1. Relative clauses. Decide which relative pronoun to use. Whenever a contact clause is possible, do not use a relative pronoun.
Agatha Christie (1890-1976). The
Mysterious Affair at Styles. 1924.
I Go to Styles
THE intense interest aroused in the public by
known at the time as "The Styles Case" has now somewhat subsided.
Nevertheless, in view of the world-wide notoriety
it, I have been asked, both by my friend Poirot and the family
themselves, to write an account of the whole story. This, we trust, will
effectually silence the sensational rumours
I will therefore briefly set
down the circumstances led to
my being connected with the affair.
I had been invalided home from
the Front; and, after spending some months in a rather depressing
Convalescent Home, was given a month's sick leave. Having no near
relations or friends, I was trying to make up my mind to do,
when I ran across John Cavendish. I had seen very little of him for some
years. Indeed, I had never known him particularly well. He was a good
fifteen years my senior, for one thing, though he hardly looked his
forty-five years. As a boy, though, I had often stayed at Styles, his
mother's place in Essex.
We had a good yarn about old
times, and it ended in his inviting me down to Styles to spend my leave
"The mater will be delighted to
see you again-after all those years," he added.
"Your mother keeps well?" I
"Oh, yes. I suppose you know
that she has married again?"
I am afraid I showed my surprise
rather plainly. Mrs. Cavendish, had
married John's father when he was a widower with two sons, had been a
handsome woman of middle-age as I remembered her. She certainly could
not be a day less than seventy now. I recalled her as an energetic,
autocratic personality, somewhat inclined to charitable and social
notoriety, with a fondness for opening bazaars and playing the Lady
Bountiful. She was a most generous woman, and possessed a considerable
fortune of her own.
Their country-place, Styles
Court, had been purchased by Mr. Cavendish early in their married life.
He had been completely under his wife's ascendancy, so much so that, on
dying, he left the place to her for her lifetime, as well as the larger
part of his income; an arrangement
distinctly unfair to his two sons. Their stepmother, however, had always
been most generous to them; indeed, they were so young at the time of
their father's remarriage that they always thought of her as their own
Lawrence, the younger, had been
a delicate youth. He had qualified as a doctor but early relinquished
the profession of medicine, and lived at home while pursuing literary
ambitions; though his verses never had any marked success.
John practised for some time as
a barrister, but had finally settled down to the more congenial life of
a country squire. He had married two years ago, and had taken his wife
to live at Styles, though I entertained a shrewd suspicion that he would
have preferred his mother to increase his allowance, would
have enabled him to have a home of his own. Mrs. Cavendish, however, was
a lady liked to
make her own plans, and expected other people to fall in with them, and
in this case she certainly had the whip hand, namely: the purse strings.
John noticed my surprise at the
news of his mother's remarriage and smiled rather ruefully.
"Rotten little bounder too!" he
said savagely. "I can tell you, Hastings, it's making life jolly
difficult for us. As for Evie-you remember Evie?"
"Oh, I suppose she was after
your time. She's the mater's factotum, companion, Jack of all trades! A
great sport-old Evie! Not precisely young and beautiful, but as game as
they make them."
"You were going to say--?"
"Oh, this fellow! He turned up
from nowhere, on the pretext of being a second cousin or something of
Evie's, though she didn't seem particularly keen to acknowledge the
relationship. The fellow is an absolute outsider, anyone can see that.
He's got a great black beard, and wears patent leather boots in all
weathers! But the mater cottoned to him at once, took him on as
secretary-you know how she's always running a hundred societies?"
"Well, of course the war has
turned the hundreds into thousands. No doubt the fellow was very useful
to her. But you could have knocked us all down with a feather when,
three months ago, she suddenly announced that she and Alfred were
engaged! The fellow must be at least twenty years younger than she is!
It's simply bare-faced fortune hunting; but there you are-she is her own
mistress, and she's married him."
"It must be a difficult
situation for you all."
"Difficult! It's damnable!"
Thus it came about that, three
days later, I descended from the train at Styles St. Mary, an absurd
little station, with no apparent reason for existence, perched up in the
midst of green fields and country lanes. John Cavendish was waiting on
the platform, and piloted me out to the car.
