Lord Edgware Dies
But Jane Wilkinson was not so easily turned from her purpose.
‘Why, Bryan, what does that matter? We’ll have supper sent up to the suite. Speak to them about it, will you? And, Bryan—’
She went after him as he was turning away and appeared to urge some course upon him. He stood out about it, I gathered, shaking his head and frowning. But she spoke even more emphatically and finally with a shrug of the shoulders he gave way.
Once or twice during her speech to him she had glanced at the table where Carlotta Adams sat, and I wondered if what she were suggesting had anything to do with the American girl.
Her point gained, Jane came back, radiant.
‘We’ll go right up now,’ she said, and included me in a dazzling smile.
The question of our agreeing or not agreeing to her plan didn’t seem to occur to her mind. She swept us off without a shade of apology.
‘It’s the greatest luck just seeing you here this evening, M. Poirot,’ she said as she led the way to the lift. ‘It’s wonderful how everything seems to turn out right for me. I’d just been thinking and wondering what on earth I was going to do and I looked up and there you were at the next table, and I said to myself: “M. Poirot will tell me what to do.”’
She broke off to say ‘Second Floor’ to the lift-boy.
‘If I can be of aid to you—’ began Poirot.
‘I’m sure you can. I’ve heard you’re just the most marvellous man that ever existed. Somebody’s got to get me out of the tangle I’m in and I feel you’re just the man to do it.’
We got out at the second floor and she led the way along the corridor, paused at a door and entered one of the most opulent of the Savoy suites.
Casting her white fur wrap on one chair, and her small jewelled bag on the table, the actress sank on to a chair and exclaimed:
‘M. Poirot, somehow or other I’ve just got to get rid of my husband!’
CHAPTER 2 (#ubde09f20-740f-569f-8828-ef77a7642829)
A Supper Party (#ubde09f20-740f-569f-8828-ef77a7642829)
After a moment’s astonishment Poirot recovered himself!
‘But, Madame,’ he said, his eyes twinkling, ‘getting rid of husbands is not my speciality.’
‘Well, of course I know that.’
‘It is a lawyer you require.’
‘That’s just where you’re wrong. I’m just about sick and tired of lawyers. I’ve had straight lawyers and crooked lawyers, and not one of them’s done me any good. Lawyers just know the law, they don’t seem to have any kind of natural sense.’
‘And you think I have?’
‘I’ve heard that you’re the cat’s whiskers, M. Poirot.’
‘Comment? The cat’s whiskers? I do not understand.’
‘Well—that you’re It.’
‘Madame, I may or may not have brains—as a matter of fact I have—why pretend? But your little affair, it is not my genre.’
‘I don’t see why not. It’s a problem.’
‘Oh! a problem!’
‘And it’s difficult,’ went on Jane Wilkinson. ‘I should say you weren’t the man to shy at difficulties.’
‘Let me compliment you on your insight, Madame. But all the same, me, I do not make the investigations for divorce. It is not pretty—ce métier là.’
‘My dear man, I’m not asking you to do spying work. It wouldn’t be any good. But I’ve just got to get rid of the man, and I’m sure you could tell me how to do it.’
Poirot paused awhile before replying. When he did, there was a new note in his voice.
‘First tell me, Madame, why are you so anxious to “get rid” of Lord Edgware?’
There was no delay or hesitation about her answer. It came swift and pat.
‘Why, of course. I want to get married again. What other reason could there be?’
Her great blue eyes opened ingenuously.
‘But surely a divorce should be easy to obtain?’
‘You don’t know my husband, M. Poirot. He’s—he’s—’ she shivered. ‘I don’t know how to explain it. He’s a queer man—he’s not like other people.’
She paused and then went on.
‘He should never have married—anyone. I know what I’m talking about. I just can’t describe him, but he’s—queer. His first wife, you know, ran away from him. Left a baby of three months behind. He never divorced her and she died miserably abroad somewhere. Then he married me. Well—I couldn’t stick it. I was frightened. I left him and went to the States. I’ve no grounds for a divorce, and if I’ve given him grounds for one, he won’t take any notice of them. He’s—he’s a kind of fanatic.’
‘In certain American states you could obtain a divorce, Madame.’
‘That’s no good to me—not if I’m going to live in England.’
‘You want to live in England?’
‘Who is the man you want to marry?’
‘That’s just it. The Duke of Merton.’
I drew in my breath sharply. The Duke of Merton had so far been the despair of matchmaking mammas. A young man of monkish tendencies, a violent Anglo-Catholic, he was reported to be completely under the thumb of his mother, the redoubtable dowager duchess. His life was austere in the extreme. He collected Chinese porcelain and was reputed to be of aesthetic tastes. He was supposed to care nothing for women.
‘I’m just crazy about him,’ said Jane sentimentally. ‘He’s unlike anyone I ever met, and Merton Castle is too wonderful. The whole thing is the most romantic business that ever happened. He’s so good-looking too—like a dreamy kind of monk.’