ABC谋杀案 37

时间:2024-01-30 08:53:18


I was not present at the interview that took place between Poirot and that strange man—AlexanderBonaparte Cust. Owing to his association with the police and the peculiar1 circumstances of thecase, Poirot had no difficulty in obtaining a Home Office order—but that order did not extend tome, and in any case it was essential, from Poirot’s point of view, that that interview should beabsolutely private—the two men face to face.
He has given me, however, such a detailed2 account of what passed between them that I set itdown with as much confidence on paper as though I had actually been present.
Mr. Cust seemed to have shrunk. His stoop was more apparent. His fingers plucked vaguely3 athis coat.
For some time, I gather, Poirot did not speak.
He sat and looked at the man opposite him.
The atmosphere became restful—soothing—full of infinite leisure….
It must have been a dramatic moment—this meeting of the two adversaries4 in the long drama.
In Poirot’s place I should have felt the dramatic thrill.
Poirot, however, is nothing if not matter-of-fact. He was absorbed in producing a certain effectupon the man opposite him.
At last he said gently:
“Do you know who I am?”
The other shook his head.
“No—no—I can’t say I do. Unless you are Mr. Lucas’s—what do they call it?—junior. Orperhaps you come from Mr. Maynard?”
(Maynard & Cole were the defending solicitors5.)His tone was polite but not very interested. He seemed absorbed in some inner abstraction.
“I am Hercule Poirot….”
Poirot said the words very gently…and watched for the effect.
Mr. Cust raised his head a little.
“Oh, yes?”
He said it as naturally as Inspector6 Crome might have said it—but without the superciliousness7.
Then, a minute later, he repeated his remark.
“Oh, yes?” he said, and this time his tone was different—it held an awakened8 interest. He raisedhis head and looked at Poirot.
Hercule Poirot met his gaze and nodded his own head gently once or twice.
“Yes,” he said. “I am the man to whom you wrote the letters.”
At once the contact was broken. Mr. Cust dropped his eyes and spoke9 irritably10 and fretfully.
“I never wrote to you. Those letters weren’t written by me. I’ve said so again and again.”
“I know,” said Poirot. “But if you did not write them, who did?”
“An enemy. I must have an enemy. They are all against me. The police—everyone—all againstme. It’s a gigantic conspiracy11.”
Poirot did not reply.
Mr. Cust said:
“Everyone’s hand has been against me—always.”
“Even when you were a child?”
Mr. Cust seemed to consider.
“No—no—not exactly then. My mother was very fond of me. But she was ambitious—terriblyambitious. That’s why she gave me those ridiculous names. She had some absurd idea that I’d cuta figure in the world. She was always urging me to assert myself—talking about will-power…saying anyone could be master of his fate…she said I could do anything!”
He was silent for a minute.
“She was quite wrong, of course. I realized that myself quite soon. I wasn’t the sort of person toget on in life. I was always doing foolish things—making myself look ridiculous. And I was timid—afraid of people. I had a bad time at school—the boys found out my Christian12 names—theyused to tease me about them…I did very badly at school—in games and work and everything.”
He shook his head.
“Just as well poor mother died. She’d have been disappointed… Even when I was at theCommercial College I was stupid—it took me longer to learn typing and shorthand than anyoneelse. And yet I didn’t feel stupid—if you know what I mean.”
He cast a sudden appealing look at the other man.
“I know what you mean,” said Poirot. “Go on.”
“It was just the feeling that everybody else thought me stupid. Very paralyzing. It was the samething later in the office.”
“And later still in the war?” prompted Poirot.
Mr. Cust’s face lightened up suddenly.
“You know,” he said, “I enjoyed the war. What I had of it, that was. I felt, for the first time, aman like anybody else. We were all in the same box. I was as good as anyone else.”
His smile faded.
“And then I got that wound on the head. Very slight. But they found out I had fits…I’d alwaysknown, of course, that there were times when I hadn’t been quite sure what I was doing. Lapses,you know. And of course, once or twice I’d fallen down. But I don’t really think they ought tohave discharged me for that. No, I don’t think it was right.”
“And afterwards?” asked Poirot.
“I got a place as a clerk. Of course there was good money to be got just then. And I didn’t do sobadly after the war. Of course, a smaller salary…And—I didn’t seem to get on. I was always beingpassed over for promotion13. I wasn’t go- ahead enough. It grew very difficult — really verydifficult…. Especially when the slump14 came. To tell you the truth, I’d got hardly enough to keepbody and soul together (and you’ve got to look presentable as a clerk) when I got the offer of thisstocking job. A salary and commission!”
Poirot said gently:
“But you are aware, are you not, that the firm whom you say employed you deny the fact?”
Mr. Cust got excited again.
“That’s because they’re in the conspiracy—they must be in the conspiracy.”
He went on:
“I’ve got written evidence—written evidence. I’ve got their letters to me, giving me instructionsas to what places to go to and a list of people to call on.”
“Not written evidence exactly—typewritten evidence.”
