三幕悲剧 13
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Third Act - Discovery

CHAPTER 1 Mrs Babbington
Mrs. Babbington had moved into a small fisherman’s cottage not far from the harbour. She was expecting a sister home from Japan in about six months. Until her sister arrived she was making no plans for the future. The cottage chanced to be vacant, and she took it for six months. She felt too bewildered by her sudden loss to move away from Loomouth. Stephen Babbington had held the living of St. Petroch, Loomouth, for seventeen years. They had been, on the whole, seventeen happy and peaceful years, in spite of the sorrow occasioned by the death of her son Robin1. Of her remaining children, Edward was in Ceylon, Lloyd was in South Africa, and Stephen was third officer on the Angolia. They wrote frequently and affectionately, but they could offer neither a home nor companionship to their mother.
Margaret Babbington was very lonely ...
Not that she allowed herself much time for thinking. She was still active in the parish - the new vicar was unmarried, and she spent a good deal of time working in the tiny plot of ground in front of the cottage. She was a woman whose flowers were part of her life. She was working there one afternoon when she heard the latch2 of the gate click, and looked up to see Sir Charles Cartwright and Egg Lytton Gore3.
Margaret was not surprised to see Egg. She knew that the girl and her mother were due to return shortly. But she was surprised to see Sir Charles. Rumour4 had insisted that he had left the neighbourhood for good. There had been paragraphs copied from other papers about his doings in the South of France. There had been a board “TO BE SOLD” stuck up in the garden of Crow's Nest. No one had expected Sir Charles to return. Yet return he had. Mrs. Babbington shook the untidy hair back from her hot forehead and looked ruefully at her earth-stained hands.
“I’m not fit to shake hands,” she said. “I ought to garden in gloves, I know. I do start in them sometimes; but I always tear them off sooner or later. One can feel tings so much better with bare hands.”
She led the way into the house. The tiny sitting-room5 had been made cosy6 with chintz. There were photographs and bowls of chrysanthemums7.
“It’s a great surprise seeing you, Sir Charles. I thought you had given up Crow's Nest for good.”
“I thought I had,” said the actor frankly8. “But sometimes, Mrs. Babbington, our destiny is too strong for us.”
Mrs. Babbington did not reply. She turned towards Egg, but the girl forestalled9 the words on her lips.
“Look here, Mrs. Babbington. This isn’t just a call. Sir Charles and I have got something very serious to say. Only - I - I should hate to upset you.”
Mrs. Babbington looked from the girl to Sir Charles. Her face had gone rather grey and pinched.
“First of all,” said Sir Charles, “I would like to ask you if you have any communication from the Home Office?”
Mrs. Babbington bowed her head.
“I see - well, perhaps that makes what we are about to say easier.”
“Is that what you have come about - this exhumation10 order?”
“Yes. Is it - I’m afraid it must be - very distressing11 to you.”
She softened12 to the sympathy in his voice.
“Perhaps I do not mind as much as you think. To some people the idea of exhumation is very dreadful - not to me. It is not the dead clay that matters. My dear husband is elsewhere - at peace - where no one can trouble his rest. No, it is not that. It is the idea that is a shock to me - the idea, a terrible one, that Stephen did not die a natural death. It seems so impossible - utterly13 impossible.”
“I’m afraid it must seem so to you. It did to me - to us - at first.”
“What do you mean by at first, Sir Charles?”
“Because the suspicion crossed my mind on the evening of your husband’s death, Mrs. Babbington. Like you, however, it seemed to me so impossible that I put it aside.”
“I thought so, too,” said Egg.
“You, too, Mrs. Babbington looked at her wonderingly. You thought someone could have killed - Stephen?”
The incredulity in her voice was so great that neither of her visitors knew quite how to proceed. At last Sir Charles took up the tale.
“As you know, Mrs. Babbington, I went abroad. When I was in the South of France I read in the paper of my friend Bartholomew Strange’s death in almost exactly similar circumstances. I also got a letter from Miss Lytton Gore.”
Egg nodded.
“I was there, you know, staying with him at the time. Mrs. Babbington, it was exactly the same - exactly. He drank some port and his face changed, and - and - well, it was just the same. He died two or three minutes later.”
Mrs. Babbington shook her head slowly.
“I can’t understand it. Stephen! Sir Bartholomew - a kind and clever doctor! Who could want to harm either of them? It must be a mistake.”
“Sir Bartholomew was proved to have been poisoned, remember,”
said Sir Charles.
