en-fr  The Mysterious Affair at Styles; chapter 2
Chapitre II. LES 16 ET 17 JUILLET J'étais arrivé à Styles le 5 juillet. J'en viens maintenant aux évènements des 16 et 17 de ce mois-là. Pour plus de commodité pour le lecteur je récapitulerai les incidents de ces journées de manière aussi exacte que possible. Ils furent évoqués ultérieurement au procès suivant une méthode d'interrogatoires croisés longs et fastidieux.
Je reçus une lettre d'Evelyn Howard deux jours après qu'elle fut partie, me disant qu'elle travaillait comme infirmière dans un grand hôpital à Middlingham, une ville industrielle à une quinzaine de miles et me suppliant de lui faire savoir si madame Inglethorp montrait la moindre intention de se réconcilier.
La seule ombre au tableau de mes jours paisibles fut l'extraordinaire et, selon moi, inexplicable préférence de madame Cavendish pour la compagnie du docteur Bauerstein. Ce qu'elle vit en cet homme, je n'en ai aucune idée mais elle le demandait sans cesse à la maison et s'en allait souvent pour de longues promenades avec lui. Je dois confesser que j'étais totalement insensible à son charme.
Le 16 juillet tomba un lundi. C'était un jour d'effervescence. La célèbre kermesse avait eu lieu le samedi et on avait également prévu, en soirée, un divertissement en lien avec cette manifestation, au cours duquel madame Inglethorp avait récité un poème de guerre. Le matin, nous étions tous bien occupés à arranger et décorer la salle du village où aurait lieu la kermesse. Nous avons déjeuné tard et nous avons passé l'après-midi à nous reposer dans le jardin. Je remarquai que le comportement de John était quelque peu inhabituel. Il semblait très excité et agité.
Après le thé, Mme Inglethorp alla s'allonger pour se reposer avant les efforts que la soirée allait lui demander et je défiai Mary Cavendish à une partie de tennis en simple.
Vers sept heures moins le quart, Mme Inglethorp nous appela pour nous dire que nous allions être en retard car le dîner était servi tôt ce soir-là. Nous nous bousculâmes un peu pour être prêts à temps, et avant même la fin du repas la voiture nous attendait à la porte.
Le divertissement eut un grand succès, la récitation de Mme Inglethorp recevant de formidables applaudissements. Il y eut également aussi quelques tableaux vivants auxquels Cynthia participa. Elle ne revint pas avec nous, ayant été invitée à souper, et à rester pour la nuit avec les amies qui avaient joué avec elle dans les tableaux.
Le lendemain matin, Mme Inglethorp resta au lit pour le petit déjeuner, car elle était plutôt fatiguée, mais elle apparut au meilleur de sa forme vers 12 h 30, et nous entraîna à sa suite, Lawrence et moi, pour aller déjeuner.
— Une si charmante invitation de Mme Rolleston, la sœur de Lady Tadminster, excusez du peu. Les Rolleston ont franchi la Manche avec Guillaume le Conquérant : une de nos plus anciennes familles. Mary présenta ses excuses en prétextant un rendez-vous avec le docteur Bauerstein.
Nous fîmes un agréable déjeuner et sur le chemin du retour Lawrence suggéra que nous passions par Tadminster, ce qui rallongeait notre route d'à peine un mile, pour rendre visite à Cynthia à son dispensaire. Mme Inglethorp répondit que c'était une excellente idée, mais que comme elle avait du courrier à faire, elle allait nous déposer ici, et que nous pourrions rentrer en calèche avec Cynthia.
Le portier de l'hôpital nous interdit l'entrée avec méfiance, jusqu'à ce que Cynthia se porta garante de nous, l'air très sereine et douce dans sa longue blouse blanche. Elle nous fit monter jusqu'à son sanctuaire et nous présenta son chef de service, un individu plutôt impressionnant, auquel Cynthia s'adressait gaiement en l'appelant « Nibs ». – Que de bouteilles ! m'exclamai-je, tandis que je regardais autour de moi dans la petite pièce. — Savez-vous vraiment ce que chacune contient ? — Voilà une remarque originale, grogna Cynthia. Chaque visiteur qui monte ici dit la même chose. Nous songeons sérieusement à décerner un prix à la première personne qui ne s'exclamera pas : « Que de bouteilles !» Et je sais ce que vous allez dire ensuite : «Combien de personnes avez-vous déjà empoisonnées ?» Je plaidai coupable en riant.
