Hickory Dickory Dock
Hercule Poirot – 30
Hercule Poirot Frowned.
“Miss Lemon,” he said.
“Yes, Mr. Poirot?”
“There are three mistakes in this letter.” His voice held incredulity. For Miss Lemon, that hideous and efficient woman, never made mistakes. She was never ill, never tired, never upset, never inaccurate. For all practical purposes, that is to say, she was not a woman at all. She was a machine-the perfect secretary. She knew everything, she coped with everything. She ran Hercule Poirot’s life for him, so that it, too, functioned like a machine. Order and method had been Hercule Poirot’s watchwords from many years ago. With George, his perfect manservant, and Miss Lemon, his perfect secretary, order and method ruled supreme in his life. Now that crumpers were baked square as well as round, he had nothing about which to complain.
And yet, this morning Miss Lemon had made three mistakes in typing a perfectly simple letter, and moreover, had not even noticed those mistakes. The stars stood still in their courses!
Hercule Poirot held out the offending document.
He was not annoyed, he was merely bewildered.
This was one of the things that could not happen-but it had happened!
Miss Lemon took the letter. She looked at it. For the first time in his life, Poirot saw her blush; a deep ugly unbecoming flush that dyed her face right up to the roots of her strong grizzled hair.
“Oh, dear,” she said. “I can’t think how-at least, I can. It’s because of my sister.” “Your sister?” Another shock. Poirot had never conceived of Miss Lemon’s having a sister. Or, for that matter, having a father, mother or even grandparents.
Miss Lemon, somehow, was so completely machine made-a precision instrument, so to speak-that to think of her having affections, or anxieties, or family
worries, seemed quite ludicrous. It was well known that the whole of Miss Lemon’s heart and mind was given, when she was not on duty, to the perfection of a new filing system which was to be patented and bear her name.
“Your sister?” Hercule Poirot repeated, therefore, with an incredulous note in his voice.
Miss Lemon nodded a vigorous assent.
“Yes,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned her to you. Practically all her life has been spent in Singapore. Her husband was in the rubber business there.” Hercule Poirot nodded understandingly. It seemed to him appropriate that Miss Lemon’s sister should have spent most of her life in Singapore. That was what places like Singapore were for. The sisters of women like Miss Lemon married men in business in Singapore, so that the Miss Lemons of this world could devote themselves with machine-like efficiency to their employers” affairs (and of course to the invention of filing systems in their moments of relaxation).
“I comprehend,” he said. “Proceed.” Miss Lemon proceeded.
“She was left a widow four years ago. No children.
I managed to get her fixed up in a very nice little flat at quite a reasonable rent-was (of course Miss Lemon would manage to do just that almost impossible thing.) “She is reasonably off-Sough money doesn’t go as far as it did, but her tastes aren’t expensive and she has enough to be quite comfortable if she is careful.” Miss Lemon paused and then continued: “But the truth is, of course, she was lonely. She had never lived in England and she’d got no old friends or cronies and of course she had a lot of time on her hands. Anyway, she told me about six months ago that she was thinking of taking up this job.” “Job?