en-es  The Mysterious Affair at Styles; chapter 2
Capítulo 2º El 16 y el 17 de julio. Había llegado a Styles el 5 de julio. Voy ahora a los hechos de los días 16 y 17 de ese mes. Para la comodidad del lector, recapitularé los incidentes de esos días con tanta exactitud como sea posible. Fueron obtenidos posteriormente en el juicio por un procedimiento de largos y tediosos careos.
Recibí una carta de Evelyn Howard un par de días después de su partida, diciéndome que estaba trabajando como enfermera en el gran hospital de Middlingham, una ciudad fabril a unas quince millas de distancia, y me pedía que le hiciera saber si la Sra. Inglethorp mostraba algún deseo de reconciliación.
La única molestia de mis pacíficos días era la extraordinaria y, por mi parte, inexplicable preferencia de la Sra. Cavendish por la compañía del Dr. Bauerstein. No puedo adivinar qué veía en el hombre, pero ella estaba siempre pidiéndole que fuera a casa y frecuentemente salía a dar largos paseos con él. Debo confesar que era absolutamente incapaz de ver su atractivo.
El 16 de julio cayó en lunes. Era un día caótico. La famosa venta benéfica había tenido lugar el sábado y, un espectáculo en conexión con el mismo acto caritativo, en el que la Sra. Inglethorp iba a recitar un poema de guerra, se iba a celebrar esa noche. Estuvimos totalmente ocupados durante la mañana arreglando y decorando el local del pueblo donde iba a tener lugar. Almorzamos con retraso y pasamos la tarde descansando en el jardín. Me di cuenta que la actitud de John era un tanto insólita. Parecía muy excitado e inquieto.
Después del té, la Sra. Inglethorp fue a acostarse para descansar antes de sus actividades por la noche y yo desafié a María Cavendish a un partido de tenis.
Alrededor de las siete menos cuarto, la Sra. Inglethorp nos llamó para decirnos que llegaríamos tarde porque esa noche la cena era temprano. Tuvimos que apresurarnos bastante para estar listos a tiempo; y antes de que terminara la comida, el coche estaba esperando en la puerta.
El espectáculo fue un gran éxito, la recitación de la Sra. Inglethorp recibió un tremendo aplauso. También hubo algunas escenas en las que participó Cynthia. Ella no volvió con nosotros, al haber sido invitada a una cena, y a pasar la noche con algunos amigos que habían estado actuando con ella en las escenas.
A la mañana siguiente, la Sra. Inglethorp se quedó a desayunar en la cama, ya que estaba muy cansada; pero apareció con su buen humor alrededor de las 12.30, y nos llevó a Lawrence y a mí a comer fuera.
''Una invitación tan encantadora de la Sra Rolleston. La hermana de Lady Tadminster, sabe. Los Rollestons llegaron con el Conqueror -una de nuestras familias más viejas.'' Mary se había excusado diciendo que tenía una cita con el Dr. Bauerstein.
Tuvimos un almuerzo agradable, y mientras conducíamos, Lawrence sugirió que deberíamos volver por Tadminster, que es apenas una milla fuera de nuestro camino, y podríamos visitar a Cynthia en su dispensario. La Sra Inglethorp dijo que era una idea muy buena, pero como tenía que escribir algunas cartas ella nos dejaría allá y podríamos regresar con Cynthia en la carreta.
Nos detuvieron bajo sospecha por el portero del hospital hasta que Cynthia apareció para dar fe de nosotros, luciendo atractiva y amable en su larga blusa blanca. Nos llevó a su santuario y nos presentó a su compañero del dispensario, un individuo más bien impresionante, al que Cynthia se dirigió alegremente como "Nibs". "¡Qué cantidad de botellas!", exclamé mientras mis ojos viajaban alrededor de la pequeña habitación. "¿Realmente sabe usted qué hay en todas ellas?". "Diga algo original", rezongó Cynthia. "Todas las personas que entran aquí dicen eso. Realmente estamos pensando en dar un premio a la primera persona que no diga: '¡Qué cantidad de botellas!'. Y sé que lo siguiente que va a decir es: '¿A cuánta gente han envenenado?'" Perdí perdón con una carcajada.
