Смерть на Ниле / Death on the Nile

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Chapter 5

On the following morning Simon Doyle joined Hercule Poirot as the latter was leaving the hotel to walk down to the town.

‘Good morning, Monsieur Poirot.’

‘Good morning, Monsieur Doyle.’

‘You going to the town? Mind if I stroll along with you?’

‘But certainly. I shall be delighted.’

The two men walked side by side, passed out through the gateway and turned into the cool shade of the gardens. Then Simon removed his pipe from his mouth and said,

‘I understand, Monsieur Poirot, that my wife had a talk with you last night?’

‘That is so.’

Simon Doyle was frowning a little. He belonged to that type of men of action who find it difficult to put thoughts into words and who have trouble in expressing themselves clearly.

‘I’m glad of one thing,’ he said. ‘You’ve made her realize that we’re more or less powerless in the matter.’

‘There is clearly no legal redress,’ agreed Poirot.

‘Exactly. Linnet didn’t seem to understand that.’ He gave a faint smile. ‘Linnet’s been brought up to believe that every annoyance can automatically be referred to the police.’

‘It would be pleasant if such were the case,’ said Poirot.

There was a pause. Then Simon said suddenly, his face going very red as he spoke:

‘It’s – it’s infamous that she should be victimized like this! She’s done nothing! If anyone likes to say I behaved like a cad, they’re welcome to say so! I suppose I did. But I won’t have the whole thing visited on Linnet. She had nothing whatever to do with it.’

Poirot bowed his head gravely but said nothing.

‘Did you – er – have you – talked to Jackie – Miss de Bellefort?’

‘Yes, I have spoken with her.’

‘Did you get her to see sense?’

‘I’m afraid not.’

Simon broke out irritably.

‘Can’t she see what an ass she’s making of herself? Doesn’t she realize that no decent woman would behave as she is doing? Hasn’t she got any pride or self-respect?’

Poirot shrugged his shoulders.

‘She has only a sense of – injury, shall we say?’ he replied.

‘Yes, but damn it all, man, decent girls don’t behave like this! I admit I was entirely to blame. I treated her damned badly and all that. I should quite understand her being thoroughly fed up with me and never wishing to see me again. But this following me round – it’s – it’s indecent! Making a show of herself! What the devil does she hope to get out of it?’

‘Perhaps – revenge!’

‘Idiotic! I’d really understand better if she’d tried to do something melodramatic – like taking a pot shot at me.’

‘You think that would be more like her – yes?’

‘Frankly I do. She’s hot-blooded – and she’s got an ungovernable temper. I shouldn’t be surprised at her doing anything while she was in a white-hot rage. But this spying business-’ He shook his head.

‘It is more subtle – yes! It is intelligent!’

Doyle stared at him.

‘You don’t understand. It’s playing hell with Linnet’s nerves.’

‘And yours?’

Simon looked at him with momentary surprise.

‘Me? I’d like to wring the little devil’s neck.’

‘There is nothing, then, of the old feeling left?’

‘My dear Monsieur Poirot – how can I put it? It’s like the moon when the sun comes out. You don’t know it’s there any more. When once I’d met Linnet – Jackie didn’t exist.’

Tiens, c’est drôle, ça!’ muttered Poirot.

‘I beg your pardon?’

‘Your simile interested me, that is all.’

Again flushing, Simon said:

‘I suppose Jackie told you that I’d only married Linnet for her money? Well, that’s a damned lie! I wouldn’t marry any woman for money! What Jackie doesn’t understand is that it’s difficult for a fellow when – when – a woman cares for him as she cared for me.’

‘Ah?’

Poirot looked up sharply.

Simon blundered on.

‘It – it – sounds a caddish thing to say, but Jackie was too fond of me!’

Une qui aime et un qui se laisse aimer,’ murmured Poirot.

‘Eh? What’s that you say? You see, a man doesn’t want to feel that a woman cares more for him than he does for her.’ His voice grew warm as he went on. ‘He doesn’t want to feel owned, body and soul. It’s that damned possessive attitude! This man is mine – he belongs to me! That’s the sort of thing I can’t stick – no man could stick! He wants to get away – to get free. He wants to own his woman – he doesn’t want her to own him.’

