun verlassen sollte, da meine Unterstützung nicht weiter benötigt würde, aber die Worte blieben mir im Hals stecken.

Niemals habe ich auf dem Gesicht irgendeines Mannes so einen grausigen Ausdruck gesehen.

Er war kreidebleich, die Kerze, die er in seiner zitternden Hand hielt, tropfte auf den Teppich und seine Augen, vor Entsetzen oder irgendeiner ähnlichen Regung versteinert, starrten unverwandt über meinen Kopf auf einen Punkt der entfernteren Wand.

Es war, als ob er etwas gesehen hätte, das ihn in Stein verwandelt hätte.

Ich folgte unwillkürlich der Richtung seiner Augen, aber ich konnte nichts Ungewöhnliches sehen.

Die immer noch schwach flackernde Asche auf dem Rost und die Reihe steifer Ornamente auf dem Kaminsims waren wohl ziemlich harmlos.

Die Gewalt von Mrs. Inglethorps Anfall schien vorbei zu sein.

Sie war in der Lage, in kurzen Atemzügen zu sprechen.

"Jetzt besser -- so plötzlich -- dumm von mir -- mich einzuschließen."

Ein Schatten fiel auf das Bett und als ich hochschaute, sah ich Mary Cavendish neben der Tür stehen, ihren Arm um Cynthia gelegt.

Sie schien das Mädchen zu stützen, das völlig verstört und und nicht wie es selbst aussah.

Ihr Gesicht war stark errötet und sie gähnte immer wieder.

"Die arme Cynthia ist ziemlich verängstigt", sagte Mrs. Cavendish mit leiser, heller Stimme.

Sie selbst, bemerkte ich, war in ihren weißen Kittel gekleidet.

Dann musste es später sein, als ich dachte. Ich sah, dass sich ein blasser Streifen von Tageslicht durch die Vorhänge des Fensters zeigte und dass die Uhr auf dem Kaminsims auf kurz vor fünf wies.

Ein erstickter Schrei aus dem Bett alarmierte mich.

Eine neuer Schmerzanfall ergriff die unglückliche alte Dame.

Die Krämpfe waren von einer schrecklich anzusehenden Heftigkeit.

Alles war Durcheinander.

Wir drängten uns um sie, machtlos zu helfen oder zu lindern.

Ein letzter Krampf hob sie im Bett an, bis sie nur noch auf Kopf und Fersen gestützt zu sein schien, ihr Körper auf ungewöhnliche Weise gekrümmt.

Vergeblich versuchten Mary und John, mehr Brandy zu verabreichen.

Die Zeit verflog. Wieder krümmte sich der Körper auf diese befremdliche Art und Weise.

In dem Moment bahnte sich Dr. Bauerstein seinen Weg bestimmt in den Raum.

Für einen Moment blieb er auf der Stelle stehen und starrte auf die Gestalt auf dem Bett und im selben Moment rief Mrs. Inglethorp mit erstickter Stimme: "Alfred -- Alfred -- " aus, ihre Augen auf den Doktor fixiert. Dann fiel sie reglos auf die Kissen.

Mit einem Schritt erreichte der Doktor das Bett, und die Arme ergreifend bearbeitete er sie energisch und wandte das an, was ich als künstliche Beatmung kannte.

Er gab den Dienern ein paar kurze, genaue Anweisungen.

Eine gebieterische Handbewegung trieb uns alle zur Tür.

Wir beobachteten ihn fasziniert, obwohl ich denke, wir alle wussten in unseren Herzen, dass es zu spät war und dass jetzt nichts mehr getan werden konnte.

Ich konnte an dem Ausdruck in seinem Gesicht sehen, dass auch er wenig Hoffnung hatte.

Schließlich gab er seine Bemühungen auf und schüttelte ernst seinen Kopf.

In diesem Moment hörten wir außen Schritte, und Dr. Wilkins, Mrs. Inglethorps Leibarzt, ein korpulenter, penibler kleiner Mann, stürmte herein.

