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A classic Agatha Christie short story, available individually for the first time as an ebook.Captain Hastings talks Hercule Poirot into taking a bus trip. En route, a young woman takes them into her confidence, and Poirot finds himself with another case to solve.
A Short Story
by Agatha Christie
Published by HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 1 London Bridge Street London SE1 9GF www.harpercollins.co.uk (http://www.harpercollins.co.uk)
Copyright © 1999 Agatha Christie Ltd.
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Source ISBN: 9780007438969
Ebook Edition © MARCH 2014 ISBN: 9780007559947
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Double Sin (#ulink_87bc92db-2969-5b8d-b8ea-ca5166939fd6)
‘Double Sin’ was first published as ‘By Road or Rail’ in the Sunday Dispatch, 23 September 1928.
I had called in at my friend Poirot’s rooms to find him sadly overworked. So much had he become the rage that every rich woman who had mislaid a bracelet or lost a pet kitten rushed to secure the services of the great Hercule Poirot. My little friend was a strange mixture of Flemish thrift and artistic fervour. He accepted many cases in which he had little interest owing to the first instinct being predominant.
He also undertook cases in which there was a little or no monetary reward sheerly because the problem involved interested him. The result was that, as I say, he was overworking himself. He admitted as much himself, and I found little difficulty in persuading him to accompany me for a week’s holiday to that well-known South Coast resort, Ebermouth.
We had spent four very agreeable days when Poirot came to me, an open letter in his hand.
‘Mon ami, you remember my friend Joseph Aarons, the theatrical agent?’
I assented after a moment’s thought. Poirot’s friends are so many and so varied, and range from dustmen to dukes.
‘Eh bien, Hastings, Joseph Aarons finds himself at Charlock Bay. He is far from well, and there is a little affair that it seems is worrying him. He begs me to go over and see him. I think, mon ami, that I must accede to his request. He is a faithful friend, the good Joseph Aarons, and has done much to assist me in the past.’
‘Certainly, if you think so,’ I said. ‘I believe Charlock Bay is a beautiful spot, and as it happens I’ve never been there.’
‘Then we combine business with pleasure,’ said Poirot. ‘You will inquire the trains, yes?’
‘It will probably mean a change or two,’ I said with a grimace. ‘You know what these cross-country lines are. To go from the South Devon coast to the North Devon coast is sometimes a day’s journey.’
However, on inquiry, I found that the journey could be accomplished by only one change at Exeter and that the trains were good. I was hastening back to Poirot with the information when I happened to pass the offices of the Speedy cars and saw written up:
Tomorrow. All-day excursion to Charlock Bay. Starting 8.30 through some of the most beautiful scenery in Devon.
I inquired a few particulars and returned to the hotel full of enthusiasm. Unfortunately, I found it hard to make Poirot share my feelings.
‘My friend, why this passion for the motor coach? The train, see you, it is true? The tyres, they do not burst; the accidents, they do not happen. One is not incommoded by too much air. The windows can be shut and no draughts admitted.’
I hinted delicately that the advantage of fresh air was what attracted me most to the motor-coach scheme.
‘And if it rains? Your English climate is so uncertain.’
‘There’s a hood and all that. Besides, if it rains badly, the excursion doesn’t take place.’
‘Ah!’ said Poirot. ‘Then let us hope that it rains.’
‘Of course, if you feel like that and …’
‘No, no, mon ami. I see that you have set your heart on the trip. Fortunately, I have my greatcoat with me and two mufflers.’ He sighed. ‘But shall we have sufficient time at Charlock Bay?’
‘Well, I’m afraid it means staying the night there. You see, the tour goes round by Dartmoor. We have lunch at Monkhampton. We arrive at Charlock Bay about four o’clock, and the coach starts back at five, arriving here at ten o’clock.’
‘So!’ said Poirot. ‘And there are people who do this for pleasure! We shall, of course, get a reduction of the fare since we do not make the return journey?’
‘I hardly think that’s likely.’
‘You must insist.’
‘Come now, Poirot, don’t be mean. You know you’re coining money.’
‘My friend, it is not the meanness. It is the business sense. If I were a millionaire, I would pay only what was just and right.’
As I had foreseen, however, Poirot was doomed to fail in this respect. The gentleman who issued tickets at the Speedy office was calm and unimpassioned but adamant. His point was that we ought to return. He even implied that we ought to pay extra for the privilege of leaving the coach at Charlock Bay.
Defeated, Poirot paid over the required sum and left the office.