Poirot looked at me pityingly, shaking his head very gently. «Mon pauvre ami! But it is that you have
not the gift! The important detail, you appreciate him never! Also, your
reasoning is false».
«Let me take your four points.
«One: Mr Lowen could not possibly know that he would have the chance to
open the safe. He came for a business interview. He could not know beforehand
that Mr Davenheim would be absent posting a letter, and that he would consequently
be alone in the study!».
«He might have seized his opportunity», I suggested.
«And the tools? City gentlemen do not carry round housebreaker’s tools
on the off chance! And one could not cut into that safe with a penknife, bien entendu (19)!».
«Well, what about Number Two?».
«You say Lowen had a grudge against Mr. Davenheim. What you mean is that
he had once or twice got the better of him. And presumably those transactions
were entered into with the view of benefiting himself. In any case you do not
as a rule bear a grudge against a man you have got the better of – it is more
likely to be the other way about. Whatever grudge there might have been would
have been on Mr Davenheim’s side».
«Well, you can’t deny that he lied about never having left the study?».
«No. But he may have been frightened. Remember, the missing man’s
clothes had just been discovered in the lake. Of course, as usual, he would have
done better to speak the truth».
«And the fourth point?».
«I grant you that. If Kellett’s story is true, Lowen is undeniably
implicated. That is what makes the affair so very interesting».
«Then I did appreciate one
«Perhaps – but you have entirely overlooked the two most important
points, the ones which undoubtedly hold the clue to the whole matter».
«And pray, what are they?».
«One, the passion which has grown upon Mr. Davenheim in the last few
years for buying jewellery. Two, his trip to Buenos Aires last autumn».
«Poirot, you are joking!».
«I am most serious. Ah, sacred thunder, but I hope Japp will not forget
my little commission».
But the detective, entering into the spirit of the joke, had remembered
it so well that a telegram was handed to Poirot about eleven o’clock the next
day. At his request I opened it and read it out:
«Husband and wife have occupied separate rooms since last winter».
«Aha!», cried Poirot. «And now we are in mid June! All is solved!».
I stared at him.
«You have no moneys (20) in the bank of Davenheim and Salmon, mon ami?».
«No», I said, wondering. «Why?».
«Because I should advise you to withdraw it – before it is too late».
«Why, what do you expect?».
«I expect a big smash in a few days – perhaps sooner. Which reminds me,
we will return the compliment of a dépêche
(21) to Japp. A pencil, I pray you, and a form. Voilà (22)! «Advise you to withdraw any money deposited with
firm in question». That will intrigue him, the good Japp! His eyes will open
wide – wide! He will not comprehend in the slightest – until tomorrow, or the
I remained sceptical, but the morrow forced me to render tribute to my
friend’s remarkable powers. In every paper was a huge headline telling of the
sensational failure of the Davenheim bank. The disappearance of the famous
financier took on a totally different aspect in the light of the revelation of
the financial affairs of the bank.
Before we were half-way through breakfast, the door flew open and Japp
rushed in. In his left hand was a paper; in his right was Poirot’s telegram,
which he banged down on the table in front of my friend.
«How did you know, Monsieur Poirot? How the blazes could you know?».
Poirot smiled placidly at him. «Ah, mon
ami, after your wire, it was a certainty! From the commencement, see you,
it struck me that the safe burglary was somewhat remarkable. Jewels, ready
money, bearer bonds – all so conveniently arranged for – whom? Well, the good
Monsieur Davenheim was of those who «look after Number One» (23) as your
saying goes! It seemed almost certain that it was arranged for – himself! Then
his passion of late years for buying jewellery! How simple! The funds he
embezzled, he converted into jewels, very likely replacing them in turn with
paste duplicates, and so he put away in a safe place, under another name, a
considerable fortune to be enjoyed all in good time when everyone has been
thrown off the track. His arrangements completed, he makes an appointment with
Mr. Lowen (who has been imprudent enough in the past to cross the great man
once or twice), drills a hole in the safe, leaves orders that the guest is to
be shown into the study, and walks out of the house – where?». Poirot stopped,
and stretched out his hand for another boiled egg. He frowned. «It is really
insupportable», he murmured, «that every hen lays an egg of a different size!
What symmetry can there be on the breakfast table? At least they should sort
them in dozens at the shop!».
«Never mind the eggs», said Japp impatiently. «Let ‘em lay’em square if
they like. Tell us where our customer went to when he left The Cedars – that
is, if you know!».
«Eh bien, he went to his
hiding-place. Ah, this Monsieur Davenheim, there may be some malformation in
his grey cells, but they are of the first quality!».
«Do you know where he is hiding?».
«Certainly! It is most ingenious».
«For the Lord’s sake, tell us, then!».
Poirot gently collected every fragment of shell from his plate, placed
them in the egg-cup, and reversed the empty egg-shell on top of them. This little
operation concluded, he smiled on the neat effect, and then beamed
affectionately on us both.
«Come, my friends, you are men of intelligence. Ask yourself the
question which I asked myself. «If I were this man, where should I hide?». Hastings, what do you say?».
«Well», I said, «I’m rather inclined to think I’d not do a bolt (24)
at all. I’d stay in London
– in the heart of things, travel by tubes and buses; ten to one I’d never be
recognized. There’s safety in a crowd».
Poirot turned inquiringly to Japp.
«I don’t agree. Get clear away at once – that’s the only chance. I would
have had plenty of time to prepare things beforehand. I’d have a yacht waiting,
with steam up, and I’d be off to one of the most out-of-the-way corners of the
world before the hue and cry began!».
We both looked at Poirot. «What do you
For a moment he remained silent. Then a very curious smile flitted
across his face.
