138 страница

"Really, Tim, I don't see how we can."

"Oh, well, we hall have to put up with it, I suppose."

The steward came to them at this minute and led them to a table. Mrs.

Allerton's face wore rather a puzzled expression as she followed him. Tim was usually so easy going and good-tempered. This outburst was quite unlike him. It wasn't as though he had the ordinary Britisher's dislike, and mistrust of, foreigners.

Tim was very cosmopolitan. Oh, well-she sighed. Men were incomprehensible!

Even one's nearest and dearest had unsuspected reactions and feelings.

As 138 страница they took their places, Hercule Poirot came quickly and silently into the dining-saloon. He paused with his hand on the back of the third chair.

"You really permit, Madame, that I avail myself of your kind suggestion?" "Of course Sit down, M. Poirot." "You are most amiable."

She was uneasily conscious that as he seated himself he shot a swift glance at Tim and that Tim had not quite succeeded in masking a somewhat sullen expression.

Mrs. Allerton set herself to produce a pleasant atmosphere. As they drank their soup, she picked up the passenger 138 страница list which had been placed beside her plate.

"Let's try and identify everybody," she said cheerfully. "I always think that's rather fun."

She began reading.

"Mrs. Allerton, Mr. T. Allerton. That's easy enough! Miss de Bellefort.

They've put her at the same table as the Otterbournes, I see. I wonder what she and Rosalie will make of each other. Who comes next? Dr. Bessner. Dr. Bessner?

Who can identify Dr. Bessner?"

She bent her glance on a table at which four men sat together.

"I think he must be the fat one with the closely-shaved head 138 страница and the moustache. A German, I should imagine. He seems to be enjoying his soup very Certain succulent noises floated across to them.

Mrs. Allerton continued:

"Miss Bowers? Can we make a guess at Miss Bowers? There are three or four women-no, we'll leave her for the present. Mr. and Mrs. Doyle. Yes, indeed, the lions of this trip. She really is very beautiful and what a perfectly lovely frock she is wearing."

Tim turned round in his chair. Linnet and her husband and Andrew Pennington had been given a table in the corner. Linnet was 138 страница wearing a white dress and pearls.

"It looks frightfully simple to me," said Tim. "Just a length of stuff with a kind of cord round the middle."

"Yes, darling," said his mother. "A very nice manly description of an eighty-guinea model."

Tim said: "I can't think why women pay so much for their clothes. It seems absurd to me."

Mrs. Allerton proceeded with her study of her fellow-passengers.

"Mr. Fanthorp must be the intensely quiet young man who never speaks at the same table as the German. Rather a nice face, cautious but intelligent." Poirot agreed:

"He is 138 страница intelligent-yes. He does not talk, but he listens very attentively and he also watches. Yes, he makes good use of his eyes. Not quite the type you would expect to find travelling for pleasure in this part of the world. I wonder what he is doing here."

'Mr. Ferguson," read Mrs. Allerton. "I feel that Ferguson must be our anti-capitalist friend. Mrs. Otterbourne, Miss Otterbourne. We know all about them.

Mr.

Pennington? Alias Uncle' Andrew. He's a good-looking man, I think-" "Now, Mother," said Tim.

"I think he's very good-looking in a dry 138 страница sort of way," said Mrs. Allerton.

"Rather a ruthless jaw. Probably the kind of man one reads about in the paper who operates on Wall Street-or is it in Wall Street? I'm sure he must be extremely rich. Next-M. Hercule Poirot whose talents are really being wasted. Can't you get up a crime for M. Poirot, Tim?"

But her well-meant banter only seemed to annoy her son anew.

He scowled and Mrs. Allerton hurried on. "Mr. Richetti. Our Italian archaeological friend. Then Miss Robson and last of all Miss Van Schuyler. The 138 страница last's easy. The very ugly old American lady who obviously feels herself the queen of the boat and who is clearly going to be very exclusive and speak to nobody who doesn't come up to the most exacting standards! She's rather marvellous, isn't she, really? A kind of period piece. The two women with her must be Miss Bowers and Miss Robson-perhaps a secretary-the thin one with pince-nez-and a poor relation-the rather pathetic young woman who is obviously enjoying herself in spite of being treated like a black slave. I think Robson 138 страница's the secretary woman and Bowers is the poor relation."

