The Murder on the Links
by Agatha Christie
Hercule Poirot on the Case!
In a measured voice, Poirot began his exposition.
“It seems strange to you, _mon ami___, that a man should plan his own
death? So strange, that you prefer to reject the truth as fantastic,
and to revert to a story that is in reality ten times more impossible.
Yes, M. Renauld planned his own death, but there is one detail that
perhaps escapes you—he did not intend to die.”
I shook my head, bewildered.
“But no, it is all most simple really,” said Poirot kindly. “For the
crime that M. Renauld proposed a murderer was not necessary, as I told
you, but a body was. Let us reconstruct, seeing events this time from a
“Georges Conneau flies from justice—to Canada. There, under an assumed
name he marries, and finally acquires a vast fortune in South America.
But there is a nostalgia upon him for his own country. Twenty years
have elapsed, he is considerably changed in appearance, besides being a
man of such eminence that no one is likely to connect him with a
fugitive from justice many years ago. He deems it quite safe to return.
He takes up his headquarters in England, but intends to spend the
summers in France. And ill fortune, that obscure justice which shapes
men’s ends, and will not allow them to evade the consequences of their
acts, takes him to Merlinville. There, in the whole of France, is the
one person who is capable of recognizing him. It is, of course, a gold
mine to Madame Daubreuil, and a gold mine of which she is not slow to
take advantage. He is helpless, absolutely in her power. And she bleeds
“And then the inevitable happens. Jack Renauld falls in love with the
beautiful girl he sees almost daily, and wishes to marry her. That
rouses his father. At all costs, he will prevent his son marrying the
daughter of this evil woman. Jack Renauld knows nothing of his father’s
past, but Madame Renauld knows everything. She is a woman of great
force of character, and passionately devoted to her husband. They take
counsel together. Renauld sees only one way of escape—death. He must
appear to die, in reality escaping to another country where he will
start again under an assumed name, and where Madame Renauld, having
played the widow’s part for a while, can join him. It is essential that
she should have control of the money, so he alters his will. How they
meant to manage the body business originally, I do not know—possibly an
art student’s skeleton—and a fire or something of the kind, but long
before their plans have matured an event occurs which plays into their
hands. A rough tramp, violent and abusive, finds his way into the
garden. There is a struggle, M. Renauld seeks to eject him, and
suddenly the tramp, an epileptic, falls down in a fit. He is dead. M.
Renauld calls his wife. Together they drag him into the shed—as we
know, the event had occurred just outside—and they realize the
marvellous opportunity that has been vouchsafed them. The man bears no
resemblance to M. Renauld, but he is middle-aged, of a usual French
type. That is sufficient.
“I rather fancy that they sat on the bench up there, out of earshot
from the house, discussing matters. Their plan was quickly made. The
identification must rest solely on Madame Renauld’s evidence. Jack
Renauld and the chauffeur (who had been with his master two years) must
be got out of the way. It was unlikely that the French women servants
would go near the body, and in any case Renauld intended to take
measures to deceive any one not likely to appreciate details. Masters
was sent off, a telegram despatched to Jack, Buenos Ayres being
selected to give credence to the story that Renauld had decided upon.
Having heard of me, as a rather obscure elderly detective, he wrote his
appeal for help knowing that, when I arrived, the production of the
letter would have a profound effect upon the examining
magistrate—which, of course, it did.
“They dressed the body of the tramp in a suit of M. Renauld’s and left
his ragged coat and trousers by the door of the shed, not daring to
take them into the house. And then, to give credence to the tale Madame
Renauld was to tell, they drove the aeroplane dagger through his heart.
That night, M. Renauld will first bind and gag his wife, and then,
taking a spade, will dig a grave in that particular spot of ground
where he knows a—how do you call it? bunkair?—is to be made. It is
essential that the body should be found—Madame Daubreuil must have no
suspicions. On the other hand, if a little time elapses, any dangers as
to identity will be greatly lessened. Then, M. Renauld will don the
tramp’s rags, and shuffle off to the station, where he will leave,
unnoticed, by the 12:10 train. Since the crime will be supposed to have
taken place two hours later, no suspicion can possibly attach to him.
“You see now his annoyance at the inopportune visit of the girl Bella.
Every moment of delay is fatal to his plans. He gets rid of her as soon
as he can, however. Then, to work! He leaves the front door slightly
ajar to create the impression that the assassins left that way. He
binds and gags Madame Renauld, correcting his mistake of twenty-two
years ago, when the looseness of the bonds caused suspicion to fall
upon his accomplice, but leaving her primed with essentially the same
story as he had invented before, proving the unconscious recoil of the
mind against originality. The night is chilly, and he slips on an
overcoat over his underclothing, intending to cast it into the grave
with the dead man. He goes out by the window, smoothing over the flower
bed carefully, and thereby furnishing the most positive evidence
against himself. He goes out on to the lonely golf links, and he
“And then,” said Poirot gravely, “the justice that he has so long
eluded overtakes him. An unknown hand stabs him in the back. … Now,
Hastings, you understand what I mean when I talk of _two___ crimes. The
first crime, the crime that M. Renauld, in his arrogance, asked us to
investigate (ah, but he made a famous mistake there! He misjudged
Hercule Poirot!) is solved. But behind it lies a deeper riddle. And to
solve that will be difficult—since the criminal in his wisdom, has been
content to avail himself of the devices prepared by M. Renauld. It has
been a particularly perplexing and baffling mystery to solve. A young
hand, like Giraud, who does not place any reliance on the psychology,
is almost certain to fail.”