“Then it must have been the work of a lunatic.”
Sir Charles went on:
“Mrs. Babbington, I want to get to the bottom of this. I want to find out the truth. And I feel there is no time to lose. Once the news of the exhumation gets about our criminal will be on alert. I am amusing, for the sake of saving time, what the result of the autopsy14 on your husband’s body will be. I am talking it that he, too, died of nicotine15 poisoning. To begin with, did you or he know anything about the use of pure nicotine?”
“I always use a solution of nicotine for spraying roses. I didn’t know it was supposed to be poisonous.”
“I should imagine (I was reading up the subject last night) that in both cases the pure alkaloid must have been used. Cases of poisoning by nicotine are most unusual.”
Mrs. Babbington shook her head.
“I really don’t know anything about nicotine poisoning - expect that I suppose inveterate16 smokers17 might suffer from it.”
“Did your husband smoke?”
“Now tell me, Mrs. Babbington, you have expressed the utmost surprise that anyone should want to do away with your husband. Does that mean that as far as you know he had no enemies?”
“I am sure Stephen had no enemies. Everyone was fond of him. People tried to hustle18 him sometimes, somehow smiled a little tearfully. He was getting on, you know, and rather afraid of innovations, but everybody liked him. You couldn’t dislike Stephen, Sir Charles.”
“I suppose, Mrs. Babbington, that your husband didn’t leave very much money?”
“No. Next to nothing. Stephen was not good at saving. He gave away far too much. I used to scold him about it.”
“I suppose he had no expectations from anyone? He wasn’t the heir to any property?”
“Oh, no. Stephen hadn’t many relations. He has a sister who is married to a clergyman in Northumberland, but they are very badly off, and all his uncles and aunts are dead.”
“Then it does not seem as though there were anyone who could benefit by Mr. Babbington’s death?”
“No, indeed.”
“Let us come back to the question of enemies for a minute. Your husband had no enemies, you say; but he may have had as a young man.”
Mrs. Babbington looked sceptical.
“I should think it very unlikely. Stephen hadn’t a quarrelsome nature. He always got on well with people.”
“I don’t want to sound melodramatic,” Sir Charles coughed a little nervously19. “But - er - when he got engaged to you, for instance, there wasn’t any disappointed suitor in the offing?”
A momentary20 twinkle came into Mrs. Babbington’s eyes.
“Stephen was my father’s curate. He was the first young man I saw when I came home from school. I fell in love with him and he with me. We were engaged for four years, and then he got a living down in Kent, and we were able to get married. Ours was a very simple love story, Sir Charles - and a very happy one.”
Sir Charles bowed his head. Mrs. Babbington’s simple dignity was very charming.
Egg took up the r?le of questioner.
“Mrs. Babbington, do you think your husband had met any of the guests at Sir Charles’s that night before?”
Mrs. Babbington looked slightly puzzled.
“Well, there were you and your mother, my dear, and young Oliver Manders.”
“Yes, but any of the others?”
“We had both seen Angela Sutcliffe in a play in London five years ago. Both Stephen and I were very excited that we were actually going to meet her.”
“You had never actually met her before?”
“No. We’ve never met any actresses - or actors, for the matter of that - until Sir Charles came to live here. And that,” added Mrs. Babbington, “was a great excitement. I don’t think Sir Charles knows what a wonderful thing it was to us. Quite a breath of romance in our lives.”
“You hadn’t met Captain and Mrs. Dacres?”
“Was he the little man, and the woman with the wonderful clothes?”
“No. Nor the other woman - the one who wrote plays. Poor thing, she looked rather out of it, I thought.”
“You’re sure you’d never seen any of them before?”
“I’m quite sure I hadn’t - and so I’m fairly sure Stephen hadn’t, either. You see, we do everything together.”
“And Mr. Babbington didn’t say anything to you - anything at all,”
persisted Egg, “about the people you were going to meet, or about them, when he saw them?”
“Nothing beforehand - except that he was looking forward to an interesting evening. And when we got there - well, there wasn’t much time - ” Her face twisted suddenly.
Sir Charles broke in quickly.
“You must forgive us badgering you like this. But, you see, we feel that there must be something, if only we could get at it. There must be some reason for an apparently21 brutal22 and meaningless murder.”
“I see that,” said Mrs. Babbington. “If it was murder, there must be some reason ... But I don’t know - I can’t imagine - what that reason could be.”