"Wrong, Mother," said Tim grinning. He had suddenly recovered his good humour.

"How do you know?"

"Because I was in the lounge before dinner and the old bean said to the companion woman, 'Where's Miss Bowers? Fetch her at once, Cornelia,' and away trotted Cornelia like an obedient dog."

"I shall have to talk to Miss Van Schuyler," mused Mrs. Allerton.

Tim grinned again.

"She'll snub you, Mother."

"Not at all. I shall pave the way by sitting near her and conversing in low (but 138 страница penetrating) well-bred tones about any titled relations and friends I can remember.

I think a casual mention of your second cousin once removed the Duke of Glasgow would probably do the trick."

"How unscrupulous you are, Mother."

Events after dinner were not without their amusing side to a student of human nature.



The socialist young man (who turned out to be Mr. Ferguson as deduced) retired to the smoking-room, scorning the assemblage of passengers in the observation saloon on the top deck.

Miss Van Schuyler duly secured the best and most undraughty position there by advancing firmly on a 138 страница table at which Mrs. Otterbourne was sitting and saying: "You'll excuse me, I am sure, but I think my knitting was left here!" Fixed by a hypnotic eye the turban rose and gave ground. Miss Van Schuyler established herself and her suite. Mrs. Otterbourne sat down near by and hazarded various remarks which were met with such chilling politeness that she soon gave up. Miss Van Schuyler then sat in glorious isolation. The Doyles sat with the Allertons. Dr. Bessner retained the quiet Mr. Fanthorp as a companion.

Jacqueline de Bellefort sat by herself with a book 138 страница. Rosalie Otterbourne was restless. Mrs. Allerton spoke to her once or twice and tried to draw her into their group but the girl responded ungraciously.

M. Hercule Poirot spent his evening listening to an account of Mrs.

Otterbourne's mission as a writer.

On his way to his cabin that night he encountered Jacqueline de Bellefort. She was leaning over the rail and as she turned her head he was struck by the look of acute misery on her face. There was now no insouciance, no malicious defiance, no dark flaming triumph.

"Good-night, Mademoiselle." "Good-night 138 страница, M. Poirot.' She hesitated, then said, "You were surprised to find me here?" "I was not so much surprised as sorry-very sorry…' He spoke gravely.

"You mean sorry-for me?" "That is what I meant. You have chosen, Mademoiselle, the dangerous course… As we here in this boat have embarked on a journey so you too have embarked on your own private journey-a journey on a swift-moving river, between dangerous rocks and heading for who knows what currents of disaster…" "Why do you say all this?" "Because it is true… You have cut the bonds that moored you to 138 страница safety. I doubt now if you could turn back if you would.' She said very slowly: "That is true…" Then she flung her head back.

"Ah, well--one must follow one's star-wherever it leads." "Beware, Mademoiselle, that it is not a false star…' She laughed and mimicked the parrot cry of the donkey boys: "That very bad star, sir! That star fall down…" He was just dropping off to sleep when the murmur of voices awoke him.

It was Simon Doyle's voice he heard, repeating the same words he had used when the steamer left 138 страница Shellal.

"We've got to go through with it now…' "Yes," thought Hercule Poirot to himself, "we have got to go through with it now…

He was not happy.

Chapter 8

The steamer arrived early next morning at Es-Sab6a. Cornelia Robson, her face beaming, a large flapping hat on her head, was one of the first to hurry on shore.

Cornelia was not good at snubbing people. She was of an amiable disposition and disposed to like all her fellow creatures. The sight of Hercule Poirot in a white suit, pink shirt, large black bow tie and a 138 страница white topee did not make her ince as the aristocratic Miss Van Schuyler would assuredly have winced.

As they walked together up an avenue of sphinxes she responded readily to his conventional opening.

"Your companions are not coming ashore to view the temple?" "Well, you see, Cousin Marie-that's Miss Van Schuyler-never gets up very early. She has to be very, very careful of her health. And, of course, she wanted Miss Bowers, that's her hospital nurse, to do things for her. And she said too that this isn't one of the best temples-but she 138 страница was frightfully kind and said it would be quite all right for me to come." "That was very gracious of her," said Poirot dryly.