"Got a drop or two of petrol
still, you see," he remarked. "Mainly owing to the mater's activities."
The village of Styles St. Mary
was situated about two miles from the little station, and Styles Court
lay a mile the other side of it. it was a still, warm day in early July.
As one looked out over the flat Essex country, lying so green and
peaceful under the afternoon sun, it seemed almost impossible to believe
that, not so very far away, a great war was running its appointed course.
I felt I had suddenly strayed into another world. As we turned in at the
lodge gates, John said:
"I'm afraid you'll find it very
quiet down here, Hastings."
"My dear fellow, that's just
what I want."
"Oh, it's pleasant enough if you
want to lead the idle life. I drill with the volunteers twice a week,
and lend a hand at the farms. My wife works regularly 'on the land'. She
is up at five every morning to milk, and keeps at it steadily until
lunch-time. It's a jolly good life taking it all round-if it weren't for
that fellow Alfred Inglethorp!" He checked the car suddenly, and glanced
at his watch. "I wonder if we've time to pick up Cynthia. No, she'll
have started from the hospital by now."
"Cynthia! That's not your wife?"
"No, Cynthia is a protégée of my
mother's, the daughter of an old schoolfellow of hers, married
a rascally solicitor. He came a cropper, and the girl was left an orphan
and penniless. My mother came to the rescue, and Cynthia has been with
us nearly two years now. She works in the Red Cross Hospital at
Tadminster, seven miles away."
As he spoke the last words, we
drew up in front of the fine old house. A lady in a stout tweed skirt,
bending over a flower bed, straightened herself at our approach.
"Hullo, Evie, here's our wounded
hero! Mr. Hastings-Miss Howard."
Miss Howard shook hands with a
hearty, almost painful, grip. I had an impression of very blue eyes in a
sunburnt face. She was a pleasant-looking woman of about forty, with a
deep voice, almost manly in its stentorian tones, and had a large
sensible square body, with feet to match-these last encased in good
thick boots. Her conversation, I soon found, was couched in the
"Weeds grow like house afire.
Can't keep even with 'em. Shall press you in. Better be careful."
"I'm sure I shall be only too
delighted to make myself useful," I responded.
"Don't say it. Never does. Wish
you hadn't later."
"You're a cynic, Evie," said
John, laughing. "Where's tea to-day-inside or out?"
"Out. Too fine a day to be
cooped up in the house."
"Come on then, you've done
enough gardening for to-day. 'The labourer is worthy of his hire', you
know. Come and be refreshed."
"Well," said Miss Howard,
drawing off her gardening gloves, "I'm inclined to agree with you."
She led the way round the house
to where tea was spread under the shade of a large sycamore.
A figure rose from one of the
basket chairs, and came a few steps to meet us.
"My wife, Hastings," said John.
I shall never forget my first
sight of Mary Cavendish. Her tall, slender form, outlined against the
bright light; the vivid sense of slumbering fire
to find expression only in those wonderful tawny eyes of hers,
remarkable eyes, different from any other woman's
ever known; the intense power of stillness she possessed,
nevertheless conveyed the impression of a wild untamed spirit in an
exquisitely civilised body-all these things are burnt into my memory. I
shall never forget them.
She greeted me with a few words
of pleasant welcome in a low clear voice, and I sank into a basket chair
feeling distinctly glad that I had accepted John's invitation. Mrs.
Cavendish gave me some tea, and her few quiet remarks heightened my
first impression of her as a thoroughly fascinating woman. An
appreciative listener is always stimulating, and I described, in a
humorous manner, certain incidents of my Convalescent Home, in a way , I
flatter myself, greatly amused my hostess. John, of course, good fellow
though he is, could hardly be called a brilliant conversationalist.
At that moment a well remembered
voice floated through the open French window near at hand:
"Then you'll write to the
Princess after tea, Alfred? I'll write to Lady Tadminster for the second
day, myself. Or shall we wait until we hear from the Princess? In case
of a refusal, Lady Tadminster might open it the first day, and Mrs.
