Lord Edgware Dies人性记录18
文章来源:未知 文章作者:enread 发布时间:2023-08-30 06:37 字体: [ ]  进入论坛
Chapter 18
 The Other Man
I do not propose to describe either the inquest on Lord Edgware or that on Carlotta Adams. In Carlotta’s case the verdict was Death by Misadventure. In the case of Lord Edgware the inquest was adjourned, after evidence of identification and the medical evidence had been given. As a result of the analysis of the stomach, the time of death was fixed as having occurred not less than an hour after the completion of dinner, with possible extension to an hour after that. This put it as between ten and eleven o’clock, with the probability in favour of the earlier time.
None of the facts concerning Carlotta’s impersonation of Jane Wilkinson were allowed to leak out. A description of the wanted butler was published in the press, and the general impression seemed to be that the butler was the man wanted. His story of Jane Wilkinson’s visit was looked upon as an impudent fabrication. Nothing was said of the secretary’s corroborating testimony. There were columns concerning the murder in all the papers, but little real information.
Meanwhile Japp was actively at work, I knew. It vexed me a little that Poirot adopted such an inert attitude. The suspicion that approaching old age had something to do with it flashed across me – not for the first time. He made excuses to me which did not ring very convincingly.
‘At my time of life one saves oneself the trouble,’ he explained.
‘But, Poirot, my dear fellow, you mustn’t think of yourself as old,’ I protested.
I felt that he needed bracing. Treatment by suggestion – that, I know, is the modern idea.
‘You are as full of vigour as ever you were,’ I said earnestly. ‘You’re in the prime of life, Poirot. At the height of your powers. You could go out and solve this case magnificently if you only would.’
Poirot replied that he preferred to solve it sitting at home.
‘But you can’t do that, Poirot.’
‘Not entirely, it is true.’
‘What I mean is, we are doing nothing! Japp is doing everything.’
‘Which suits me admirably.’
‘It doesn’t suit me at all. I want you to be doing things.’
‘So I am.’
‘What are you doing?’
‘Waiting for what?’
‘Pour que mon chien de chasse me rapporte le gibier,’ replied Poirot with a twinkle.
‘What do you mean?’
‘I mean the good Japp. Why keep a dog and bark yourself ? Japp brings us here the result of the physical energy you admire so much. He has various means at his disposal which I have not. He will have news for us very soon, I do not doubt.’
By dint of persistent inquiry, it was true that Japp was slowly getting together material. He had drawn a blank in Paris, but a couple of days later he came in looking pleased with himself.
‘It’s slow work,’ he said. ‘But we’re getting somewhere at last.’
‘I congratulate you, my friend. What has happened?’
‘I’ve discovered that a fair-haired lady deposited an attaché-case in the cloak-room at Euston at nine o’clock that night. They’ve been shown Miss Adams’ case and identify it positively. It’s of American make and so just a little different.’
‘Ah! Euston. Yes, the nearest of the big stations to Regent Gate. She went there doubtless, made herself up in the lavatory, and then left the case. When was it taken out again?’
‘At half-past ten. The clerk says by the same lady.’ Poirot nodded. ‘And I’ve come on something else too. I’ve reason to believe that Carlotta Adams was in Lyons Corner House in the Strand at eleven o’clock.’
‘Ah! c’est três bien ?a! How did you come across that?’
‘Well, really more or less by chance. You see, there’s been a mention in the papers of the little gold box with the ruby initials. Some reporter wrote it up – he was doing an article on the prevalence of dope-taking among young actresses. Sunday paper romantic stuff. The fatal little gold box with its deadly contents – pathetic figure of a young girl with all the world before her! And just a wonder expressed as to where she passed her last evening and how she felt and so on and so on.
‘Well, it seems a waitress at the Corner House read this and she remembered that a lady she had served that evening had had such a box in her hand. She remembered the C.A. on it. And she got excited and began talking to all her friends – perhaps a paper would give her something?
‘A young newspaper man soon got on to it and there’s going to be a good sobstuff article in tonight’s Evening Shriek. The last hours of the talented actress. Waiting – for the man who never came – and a good bit about the actress’s sympathetic intuition that something was not well with her sister woman. You know the kind of bilge, M. Poirot?’
‘And how has it come to your ears so quickly?’
‘Oh! well, we’re on very good terms with the Evening Shriek. It got passed on to me while their particular bright young man tried to get some news out of me about something else. So I rushed along to the Corner House straight away –’
Yes, that was the way things ought to be done. I felt a pang of pity for Poirot. Here was Japp getting all this news at first hand – quite possibly missing valuable details, and here was Poirot placidly content with stale news.
‘I saw the girl – and I don’t think there’s much doubt about it. She couldn’t pick out Carlotta Adams’ photograph, but then she said she didn’t notice the lady’s face particularly. She was young and dark and slim, and very well dressed, the girl said. Had got on one of the new hats. I wish women looked at faces a bit more and hats a bit less.’