The ingenuous Cornelia agreed unsuspectingly.

"Oh, she's very kind. It's simply wonderful of her to bring me on this trip. I do feel I'm a lucky girl. I just could hardly believe it when she suggested to Mother that I should come too." "And you have enjoyed it-yes?" "Oh, it's been wonderful. I've seen Italy-Venice and Padua and Pisa-and then Cairo-only Cousin Marie wasn 138 страница't very well in Cairo so I couldn't get around much, and now this wonderful trip up to Wadi Halfa and back." Poirot said, smiling: "You have the happy nature, Mademoiselle." He looked thoughtfully from her to the silent frowning Rosalie who was walking ahead by herself.

"She's very nice looking, isn't she?" said Cornelia, following his glance. "Only kind of scornful looking. She's very English, of course. She's not as lovely as Mrs.

Doyle. I think Mrs. Doyle's the loveliest, the most elegant woman I've ever seen!

And her husband just worships the 138 страница ground she walks on, doesn't he? I think that grey-haired lady is kind of distinguished looking, don't you? She's cotsin to a duke, I believe. She was talking about him right near us last night. But she isn't actually titled herself, is she?" She prattled on until the dragoman in charge called a halt and began to intone.

"This temple was dedicated to Egyptian God Amun and the Sun God RHarakhtewhose symbol was hawk's head…" It droned on. Dr. Bessner, Bedeker in hand, mumbled to himself in German.

He preferred the written word 138 страница.

Tim Allerton had not joined the party. His mother was breaking the ice with the reserved Mr. Fanthorp. Andrew Pennington, his arm through Linnet Doyle's, was listening attentively, seemingly most interested in the measurements as recited by the guide.

"Sixty-five feet high, is that so? Looks a little less to me. Great fellow, this Rameses. An Egyptian live wire." "A big business man, Uncle Andrew." Andrew Pennington looked at her appreciatively.

"You look fine this morning, Linnet. I've been a mite worried about you lately. You've looked kind of peaky., Chatting together, the party 138 страница returned to the boat. Once more the Karnak glided up the river. The scenery was less stern now. There were palms, cultivation.

It was as though the change in the scenery had relieved some secret oppression that had brooded over the passengers. Tim Allerton had got over his fit of moodiness, Rosalie looked less sulky. Linnet, seemed almost lighthearted.

Pennington said to her: "It's tactless to talk business to a bride on her honeymoon, but there are just one or two things" "Why, of course, Uncle Andrew." Linnet at once became businesslike. "My marriage has made 138 страница a difference of course." "That's just it. Some time or other I want your signature to several documents." "Why not now?" Andrew Pennington glanced round. Their corner of the observation saloon was quite untenanted. Most of the people were outside on the deck space between the observation saloon and the cabins. The only occupants of the saloon were Mr.

Ferguson who was drinking beer at a small table in the middle, his legs encased in their dirty flannel trousers stuck out in front of him, whilst he whistled to himself in the intervals of drinking, M. Hercule Poirot 138 страница who was sitting close up to the front glass intent on the panorama unfolding before him, and Miss Van Schuyler who was sitting in a corner reading a book on Egypt.

"That's fine," said Andrew Pennington.

He left the saloon.

Linnet and Simon smiled at each other-a slow smile that took a few minutes to come to full fruition.

He said: "All right, sweet?" "Yes, still all right… Funny how I'm not rattled any more."

Simon said with a deep conviction in his tone:

"You're marvellous." Pennington came back. He brought with him a sheaf of closely-written 138 страница documents.

"Mercy!" cried Linnet. "Have I got to sign all these?" Andrew Pennington was apologetic.

"It's tough on you, I know. But I'd just like to get your affairs put in proper shape. First of all there's the lease of the Fifth Avenue property…, then there are the Western Lands Concessions.

He talked on, rustling and sorting the papers. Simon yawned.

The door to the deck swung open and Mr. Fanthorp came in. He gazed aimlessly round, then strolled forward and stood by Poirot looking out at the pale blue water and the yellow enveloping sands 138 страница.

"--you sign just there," concluded Pennington, spreading a paper before Linnet and indicating a space.

Linnet picked up the document and glanced through it. She turned back once to the first page, then taking up the fountain-pen Pennington had laid beside her she signed her name, Linnet Doyle.

