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The Murder on the Links - 13

The Murder on the Links

by Agatha Christie

13

The Girl with the Anxious Eyes

We lunched with an excellent appetite. I understood well enough that

Poirot did not wish to discuss the tragedy where we could so easily be

overheard. But, as is usual when one topic fills the mind to the

exclusion of everything else, no other subject of interest seemed to

present itself. For a while we ate in silence, and then Poirot observed

maliciously:

“_Eh bien!___ And your indiscretions! You recount them not?”

I felt myself blushing.

“Oh, you mean this morning?” I endeavoured to adopt a tone of absolute

nonchalance.

But I was no match for Poirot. In a very few minutes he had extracted

the whole story from me, his eyes twinkling as he did so.

“_Tiens!___ A story of the most romantic. What is her name, this

charming young lady?”

I had to confess that I did not know.

“Still more romantic! The first _rencontre___ in the train from Paris,

the second here. Journeys end in lovers’ meetings, is not that the

saying?”

“Don’t be an ass, Poirot.”

“Yesterday it was Mademoiselle Daubreuil, today it is

Mademoiselle—Cinderella! Decidedly you have the heart of a Turk,

Hastings! You should establish a harem!”

“It’s all very well to rag me. Mademoiselle Daubreuil is a very

beautiful girl, and I do admire her immensely—I don’t mind admitting

it. The other’s nothing—don’t suppose I shall ever see her again. She

was quite amusing to talk to just for a railway journey, but she’s not

the kind of girl I should ever get keen on.”

“Why?”

“Well—it sounds snobbish perhaps—but she’s not a lady, not in any sense

of the word.”

Poirot nodded thoughtfully. There was less raillery in his voice as he

asked:

“You believe, then, in birth and breeding?”

“I may be old-fashioned, but I certainly don’t believe in marrying out

of one’s class. It never answers.”

“I agree with you, _mon ami___. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it

is as you say. But there is always the hundredth time! Still, that does

not arise, as you do not propose to see the lady again.”

His last words were almost a question, and I was aware of the sharpness

with which he darted a glance at me. And before my eyes, writ large in

letters of fire, I saw the words “Hôtel du Phare,” and I heard again

her voice saying “Come and look me up” and my own answering with

_empressement___: “I will.”

Well, what of it? I had meant to go at the time. But since then, I had

had time to reflect. I did not like the girl. Thinking it over in cold

blood, I came definitely to the conclusion that I disliked her

intensely. I had got hauled over the coals for foolishly gratifying her

morbid curiosity, and I had not the least wish to see her again.

I answered Poirot lightly enough.

“She asked me to look her up, but of course I shan’t.”

“Why ‘of course’?”

“Well—I don’t want to.”

“I see.” He studied me attentively for some minutes. “Yes. I see very

well. And you are wise. Stick to what you have said.”

“That seems to be your invariable advice,” I remarked, rather piqued.

“Ah, my friend, have faith in Papa Poirot. Some day, if you permit, I

will arrange you a marriage of great suitability.”

“Thank you,” I said laughing, “but the prospect leaves me cold.”

Poirot sighed and shook his head.

“_Les Anglais!___” he murmured. “No method—absolutely none whatever.

They leave all to chance!” He frowned, and altered the position of the

salt cellar.

“Mademoiselle Cinderella is staying at the Hôtel d’Angleterre you told

me, did you not?”

“No. Hôtel du Phare.”

“True, I forgot.”

A moment’s misgiving shot across my mind. Surely I had never mentioned

any hotel to Poirot. I looked across at him, and felt reassured. He was

cutting his bread into neat little squares, completely absorbed in his

task. He must have fancied I had told him where the girl was staying.

We had coffee outside facing the sea. Poirot smoked one of his tiny

cigarettes, and then drew his watch from his pocket.

“The train to Paris leaves at 2:25,” he observed. “I should be

starting.”

“Paris?” I cried.

“That is what I said, _mon ami___.”

“You are going to Paris? But why?”

He replied very seriously.

“To look for the murderer of M. Renauld.”

“You think he is in Paris?”

“I am quite certain that he is not. Nevertheless, it is there that I

must look for him. You do not understand, but I will explain it all to

you in good time. Believe me, this journey to Paris is necessary. I

shall not be away long. In all probability I shall return tomorrow. I

do not propose that you should accompany me. Remain here and keep an

eye on Giraud. Also cultivate the society of M. Renauld _fils___. And

thirdly, if you wish, endeavour to cut him out with Mademoiselle

Marthe. But I fear you will not have great success.”

I did not quite relish the last remark.

