Lord Edgware Dies人性记录07
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Chapter 7
 The Secretary
We had not seen the last of Japp. He reappeared about an hour later, flung down his hat on the table and said he was eternally blasted.
‘You have made the inquiries?’ asked Poirot sympathetically.
Japp nodded gloomily.
‘And unless fourteen people are lying, she didn’t do it,’ he growled.
He went on:
‘I don’t mind telling you, M. Poirot, that I expected to find a put-up job. On the face of it, it didn’t seem likely that anyone else could have killed Lord Edgware. She’s the only person who’s got the ghost of a motive.’
‘I would not say that. Mais continuez.’
‘Well, as I say, I expected to find a put-up job. You know what these theatrical crowds are – they’d all hang together to screen a pal. But this is rather a different proposition. The people there last night were all big guns, they were none of them close friends of hers and some of them didn’t know each other. Their testimony is independent and reliable. I hoped then to find that she’d slipped away for half an hour or so. She could easily have done that – powdering her nose or some such excuse. But no, she did leave the dinner table as she told us to answer a telephone call, but the butler was with her – and, by the way, it was just as she told us. He heard what she said. “Yes, quite right. This is Lady Edgware.” And then the other side rang off. It’s curious, that, you know. Not that it’s got anything to do with it.’
‘Perhaps not – but it is interesting. Was it a man or a woman who rang up?’
‘A woman, I think she said.’
‘Curious,’ said Poirot thoughtfully.
‘Never mind that,’ said Japp impatiently. ‘Let’s get back to the important part. The whole evening went exactly as she said. She got there at a quarter to nine, left at half-past eleven and got back here at a quarter to twelve. I’ve seen the chauffeur who drove her – he’s one of Daimler’s regular people. And the people at the Savoy saw her come in and confirm the time.’
‘Eh bien, that seems very conclusive.’
‘Then what about those two in Regent Gate? It isn’t only the butler. Lord Edgware’s secretary saw her too. They both swear by all that’s holy that it was Lady Edgware who came here at ten o’clock.’
‘How long has the butler been there?’
‘Six months. Handsome chap, by the way.’
‘Yes, indeed. Eh bien, my friend, if he has only been there six months he cannot have recognized Lady Edgware since he had not seen her before.’
‘Well, he knew her from her pictures in the papers. And anyway the secretary knew her. She’s been with Lord Edgware five or six years, and she’s the only one who’s absolutely positive.’
‘Ah!’ said Poirot. ‘I should like to see the secretary.’
‘Well, why not come along with me now?’
‘Thank you, mon ami, I should be delighted to do so. You include Hastings in your invitation, I hope?’
Japp grinned.
‘What do you think? Where the master goes, there the dog follows,’ he added in what I could not think was the best of taste.
‘Reminds me of the Elizabeth Canning Case,’ said Japp. ‘You remember? How at least a score of witnesses on either side swore they had seen the gipsy, Mary Squires, in two different parts of England. Good reputable witnesses, too. And she with such a hideous face there couldn’t be two like it. That mystery was never cleared up. It’s very much the same here. Here’s a separate lot of people prepared to swear a woman was in two different places at the same time. Which of ’em is speaking the truth?’
‘That ought not to be difficult to find out.’
‘So you say – but this woman – Miss Carroll, really knew Lady Edgware. I mean she’d lived in the house with her day after day. She wouldn’t be likely to make a mistake.’
‘We shall soon see.’
‘Who comes into the title?’ I asked.
‘A nephew, Captain Ronald Marsh. Bit of a waster, I understand.’
‘What does the doctor say as to the time of death?’ asked Poirot.
‘We’ll have to wait for the autopsy to be exact, you know. See where the dinner had got to.’ Japp’s way of putting things was, I am sorry to say, far from refined. ‘But ten o’clock fits in well enough. He was last seen alive at a few minutes past nine when he left the dinner table and the butler took whisky and soda into the library. At eleven o’clock when the butler went up to bed the light was out – so he must have been dead then. He wouldn’t have been sitting in the dark.’
Poirot nodded thoughtfully. A moment or two later we drew up at the house, the blinds of which were now down.
The door was opened to us by the handsome butler.
Japp took the lead and went in first. Poirot and I followed. The door opened to the left, so that the butler stood against the wall on that side. Poirot was on my right and, being smaller than I was, it was only just as we stepped into the hall that the butler saw him. Being close to him, I heard the sudden intake of his breath and looked sharply at the man to find him staring at Poirot with a kind of startled fear visible on his face. I put the fact away in my mind for what it might be worth.
