Lord Edgware Dies人性记录11
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Chapter 11
 The Egoist

I do not think Poirot had expected any other answer to his question. All the same he shook his head sadly. He remained lost in thought. Jenny Driver leant forward, her elbows on the table.
‘And now,’ she said, ‘am I going to be told anything?’
‘Mademoiselle,’ said Poirot. ‘First of all let me compliment you. Your answers to my questions have been singularly intelligent. Clearly you have brains, Made-moiselle. You ask whether I am going to tell you anything. I answer – not very much. I will tell you just a few bare facts, Mademoiselle.’
He paused, and then said quietly:
‘Last night Lord Edgware was murdered in his library. At ten o’clock yesterday evening a lady whom I believe to have been your friend Miss Adams came to the house, asked to see Lord Edgware, and announced herself as Lady Edgware. She wore a golden wig and was made up to resemble the real Lady Edgware who, as you probably know, is Miss Jane Wilkinson, the actress. Miss Adams (if it were she) only remained a few moments. She left the house at five minutes past ten but she did not return home till after midnight. She went to bed, having taken an overdose of veronal. Now, Mademoiselle, you see the point, perhaps, of some of the questions I have been asking you.’
Jenny drew a deep breath.
‘Yes,’ she said, ‘I see now. I believe you’re right, M. Poirot. Right about its having been Carlotta, I mean. For one thing, she bought a new hat off me yesterday.’
‘A new hat?’
‘Yes. She said she wanted one to shade the left side of her face.’
There I must insert a few words of explanation as I do not know when these words will be read. I have seen many fashions of hats in my time – the cloche that shaded the face so completely that one gave up in despair the task of recognizing one’s friends. The tilted forward hat, the hat attached airily to the back of the head, the beret, and many other styles. In this particular June the hat of the moment was shaped like an inverted soup plate and was worn attached (as if by suction) over one ear, leaving the other side of the face and hair open to inspection.
‘These hats are usually worn on the right side of the head?’ asked Poirot.
The little modiste nodded.
‘But we keep a few to be worn on the opposite side,’ she explained. ‘Because there are people who much prefer their right profile to the left or who have a habit of parting the hair on one side only. Now, would there be any special reason for Carlotta’s wanting that side of her face to be in shadow?’
I remembered that the door of the house in Regent Gate opened to the left, so that anyone entering would be in full view of the butler that side. I remembered also that Jane Wilkinson (so I had noticed the other night) had a tiny mole at the corner of the left eye.
I said as much excitedly. Poirot agreed, nodding his head vigorously.
‘It is so. It is so. Vous avez parfaitement raison, Hastings. Yes, that explains the purchase of the hat.’
‘M. Poirot?’ Jenny sat suddenly bolt upright. ‘You don’t think – you don’t for one moment think – that Carlotta did it? Kill him, I mean. You can’t think that? Not just because she spoke so bitterly about him.’
‘I do not think so. But it is curious, all the same – that she should have spoken so, I mean. I would like to know the reason for it. What had he done – what did she know of him to make her speak in such a fashion?’
‘I don’t know – but she didn’t kill him. She’s – oh! she was – well – too refined.’
Poirot nodded approvingly.
‘Yes, yes. You put that very well. It is a point psychological. I agree. This was a scientific crime – but not a refined one.’
‘The murderer knew exactly where to strike so as to reach the vital nerve centres at the base of the skull where it joins the cord.’
‘Looks like a doctor,’ said Jenny thoughtfully.
‘Did Miss Adams know any doctors? I mean, was any particular doctor a friend of hers?’
Jenny shook her head.
‘Never heard of one. Not over here, anyway.’
‘Another question. Did Miss Adams wear pincenez?’
‘Glasses? Never.’
‘Ah!’ Poirot frowned.
A vision rose in my mind. A doctor, smelling of carbolic, with short-sighted eyes magnified by powerful lenses. Absurd!
‘By the way, did Miss Adams know Bryan Martin, the film actor?’
‘Why, yes. She used to know him as a child, she told me. I don’t think she saw much of him, though. Just once in a while. She told me she thought he’d got very swollen-headed.’
She looked at her watch and uttered an exclamation.
‘Goodness, I must fly. Have I helped you at all, M. Poirot?’
‘You have. I shall ask you for further help by and by.’
‘It’s yours. Someone staged this devilry. We’ve got to find out who it is.’
She gave us a quick shake of the hand, flashed her white teeth in a sudden smile and left us with characteristic abruptness.
‘An interesting personality,’ said Poirot as he paid the bill.
‘I like her,’ I said.
‘It is always a pleasure to meet a quick mind.’
‘A little hard, perhaps,’ I reflected. ‘The shock of her friend’s death did not upset her as much as I should have thought it would have done.’
‘She is not the sort that weeps, certainly,’ agreed Poirot dryly.
‘Did you get what you hoped from the interview?’
He shook his head.
‘No – I hoped – very much I hoped – to get a clue to the personality of D, the person who gave her the little gold box. There I have failed. Unfortunately Carlotta Adams was a reserved girl. She was not one to gossip about her friends or her possible love affairs. On the other hand, the person who suggested the hoax may not have been a friend at all. It may have been a mere acquaintance who proposed it – doubtless for some “sporting” reason – on a money basis. This person may have seen the gold box she carried about with her and made some opportunity to discover what it contained.’