«My friends, if I were hiding
from the police, do you know where I
should hide? In a prison!».
«You are seeking Monsieur Davenheim in order to put him in prison, so
you never dream of looking to see if he may not be already there!».
«What do you mean?».
«You tell me Madame Davenheim is not a very intelligent woman.
Nevertheless I think that if you took her to Bow Street and confronted her with the
man Billy Kellett, she would recognize him! In spite of the fact that he has
shaved his beard and moustache and those bushy eyebrows, and has cropped his
hair close. A woman nearly always knows her husband, though the rest of the
world may be deceived!».
«Billy Kellett? But he’s known to the police!».
«Did I not tell you Davenheim was a clever man? He prepared his alibi
long beforehand. He was not in Buenos Aires last autumn – he was creating the
character of Billy Kellett, «doing three months», so that the police should
have no suspicions when the time came. He was playing, remember, for a large
fortune, as well as liberty. It was worth while doing the thing thoroughly.
«Eh bien, afterwards he had to
wear a false beard and wig, had to make
up as himself again, and to sleep with a false beard is not easy – it
invites detection! He cannot risk continuing to share the chamber of madame his
wife. You found out for me that for the last six months, or ever since his
supposed return from Buenos Aires,
he and Mrs. Davenheim occupied separate rooms. Then I was sure! Everything
fitted in. The gardener who fancied he saw his master going round to the side
of the house was quite right. He went to the boathouse, donned his «tramp»
clothes, which you may be sure had been safely hidden from the eyes of his
valet, dropped the others in the lake, and proceeded to carry out his plan by
pawning the ring in an obvious manner, and then assaulting a policeman, getting
himself safely into the haven of Bow Street, where nobody would ever dream of
looking for him!».
«It’s impossible», murmured Japp.
«Ask Madame», said my friend, smiling.
The next day a registered letter lay beside Poirot’s plate. He opened
it, and a five-pound note fluttered out. My friend’s brow puckered.
«Ah, sacré! But what shall I
do with it? I have much remorse! Ce
pauvre Japp! Ah, an idea! We will have a little dinner, we three! That
consoles me. It was really too easy. I am ashamed. I, who would not rob a child
– mille tonnerres (25)! Mon ami, what have you, that you laugh
1. yarn (coll): have a long and comfortable chat.
2. run down: this verb-adverb
combination occurs in the text in the following senses: 1) pursue and catch; 2)
speak ill of, disparage.
3. Mon ami (Fr.): my friend.
4. Hanged if I don’t take you at
your word: this is an elliptical sentence which should read «I’ll be hanged
if I don’t take you at your word» and which means «I’ll be damned if I don’t
take your words seriously». Note the meaning of the same phrase in the
following examples: «I’ll be hanged if I know» – I don’t know at all; «I’ll be
hanged if I’ll go» – I refuse absolutely to go.
5. fiver (coll): a five-pound note.
6. Eh bien (Fr.): and so, thus.
(Fr.): a curtain.
8. Précisément (Fr.): precisely.
9. ce pauvre (Fr.): this poor.
in a small way:
on a small scale.
11. coup: a successful deal.
12. lift (coll): steal.
13. run in (coll): arrest and take to a police
14. Bow Street: what is actually meant here is the
famous Police Court so often referred to in the writings of Charles Dickens and
which is just opposite the Royal Opera House.
15. gent: a vulgar
abbreviation of «gentleman».
16. toff (sl): a well-dressed or distinguished-looking
17. jailbird (coll): a person often put in jail; a
18. Que faites vous là, mon ami?
(Fr.): What are you doing, my friend?
19. bien entendu (Fr.): it is so.
20. moneys: legal or archaic sums of money.
21. dépêche (Fr.): message, dispatch.
22. Voilà (Fr.): here you are.
23. Number One: oneself.
24. do a bolt: run away
25. mille tonnerres (Fr.): here not on your life!
1. Why did the disappearance of Mr. Davenheim cause such a stir?
2. What were the circumstances of Mr. Davenheim’s disappearance as
reported by the press?
3. What were the three ways in which a person could disappear according
4. What bet did Inspector Japp make with Poirot?
5. What facts did Inspector Japp place at Poirot’s disposal?
6. Why was Mr. Lowen arrested?
7. What story Billy Kellett tells the police?
8. What additional information did Poirot require of Inspector Japp?
9. What conclusions did Hastings
make on the basis of the evidence?
10. What conclusions did Poirot draw from the same evidence?
11. What were the true facts behind Mr. Davenheim’s disappearance?
12. What made Hastings
laugh to hear Poirot say, «I, who would not rob a child...»?
(b) Read through the
story once again and see if you can find facts to prove that:
1. Hercule Poirot was a man of method.
2. Poirot’s methods of crime detection were vastly different from those
practised by the ordinary run of detectives.
3. Captain Hastings was no match for Poirot in matters of crime
4. Poirot had every reason to be proud of himself.
5. Mr. Davenheim had indeed shown considerable ingenuity in preparing
(c) Talking points:
character-sketch of Hercule Poirot.
2. Give a full list of the facts concerning Mr. Davenheim’s
disappearance and say how they were interpreted by: a) Hercule Poirot; b)
3. Mr. Davenheim’s reasons for making a getaway.
4. What made Hercule Poirot suspect that Mr. Davenheim and Billy Kellett
was one and the same person?
5. Say whether you believe there is any reason to think that Hercule
Poirot’s method could be successfully applied in solving real crimes.
6. See if you can find the flaw in Mr. Davenheim’s plan of escape which
allowed Hercule Poirot to unravel the mystery.
7. Tell the story of the meeting between Mrs.
Davenheim and Billy Kellett.