‘The face of Miss Adams is not an easy one to observe,’ said Poirot. ‘It had the mobility, the sensitiveness – the fluid quality.’
‘I daresay you’re right. I don’t go in for analysing these things. Dressed in black the lady was, so the girl said, and she had an attaché-case with her. The girl noticed that particularly, because it struck her as odd that a lady so well dressed should be carrying a case about. She ordered some scrambled eggs and some coffee, but the girl thinks she was putting in time and waiting for someone. She’d got a wrist-watch on and she kept looking at it. It was when the girl came to give her the bill that she noticed the box. The lady took it out of her handbag and had it on the table looking at it. She opened the lid and shut it down again. She was smiling in a pleased dreamy sort of way. The girl noticed the box particularly because it was such a lovely thing. “I’d like to have a gold box with my initials in rubies on it!” she said.
‘Apparently Miss Adams sat there some time after paying her bill. Then, finally, she looked at her watch once more, seemed to give it up and went out.’
Poirot was frowning.
‘It was a rendez-vous,’ he murmured. ‘A rendez-vous with someone who did not turn up. Did Carlotta Adams meet that person afterwards? Or did she fail to meet him and go home and try to ring him up? I wish I knew – oh! how I wish I knew.’
‘That’s your theory, M. Poirot. Mysterious Manin-the-Background. That Man-in-the-Background’s a myth. I don’t say she mayn’t have been waiting for someone – that’s possible. She may have made an appointment to meet someone there after her business with his lordship was settled satisfactorily. Well, we know what happened. She lost her head and stabbed him. But she’s not one to lose her head for long. She changes her appearance at the station, gets out the case, goes to the rendezvous, and then what they call the “reaction” gets her. Horror of what she’d done. And when her friend doesn’t turn up, that finished her. He may be someone who knew she was going to Regent Gate that evening. She feels the game’s up. So she takes out her little box of dope. An overdose of that and it’ll be all over. At any rate she won’t be hanged. Why, it’s as plain as the nose on your face.’
Poirot’s hand strayed doubtfully to his nose, then his fingers dropped to his moustaches. He caressed them tenderly with a proud expression.
‘There was no evidence at all of a mysterious Manin-the-Background,’ said Japp, pursuing his advantage doggedly. ‘I haven’t got evidence yet of a connection between her and his lordship, but I shall do – it’s only a question of time. I must say I’m disappointed about Paris, but nine months ago is a long time. I’ve still got someone making inquiries over there. Something may come to light yet. I know you don’t think so. You’re a pig-headed old boy, you know.’
‘You insult first my nose and then my head!’
‘Figure of speech, that’s all,’ said Japp soothingly. ‘No offence meant.’
‘The answer to that,’ I said, ‘is “nor taken.”’ Poirot looked from one to the other of us completely puzzled.
‘Any orders?’ inquired Japp facetiously from the door. Poirot smiled forgivingly at him.
‘An order, no. A suggestion – yes.’
‘Well, what is it? Out with it.’
‘A suggestion that you circularize the taxi-cabs. Find one that took a fare – or more probably two fares – yes, two fares – from the neighbourhood of Covent Garden to Regent Gate on the night of the murder. As to time it would probably be about twenty minutes to eleven.’
Japp cocked an eye alertly. He had the look of a smart terrier dog.
‘So, that’s the idea, is it?’ he said. ‘Well, I’ll do it. Can’t do any harm – and you sometimes know what you’re talking about.’
No sooner had he left than Poirot arose and with great energy began to brush his hat.
‘Ask me no questions, my friend. Instead bring me the benzine. A morsel of omelette this morning descended on my waistcoat.’
I brought it to him.
‘For once,’ I said. ‘I do not think I need to ask questions. It seems fairly obvious. But do you think it really is so?’
‘Mon ami, at the moment I concern myself solely with the toilet. If you will pardon me saying so, your tie does not please me.’
‘It’s a jolly good tie,’ I said.
‘Possibly – once. It feels the old age as you have been kind enough to say I do. Change it, I beseech you, and also brush the right sleeve.’
‘Are we proposing to call on King George?’ I inquired sarcastically.
‘No. But I saw in the newspaper this morning that the Duke of Merton had returned to Merton House. I understand he is a premier member of the English aristocracy. I wish to do him all honour.’
There is nothing of the Socialist about Poirot. ‘Why are we going to call on the Duke of Merton?’
‘I wish to see him.’
That was all I could get out of him. When my attire was at last handsome enough to please Poirot’s critical eye, we started out.
At Merton House, Poirot was asked by a footman if he had an appointment. Poirot replied in the negative. The footman bore away the card and returned shortly to say that His Grace was very sorry but he was extremely busy this morning. Poirot immediately sat down in a chair.
