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The Murder on the Links - 28 - Last Part

The Murder on the Links

by Agatha Christie

28

Journey’s End

I have confused memories of the further events of that night. Poirot

seemed deaf to my repeated questions. He was engaged in overwhelming

Françoise with reproaches for not having told him of Mrs. Renauld’s

change of sleeping quarters.

I caught him by the shoulder, determined to attract his attention, and

make myself heard.

“But you _must___ have known,” I expostulated. “You were taken up to

see her this afternoon.”

Poirot deigned to attend to me for a brief moment.

“She had been wheeled on a sofa into the middle room—her boudoir,” he

explained.

“But, monsieur,” cried Françoise, “Madame changed her room almost

immediately after the crime! The associations—they were too

distressing!”

“Then why was I not told,” vociferated Poirot, striking the table, and

working himself into a first-class passion. “I demand

you—why—was—I—not—told? You are an old woman completely imbecile! And

Léonie and Denise are no better. All of you are triple idiots! Your

stupidity has nearly caused the death of your mistress. But for this

courageous child—”

He broke off, and, darting across the room to where the girl was

bending over ministering to Mrs. Renauld, he embraced her with Gallic

fervour—slightly to my annoyance.

I was aroused from my condition of mental fog by a sharp command from

Poirot to fetch the doctor immediately on Mrs. Renauld’s behalf. After

that, I might summon the police. And he added, to complete my dudgeon:

“It will hardly be worth your while to return here. I shall be too busy

to attend to you, and of Mademoiselle here I make a _garde-malad___.”

I retired with what dignity I could command. Having done my errands, I

returned to the hotel. I understood next to nothing of what had

occurred. The events of the night seemed fantastic and impossible.

Nobody would answer my questions. Nobody had seemed to hear them.

Angrily, I flung myself into bed, and slept the sleep of the bewildered

and utterly exhausted.

I awoke to find the sun pouring in through the open windows and Poirot,

neat and smiling, sitting beside the bed.

“_Enfin___ you wake! But it is that you are a famous sleeper, Hastings!

Do you know that it is nearly eleven o’clock?”

I groaned and put a hand to my head.

“I must have been dreaming,” I said. “Do you know, I actually dreamt

that we found Marthe Daubreuil’s body in Mrs. Renauld’s room, and that

you declared her to have murdered Mr. Renauld?”

“You were not dreaming. All that is quite true.”

“But Bella Duveen killed Mr. Renauld?”

“Oh, no, Hastings, she did not! She said she did—yes—but that was to

save the man she loved from the guillotine.”

“What?”

“Remember Jack Renauld’s story. They both arrived on the scene at the

same instant, and each took the other to be the perpetrator of the

crime. The girl stares at him in horror, and then with a cry rushes

away. But, when she hears that the crime has been brought home to him,

she cannot bear it, and comes forward to accuse herself and save him

from certain death.”

Poirot leaned back in his chair, and brought the tips of his fingers

together in familiar style.

“The case was not quite satisfactory to me,” he observed judicially.

“All along I was strongly under the impression that we were dealing

with a cold-blooded and premeditated crime committed by some one who

had been contented (very cleverly) with using M. Renauld’s own plans

for throwing the police off the track. The great criminal (as you may

remember my remarking to you once) is always supremely simple.”

I nodded.

“Now, to support this theory, the criminal must have been fully

cognizant of Mr. Renauld’s plans. That leads us to Madame Renauld. But

facts fail to support any theory of her guilt. Is there any one else

who might have known of them? Yes. From Marthe Daubreuil’s own lips we

have the admission that she overheard M. Renauld’s quarrel with the

tramp. If she could overhear that, there is no reason why she should

not have heard everything else, especially if M. and Madame Renauld

were imprudent enough to discuss their plans sitting on the bench.

Remember how easily you overheard Marthe’s conversation with Jack

Renauld from that spot.”

“But what possible motive could Marthe have for murdering Mr. Renauld?”

I argued.