In wenigen Worten erklärte Dr. Bauerstein, wie er zufällig an den Toren der Pförtnerlodge vorbeiging, als ein Auto herauskam, und er war so schnell er konnte zum Haus gerannt, während der Wagen wegfuhr, um Dr. Wilkins zu holen.

Mit einer vagen Handbewegung deutete er auf die Gestalt auf dem Bett.

"Seeehr traurig. Seeehr traurig", murmelte Dr. Wilkins.

"Arme, liebe Dame. Tat immer zu viel zu viel - viel zu viel - gegen meinen Rat.

Ich habe sie gewarnt. Ihr Herz war alles andere als stark.

"Machen Sie langsam", sagte ich ihr, "Machen Sie langsam".

Aber nein -- ihr Eifer für gute Werke war zu groß.

Die Natur hat sich dagegen gewehrt. Die Na--tur--hat sich dagegen ge--wehrt."

Ich bemerkte, dass Dr. Bauerstein den örtlichen Doktor eingehend musterte.

Er behielt die Augen starr auf ihn gerichtet, als er sprach.

"Die Krämpfe hatten eine spezielle Heftigkeit, Dr. Wilkins.

Es tut mir leid, dass Sie nicht früh genug hier waren, um sie zu erleben. Sie hatten einen ziemlich -- tetanischen Charakter."

"Ah!" sagte Dr. Wilkens weise.

"Ich würde gerne unter vier Augen mit Ihnen sprechen", sagte Dr. Bauerstein. Er wandte sich an John.
"Sie haben nichts dagegen?"

"Gewiss nicht."

Wir versammelten uns alle draußen im Korridor und ließen die beiden Ärzte in Ruhe, und ich hörte, wie der Schlüssel hinter uns im Schloss gedreht wurde.

Wir gingen langsam die Treppe hinunter.

Ich war schrecklich aufgeregt.

Ich habe ein gewisses Talent für Schlußfolgerungen, und Dr. Bauersteins Verhalten hatte zu einer ganzen Reihe von Vermutungen in meinem Kopf geführt. Mary Cavendish legte ihre Hand auf meinen Arm.

"Was ist? Warum schien Dr. Bauerstein so - eigenartig?"

Ich schaute zu ihr hin.

"Weißt du, was ich denke?"

"Was?"

"Hör zu!" Ich schaute mich um, die anderen waren außer Hörweite.

Ich senkte meine Stimme zu einem Wispern. "Ich glaube, sie ist vergiftet worden! Ich bin mir sicher, dass Dr. Bauerstein es vermutet."

"Was?" Sie wich zurück gegen die Wand, die Pupillen ihrer Augen wild geweitet.

Dann, mit einem plötzlichen Aufschrei, der mich bestürzte, schrie sie heraus: "Nein, nein-- nur nicht das!"
Und sie löste sich von mir und floh die Treppe hinauf.

Ich folgte ihr, besorgt darüber, dass sie in Ohnmacht fiele.

Ich fand sie gegen das Treppengeländer gelehnt, totenbleich.

Sie winkte mich ungeduldig weg.

"Nein, nein-- geh weg. Ich möchte lieber allein sein. Lass mich nur für ein oder zwei Minuten ruhig sein.

Geh hinunter zu den anderen."

Ich gehorchte ihr widerwillig.

John und Lawrence waren im Esszimmer. Ich schloss mich ihnen an.

Wir waren alle still, aber ich nehme an, ich brachte die Gedanken von uns zum Ausdruck, als ich die Stille endlich brach, indem ich sagte: "Wo ist Mr. Inglethorp?"

John schüttelte seinen Kopf.

" Er ist nicht im Haus."

Unsere Augen trafen sich.

Wo war Alfred Inglethorp?

Seine Abwesenheit war seltsam und unerklärlich.

Ich erinnerte mich an Mrs. Inglethorps sterbende Worte.

Was steckte dahinter?

Was hätte sie uns mehr erzählen können, wenn sie Zeit gehabt hätte?

Schließlich hörten wir die Ärzte die Treppe hinuntergehen.

Dr. Wilkens sah wichtig und aufgeregt aus und versuchte, einen inneren Jubel unter einer Art anständiger Ruhe zu verbergen.