“That reminds me,” I said. “I meant to ask you how you knew about those

two?”

“_Mon ami___—I know human nature. Throw together a boy young Renauld

and a beautiful girl like Mademoiselle Marthe, and the result is almost

inevitable. Then, the quarrel! It was money or a woman and, remembering

Léonie’s description of the lad’s anger, I decided on the latter. So I

made my guess—and I was right.”

“And that was why you warned me against setting my heart on the lady?

You already suspected that she loved young Renauld?”

Poirot smiled.

“At any rate—_I saw that she had anxious eyes.___ That is how always

think of Mademoiselle Daubreuil _as the girl with the anxious

eyes. …___”

His voice was so grave that it impressed me uncomfortably.

“What do you mean by that, Poirot?”

“I fancy, my friend, that we shall see before very long. But I must

start.”

“You’ve oceans of time.”

“Perhaps—perhaps. But I like plenty of leisure at the station. I do not

wish to rush, to hurry, to excite myself.”

“At all events,” I said, rising, “I will come and see you off.”

“You will do nothing of the sort. I forbid it.”

He was so peremptory that I stared at him in surprise. He nodded

emphatically.

“I mean it, _mon ami___. Au revoir! You permit that I embrace you? Ah,

no, I forget that it is not the English custom. Une poignee de main,

alors.”

I felt rather at a loose end after Poirot had left me. I strolled down

the beach, and watched the bathers, without feeling energetic enough to

join them. I rather fancied that Cinderella might be disporting herself

amongst them in some wonderful costume, but I saw no signs of her. I

strolled aimlessly along the sands towards the further end of the town.

It occurred to me that, after all, it would only be decent feeling on

my part to inquire after the girl. And it would save trouble in the

end. The matter would then be finished with. There would be no need for

me to trouble about her any further. But, if I did not go at all, she

might quite possibly come and look me up at the Villa. And that would

be annoying in every way. Decidedly it would be better to pay a short

call, in the course of which I could make it quite clear that I could

do nothing further for her in my capacity of showman.

Accordingly I left the beach, and walked inland. I soon found the Hôtel

du Phare, a very unpretentious building. It was annoying in the extreme

not to know the lady’s name and, to save my dignity, I decided to

stroll inside and look around. Probably I should find her in the

lounge. Merlinville was a small place, you left your hotel to go to the

beach, and you left the beach to return to the hotel. There were no

other attractions. There was a Casino being built, but it was not yet

completed.

I had walked the length of the beach without seeing her, therefore she

must be in the hotel. I went in. Several people were sitting in the

tiny lounge, but my quarry was not amongst them. I looked into some

other rooms, but there was no sign of her. I waited for some time, till

my impatience got the better of me. I took the concierge aside, and

slipped five francs into his hand.

“I wish to see a lady who is staying here. A young English lady, small

and dark. I am not sure of her name.”

The man shook his head, and seemed to be suppressing a grin.

“There is no such lady as you describe staying here.”

“She is American possibly,” I suggested. These fellows are so stupid.

But the man continued to shake his head.

“No, monsieur. There are only six or seven English and American ladies

altogether, and they are all much older than the lady you are seeking.

It is not here that you will find her, monsieur.”

He was so positive that I felt doubts.

“But the lady told me she was staying here.”

“Monsieur must have made a mistake—or it is more likely the lady did,

since there has been another gentleman here inquiring for her.”

“What is that you say?” I cried, surprised.

“But yes, monsieur. A gentleman who described her just as you have

done.”

“What was he like?”

“He was a small gentleman, well dressed, very neat, very spotless, the

moustache very stiff, the head of a peculiar shape, and the eyes

green.”

Poirot! So that was why he refused to let me accompany him to the

station. The impertinence of it! I would thank him not to meddle in my

concerns. Did he fancy I needed a nurse to look after me? Thanking the

man, I departed, somewhat at a loss, and still much incensed with my

meddlesome friend. I regretted that he was, for the moment, out of

reach. I should have enjoyed telling him what I thought of his

unwarranted interference. Had I not distinctly told him that I had no

intention of seeing the girl? Decidedly, one’s friends can be too

zealous!

But where was the lady? I set aside my wrath, and tried to puzzle it

out. Evidently, through inadvertence, she had named the wrong hotel.

Then another thought struck me. Was it inadvertence? Or had she

deliberately withheld her name and given me the wrong address? The more

I thought about it, the more I felt convinced that this last surmise of

mine was right. For some reason or other she did not wish to let the

acquaintance ripen into friendship. And though half an hour earlier

this had been precisely my own view, I did not enjoy having the tables

turned upon me. The whole affair was profoundly unsatisfactory, and I

went up to the Villa Geneviève in a condition of distinct ill humour. I

did not go to the house, but went up the path to the little bench by

the shed, and sat there moodily enough.

