The Murder on the Links
by Agatha Christie
The Beroldy Case
Some twenty years or so before the opening of the present story,
Monsieur Arnold Beroldy, a native of Lyons, arrived in Paris
accompanied by his pretty wife and their little daughter, a mere babe.
Monsieur Beroldy was a junior partner in a firm of wine merchants, a
stout middle-aged man, fond of the good things of life, devoted to his
charming wife, and altogether unremarkable in every way. The firm in
which Monsieur Beroldy was a partner was a small one, and although
doing well, it did not yield a large income to the junior partner. The
Beroldys had a small apartment and lived in a very modest fashion to
But unremarkable though Monsieur Beroldy might be, his wife was
plentifully gilded with the brush of Romance. Young and good looking,
and gifted withal with a singular charm of manner, Madame Beroldy at
once created a stir in the quarter, especially when it began to be
whispered that some interesting mystery surrounded her birth. It was
rumoured that she was the illegitimate daughter of a Russian Grand
Duke. Others asserted that it was an Austrian Archduke, and that the
union was legal, though morganatic. But all stories agreed upon one
point, that Jeanne Beroldy was the centre of an interesting mystery.
Questioned by the curious, Madame Beroldy did not deny these rumours.
On the other hand she let it be clearly understood that, though her
“lips” were “sealed,” all these stories had a foundation in fact. To
intimate friends she unburdened herself further, spoke of political
intrigues, of “papers,” of obscure dangers that threatened her. There
was also much talk of Crown jewels that were to be sold secretly, with
herself acting as the go-between.
Amongst the friends and acquaintances of the Beroldys was a young
lawyer, Georges Conneau. It was soon evident that the fascinating
Jeanne had completely enslaved his heart. Madame Beroldy encouraged the
young man in a discreet fashion, but being always careful to affirm her
complete devotion to her middle-aged husband. Nevertheless, many
spiteful persons did not hesitate to declare that young Conneau was her
lover—and not the only one!
When the Beroldys had been in Paris about three months, another
personage came upon the scene. This was Mr. Hiram P. Trapp, a native of
the United States, and extremely wealthy. Introduced to the charming
and mysterious Madame Beroldy, he fell a prompt victim to her
fascinations. His admiration was obvious, though strictly respectful.
About this time, Madame Beroldy became more outspoken in her
confidences. To several friends, she declared herself greatly worried
on her husband’s behalf. She explained that he had been drawn into
several schemes of a political nature, and also referred to some
important papers that had been entrusted to him for safekeeping and
which concerned a “secret” of far reaching European importance. They
had been entrusted to his custody to throw pursuers off the track, but
Madame Beroldy was nervous, having recognized several important members
of the Revolutionary Circle in Paris.
On the 28th day of November, the blow fell. The woman who came daily to
clean and cook for the Beroldys was surprised to find the door of the
apartment standing wide open. Hearing faint moans issuing from the
bedroom, she went in. A terrible sight met her eyes. Madame Beroldy lay
on the floor, bound hand and foot, uttering feeble moans, having
managed to free her mouth from a gag. On the bed was Monsieur Beroldy,
lying in a pool of blood, with a knife driven through his heart.
Madame Beroldy’s story was clear enough. Suddenly awakened from sleep,
she had discerned two masked men bending over her. Stifling her cries,
they had bound and gagged her. They had then demanded of Monsieur
Beroldy the famous “secret.”
But the intrepid wine merchant refused point-blank to accede to their
request. Angered by his refusal, one of the men incontinently stabbed
him through the heart. With the dead man’s keys, they had opened the
safe in the corner, and had carried away with them a mass of papers.
Both men were heavily bearded, and had worn masks, but Madame Beroldy
declared positively that they were Russians.
The affair created an immense sensation. It was referred to variously
as “the Nihilist Atrocity,” “Revolutionaries in Paris,” and the
“Russian Mystery.” Time went on, and the mysterious bearded men were
never traced. And then, just as public interest was beginning to die
down, a startling development occurred. Madame Beroldy was arrested and
charged with the murder of her husband.
The trial, when it came on, aroused widespread interest. The youth and
beauty of the accused, and her mysterious history, were sufficient to
make of it a _cause célèbre___. People ranged themselves wildly for or
against the prisoner. But her partisans received several severe checks
to their enthusiasm. The romantic past of Madame Beroldy, her royal
blood, and the mysterious intrigues in which she had her being were
shown to be mere fantasies of the imagination.