Dr. Bauerstein blieb im Hintergrund, sein ernstes, bärtiges Gesicht unverändert.

Dr. Wilkens war für die Beiden der Sprecher.

Er wandte sich an John: " Mr. Cavendish, ich hätte gerne Ihre Zustimmung zu einer Obduktion."

"Ist das notwendig?" fragte John ernst.

Ein Schmerzkrampf überzog sein Gesicht.

"Absolut", sagte Dr. Bauerstein.

"Sie meinen damit---?"

"Das weder Dr. Wilkens noch ich unter diesen Umständen einen Totenschein ausstellen können."

John senkte seinen Kopf.

"In diesem Fall habe ich keine Alternative als zuzustimmen."

"Danke", sagte Dr. Wilkens lebhaft.

" Wir schlagen vor, dass es morgen Abend-- oder eher heute Abend stattfinden sollte."

Und er blickte ins Tageslicht. "Ich fürchte, unter den Umständen kann ein Verhör schwerlich vermieden werden - - diese Formalitäten sind notwendig, aber ich bitte, dass Sie sich nicht beunruhigen."

Es gab eine Pause und dann zog Dr. Bauerstein zwei Schlüssel aus seiner Tasche und reichte sie John.

" Das sind die Schlüssel der zwei Räume.

Ich habe sie verschlossen und, meiner Meinung nach, sie würden besser vorläufig geschlossen bleiben."

Dann gingen die Ärzte.

Ich hatte eine Idee in meinem Kopf gewälzt und ich spürte, dass nun der Moment gekommen war, sie anzusprechen.

Trotzdem war ich ein bisschen schüchtern, dies zu tun.

John, wusste ich, hatte eine Abscheu gegen jede Art von Öffentlichkeit und war ein unbekümmerter Optimist, der es vorzog, niemals auf halbem Weg Problemen zu begegnen.

Es konnte schwierig sein, ihn von der Stichhaltigkeit meines Planes zu überzeugen.

Lawrence hingegen war weniger konventionell und hatte mehr Fantasie; ich glaubte, ich könnte auf ihn als einen Verbündeten zählen.

Es bestand kein Zweifel daran, dass der Moment für mich gekommen war, die Führung zu übernehmen.

"John", sagte ich, "ich möchte Sie etwas fragen."

"Ja?"

"Sie erinnern sich, dass ich von meinem Freund Poirot gesprochen habe? Der Belgier, der hier ist? Er ist ein berühmter Detektiv gewesen."

"Ja."

"Ich möchte gerne, dass Sie mir erlauben, ihn einzuschalten, um diesen Fall zu untersuchen."

"Was, jetzt? Vor der Obduktion?"

"Ja, Zeit ist ein großer Vorteil, wenn -- wenn -- es ein unehrliches Spiel war."

"Unsinn!", rief Lawrence ärgerlich.

"Meiner Meinung nach ist die ganze Sache ein Hirngespinst von Bauerstein!"

Wilkins dachte nicht an sowas, bis Bauerstein ihm den Floh ins Ohr setzte.

Aber, wie alle Fachleute hat Bauerstein Flausen im Kopf.

Gifte sind sein Hobby, deshalb sieht er sie natürlich überall."

Ich gebe zu, dass ich über den Standpunkt von Lawrence überrascht war.

Er war so selten heftig gegen irgendetwas.

John zögerte.

"Ich sehe das anders als du, Lawrence," sagte er zuletzt.

"Ich neige dazu, Hastings freie Hand zu lassen, obwohl ich es vorziehen würde, etwas zu warten.

Wir wollen keinen unnötigen Skandal:"

"Nein, nein", rief ich eifrig, "da brauchen Sie sich keine Sorge machen. Poirot ist die Diskretion in Person."

"Also gut, dann machen Sie es auf Ihre Art.

Ich überlasse es Ihnen.

Obwohl, wenn es so ist, wie wir vermuten, scheint die Sache klar genug.

Gott, vergebe mir, wenn ich ihm Unrecht tue!"

Ich sah auf meine Uhr.