“What motive? Money! M. Renauld was a millionaire several times over,

and at his death (or so she and Jack believed) half that vast fortune

would pass to his son. Let us reconstruct the scene from the standpoint

of Marthe Daubreuil.

“Marthe Daubreuil overhears what passes between Renauld and his wife.

So far he has been a nice little source of income to the Daubreuil

mother and daughter, but now he proposes to escape from their toils. At

first, possibly, her idea is to prevent that escape. But a bolder idea

takes its place, and one that fails to horrify the daughter of Jeanne

Beroldy! At present M. Renauld stands inexorably in the way of her

marriage with Jack. If the latter defies his father, he will be a

pauper—which is not at all to the mind of Mademoiselle Marthe. In fact,

I doubt if she has ever cared a straw for Jack Renauld. She can

simulate emotion, but in reality she is of the same cold, calculating

type as her mother. I doubt, too, whether she was really very sure of

her hold over the boy’s affections. She had dazzled and captivated him,

but separated from her, as his father could so easily manage to

separate him, she might lose him. But with M. Renauld dead, and Jack

the heir to half his millions, the marriage can take place at once, and

at a stroke she will attain wealth—not the beggarly thousands that have

been extracted from him so far. And her clever brain takes in the

simplicity of the thing. It is all so easy. M. Renauld is planning all

the circumstances of his death—she has only to step in at the right

moment and turn the farce into a grim reality. And here comes in the

second point which led me infallibly to Marthe Daubreuil—the dagger!

Jack Renauld had _three___ souvenirs made. One he gave to his mother,

one to Bella Duveen; was it not highly probable that he had given the

third one to Marthe Daubreuil?

“So then, to sum up, there were four points of note against Marthe

Daubreuil:

“(1) Marthe Daubreuil could have overheard M. Renauld’s plans.

“(2) Marthe Daubreuil had a direct interest in causing M. Renauld’s

death.

“(3) Marthe Daubreuil was the daughter of the notorious Madame Beroldy

who in my opinion was morally and virtually the murderess of her

husband, although it may have been Georges Conneau’s hand which struck

the actual blow.

“(4) Marthe Daubreuil was the only person, besides Jack Renauld, likely

to have the third dagger in her possession.”

Poirot paused and cleared his throat.

“Of course, when I learned of the existence of the other girl, Bella

Duveen, I realized that it was quite possible that _she___ might have

killed M. Renauld. The solution did not commend itself to me, because,

as I pointed out to you, Hastings, an expert, such as I am, likes to

meet a foeman worthy of his steel. Still one must take crimes as one

finds them, not as one would like them to be. It did not seem very

likely that Bella Duveen would be wandering about carrying a souvenir

paper-knife in her hand, but of course she might have had some idea all

the time of revenging herself on Jack Renauld. When she actually came

forward and confessed to the murder, it seemed that all was over. And

yet—I was not satisfied, _mon ami___. _I was not satisfied. …___

“I went over the case again minutely, and I came to the same conclusion

as before. If it was _not___ Bella Duveen, the only other person who

could have committed the crime was Marthe Daubreuil. But I had not one

single proof against her!

“And then you showed me that letter from Mademoiselle Dulcie, and I saw

a chance of settling the matter once for all. The original dagger was

stolen by Dulcie Duveen and thrown into the sea—since, as she thought,

it belonged to her sister. But if, by any chance, it was _not___ her

sister’s, but the one given by Jack to Marthe Daubreuil—why then, Bella

Duveen’s dagger would be still intact! I said no word to you, Hastings

(it was no time for romance) but I sought out Mademoiselle Dulcie, told

her as much as I deemed needful, and set her to search amongst the

effects of her sister. Imagine my elation, when she sought me out

(according to my instructions) as Miss Robinson with the precious

souvenir in her possession!

“In the meantime I had taken steps to force Mademoiselle Marthe into

the open. By my orders, Mrs. Renauld repulsed her son, and declared her

intention of making a will on the morrow which should cut him off from

ever enjoying even a portion of his father’s fortune. It was a

desperate step, but a necessary one, and Madame Renauld was fully

prepared to take the risk—though unfortunately she also never thought

of mentioning her change of room. I suppose she took it for granted

that I knew. All happened as I thought. Marthe Daubreuil made a last

bold bid for the Renauld millions—and failed!”