He broke off, and with fingers that trembled slightly he lit a cigarette.

Poirot said:

‘And it is like that that you felt with Mademoiselle Jacqueline?’

‘Eh?’ Simon stared and then admitted: ‘Er – yes – well, yes, as a matter of fact I did. She doesn’t realize that, of course. And it’s not the sort of thing I could ever tell her. But I was feeling restless – and then I met Linnet, and she just swept me off my feet! I’d never seen anything so lovely. It was all so amazing. Everyone kowtowing to her – and then her singling out a poor chump like me.’

His tone held boyish awe and astonishment.

‘I see,’ said Poirot. He nodded thoughtfully. ‘Yes – I see.’

‘Why can’t Jackie take it like a man?’ demanded Simon resentfully.

A very faint smile twitched Poirot’s upper lip.

‘Well, you see, Monsieur Doyle, to begin with she is not a man.’

‘No, no – but I meant take it like a good sport! After all, you’ve got to take your medicine when it comes to you. The fault’s mine, I admit. But there it is! If you no longer care for a girl, it’s simply madness to marry her. And now that I see what Jackie’s really like and the lengths she is likely to go to, I feel I’ve had rather a lucky escape.’

‘The lengths she is likely to go to,’ Poirot repeated thoughtfully. ‘Have you an idea, Monsieur Doyle, what those lengths are?’

Simon looked at him rather startled.

‘No – at least, what do you mean?’

‘You know she carries a pistol about with her?’

Simon frowned, then shook his head.

‘I don’t believe she’ll use that – now. She might have done so earlier. But I believe it’s got past that. She’s just spiteful now – trying to take it out of us both.’

Poirot shrugged his shoulders.

‘It may be so,’ he said doubtfully.

‘It’s Linnet I’m worrying about,’ said Simon somewhat unnecessarily.

‘I quite realize that,’ said Poirot.

‘I’m not really afraid of Jackie doing any melodramatic shooting stuff, but this spying and following business has absolutely got Linnet on the raw. I’ll tell you the plan I’ve made, and perhaps you can suggest improvements on it. To begin with, I’ve announced fairly openly that we’re going to stay here ten days. But tomorrow – the steamer Karnak starts from Shellal to Wadi Halfa. I propose to book passages on that under an assumed name. Tomorrow we’ll go on an excursion to Philae. Linnet’s maid can take the luggage. We’ll join the Karnak at Shellal. When Jackie finds we don’t come back, it will be too late – we shall be well on our way. She’ll assume we have given her the slip and gone back to Cairo. In fact I might even bribe the porter to say so. Enquiry at the tourist offices won’t help her, because our names won’t appear. How does that strike you?’

‘It is well imagined, yes. And suppose she waits here till you return?’

‘We may not return. We would go on to Khartoum and then perhaps by air to Kenya. She can’t follow us all over the globe.’

‘No, there must come a time when financial reasons forbid. She has very little money, I understand.’

Simon looked at him with admiration.

‘That’s clever of you. Do you know, I hadn’t thought of that. Jackie’s as poor as they make them.’

‘And yet she has managed to follow you so far?’

Simon said doubtfully:

‘She’s got a small income, of course. Something under two hundred a year, I imagine. I suppose – yes, I suppose she must have sold out the capital to do what she’s doing.’

‘So that the time will come when she has exhausted her resources and is quite penniless?’

‘Yes…’

Simon wriggled uneasily. The thought seemed to make him uncomfortable. Poirot watched him attentively.

‘No,’ he remarked. ‘No, it is not a pretty thought…’

Simon said rather angrily:

‘Well, I can’t help it!’ Then he added, ‘What do you think of my plan?’

‘I think it may work, yes. But it is, of course, a retreat.’

Simon flushed.

‘You mean, we’re running away? Yes, that’s true… But Linnet-’

Poirot watched him, then gave a short nod.

‘As you say, it may be the best way. But remember, Mademoiselle de Bellefort has brains.’

Simon said sombrely:

‘Some day, I feel, we’ve got to make a stand and fight it out. Her attitude isn’t reasonable.’