Es war sechs Uhr. Ich entschied, keine Zeit zu verlieren.

Ich erlaubte mir jedoch fünf Minuten Verzögerung.

Die verbrachte ich damit, die Bücherei zu durchwühlen, bis ich ein Medizinbuch entdeckte, das eine Beschreibung von Strychninvergiftung enthielt.
unit 1
The Night of the Tragedy.
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unit 2
To make this part of my story clear, I append the following plan of the first floor of Styles.
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unit 3
The servants' rooms are reached through the door B.
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They have no communication with the right wing, where the Inglethorps' rooms were situated.
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unit 5
It seemed to be the middle of the night when I was awakened by Lawrence Cavendish.
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unit 7
"What's the matter?"
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I asked, sitting up in bed, and trying to collect my scattered thoughts.
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unit 9
"We are afraid my mother is very ill. She seems to be having some kind of fit.
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Unfortunately she has locked herself in.".
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"I'll come at once.".
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Lawrence turned to his brother.
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"What do you think we had better do?".
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unit 16
Never, I thought, had his indecision of character been more apparent.
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John rattled the handle of Mrs. Inglethorp's door violently, but with no effect.
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It was obviously locked or bolted on the inside.
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The whole household was aroused by now.
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The most alarming sounds were audible from the interior of the room.
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unit 21
Clearly something must be done.
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unit 22
"Try going through Mr. Inglethorp's room, sir," cried Dorcas.
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"Oh, the poor mistress!".
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John opened the door of his room.
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We went straight to the connecting door.
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That, too, was locked or bolted on the inside.
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unit 29
What was to be done?.
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unit 30
"Oh, dear, sir," cried Dorcas, wringing her hands, "what ever shall we do?".
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unit 31
"We must try and break the door in, I suppose.
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It'll be a tough job, though.
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unit 33
Here, let one of the maids go down and wake Baily and tell him to go for Dr. Wilkins at once.
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Now then, we'll have a try at the door.
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unit 35
Half a moment, though, isn't there a door into Miss Cynthia's rooms?".
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"Yes, sir, but that's always bolted.
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unit 37
It's never been undone.".
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unit 38
"Well, we might just see.".
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unit 39
He ran rapidly down the corridor to Cynthia's room.
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In a moment or two he was back.
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unit 42
"No good.
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unit 43
That's bolted too.
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unit 44
We must break in the door.
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unit 45
I think this one is a shade less solid than the one in the passage."
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We strained and heaved together.
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We stumbled in together, Lawrence still holding his candle.
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unit 50
As we entered, however, her limbs relaxed, and she fell back upon the pillows.
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unit 51
John strode across the room, and lit the gas.
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unit 52
Turning to Annie, one of the housemaids, he sent her downstairs to the dining-room for brandy.
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unit 53
Then he went across to his mother whilst I unbolted the door that gave on the corridor.
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unit 55
Never have I seen such a ghastly look on any man's face.
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unit 57
It was as though he had seen something that turned him to stone.
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I instinctively followed the direction of his eyes, but I could see nothing unusual.
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unit 60
The violence of Mrs. Inglethorp's attack seemed to be passing.
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unit 61
She was able to speak in short gasps.
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unit 62
"Better now--very sudden--stupid of me--to lock myself in.".
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She seemed to be supporting the girl, who looked utterly dazed and unlike herself.
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Her face was heavily flushed, and she yawned repeatedly.
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unit 66
"Poor Cynthia is quite frightened," said Mrs. Cavendish in a low clear voice.
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She herself, I noticed, was dressed in her white land smock.
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Then it must be later than I thought.
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A strangled cry from the bed startled me.
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A fresh access of pain seized the unfortunate old lady.
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The convulsions were of a violence terrible to behold.
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Everything was confusion.
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We thronged round her, powerless to help or alleviate.
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In vain Mary and John tried to administer more brandy.
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unit 77
The moments flew.
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unit 78
Again the body arched itself in that peculiar fashion.
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unit 79
At that moment, Dr. Bauerstein pushed his way authoritatively into the room.
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He issued a few short sharp orders to the servants.
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An imperious wave of his hand drove us all to the door.
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unit 85
I could see by the expression on his face that he himself had little hope.
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Finally he abandoned his task, shaking his head gravely.
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unit 89
With a faint gesture of the hand, he indicated the figure on the bed.
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unit 90
"Ve--ry sad.
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unit 91
Ve--ry sad," murmured Dr. Wilkins.
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unit 92
"Poor dear lady.
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unit 93
Always did far too much--far too much--against my advice.
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unit 94
I warned her.
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unit 95
Her heart was far from strong.
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unit 96
'Take it easy,' I said to her, 'Take--it--easy'.
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unit 97
But no--her zeal for good works was too great.
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Nature rebelled.
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unit 99
Na--ture-- re--belled."
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unit 100
Dr. Bauerstein, I noticed, was watching the local doctor narrowly.
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unit 101
He still kept his eyes fixed on him as he spoke.
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unit 102
"The convulsions were of a peculiar violence, Dr. Wilkins.
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I am sorry you were not here in time to witness them.