"Si supieran lo tremendamente fáci que es envenenar a alguien por erro, no bromearían con ello. Vengan, tomemos té. Tenemos toda clase de historias secretas en esa alacena. No, Lawrence, esa es la alacena del veneno. La gran alacena; sí señor". Tomamos alegremente el té y después ayudamos a Cyntia a lavar los platos. Acabábamos de lavar la última cucharilla de té cuando alguien llamó a la puerta. Los rostros de Cyntia y Nibs se petrificaron de repente en una expresión severa y amenazante.
"Entre", dijo Cyntia, con un tono profesional y cortante.
Una enfermera jóven y más bien con aspecto de asustada apareció con una botella que ofreció a Nibs, quién se la dio a Cynthia remarcando un tanto enigmático: "No estoy realmente aquí hoy". Cynthia cogió la botella y la examinó con la severidad de un juez.
"Esto debería haber sido entregado esta mañana". "La enfermera lo siente mucho. Se olvidó". "La enfermera debería leer las reglas que hay en la puerta". Comprendí de la expresión de la joven enfermera que no había la menor probabilidad de tener audacia para transmitir este mensaje a la temida "Enfermera".
"Y ahora no se puede hacer hasta mañana", concluyó Cynthia.
"¿No piensa usted que podría posiblemente dejarnos tenerlo esta noche?". "Bien", dijo Cynthia gentilmente, "estamos muy ocupados, pero si tenemos el tiempo estará hecho". La joven enfermera se retiró, y Cynthia con prontitud cogió un frasco del estante, lo llenó y lo colocó sobre la mesa.
Me sonreí.
"¿La disciplina debe ser mantenida?". "Exactamente. Venga a nuestro pequeño balcón. Usted puede ver todas las salas exteriores allí". Seguí a Cynthia y su amigo y ellos me señalaron las diferentes salas. Lawrence se quedó atrás, pero al cabo de unos segundos Cynthia lo llamó sobre su hombro para que se reuniera con nosotros. Entonces ella miró su reloj.
''Nada más que hacer, Nibs?''.''No''. ''Bueno. Entonces podemos cerrar y salir''. Había visto Lawrence en una perspectiva muy diferente esta tarde. En comparación con John, era una persona increíblemente difícil de conocer. Era el contrario de su hermano en casi todos los aspectos, siendo inusualmente tímido y reservado. Pero tenía un cierto encanto, y pensé que se podría tener un profundo cariño por él, si uno realmente le conocía bien. Siempre había pensado que su comportamiento hacia Cynthia era bastante limitado y que ella por su parte tendía a ser tímida con él. Pero esa tarde ambos estaban bastante alegres y charlaban como un par de niños.
Mientras cruzábamos el pueblo, recordé que necesitaba algunos sellos y, por consiguiente nos detuvimos en la oficina de correos.
Al salir de la oficina tropecé con un hombrecillo que entraba. Me aparté y me disculpé, cuando de repente, con una fuerte exclamación, me rodeó con sus brazos y me besó cálidamente.
"¡Mon ami Hastings!", Exclamó. "¡Se trata, de mon ami Hastings!". "¡Poirot!", exclamé.
Me volví hacia el carruaje.
"Este es un encuentro muy agradable para mí, señorita Cynthia. Este es mi viejo amigo, monsieur Poirot, a quien no he visto en años". "Oh, conocemos a monsieur Poirot", dijo Cynthia alegremente. "Pero no tenía ni idea de que era amigo suyo". "Sí, en efecto", dijo Poirot seriamente. "Conozco a la señorita Cynthia. Es por la caridad de la bondadosa Sra. Inglethorp que estoy aquí. "Entonces, como lo miré inquisitivamente: " Sí, amigo mío, ella amablemente había ampliado la hospitalidad a siete refugiados de mi país quienes, ¡qué pena!, son refugiados de su tierra natal. Nosotros los belgas siempre la recordaremos con gratitud. "Poirot era un hombrecillo fuera de lo corriente. Mediría escasamente 1.60 de altura, pero su porte resultaba muy digno. Su cabeza tenía exactamente la forma de un huevo y siempre la inclinaba ligeramente hacia un lado. Su bigote era muy tieso y de aspecto militar. La pulcritud de su atuendo era casi increíble. Creo que una mota de polvo le habría causado más dolor que una herida de bala. Pero este acicalado y singular hombrecillo a quien, por desgracia pude observar y ahora cojeaba notoriamente, había sido en su tiempo uno de los miembros más famosos de la policía belga. Como detective, su aptitud había sido extraordinaria y él había alcanzado triunfos por desenredar algunos de los casos más incomprensibles de hoy día.
