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I had had no opportunity as yet of passing on Poirot's message to Lawrence. But now, as I strolled out on the lawn, still nursing a grudge against my friend's high-handedness, I saw Lawrence on the croquet lawn, aimlessly knocking a couple of very ancient balls about, with a still more ancient mallet.
It struck me that it would be a good opportunity to deliver my message. Otherwise, Poirot himself might relieve me of it. It was true that I did not quite gather its purport, but I flattered myself that by Lawrence's reply, and perhaps a little skillful cross-examination on my part, I should soon perceive its significance. Accordingly I accosted him.
"I've been looking for you," I remarked untruthfully.
"Yes. The truth is, I've got a message for you--from Poirot."
"He told me to wait until I was alone with you," I said, dropping my voice significantly, and watching him intently out of the corner of my eye. I have always been rather good at what is called, I believe, creating an atmosphere.
There was no change of expression in the dark melancholic face. Had he any idea of what I was about to say?
"This is the message." I dropped my voice still lower. " 'Find the extra coffee-cup, and you can rest in peace.' "
"What on earth does he mean?" Lawrence stared at me in quite unaffected astonishment.
"Don't you know?"
"Not in the least. Do you?"
I was compelled to shake my head.
"What extra coffee-cup?"
"I don't know."
"He'd better ask Dorcas, or one of the maids, if he wants to know about coffee-cups. It's their business, not mine. I don't know anything about the coffee-cups, except that we've got some that are never used, which are a perfect dream! Old Worcester. You're not a connoisseur, are you, Hastings?"
I shook my head.
"You miss a lot. A really perfect bit of old china--it's pure delight to handle it, or even to look at it."
"Well, what am I to tell Poirot?"
"Tell him I don't know what he's talking about. It's double Dutch to me."
I was moving off towards the house again when he suddenly called me back.
"I say, what was the end of that message? Say it over again, will you?"
" 'Find the extra coffee-cup, and you can rest in peace.' Are you sure you don't know what it means?" I asked him earnestly.
He shook his head.
"No," he said musingly, "I don't. I--I wish I did."
The boom of the gong sounded from the house, and we went in together. Poirot had been asked by John to remain to lunch, and was already seated at the table.
By tacit consent, all mention of the tragedy was barred. We conversed on the war, and other outside topics. But after the cheese and biscuits had been handed round, and Dorcas had left the room, Poirot suddenly leant forward to Mrs. Cavendish.
"Pardon me, madame, for recalling unpleasant memories, but I have a little idea"--Poirot's "little ideas" were becoming a perfect byword--"and would like to ask one or two questions."
"Of me? Certainly."
"You are too amiable, madame. What I want to ask is this: the door leading into Mrs. Inglethorp's room from that of Mademoiselle Cynthia, it was bolted, you say?"
"Certainly it was bolted," replied Mary Cavendish, rather surprised. "I said so at the inquest."
"Yes." She looked perplexed.
"I mean," explained Poirot, "you are sure it was bolted, and not merely locked?"
"Oh, I see what you mean. No, I don't know. I said bolted, meaning that it was fastened, and I could not open it, but I believe all the doors were found bolted on the inside."
"Still, as far as you are concerned, the door might equally well have been locked?"
"You yourself did not happen to notice, madame, when you entered Mrs. Inglethorp's room, whether that door was bolted or not?"
"I--I believe it was."
"But you did not see it?"
"No. I--never looked."
"But I did," interrupted Lawrence suddenly. "I happened to notice that it was bolted."
"Ah, that settles it." And Poirot looked crestfallen.
I could not help rejoicing that, for once, one of his "little ideas" had come to naught.
After lunch Poirot begged me to accompany him home. I consented rather stiffly.
"You are annoyed, is it not so?" he asked anxiously, as we walked through the park.
"Not at all," I said coldly.
"That is well. That lifts a great load from my mind."
This was not quite what I had intended. I had hoped that he would have observed the stiffness of my manner. Still, the fervour of his words went towards the appeasing of my just displeasure. I thawed.
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The Mysterious Affair at Styles -- by ChristieBottom Content goes here. Wikipedia content requires these links..... Wikipedia content is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.