Three Act Tragedy
‘Have you seen this, M. Poirot?’
With his forefinger he indicated the paragraph he meant.
The little Belgian took the paper. Mr Satterthwaite watched him as he read. No change came over his face, but the Englishman had the impression that his body stiffened, as does that of a terrier when it sniffs a rathole.
Hercule Poirot read the paragraph twice, then he folded the paper and returned it to Mr Satterthwaite.
‘That is interesting,’ he said.
‘Yes. It looks, does it not, as though Sir Charles Cartwright had been right and we had been wrong.’
‘Yes,’ said Poirot. ‘It seems as though we had been wrong … I will admit it, my friend, I could not believe that so harmless, so friendly an old man could have been murdered … Well, it may be that I was wrong … Although, see you, this other death may be coincidence. Coincidences do occur—the most amazing coincidences. I, Hercule Poirot, have known coincidences that would surprise you …’
He paused, and went on:
‘Sir Charles Cartwright’s instinct may have been right. He is an artist—sensitive—impressionable—he feels things, rather than reasons about them … Such a method in life is often disastrous—but it is sometimes justified. I wonder where Sir Charles is now.’
Mr Satterthwaite smiled.
‘I can tell you that. He is in the office of the Wagon Lits Co. He and I are returning to England tonight.’
‘Aha!’ Poirot put immense meaning into the exclamation. His eyes, bright, inquiring, roguish, asked a question. ‘What zeal he has, our Sir Charles. He is determined, then, to play this role, the role of the amateur policeman? Or is there another reason?’
Mr Satterthwaite did not reply, but from his silence Poirot seemed to deduce an answer.
‘I see,’ he said. ‘The bright eyes of Mademoiselle are concerned in this. It is not only crime that calls?’
‘She wrote to him,’ said Mr Satterthwaite, ‘begging him to return.’
‘I wonder now,’ he said. ‘I do not quite understand—’
Mr Satterthwaite interrupted.
‘You do not understand the modern English girl? Well, that is not surprising. I do not always understand them myself. A girl like Miss Lytton Gore—’
In his turn Poirot interrupted.
‘Pardon. You have misunderstood me. I understand Miss Lytton Gore very well. I have met such another—many such others. You call the type modern; but it is—how shall I say?—age-long.’
Mr Satterthwaite was slightly annoyed. He felt that he—and only he—understood Egg. This preposterous foreigner knew nothing about young English womanhood.
Poirot was still speaking. His tone was dreamy—brooding.
‘A knowledge of human nature—what a dangerous thing it can be.’
‘A useful thing,’ corrected Mr Satterthwaite.
‘Perhaps. It depends upon the point of view.’
‘Well—’ Mr Satterthwaite hesitated—got up. He was a little disappointed. He had cast the bait and the fish had not risen. He felt that his own knowledge of human nature was at fault. ‘I will wish you a pleasant holiday.’