Me indicó la pequeña casa donde vivía con sus amigos belgas, y le prometí ir a verlo en una fecha cercana. Después, levantó su sombrero a Cynthia con un golpe de efecto y nos fuimos.
''Es un agradable hombrecillo'', dijo Cynthia. ''No sabía que lo conociera''. ''Han estado hospendando a una celebridad sin saberlo'', contesté.
Y, por el resto del camino a casa, les recité las diversas proezas y triunfos de Hercule Poirot.
Llegamos a casa de muy buen humor. Al entrar en la sala, la Sra. Inglethorp salía su boudoir. Se veía sonrojada y alterada.
"¡Ah!, sois vosotros", dijo.
"¿Pasa algo, tía Emily?" preguntó Cynthia.
"Por supuesto que no", dijo la Sra. Inglethorp bruscamente. "¿Qué va a pasar?" Entonces viendo a Dorcas, la doncella, entrando en el comedor, la llamó y dijo que le trajera algunos sellos al tocador.
"Sí,señora". "La vieja doncella vaciló, luego añadió tímidamente: "¿No cree usted, señora, que sería mejor irse a la cama? Luce usted muy cansada". "Puede ser que tenga usted razón, Dorcas, sí,... no, no ahora. Tengo algunas cartas que debo terminar a tiempo para el correo. ¿Ha encendido usted el fuego en mi cuarto como le dije?". "Sí, señora.". "Entonces me acostaré directamente después de la cena". Ella entró en el tocador otra vez, y Cynthia detrás de ella la miró fijamente.
"¡Dios mío! Me pregunto ¿qué pasa?", dijo a Lawrence.
Él no pareció haberla oído, ya que sin una palabra él se dio vuelta rápidamente y salió de la casa.
Sugerí un partido rápido de tenis antes de la cena y, Cynthia estuvo de acuerdo, subí corriendo a buscar mi raqueta.
La Sra. Cavendish estaba bajando las escaleras. Pudo haber sido mi imaginación, pero ella también parecía extraña e inquieta.
"¿Tuvo una buen paseo con el Dr. Bauerstein?", pregunté, tratando de parecer tan indiferente como pude.
"No fui", respondió bruscamente. "¿Dónde está la Sra. Inglethorp?". "En el tocador". Su mano se agarró a la barandilla, luego pareció infundirse valor para un enfrentamiento, y pasó rápidamente por mi lado escaleras abajo, hacia el tocador, cuya puerta cerró tras ella.
Cuando salí corriendo a la pista de tenis momentos después, tuve que pasar por la ventana abierta del tocador, y no pude evitar escuchar el siguiente fragmento de diálogo. Mary Cavendish estaba diciendo con la voz de una mujer que se controla desesperadamente: "¿Entonces no me lo enseñará?". A lo que la Sra. Inglethorp respondió: "Mi querida Mary, no tiene nada que ver con ese asunto". "Entonces enséñemelo". "Te digo que no es lo que te imaginas. No te concierne en lo más mínimo". A lo que Mary Cavendish respondió, con una amargura creciente: "por supuesto, debería haber sabido que lo protegería". Cynthia me estaba esperando, y me saludó con entusiasmo con: "¡Oiga! ¡Ha habido una discusión horrible! Se lo saqué todo a Dorcas". "¿Qué clase de discusión?". "Entre la tía Emily y él. ¡Espero que finalmente lo haya descubierto!". "¿Entonces, Dorcas estaba allí?". "Claro que no. Resulta que estaba cerca de la puerta’. Fue una verdadera trifulca. Desearía saber de qué se trataba todo esto". Pensé en la cara gitana de la señora Raikes y en las advertencias de Evelyn Howard, pero, prudentemente,decidí callarme, mientras Cynthia agotaba todas las hipótesis posibles y esperaba con alegría: "La tía Emily lo echará, y nunca volverá a hablar con él". Estaba ansioso por encontrar a John, pero no estaba a la vista. Evidentemente, algo muy trascendental había ocurrido esa tarde. Intenté olvidar las pocas palabras que había escuchado; pero, hiciera lo que hiciera, no podía quitarmelas de la cabeza. ¿Cuál era la vinculación de Mary Cavendish en el asunto?
El Sr. Inglethorp estaba en el salón cuando bajé para la cena. Su cara estaba impasible como siempre, y la irrealidad extraña del hombre me impactó otra vez.