Pennington took away the paper and spread out another.

Fanthorp wandered over in their direction. He peered out through the, side window at something that seemed to interest him on the bank they were passing.

"That's just the transfer," said Pennington. "You needn't read it 138 страница." But Linnet took a brief glance through it. Pennington laid down a third paper.

Again Linnet perused it carefully.

"They're all quite straightforward," said Andrew. "Nothing of interest. Only legal phraseology." Simon yawned again.

"My dear girl, you're not going to read the whole lot through, are you? yoU'll be at it till lunch time and longer." "I always read everything through," said Linnet. "Father taught me to do that. He said there might be some clerical error:" Pennington laughed rather harshly.

"You're a grand woman of business, Linnet." "She's much more conscientious than I'd be 138 страница," said Simon laughing. "I've never read a legal document in my life. I sign where they tell me to sign on the dotted line-and that's that." "That's frightfully slipshod," said Linnet disapprovingly.

"I've no business head." said Simon cheerfully. "Never had. A fellow tells me to sign-I sign. It's much te simplest way." Andrew Pennington was looking at him thoughtfully. He said dryly, stroking his upper lip: "A little risky sometimes, Doyle?" "Nonsense," said Simon. "I'm not one of those people who believe the whole world is out to 138 страница do one down. I'm a trusting kind of fellow-and it pays, you know, I've hardly ever been let down." Suddenly, to every one's surprise, the silent Mr. Fanthorp swung round and addressed Linnet.

"I hope I'm not butting in, but you must let me say how much I admire your businesslike capacity. In my profession-er-I am a lawyer-I find ladies sadly unbusinesslike. Never to sign a document before you read it through is admirablealtogether admirable." He gave a little bow. Then, rather red in the face, he turned once more to contemplate 138 страница the banks of the Nile.

Linnet said rather uncertainly, "er-thank you… ' She bit her lip to repress a giggle. The young man had looked so preternaturally solemn.

Andrew Pennington looked seriously annoyed.

Simon Doyle looked uncertain whether to be annoyed or amused.

The backs of Mr. Fanthorp's ears were bright crimson.

"Next, please," said Linnet smiling up at Pennington.

But Pennington was looking decidedly ruffled.

"I think perhaps some other time would be better," he said stiffly. "As-er- Doyle says if you have to read through all these we shall be here till lunch 138 страница time.

We mustn't miss enjoying the scenery. Anyway those first two papers were the only urgent ones. We'll settle down to business later." Linnet said: "It's frightfully hot in here. Let's go outside." The three of them passed through the swing door. Hercule Poirot turned his head. His gaze rested thoughtfully on Mr. Fanthorp's back, then it shifted to the lounging figure of Mr. Ferguson who had his head thrown back and was still whistling softly to himself.

Finally Poirot looked over at the upright figure of Miss Van Schuyler in her corner. Miss 138 страница Van Schuyler was glaring at Mr. Ferguson.

The swing door on the port side opened and Cornelia Robson hurried in.

"You've been a long time," snapped the old lady. "Where've you been?"

"I'm so sorry, Cousin Marie. The wool wasn't where you said it was. It was in another case altogether-"

"My dear child, you are perfectly hopeless at finding anything! You are willing, I know, my dear, but you must try to be a little cleverer and quicker. It only needs concentration."

"I'm so sorry, Cousin Marie. I'm afraid I am very stupid."

"Nobody need 138 страница be stupid if they try, my dear. I have brought you on this trip and I expect a little attention in return."

Cornelia flushed.

"I'm very sorry, Cousin Marie."

"And where is Miss Bowers? It was time for my drops ten minutes ago. Please go and find her at once. The doctor said it was most important-"

But at this stage Miss Bowers entered, carrying a small medicine glass.

"Your drops, Miss Van Schuyler."

"I should have had them at eleven," snapped the old lady. "If there's one thing I detest it's unpunctuality 138 страница."

"Quite," said Miss Bowers. She glanced at her wristwatch. "It's exactly halfa minute to eleven."

"By my watch it's ten past."

"I think you'll find my watch is right. It's a perfect timekeeper. It never loses or gains."

Miss Bowers was quite imperturbable.