Crosbie the second. Then there's the Duchess-about the school fête?"
There was the murmur of a man's
voice, and then Mrs. Inglethorp's rose in reply:
"Yes, certainly. After tea will
do quite well. You are so thoughtful, Alfred dear."
The French window swung open a
little wider, and a handsome white-haired old lady, with a somewhat
masterful cast of features, stepped out of it on to the lawn. A man
followed her, a suggestion of deference in his manner.
Mrs. Inglethorp greeted me with
"Why, if it isn't too delightful
to see you again, Mr. Hastings, after all these years. Alfred, darling,
Mr. Hastings-my husband."
I looked with some curiosity at
"Alfred darling". He certainly struck a rather alien note. I did not
wonder at John objecting to his beard. It was one of the longest and
I have ever seen. He wore gold rimmed pince-nez, and had a curious impassivity
of feature. It struck me that he might look natural on a stage, but was
strangely out of place in real life. His voice was rather deep and
unctuous. He placed a wooden hand in mine and said:
"This is a pleasure, Mr.
Hastings." Then, turning to his wife: "Emily dearest, I think that
cushion is a little damp."
She beamed fondly on him, as he
substituted another with every demonstration of the tenderest care.
Strange infatuation of an otherwise sensible woman!
With the presence of Mr.
Inglethorp, a sense of constraint and veiled hostility seemed to settle
down upon the company. Miss Howard, in particular, took no pains to
conceal her feelings. Mrs. Inglethorp, however, seemed to notice nothing
unusual. Her volubility,
remembered of old, had lost nothing in the intervening years, and she
poured out a steady flood of conversation, mainly on the subject of the
forthcoming bazaar she was organizing and
take place shortly. Occasionally she referred to her husband over a
question of days or dates. His watchful and attentive manner never
varied. From the very first I took a firm and rooted dislike to him, and
I flatter myself that my first judgments are usually fairly shrewd.
Presently Mrs. Inglethorp turned
to give some instructions about letters to Evelyn Howard, and her
husband addressed me in his painstaking voice:
"Is soldiering your regular
profession, Mr. Hastings?"
"No, before the war I was in
"And you will return there after
it is over?"
"Perhaps. Either that or a fresh
Mary Cavendish leant forward.
"What would you really choose as
a profession, if you could just consult your inclination?"
"Well, that depends."
"No secret hobby?" she asked.
"Tell me-you're drawn to something? Every one is-usually something
"You'll laugh at me."
"Well, I've always had a secret
hankering to be a detective!"
"The real thing-Scotland Yard?
Or Sherlock Holmes?"
"Oh, Sherlock Holmes by all
means. But really, seriously, I am awfully drawn to it. I came across a
man in Belgium once, a very famous detective, and he quite inflamed me.
He was a marvellous little fellow. He used to say that all good
detective work was a mere matter of method. My system is based on his-though
of course I have progressed rather further. He was a funny little man, a
great dandy, but wonderfully clever."
"Like a good detective story
myself," remarked Miss Howard. "Lots of nonsense written, though.
Criminal discovered in last chapter. Every one dumfounded. Real crime-you'd
know at once."
"There have been a great number
of undiscovered crimes," I argued.
"Don't mean the police, but the people
right in it. The family. You couldn't really hoodwink them. They'd know."
"Then," I said, much amused, "you
think that if you were mixed up in a crime, say a murder, you'd be able
to spot the murderer right off?"
"Of course I should. Mightn't be
able to prove it to a pack of lawyers. But I'm certain I'd know. I'd
feel it in my finger-tips if he came near me."
"It might be a 'she,'" I
Might. But murder's a violent
crime. Associate it more with a man."
"Not in a case of poisoning."
Mrs. Cavendish's clear voice startled me. "Dr. Bauerstein was saying
yesterday that, owing to the general ignorance of the more uncommon
poisons among the medical profession, there were probably countless
cases of poisoning quite unsuspected."
"Why, Mary, what a gruesome
conversation!" cried Mrs. Inglethorp. "It makes me feel as if a goose
were walking over my grave. Oh, there's Cynthia!"
A young girl in V. A. D. uniform
ran lightly across the lawn.
