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There was a moment's stupefied silence. Japp, who was the least surprised of any of us, was the first to speak.
"My word," he cried, "you're the goods! And no mistake, Mr. Poirot! These witnesses of yours are all right, I suppose?"
"Voila! I have prepared a list of them--names and addresses. You must see them, of course. But you will find it all right."
"I'm sure of that." Japp lowered his voice. "I'm much obliged to you. A pretty mare's nest arresting him would have been." He turned to Inglethorp. "But, if you'll excuse me, sir, why couldn't you say all this at the inquest?"
"I will tell you why," interrupted Poirot. "There was a certain rumour----"
"A most malicious and utterly untrue one," interrupted Alfred Inglethorp in an agitated voice.
"And Mr. Inglethorp was anxious to have no scandal revived just at present. Am I right?"
"Quite right." Inglethorp nodded. "With my poor Emily not yet buried, can you wonder I was anxious that no more lying rumours should be started."
"Between you and me, sir," remarked Japp, "I'd sooner have any amount of rumours than be arrested for murder. And I venture to think your poor lady would have felt the same. And, if it hadn't been for Mr. Poirot here, arrested you would have been, as sure as eggs is eggs!"
"I was foolish, no doubt," murmured Inglethorp. "But you do not know, inspector, how I have been persecuted and maligned." And he shot a baleful glance at Evelyn Howard.
"Now, sir," said Japp, turning briskly to John, "I should like to see the lady's bedroom, please, and after that I'll have a little chat with the servants. Don't you bother about anything. Mr. Poirot, here, will show me the way."
As they all went out of the room, Poirot turned and made me a sign to follow him upstairs. There he caught me by the arm, and drew me aside.
"Quick, go to the other wing. Stand there--just this side of the baize door. Do not move till I come." Then, turning rapidly, he rejoined the two detectives.
I followed his instructions, taking up my position by the baize door, and wondering what on earth lay behind the request. Why was I to stand in this particular spot on guard? I looked thoughtfully down the corridor in front of me. An idea struck me. With the exception of Cynthia Murdoch's, every one's room was in this left wing. Had that anything to do with it? Was I to report who came or went? I stood faithfully at my post. The minutes passed. Nobody came. Nothing happened.
It must have been quite twenty minutes before Poirot rejoined me.
"You have not stirred?"
"No, I've stuck here like a rock. Nothing's happened."
"Ah!" Was he pleased, or disappointed? "You've seen nothing at all?"
"But you have probably heard something? A big bump--eh, mon ami?"
"Is it possible? Ah, but I am vexed with myself! I am not usually clumsy. I made but a slight gesture"--I know Poirot's gestures--"with the left hand, and over went the table by the bed!"
He looked so childishly vexed and crest-fallen that I hastened to console him.
"Never mind, old chap. What does it matter? Your triumph downstairs excited you. I can tell you, that was a surprise to us all. There must be more in this affair of Inglethorp's with Mrs. Raikes than we thought, to make him hold his tongue so persistently. What are you going to do now? Where are the Scotland Yard fellows?"
"Gone down to interview the servants. I showed them all our exhibits. I am disappointed in Japp. He has no method!"
"Hullo!" I said, looking out of the window. "Here's Dr. Bauerstein. I believe you're right about that man, Poirot. I don't like him."
"He is clever," observed Poirot meditatively.
"Oh, clever as the devil! I must say I was overjoyed to see him in the plight he was in on Tuesday. You never saw such a spectacle!" And I described the doctor's adventure. "He looked a regular scarecrow! Plastered with mud from head to foot."
"You saw him, then?"
"Yes. Of course, he didn't want to come in--it was just after dinner--but Mr. Inglethorp insisted."
"What?" Poirot caught me violently by the shoulders. "Was Dr. Bauerstein here on Tuesday evening? Here? And you never told me? Why did you not tell me? Why? Why?"
He appeared to be in an absolute frenzy.
"My dear Poirot," I expostulated, "I never thought it would interest you. I didn't know it was of any importance."
"Importance? It is of the first importance! So Dr. Bauerstein was here on Tuesday night--the night of the murder. Hastings, do you not see? That alters everything--everything!"
I had never seen him so upset. Loosening his hold of me, he mechanically straightened a pair of candlesticks, still murmuring to himself: "Yes, that alters everything--everything."
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The Mysterious Affair at Styles -- by Christie