Miss Van Schuyler swallowed the contents of the medicine glass.

"I feel definitely worse," she snapped.

"I'm sorry to hear that, Miss Van Schuyler."

Miss Bowers did not sound sorry. She sounded completely uninterested. She was obviously making the correct reply mechanically.

"It's too hot in here," snapped Miss Van Schuyler 138 страница. "Find me a chair on the deck, Miss Bowers. Cornelia, bring my knitting. Don't be clumsy or drop it. And then I shall want you to wind some wool."

The procession passed out.

Mr. Ferguson sighed, stirred his legs and remarked to the world at large: "Gosh, I'd like to scrag that dame." Poirot asked interestedly:

"She is a type you dislike, eh?"

"Dislike? I should say so. What good has that woman ever been to any one or anything? She's never worked or lifted a finger. She's just battened on other people. She's a parasite 138 страница-and a damned unpleasant parasite. There are a lot of people on this boat I'd say the world could do without."

"Really?"

"Yes. That girl in here just now, signing share transfers and throwing her weight about. Hundreds and thousands of wretched workers slaving for a mere pittance to keep her in silk stockings and useless luxuries. One of the richest women in England, so some one told me--and never done a hand's turn in her life." "Who told you she was one of the richest women in England?"

Mr. Ferguson cast a 138 страница belligerent eye at him.

"A man you wouldn't be seen speaking to! A man who works with his hands and isn't ashamed of it] Not one of your dressed-up foppish good for nothings."

His eyes rested unfavourably on the bow tie and pink shirt,

"Me, I work with my brains and am not ashamed of it," said Poirot, answering the glance.

Mr. Ferguson merely snorted.

"Ought to be shot up-the lot of them!" he snorted.

"My dear young man," said Poirot. "What a passion you have for violencel"

"Can you tell me of any good that can 138 страница be done without it? You've got to break down and destroy before you can build up."

"It is certainly much easier and much noisier and much more spectacular.'

"What do you do for a living? Nothing at all, I bet. Probably call yourself a middle man."

"I am not a middle man. I am a top man," said Hercule Poirot with slight arrogance.

"What are you?"

"I am a detective," said Hercule Poirot with the modest air of one who says, "I am a King."

"Good God," the young man seemed seriously taken aback. "Do you mean that 138 страница girl actually totes about a dumb dick? Is she as careful of her precious skin as that?"

"I have no connection whatever with Mr. and Mrs. Doyle," said Poirot stiffly.

"I am on a holiday."

"Enjoying a vacation-eh?" e'

"And you? Is it not that you are on a holiday also?"

"Holiday!" Mr. Ferguson snorted. Then he added cryptically, "I'm studying conditions."

"Very interesting," murmured Poirot and moved gently out on to the deck.

Miss Van Schuyler was established in the best corner. Cornelia knelt in front of her, her arms outstretched with a skein of grey wool 138 страница upon them. Miss Bowers was sitting very upright reading the Saturday Evening Post.

Poirot wandered gently onward dov the starboard deck. As he passed round the stern of the boat he almost ran into a woman who turned a startled face towards him-a dark piquant Latin face. She was neatly dressed in black and had been standing talking to a big burly man in uniform-one of the engineers by the look of him. There was a queer expression on both their faces-guilt and alarm. Poirot wondered what they had been talking about.

He rounded the 138 страница stern and continued his walk along the port side. A cabin door opened and Mrs. Otterbourne emerged and nearly fell into his arms. She was wearing a scarlet satin dressing-gown.

"So sorry," she apologised. "Dear Mr. Poirot-so very sorry. The motion- just the motion, you know. Never did have any sea legs. If the boat would only keep still "She clutched at his arm. "It's the pitching I can't stand Never really happy at sea And left all alone here hour after hour. That girl of mine no sympathy-no understanding of her 138 страница poor old mother who's done everything for her..

"Mrs. Otterbourne began to weep. "Slaved for her I have.worn myself to the bone to the bone. A grande amoureuse-that's what I might have been-a grande amoureuse-sacrificed everything--everything ·. · and nobody cares! But YI1 tell every one I'll tell them now-how she neglects me-how hard she is making me come on this journeybored to death I'll go and tell them now-" She surged forward. Poirot gently repressed the action.