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They were quite--tetanic in character."
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"Ah!"
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said Dr. Wilkins wisely.
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"I should like to speak to you in private," said Dr. Bauerstein.
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He turned to John.
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"You do not object?".
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"Certainly not.".
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We went slowly down the stairs.
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I was violently excited.
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Mary Cavendish laid her hand upon my arm.
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"What is it?
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Why did Dr. Bauerstein seem so--peculiar?".
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I looked at her.
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"Do you know what I think?"
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"What?".
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"Listen!"
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I looked round, the others were out of earshot.
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I lowered my voice to a whisper.
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"I believe she has been poisoned!
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I'm certain Dr. Bauerstein suspects it.".
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"What?"
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She shrank against the wall, the pupils of her eyes dilating wildly.
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Then, with a sudden cry that startled me, she cried out: "No, no--not that--not that!".
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And breaking from me, fled up the stairs.
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I followed her, afraid that she was going to faint.
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I found her leaning against the bannisters, deadly pale.
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She waved me away impatiently.
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"No, no--leave me.
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I'd rather be alone.
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Let me just be quiet for a minute or two.
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Go down to the others.".
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I obeyed her reluctantly.
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John and Lawrence were in the dining-room.
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I joined them.
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Inglethorp?".
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John shook his head.
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"He's not in the house."
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Our eyes met.
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Where was Alfred Inglethorp?.
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His absence was strange and inexplicable.
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I remembered Mrs. Inglethorp's dying words.
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What lay beneath them?.
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What more could she have told us, if she had had time?
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At last we heard the doctors descending the stairs.
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Dr. Bauerstein remained in the background, his grave bearded face unchanged.
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Dr. Wilkins was the spokesman for the two.
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He addressed himself to John: "Mr. Cavendish, I should like your consent to a postmortem.".
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"Is that necessary?"
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asked John gravely.
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A spasm of pain crossed his face.
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"Absolutely," said Dr. Bauerstein.
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"You mean by that----?".
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"That neither Dr. Wilkins nor myself could give a death certificate under the circumstances.".
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John bent his head.
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"In that case, I have no alternative but to agree.".
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"Thank you," said Dr. Wilkins briskly.
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"We propose that it should take place to-morrow night--or rather to-night.".
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And he glanced at the daylight.
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There was a pause, and then Dr. Bauerstein drew two keys from his pocket, and handed them to John.
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"These are the keys of the two rooms.
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I have locked them and, in my opinion, they would be better kept locked for the present.".
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The doctors then departed.
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I had been turning over an idea in my head, and I felt that the moment had now come to broach it.
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Yet I was a little chary of doing so.
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It might be difficult to convince him of the soundness of my plan.
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There was no doubt that the moment had come for me to take the lead.
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"John," I said, "I am going to ask you something.".
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"Well?".
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"You remember my speaking of my friend Poirot?
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The Belgian who is here?.
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He has been a most famous detective.".
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"Yes."
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"I want you to let me call him in--to investigate this matter.".
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"What--now?
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Before the post-mortem?".
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"Yes, time is an advantage if--if--there has been foul play.".
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"Rubbish!"
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cried Lawrence angrily.
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"In my opinion the whole thing is a mare's nest of Bauerstein's!.
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Wilkins hadn't an idea of such a thing, until Bauerstein put it into his head.
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But, like all specialists, Bauerstein's got a bee in his bonnet.
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Poisons are his hobby, so of course he sees them everywhere.".
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I confess that I was surprised by Lawrence's attitude.
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He was so seldom vehement about anything.
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John hesitated.
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"I can't feel as you do, Lawrence," he said at last.
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"I'm inclined to give Hastings a free hand, though I should prefer to wait a bit.
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We don't want any unnecessary scandal.".
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"No, no," I cried eagerly, "you need have no fear of that.
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Poirot is discretion itself.".
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"Very well, then, have it your own way.
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I leave it in your hands.
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Though, if it is as we suspect, it seems a clear enough case.
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God forgive me if I am wronging him!".
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I looked at my watch.
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It was six o'clock.
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I determined to lose no time.
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Five minutes' delay, however, I allowed myself.
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kardaMom • 11758  commented on  unit 12  5 months, 2 weeks ago