La Sra. Inglethorp fue la última en bajar. Todavía parecía nerviosa, y durante la cena había un silencio algo restringido. Inglethorp estaba inusualmente tranquilo. Normalmente, rodeaba a su esposa con pequeñas atenciones, colocando un cojín a su espalda, y totalmente haciendo el papel de un marido dedicado. Inmediatamente después de la cena, la Sra Inglethorp se retiró otra vez a su tocador.
''Mary, envía mi café aquí'', llamó. ''Solo tengo cinco minutos para atrapar al correo''. Cynthia y yo fuimos a sentarnos junto a la ventana abierta en el salón. Mary Cavendish nos trajo el café. Parecía excitada.
"¿Los jóvenes quieren luces, o disfrutan del crepúsculo?", preguntó. "¿Cynthia, llevarás su café a la señora Inglethorp? Yo lo serviré". "No se preocupe, Mary", dijo Inglethorp. "Yo se lo llevaré a Emily". Él lo sirvió, y salió de la habitación llevándolo con cuidado.
Lawrence lo siguió, y la señora Cavendish se sentó a nuestro lado.
Nosotros tres nos sentamos un rato en silencio. Era una noche magnífica, calurosa y tranquila. La señora Cavendish se abanicaba suavemente con una hoja de palma.
"Hace casi demasiado calor", susurró. "Tendremos una tormenta". ¡Que pena, que estos momentos armoniosos no puedan durar nunca! Mi paraíso fue bruscamente destrozado por el sonido de una voz en el pasillo bien conocida y que me disgustaba sinceramente.
"¡El Dr. Bauerstein!", exclamó Cynthia. "Qué extraña hora de venir". Eché un vistazo suspicaz a María Cavendish, pero parecía bastante tranquila y la palidez delicada de sus mejillas no varió.
Un instante después, Alfred Inglethorp introducía al doctor aún riendo y protestando por entrar con esa facha en la sala. La verdad, ofrecía un aspecto lamentable, al estar todo cubierto de barro.
"¿Qué ha estado haciendo, doctor?", exclamó la Sra. Cavendish.
"Debo formular mi defensa", dijo el doctor. "Realmente no pensé en entrar, pero el Sr. Inglethorp insistió". "Bien, Bauerstein, usted está en una situación difícil", dijo John, viniendo desde el pasillo. "Tome un café y díganos qué le ha ocurrido". "Gracias, lo haré". Se rió más bien con pesar y describió, cómo había descubierto una especie muy rara de helecho en un lugar inaccesible y, en sus esfuerzos para obtenerlo había perdido el equilibrio y resbalado ignominiosamente en una charca vecina.
"Me sequé pronto al sol", añadió él, "pero tengo miedo que mi aspecto sea de muy mala reputación". En ese momento, la Sra. Inglethorp llamó a Cynthia desde el pasillo y la muchacha salió corriendo.
"Querida, solamente mi portafolios, ¿me lo podrías subir? Me voy a la cama". La puerta que daba al pasillo era ancha. Me levanté al mismo tiempo que Cynthia, John estaba cerca de mí. Había por lo tanto tres testigos que podíamos jurar que la Sra. Inglethorp llevaba en la mano su taza de café, que aún no había probado.
Mi noche fue totalmente y plenamente estropeada por la presencia del Dr. Bauerstein. Me parecía que el hombre nunca saldría. Por fin, se levantó, y di un suspiro de alivio.
''Voy a caminar con usted hasta el pueblo'' dijo el Sr Inglethorp. ''Debo ver a mi agente sobre esas cuentas de patrimonio''. Se volvió hacia John. "No es necesario que nadie me espere Llevaré la llave''.
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CHAPTER II.
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THE 16TH AND 17TH OF JULY I had arrived at Styles on the 5th of July.
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I come now to the events of the 16th and 17th of that month.
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I must confess that I was quite unable to see his attraction.
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The 16th of July fell on a Monday.
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It was a day of turmoil.
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We had a late luncheon and spent the afternoon resting in the garden.
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I noticed that John’s manner was somewhat unusual.
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He seemed very excited and restless.
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There were also some tableaux in which Cynthia took part.
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“Such a charming invitation from Mrs. Rolleston.
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Lady Tadminster’s sister, you know.
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“Every single person who comes up here says that.
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Come on, let’s have tea.
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We’ve got all sorts of secret stories in that cupboard.
