Lord Edgware Dies人性记录06
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Chapter 6
 The Widow
Bryan Martin was as good as his word. In less than ten minutes he had joined us. During the time that we waited his arrival, Poirot would only talk of extraneous subjects and refused to satisfy Japp’s curiosity in the smallest degree.
Evidently our news had upset the young actor terribly. His face was white and drawn.
‘Good heavens, M. Poirot,’ he said as he shook hands. ‘This is a terrible business. I’m shocked to the core – and yet I can’t say I’m surprised. I’ve always half-suspected that something of this kind might happen. You may remember I was saying so yesterday.’
‘Mais oui, mais oui,’ said Poirot. ‘I remember perfectly what you said to me yesterday. Let me introduce you to Inspector Japp who is in charge of the case.’
Bryan Martin shot a glance of reproach at Poirot.
‘I had no idea,’ he murmured. ‘You should have warned me.’
He nodded coldly to the inspector.
He sat down, his lips pressed tightly together.
‘I don’t see,’ he objected, ‘why you asked me to come round. All this has nothing to do with me.’
‘I think it has,’ said Poirot gently. ‘In a case of murder one must put one’s private repugnancies behind one.’
‘No, no. I’ve acted with Jane. I know her well. Dash it all, she’s a friend of mine.’
‘And yet the moment that you hear Lord Edgware is murdered, you jump to the conclusion that it is she who has murdered him,’ remarked Poirot dryly.
The actor started.
‘Do you mean to say –?’ His eyes seemed starting out of his head. ‘Do you mean to say that I’m wrong? That she had nothing to do with it?’
Japp broke in.
‘No, no, Mr Martin. She did it right enough.’
The young man sank back again in his chair.
‘For a moment,’ he murmured, ‘I thought I’d made the most ghastly mistake.’
‘In a matter of this kind friendship must not be allowed to influence you,’ said Poirot decisively.
‘That’s all very well, but –’
‘My friend, do you seriously wish to range yourself on the side of a woman who has murdered? Murder – the most repugnant of human crimes.’
Bryan Martin sighed.
‘You don’t understand. Jane is not an ordinary murderess. She – she has no sense of right or wrong. Honestly she’s not responsible.’
‘That’ll be a question for the jury,’ said Japp.
‘Come, come,’ said Poirot kindly. ‘It is not as though you were accusing her. She is already accused. You cannot refuse to tell us what you know. You have a duty to society, young man.’
Bryan Martin sighed.
‘I suppose you’re right,’ he said. ‘What do you want me to tell you?’
Poirot looked at Japp.
‘Have you ever heard Lady Edgware – or perhaps I’d better call her Miss Wilkinson – utter threats against her husband?’ asked Japp.
‘Yes, several times.’
‘What did she say?’
‘She said that if he didn’t give her her freedom she’d have to “bump him off ”.’
‘And that was not a joke, eh?’
‘No. I think she meant it seriously. Once she said she’d take a taxi and go round and kill him – you heard that, M. Poirot?’
He appealed pathetically to my friend.
Poirot nodded.
Japp went on with his questions.
‘Now, Mr Martin, we’ve been informed that she wanted her freedom in order to marry another man. Do you know who that man was?’
Bryan nodded.
‘It was – the Duke of Merton.’
‘The Duke of Merton! Whew!’ The detective whistled. ‘Flying at high game, eh? Why, he’s said to be one of the richest men in England.’
Bryan nodded more dejectedly than ever.
I could not quite understand Poirot’s attitude. He was lying back in his chair, his fingers pressed together and the rhythmic motion of his head suggested the complete approval of a man who has put a chosen record on the gramophone and is enjoying the result.
‘Wouldn’t her husband divorce her?’
‘No, he refused absolutely.’
‘You know that for a fact?’
‘And now,’ said Poirot, suddenly taking part once more in the proceedings, ‘you see where I come in, my good Japp. I was asked by Lady Edgware to see her husband and try and get him to agree to a divorce. I had an appointment for this morning.’
Bryan Martin shook his head.
‘It would have been of no use,’ he declared confidently. ‘Edgware would never have agreed.’
‘You think not?’ said Poirot, turning an amiable glance on him.
‘Sure of it. Jane knew that in her heart of hearts. She’d no real confidence that you’d succeed. She’d given up hope. The man was a monomaniac on the subject of divorce.’
Poirot smiled. His eyes grew suddenly very green.