The Night of the Tragedy.

To make this part of my story clear, I append the following plan of the first floor of Styles.

The servants' rooms are reached through the door B.

They have no communication with the right wing, where the Inglethorps' rooms were situated.

It seemed to be the middle of the night when I was awakened by Lawrence Cavendish.

He had a candle in his hand, and the agitation of his face told me at once that something was seriously wrong.

"What's the matter?" I asked, sitting up in bed, and trying to collect my scattered thoughts.

"We are afraid my mother is very ill.

She seems to be having some kind of fit. Unfortunately she has locked herself in.".

"I'll come at once.".

I sprang out of bed; and, pulling on a dressing-gown, followed Lawrence along the passage and the gallery to the right wing of the house.

John Cavendish joined us, and one or two of the servants were standing round in a state of awe-stricken excitement.

Lawrence turned to his brother.

"What do you think we had better do?".

Never, I thought, had his indecision of character been more apparent.

John rattled the handle of Mrs. Inglethorp's door violently, but with no effect.

It was obviously locked or bolted on the inside.

The whole household was aroused by now.

The most alarming sounds were audible from the interior of the room.

Clearly something must be done.

"Try going through Mr. Inglethorp's room, sir," cried Dorcas. "Oh, the poor mistress!".

Suddenly I realized that Alfred Inglethorp was not with us--that he alone had given no sign of his presence.

John opened the door of his room.

It was pitch dark, but Lawrence was following with the candle, and by its feeble light we saw that the bed had not been slept in, and that there was no sign of the room having been occupied.

We went straight to the connecting door.

That, too, was locked or bolted on the inside.

What was to be done?.

"Oh, dear, sir," cried Dorcas, wringing her hands, "what ever shall we do?".

"We must try and break the door in, I suppose.

It'll be a tough job, though. Here, let one of the maids go down and wake Baily and tell him to go for Dr. Wilkins at once.

Now then, we'll have a try at the door. Half a moment, though, isn't there a door into Miss Cynthia's rooms?".

"Yes, sir, but that's always bolted.

It's never been undone.".

"Well, we might just see.".

He ran rapidly down the corridor to Cynthia's room.

Mary Cavendish was there, shaking the girl--who must have been an unusually sound sleeper--and trying to wake her.

In a moment or two he was back.

"No good. That's bolted too. We must break in the door.

I think this one is a shade less solid than the one in the passage."

We strained and heaved together.

The framework of the door was solid, and for a long time it resisted our efforts, but at last we felt it give beneath our weight, and finally, with a resounding crash, it was burst open.

We stumbled in together, Lawrence still holding his candle.

Mrs. Inglethorp was lying on the bed, her whole form agitated by violent convulsions, in one of which she must have overturned the table beside her.

As we entered, however, her limbs relaxed, and she fell back upon the pillows.

John strode across the room, and lit the gas.

Turning to Annie, one of the housemaids, he sent her downstairs to the dining-room for brandy.

