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The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding
Агата Кристи


‘You see too many sensational films, I think, Annie,’ he said at last, ‘or perhaps it is the television that affects you? But the important thing is that you have the good heart and a certain amount of ingenuity. When I return to London I will send you a present.’

‘Oh thank you, sir. Thank you very much, sir.’

‘What would you like, Annie, as a present?’

‘Anything I like, sir? Could I have anything I like?’

‘Within reason,’ said Hercule Poirot prudently, ‘yes.’

‘Oh sir, could I have a vanity box? A real posh slap-up vanity box like the one Mr Lee-Wortley’s sister, wot wasn’t his sister, had?’

‘Yes,’ said Poirot, ‘yes, I think that could be managed.

‘It is interesting,’ he mused. ‘I was in a museum the other day observing some antiquities from Babylon or one of those places, thousands of years old—and among them were cosmetic boxes. The heart of woman does not change.’

‘Beg your pardon, sir?’ said Annie.

‘It is nothing,’ said Poirot. ‘I reflect. You shall have your vanity box, child.’

‘Oh thank you, sir. Oh thank you very much indeed, sir.’

Annie departed ecstatically. Poirot looked after her, nodding his head in satisfaction.

‘Ah,’ he said to himself. ‘And now—I go. There is nothing more to be done here.’

A pair of arms slipped round his shoulders unexpectedly.

‘If you will stand just under the mistletoe—’ said Bridget.

Hercule Poirot enjoyed it. He enjoyed it very much. He said to himself that he had had a very good Christmas.

The Mystery of the Spanish Chest (#u36420d25-0454-5604-87fc-39bdd232fd1e)

Punctual to the moment, as always, Hercule Poirot entered the small room where Miss Lemon, his efficient secretary, awaited her instructions for the day.

At first sight Miss Lemon seemed to be composed entirely of angles—thus satisfying Poirot’s demand for symmetry.

Not that where women were concerned Hercule Poirot carried his passion for geometrical precision so far. He was, on the contrary, old-fashioned. He had a continental prejudice for curves—it might be said for voluptuous curves. He liked women to be women. He liked them lush, highly coloured, exotic. There had been a certain Russian countess—but that was long ago now. A folly of earlier days.

But Miss Lemon he had never considered as a woman. She was a human machine—an instrument of precision. Her efficiency was terrific. She was forty-eight years of age, and was fortunate enough to have no imagination whatever.

‘Good morning, Miss Lemon.’

‘Good morning, M. Poirot.’

Poirot sat down and Miss Lemon placed before him the morning’s mail, neatly arranged in categories. She resumed her seat and sat with pad and pencil at the ready.

But there was to be this morning a slight change in routine. Poirot had brought in with him the morning newspaper, and his eyes were scanning it with interest. The headlines were big and bold.

SPANISH CHEST MYSTERY.

LATEST DEVELOPMENTS.

‘You have read the morning papers, I presume, Miss Lemon?’

‘Yes, M. Poirot. The news from Geneva is not very good.’

Poirot waved away the news from Geneva in a comprehensive sweep of the arm.

‘A Spanish chest,’ he mused. ‘Can you tell me, Miss Lemon, what exactly is a Spanish chest?’

‘I suppose, M. Poirot, that it is a chest that came originally from Spain.’

‘One might reasonably suppose so. You have then, no expert knowledge?’

‘They are usually of the Elizabethan period, I believe. Large, and with a good deal of brass decoration on them. They look very nice when well kept and polished. My sister bought one at a sale. She keeps household linen in it. It looks very nice.’

‘I am sure that in the house of any sister of yours, all the furniture would be well kept,’ said Poirot, bowing gracefully.

Miss Lemon replied sadly that servants did not seem to know what elbow grease was nowadays. Poirot looked a little puzzled, but decided not to inquire into the inward meaning of the mysterious phrase ‘elbow grease’.

He looked down again at the newspaper, conning over the names: Major Rich, Mr and Mrs Clayton, Commander McLaren, Mr and Mrs Spence. Names, nothing but names to him; yet all possessed of human personalities, hating, loving, fearing. A drama, this, in which he, Hercule Poirot, had no part. And he would have liked to have a part in it! Six people at an evening party, in a room with a big Spanish chest against the wall, six people, five of them talking, eating a buffet supper, putting records on the gramophone, dancing, and the sixth dead, in the Spanish chest …

Ah, thought Poirot. How my dear friend, Hastings, would have enjoyed this! What romantic flights of imagination he would have had. What ineptitudes he would have uttered! Ah, ce cher Hastings


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