Peril at End House Pdf Chapter-18: The Face at the Window The events of the next day are completely hazy in my memory. I was unfortunate enough to wake up with a fever on me. I have been liable to these bouts of fever at inconvenient times ever since I once contracted malaria.
In consequence, the events of that day take on in my memory the semblance of a nightmare-with Poirot coming and going as a kind of fantastic clown, making a periodic appearance in a circus.
He was, I fancy, enjoying himself to the full. His poise of baffled despair was admirable. How he achieved the end he had in view and which he had disclosed to me in the early hours of the morning, I cannot say. But achieve it he did.
It cannot have been easy. The amount of deception and subterfuge involved must have been colossal. The English character is averse to lying on a wholesale scale and that, no less, was what Poirot’s plan required. He had, first, to get Dr. Graham converted to the scheme. With Dr. Graham on his side, he had to persuade Matron and some members of the staff of the nursing home to conform to the plan. There again, the difficulties must have been immense. It was probably Dr. Graham’s influence that turned the scale.
Then there was the Chief Constable and the police. Here, Poirot would be up against officialdom. Nevertheless, he wrung at last an unwilling consent out of Colonel Weston. The Colonel made it clear that it was in no way his responsibility. Poirot and Poirot alone were responsible for the spreading abroad of these lying reports. Poirot agreed. He would have agreed to anything so long as he was permitted to carry out his plan.
I spent most of the day dozing in a large armchair with a rug over my knees. Every two or three hours or so, Poirot would burst in and report progress.
‘Comment ça va, mon ami? How I commiserate with you. But it is as well, perhaps. The farce, you do not play it as well as I do. I come to this moment from ordering a wreath-a wreath immense-stupendous. Lilies, my friend-large quantities of lilies. “With heartfelt regret. From Hercule Poirot.” Ah! what a comedy.’
He departed again.
‘I come from a most poignant conversation with Madame Rice,’ was his next piece of information. ‘Very well dressed in black, that one. Her poor friend-what a tragedy! I groan sympathetically. Nick, she says, was so joyous, so full of life. Impossible to think of her as dead. I agree. “It is,” I say, “the irony of death that it takes one like that. The old and useless are left.” Oh! làlà! I groan again.’
‘How you are enjoying this,’ I murmured feebly.
‘Du tout. It is part of my plan, that is all. To play the comedy successfully, you must put your heart into it. Well, then, the conventional expressions of regret over, Madame comes to matters nearer home. All night she has lain awake wondering about those sweets. It is impossible-impossible. “Madame,” I say, “it is not impossible. You can see the analyst’s report.” Then she says, and her voice is far from steady, “It was cocaine, you say?” I assent. And she says, “Oh, my God. I don’t understand.”‘
‘Perhaps that’s true.’
‘She understands well enough that she is in danger. She is intelligent. I told you that before. Yes, she is in danger, and she knows it.’
‘And yet it seems to me that for the first time, you don’t believe her guilty.’
Poirot frowned. The excitement of his manner abated.
‘It is profound what you say there, Hastings. No-it seems to me that somehow the facts no longer fit. This crimes-so far what has marked them most-the subtlety, is it not? And here is no subtlety at all-only the crudity, pure and simple. No, it does not fit.’
He sat down at the table.
‘Voilà-let us examine the facts. There are three possibilities. There are the sweets bought by Madame and delivered by M. Lazarus. And in that case, the guilt rests with one or the other or both. And the telephone call, supposedly from Mademoiselle Nick, is an invention pure and simple. That is the straightforward-the obvious solution.’
‘Solution 2: The other box of sweets-that which came by post. Anyone may have sent those. Any of the suspects on our list from A. to J. (You remember? A very wide field.) But, if that were the guilty box, what is the point of the telephone call? Why complicate matters with a second box?’
I shook my head feebly. With a temperature of 102, any complication seemed to me quite unnecessary and absurd.
‘Solution 3: A poisoned box was substituted for the innocent box bought by Madame. In that case, the telephone call is ingenious and understandable. Madame is to be what you call the kitten’s paw. She is to pull the roasting chestnuts out of the fire. So Solution 3 is the most logical-but, alas, it is also the most difficult. How be sure of substituting a box at the right moment? The orderly might take the box straight upstairs-a hundred and one possibilities might prevent the substitution from being affected. No, it does not seem sensible.’