There was silence for a minute or two, then Sir Charles said:
“Can you give me a slight biographical sketch23 of your husband’s career?”
Mrs. Babbington had a good memory for dates. Sir Charles’s final notes ran thus:
“Stephen Babbington, born Islington, Devon, 1868. Educated St. Paul’s School and Oxford24. Ordained25 Deacon and received a title to the Parish of Hoxton, 1891. Priested 1892. Was Curate Eslington, Surrey, to Rev26. Vernon Lorrimer, 1894-1899. Married Margaret Lorrimer, 1899, and presented to the living of Gilling, Kent. Transferred to living of St. Petroch, Loomouth, 1916.”
“That gives us something to go upon,” said Sir Charles. “Our best chance seems to me the time during which Mr. Babbington was Vicar of St. Mary’s, Gilling. His earlier history seems rather far back to concern any of the people who were at my house that evening.”
Mrs. Babbington shuddered27.
“Do you really think - that one of them - ?”
“I don’t know what to think,” said Sir Charles. “Bartholomew saw something or guessed something, and Bartholomew Strange died same way, and five - ”
“Seven,” said Egg.
“ - of these people were also present. One of them must be guilty.”
“But why?” cried Mrs. Babbington. “Why? What motive28 could there be for anyone killing29 Stephen?”
“That,” said Sir Charles, “is what we are going to find out.” 


1 robin Oj7zme     
  • The robin is the messenger of spring.知更鸟是报春的使者。
  • We knew spring was coming as we had seen a robin.我们看见了一只知更鸟,知道春天要到了。
2 latch g2wxS     
  • She laid her hand on the latch of the door.她把手放在门闩上。
  • The repairman installed an iron latch on the door.修理工在门上安了铁门闩。
3 gore gevzd     
  • The fox lay dying in a pool of gore.狐狸倒在血泊中奄奄一息。
  • Carruthers had been gored by a rhinoceros.卡拉瑟斯被犀牛顶伤了。
4 rumour 1SYzZ     
  • I should like to know who put that rumour about.我想知道是谁散布了那谣言。
  • There has been a rumour mill on him for years.几年来,一直有谣言产生,对他进行中伤。
5 sitting-room sitting-room     
  • The sitting-room is clean.起居室很清洁。
  • Each villa has a separate sitting-room.每栋别墅都有一间独立的起居室。
6 cosy dvnzc5     
  • We spent a cosy evening chatting by the fire.我们在炉火旁聊天度过了一个舒适的晚上。
  • It was so warm and cosy in bed that Simon didn't want to get out.床上温暖而又舒适,西蒙简直不想下床了。
7 chrysanthemums 1ded1ec345ac322f70619ba28233b570     
n.菊花( chrysanthemum的名词复数 )
  • The cold weather had most deleterious consequences among the chrysanthemums. 寒冷的天气对菊花产生了极有害的影响。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • The chrysanthemums are in bloom; some are red and some yellow. 菊花开了, 有红的,有黄的。 来自《现代汉英综合大词典》
8 frankly fsXzcf     
  • To speak frankly, I don't like the idea at all.老实说,我一点也不赞成这个主意。
  • Frankly speaking, I'm not opposed to reform.坦率地说,我不反对改革。
9 forestalled e417c8d9b721dc9db811a1f7f84d8291     
v.先发制人,预先阻止( forestall的过去式和过去分词 )
  • She forestalled their attempt. 她先发制人,阻止了他们的企图。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • I had my objection all prepared, but Stephens forestalled me. 我已做好准备要提出反对意见,不料斯蒂芬斯却抢先了一步。 来自辞典例句
10 exhumation 3e3356144992dae3dedaa826df161f8e     
  • The German allowed a forensic commission including prominent neutral experts to supervise part of the exhumation. 德国人让一个包括杰出的中立专家在内的法庭委员会对部分掘墓工作进行监督。 来自辞典例句
  • At any rate, the exhumation was repeated once and again. 无论如何,他曾经把尸体挖出来又埋进去,埋进去又挖出来。 来自互联网
11 distressing cuTz30     
  • All who saw the distressing scene revolted against it. 所有看到这种悲惨景象的人都对此感到难过。