— Si seulement vous saviez comme il est dangereusement facile d'empoissonner quelqu'un par accident, vous ne plaisanteriez pas avec ça. Bon, allons prendre le thé. Nous détenons toutes sortes d'histoires secrètes dans cette armoire. Non, Lawrence... c'est l'armoire à poison. La grande armoire... c'est celle-là. Nous prîmes notre thé dans la bonne humeur et aidâmes ensuite Cynthia à faire la vaisselle. Au moment précis où nous rangions la dernière cuillère à thé, un coup retentit à la porte. Les traits de Cynthia et de Nibs se figèrent instantanément en une expression sévère et dure.
— Entrez, dit Cynthia, d'un ton très professionnel.
Une jeune infirmière à l'allure plutôt craintive s'avança tenant une bouteille qu'elle tendit à Nibs, celle-ci lui indiqua de la remettre à Cynthia, déclarant de manière quelque peu énigmatique : — Je ne suis pas vraiment censée être ici aujourd'hui. Cynthia prit la bouteille et l'examina avec la sévérité d'un juge.
— Ceci aurait dû être apporté ce matin. — La sœur est vraiment désolée. Elle a oublié. — La sœur devrait lire le règlement sur la porte. Je compris à l'expression de la petite infirmière qu'il n'y avait pas la moindre chance qu'elle ait l'audace de délivrer ce message à la redoutable « sœur ».
Impossible maintenant que ce soit fait avant demain, conclut Cynthia.
– Ne pensez-vous pas que vous pourriez le leur préparer pour ce soir ? – Bien, dit aimablement Cynthia, nous sommes très occupés, mais nous le ferons si nous avons le temps. La petite infirmière se retira et Cynthia se saisit d'un pot sur l'étagère, remplit la bouteille et la posa sur la table devant la porte.
Je ris.
– La discipline doit être maintenue ? – Exactement. Sortons sur notre petit balcon. Vous pouvez voir toutes nos annexes ici. Je suivis Cynthia et son ami et ils me détaillèrent les différentes annexes. Lawrence demeura en arrière, mais après quelques instants Cynthia l'appela par-dessus son épaule pour qu'il nous rejoigne. Puis elle regarda sa montre.
– Rien d'autre à faire, Nibs ? – Non. – Parfait. Maintenant nous pouvons fermer et partir. J'avais vu Lawrence sous un jour singulièrement différent cet après-midi. Comparé à John, c'était une personne étonnamment difficile à comprendre. Il était le contraire de son frère à presque tous les égards, étant exceptionnellement timide et réservé. Il avait pourtant une certaine séduction et je m'imaginais que, si on le connaissait vraiment bien, on pouvait ressentir une profonde affection pour lui. J'avais toujours pensé que son attitude vis à vis de Cynthia était plutôt empruntée et que de son côté elle avait tendance à être timide à son égard. Mais tous deux étaient plutôt joyeux cet après-midi et bavardaient ensemble comme des enfants.
Comme nous traversions le village, je me souvins que je voulais des timbres aussi nous sommes-nous arrêtés à la poste.
Alors que je ressortais, je bousculai un petit homme qui était en train d'entrer. Je m'écartai et m'excusai, quand tout à coup, dans une exclamation bruyante, il me serra dans ses bras et m'embrassa chaleureusement.
— Mon ami Hastings ! s'écria-t-il. C'est bien mon ami Hastings ! — Poirot ! m'exclamai-je.
Il se tourna vers la carriole.
Quelle agréable rencontre, Mlle Cynthia. Voici mon vieil ami, Monsieur Poirot, que je n'avais pas revu depuis des années. — Oh, nous connaissons Monsieur Poirot, répondit gaiement Cynthia. Mais j'ignorais qu'il était un de vos amis. — Oui, c'est exact, répondit Poirot avec sérieux. Je connais Mademoiselle Cynthia. C'est grâce à la générosité de cette bienfaisante Mme Inglethorp que je suis ici. Puis comme je le regardai d'un air interrogateur : Oui, mon ami, elle a très aimablement accordé l'hospitalité à sept de mes compatriotes, hélas réfugiés loin de leur pays natal. Nous autres Belges nous souviendrons toujours d'elle avec gratitude. Poirot était un petit homme d'une prestance extraordinaire. Il mesurait à peine plus d'un mètre soixante mais avait un maintien très majestueux. Sa tête avait exactement la forme d'un œuf et il la tenait toujours un peu penchée sur le côté. Sa moustache était drue et martiale. Sa tenue était d'une minutie à peine croyable. Je crois qu'un grain de poussière l'aurait plus blessé qu'une balle. Pourtant ce petit homme charmant aux allures de dandy qui, je le remarquai avec tristesse, boitait bas, avait été de son temps l'un des plus célèbres membres de la police belge. En tant que détective, son flair avait été extraordinaire et il avait triomphalement démêlé certaines des affaires les plus délicates de l'époque.