‘You are wrong, my dear young man,’ he said gently. ‘I saw Lord Edgware yesterday, and he agreed to a divorce.’
There was no doubt that Bryan Martin was completely dumbfounded by this piece of news. He stared at Poirot with his eyes almost starting out of his head.
‘You – you saw him yesterday?’ he spluttered.
‘At a quarter-past twelve,’ said Poirot in his methodical manner.
‘And he agreed to a divorce?’
‘He agreed to a divorce.’
‘You should have told Jane at once,’ cried the young man reproachfully.
‘I did, M. Martin.’
‘You did?’ cried Martin and Japp together.
Poirot smiled.
‘It impairs the motive a little, does it not?’ he murmured. ‘And now, M. Martin, let me call your attention to this.’
He showed him the newspaper paragraph.
Bryan read it, but without much interest.
‘You mean this makes an alibi?’ he said. ‘I suppose Edgware was shot some time yesterday evening?’
‘He was stabbed, not shot,’ said Poirot.
Martin laid the paper down slowly.
‘I’m afraid this does no good,’ he said regretfully. ‘Jane didn’t go to that dinner.’
‘How do you know?’
‘I forget. Somebody told me.’
‘That is a pity,’ said Poirot thoughtfully.
Japp looked at him curiously.
‘I can’t make you out, Moosior. Seems now as though you don’t want the young woman to be guilty.’
‘No, no, my good Japp. I am not the partisan you think. But frankly, the case as you present it, revolts the intelligence.’
‘What do you mean, revolts the intelligence? It doesn’t revolt mine.’
I could see words trembling on Poirot’s lips. He restrained them.
‘Here is a young woman who wishes, you say, to get rid of her husband. That point I do not dispute. She told me so frankly. Eh bien, how does she set about it? She repeats several times in the loud clear voice before witnesses that she is thinking of killing him. She then goes out one evening. Calls at his house, has herself announced, stabs him and goes away. What do you call that, my good friend? Has it even the common sense?’
‘It was a bit foolish, of course.’
‘Foolish? It is the imbecility!’
‘Well,’ said Japp, rising. ‘It’s all to the advantage of the police when criminals lose their heads. I must go back to the Savoy now.’
‘You permit that I accompany you?’
Japp made no demur and we set out. Bryan Martin took a reluctant leave of us. He seemed to be in a great state of nervous excitement. He begged earnestly that any further development might be reported to him.
‘Nervy sort of chap,’ was Japp’s comment on him.
Poirot agreed.
At the Savoy we found an extremely legal-looking gentleman who had just arrived, and we proceeded all together to Jane’s suite. Japp spoke to one of his men.
‘Anything?’ he inquired laconically.
‘She wanted to use the telephone!’
‘Who did she telephone to?’ inquired Japp eagerly.
‘Jay’s. For mourning.’
Japp swore under his breath. We entered the suite. The widowed Lady Edgware was trying on hats in front of the glass. She was dressed in a filmy creation of black and white. She greeted us with a dazzling smile.
‘Why, M. Poirot, how good of you to come along. Mr Moxon,’ (this was to the solicitor) ‘I’m so glad you’ve come. Just sit right by me and tell what questions I ought to answer. This man here seems to think that I went out and killed George this morning.’
‘Last night, madam,’ said Japp.
‘You said this morning. Ten o’clock.’
‘I said ten p.m.’
‘Well. I can never tell which is which – a.m.’s and p.m.’s.’
‘It’s only just about ten o’clock now,’ added the inspector severely.
Jane’s eyes opened very wide.
‘Mercy,’ she murmured. ‘It’s years since I’ve been awake as early as this. Why, it must have been Early Dawn when you came along.’
‘One moment, Inspector,’ said Mr Moxon in his ponderous legal voice. ‘When am I to understand that this – er – regrettable – most shocking – occurrence took place?’
‘Round about ten o’clock last night, sir.’
‘Why, that’s all right,’ said Jane sharply. ‘I was at a party – Oh!’ She covered her mouth up suddenly. ‘Perhaps I oughtn’t to have said that.’
Her eyes sought the solicitor’s in timid appeal.
‘If, at ten o’clock last night, you were – er – at a party, Lady Edgware, I – er – I can see no objection to your informing the inspector of the fact – no objection whatever.’
‘That’s right,’ said Japp. ‘I only asked you for a statement of your movements yesterday evening.’