‘Unless it were Lazarus,’ I said.
Poirot looked at me.
‘You have the fever, my friend. It mounts, does it not?’
‘Curious how a few degrees of heat should stimulate the intellect. You have uttered there an observation of profound simplicity. So simple, was it, that I had failed to consider it. But it would suppose a very curious state of affairs. M. Lazarus, the dear friend of Madame, doing his best to get her hanged. It opens up possibilities of a very curious nature. But complex-very complex.’
Shutting my eyes, I felt relieved for being brilliant, yet I didn’t want to ponder over anything intricate. My desire was to drift off to slumber
Poirot, I think, went on talking, but I did not listen. His voice was vaguely soothing…
It was late afternoon when I saw him next.
‘My little plan, it has made the fortune of flower shops,’ he announced. ‘Everybody orders wreaths. M. Croft, M. Vyse, Commander Challenger-‘
The last name awoke a chord of compunction in my mind.
‘Look here, Poirot,’ I said. ‘You must let him in on this. Poor fellow, he will be distracted with grief. It isn’t fair.’
‘You have always the tenderness for him, Hastings.’
‘I like him. He’s a thoroughly decent chap. You’ve got to take him into the secret.’
Poirot shook his head.
‘No, mon ami. I do not make exceptions.’
‘But you don’t suspect him to have anything to do with it?’
‘I do not make exceptions.’
‘Think how he must be suffering.’
‘On the contrary, I prefer to think of what a joyful surprise I prepare for him. To think the loved one dead-and find her alive! It is a sensation unique-stupendous.’
‘What a pig-headed old devil you are. He’d keep the secret all right.’
‘I am not so sure.’
‘He’s the soul of honor. I’m certain of it.’
‘That makes it all the more difficult to keep a secret. Keeping a secret is an art that requires many lies magnificently told, and a great aptitude for playing the comedy and enjoying it. Could he dissemble, the Commander Challenger? If he is what you say he is, he certainly could not.’
‘Then you won’t tell him?’
‘I certainly refuse to imperil my little idea for the sake of the sentiment. It is life and death we play with, mon cher. Anyway, the suffering, it is good for the character. Many of your famous clergymen have said so-even a Bishop if I am not mistaken.’
I made no further attempt to shake his decision. His mind, I could see, was made up.
‘I shall not dress for dinner,’ he murmured. ‘I am too much the broken old man. That is my part, you understand. All my self-confidence has crashed-I am broken. I have failed. I shall eat hardly any dinner-the food untasted on the plate. That is the attitude, I think. In my own apartment, I will consume some brioches and some chocolate éclairs (so-called) which I had the foresight to buy at confectioners. Et vous?’
‘Some more quinine, I think,’ I said, sadly.
‘Alas, my poor Hastings. But courage, all will be well tomorrow.’
‘Very likely. These attacks often last only twenty-four hours.’
I did not hear him return to the room. I must have been asleep.
When I awoke, he was sitting at the table writing. In front of him was a crumpled sheet of paper smoothed out. I recognized it from the paper on which he had written that list of people-A. to J.-which he had afterward crumpled up and thrown away.
He nodded in answer to my unspoken thought.
‘Yes, my friend. Having revived it, I am now approaching it from a fresh perspective and assembling a roster of queries related to each person involved. The questions may have no bearing on the crime-they are just things that I do not know-things that remain unexplained, and for which I seek to supply the answer from my own brain.’
‘How far have you got?’
‘I have finished. You would like to hear? You are strong enough?’
‘Yes, as a matter of fact, I am feeling a great deal better.’
‘Ala bonne heure! Very well, I will read them to you. Some of them, no doubt, you will consider puerile.
‘ He cleared his throat.
‘A. Ellen.-Why did she remain in the house and not go out to see fireworks? (Unusual, as Mademoiselle’s evidence and surprise make clear.) What did she think or suspect might happen? Did she admit anyone (J. for instance) to the house? Is she speaking the truth about the secret panel? If there is such a thing why is she unable to remember where it is? (Mademoiselle seems very certain there is no such thing and she would surely know.) If she invented it, why did she invent it? Had she read Michael Seton’s love letters or was her surprise at Mademoiselle Nick’s engagement genuine?’