Il m'indiqua la petite maison qu'il occupait avec ses compatriotes belges et je promis d'aller l'y voir très bientôt. Puis il leva respectueusement son chapeau en direction de Cynthia et nous nous éloignâmes.
– C'est un charmant petit homme, dit Cynthia. — J'ignorais que vous le connaissiez. — Sans le savoir, vous avez accueilli une célébrité, répondis-je.
Et pendant tout le trajet du retour, je leur contai les nombreux exploits et succès d'Hercule Poirot.
Nous rentrâmes d'excellente humeur. En arrivant dans l'entrée, nous vîmes Mme Inglethorp sortir de son boudoir. Elle avait le visage empourpré et semblait contrariée.
— Ah, c'est vous, dit-elle.
— Il y a quelque chose qui ne va pas, tante Emily ? demanda Cynthia.
— Absolument pas, répliqua sèchement Mme Ingelthorp. Que pourrait-il bien y avoir ? Puis avisant Dorcas, la chambrière, entrant dans la salle à manger, elle lui demanda de lui apporter des timbres dans le boudoir.
— Oui, ma'ame. La vieille servante hésita puis ajouta timidement : vous ne pensez pas, ma'ame, qu'il vaudrait mieux vous allonger ? Vous semblez très fatiguée. — Vous avez sans doute raison, Dorcas... oui... non... pas maintenant. J'ai des lettres à finir qui doivent partir aujourd'hui. Avez-vous fait du feu dans ma chambre comme je vous l'ai demandé ? – Oui, ma'me. – Alors j'irai me coucher tout de suite après le souper. Elle retourna dans son boudoir et Cynthia la regarda s'éloigner.
– Doux Jésus ! – Je me demande ce qui se passe ? dit-elle à Lawrence.
Il ne sembla pas l'avoir entendue car, sans un mot, il tourna les talons et sortit de la maison.
Je proposai une rapide partie de tennis avant le souper et, Cynthia approuvant, je courus en haut pour chercher ma raquette.
Madame Cavendish descendait les escaliers. Peut-être me faisais-je des idées, mais elle avait l'air bizarre et perturbée.
– Vous avez fait une bonne promenade avec le docteur Bauerstein ? demandai-je en essayent de paraitre aussi indifférent que possible.
– Je n'y suis pas allée, répondit-elle sèchement. Où est madame Inglethorp ? – Dans le boudoir. Sa main se crispa sur la rampe, puis elle parut s'armer de courage en prévision de quelque rencontre et descendit rapidement les escaliers devant moi, traversa l'entrée vers le boudoir dont elle referma la porte derrière elle.
Alors que je courais vers le court de tennis un peu plus tard, je dus passer devant la fenêtre ouverte du boudoir et ne pus éviter de surprendre le bout de dialogue suivant. Mary Cavendish disait du ton d'une femme qui tente désespérément de se maîtriser : – Alors vous ne me le montrerez pas ? – Ce à quoi madame Cavendish répondit : – Ma chère Mary, ça n'a rien à voir avec cette affaire. – Alors montrez-le moi. – Je vous dis que ce n'est pas ce que vous croyez. Ça ne vous concerne pas du tout. À quoi Mary Cavendish répliqua avec une amertume grandissante : – Bien sûr, j'aurais dû savoir que vous le protégeriez. Cynthia m'attendait et m'accueillit avec vivacité : – Je dis ! Il y a eu une terrible dispute ! Je le tiens de Dorcas. — Quel genre de dispute ? — Entre tante Emily et lui. J'espère qu'elle a enfin pigé ! — Dorcas était là alors ? — Bien sûr que non. Elle se trouvait par hasard près de la porte. C'était une magnifique engueulade. Comme j'aimerais en connaître chaque détail ! Je repensai à l'allure gitane de Mme Raikes et aux avertissements d'Evelyn Howard, mais sagement je décidai de me taire, tandis que Cynthia examinait toutes les hypothèses possibles et souhaitait avec enthousiasme : —Pourvu que tante Emily le chasse et ne lui adresse plus la parole. J'avais hâte de retrouver John, mais il était introuvable. De toute évidence, quelque chose d'une extrême importance s'était produit cet après-midi. J'essayai d'oublier les quelques paroles que j'avais surprises, mais malgré mes efforts, je ne pus les chasser complètement de mon esprit. En quoi cette affaire concernait-elle Mary Cavendish ?