“What absolutely bewilders me,” I said, “is how she ever got into the

house without our seeing her. It seems an absolute miracle. We left her

behind at the Villa Marguerite, we go straight to the Villa

Geneviève—and yet she is there before us!”

“Ah, but we did not leave her behind. She was out of the Villa

Marguerite by the back way whilst we were talking to her mother in the

hall. That is where, as the Americans say, she ‘put it over’ on Hercule

Poirot!”

“But the shadow on the blind? We saw it from the road.”

“_Eh bien___, when we looked up, Madame Daubreuil had just had time to

run upstairs and take her place.”

“Madame Daubreuil?”

“Yes. One is old, and one is young, one dark, and one fair, but, for

the purpose of a silhouette on a blind, their profiles are singularly

alike. Even I did not suspect—triple imbecile that I was! I thought I

had plenty of time before me—that she would not try to gain admission

to the Villa until much later. She had brains, that beautiful

Mademoiselle Marthe.”

“And her object was to murder Mrs. Renauld?”

“Yes. The whole fortune would then pass to her son. But it would have

been suicide, _mon ami!___ On the floor by Marthe Daubreuil’s body, I

found a pad and a little bottle of chloroform and a hypodermic syringe

containing a fatal dose of morphine. You understand? The chloroform

first—then when the victim is unconscious the prick of the needle. By

the morning the smell of the chloroform has quite disappeared, and the

syringe lies where it has fallen from Madame Renauld’s hand. What would

he say, the excellent M. Hautet? ‘Poor woman! What did I tell you? The

shock of joy, it was too much on top of the rest! Did I not say that I

should not be surprised if her brain became unhinged. Altogether a most

tragic case, the Renauld Case!’

“However, Hastings, things did not go quite as Mademoiselle Marthe had

planned. To begin with, Madame Renauld was awake and waiting for her.

There is a struggle. But Madame Renauld is terribly weak still. There

is a last chance for Marthe Daubreuil. The idea of suicide is at an

end, but if she can silence Madame Renauld with her strong hands, make

a getaway with her little silk ladder whilst we are still battering on

the inside of the further door, and be back at the Villa Marguerite

before we return there, it will be hard to prove anything against her.

But she was checkmated—not by Hercule Poirot—but by _la petite

acrobate___ with her wrists of steel.”

I mused over the whole story.

“When did you first begin to suspect Marthe Daubreuil, Poirot? When she

told us she had overheard the quarrel in the garden?”

Poirot smiled.

“My friend, do you remember when we drove into Merlinville that first

day? And the beautiful girl we saw standing at the gate? You asked me

if I had not noticed a young goddess, and I replied to you that I had

seen only a girl with anxious eyes. That is how I have thought of

Marthe Daubreuil from the beginning. _The girl with the anxious

eyes!___ Why was she anxious? Not on Jack Renauld’s behalf, for she did

not know then that he had been in Merlinville the previous evening.”

“By the way,” I exclaimed, “how is Jack Renauld?”

“Much better. He is still at the Villa Marguerite. But Madame Daubreuil

has disappeared. The police are looking for her.”

“Was she in with her daughter, do you think?”

“We shall never know. Madame is a lady who can keep her secrets. And I

doubt very much if the police will ever find her.”

“Has Jack Renauld been—told?”

“Not yet.”

“It will be a terrible shock to him.”

“Naturally. And yet, do you know, Hastings, I doubt if his heart was

ever seriously engaged. So far we have looked upon Bella Duveen as a

siren, and Marthe Daubreuil as the girl he really loved. But I think

that if we reversed the terms we should come nearer to the truth.

Marthe Daubreuil was very beautiful. She set herself to fascinate Jack,

and she succeeded, but remember his curious reluctance to break with

the other girl. And see how he was willing to go to the guillotine

rather than implicate her. I have a little idea that when he learns the

truth he will be horrified—revolted, and his false love will wither

away.”