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No, Lawrence—that’s the poison cupboard.
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We had just put away the last tea-spoon when a knock came at the door.
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“Come in,” said Cynthia, in a sharp professional tone.
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“This should have been sent up this morning.” “Sister is very sorry.
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“So now it can’t be done until to-morrow,” finished Cynthia.
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I laughed.
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“Discipline must be maintained?” “Exactly.
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Come out on our little balcony.
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Then she looked at her watch.
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“Nothing more to do, Nibs?” “No.” “All right.
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Compared to John, he was an astoundingly difficult person to get to know.
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As I came out again, I cannoned into a little man who was just entering.
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“Mon ami Hastings!” he cried.
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“It is indeed mon ami Hastings!” “Poirot!” I exclaimed.
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I turned to the pony-trap.
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“This is a very pleasant meeting for me, Miss Cynthia.
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“I know Mademoiselle Cynthia.
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His moustache was very stiff and military.
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The neatness of his attire was almost incredible.
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I believe a speck of dust would have caused him more pain than a bullet wound.
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Then he raised his hat with a flourish to Cynthia, and we drove away.
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“He’s a dear little man,” said Cynthia.
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We arrived back in a very cheerful mood.
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As we entered the hall, Mrs. Inglethorp came out of her boudoir.
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She looked flushed and upset.
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“Oh, it’s you,” she said.
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“Is there anything the matter, Aunt Emily?” asked Cynthia.
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“Certainly not,” said Mrs. Inglethorp sharply.
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I’ve some letters I must finish by post-time.
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“Goodness gracious!
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I wonder what’s up?” she said to Lawrence.
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Mrs. Cavendish was coming down the stairs.
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It may have been my fancy, but she, too, was looking odd and disturbed.
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“I didn’t go,” she replied abruptly.
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There’s been the most awful row!
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I do hope she’s found him out at last!” “Was Dorcas there, then?” “Of course not.
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She ‘happened to be near the door’.
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It was a real old bust-up.
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Evidently something very momentous had occurred that afternoon.
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What was Mary Cavendish’s concern in the matter?
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Mr. Inglethorp was in the drawing-room when I came down to supper.
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Mrs. Inglethorp came down last.
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Inglethorp was unusually quiet.
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Immediately after supper, Mrs. Inglethorp retired to her boudoir again.
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“Send my coffee in here, Mary,” she called.
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Mary Cavendish brought our coffee to us.
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She seemed excited.
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“Do you young people want lights, or do you enjoy the twilight?” she asked.
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“Will you take Mrs. Inglethorp her coffee, Cynthia?
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I will pour it out.” “Do not trouble, Mary,” said Inglethorp.
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Lawrence followed him, and Mrs. Cavendish sat down by us.
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We three sat for some time in silence.
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It was a glorious night, hot and still.
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Mrs. Cavendish fanned herself gently with a palm leaf.
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“It’s almost too hot,” she murmured.
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“Dr.
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Bauerstein!” exclaimed Cynthia.
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In truth, he presented a sorry spectacle, being literally plastered with mud.
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“What have you been doing, doctor?” cried Mrs. Cavendish.
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“I must make my apologies,” said the doctor.
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“Just carry up my despatch-case, will you, dear?
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I’m going to bed.” The door into the hall was a wide one.
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I had risen when Cynthia did, John was close by me.
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My evening was utterly and entirely spoilt by the presence of Dr. Bauerstein.
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It seemed to me the man would never go.
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He rose at last, however, and I breathed a sigh of relief.
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“I’ll walk down to the village with you,” said Mr. Inglethorp.
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“I must see our agent over those estate accounts.” He turned to John.
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“No one need sit up.
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I will take the latch-key.”
1 Translations, 4 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 month ago
Ernesto • 4460  translated  unit 138  4 months, 3 weeks ago
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JSstudent • 197  commented  5 months ago

Este texto está tomado de la Biblioteca Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/863/863-h/863-h.htm#chap02

by JSstudent 5 months ago

CHAPTER II. THE 16TH AND 17TH OF JULY
I had arrived at Styles on the 5th of July. I come now to the events of the 16th and 17th of that month. For the convenience of the reader I will recapitulate the incidents of those days in as exact a manner as possible. They were elicited subsequently at the trial by a process of long and tedious cross-examinations.