"Why, Cynthia, you are late
to-day. This is Mr. Hastings-Miss Murdoch."
Cynthia Murdoch was a
fresh-looking young creature, full of life and vigour. She tossed off
her little V. A. D. cap, and I admired the great loose waves of her
auburn hair, and the smallness and whiteness of the hand she held
out to claim her tea. With dark eyes and eyelashes she would have been a
She flung herself down on the
ground beside John, and as I handed her a plate of sandwiches she smiled
up at me.
"Sit down here on the grass, do.
It's ever so much nicer."
I dropped down obediently.
"You work at Tadminster, don't
you, Miss Murdoch?"
"For my sins."
"Do they bully you, then?" I
"I should like to see them!"
cried Cynthia with dignity.
"I have got a cousin is
nursing," I remarked. "And she is terrified of 'Sisters'."
"I don't wonder. Sisters
are,you know, Mr. Hastings. They simp-ly
are!You've no idea! But I'm
not a nurse, thank heaven, I work in the dispensary."
"How many people do you poison?"
I asked, smiling.
Cynthia smiled too.
"Oh, hundreds!" she said.
"Cynthia," called Mrs.
Inglethorp, "do you think you could write a few notes for me?"
"Certainly, Aunt Emily."
She jumped up promptly, and
something in her manner reminded me that her position was a dependent
one, and that Mrs. Inglethorp, kind as she might be in the main, did not
allow her to forget it.
My hostess turned to me.
"John will show you your room.
Supper is at half-past seven. We have given up late dinner for some time
now. Lady Tadminster, our Member's wife-she was the late Lord
Abbotsbury's daughter-does the same. She agrees with me that one must
set an example of economy. We are quite a war household; nothing is
wasted here-every scrap of waste paper, even, is saved and sent away in
I expressed my appreciation, and
John took me into the house and up the broad staircase, forked
right and left half-way to different wings of the building. My room was
in the left wing, and looked out over the park.
John left me, and a few minutes
later I saw him from my window walking slowly across the grass arm in
arm with Cynthia Murdoch. I heard Mrs. Inglethorp call "Cynthia"
impatiently, and the girl started and ran back to the house. At the same
moment, a man stepped out from the shadow of a tree and walked slowly in
the same direction. He looked about forty, very dark with a melancholy
clean-shaven face. Some violent emotion seemed to be mastering him. He
looked up at my window as he passed, and I recognized him, though he had
changed much in the fifteen years had
elapsed since we last met. It was John's younger brother, Lawrence
Cavendish. I wondered it was
had brought that singular expression to his face.
Then I dismissed him from my
mind, and returned to the contemplation of my own affairs.
The evening passed pleasantly
enough; and I dreamed that night of that enigmatical woman, Mary
The next morning dawned bright
and sunny, and I was full of the anticipation of a delightful visit.
I did not see Mrs. Cavendish
until lunch-time, when she volunteered to take me for a walk, and we
spent a charming afternoon roaming in the woods, returning to the house
As we entered the large hall,
John beckoned us both into the smoking-room. I saw at once by his face
that something disturbing had occurred. We followed him in, and he shut
the door after us.
"Look here, Mary, there's the
deuce of a mess. Evie's had a row with Alfred Inglethorp, and she's
John nodded gloomily.
"Yes; you see she went to the
mater, and-Oh, here's Evie herself."
Miss Howard entered. Her lips
were set grimly together, and she carried a small suit-case. She looked
excited and determined, and slightly on the defensive.
"At any rate," she burst out, "I've
spoken my mind!"
"My dear Evelyn," cried Mrs.
Cavendish, "this can't be true!"
Miss Howard nodded grimly.
"True enough! Afraid I said some
things to Emily she
won't forget or forgive in a hurry. Don't mind if they've only sunk in a
bit. Probably water off a duck's back, though. I said right out: 'You're
an old woman, Emily, and there's no fool like an old fool. The man's
twenty years younger than you, and don't you fool yourself as to
married you for. Money! Well, don't let him have too much of it. Farmer
Raikes has got a very pretty young wife. Just ask your Alfred how much
time he spends over there.' She was very angry. Natural! I went on: 'I'm
going to warn you, whether you like it or not. That man would as soon
murder you in your bed as look at you. He's a bad lot. You can say
to me, but remember I've
told you. He's a bad lot!'"