‘Reasonable, mon Dieu!’ cried Poirot.

‘There’s no reason why women shouldn’t behave like rational beings,’ said Simon stolidly.

Poirot said dryly:

‘Quite frequently they do. That is even more upsetting!’ He added, ‘I, too, shall be on the Karnak. It is part of my itinerary.

‘Oh!’ Simon hesitated, then said, choosing his words with some embarrassment: ‘That isn’t – isn’t – er – on our account in any way? I mean I wouldn’t like to think-’

Poirot disabused him quickly.

‘Not at all. It was all arranged before I left London. I always make my plans well in advance.’

‘You don’t just move on from place to place as the fancy takes you? Isn’t the latter really pleasanter?’

‘Perhaps. But to succeed in life every detail should be arranged well beforehand.’

Simon laughed and said:

‘That is how the more skilful murderer behaves, I suppose.’

‘Yes – though I must admit that the most brilliant crime I remember and one of the most difficult to solve was committed on the spur of the moment.’

 

Simon said boyishly:

‘You must tell us something about your cases on board the Karnak.’

‘No, no; that would be to talk – what do you call it? – the shop.’

‘Yes, but your kind of shop is rather thrilling. Mrs Allerton thinks so. She’s longing to get a chance to cross-question you.’

‘Mrs Allerton? That is the charming grey-haired woman who has such a devoted son?’

‘Yes. She’ll be on the Karnak too.’

‘Does she know that you-?’

‘Certainly not,’ said Simon with emphasis. ‘Nobody knows. I’ve gone on the principle that it’s better not to trust anybody.’

‘An admirable sentiment – and one which I always adopt. By the way, the third member of your party, the tall grey-haired man-’

‘Pennington?’

‘Yes. He is travelling with you?’

Simon said grimly:

‘Not very usual on a honeymoon, you were thinking? Pennington is Linnet’s American trustee. We ran across him by chance in Cairo.’

Ah, vraiment! You permit a question? She is of age, Madame your wife?’

Simon looked amused.

‘She isn’t actually twenty-one yet – but she hadn’t got to ask anyone’s consent before marrying me. It was the greatest surprise to Pennington. He left New York on the Carmanic two days before Linnet’s letter got there telling him of our marriage. So he knew nothing about it.’

‘The Carmanic-’ murmured Poirot.

‘It was the greatest surprise to him when we ran into him at Shepheard’s in Cairo.’

‘That was indeed the coincidence!’

‘Yes, and we found that he was coming on this Nile trip – so naturally we foregathered – couldn’t have done anything else decently. Besides that, it’s been – well, a relief in some ways.’ He looked embarrassed again. ‘You see, Linnet’s been all strung up – expecting Jackie to turn up anywhere and everywhere. While we were alone together, the subject kept coming up. Andrew Pennington’s a help that way – we have to talk of outside matters.’

‘Your wife has not confided in Mr Pennington?’

‘No.’ Simon’s jaw looked aggressive. ‘It’s nothing to do with anyone else. Besides, when we started on this Nile trip we thought we’d seen the end of the business.’

Poirot shook his head.

‘You have not seen the end of it yet. No – the end is not yet at hand. I am very sure of that.’

‘I must say, Monsieur Poirot, you’re not very encouraging.’

Poirot looked at him with a slight feeling of irritation. He thought to himself: ‘The Anglo-Saxon, he takes nothing seriously but playing games! He does not grow up.’

Linnet Doyle – Jacqueline de Bellefort – both of them took the business seriously enough. But in Simon’s attitude he could find nothing but male impatience and annoyance.

He said:

‘You will permit me an impertinent question? Was it your idea to come to Egypt for your honeymoon?’

Simon flushed.

‘No, of course not. As a matter of fact I’d rather have gone anywhere else. But Linnet was absolutely set upon it. And so – and so-’

He stopped rather lamely.

‘Naturally,’ said Poirot gravely.

He appreciated the fact that if Linnet Doyle was set upon anything, that thing had to happen.

He thought to himself: ‘I have now heard three separate accounts of the affair – Linnet Doyle’s, Jacqueline de Bellefort’s, Simon Doyle’s. Which of them is nearest to the truth?’

