The Lemesurier Inheritance: A Hercule Poirot Short Story
The Lemesurier Inheritance: A Hercule Poirot Short Story
A classic Agatha Christie short story, available individually for the first time as an ebook.Each generation of the Lemesuriers have suffered from the family curse that no first born son will inherit the estate from his father. Mrs Lemesurier comes to Poirot after her first born son suffers a series of ‘accidents’, but she suspects something more than a curse to be the cause…
The Lemesurier Inheritance
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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Ebook Edition © OCTOBER 2013 ISBN 9780007526697
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‘The Lemesurier Inheritance’ was first published in The Magpie, Christmas 1923.
In company with Poirot, I have investigated many strange cases, but none, I think, to compare with that extraordinary series of events which held our interest over a period of many years, and which culminated in the ultimate problem brought to Poirot to solve. Our attention was first drawn to the family history of the Lemesuriers one evening during the war. Poirot and I had but recently come together again, renewing the old days of our acquaintanceship in Belgium. He had been handling some little matter for the War Office – disposing of it to their entire satisfaction; and we had been dining at the Carlton with a Brass Hat who paid Poirot heavy compliments in the intervals of the meal. The Brass Hat had to rush away to keep an appointment with someone, and we finished our coffee in a leisurely fashion before following his example.
As we were leaving the room, I was hailed by a voice which struck a familiar note, and turned to see Captain Vincent Lemesurier, a young fellow whom I had known in France. He was with an older man whose likeness to him proclaimed him to be of the same family. Such proved to be the case, and he was introduced to us as Mr Hugo Lemesurier, uncle of my young friend.
I did not really know Captain Lemesurier at all intimately, but he was a pleasant young fellow, somewhat dreamy in manner, and I remembered hearing that he belonged to an old and exclusive family with a property in Northumberland which dated from before the Reformation. Poirot and I were not in a hurry, and at the younger man’s invitation, we sat down at the table with our two new-found friends, and chattered pleasantly enough on various matters. The elder Lemesurier was a man of about forty, with a touch of the scholar in his stooping shoulders; he was engaged at the moment upon some chemical research work for the Government, it appeared.
Our conversation was interrupted by a tall dark young man who strode up to the table, evidently labouring under some agitation of mind.
‘Thank goodness I’ve found you both!’ he exclaimed.
‘What’s the matter, Roger?’
‘Your guv’nor, Vincent. Bad fall. Young horse.’ The rest trailed off, as he drew the other aside.
In a few minutes our two friends had hurriedly taken leave of us. Vincent Lemesurier’s father had had a serious accident while trying a young horse, and was not expected to live until morning. Vincent had gone deadly white, and appeared almost stunned by the news. In a way, I was surprised – for from the few words he had let fall on the subject while in France, I had gathered that he and his father were not on particularly friendly terms, and so his display of filial feeling now rather astonished me.
The dark young man, who had been introduced to us as a cousin, Mr Roger Lemesurier, remained behind, and we three strolled out together.
‘Rather a curious business, this,’ observed the young man. ‘It would interest M. Poirot, perhaps. I’ve heard of you, you know, M. Poirot – from Higginson.’ (Higginson was our Brass Hat friend.) ‘He says you’re a whale on psychology.’
‘I study the psychology, yes,’ admitted my friend cautiously.
‘Did you see my cousin’s face? He was absolutely bowled over, wasn’t he? Do you know why? A good old-fashioned family curse! Would you care to hear about it?’
‘It would be most kind of you to recount it to me.’
Roger Lemesurier looked at his watch.
‘Lots of time. I’m meeting them at King’s Cross. Well, M. Poirot, the Lemesuriers are an old family. Way back in medieval times, a Lemesurier became suspicious of his wife. He found the lady in a compromising situation. She swore that she was innocent, but old Baron Hugo didn’t listen. She had one child, a son – and he swore that the boy was no child of his and should never inherit. I forget what he did – some pleasing medieval fancy like walling up the mother and son alive; anyway, he killed them both, and she died protesting her innocence and solemnly cursing the Lemesuriers forever. No first-born son of a Lemesurier should ever inherit – so the curse ran. Well, time passed, and the lady’s innocence was established beyond doubt. I believe that Hugo wore a hair shirt and ended up his days on his knees in a monk’s cell. But the curious thing is that from that day to this, no first-born son ever has succeeded to the estate. It’s gone to brothers, to nephews, to second sons – never to the eldest son. Vincent’s father was the second of five sons, the eldest of whom died in infancy. Of course, all through the war, Vincent has been convinced that whoever else was doomed, he certainly was. But strangely enough, his two younger brothers have been killed, and he himself has remained unscathed.’