I didn’t realize it was Agatha Christie’s birthday on the 15th, because of my exams, so after my exams were done, I curled up to reread Dumb Witness. After finishing the last page, I sighed in contentment and said aloud, ‘How nice it is to compete with Poirot until the denouement unfolds! The first time I read this book, I saw the clue identifying the murderer at once, even before Poirot did. Ha!’ I grinned.
And then, all of a sudden, I had a weird feeling in my abdomen, like something was pulling me. Before I could even say something in astonishment, I was sucked into the pages of the book!
‘Is it so, mon ami?’ Poirot’s eyes twinkled in amusement as he smiled at me.
‘Er…what…how…er…’ I mumbled, my bewilderment expressing itself through incoherence.
‘Just a little treat, you know. Thought you’d like to see how it would be to literally get into a book, and talk to us if you’d like to,’ said AC, smiling.
‘I…I…oh my God! This is impossible! It’s surreal!’ I cried.
Poirot said, ‘The impossible could not have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances. (Murder On The Orient Express) Tell me, mon ami, did you really guess the murderer’s identity before I, Hercule Poirot did?
Being able to see Poirot’s legendary egoism in the flesh greatly amused me and I nodded, grinning. ‘Yes. It was very obvious, the point about –‘
‘I know what it is you say, Mademoiselle. I have been thirty-six times an idiot! (Sad Cypress) But I am glad to know you were using your little grey cells. They and they only can be trusted to lead one through fog to the truth…’ (Lord Edgware Dies)
‘How do you do, Ms. R?’ AC interrupted, before Poirot could plunge into a long lecture about using ‘the little grey cells’ and ‘seeing with the eyes of the mind’, ideas I already knew about and liked.
‘I’m all right,’ I replied. ‘Just finding it a little difficult to get used to college – making good friends, dealing with routine, and things like that, you know.’
‘Oh, you’ll do fine! You’re a writer, so don’t beat yourself up. Authors are shy, unsociable creatures, atoning for their lack of social aptitude by inventing their own companions and conversations, (Mrs. McGinty’s Dead)’ AC replied with a wink.
I smiled, cheered, and continued, ‘There are too many changes in everything around me, in everything I know.’ It is like the world won’t stay put just when I get used to it.’ I said.
‘Ah, but life is like that! It does not permit you to arrange and order it as you will. It will not permit you to escape emotion, to live by the intellect and by reason! You cannot say, “I will feel so much and no more.” Life, whatever else it is, is not reasonable. (Sad Cypress)’ philosophized Poirot.
AC said, ‘But through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.’
‘That is true.’ I smiled.
Turning to Poirot, I said, ‘M. Poirot, we have something in common apart from unraveling mysteries.’
‘Yes, mon ami?’
‘I dislike going to the ophthalmologist the way you dislike going to the dentist.’
‘Ah, yes! Everything seemed sinister to me, the waiting-room, the patients, the very carpet on the stairs! It is that I have been to the dentist and I need not go again for six months. It is a beautiful thought. (One, Two, Buckle My Shoe)’
‘Very,’ I agreed. ‘A question, M. Poirot? Why do you insist on symmetry and neatness all the time? So many things don’t follow symmetry – art for instance. Square bubbles are impossible, considering their surface to volume ratio-‘ I stopped, seeing Poirot’s look of mild bewilderment.
‘Method and order, they are everything (Death On The Nile),’ replied Poirot. ‘It keeps the mind clear, and not – how it is you say – fogged up. If one approaches a problem with order and method, there should be no difficulty in solving it, none whatever. (Death In The Clouds)’
‘But that’s often difficult. For instance, I have told myself many times to focus on something, and later I find myself doing something else altogether,’ I replied.
Poirot smiled, and twirling his luxuriant moustache, said. ‘It is completely unimportant. That is why it is so interesting.’
Gazing at my bookshelf in the distance, Poirot said, ‘The things young women read nowadays and profess to enjoy positively frighten me. (The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd)’ Thinking it was a good moment to puncture his balloon sized ego, I pointed out that I read about him too. ‘Ah, but me, I am different, mademoiselle.’ I stifled a laugh.
There was a pause.
‘What is it, mademoiselle?’
‘Nothing…I was just thinking.’
‘Continue it. You are one of those young people who do not chatter incessantly; you introspect. Speech, so a wise old Frenchman said to me once, is an invention of man’s to prevent him from thinking. (The ABC Murders) But what is it you think of?’
‘It was the word ‘different’ you mentioned. It struck me that I like being different, too. I want to make a real positive difference to the world.’
Both AC and Poirot regarded me for a moment.
‘Our weapon is our knowledge. But remember, it may be a knowledge we may not know that we possess.’ AC said, sounding rather cryptic.
Poirot said quietly, ‘It is the courage, the insistence, the ruthless force of youth. (Five Little Pigs) Worry not, mademoiselle. You are young, younger than you yourself know. Trust the train, mademoiselle, for it is le bon Dieu who drives it. (The Mystery Of The Blue Train)’
‘Thank you, Mrs. Christie. Thank you, M. Poirot.’ I smiled.
After a few moments, I continued, ‘Mrs. Christie, I’ve heard that you say that the best time to plan a book is while doing the dishes. I am really, really glad you did the dishes!’
AC laughed. ‘Thank you, R. I’m glad you enjoy reading my work.’
‘How would you describe your relationship with M. Poirot?’ I asked, as Poirot twirled his moustache again, gazing dreamily into the distance. (I confess, it was rather nice to see that moustache in person.)
‘We are friends and partners. I am beholden to him financially. On the other hand, he owes his very existence to me.’
‘It is true, that,’ Poirot said, his eyes twinkling.
‘I wish I had more of your novels to read!’ I exclaimed. ‘Instead, it’s my homework that increases every day.’
AC chuckled. ‘The secret of getting ahead is getting started.’ she said.
‘Oh well,’ I sighed. ‘I’d better be off now. Thank you for chatting with me,’ I said, smiling at the two of them.
‘We hunted together once more hein? (The ABC Murders) Farewell, mon ami!’
And then, I felt the same weird pull, and before I knew it, I was back in my room. I sighed in contentment and closed the book, and opened my assignment.