Chapter 6

Simon and Linnet Doyle set off on their expedition to Philae about eleven o’clock the following morning. Jacqueline de Bellefort, sitting on the hotel balcony, watched them set off in the picturesque sailing boat. What she did not see was the departure of a car – laden with luggage, and in which sat a demure-looking maid – from the front door of the hotel. It turned to the right in the direction of Shellal.

Hercule Poirot decided to pass the remaining two hours before lunch on the island of Elephantine, immediately opposite the hotel.

He went down to the landing-stage. There were two men just stepping into one of the hotel boats, and Poirot joined them. The men were obviously strangers to each other. The younger of them had arrived by train the day before. He was a tall, dark-haired young man, with a thin face and a pugnacious chin. He was wearing an extremely dirty pair of grey flannel trousers and a highnecked polo jumper singularly unsuited to the climate. The other was a slightly podgy middle-aged man who lost no time in entering into conversation with Poirot in idiomatic but slightly broken English. Far from taking part in the conversation, the younger man merely scowled at them both and then deliberately turned his back on them and proceeded to admire the agility with which the boatman steered the boat with his toes as he manipulated the sail with his hands.

It was very peaceful on the water, the great smooth slippery black rocks gliding by and the soft breeze fanning their faces. Elephantine was reached very quickly and on going ashore Poirot and his loquacious acquaintance made straight for the museum. By this time the latter had produced a card which he handed to Poirot with a little bow. It bore the inscription:

‘Signor Guido Richetti, Archeologo.’

Not to be outdone, Poirot returned the bow and extracted his own card. These formalities completed, the two men stepped into the Museum together, the Italian pouring forth a stream of erudite information. They were by now conversing in French.

The young man in the flannel trousers strolled listlessly round the Museum, yawning from time to time, and then escaped to the outer air.

Poirot and Signor Richetti at last found him. The Italian was energetic in examining the ruins, but presently Poirot, espying a green-lined sunshade which he recognized on the rocks down by the river, escaped in that direction.

Mrs Allerton was sitting on a large rock, a sketchbook by her side and a book on her lap.

Poirot removed his hat politely and Mrs Allerton at once entered into conversation.

‘Good morning,’ she said. ‘I suppose it would be quite impossible to get rid of some of these awful children.’

A group of small figures surrounded her, all grinning and posturing and holding out imploring hands as they lisped ‘Bakshish’ at intervals hopefully.

‘I thought they’d get tired of me,’ said Mrs Allerton sadly. ‘They’ve been watching me for over two hours now – and they close in on me little by little; and then I yell “Imshi” and brandish my sunshade at them and they scatter for a minute or two. And then they come back and stare and stare, and I don’t believe I really like children – not unless they’re more or less washed and have the rudiments of manners.’

She laughed ruefully.

Poirot gallantly attempted to disperse the mob for her, but without avail. They scattered and then reappeared, closing in once more.

‘If there were only any peace in Egypt, I should like it better,’ said Mrs Allerton. ‘But you can never be alone anywhere – someone is always pestering you for money, or offering you donkeys, or beads, or expeditions to local villages, or duck shooting.’

‘It is the great disadvantage, that is true,’ said Poirot.

He spread his handkerchief cautiously on the rock and sat somewhat gingerly upon it.

‘Your son is not with you this morning?’ he went on.

‘No, Tim had some letters to get off before we leave. We’re doing the trip to the Second Cataract, you know.’

‘I, too.’

‘I’m so glad. I want to tell you that I’m quite thrilled to meet you. When we were in Majorca, there was a Mrs Leech there, and she was telling us the most wonderful things about you. She’d lost a ruby ring bathing, and she was just lamenting that you weren’t there to find it for her.

‘Ah, parbleu, but I am not the diving seal!’

They both laughed.

Mrs Allerton went on.

‘I saw you from my window walking down the drive with Simon Doyle this morning. Do tell me what you make of him! We’re so excited about him.’

‘Ah? Truly?’