“It’s the same thing. Naturally a big firm of wholesale15 manufacturers typewrite their letters.”
“Don’t you know, Mr. Cust, that a typewriter can be identified? All those letters were typed byone particular machine.”
“What of it?”
“And that machine was your own—the one found in your room.”
“It was sent me by the firm at the beginning of my job.”
“Yes, but these letters were received afterwards. So it looks, does it not, as though you typedthem yourself and posted them to yourself?”
“No, no! It’s all part of the plot against me!”
He added suddenly:
“Besides, their letters would be written on the same kind of machine.”
“The same kind, but not the same actual machine.”
Mr. Cust repeated obstinately17:
“It’s a plot!”
“And the A B C’s that were found in the cupboard?”
“I know nothing about them. I thought they were all stockings.”
“Why did you tick off the name of Mrs. Ascher in that first list of people in Andover?”
“Because I decided18 to start with her. One must begin somewhere.”
“Yes, that is true. One must begin somewhere.”
“I don’t mean that!” said Mr. Cust. “I don’t mean what you mean!”
“But you know what I meant?”
Mr. Cust said nothing. He was trembling.
“I didn’t do it!” he said. “I’m perfectly19 innocent! It’s all a mistake. Why, look at that secondcrime—that Bexhill one. I was playing dominoes at Eastbourne. You’ve got to admit that!”
His voice was triumphant20.
“Yes,” said Poirot. His voice was meditative—silky. “But it’s so easy, isn’t it, to make amistake of one day? And if you’re an obstinate16, positive man, like Mr. Strange, you’ll neverconsider the possibility of having been mistaken. What you’ve said you’ll stick to…He’s that kindof man. And the hotel register—it’s very easy to put down the wrong date when you’re signing it—probably no one will notice it at the time.”
“I was playing dominoes that evening!”
“You play dominoes very well, I believe.”
Mr. Cust was a little flurried by this.
“I—I—well, I believe I do.”
“It is a very absorbing game, is it not, with a lot of skill in it?”
“Oh, there’s a lot of play in it—a lot of play! We used to play a lot in the city, in the lunch hour.
You’d be surprised the way total strangers come together over a game of dominoes.”
He chuckled21.
“I remember one man—I’ve never forgotten him because of something he told me—we just gottalking over a cup of coffee, and we started dominoes. Well, I felt after twenty minutes that I’dknown that man all my life.”
“What was it that he told you?” asked Poirot.
Mr. Cust’s face clouded over.
“It gave me a turn—a nasty turn. Talking of your fate being written in your hand, he was. Andhe showed me his hand and the lines that showed he’d have two near escapes of being drowned—and he had had two near escapes. And then he looked at mine and he told me some amazingthings. Said I was going to be one of the most celebrated22 men in England before I died. Said thewhole country would be talking about me. But he said—he said….”
Mr. Cust broke down—faltered….
Poirot’s gaze held a quiet magnetism23. Mr. Cust looked at him, looked away, then back againlike a fascinated rabbit.
“He said—he said—that it looked as though I might die a violent death—and he laughed andsaid: ‘Almost looks as though you might die on the scaffold,’ and then he laughed and said thatwas only his joke….”
He was silent suddenly. His eyes left Poirot’s face—they ran from side to side….
“My head—I suffer very badly with my head…the headaches are something cruel sometimes.
And then there are times when I don’t know—when I don’t know….”
He broke down.
Poirot leant forward. He spoke very quietly but with great assurance.
“But you do know, don’t you,” he said, “that you committed the murders?”
Mr. Cust looked up. His glance was quite simple and direct. All resistance had left him. Helooked strangely at peace.
“Yes,” he said, “I know.”
“But—I am right, am I not?—you don’t know why you did them?”
Mr. Cust shook his head.
“No,” he said. “I don’t.”