‘B. Her Husband.-Is he as stupid as he seems? Does he share Ellen’s knowledge, whatever it is, or does he not? Is he, in any respect, a mental case?’
‘C. The Child.-Is his delight in blood a natural instinct common to his age and development, or is it morbid, and is that morbidity inherited from either parent? Has he ever shot with a toy pistol?’
‘D. Who is Mr Croft? -Where does he really come from? Did he post the will as he swears he did? What motive could he have in not posting it?’
‘E. Mrs. Croft. Same as above.-Who are Mr. and Mrs. Croft? Are they in hiding for some reason and if so, what reason? Have they any connection with the Buckley family?’
‘F. Mrs. Rice.-Was she really aware of the engagement between Nick and Michael Seton? Did she merely guess it, or had she actually read the letters which passed between them? (In that case, she would know Mademoiselle was Seton’s heir.) Did she know that she herself was Mademoiselle’s residuary legatee? (This, I think, is likely. Mademoiselle would probably tell her so, adding perhaps that she would not get much out of it.) Is there any truth in Commander Challenger’s
suggestion that Lazarus was attracted by Mademoiselle Nick? (This might explain a certain lack of cordiality between the two friends which seems to have shown itself in the last few months.) Who is the ‘boyfriend’ mentioned in her note as supplying the drug? Could this possibly be J.? Why did she turn faint one day in this room? Was it something that had been said-or was it something she saw? Is her account of the telephone message asking her to buy chocolates correct-or is it a deliberate lie? What did she mean by “I can understand the other-but not this”? If she is not herself guilty, what knowledge has she got that she is keeping to herself?’
‘You perceive,’ said Poirot, suddenly breaking off, ‘that the questions concerning Madame Rice are almost innumerable. From beginning to end, she is an enigma. And that forces me to a conclusion. Either Madame Rice is guilty-or she knows or shall we say, thinks she knows who is guilty. But is she right? Does she know or does she merely suspect? And how is it possible to make her speak?’
‘Well, I will go on with my list of questions.’
‘G. Mr. Lazarus.-Curious-there are practically no questions to ask concerning him except the crude one, “Did he substitute the poisoned sweets?” Otherwise, I find only one totally irrelevant question. But I have put it down. “Why did M. Lazarus offer fifty pounds for a picture that was only worth twenty?”‘
“I propose that he had the desire to do Nick a favor,” I suggested
‘He would not do it that way. “He wouldn’t approach it in that manner. Being a dealer, he doesn’t purchase to sell at a loss,” is my understanding. If he wished to be amiable he would lend her money as a private individual.’
‘It can’t have any bearing on the crime, anyway.’
‘No, that is true but all the same, I should like to know. I am a student of psychology, you understand.’
‘Now we come to H.’
‘H. Commander Challenger.-Why did Mademoiselle Nick tell him she was engaged to someone else? What necessitated her having to tell him that? She told no one else. Had he proposed to her? What are his relations with his uncle?’
‘His uncle, Poirot?’
‘Yes, the doctor. That rather questionable character. Did any private news of Michael Seton’s death come through to the Admiralty before it was announced publicly?’
‘I don’t quite see what you’re driving at Poirot. Even if Challenger knew beforehand about Seton’s death, it does not seem to get us anywhere. It provides no earthly motive for killing the girl he loved.’
‘I quite agree. What you say is perfectly reasonable. But these are just things I should like to know. I am still the dog, you see, nosing about for the things that are not very nice!’
‘I. M. Vyse.-Why did he say what he did about his cousin’s fanatical devotion to End House? What possible motive could he have in saying that? Did he, or did he not, receive the will? Is he, in fact, an honest man-or is he not an honest man?’
‘And now J. -Eh bien, J. is what I put down before-a giant question mark. Is there such a person, or is there not-‘
‘Mon Dieu! my friend, what have you?’
I had started from my chair with a sudden shriek. With a shaking hand, I pointed at the window.
‘A face, Poirot!’ I cried. ‘A face pressed against the glass. A dreadful face! It’s gone now-but I saw it.’
Poirot strode to the window and pushed it open. He leaned out.
‘There is no one there now,’ he said, thoughtfully. ‘You are sure you did not imagine it, Hastings?’
‘Quite sure. It was a horrible face.’