Lorsque je descendis pour le dîner, M. Inglethorp se trouvait dans le salon. Son visage était plus impassible que jamais et je fus à nouveau saisi par l'étrange irréalité de l'homme.
Mme Inglethorp fut la dernière à descendre. Elle semblait toujours agitée, et le repas se déroula dans un silence assez pesant. Inglethorp était anormalement placide. D'habitude il entourait son épouse de petites attentions, plaçait un coussin dans son dos tout en jouant le rôle du mari dévoué. Immédiatement après le dîner, Mme Inglethorp se retira à nouveau dans son boudoir.
— Mary, vous me servirez le café ici, déclara-t-elle. Il me reste juste cinq minutes avant la dernière levée. Cynthia et moi allâmes nous assoir devant la fenêtre ouverte du salon. Mary Cavendish nous apporta le café. Elle semblait agitée.
— Voulez-vous un peu de lumière ou préférez-vous celle du crépuscule ? demanda-t-elle. Cynthia, voulez-vous porter son café à Mme Inglethorp ? Je vais le servir. — Pas la peine, Mary, dit Inglethorp. Je vais le lui apporter. Il versa le café et sortit de la pièce, portant la tasse avec précaution.
Lawrence le suivit et Mme Cavendish s'assit près de nous.
Nous restâmes tous les trois silencieux pendant quelque temps. C'était une nuit merveilleuse, chaude et calme. Mme Cavendish s'éventait nonchalamment avec une feuille de palmier.
— Il fait presque trop chaud, murmura-t-elle. Nous allons avoir de l'orage. Dommage que ces moments d'harmonie ne durent jamais. Cet instant idyllique vola brutalement en éclats au son d'une voix, reconnaissable et franchement détestée, venant du hall.
— Le Dr Bauerstein ! s'exclama Cynthia. Quelle drôle d'heure pour une visite. Je lançai un regard jaloux vers Mary Cavendish, mais elle semblait parfaitement sereine, son visage conservant sa délicate pâleur.
En un instant, Alfred Inglethorp avait fait entrer le docteur, ce dernier riant et protestant qu'il n'avait pas la tenue correcte pour être reçu dans un salon. En vérité, il offrait une curieuse image, étant littéralement couvert de boue.
— Qu'avez-vous donc fait, docteur ? s’écria Mme Cavendish.
— Je vous présente mes excuses, répondit le docteur. Je n'avais aucunement l'intention d'entrer, mais M. Inglethorp a insisté. — Eh bien ! Bauertsein, vous êtes dans un drôle d'état, dit John en venant du hall. Prenez un café, et racontez-nous ce qui vous est arrivé. — Merci, je vais vous le dire. Il rit plutôt tristement, tout en nous narrant comment il avait découvert une espèce très rare de fougère dans un endroit inaccessible, et comment dans ses efforts pour la cueillir, il avait perdu l'équilibre et glissé lamentablement dans un étang tout proche.
Le soleil m'a rapidement séché, ajouta-t-il, mais je crains de faire très mauvaise impression. A ce moment, madame Ingelthorp appela Cynthia depuis l'entrée et la jeune fille s'en fut en courant.
– Pourriez vous monter ma mallette, s'il vous plait ma chère ? Je vais me coucher. La porte qui donnait sur le corridor était grande ouverte. Je m'étais levé en même temps que Cynthia, et John était près de moi. Il y avait donc trois témoins qui pouvaient jurer que Mme Inglethorp tenait à la main sa tasse de café qu'elle n'avait pas encore bue.
Ma soirée fut complètement gâchée par la présence du docteur Bauerstein. Il me semblait que l'homme ne partirait jamais. Toutefois il finit par se lever, et je poussai un soupir de soulagement.