‘But how on earth did they get her to take it? And when?’
‘Well, there was the time during which the flat door was open – when the maid was out posting a letter. Not that that satisfies me. It leaves too much to chance. But now – to work. We have still two possible clues.’
‘Which are?’
‘The first is the telephone call to a Victoria number. It seems to me quite a probability that Carlotta Adams would ring up on her return to announce her success. On the other hand, where was she between five minutes past ten and midnight? She may have had an appointment with the instigator of the hoax. In that case the telephone call may have been merely one to a friend.’
‘What is the second clue?’
‘Ah! that I do have hopes of. The letter, Hastings. The letter to her sister. It is possible – I only say possible – that in that she may have described the whole business. She would not regard it as a breach of faith, since the letter would not be read till a week later and in another country at that.’
‘Amazing, if that is so!’
‘We must not build too much upon it, Hastings. It is a chance, that is all. No, we must work now from the other end.’
‘What do you call the other end?’
‘A careful study of those who profit in any degree by Lord Edgware’s death.’
I shrugged my shoulders.
‘Apart from his nephew and his wife –’
‘And the man the wife wanted to marry,’ added Poirot.
‘The Duke? He is in Paris.’
‘Quite so. But you cannot deny that he is an interested party. Then there are the people in the house – the butler – the servants. Who knows what grudges they may have had? But I think myself our first point of attack should be a further interview with Mademoiselle Jane Wilkinson. She is shrewd. She may be able to suggest something.’
Once more we made our way to the Savoy. We found the lady surrounded by boxes and tissue paper, whilst exquisite black draperies were strewn over the back of every chair. Jane had a rapt and serious expression and was just trying on yet another small black hat before the glass.
‘Why, M. Poirot. Sit down. That is, if there’s anything to sit on. Ellis, clear something, will you?’
‘Madame. You look charming.’
Jane looked serious.
‘I don’t want exactly to play the hypocrite, M. Poirot. But one must observe appearances, don’t you think? I mean, I think I ought to be careful. Oh! by the way, I’ve had the sweetest telegram from the Duke.’
‘From Paris?’
‘Yes, from Paris. Guarded, of course, and supposed to be condolences, but put so that I can read between the lines.’
‘My felicitations, Madame.’
‘M. Poirot.’ She clasped her hands, her husky voice dropped. She looked like an angel about to give vent to thoughts of exquisite holiness. ‘I’ve been thinking. It all seems so miraculous, if you know what I mean. Here I am – all my troubles over. No tiresome business of divorce. No bothers. Just my path cleared and all plain sailing. It makes me feel almost religious – if you know what I mean.’
I held my breath. Poirot looked at her, his head a little on one side. She was quite serious.
‘That is how it strikes you, Madame, eh?’
‘Things happen right for me,’ said Jane in a sort of awed whisper. ‘I’ve thought and I’ve thought lately – if Edgware was to die. And there – he’s dead! It’s – it’s almost like an answer to prayer.’
Poirot cleared his throat.
‘I cannot say I look at it quite like that, Madame. Somebody killed your husband.’
She nodded.
‘Why, of course.’
‘Has it not occurred to you to wonder who that someone was?’
She stared at him. ‘Does it matter? I mean – what’s that to do with it? The Duke and I can be married in about four or five months . . .’
With difficulty Poirot controlled himself.
‘Yes, Madame, I know that. But apart from that has it not occurred to you to ask yourself who killed your husband?’
‘No.’ She seemed quite surprised by the idea. We could see her thinking about it.
‘Does it not interest you to know?’ asked Poirot.
‘Not very much, I’m afraid,’ she admitted. ‘I suppose the police will find out. They’re very clever, aren’t they?’
‘So it is said. I, too, am going to make it my business to find out.’
‘Are you? How funny.’
‘Why funny?’
‘Well, I don’t know.’ Her eyes strayed back to the clothes. She slipped on a satin coat and studied herself in the glass.
‘You do not object, eh?’ said Poirot, his eyes twinkling.
‘Why, of course not, M. Poirot. I should just love you to be clever about it all. I wish you every success.’
‘Madame – I want your more than wishes. I want your opinion.’
‘Opinion?’ said Jane absently, as she twisted her head over her shoulder. ‘What on?’
‘Who do you think likely to have killed Lord Edgware?’
Jane shook her head. ‘I haven’t any idea!’
She wriggled her shoulders experimentally and took up the hand-glass.
‘Madame!’ said Poirot in a loud, emphatic voice. ‘Who DO you THINK KILLED YOUR HUSBAND?’
This time it got through. Jane threw him a startled glance. ‘Geraldine, I expect,’ she said.
‘Who is Geraldine?’
But Jane’s attention was gone again.
‘Ellis, take this up a little on the right shoulder. So. What, M. Poirot? Geraldine’s his daughter. No Ellis, the right shoulder. That’s better. Oh! must you go, M. Poirot? I’m terribly grateful for everything. I mean, for the divorce, even though it isn’t necessary after all. I shall always think you were wonderful.’
I only saw Jane Wilkinson twice again. Once on the stage, once when I sat opposite her at a luncheon party. I always think of her as I saw her then, absorbed heart and soul in clothes, her lips carelessly throwing out the words that were to influence Poirot’s further actions, her mind concentrated firmly and beautifully on herself.
Epatant,’ said Poirot with reverence as we emerged into the Strand.