The Murder on the Links
by Agatha Christie
After a moment of stress, such as I have just described, reaction is
bound to set in. I retired to rest that night on a note of triumph, but
I awoke to realize that I was by no means out of the wood. True, I
could see no flaw in the alibi I had so suddenly conceived. I had but
to stick to my story, and I failed to see how Bella could be convicted
in face of it. It was not as though there was any old friendship
between us that could be raked up, and which might lead them to suspect
that I was committing perjury. It could be proved that in actual fact I
had only seen the girl on three occasions. No, I was still satisfied
with my idea—had not even Poirot admitted that it defeated him?
But there I felt the need of treading warily. All very well for my
little friend to admit himself momentarily nonplussed. I had far too
much respect for his abilities to conceive of him as being content to
remain in that position. I had a very humble opinion of my wits when it
came to matching them against his. Poirot would not take defeat lying
down. Somehow or other, he would endeavour to turn the tables on me,
and that in the way, and at the moment, when I least expected it.
We met at breakfast the following morning as though nothing had
happened. Poirot’s good temper was imperturbable, yet I thought I
detected a film of reserve in his manner which was new. After
breakfast, I announced my intention of going out for a stroll. A
malicious gleam shot through Poirot’s eyes.
“If it is information you seek, you need not be at the pains of
deranging yourself. I can tell you all you wish to know. The Dulcibella
Sisters have cancelled their contract, and have left Coventry for an
“Is that really so, Poirot?”
“You can take it from me, Hastings. I made inquiries the first thing
this morning. After all, what else did you expect?”
True enough, nothing else could be expected under the circumstances.
Cinderella had profited by the slight start I had been able to assure
her, and would certainly not lose a moment in removing herself from the
reach of the pursuer. It was what I had intended and planned.
Nevertheless, I was aware of being plunged into a network of fresh
I had absolutely no means of communicating with the girl, and it was
vital that she should know the line of defence that had occurred to me,
and which I was prepared to carry out. Of course it was possible that
she might try to send word to me in some way or another, but I hardly
thought it likely. She would know the risk she ran of a message being
intercepted by Poirot, thus setting him on her track once more. Clearly
her only course was to disappear utterly for the time being.
But, in the meantime, what was Poirot doing? I studied him attentively.
He was wearing his most innocent air, and staring meditatively into the
far distance. He looked altogether too placid and supine to give me
reassurance. I had learned, with Poirot, that the less dangerous he
looked, the more dangerous he was. His quiescence alarmed me. Observing
a troubled quality in my glance, he smiled benignantly.
“You are puzzled, Hastings? You ask yourself why I do not launch myself
“Well—something of the kind.”
“It is what you would do, were you in my place. I understand that. But
I am not of those who enjoy rushing up and down a country seeking a
needle in a haystack, as you English say. No—let Mademoiselle Bella
Duveen go. Without doubt, I shall be able to find her when the time
comes. Until then, I am content to wait.”
I stared at him doubtfully. Was he seeking to mislead me? I had an
irritating feeling that, even now, he was master of the situation. My
sense of superiority was gradually waning. I had contrived the girl’s
escape, and evolved a brilliant scheme for saving her from the
consequences of her rash act—but I could not rest easy in my mind.
Poirot’s perfect calm awakened a thousand apprehensions.
“I suppose, Poirot,” I said rather diffidently, “I mustn’t ask what
your plans are? I’ve forfeited the right.”
“But not at all. There is no secret about them. We return to France
“Precisely—‘_we!___’ You know very well that you cannot afford to let
Papa Poirot out of your sight. Eh, is it not so, my friend? But remain
in England by all means if you wish—”
I shook my head. He had hit the nail on the head. I could not afford to
let him out of my sight. Although I could not expect his confidence
after what had happened, I could still check his actions. The only
danger to Bella lay with him. Giraud and the French police were
indifferent to her existence. At all costs I must keep near Poirot.
Poirot observed me attentively as these reflections passed through my
mind, and gave a nod of satisfaction.
“I am right, am I not? And as you are quite capable of trying to follow
me, disguised with some absurdity such as a false beard—which every one
would perceive, _bien entendu___—I much prefer that we should voyage
together. It would annoy me greatly that any one should mock themselves
“Very well, then. But it’s only fair to warn you—”
“I know—I know all. You are my enemy! Be my enemy then. It does not
worry me at all.”
“So long as it’s all fair and above-board, I don’t mind.”
“You have to the full the English passion for ‘fair-play!’ Now your
scruples are satisfied, let us depart immediately. There is no time to
be lost. Our stay in England has been short but sufficient. I know—what
I wanted to know.”
The tone was light, but I read a veiled menace into the words.
“Still—” I began, and stopped.
“Still—as you say! Without doubt you are satisfied with the part you
are playing. Me, I preoccupy myself with Jack Renauld.”
Jack Renauld! The words gave me a start. I had completely forgotten
that aspect of the case. Jack Renauld, in prison, with the shadow of
the guillotine looming over him! I saw the part I was playing in a more
sinister light. I could save Bella—yes, but in doing so I ran the risk
of sending an innocent man to his death.
I pushed the thought from me with horror. It could not be. He would be
acquitted. Certainly he would be acquitted! But the cold fear came
back. Suppose he were not? What then? Could I have it on my
conscience—horrible thought! Would it come to that in the end? A
decision. Bella or Jack Renauld? The promptings of my heart were to
save the girl I loved at any cost to myself. But, if the cost were to
another, the problem was altered.
What would the girl herself say? I remembered that no word of Jack
Renauld’s arrest had passed my lips. As yet she was in total ignorance
of the fact that her former lover was in prison charged with a hideous
crime which he had not committed. When she knew, how would she act?
Would she permit her life to be saved at the expense of his? Certainly
she must do nothing rash. Jack Renauld might, and probably would, be
acquitted without any intervention on her part. If so, good. But if he
was not. … That was the terrible, the unanswerable problem. I fancied
that she ran no risk of the extreme penalty. The circumstances of the
crime were quite different in her case. She could plead jealousy and
extreme provocation, and her youth and beauty would go for much. The
fact that by a tragic mistake it was old Mr. Renauld, and not his son,
who paid the penalty would not alter the motive of the crime. But in
any case, however lenient the sentence of the Court, it must mean a
long term of imprisonment.
No, Bella must be protected. And, at the same time, Jack Renauld must
be saved. How this was to be accomplished I did not see clearly. But I
pinned my faith to Poirot. He knew. Come what might, he would manage to
save an innocent man. He must find some pretext other than the real
one. It might be difficult, but he would manage it somehow. And with
Bella unsuspected, and Jack Renauld acquitted, all would end
So I told myself repeatedly, but at the bottom of my heart there still
remained a cold fear.