— Je vous accompagne jusqu'au village, dit M. Inglethorp. Je dois voir notre administrateur de biens pour ces soucis avec nos terres. Il se tourna vers John. — Que personne ne reste éveillé. Je prendrai la clé de la porte d'entrée.
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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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They were elicited subsequently at the trial by a process of long and tedious cross-examinations.
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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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The entertainment was a great success, Mrs. Inglethorp’s recitation receiving tremendous applause.
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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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“Do you really know what’s in them all?” “Say something original,” groaned Cynthia.
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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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Then we can lock up and go.” I had seen Lawrence in quite a different light that afternoon.
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Compared to John, he was an astoundingly difficult person to get to know.
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He was the opposite of his brother in almost every respect, being unusually shy and reserved.
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But they were both gay enough this afternoon, and chatted together like a couple of children.
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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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“But I had no idea he was a friend of yours.” “Yes, indeed,” said Poirot seriously.
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“I know Mademoiselle Cynthia.
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He was hardly more than five feet, four inches, but carried himself with great dignity.
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His head was exactly the shape of an egg, and he always perched it a little on one side.
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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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“I’d no idea you knew him.” “You’ve been entertaining a celebrity unawares,” I replied.
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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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You’re looking very tired.” “Perhaps you’re right, Dorcas—yes—no—not now.
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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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“Had a good walk with Dr. Bauerstein?” I asked, trying to appear as indifferent as I could.
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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’ve got it all out of Dorcas.” “What kind of a row?” “Between Aunt Emily and him.
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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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His face was impassive as ever, and the strange unreality of the man struck me afresh.
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 1 week ago
unit 118
Mrs. Inglethorp came down last.
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 1 week ago
unit 119
She still looked agitated, and during the meal there was a somewhat constrained silence.
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 1 week ago
unit 120
Inglethorp was unusually quiet.
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 1 week ago
unit 122
Immediately after supper, Mrs. Inglethorp retired to her boudoir again.
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 1 week ago
unit 123
“Send my coffee in here, Mary,” she called.
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 1 week ago
unit 125
Mary Cavendish brought our coffee to us.
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 1 week ago
unit 126
She seemed excited.
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 1 week ago
unit 127
“Do you young people want lights, or do you enjoy the twilight?” she asked.
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 1 week ago
unit 128
“Will you take Mrs. Inglethorp her coffee, Cynthia?
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 1 week ago
unit 129
I will pour it out.” “Do not trouble, Mary,” said Inglethorp.
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 1 week ago
unit 130
“I will take it to Emily.” He poured it out, and went out of the room carrying it carefully.
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unit 131
Lawrence followed him, and Mrs. Cavendish sat down by us.
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 1 week ago
unit 132
We three sat for some time in silence.
2 Translations, 5 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 1 week ago
unit 133
It was a glorious night, hot and still.
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 1 week ago
unit 134
Mrs. Cavendish fanned herself gently with a palm leaf.
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 1 week ago
unit 135
“It’s almost too hot,” she murmured.
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 1 week ago
unit 136
“We shall have a thunderstorm.” Alas, that these harmonious moments can never endure!
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 1 week ago
unit 137
unit 138
“Dr.
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 1 week ago
unit 139
Bauerstein!” exclaimed Cynthia.
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 1 week ago
unit 142
In truth, he presented a sorry spectacle, being literally plastered with mud.
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 1 week ago
unit 143
“What have you been doing, doctor?” cried Mrs. Cavendish.
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 1 week ago
unit 144
“I must make my apologies,” said the doctor.
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 1 week ago
unit 148
“Just carry up my despatch-case, will you, dear?
2 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 149
I’m going to bed.” The door into the hall was a wide one.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 150
I had risen when Cynthia did, John was close by me.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 152
My evening was utterly and entirely spoilt by the presence of Dr. Bauerstein.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 153
It seemed to me the man would never go.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 154
He rose at last, however, and I breathed a sigh of relief.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 155
“I’ll walk down to the village with you,” said Mr. Inglethorp.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 156
“I must see our agent over those estate accounts.” He turned to John.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 157
“No one need sit up.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 158
I will take the latch-key.”
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 2 weeks ago
francevw • 14085  translated  unit 138  4 months, 3 weeks ago
francevw • 14085  commented on  unit 63  4 months, 3 weeks 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.”