‘There is a balcony, of course. Anyone could reach there quite easily if they wanted to hear what we were saying. When you say a dreadful face, Hastings, just what do you mean?’
‘A white, staring face, hardly human.’
‘Mon ami, that is the fever. A face, yes. An unpleasant face, yes. But a face hardly human-no. What you saw was the effect of a face pressed closely against the glass that allied to the shock of seeing it there at all.’
‘It was a dreadful face,’ I said, obstinately.
‘It was not the face of anyone you know?’
‘H’m-it might have been, though! I doubt if you would recognize it under these circumstances. I wonder now-yes, I very much wonder…’
He gathered up his papers thoughtfully.
‘One thing at least is to the good. If the owner of that face overheard our conversation we did not mention that Mademoiselle Nick was alive and well. Whatever else our visitor may have heard, that at least escaped him.’
‘But surely,’ I said, ‘the results of this-eh-brilliant maneuver of yours have been slightly disappointing up to date. Nick is dead and no startling developments have occurred!’
‘I did not expect them yet while. Twenty-four hours, I said. Mon ami, tomorrow, if I am not mistaken, certain things will arise. Otherwise -otherwise I am wrong from start to finish. There is the post, you see. I am optimistic about the mail that will arrive tomorrow.
In the morning, upon awakening, I sensed a lack of strength, however, the fever had subsided. Additionally, I experienced a sensation of hunger. Poirot and I had breakfast served in our sitting room.
‘Well?’ I said, maliciously, as he sorted his letters. ‘Has the post done what you expected of it?’
Poirot, who had just opened two envelopes that patently contained bills, did not reply. I thought he looked rather cast down and not his usual cock-a-hoop self.
I opened my own mail. The first was a notice of a spiritualist meeting.
‘If all else fails, we must go to the spiritualists,’ I remarked. ‘I often wonder why more tests of this kind aren’t made. The spirit of the victim comes back and names the murderer. That would be proof.’
‘It would hardly help us,’ said Poirot, absently. ‘I doubt if Maggie Buckley knew whose hand it was shot her down. Even if she could speak she would have nothing of value to tell us. Tiens! that is odd.’
‘You talk of the dead speaking, and at that moment I open this letter.’
He tossed it across to me. It was from Mrs. Buckley and ran as follows:
‘Dear Monsieur Poirot,-On my return here I found a letter written by my poor child on her arrival at St Loo. There is nothing in it of interest to you, I’m afraid, but I thought perhaps you would care to see it.
‘Thanking you for your kindness,
The enclosure brought a lump to my throat. It was so terribly commonplace and so completely untouched by any apprehension of tragedy:
‘Dear Mother, -I arrived safely. Quite a comfortable journey. Only two people in the carriage all the way to Exeter.’
‘It is lovely weather here. Nick seems very well and gay-a little restless, perhaps, but I cannot see why she should have telegraphed for me in the way she did. Tuesday would have done just as well.’
‘No more now. We are going to have tea with some neighbors. They are Australians and have rented the lodge. Nick says they are kind but rather awful. Mrs. Rice and Mr. Lazarus are coming to stay. He is an art dealer. I will post this in the box by the gate, then it will catch the post. Will write tomorrow.’
‘Your loving daughter,
‘P.S.-Nick says there is a reason for her wire. She will tell me after tea. She is very queer and jumpy.’
‘The voice of the dead,’ said Poirot, quietly. ‘And it tells us-nothing.’
‘The box by the gate,’ I remarked idly. ‘That’s where Croft said he posted the will.’
‘Said so-yes. I wonder. How I wonder!’
‘There is nothing else of interest among your letters?’
‘Nothing. Hastings, I am very unhappy. I am in the dark. Still in the dark. I comprehend nothing.’
At that moment the telephone rang. Poirot went to it.
Immediately I saw a change come over his face. His manner was very restrained, nevertheless, he could not disguise from my eyes his intense excitement.
His own contributions to the conversation were entirely non-committal so I could not gather what it was all about.
Presently, however, with a ‘Très bien. Jevous remercie,’ he put back the receiver and came back to where I was sitting. His eyes were sparkling with excitement.
‘Mon ami,’ he said. ‘What did I tell you? Things have begun to happen.’
‘What was it?’
‘That was M. Charles Vyse on the telephone. He informs me that this morning, through the post, he has received a will signed by his cousin, Miss Buckley, and dated the 25th of February last.’