  • It is distressing to see food being wasted like this. 这样浪费粮食令人痛心。
12 softened 19151c4e3297eb1618bed6a05d92b4fe     
(使)变软( soften的过去式和过去分词 ); 缓解打击; 缓和; 安慰
  • His smile softened slightly. 他的微笑稍柔和了些。
  • The ice cream softened and began to melt. 冰淇淋开始变软并开始融化。
13 utterly ZfpzM1     
  • Utterly devoted to the people,he gave his life in saving his patients.他忠于人民,把毕生精力用于挽救患者的生命。
  • I was utterly ravished by the way she smiled.她的微笑使我完全陶醉了。
14 autopsy xuVzm     
  • They're carrying out an autopsy on the victim.他们正在给受害者验尸。
  • A hemorrhagic gut was the predominant lesion at autopsy.尸检的主要发现是肠出血。
15 nicotine QGoxJ     
  • Many smokers who are chemically addicted to nicotine cannot cut down easily.许多有尼古丁瘾的抽烟人不容易把烟戒掉。
  • Many smokers who are chemically addicted to nicotine cannot cut down easily.许多有尼古丁瘾的抽烟人不容易把烟戒掉。
16 inveterate q4ox5     
  • Hitler was not only an avid reader but also an inveterate underliner.希特勒不仅酷爱读书,还有写写划划的习惯。
  • It is hard for an inveterate smoker to give up tobacco.要一位有多年烟瘾的烟民戒烟是困难的。
17 smokers d3e72c6ca3bac844ba5aa381bd66edba     
吸烟者( smoker的名词复数 )
  • Many smokers who are chemically addicted to nicotine cannot cut down easily. 许多有尼古丁瘾的抽烟人不容易把烟戒掉。
  • Chain smokers don't care about the dangers of smoking. 烟鬼似乎不在乎吸烟带来的种种危害。
18 hustle McSzv     
  • It seems that he enjoys the hustle and bustle of life in the big city.看起来他似乎很喜欢大城市的热闹繁忙的生活。
  • I had to hustle through the crowded street.我不得不挤过拥挤的街道。
19 nervously tn6zFp     
  • He bit his lip nervously,trying not to cry.他紧张地咬着唇,努力忍着不哭出来。
  • He paced nervously up and down on the platform.他在站台上情绪不安地走来走去。
20 momentary hj3ya     
  • We are in momentary expectation of the arrival of you.我们无时无刻不在盼望你的到来。
  • I caught a momentary glimpse of them.我瞥了他们一眼。
21 apparently tMmyQ     
  • An apparently blind alley leads suddenly into an open space.山穷水尽,豁然开朗。
  • He was apparently much surprised at the news.他对那个消息显然感到十分惊异。
22 brutal bSFyb     
  • She has to face the brutal reality.她不得不去面对冷酷的现实。
  • They're brutal people behind their civilised veneer.他们表面上温文有礼,骨子里却是野蛮残忍。
23 sketch UEyyG     
  • My sister often goes into the country to sketch. 我姐姐常到乡间去写生。
  • I will send you a slight sketch of the house.我将给你寄去房屋的草图。
24 Oxford Wmmz0a     
  • At present he has become a Professor of Chemistry at Oxford.他现在已是牛津大学的化学教授了。
  • This is where the road to Oxford joins the road to London.这是去牛津的路与去伦敦的路的汇合处。
25 ordained 629f6c8a1f6bf34be2caf3a3959a61f1     
v.任命(某人)为牧师( ordain的过去式和过去分词 );授予(某人)圣职;(上帝、法律等)命令;判定
  • He was ordained in 1984. 他在一九八四年被任命为牧师。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • He was ordained priest. 他被任命为牧师。 来自辞典例句
26 rev njvzwS     
  • It's his job to rev up the audience before the show starts.他要负责在表演开始前鼓动观众的热情。
  • Don't rev the engine so hard.别让发动机转得太快。
27 shuddered 70137c95ff493fbfede89987ee46ab86     
v.战栗( shudder的过去式和过去分词 );发抖;(机器、车辆等)突然震动;颤动
  • He slammed on the brakes and the car shuddered to a halt. 他猛踩刹车,车颤抖着停住了。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • I shuddered at the sight of the dead body. 我一看见那尸体就战栗。 来自《简明英汉词典》
28 motive GFzxz     
  • The police could not find a motive for the murder.警察不能找到谋杀的动机。
  • He had some motive in telling this fable.他讲这寓言故事是有用意的。
29 killing kpBziQ     
  • Investors are set to make a killing from the sell-off.投资者准备清仓以便大赚一笔。
  • Last week my brother made a killing on Wall Street.上个周我兄弟在华尔街赚了一大笔。
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