Then he went across to his mother whilst I unbolted the door that gave on the corridor.

I turned to Lawrence, to suggest that I had better leave them now that there was no further need of my services, but the words were frozen on my lips.

Never have I seen such a ghastly look on any man's face.

He was white as chalk, the candle he held in his shaking hand was sputtering onto the carpet, and his eyes, petrified with terror, or some such kindred emotion, stared fixedly over my head at a point on the further wall.

It was as though he had seen something that turned him to stone.

I instinctively followed the direction of his eyes, but I could see nothing unusual.

The still feebly flickering ashes in the grate, and the row of prim ornaments on the mantelpiece, were surely harmless enough.

The violence of Mrs. Inglethorp's attack seemed to be passing.

She was able to speak in short gasps.

"Better now--very sudden--stupid of me--to lock myself in.".

A shadow fell on the bed and, looking up, I saw Mary Cavendish standing near the door with her arm around Cynthia.

She seemed to be supporting the girl, who looked utterly dazed and unlike herself.

Her face was heavily flushed, and she yawned repeatedly.

"Poor Cynthia is quite frightened," said Mrs. Cavendish in a low clear voice.

She herself, I noticed, was dressed in her white land smock.

Then it must be later than I thought. I saw that a faint streak of daylight was showing through the curtains of the windows, and that the clock on the mantelpiece pointed to close upon five o'clock.

A strangled cry from the bed startled me.

A fresh access of pain seized the unfortunate old lady.

The convulsions were of a violence terrible to behold.

Everything was confusion.

We thronged round her, powerless to help or alleviate.

A final convulsion lifted her from the bed, until she appeared to rest upon her head and her heels, with her body arched in an extraordinary manner.

In vain Mary and John tried to administer more brandy.

The moments flew. Again the body arched itself in that peculiar fashion.

At that moment, Dr. Bauerstein pushed his way authoritatively into the room.

For one instant he stopped dead, staring at the figure on the bed, and, at the same instant, Mrs. Inglethorp cried out in a strangled voice, her eyes fixed on the doctor:

"Alfred--Alfred----" Then she fell back motionless on the pillows.

With a stride, the doctor reached the bed, and seizing her arms worked them energetically, applying what I knew to be artificial respiration.

He issued a few short sharp orders to the servants.

An imperious wave of his hand drove us all to the door.

We watched him, fascinated, though I think we all knew in our hearts that it was too late, and that nothing could be done now.

I could see by the expression on his face that he himself had little hope.

Finally he abandoned his task, shaking his head gravely.

At that moment, we heard footsteps outside, and Dr. Wilkins, Mrs. Inglethorp's own doctor, a portly, fussy little man, came bustling in.

In a few words Dr. Bauerstein explained how he had happened to be passing the lodge gates as the car came out, and had run up to the house as fast as he could, whilst the car went on to fetch Dr. Wilkins.

With a faint gesture of the hand, he indicated the figure on the bed.

"Ve--ry sad. Ve--ry sad," murmured Dr. Wilkins.

"Poor dear lady. Always did far too much--far too much--against my advice.

I warned her. Her heart was far from strong.

'Take it easy,' I said to her, 'Take--it--easy'.

But no--her zeal for good works was too great.

Nature rebelled. Na--ture-- re--belled."

Dr. Bauerstein, I noticed, was watching the local doctor narrowly.

He still kept his eyes fixed on him as he spoke.

"The convulsions were of a peculiar violence, Dr. Wilkins.

I am sorry you were not here in time to witness them. They were quite--tetanic in character."

"Ah!" said Dr. Wilkins wisely.

"I should like to speak to you in private," said Dr. Bauerstein. He turned to John.
"You do not object?".

"Certainly not.".

We all trooped out into the corridor, leaving the two doctors alone, and I heard the key turned in the lock behind us.

We went slowly down the stairs.

I was violently excited.

I have a certain talent for deduction, and Dr. Bauerstein's manner had started a flock of wild surmises in my mind. Mary Cavendish laid her hand upon my arm.

"What is it? Why did Dr. Bauerstein seem so--peculiar?".

I looked at her.