Japp marched into the dining-room, which lay on our right, and called the butler in after him.
‘Now then, Alton, I want to go into this again very carefully. It was ten o’clock when this lady came?’
‘Her ladyship? Yes, sir.’
‘How did you recognize her?’ asked Poirot.
‘She told me her name, sir, and besides I’ve seen her portrait in the papers. I’ve seen her act, too.’
Poirot nodded.
‘How was she dressed?’
‘In black, sir. Black walking dress, and a small black hat. A string of pearls and grey gloves.’
Poirot looked a question at Japp.
‘White taffeta evening dress and ermine wrap,’ said the latter succinctly.
The butler proceeded. His tale tallied exactly with that which Japp had already passed on to us.
‘Did anybody else come and see your master that evening?’ asked Poirot.
‘No, sir.’
‘How was the front door fastened?’
‘It has a Yale lock, sir. I usually draw the bolts when I go to bed, sir. At eleven, that is. But last night Miss Geraldine was at the opera so it was left unbolted.’
‘How was it fastened this morning?’
‘It was bolted, sir. Miss Geraldine had bolted it when she came in.’
‘When did she come in? Do you know?’
‘I think it was about a quarter to twelve, sir.’
‘Then during the evening until a quarter to twelve, the door could not be opened from outside without a key? From the inside it could be opened by simply drawing back the handle.’
‘Yes, sir.’
‘How many latchkeys were there?’
‘His lordship had his, sir, and there was another key in the hall drawer which Miss Geraldine took last night. I don’t know if there were any others.’
‘Does nobody else in the house have a key?’
‘No, sir. Miss Carroll always rings.’
Poirot intimated that that was all he wished to ask and we went in search of the secretary.
We found her busily writing at a large desk.
Miss Carroll was a pleasant efficient-looking woman of about forty-five. Her fair hair was turning grey and she wore pince-nez through which a pair of shrewd blue eyes gleamed out on us. When she spoke I recognized the clear businesslike voice that had spoken to me through the telephone.
‘Ah! M. Poirot,’ she said as she acknowledged Japp’s introduction. ‘Yes. It was with you I made that appointment for yesterday morning.’
‘Precisely, Mademoiselle.’
I thought that Poirot was favourably impressed by her. Certainly she was neatness and precision personified.
‘Well, Inspector Japp?’ said Miss Carroll. ‘What more can I do for you?’
‘Just this. Are you absolutely certain that it was Lady Edgware who came here last night?’
‘That’s the third time you’ve asked me. Of course I’m sure. I saw her.’
‘Where did you see her, Mademoiselle?’
‘In the hall. She spoke to the butler for a minute then she went along the hall and in at the library door.’
‘And where were you?’
‘On the first floor – looking down.’
‘And you were positive you were not mistaken?’
‘Absolutely. I saw her face distinctly.’
‘You could not have been misled by a resemblance?’
‘Certainly not. Jane Wilkinson’s features are quite unique. It was her.’
Japp threw a glance at Poirot as much as to say: ‘You see.’
‘Had Lord Edgware any enemies?’ asked Poirot suddenly.
‘Nonsense,’ said Miss Carroll.
‘How do you mean – nonsense, Mademoiselle?’
‘Enemies! People in these days don’t have enemies. Not English people!’
‘Yet Lord Edgware was murdered.’
‘That was his wife,’ said Miss Carroll.
‘A wife is not an enemy – no?’
‘I’m sure it was a most extraordinary thing to happen. I’ve never heard of such a thing happening – I mean to anyone in our class of life.’
It was clearly Miss Carroll’s idea that murders were only committed by drunken members of the lower classes.
‘How many keys are there to the front door?’
‘Two,’ replied Miss Carroll promptly. ‘Lord Edgware always carried one. The other was kept in the drawer in the hall, so that anybody who was going to be late in could take it. There was a third one, but Captain Marsh lost it. Very careless.’
‘Did Captain Marsh come much to the house?’
‘He used to live here until three years ago.’
‘Why did he leave?’ asked Japp.
‘I don’t know. He couldn’t get on with his uncle, I suppose.’
‘I think you know a little more than that, Mademoiselle,’ said Poirot gently.
She darted a quick glance at him.
