Hercule Poirot 3-Book Collection 1: The Mysterious Affair at Styles, The Murder on the Links, Poirot Investigates
‘She still had the letter, or whatever it was, in her hand?’
‘What would she be likely to do with it afterwards?’
‘Well, I don’t know, sir, I expect she would lock it up in that purple case of hers.’
‘Is that where she usually kept important papers?’
‘Yes, sir. She brought it down with her every morning, and took it up every night.’
‘When did she lose the key of it?’
‘She missed it yesterday at lunch-time, sir, and told me to look carefully for it. She was very much put out about it.’
‘But she had a duplicate key?’
‘Oh, yes, sir.’
Dorcas was looking very curiously at him and, to tell the truth, so was I. What was all this about a lost key? Poirot smiled.
‘Never mind, Dorcas, it is my business to know things. Is this the key that was lost?’ He drew from his pocket the key that he had found in the lock of the despatch-case upstairs.
Dorcas’s eyes looked as though they would pop out of her head.
‘That’s it, sir, right enough. But where did you find it? I looked everywhere for it.’
‘Ah, but you see it was not in the same place yesterday as it was today. Now, to pass to another subject, had your mistress a dark green dress in her wardrobe?’
Dorcas was rather startled by the unexpected question.
‘Are you quite sure?’
‘Oh, yes, sir.’
‘Has anyone else in the house got a green dress?’
‘Miss Cynthia has a green evening dress.’
‘Light or dark green?’
‘A light green, sir; a sort of chiffon, they call it.’
‘Ah, that is not what I want. And nobody else has anything green?’
‘No, sir—not that I know of.’
Poirot’s face did not betray a trace of whether he was disappointed or otherwise. He merely remarked:
‘Good, we will leave that and pass on. Have you any reason to believe that your mistress was likely to take a sleeping powder last night?’
‘Not last night, sir, I know she didn’t.’
‘Why do you know so positively?’
‘Because the box was empty. She took the last one two days ago, and she didn’t have any more made up.’
‘You are quite sure of that?’
‘Then that is cleared up! By the way, your mistress didn’t ask you to sign any paper yesterday?’
‘To sign a paper? No, sir.’
‘When Mr Hastings and Mr Lawrence came in yesterday evening, they found your mistress busy writing letters. I suppose you can give me no idea to whom these letters were addressed?’
‘I’m afraid I couldn’t, sir. I was out in the evening. Perhaps Annie could tell you, though she’s a careless girl. Never cleared the coffee-cups away last night. That’s what happens when I’m not here to look after things.’
Poirot lifted his hand.
‘Since they have been left, Dorcas, leave them a little longer, I pray you. I should like to examine them.’
‘Very well, sir.’
‘What time did you go out last evening?’
‘About six o’clock, sir.’
‘Thank you, Dorcas, that is all I have to ask you.’ He rose and strolled to the window. ‘I have been admiring these flower beds. How many gardeners are employed here, by the way?’
‘Only three now, sir. Five, we had, before the war, when it was kept as a gentleman’s place should be. I wish you could have seen it then, sir. A fair sight it was. But now there’s only old Manning, and young William, and a new-fashioned woman gardener in breeches and such-like. Ah, these are dreadful times!’
‘The good times will come again, Dorcas. At least, we hope so. Now, will you send Annie to me here?’
‘Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.’
‘How did you know that Mrs Inglethorp took sleeping powders?’ I asked, in lively curiosity, as Dorcas left the room. ‘And about the lost key and the duplicate?’
‘One thing at a time. As to the sleeping powders, I knew by this.’ He suddenly produced a small cardboard box, such as chemists use for powders.
‘Where did you find it?’
‘In the wash-stand drawer in Mrs Inglethorp’s bedroom. It was Number Six of my catalogue.’