‘You didn’t. You said ten something m. And anyway you gave me the most terrible shock. I fainted dead away, Mr Moxon.’
‘About this party, Lady Edgware?’
‘It was at Sir Montagu Corner’s – at Chiswick.’
‘What time did you go there?’
‘The dinner was for eight-thirty.’
‘You left here – when?’
‘I started about eight o’clock. I dropped in at the Piccadilly Palace for a moment to say goodbye to an American friend who was leaving for the States – Mrs Van Dusen. I got to Chiswick at a quarter to nine.’
‘What time did you leave?’
‘About half-past eleven.’
‘You came straight back here?’
‘In a taxi?’
‘No. In my own car. I hire it from the Daimler people.’
‘And whilst you were at the dinner you didn’t leave it?’
‘Well – I –’
‘So you did leave it?’
It was like a terrier pouncing on a rat.
‘I don’t know what you mean. I was called to the telephone when we were at dinner.’
‘Who called you?’
‘I guess it was some kind of hoax. A voice said, “Is that Lady Edgware?” And I said, “Yes, that’s right,” and then they just laughed and rang off.’
‘Did you go outside the house to telephone?’
Jane’s eyes opened wide in amazement.
‘Of course not.’
‘How long were you away from the dinner table?’
‘About a minute and a half.’
Japp collapsed after that. I was fully convinced that he did not believe a word she was saying, but having heard her story he could do no more until he had confirmed or disproved it.
Having thanked her coldly, he withdrew.
We also took our leave but she called Poirot back.
‘M. Poirot. Will you do something for me?’
‘Certainly, Madame.’
‘Send a cable for me to the Duke in Paris. He’s at the Crillon. He ought to know about this. I don’t like to send it myself. I guess I’ve got to look the bereaved widow for a week or two.’
‘It is quite unnecessary to cable, Madame,’ said Poirot gently. ‘It will be in the papers over there.’
‘Why, what a headpiece you’ve got! Of course it will. Much better not to cable. I feel it’s up to me to keep up my position now everything’s gone right. I want to act the way a widow should. Sort of dignified, you know. I thought of sending a wreath of orchids. They’re about the most expensive things going. I suppose I shall have to go to the funeral. What do you think?’
‘You will have to go to the inquest first, Madame.’
‘Why, I suppose that’s true.’ She considered for a moment or two. ‘I don’t like that Scotland Yard inspector at all. He just scared me to death. M. Poirot?’
‘Seems it’s kind of lucky I changed my mind and went to that party after all.’
Poirot had been going towards the door. Suddenly, at these words, he wheeled round.
‘What is that you say, Madame? You changed your mind?’
‘Yes. I meant to give it a miss. I had a frightful headache yesterday afternoon.’
Poirot swallowed once or twice. He seemed to have a difficulty in speaking.
‘Did you – say so to anyone?’ he asked at last.
‘Certainly I did. There was quite a crowd of us having tea and they wanted me to go on to a cocktail party and I said “No.” I said my head was aching fit to split and that I was going right home and that I was going to cut the dinner too.’
‘And what made you change your mind, Madame?’
‘Ellis went on at me. Said I couldn’t afford to turn it down. Old Sir Montagu pulls a lot of strings, you know, and he’s a crotchety creature – takes offence easily. Well, I didn’t care. Once I marry Merton I’m through with all this. But Ellis is always on the cautious side. She said there’s many a slip, etc., and after all I guess she’s right. Anyway, off I went.’
‘You owe Ellis a debt of gratitude, Madame,’ said Poirot seriously.
‘I suppose I do. That inspector had got it all taped out, hadn’t he?’
She laughed, Poirot did not. He said in a low voice:
‘All the same – this gives one furiously to think. Yes, furiously to think.’
‘Ellis,’ called Jane.
The maid came in from the next room.
‘M. Poirot says it’s very lucky you made me go to that party last night.’
Ellis barely cast a glance at Poirot. She was looking grim and disapproving.
‘It doesn’t do to break engagements, m’lady. You’re much too fond of doing it. People don’t always forgive it. They turn nasty.’
Jane picked up the hat she had been trying on when we came in. She tried it again.
‘I hate black,’ she said disconsolately. ‘I never wear it. But I suppose, as a correct widow I’ve just got to. All those hats are too frightful. Ring up the other hat place, Ellis. I’ve got to be fit to be seen.’
Poirot and I slipped quietly from the room.