‘I am not one to gossip, M. Poirot.’
‘But you can tell us the truth concerning the rumours of a serious disagreement between Lord Edgware and his nephew.’
‘It wasn’t so serious as all that. Lord Edgware was a difficult man to get on with.’
‘Even you found that?’
‘I’m not speaking of myself. I never had any disagreement with Lord Edgware. He always found me perfectly reliable.’
‘But as regards Captain Marsh –’
Poirot stuck to it, gently continuing to goad her into further revelations.
Miss Carroll shrugged her shoulders.
‘He was extravagant. Got into debt. There was some other trouble – I don’t know exactly what. They quarrelled. Lord Edgware forbade him the house. That’s all.’
Her mouth closed firmly. Evidently she intended to say no more.
The room we had inteviewed her in was on the first floor. As we left it, Poirot took me by the arm.
‘A little minute. Remain here if you will, Hastings. I am going down with Japp. Watch till we have gone into the library, then join us there.’
I have long ago given up asking Poirot questions beginning ‘Why?’ Like the Light Brigade ‘Mine not to reason why, mine but to do or die,’ though fortunately it has not yet come to dying! I thought that possibly he suspected the butler of spying on him and wanted to know if such were really the case.
I took up my stand looking over the banisters. Poirot and Japp went first to the front door – out of my sight. Then they reappeared walking slowly along the hall. I followed their backs with my eye until they had gone into the library. I waited a minute or two in case the butler appeared, but there was no sign of anyone, so I ran down the stairs and joined them.
The body had, of course, been removed. The curtains were drawn and the electric light was on. Poirot and Japp were standing in the middle of the room looking round them.
‘Nothing here,’ Japp was saying.
And Poirot replied with a smile:
‘Alas! not the cigarette ash – nor the footprint – nor a lady’s glove – nor even a lingering perfume! Nothing that the detective of fiction so conveniently finds.’
‘The police are always made out to be as blind as bats in detective stories,’ said Japp with a grin.
‘I found a clue once,’ said Poirot dreamily. ‘But since it was four feet long instead of four centimetres no one would believe in it.’
I remembered the circumstance and laughed. Then I remembered my mission.
‘It’s all right, Poirot,’ I said. ‘I watched, but no one was spying upon you as far as I could see.’
‘The eyes of my friend Hastings,’ said Poirot in a kind of gentle mockery. ‘Tell me, my friend, did you notice the rose between my lips?’
‘The rose between your lips?’ I asked in astonishment. Japp turned aside spluttering with laughter.
‘You’ll be the death of me, M. Poirot,’ he said. ‘The death of me. A rose. What next?’
‘I had the fancy to pretend I was Carmen,’ said Poirot quite undisturbed.
I wondered if they were going mad or if I was.
‘You did not observe it, Hastings?’ There was reproach in Poirot’s voice.
‘No,’ I said, staring. ‘But then I couldn’t see your face.’
‘No matter.’ He shook his head gently.
Were they making fun of me?
‘Well,’ said Japp. ‘No more to do here, I fancy. I’d like to see the daughter again if I could. She was too upset before for me to get anything out of her.’
He rang the bell for the butler.
‘Ask Miss Marsh if I can see her for a few moments?’
The man departed. It was not he, however, but Miss Carroll who entered the room a few minutes later.
‘Geraldine is asleep,’ she said. ‘She’s had a terrible shock, poor child. After you left I gave her something to make her sleep and she’s fast asleep now. In an hour or two, perhaps.’
Japp agreed.
‘In any case there’s nothing she can tell you that I can’t,’ said Miss Carroll firmly.
‘What is your opinion of the butler?’ asked Poirot.
‘I don’t like him much and that’s a fact,’ replied Miss Carroll. ‘But I can’t tell you why.’
We had reached the front door.
‘It was up there that you stood, was it not, last night, Mademoiselle?’ said Poirot suddenly, pointing with his hands up the stairs.
‘Yes. Why?’
‘And you saw Lady Edgware go along the hall into the study?’
‘And you saw her face distinctly?’
‘But you could not have seen her face, Mademoiselle. You can only have seen the back of her head from where you were standing.’
Miss Carroll flushed angrily. She seemed taken aback.
‘Back of her head, her voice, her walk! It’s all the same thing. Absolutely unmistakable! I tell you I know it was Jane Wilkinson – a thoroughly bad woman if there ever was one.’
And turning away she flounced upstairs.