‘Yes. You know his marriage to Linnet Ridgeway was the greatest surprise. She was supposed to be going to marry Lord Windlesham and then suddenly she gets engaged to this man no one had ever heard of!’

‘You know her well, Madame?’

‘No, but a cousin of mine, Joanna Southwood, is one of her best friends.’

‘Ah, yes, I have read that name in the papers.’ He was silent a moment and then went on, ‘She is a young lady very much in the news, Mademoiselle Joanna Southwood.’

‘Oh, she knows how to advertise herself all right,’ snapped Mrs Allerton.

‘You do not like her, Madame?’

‘That was a nasty remark of mine.’ Mrs Allerton looked penitent. ‘You see, I’m old-fashioned. I don’t like her much. Tim and she are the greatest of friends, though.’

‘I see,’ said Poirot.

His companion shot a quick look at him. She changed the subject.

‘How very few young people there are out here! That pretty girl with the chestnut hair and the appalling mother in the turban is almost the only young creature in the place. You have talked to her a good deal, I notice. She interests me, that child.’

‘Why is that, Madame?’

‘I feel sorry for her. You can suffer so much when you are young and sensitive. I think she is suffering.’

‘Yes, she is not happy, poor little one.’

‘Tim and I call her the “sulky girl”. I’ve tried to talk to her once or twice, but she’s snubbed me on each occasion. However, I believe she’s going on this Nile trip too, and I expect we’ll have to be more or less all matey together, shan’t we?’

‘It is a possible contingency, Madame.’

‘I’m very matey really – people interest me enormously. All the different types.’ She paused, then said: ‘Tim tells me that that girl – her name is de Bellefort – is the girl who was engaged to Simon Doyle. It’s rather awkward for them – meeting like this.’

‘It is awkward – yes,’ agreed Poirot.

Mrs Allerton shot a quick glance at him.

‘You know, it may sound foolish, but she almost frightened me. She looked so – intense.’

Poirot nodded his head slowly.

‘You were not far wrong, Madame. A great force of emotion is always frightening.’

‘Do people interest you too, Monsieur Poirot? Or do you reserve your interest for potential criminals?’

‘Madame – that category would not leave many people outside it.’

Mrs Allerton looked a trifle startled.

‘Do you really mean that?’

‘Given the particular incentive, that is to say,’ Poirot added.

‘Which would differ?’

‘Naturally.’

Mrs Allerton hesitated – a little smile on her lips.

‘Even I perhaps?’

‘Mothers, Madame, are particularly ruthless when their children are in danger.’

She said gravely:

‘I think that’s true – yes, you’re quite right.’

She was silent a minute or two, then she said, smiling:

‘I’m trying to imagine motives for crime suitable for everyone in the hotel. It’s quite entertaining. Simon Doyle, for instance?’

Poirot said, smiling:

‘A very simple crime – a direct short cut to his objective. No subtlety about it.’

‘And therefore very easily detected?’

‘Yes; he would not be ingenious.’

‘And Linnet?’

‘That would be like the Queen in your Alice in Wonderland, “Off with her head.” ’

‘Of course. The divine right of monarchy! Just a little bit of the Naboth’s vineyard touch. And the dangerous girl – Jacqueline de Bellefort – could she do a murder?’

Poirot hesitated for a minute or two, then he said doubtfully:

‘Yes, I think she could.’

‘But you’re not sure?’

‘No. She puzzles me, that little one.’

‘I don’t think Mr Pennington could do one, do you? He looks so desiccated and dyspeptic – with no red blood in him.’

‘But possibly a emphasis sense of self-preservation.’

‘Yes, I suppose so. And poor Mrs Otterbourne in her turban?’

‘There is always vanity.’

‘As a motive for murder?’ Mrs Allerton asked doubtfully.

‘Motives for murder are sometimes very trivial, Madame.’

‘What are the most usual motives, Monsieur Poirot?’

‘Most frequent – money. That is to say, gain in its various ramifications. Then there is revenge, and love, and fear – and pure hate, and beneficence-’

‘Monsieur Poirot!’

‘Oh, yes, Madame. I have known of – shall we say A? – being removed by B solely in order to benefit C. Political murders often come under that heading. Someone is considered to be harmful to civilization and is removed on that account. Such people forget that life and death are the affair of the good God.’