I received a letter from Evelyn Howard a couple of days after her departure, telling me she was working as a nurse at the big hospital in Middlingham, a manufacturing town some fifteen miles away, and begging me to let her know if Mrs. Inglethorp should show any wish to be reconciled.
The only fly in the ointment of my peaceful days was Mrs. Cavendish’s extraordinary, and, for my part, unaccountable preference for the society of Dr. Bauerstein. What she saw in the man I cannot imagine, but she was always asking him up to the house, and often went off for long expeditions with him. I must confess that I was quite unable to see his attraction.
The 16th of July fell on a Monday. It was a day of turmoil. The famous bazaar had taken place on Saturday, and an entertainment, in connection with the same charity, at which Mrs. Inglethorp was to recite a War poem, was to be held that night. We were all busy during the morning arranging and decorating the Hall in the village where it was to take place. We had a late luncheon and spent the afternoon resting in the garden. I noticed that John’s manner was somewhat unusual. He seemed very excited and restless.
After tea, Mrs. Inglethorp went to lie down to rest before her efforts in the evening and I challenged Mary Cavendish to a single at tennis.
About a quarter to seven, Mrs. Inglethorp called us that we should be late as supper was early that night. We had rather a scramble to get ready in time; and before the meal was over the motor was waiting at the door.
The entertainment was a great success, Mrs. Inglethorp’s recitation receiving tremendous applause. There were also some tableaux in which Cynthia took part. She did not return with us, having been asked to a supper party, and to remain the night with some friends who had been acting with her in the tableaux.
The following morning, Mrs. Inglethorp stayed in bed to breakfast, as she was rather overtired; but she appeared in her briskest mood about 12.30, and swept Lawrence and myself off to a luncheon party.
“Such a charming invitation from Mrs. Rolleston. Lady Tadminster’s sister, you know. The Rollestons came over with the Conqueror—one of our oldest families.”
Mary had excused herself on the plea of an engagement with Dr. Bauerstein.
We had a pleasant luncheon, and as we drove away Lawrence suggested that we should return by Tadminster, which was barely a mile out of our way, and pay a visit to Cynthia in her dispensary. Mrs. Inglethorp replied that this was an excellent idea, but as she had several letters to write she would drop us there, and we could come back with Cynthia in the pony-trap.
We were detained under suspicion by the hospital porter, until Cynthia appeared to vouch for us, looking very cool and sweet in her long white overall. She took us up to her sanctum, and introduced us to her fellow dispenser, a rather awe-inspiring individual, whom Cynthia cheerily addressed as “Nibs.”
“What a lot of bottles!” I exclaimed, as my eye travelled round the small room. “Do you really know what’s in them all?”
“Say something original,” groaned Cynthia. “Every single person who comes up here says that. We are really thinking of bestowing a prize on the first individual who does not say: ‘What a lot of bottles!’ And I know the next thing you’re going to say is: ‘How many people have you poisoned?’”
I pleaded guilty with a laugh.
“If you people only knew how fatally easy it is to poison someone by mistake, you wouldn’t joke about it. Come on, let’s have tea. We’ve got all sorts of secret stories in that cupboard. No, Lawrence—that’s the poison cupboard. The big cupboard—that’s right.”
We had a very cheery tea, and assisted Cynthia to wash up afterwards. We had just put away the last tea-spoon when a knock came at the door. The countenances of Cynthia and Nibs were suddenly petrified into a stern and forbidding expression.
“Come in,” said Cynthia, in a sharp professional tone.
A young and rather scared looking nurse appeared with a bottle which she proffered to Nibs, who waved her towards Cynthia with the somewhat enigmatical remark:
“I’m not really here to-day.”
Cynthia took the bottle and examined it with the severity of a judge.
“This should have been sent up this morning.”
“Sister is very sorry. She forgot.”
“Sister should read the rules outside the door.”
I gathered from the little nurse’s expression that there was not the least likelihood of her having the hardihood to retail this message to the dreaded “Sister”.
“So now it can’t be done until to-morrow,” finished Cynthia.
“Don’t you think you could possibly let us have it to-night?”
“Well,” said Cynthia graciously, “we are very busy, but if we have time it shall be done.”
The little nurse withdrew, and Cynthia promptly took a jar from the shelf, refilled the bottle, and placed it on the table outside the door.
I laughed.
“Discipline must be maintained?”
“Exactly. Come out on our little balcony. You can see all the outside wards there.”