“You’re marvellous, Poirot,” I said, with admiration. “Absolutely
marvellous. No one on earth but you could have done it!”
I think my praise pleased him. For once in his life, he looked almost
“Ah, then you no longer despise poor old Papa Poirot? You shift your
allegiance back from the human foxhound?”
His term for Giraud never failed to make me smile.
“Rather. You’ve scored over him handsomely.”
“That poor Giraud,” said Poirot, trying unsuccessfully to look modest.
“Without doubt it is not all stupidity. He has had _la mauvaise
chance___ once or twice. That dark hair coiled round the dagger, for
instance. To say the least, it was misleading.”
“To tell you the truth, Poirot,” I said slowly, “even now I don’t quite
see—whose hair was it?”
“Madame Renauld’s of course. That is where _la mauvaise chance___ came
in. Her hair, dark originally, is almost completely silvered. It might
just as easily have been a grey hair—and then, by no conceivable effort
could Giraud have persuaded himself it came from the head of Jack
Renauld! But it is all of a piece. Always the facts must be twisted to
fit the theory! Did not Giraud find the traces of two persons, a man
and a woman, in the shed? And how does that fit in with his
reconstruction of the case? I will tell you—it does not fit in, and so
we shall hear no more of them! I ask you, is that a methodical way of
working? The great Giraud! The great Giraud is nothing but a toy
balloon—swollen with its own importance. But I, Hercule Poirot, whom he
despises, will be the little pin that pricks the big balloon—_comme
ça!___” And he made an expressive gesture. Then, calming down, he
“Without doubt, when Madame Renauld recovers, she will speak. The
possibility of her son being accused of the murder never occurred to
her. How should it, when she believed him safely at sea on board the
_Anzora?___ _Ah! voilà une femme___, Hastings! What force, what
self-command! She only made one slip. On his unexpected return: ‘It
does not matter—_now___.’ And no one noticed—no one realized the
significance of those words. What a terrible part she has had to play,
poor woman. Imagine the shock when she goes to identify the body and,
instead of what she expects, sees the actual lifeless form of the
husband she has believed miles away by now. No wonder she fainted! But
since then, despite her grief and her despair, how resolutely she has
played her part, and how the anguish of it must wring her. She cannot
say a word to set us on the track of the real murderers. For her son’s
sake, no one must know that Paul Renauld was Georges Conneau, the
criminal. Final and most bitter blow, she has admitted publicly that
Madame Daubreuil was her husband’s mistress—for a hint of blackmail
might be fatal to her secret. How cleverly she dealt with the examining
magistrate when he asked her if there was any mystery in her husband’s
past life. ‘Nothing so romantic, I am sure, M. le juge.’ It was
perfect, the indulgent tone, the _soupçon___ of sad mockery. At once M.
Hautet felt himself foolish and melodramatic. Yes, she is a great
woman! If she loved a criminal, she loved him royally!”
Poirot lost himself in contemplation.
“One thing more, Poirot, what about the piece of lead piping?”
“You do not see? To disfigure the victim’s face so that it would be
unrecognizable. It was that which first set me on the right track. And
that imbecile of a Giraud, swarming all over it to look for match ends!
Did I not tell you that a clue of two feet long was quite as good as a
clue of two inches?”
“Well, Giraud will sing small now,” I observed hastily, to lead the
conversation away from my own shortcomings.
“As I said before, will he? If he has arrived at the right person by
the wrong method, he will not permit that to worry him.”
“But surely—” I paused as I saw the new trend of things.
“You see, Hastings, we must now start again. Who killed M. Renauld?
Some one who was near the Villa just before twelve o’clock that night,
some one who would benefit by his death—the description fits Jack
Renauld only too well. The crime need not have been premeditated. And
then the dagger!”
I started, I had not realized that point.
“Of course,” I said. “The second dagger we found in the tramp was Mrs.
Renauld’s. There _were___ two, then.”
“Certainly, and, since they were duplicates, it stands to reason that
Jack Renauld was the owner. But that would not trouble me so much. In
fact I have a little idea as to that. No, the worst indictment against
him is again psychological—heredity, _mon ami___, heredity! Like
father, like son—Jack Renauld, when all is said or done, is the son of
His tone was grave and earnest, and I was impressed in spite of myself.
“What is your little idea that you mentioned just now?” I asked.
For answer, Poirot consulted his turnip-faced watch, and then asked:
“What time is the afternoon boat from Calais?”
“About five, I believe.”
“That will do very well. We shall just have time.”
“You are going to England?”
“Yes, my friend.”
“To find a possible—witness.”
With a rather peculiar smile upon his face, Poirot replied:
“Miss Bella Duveen.”
“But how will you find her—what do you know about her?”
“I know nothing about her—but I can guess a good deal. We may take it
for granted that her name _is___ Bella Duveen, and since that name was
faintly familiar to M. Stonor, though evidently not in connection with
the Renauld family, it is probable that she is on the stage. Jack
Renauld was a young man with plenty of money, and twenty years of age.
The stage is sure to have been the home of his first love. It tallies,
too, with M. Renauld’s attempt to placate her with a cheque. I think I
shall find her all right—especially with the help of _this___.”
And he brought out the photograph I had seen him take from Jack
Renauld’s drawer. “With love from Bella,” was scrawled across the
corner, but it was not that which held my eyes fascinated. The likeness
was not first rate—but for all that it was unmistakable to me. I felt a
cold sinking, as though some unutterable calamity had befallen me.
It was the face of Cinderella.