Five Little Pigs
Агата Кристи

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‘Somebody else might have put it there.’

‘Oh! She admitted to the police she’d taken it. Very unwise, of course, but she didn’t have a solicitor to advise her at that stage. When they asked her about it, she admitted quite frankly that she had taken it.’

‘For what reason?’

‘She made out that she’d taken it with the idea of doing herself in. She couldn’t explain how the bottle came to be empty—nor how it was that there were only her fingerprints on it. That part of it was pretty damaging. She contended, you see, that Amyas Crale had committed suicide. But if he’d taken the coniine from the bottle she’d hidden in her room, his fingerprints would have been on the bottle as well as hers.’

‘It was given him in beer, was it not?’

‘Yes. She got out the bottle from the refrigerator and took it down herself to where he was painting in the garden. She poured it out and gave it to him and watched him drink it. Every one went up to lunch and left him—he often didn’t come in to meals. Afterwards she and the governess found him there dead. Her story was that the beer she gave him was all right. Our theory was that he suddenly felt so worried and remorseful that he slipped the poison in himself. All poppycock—he wasn’t that kind of man! And the fingerprint evidence was the most damning of all.’

‘They found her fingerprints on the bottle?’

‘No, they didn’t—they found only his—and they were phoney ones. She was alone with the body, you see, while the governess went to call up a doctor. And what she must have done was to wipe the bottle and glass and then press his fingers on them. She wanted to pretend, you see, that she’d never even handled the stuff. Well, that didn’t work. Old Rudolph, who was prosecuting, had a lot of fun with that—proved quite definitely by demonstration in court that a man couldn’t hold a bottle with his fingers in that position! Of course we did our best to prove that he could—that his hands would take up a contorted attitude when he was dying—but frankly our stuff wasn’t very convincing.’

Hercule Poirot said:

‘The coniine in the bottle must have been put there before she took it down to the garden.’

‘There was no coniine in the bottle at all. Only in the glass.’

He paused—his large handsome face suddenly altered—he turned his head sharply. ‘Hallo,’ he said. ‘Now then, Poirot, what are you driving at?’

Poirot said:

‘If Caroline Crale was innocent, how did that coniine get into the beer? The defence said at the time that Amyas Crale himself put it there. But you say to me that that was in the highest degree unlikely—and for my part I agree with you. He was not that kind of man. Then, if Caroline Crale did not do it, someone else did.’

Depleach said with almost a splutter:

‘Oh, damn it all, man, you can’t flog a dead horse. It’s all over and done with years ago. Of course she did it. You’d know that well enough if you’d seen her at the time. It was written all over her! I even fancy that the verdict was a relief to her. She wasn’t frightened. No nerves at all. Just wanted to get through the trial and have it over. A very brave woman, really…’

‘And yet,’ said Hercule Poirot, ‘when she died she left a letter to be given to her daughter in which she swore solemnly that she was innocent.’

‘I dare say she did,’ said Sir Montague Depleach. ‘You or I would have done the same in her place.’

‘Her daughter says she was not that kind of woman.’

‘The daughter says—pah! What does she know about it? My dear Poirot, the daughter was a mere infant at the time of the trial. What was she—four—five? They changed her name and sent her out of England somewhere to some relatives. What can she know or remember?’

‘Children know people very well sometimes.’

‘Maybe they do. But that doesn’t follow in this case. Naturally the girl wants to believe her mother didn’t do it. Let her believe it. It doesn’t do any harm.’

‘But unfortunately she demands proof.’

‘Proof that Caroline Crale didn’t kill her husband?’

‘Yes.’

‘Well,’ said Depleach. ‘She won’t get it.’

‘You think not?’

The famous K.C. looked thoughtfully at his companion.

‘I’ve always thought you were an honest man, Poirot. What are you doing? Trying to make money by playing on a girl’s natural affections?’

‘You do not know the girl. She is an unusual girl. A girl of great force of character.’

‘Yes, I should imagine the daughter of Amyas and Caroline Crale might be that. What does she want?’

‘She wants the truth.’

‘Hm—I’m afraid she’ll find the truth unpalatable. Honestly, Poirot, I don’t think there’s any doubt about it. She killed him.’

‘You will forgive me, my friend, but I must satisfy myself on that point.’

‘Well, I don’t know what more you can do. You can read up the newspaper accounts of the trial. Humphrey Rudolph appeared for the Crown. He’s dead—let me see, who was his junior? Young Fogg, I think. Yes, Fogg. You can have a chat with him. And then there are the people who were there at the time. Don’t suppose they’ll enjoy your butting in and raking the whole thing up, but I dare say you’ll get what you want out of them. You’re a plausible devil.’

‘Ah yes, the people concerned. That is very important. You remember, perhaps, who they were?’

Depleach considered.

‘Let me see—it’s a long time ago. There were only five people who were really in it, so to speak—I’m not counting the servants—a couple of faithful old things, scared-looking creatures—they didn’t know anything about anything. No one could suspect them.’

‘There are five people, you say. Tell me about them.’

‘Well, there was Philip Blake. He was Crale’s greatest friend—had known him all his life. He was staying in the house at the time. He’s alive. I see him now and again on the links. Lives at St George’s Hill. Stockbroker. Plays the markets and gets away with it. Successful man, running to fat a bit.’

‘Yes. And who next?’

‘Then there was Blake’s elder brother. Country squire—stay at home sort of chap.’

A jingle ran through Poirot’s head. He repressed it. He must not always be thinking of nursery rhymes. It seemed an obsession with him lately. And yet the jingle persisted.

‘This little pig went to market, this little pig stayed at home…’

He murmured:

‘He stayed at home—yes?’

‘He’s the fellow I was telling you about—messed about with drugs—and herbs—bit of a chemist. His hobby. What was his name now? Literary sort of name—I’ve got it. Meredith. Meredith Blake. Don’t know whether he’s alive or not.’

‘And who next?’

‘Next? Well, there’s the cause of all the trouble. The girl in the case. Elsa Greer.’

‘This little pig ate roast beef,’ murmured Poirot.
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