Lord Edgware Dies
‘I think it would depend on the setting, my friend. If she is the centre of the play, if all revolves round her—yes, then she could play her part. I doubt if she could play a small part adequately or even what is called a character part. The play must be written about her and for her. She appears to me of the type of women who are interested only in themselves.’ He paused and then added rather unexpectedly: ‘Such people go through life in great danger.’
‘Danger?’ I said, surprised.
‘I have used a word that surprises you, I see, mon ami. Yes, danger. Because, you see, a woman like that sees only one thing—herself. Such women see nothing of the dangers and hazards that surround them—the million conflicting interests and relationships of life. No, they see only their own forward path. And so—sooner or later—disaster.’
I was interested. I confessed to myself that such a point of view would not have struck me.
‘And the other?’ I asked.
His gaze swept to her table.
‘Well?’ he said, smiling. ‘What do you want me to say about her?’
‘Only how she strikes you.’
‘Mon cher, am I tonight the fortune-teller who reads the palm and tells the character?’
‘You could do it better than most,’ I rejoined.
‘It is a very pretty faith that you have in me, Hastings. It touches me. Do you not know, my friend, that each one of us is a dark mystery, a maze of conflicting passions and desires and aptitudes? Mais oui, c’est vrai. One makes one’s little judgments—but nine times out of ten one is wrong.’
‘Not Hercule Poirot,’ I said, smiling.
‘Even Hercule Poirot! Oh! I know very well that you have always a little idea that I am conceited, but, indeed, I assure you, I am really a very humble person.’
‘It is so. Except—I confess it—that I am a little proud of my moustaches. Nowhere in London have I observed anything to compare with them.’
‘You are quite safe,’ I said dryly. ‘You won’t. So you are not going to risk judgment on Carlotta Adams?’
‘Elle est artiste!’ said Poirot simply. ‘That covers nearly all, does it not?’
‘Anyway, you don’t consider that she walks through life in peril?’
‘We all do that, my friend,’ said Poirot gravely. ‘Misfortune may always be waiting to rush out upon us. But as to your question, Miss Adams, I think, will succeed. She is shrewd and she is something more. You observed without doubt that she is a Jewess?’
I had not. But now that he mentioned it, I saw the faint traces of Semitic ancestry. Poirot nodded.
‘It makes for success—that. Though there is still one avenue of danger—since it is of danger we are talking.’
‘Love of money. Love of money might lead such a one from the prudent and cautious path.’
‘It might do that to all of us,’ I said.
‘That is true, but at any rate you or I would see the danger involved. We could weigh the pros and cons. If you care for money too much, it is only the money you see, everything else is in shadow.’
I laughed at his serious manner.
‘Esmeralda, the gipsy queen, is in good form,’ I remarked teasingly.
‘The psychology of character is interesting,’ returned Poirot unmoved. ‘One cannot be interested in crime without being interested in psychology. It is not the mere act of killing, it is what lies behind it that appeals to the expert. You follow me, Hastings?’
I said that I followed him perfectly.
‘I have noticed that when we work on a case together, you are always urging me on to physical action, Hastings. You wish me to measure footprints, to analyse cigarette-ash, to prostrate myself on my stomach for the examination of detail. You never realize that by lying back in an arm-chair with the eyes closed one can come nearer to the solution of any problem. One sees then with the eyes of the mind.’
‘I don’t,’ I said. ‘When I lie back in an arm-chair with my eyes closed one thing happens to me and one thing only!’
‘I have noticed it!’ said Poirot. ‘It is strange. At such moments the brain should be working feverishly, not sinking into sluggish repose. The mental activity, it is so interesting, so stimulating! The employment of the little grey cells is a mental pleasure. They and they only can be trusted to lead one through fog to the truth…’
I am afraid that I have got into the habit of averting my attention whenever Poirot mentions his little grey cells. I have heard it all so often before.
In this instance my attention wandered to the four people sitting at the next table. When Poirot’s monologue drew to a close I remarked with a chuckle:
‘You have made a hit, Poirot. The fair Lady Edgware can hardly take her eyes off you.’
‘Doubtless she has been informed of my identity,’ said Poirot, trying to look modest and failing.
‘I think it is the famous moustaches,’ I said. ‘She is carried away by their beauty.’
Poirot caressed them surreptitiously.
‘It is true that they are unique,’ he admitted. ‘Oh, my friend, the “tooth-brush” as you call it, that you wear—it is a horror—an atrocity—a wilful stunting of the bounties of nature. Abandon it, my friend, I pray of you.’
‘By Jove,’ I said, disregarding Poirot’s appeal. ‘The lady’s getting up. I believe she’s coming to speak to us. Bryan Martin is protesting, but she won’t listen to him.’
Sure enough, Jane Wilkinson swept impetuously from her seat and came over to our table. Poirot rose to his feet bowing, and I rose also.
‘M. Hercule Poirot, isn’t it?’ said the soft husky voice.
‘At your service.’
‘M. Poirot, I want to talk to you. I must talk to you.’
‘But certainly, Madame, will you not sit down?’
‘No, no, not here. I want to talk to you privately. We’ll go right upstairs to my suite.’
Bryan Martin had joined her, he spoke now with a deprecating laugh.
‘You must wait a little, Jane. We’re in the middle of supper. So is M. Poirot.’