‘Trés bien,’ he said. ‘I wait. I will wait several hours if need be.’
This, however, was not necessary. Probably as the shortest way of getting rid of the importunate caller, Poirot was bidden to the presence of the gentleman he desired to see.
The Duke was about twenty-seven years of age. He was hardly prepossessing in appearance, being thin and weakly. He had nondescript thin hair going bald at the temples, a small bitter mouth and vague dreamy eyes. There were several crucifixes in the room and various religious works of art. A wide shelf of books seemed to contain nothing but theological works. He looked far more like a weedy young haberdasher than like a duke. He had, I knew, been educated at home, having been a terribly delicate child. This was the man who had fallen an immediate prey to Jane Wilkinson! It was really ludicrous in the extreme. His manner was priggish and his reception of us just short of courteous.
‘You may, perhaps, know my name,’ began Poirot. ‘I have no acquaintance with it.’
‘I study the psychology of crime.’
The Duke was silent. He was sitting at a writing-table, an unfinished letter before him. He tapped impatiently on the desk with his pen.
‘For what reason do you wish to see me?’ he inquired coldly.
Poirot was sitting opposite him. His back was to the window. The Duke was facing it.
‘I am at present engaged on investigating the circumstances connected with Lord Edgware’s death.’
Not a muscle of the weak but obstinate face moved.
‘Indeed? I was not acquainted with him.’
‘But you are, I think, acquainted with his wife – with Miss Jane Wilkinson?’
‘That is so.’
‘You are aware that she is supposed to have had a strong motive for desiring the death of her husband?’
‘I am really not aware of anything of the kind.’
‘I should like to ask you outright, Your Grace. Are you shortly going to marry Miss Jane Wilkinson?’
‘When I am engaged to marry anyone the fact will be announced in the newspapers. I consider your question an impertinence.’ He stood up. ‘Good morning.’
Poirot stood up also. He looked awkward. He hung his head. He stammered.
‘I did not mean . . . I . . . Je vous demande pardon . . .’
‘Good morning,’ repeated the Duke, a little louder.
This time Poirot gave it up. He made a characteristic gesture of hopelessness, and we left. It was an ignominious dismissal.
I felt rather sorry for Poirot. His usual bombast had not gone well. To the Duke of Merton a great detective was evidently lower than a black beetle.
‘That didn’t go too well,’ I said sympathetically. ‘What a stiff-necked tartar that man is. What did you really want to see him for?’
‘I wanted to know whether he and Jane Wilkinson are really going to marry.’
‘She said so.’
‘Ah! she said so. But, you realize, she is one of those who say anything that suits their purpose. She might have decided to marry him and he – poor man – might not yet be aware of the fact.’
‘Well, he certainly sent you away with a flea in the ear.’
‘He gave me the reply he would give to a reporter – yes.’ Poirot chuckled. ‘But I know! I know exactly how the case stands.’
‘How do you know? By his manner?’
‘Not at all. You saw he was writing a letter?’
‘Eh bien, in my early days in the police force in Belgium I learned that it was very useful to read handwriting upside down. Shall I tell you what he was saying in that letter? “My dearest Jane, my adored, my beautiful angel, how can I tell you what you are to me? You who have suffered so much! Your beautiful nature –”’
‘Poirot!’ I cried, scandalized, stopping him.
‘That was as far as he had got. “Your beautiful nature – only I know it.”’
I felt very upset. He was so naively pleased with his performance.
‘Poirot,’ I cried. ‘You can’t do a thing like that. Overlook a private letter.’
‘You say the imbecilities, Hastings. Absurd to say I “cannot do” a thing which I have just done!’
‘It’s not – not playing the game.’
‘I do not play games. You know that. Murder is not a game. It is serious. And anyway, Hastings, you should not use that phrase – playing the game. It is not said any more. I have discovered that. It is dead. Young people laugh when they hear it. Mais oui, young beautiful girls will laugh at you if you say “playing the game” and “not cricket”.’
I was silent. I could not bear this thing that Poirot had done so light-heartedly.
‘It was so unnecessary,’ I said. ‘If you had only told him that you had gone to Lord Edgware at Jane Wilkinson’s request, then he would have treated you very differently.’
‘Ah! but I couldn’t do that. Jane Wilkinson was my client. I cannot speak of my client’s affairs to another. I undertake a mission in confidence. To speak of it would not be honourable.’
‘But she’s going to marry him?’
‘That does not mean that she has no secrets from him. Your ideas about marriage are very old-fashioned. No, what you suggest, I couldn’t possibly have done. I have my honour as a detective to think of. The honour, it is a very serious thing.’
‘Well, I suppose it takes all kinds of honour to make a world.’