I was distracted from my thoughts by the sound of voices close at hand.

In a second or two I realized that they came, not from the garden I was

in, but from the adjoining garden of the Villa Marguerite, and that

they were approaching rapidly. A girl’s voice was speaking, a voice

that I recognized as that of the beautiful Marthe.

“_Chéri___,” she was saying, “is it really true? Are all our troubles

over.”

“You know it, Marthe,” Jack Renauld replied. “Nothing can part us now,

beloved. The last obstacle to our union is removed. Nothing can take

you from me.”

“Nothing?” the girl murmured. “Oh, Jack, Jack—I am afraid.”

I had moved to depart, realizing that I was quite unintentionally

eavesdropping. As I rose to my feet, I caught sight of them through a

gap in the hedge. They stood together facing me, the man’s arm round

the girl, his eyes looking into hers. They were a splendid looking

couple, the dark, well-knit boy, and the fair young goddess. They

seemed made for each other as they stood there, happy in spite of the

terrible tragedy that overshadowed their young lives.

But the girl’s face was troubled, and Jack Renauld seemed to recognize

it, as he held her closer to him and asked:

“But what are you afraid of, darling? What is there to fear—now?”

And then I saw the look in her eyes, the look Poirot had spoken of, as

she murmured, so that I almost guessed at the words.

“I am afraid—for _you___. …”

I did not hear young Renauld’s answer, for my attention was distracted

by an unusual appearance a little further down the hedge. There

appeared to be a brown bush there, which seemed odd, to say the least

of it, so early in the summer. I stepped along to investigate, but, at

my advance, the brown bush withdrew itself precipitately, and faced me

with a finger to its lips. It was Giraud.

Enjoining caution, he led the way round the shed until we were out of

ear-shot.

“What were you doing there?” I asked.

“Exactly what you were doing—listening.”

“But I was not there on purpose!”

“Ah!” said Giraud. “I was.”

As always, I admired the man whilst disliking him. He looked me up and

down with a sort of contemptuous disfavour.

“You didn’t help matters by butting in. I might have heard something

useful in a minute. What have you done with your old fossil?”

“M. Poirot has gone to Paris,” I replied coldly.

“And I can tell you, M. Giraud, that he is anything but an old fossil.

He has solved many cases that have completely baffled the English

police.”

“Bah! The English police!” Giraud snapped his fingers disdainfully.

“They must be on a level with our examining magistrates. So he has gone

to Paris, has he? Well, a good thing. The longer he stays there, the

better. But what does he think he will find there?”

I thought I read in the question a tinge of uneasiness. I drew myself

up.

“That I am not at liberty to say,” I said quietly.

Giraud subjected me to a piercing stare.

“He has probably enough sense not to tell _you___,” he remarked rudely.

“Good afternoon. I’m busy.”

And with that, he turned on his heel, and left me without ceremony.

Matters seemed at a standstill at the Villa Geneviève. Giraud evidently

did not desire my company and, from what I had seen, it seemed fairly

certain that Jack Renauld did not either.

I went back to the town, had an enjoyable bath and returned to the

hotel. I turned in early, wondering whether the following day would

bring forth anything of interest.

I was wholly unprepared for what it did bring forth. I was eating my

petit déjeuner in the dining-room, when the waiter, who had been

talking to some one outside, came back in obvious excitement. He

hesitated for a minute, fidgeting with his napkin, and then burst out.

“Monsieur will pardon me, but he is connected, is he not, with the

affair at the Villa Geneviève?’

“Yes,” I said eagerly. “Why?”

“Monsieur has not heard the news, though?”

“What news?”

“That there has been another murder there last night!”

“_What?___”

Leaving my breakfast, I caught up my hat and ran as fast as I could.

Another murder—and Poirot away! What fatality. But who had been

murdered?

I dashed in at the gate. A group of the servants was in the drive,

talking and gesticulating. I caught hold of Françoise.

“What has happened?”

“Oh, monsieur! monsieur! Another death! It is terrible. There is a

curse upon the house. But yes, I say it, a curse! They should send for

M. le curé to bring some holy water. Never will I sleep another night

under that roof. It might be my turn, who knows?”

She crossed herself.

“Yes,” I cried, “but who has been killed?”

“Do I know—me? A man—a stranger. They found him up there—in the

shed—not a hundred yards from where they found poor Monsieur. And that

is not all. He is stabbed—stabbed to the heart _with the same

dagger!___”

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