It was proved beyond doubt that Jeanne Beroldy’s parents were a highly
respectable and prosaic couple, fruit merchants, who lived on the
outskirts of Lyons. The Russian Grand Duke, the court intrigues, and
the political schemes—all the stories current were traced back to—the
lady herself! From her brain had emanated these ingenious myths, and
she was proved to have raised a considerable sum of money from various
credulous persons by her fiction of the “Crown jewels”—the jewels in
question being found to be mere paste imitations. Remorselessly the
whole story of her life was laid bare. The motive for the murder was
found in Mr. Hiram P. Trapp. Mr. Trapp did his best, but relentlessly
and agilely cross-questioned he was forced to admit that he loved the
lady, and that, had she been free, he would have asked her to be his
wife. The fact that the relations between them were admittedly platonic
strengthened the case against the accused. Debarred from becoming his
mistress by the simple honourable nature of the man, Jeanne Beroldy had
conceived the monstrous project of ridding herself of her elderly
undistinguished husband, and becoming the wife of the rich American.
Throughout, Madame Beroldy confronted her accusers with complete sang
froid and self possession. Her story never varied. She continued to
declare strenuously that she was of royal birth, and that she had been
substituted for the daughter of the fruit seller at an early age.
Absurd and completely unsubstantiated as these statements were, a great
number of people believed implicitly in their truth.
But the prosecution was implacable. It denounced the masked “Russians”
as a myth, and asserted that the crime had been committed by Madame
Beroldy and her lover, Georges Conneau. A warrant was issued for the
arrest of the latter, but he had wisely disappeared. Evidence showed
that the bonds which secured Madame Beroldy were so loose that she
could easily have freed herself.
And then, towards the close of the trial, a letter, posted in Paris,
was sent to the Public Prosecutor. It was from Georges Conneau and,
without revealing his whereabouts, it contained a full confession of
the crime. He declared that he had indeed struck the fatal blow at
Madame Beroldy’s instigation. The crime had been planned between them.
Believing that her husband ill-treated her, and maddened by his own
passion for her, a passion which he believed her to return, he had
planned the crime and struck the fatal blow that should free the woman
he loved from a hateful bondage. Now, for the first time, he learnt of
Mr. Hiram P. Trapp, and realized that the woman he loved had betrayed
him! Not for his sake did she wish to be free—but in order to marry the
wealthy American. She had used him as a cat’s-paw, and now, in his
jealous rage, he turned and denounced her, declaring that throughout he
had acted at her instigation.
And then Madame Beroldy proved herself the remarkable woman she
undoubtedly was. Without hesitation, she dropped her previous defence,
and admitted that the “Russians” were a pure invention on her part. The
real murderer was Georges Conneau. Maddened by passion, he had
committed the crime, vowing that if she did not keep silence he would
enact a terrible vengeance from her. Terrified by his threats, she had
consented—also fearing it likely that if she told the truth she might
be accused of conniving at the crime. But she had steadfastly refused
to have anything more to do with her husband’s murderer, and it was in
revenge for this attitude on her part that he had written this letter
accusing her. She swore solemnly that she had had nothing to do with
the planning of the crime, that she had awoke on that memorable night
to find Georges Conneau standing over her, the blood-stained knife in
It was a touch and go affair. Madame Beroldy’s story was hardly
credible. But this woman, whose fairy tales of royal intrigues had been
so easily accepted, had the supreme art of making herself believed. Her
address to the jury was a masterpiece. The tears streaming down her
face, she spoke of her child, of her woman’s honour—of her desire to
keep her reputation untarnished for the child’s sake. She admitted
that, Georges Conneau having been her lover, she might perhaps be held
morally responsible for the crime—but, before God, nothing more! She
knew that she had committed a grave fault in not denouncing Conneau to
the law, but she declared in a broken voice that that was a thing no
woman could have done. … She had loved him! Could she let her hand be
the one to send him to the Guillotine? She had been guilty of much, but
she was innocent of the terrible crime imputed to her.
However that may have been, her eloquence and personality won the day.
Madame Beroldy, amidst a scene of unparalleled excitement, was
acquitted. Despite the utmost endeavours of the police, Georges Conneau
was never traced. As for Madame Beroldy, nothing more was heard of her.
Taking the child with her, she left Paris to begin a new life.