“What about Giraud?”

“He has a _crise___ of the nerves, that one! He has been obliged to

return to Paris.”

We both smiled.

Poirot proved a fairly true prophet. When at length the doctor

pronounced Jack Renauld strong enough to hear the truth, it was Poirot

who broke it to him. The shock was indeed terrific. Yet Jack rallied

better than I could have supposed possible. His mother’s devotion

helped him to live through those difficult days. The mother and son

were inseparable now.

There was a further revelation to come. Poirot had acquainted Mrs.

Renauld with the fact that he knew her secret, and had represented to

her that Jack should not be left in ignorance of his father’s past.

“To hide the truth, never does it avail, madame! Be brave and tell him

everything.”

With a heavy heart Mrs. Renauld consented, and her son learned that the

father he had loved had been in actual fact a fugitive from justice. A

halting question was promptly answered by Poirot.

“Reassure yourself, M. Jack. The world knows nothing. As far as I can

see, there is no obligation for me to take the police into my

confidence. Throughout the case I have acted, not for them, but for

your father. Justice overtook him at last, but no one need ever know

that he and Georges Conneau were one and the same.”

There were, of course, various points in the case that remained

puzzling to the police, but Poirot explained things in so plausible a

fashion that all query about them was gradually stilled.

Shortly after we got back to London, I noticed a magnificent model of a

foxhound adorning Poirot’s mantelpiece. In answer to my inquiring

glance, Poirot nodded.

“_Mais, oui!___ I got my 500 francs! Is he not a splendid fellow? I

call him Giraud!”

A few days later Jack Renauld came to see us with a resolute expression

on his face.

“M. Poirot, I’ve come to say good-bye. I’m sailing for South America

almost immediately. My father had large interests over the continent,

and I mean to start a new life out there.”

“You go alone, M. Jack?”

“My mother comes with me—and I shall keep Stonor on as my secretary. He

likes out of-the-way parts of the world.”

“No one else goes with you?”

Jack flushed.

“You mean—?”

“A girl who loves you very dearly—who has been willing to lay down her

life for you.”

“How could I ask her?” muttered the boy. “After all that has happened,

could I go to her and—oh, what sort of a lame story could I tell?”

“_Les femmes___—they have a wonderful genius for manufacturing crutches

for stories like that.”

“Yes, but—I’ve been such a damned fool!”

“So have all of us, at one time and another,” observed Poirot

philosophically.

But Jack’s face had hardened.

“There’s something else. I’m my father’s son. Would any one marry me,

knowing that?”

“You are your father’s son, you say. Hastings here will tell you that I

believe in heredity—”

“Well, then—”

“Wait. I know a woman, a woman of courage and endurance, capable of

great love, of supreme self-sacrifice—”

The boy looked up. His eyes softened.

“My mother!”

“Yes. You are your mother’s son as well as your father’s. Go then to

Mademoiselle Bella. Tell her everything. Keep nothing back—and see what

she will say!”

Jack looked irresolute.

“Go to her as a boy no longer, but a man—a man bowed by the fate of the

Past, and the fate of Today, but looking forward to a new and wonderful

life. Ask her to share it with you. You may not realize it, but your

love for each other has been tested in the fire and not found wanting.

You have both been willing to lay down your lives for each other.”

And what of Captain Arthur Hastings, humble chronicler of these pages?

There is some talk of his joining the Renaulds on a ranch across the

seas, but for the end of this story I prefer to go back to a morning in

the garden of the Villa Geneviève.

“I can’t call you Bella,” I said, “since it isn’t your name. And Dulcie

seems so unfamiliar. So it’s got to be Cinderella. Cinderella married

the Prince, you remember. I’m not a Prince, but—”

She interrupted me.

“Cinderella warned him, I’m sure! You see, she couldn’t promise to turn

into a princess. She was only a little scullion after all—”

“It’s the Prince’s turn to interrupt,” I interpolated. “Do you know

what he said?”

“No?”

“ ‘Hell!’ said the Prince—and kissed her!”

And I suited the action to the word.

********

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