 

He spoke gravely.

Mrs Allerton said quietly:

‘I am glad to hear you say that. All the same, God chooses his instruments.’

‘There is a danger in thinking like that, Madame.’

She adopted a lighter tone:

‘After this conversation, Monsieur Poirot, I shall wonder that there is anyone left alive!’ She got up. ‘We must be getting back. We have to start immediately after lunch.’

When they reached the landing stage they found the young man in the polo jumper just taking his place in the boat. The Italian was already waiting. As the boatman cast the sail loose and they started, Poirot addressed a polite remark to the stranger:

‘There are very wonderful things to be seen in Egypt, are there not?’

The young man was now smoking a somewhat noisome pipe. He removed it from his mouth and remarked briefly and emphatically in astonishingly well-bred accents:

‘They make me sick.’

Mrs Allerton put on her pince-nez and surveyed him with pleasurable interest. Poirot said:

‘Indeed? And why is that?’

‘Take the Pyramids. Great blocks of useless masonry put up to minister to the egoism of a despotic bloated king. Think of the sweated masses who toiled to build them and died doing it. It makes me sick to think of the suffering and torture they represent.’

Mrs Allerton said cheerfully:

‘You’d rather have no Pyramids, no Parthenon, no beautiful tombs or temples – just the solid satisfaction of knowing that people got three meals a day and died in their beds.’

The young man directed his scowl in her direction.

‘I think human beings matter more than stones.’

‘But they do not endure as well,’ remarked Hercule Poirot.

‘I’d rather see a well fed worker than any so-called work of art. What matters is the future – not the past.’

This was too much for Signor Richetti, who burst into a torrent of impassioned speech not too easy to follow.

The young man retorted by telling everybody exactly what he thought of the capitalist system. He spoke with the utmost venom.

When the tirade was over they had arrived at the hotel landing-stage.

Mrs Allerton murmured cheerfully: ‘Well, well,’ and stepped ashore.

The young man directed a baleful glance after her.

In the hall of the hotel Poirot encountered Jacqueline de Bellefort. She was dressed in riding clothes. She gave him an ironical little bow.

‘I’m going donkey-riding. Do you recommend the local villages, Monsieur Poirot?’

‘Is that your excursion today, Mademoiselle? Eh bien, they are picturesque – but do not spend large sums on local curios.’

‘Which are shipped here from Europe? No, I am not so easy to deceive as that.’

With a little nod she passed out into the brilliant sunshine.

Poirot completed his packing – a very simple affair, since his possessions were always in the most meticulous order. Then he repaired to the dining room and ate an early lunch.

After lunch the hotel bus took the passengers for the Second Cataract to the station where they were to catch the daily express from Cairo to Shellal – a ten-minute run. The Allertons, Poirot, the young man in the dirty flannel trousers and the Italian were the passengers. Mrs Otterbourne and her daughter had made the expedition to the Dam and to Philae and would join the steamer at Shellal.

The train from Cairo and Luxor was about twenty minutes late. However, it arrived at last, and the usual scenes of wild activity occurred. Porters taking suitcases out of the train collided with other porters putting them in.

Finally, somewhat breathless, Poirot found himself with an assortment of his own, the Allertons’, and some totally unknown luggage in one compartment, while Tim and his mother were elsewhere with the remains of the assorted baggage.

The compartment in which Poirot found himself was occupied by an elderly lady with a very wrinkled face, a stiff white stock, a good many diamonds and an expression of reptilian contempt for the majority of mankind.

She treated Poirot to an aristocratic glare and retired behind the pages of an American magazine. A big, rather clumsy young woman of under thirty was sitting opposite her. She had eager brown eyes rather like a dog’s, untidy hair, and a terrific air of willingness to please. At intervals the old lady looked over the top of her magazine and snapped an order at her.

‘Cornelia, collect the rugs. When we arrive look after my dressing-case. On no account let anyone else handle it. Don’t forget my paper-cutter.’

The train run was brief. In ten minutes’ time they came to rest on the jetty where the S. S. Karnak was awaiting them. The Otterbournes were already on board.