What did she say?"
Miss Howard made an extremely
Alfred'-'wicked calumnies'-'wicked lies'-'wicked woman'-to accuse her 'dear
husband'! The sooner I left her house the better. So I'm off."
"But not now?"
For a moment we sat and stared
at her. Finally John Cavendish, finding his persuasions of no avail,
went off to look up the trains. His wife followed him, murmuring
something about persuading Mrs. Inglethorp to think better of it.
As she left the room, Miss
Howard's face changed. She leant towards me eagerly.
"Mr. Hastings, you're honest. I
can trust you?"
I was a little startled. She
laid her hand on my arm, and sank her voice to a whisper.
"Look after her, Mr. Hastings.
My poor Emily. They're a lot of sharks-all of them. Oh, I know
talking about. There isn't one of them 's not
hard up and trying to get money out of her. I've protected her as much
as I could. Now I'm out of the way, they'll impose upon her."
"Of course, Miss Howard," I said,
"I'll do everything
but I'm sure you're excited and overwrought."
She interrupted me by slowly
shaking her forefinger.
"Young man, trust me. I've lived
in the world rather longer than you have. All
you is to keep your eyes open. You'll see
The throb of the motor came
through the open window, and Miss Howard rose and moved to the door.
John's voice sounded outside. With her hand on the handle, she turned
her head over her shoulder, and beckoned to me.
"Above all, Mr. Hastings, watch
that devil-her husband!"
There was no time for more. Miss
Howard was swallowed up in an eager chorus of protests and good-byes.
The Inglethorps did not appear.
As the motor drove away, Mrs.
Cavendish suddenly detached herself from the group, and moved across the
drive to the lawn to meet a tall bearded man
evidently making for the house. The colour rose in her cheeks as she
held out her hand to him.
"Who is that?" I asked sharply,
for instinctively I distrusted the man.
"That's Dr. Bauerstein," said
"And who is Dr. Bauerstein?"
"He's staying in the village
doing a rest cure, after a bad nervous breakdown. He's a London
specialist; a very clever man-one of the greatest living experts on
poisons, I believe."
"And he's a great friend of
Mary's," put in Cynthia, the irrepressible.
John Cavendish frowned and
changed the subject.
"Come for a stroll, Hastings.
This has been a most rotten business. She always had a rough tongue, but
there is no stauncher friend in England than Evelyn Howard."
He took the path through the
plantation, and we walked down to the village through the woods
one side of the estate.
As we passed through one of the
gates on our way home again, a pretty young woman of gipsy type coming
in the opposite direction bowed and smiled.
"That's a pretty girl," I
John's face hardened.
"That is Mrs. Raikes."
"Exactly," said John, with
rather unnecessary abruptness.
I thought of the white-haired
old lady in the big house, and that vivid wicked little face had just
smiled into ours, and a vague chill of foreboding crept over me. I
brushed it aside.
"Styles is really a glorious old
place," I said to John.
He nodded rather gloomily.
"Yes, it's a fine property.
It'll be mine some day-should be mine now by rights, if my father had
only made a decent will. And then I shouldn't be so damned hard up as I
Hard up, are you?"
"My dear Hastings, I don't mind
telling you that I'm at my wit's end for money."
"Couldn't your brother help you?"
"Lawrence? He's gone through
had, publishing rotten verses in fancy bindings. No, we're an
impecunious lot. My mother's always been awfully good to us, I must say.
That is, up to now. Since her marriage, of course--" he broke off,
For the first time I felt that,
with Evelyn Howard, something indefinable had gone from the atmosphere.
Her presence had spelt security. Now that security was removed-and the
air seemed rife with suspicion. The sinister face of Dr. Bauerstein
recurred to me unpleasantly. A vague suspicion of every one and
everything filled my mind. Just for a moment I had a premonition of
2. The passive voice. Put these sentences into passive voice. Write them down before controlling your answer.