1 peculiar cinyo     
  • He walks in a peculiar fashion.他走路的样子很奇特。
  • He looked at me with a very peculiar expression.他用一种很奇怪的表情看着我。
2 detailed xuNzms     
  • He had made a detailed study of the terrain.他对地形作了缜密的研究。
  • A detailed list of our publications is available on request.我们的出版物有一份详细的目录备索。
3 vaguely BfuzOy     
  • He had talked vaguely of going to work abroad.他含糊其词地说了到国外工作的事。
  • He looked vaguely before him with unseeing eyes.他迷迷糊糊的望着前面,对一切都视而不见。
4 adversaries 5e3df56a80cf841a3387bd9fd1360a22     
n.对手,敌手( adversary的名词复数 )
  • That would cause potential adversaries to recoil from a challenge. 这会迫使潜在的敌人在挑战面前退缩。 来自辞典例句
  • Every adversaries are more comfortable with a predictable, coherent America. 就连敌人也会因有可以预料的,始终一致的美国而感到舒服得多。 来自辞典例句
5 solicitors 53ed50f93b0d64a6b74a2e21c5841f88     
初级律师( solicitor的名词复数 )
  • Most solicitors in England and Wales are in private practice . 英格兰和威尔士的大多数律师都是私人执业者。
  • The family has instructed solicitors to sue Thomson for compensation. 那家人已经指示律师起诉汤姆森,要求赔偿。
6 inspector q6kxH     
  • The inspector was interested in everything pertaining to the school.视察员对有关学校的一切都感兴趣。
  • The inspector was shining a flashlight onto the tickets.查票员打着手电筒查看车票。
7 superciliousness af7799da7237e592b430286314a46d4f     
  • Life had not taught her domination--superciliousness of grace, which is the lordly power of some women. 她的生活经历使她和那些威风凛凛的夫人们不同,她身上没有专横和傲气。 来自英汉文学 - 嘉莉妹妹
  • Eyes looking sideways can show one's coldness and superciliousness. 眼睛旁顾,态度冷淡,目空一切的眼神。 来自互联网
8 awakened de71059d0b3cd8a1de21151c9166f9f0     
v.(使)醒( awaken的过去式和过去分词 );(使)觉醒;弄醒;(使)意识到
  • She awakened to the sound of birds singing. 她醒来听到鸟的叫声。
  • The public has been awakened to the full horror of the situation. 公众完全意识到了这一状况的可怕程度。 来自《简明英汉词典》
9 spoke XryyC     
n.(车轮的)辐条;轮辐;破坏某人的计划;阻挠某人的行动 v.讲,谈(speak的过去式);说;演说;从某种观点来说
  • They sourced the spoke nuts from our company.他们的轮辐螺帽是从我们公司获得的。
  • The spokes of a wheel are the bars that connect the outer ring to the centre.辐条是轮子上连接外圈与中心的条棒。
10 irritably e3uxw     
  • He lost his temper and snapped irritably at the children. 他发火了,暴躁地斥责孩子们。
  • On this account the silence was irritably broken by a reproof. 为了这件事,他妻子大声斥责,令人恼火地打破了宁静。 来自英汉文学 - 嘉莉妹妹
11 conspiracy NpczE     
  • The men were found guilty of conspiracy to murder.这些人被裁决犯有阴谋杀人罪。
  • He claimed that it was all a conspiracy against him.他声称这一切都是一场针对他的阴谋。
12 Christian KVByl     
  • They always addressed each other by their Christian name.他们总是以教名互相称呼。
  • His mother is a sincere Christian.他母亲是个虔诚的基督教徒。
13 promotion eRLxn     
  • The teacher conferred with the principal about Dick's promotion.教师与校长商谈了迪克的升级问题。
  • The clerk was given a promotion and an increase in salary.那个职员升了级,加了薪。
14 slump 4E8zU     
  • She is in a slump in her career.她处在事业的低谷。
  • Economists are forecasting a slump.经济学家们预言将发生经济衰退。
15 wholesale Ig9wL     
  • The retail dealer buys at wholesale and sells at retail.零售商批发购进货物,以零售价卖出。
  • Such shoes usually wholesale for much less.这种鞋批发出售通常要便宜得多。
16 obstinate m0dy6     
  • She's too obstinate to let anyone help her.她太倔强了,不会让任何人帮她的。
  • The trader was obstinate in the negotiation.这个商人在谈判中拗强固执。
17 obstinately imVzvU     
  • He obstinately asserted that he had done the right thing. 他硬说他做得对。
  • Unemployment figures are remaining obstinately high. 失业数字仍然顽固地居高不下。
18 decided lvqzZd     
  • This gave them a decided advantage over their opponents.这使他们比对手具有明显的优势。
  • There is a decided difference between British and Chinese way of greeting.英国人和中国人打招呼的方式有很明显的区别。
19 perfectly 8Mzxb     
  • The witnesses were each perfectly certain of what they said.证人们个个对自己所说的话十分肯定。
  • Everything that we're doing is all perfectly above board.我们做的每件事情都是光明正大的。
20 triumphant JpQys     
  • The army made a triumphant entry into the enemy's capital.部队胜利地进入了敌方首都。
  • There was a positively triumphant note in her voice.她的声音里带有一种极为得意的语气。
21 chuckled 8ce1383c838073977a08258a1f3e30f8     
轻声地笑( chuckle的过去式和过去分词 )
  • She chuckled at the memory. 想起这件事她就暗自发笑。
  • She chuckled softly to herself as she remembered his astonished look. 想起他那惊讶的表情,她就轻轻地暗自发笑。
22 celebrated iwLzpz     
  • He was soon one of the most celebrated young painters in England.不久他就成了英格兰最负盛名的年轻画家之一。
  • The celebrated violinist was mobbed by the audience.观众团团围住了这位著名的小提琴演奏家。
23 magnetism zkxyW     
  • We know about magnetism by the way magnets act.我们通过磁铁的作用知道磁性是怎么一回事。
  • His success showed his magnetism of courage and devotion.他的成功表现了他的胆量和热诚的魅力。