"I will send her to you, Madame. Re-enter your cabin. It 138 страница is best that way-"

"No. I want to tell every one-every one on the boat-"

"It is too dangerous, Madame. The sea is too rough. You might be swept overboard."

Mrs. Otterbourne looked at him doubtfully.

"You think so. You really think so?"

"I do."

He was successful. Mrs. Otterbourne wavered, faltered and re-entered her cabin.

Poirot's nostrils twitched once or twice. Then he nodded and walked on to where Rosalie Otterbourne was sitting between Mrs. Allerton and Tim.

"Your mother wants you, Mademoiselle."

She had been laughing quite happily. Now her face clouded over. She 138 страница shot a quick suspicious look at him and hurried along the deck.

"I can't make that child out," said Mrs. Allerton. "She varies so. One day she's friendly-the next day she's positively rude."

"Thoroughly spoilt and bad-tempered," said Tim.

Mrs. Allerton shook her head.

"No. I don't think it's that. I think she's unhappy."

Tim shrugged his shoulders.

"Oh, well, I suppose we've all got our private troubles."

His voice sounded hard and curt.

A booming noise was heard.

"Lunch," cried Mrs. Allerton delightedly. "I'm starving."

That evening Poirot noticed that 138 страница Mrs. Allerton was sitting' talking to Miss Van

Schuyler. As he passed Mrs. Allerton closed one eye and opened it again.

She was saying: "Of course at Calfries Castlc the dear Duke "

Cornelia, released from attendance, was out on the deck. She was listening to Dr. Bessner who was instructing her somewhat ponderously in Egyptology as culled from the pages of Baedeker. Cornelia listened with rapt attention.

Leaning over the rail Tim Allerton was saying:

"Anyhow, it's a rotten world "

Rosalie Otterbourne answered: "It's unfair Some people have everything." Poirot sighed.

He was glad that he 138 страница was no longer young.

Chapter 9

On the Monday morning various expressions of delight and appreciation were heard on the deck of the Karnak. The steamer was moored to the bank and a few hundred yards away, the morning sun just striking it, was a great temple carved out of the face of the rock. Four colossal figures, hewn out of the cliff, look out eternally over the Nile and face the rising sun.

Cornelia Robson said incoherently: "Oh, M.

Poirot, isn't it wonderful? I mean they're so big and so peaceful and looking at them makes one feel that one 138 страница's so small and-and rather like an insect-and that nothing matters very much really, does it?" Mr. Fanthorp who was standing near by, murmured: "Very-er-impressive." "Grand, isn't it?" said Simon Doyle, strolling up. He went on confidentially to Poirot. "You know, I'm not much of a fellow for temples and sight-seeing and all that, but a place like this sort of gets you, if you know what I mean. Those old Pharoahs must have been wonderful fellows." The others had drifted away. Simon lowered his voice.

"I'm no end glad 138 страница we came on this trip. It's-well, it's cleared things up.

Amazing why it should but there it is. Linnet's got her nerve back. She says it's because/she's actually faced the business at last." "I think that is very probable," said Poirot.

"She says that when she actually saw J ackie on the boat she felt terrible-and then-suddenly-it didn't matter any more. We're both agreed that we won't try and dodge her any more. We'll just meet her on her own ground and show her 138 страница that this ridiculous stunt of hers doesn't worry us a bit. It's just damned bad form-that's all. She thought she'd get us badly rattled-but now, well, we just aren't rattled any more. That ought to show her.' "Yes" said Poirot thoughtfully. "So that's splendid, isn't it?" "Oh yes, yes." Linnet came along the deck. She was dressed in a soft shade of apricot linen.

She was smiling.

She greeted poirot with no pticular enthusiasm, just gave him a cool nod and then drew her husband away.

Poirot realised with a momentary flicker 138 страница of amusement that he had not made himself popular by his critical attitude. Linnet was used to unqualified admiration of all she was or did. Hercule Poirot had sinned noticeably against this creed.

Mrs. Allerton, joining him, murmured: "What a difference in that girl! She looked worried and not very happy at Assuan. To-day she looks so happy that one might almost be afraid she was fey." Before Poirot could respond as he meant the party was called to order. The official dragoman took charge and the party was led ashore to visit Abu Simbel 138 страница.


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