I followed Cynthia and her friend and they pointed out the different wards to me. Lawrence remained behind, but after a few moments Cynthia called to him over her shoulder to come and join us. Then she looked at her watch.
“Nothing more to do, Nibs?”
“No.”
“All right. Then we can lock up and go.”
I had seen Lawrence in quite a different light that afternoon. Compared to John, he was an astoundingly difficult person to get to know. He was the opposite of his brother in almost every respect, being unusually shy and reserved. Yet he had a certain charm of manner, and I fancied that, if one really knew him well, one could have a deep affection for him. I had always fancied that his manner to Cynthia was rather constrained, and that she on her side was inclined to be shy of him. But they were both gay enough this afternoon, and chatted together like a couple of children.
As we drove through the village, I remembered that I wanted some stamps, so accordingly we pulled up at the post office.
As I came out again, I cannoned into a little man who was just entering. I drew aside and apologised, when suddenly, with a loud exclamation, he clasped me in his arms and kissed me warmly.
“Mon ami Hastings!” he cried. “It is indeed mon ami Hastings!”
“Poirot!” I exclaimed.
I turned to the pony-trap.
“This is a very pleasant meeting for me, Miss Cynthia. This is my old friend, Monsieur Poirot, whom I have not seen for years.”
“Oh, we know Monsieur Poirot,” said Cynthia gaily. “But I had no idea he was a friend of yours.”
“Yes, indeed,” said Poirot seriously. “I know Mademoiselle Cynthia. It is by the charity of that good Mrs. Inglethorp that I am here.” Then, as I looked at him inquiringly: “Yes, my friend, she had kindly extended hospitality to seven of my countrypeople who, alas, are refugees from their native land. We Belgians will always remember her with gratitude.”
Poirot was an extraordinary looking little man. He was hardly more than five feet, four inches, but carried himself with great dignity. His head was exactly the shape of an egg, and he always perched it a little on one side. His moustache was very stiff and military. The neatness of his attire was almost incredible. I believe a speck of dust would have caused him more pain than a bullet wound. Yet this quaint dandified little man who, I was sorry to see, now limped badly, had been in his time one of the most celebrated members of the Belgian police. As a detective, his flair had been extraordinary, and he had achieved triumphs by unravelling some of the most baffling cases of the day.
He pointed out to me the little house inhabited by him and his fellow Belgians, and I promised to go and see him at an early date. Then he raised his hat with a flourish to Cynthia, and we drove away.
“He’s a dear little man,” said Cynthia. “I’d no idea you knew him.”
“You’ve been entertaining a celebrity unawares,” I replied.
And, for the rest of the way home, I recited to them the various exploits and triumphs of Hercule Poirot.
We arrived back in a very cheerful mood. As we entered the hall, Mrs. Inglethorp came out of her boudoir. She looked flushed and upset.
“Oh, it’s you,” she said.
“Is there anything the matter, Aunt Emily?” asked Cynthia.
“Certainly not,” said Mrs. Inglethorp sharply. “What should there be?” Then catching sight of Dorcas, the parlourmaid, going into the dining-room, she called to her to bring some stamps into the boudoir.
“Yes, m’m.” The old servant hesitated, then added diffidently: “Don’t you think, m’m, you’d better get to bed? You’re looking very tired.”
“Perhaps you’re right, Dorcas—yes—no—not now. I’ve some letters I must finish by post-time. Have you lighted the fire in my room as I told you?”
“Yes, m’m.”
“Then I’ll go to bed directly after supper.”
She went into the boudoir again, and Cynthia stared after her.
“Goodness gracious! I wonder what’s up?” she said to Lawrence.
He did not seem to have heard her, for without a word he turned on his heel and went out of the house.
I suggested a quick game of tennis before supper and, Cynthia agreeing, I ran upstairs to fetch my racquet.
Mrs. Cavendish was coming down the stairs. It may have been my fancy, but she, too, was looking odd and disturbed.
“Had a good walk with Dr. Bauerstein?” I asked, trying to appear as indifferent as I could.
“I didn’t go,” she replied abruptly. “Where is Mrs. Inglethorp?”
“In the boudoir.”
Her hand clenched itself on the banisters, then she seemed to nerve herself for some encounter, and went rapidly past me down the stairs across the hall to the boudoir, the door of which she shut behind her.
As I ran out to the tennis court a few moments later, I had to pass the open boudoir window, and was unable to help overhearing the following scrap of dialogue. Mary Cavendish was saying in the voice of a woman desperately controlling herself:
“Then you won’t show it to me?”