The Karnak was a smaller steamer than the Papyrus and the Lotus, the First Cataract steamers, which are too large to pass through the locks of the Aswan dam. The passengers went on board and were shown their accommodation. Since the boat was not full, most of the passengers had accommodation on the promenade deck. The entire forward part of this deck was occupied by an observation saloon, all glass-enclosed, where the passengers could sit and watch the river unfold before them. On the deck below were a smoking room and a small drawing room and on the deck below that, the dining saloon.

Having seen his possessions disposed in his cabin, Poirot came out on the deck again to watch the process of departure. He joined Rosalie Otterbourne, who was leaning over the side.

‘So now we journey into Nubia. You are pleased, Mademoiselle?’

The girl drew a deep breath.

‘Yes. I feel that one’s really getting away from things at last.’ She made a gesture with her hand. There was a savage aspect about the sheet of water in front of them, the masses of rock without vegetation that came down to the water’s edge – here and there a trace of houses abandoned and ruined as a result of the damming up of the waters. The whole scene had a melancholy, almost sinister charm. ‘Away from people,’ said Rosalie Otterbourne.

‘Except those of our own number, Mademoiselle?’

She shrugged her shoulders. Then she said:

‘There’s something about this country that makes me feel – wicked. It brings to the surface all the things that are boiling inside one. Everything’s so unfair – so unjust.’

‘I wonder. You cannot judge by material evidence.’

Rosalie muttered:

‘Look at – at some people’s mothers – and look at mine. There is no God but Sex, and Salome Otterbourne is its Prophet.’ She stopped. ‘I shouldn’t have said that, I suppose.’

Poirot made a gesture with his hands.

‘Why not say it – to me? I am one of those who hear many things. If, as you say, you boil inside – like the jam – Eh bien, let the scum come to the surface, and then one can take it off with a spoon, so.’ He made a gesture of dropping something into the Nile. ‘Then, it has gone.’

Rosalie said:

‘What an extraordinary man you are!’ Her sulky mouth twisted into a smile. Then she suddenly stiffened as she exclaimed: ‘Well, here are Mrs Doyle and her husband! I’d no idea they were coming on this trip!’

Linnet had just emerged from a cabin halfway down the deck. Simon was behind her. Poirot was almost startled by the look of her – so radiant, so assured. She looked positively arrogant with happiness. Simon Doyle, too, was a transformed being. He was grinning from ear to ear and looking like a happy schoolboy.

‘This is grand,’ he said as he too leaned on the rail. ‘I’m really looking forward to this trip, aren’t you, Linnet? It feels somehow so much less touristy – as though we were really going into the heart of Egypt.’

His wife responded quickly:

‘I know. It’s so much – wilder, somehow.’

Her hand slipped through his arm. He pressed it close to his side.

‘We’re off, Lin,’ he murmured.

The steamer was drawing away from the jetty. They had started on their seven-day journey to the Second Cataract and back.

Behind them a light silvery laugh rang out. Linnet whipped round.

Jacqueline de Bellefort was standing there. She seemed amused.

‘Hullo, Linnet! I didn’t expect to find you here. I thought you said you were staying in Aswan another ten days. This is a surprise!’

‘You – you didn’t-’Linnet’s tongue stammered. She forced a ghastly conventional smile. ‘I didn’t expect to see you either.’

‘No?’

Jacqueline moved away to the other side of the boat. Linnet’s grasp on her husband’s arm tightened.

‘Simon – Simon-’

All Doyle’s good-natured pleasure had gone. He looked furious. His hands clenched themselves in spite of his effort at self-control.

The two of them moved a little away. Without turning his head Poirot caught scraps of disjointed words.

‘… turn back… impossible… we could…’ and then, slightly louder, Doyle’s voice, despairing but grim. ‘We can’t run away for ever, Lin. We’ve got to go through with it now …’

It was some hours later. Daylight was just fading. Poirot stood in the glass-enclosed saloon looking straight ahead. The Karnak was going through a narrow gorge. The rocks came down with a kind of sheer ferocity to the river flowing deep and swift between them. They were in Nubia now.