‘What? The will?’
‘It has turned up?’
‘Just at the right moment, n’est-ce pas?’
‘Do you think he is speaking the truth?’
‘Or do I think he has had the will all along? Is that what you would say? Well, it is all a little curious. But one thing is certain; I told you that, if Mademoiselle Nick were supposed to be dead, we should have developments-and sure enough here they are!’
‘Extraordinary,’ I said. ‘You were right. I suppose this is the will making Frederica Rice residuary legatee?’
‘M. Vyse said nothing about the contents of the will. He was far too correct. But there seems very little reason to doubt that this is the same will. It is witnessed, he tells me, by Ellen Wilson and her husband.’
‘So we are back at the old problem,’ I said. ‘Frederica Rice.’
‘Frederica Rice,’ I murmured, inconsequently. ‘It’s a pretty name.’
‘Prettier than what her friends call her. Freddie’-he made a face-‘ce n’est pas Joli for a young lady.’
‘There aren’t many abbreviations of Frederica,’ I said. ‘It’s not like Margaret where you can have half a dozen-Maggie, Margot, Madge, Peggie-‘
‘True. Well, Hastings, are you happier now? That things have begun to happen?’
‘Yes, of course. Tell me-did you expect this to happen?’
‘No-not exactly. I had formulated nothing very precise to myself. All I had said was that given a certain result, the causes of that result must make themselves evident.’
‘Yes,’ I said, respectfully.
‘What was it that I was going to say just as that telephone rang?’ mused Poirot. ‘Oh, yes, that letter from Mademoiselle Maggie. I have a notion lingering in the back of my mind that something in it appeared quite peculiar, hence I yearned to inspect it once more.
I picked it up from where I had tossed it and handed it to him.
He read it over to himself. I moved about the room, looking out of the window and observing the yachts racing on the bay.
Suddenly an exclamation startled me. I turned round. Poirot was holding his head in his hands and rocking himself to and fro, apparently in an agony of woe.
‘Oh!’ he groaned. ‘But I have been blind-blind.’
‘What’s the matter?’
‘Complex, I have said? Complicated? Mais non. Of a simplicity extreme-extreme. And miserable one that I am, I saw nothing-nothing.’
‘Good gracious, Poirot, what is this light that has suddenly burst upon you?’
‘Wait-wait-do not speak! I must arrange my ideas. Rearrange them in the light of this discovery so stupendous.’
Seizing his list of questions, he ran over them silently, his lips moving busily. Once or twice he nodded his head emphatically.
Then he laid them down and leaning back in his chair he shut his eyes. I thought at last that he had gone to sleep.
Suddenly he sighed and opened his eyes.
‘But yes!’ he said. ‘It all fits in! All the things that have puzzled me. All the things that have seemed to me a little unnatural. They all have their place.’
‘You mean you know everything?’
‘Nearly everything. All that matters. In some respects, I have been right in my deductions. In other ways ludicrously far from the truth. But now it is all clear. I shall send today a telegram asking two questions-but the answers to them I know already-I know here!’ He tapped his forehead.
‘And when you receive the answers?’ I asked, curiously.
He sprang to his feet.
‘My friend, do you remember that Mademoiselle Nick said she wanted to stage a play at End House? Tonight, we stage such a play in End House. But it will be a play produced by Hercule Poirot. Mademoiselle Nick will have a part to play in it.’ He grinned suddenly.
‘You comprehend, Hastings, there will be a ghost in this play. Yes, a ghost. End House has never seen a ghost. It will have one tonight. No’-as I tried to ask a question-‘I will say no more. Tonight, Hastings, we will produce our comedy and reveal the truth. But now, there is much too do-much to do.’
He hurried from the room.
Read Peril at End House Novel All Parts Free Online
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- Peril at End House Chapter-4: There Must Be Something!?
- Peril at End House Chapter-5: Mr and Mrs Croft
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- Peril at End House Pdf Chapter-9: A. to J.
- Peril at End House Pdf Chapter-10: Nick’s Secret
- Peril at End House Chapter-11: The Motive
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- Peril at End House Pdf Chapter-13: Letters
- Peril at End House Pdf Chapter-14: The Mystery of the Missing Will
- Peril at End House Pdf Chapter-15: Strange Behaviour of Frederica