To which Mrs. Inglethorp replied:
“My dear Mary, it has nothing to do with that matter.”
“Then show it to me.”
“I tell you it is not what you imagine. It does not concern you in the least.”
To which Mary Cavendish replied, with a rising bitterness:
“Of course, I might have known you would shield him.”
Cynthia was waiting for me, and greeted me eagerly with:
“I say! There’s been the most awful row! I’ve got it all out of Dorcas.”
“What kind of a row?”
“Between Aunt Emily and him. I do hope she’s found him out at last!”
“Was Dorcas there, then?”
“Of course not. She ‘happened to be near the door’. It was a real old bust-up. I do wish I knew what it was all about.”
I thought of Mrs. Raikes’s gipsy face, and Evelyn Howard’s warnings, but wisely decided to hold my peace, whilst Cynthia exhausted every possible hypothesis, and cheerfully hoped, “Aunt Emily will send him away, and will never speak to him again.”
I was anxious to get hold of John, but he was nowhere to be seen. Evidently something very momentous had occurred that afternoon. I tried to forget the few words I had overheard; but, do what I would, I could not dismiss them altogether from my mind. What was Mary Cavendish’s concern in the matter?
Mr. Inglethorp was in the drawing-room when I came down to supper. His face was impassive as ever, and the strange unreality of the man struck me afresh.
Mrs. Inglethorp came down last. She still looked agitated, and during the meal there was a somewhat constrained silence. Inglethorp was unusually quiet. As a rule, he surrounded his wife with little attentions, placing a cushion at her back, and altogether playing the part of the devoted husband. Immediately after supper, Mrs. Inglethorp retired to her boudoir again.
“Send my coffee in here, Mary,” she called. “I’ve just five minutes to catch the post.”
Cynthia and I went and sat by the open window in the drawing-room. Mary Cavendish brought our coffee to us. She seemed excited.
“Do you young people want lights, or do you enjoy the twilight?” she asked. “Will you take Mrs. Inglethorp her coffee, Cynthia? I will pour it out.”
“Do not trouble, Mary,” said Inglethorp. “I will take it to Emily.” He poured it out, and went out of the room carrying it carefully.
Lawrence followed him, and Mrs. Cavendish sat down by us.
We three sat for some time in silence. It was a glorious night, hot and still. Mrs. Cavendish fanned herself gently with a palm leaf.
“It’s almost too hot,” she murmured. “We shall have a thunderstorm.”
Alas, that these harmonious moments can never endure! My paradise was rudely shattered by the sound of a well known, and heartily disliked, voice in the hall.
“Dr. Bauerstein!” exclaimed Cynthia. “What a funny time to come.”
I glanced jealously at Mary Cavendish, but she seemed quite undisturbed, the delicate pallor of her cheeks did not vary.
In a few moments, Alfred Inglethorp had ushered the doctor in, the latter laughing, and protesting that he was in no fit state for a drawing-room. In truth, he presented a sorry spectacle, being literally plastered with mud.
“What have you been doing, doctor?” cried Mrs. Cavendish.
“I must make my apologies,” said the doctor. “I did not really mean to come in, but Mr. Inglethorp insisted.”
“Well, Bauerstein, you are in a plight,” said John, strolling in from the hall. “Have some coffee, and tell us what you have been up to.”
“Thank you, I will.” He laughed rather ruefully, as he described how he had discovered a very rare species of fern in an inaccessible place, and in his efforts to obtain it had lost his footing, and slipped ignominiously into a neighbouring pond.
“The sun soon dried me off,” he added, “but I’m afraid my appearance is very disreputable.”
At this juncture, Mrs. Inglethorp called to Cynthia from the hall, and the girl ran out.
“Just carry up my despatch-case, will you, dear? I’m going to bed.”
The door into the hall was a wide one. I had risen when Cynthia did, John was close by me. There were therefore three witnesses who could swear that Mrs. Inglethorp was carrying her coffee, as yet untasted, in her hand.
My evening was utterly and entirely spoilt by the presence of Dr. Bauerstein. It seemed to me the man would never go. He rose at last, however, and I breathed a sigh of relief.
“I’ll walk down to the village with you,” said Mr. Inglethorp. “I must see our agent over those estate accounts.” He turned to John. “No one need sit up. I will take the latch-key.”