"Do you know what I think?"

"What?".

"Listen!" I looked round, the others were out of earshot.

I lowered my voice to a whisper. "I believe she has been poisoned! I'm certain Dr. Bauerstein suspects it.".

"What?" She shrank against the wall, the pupils of her eyes dilating wildly.

Then, with a sudden cry that startled me, she cried out: "No, no--not that--not that!".
And breaking from me, fled up the stairs.

I followed her, afraid that she was going to faint.

I found her leaning against the bannisters, deadly pale.

She waved me away impatiently.

"No, no--leave me. I'd rather be alone. Let me just be quiet for a minute or two.

Go down to the others.".

I obeyed her reluctantly.

John and Lawrence were in the dining-room. I joined them.

We were all silent, but I suppose I voiced the thoughts of us all when I at last broke it by saying:
"Where is Mr. Inglethorp?".

John shook his head.

"He's not in the house."

Our eyes met.

Where was Alfred Inglethorp?.

His absence was strange and inexplicable.

I remembered Mrs. Inglethorp's dying words.

What lay beneath them?.

What more could she have told us, if she had had time?

At last we heard the doctors descending the stairs.

Dr. Wilkins was looking important and excited, and trying to conceal an inward exultation under a manner of decorous calm.

Dr. Bauerstein remained in the background, his grave bearded face unchanged.

Dr. Wilkins was the spokesman for the two.

He addressed himself to John:
"Mr. Cavendish, I should like your consent to a postmortem.".

"Is that necessary?" asked John gravely.

A spasm of pain crossed his face.

"Absolutely," said Dr. Bauerstein.

"You mean by that----?".

"That neither Dr. Wilkins nor myself could give a death certificate under the circumstances.".

John bent his head.

"In that case, I have no alternative but to agree.".

"Thank you," said Dr. Wilkins briskly.

"We propose that it should take place to-morrow night--or rather to-night.".

And he glanced at the daylight. "Under the circumstances, I am afraid an inquest can hardly be avoided--these formalities are necessary, but I beg that you won't distress yourselves.".

There was a pause, and then Dr. Bauerstein drew two keys from his pocket, and handed them to John.

"These are the keys of the two rooms.

I have locked them and, in my opinion, they would be better kept locked for the present.".

The doctors then departed.

I had been turning over an idea in my head, and I felt that the moment had now come to broach it.

Yet I was a little chary of doing so.

John, I knew, had a horror of any kind of publicity, and was an easygoing optimist, who preferred never to meet trouble half-way.

It might be difficult to convince him of the soundness of my plan.

Lawrence, on the other hand, being less conventional, and having more imagination, I felt I might count upon as an ally.

There was no doubt that the moment had come for me to take the lead.

"John," I said, "I am going to ask you something.".

"Well?".

"You remember my speaking of my friend Poirot? The Belgian who is here?. He has been a most famous detective.".

"Yes."

"I want you to let me call him in--to investigate this matter.".

"What--now? Before the post-mortem?".

"Yes, time is an advantage if--if--there has been foul play.".

"Rubbish!" cried Lawrence angrily.

"In my opinion the whole thing is a mare's nest of Bauerstein's!.

Wilkins hadn't an idea of such a thing, until Bauerstein put it into his head.

But, like all specialists, Bauerstein's got a bee in his bonnet.

Poisons are his hobby, so of course he sees them everywhere.".

I confess that I was surprised by Lawrence's attitude.

He was so seldom vehement about anything.

John hesitated.

"I can't feel as you do, Lawrence," he said at last.

"I'm inclined to give Hastings a free hand, though I should prefer to wait a bit.

We don't want any unnecessary scandal.".

"No, no," I cried eagerly, "you need have no fear of that. Poirot is discretion itself.".

"Very well, then, have it your own way.

I leave it in your hands.

Though, if it is as we suspect, it seems a clear enough case.

God forgive me if I am wronging him!".

I looked at my watch.

It was six o'clock. I determined to lose no time.

Five minutes' delay, however, I allowed myself.

I spent it in ransacking the library until I discovered a medical book which gave a description of strychnine poisoning.