Further questioned, he described his awakening in the early hours of the morning, and the circumstances of his mother's death.
The medical evidence was next taken. There was a breathless hush, and every eye was fixed on the famous London specialist, who was known to be one of the greatest authorities of the day on the subject of toxicology.
In a few brief words, he summed up the result of the post-mortem. Shorn of its medical phraseology and technicalities, it amounted to the fact that Mrs. Inglethorp had met her death as the result of strychnine poisoning. Judging from the quantity recovered, she must have taken not less than three-quarters of a grain of strychnine, but probably one grain or slightly over.
"Is it possible that she could have swallowed the poison by accident?" asked the Coroner.
"I should consider it very unlikely. Strychnine is not used for domestic purposes, as some poisons are, and there are restrictions placed on its sale."
"Does anything in your examination lead you to determine how the poison was administered?"
"You arrived at Styles before Dr. Wilkins, I believe?"
"That is so. The motor met me just outside the lodge gates, and I hurried there as fast as I could."
"Will you relate to us exactly what happened next?"
"I entered Mrs. Inglethorp's room. She was at that moment in a typical tetanic convulsion. She turned towards me, and gasped out: 'Alfred--Alfred----' "
"Could the strychnine have been administered in Mrs. Inglethorp's after-dinner coffee which was taken to her by her husband?"
"Possibly, but strychnine is a fairly rapid drug in its action. The symptoms appear from one to two hours after it has been swallowed. It is retarded under certain conditions, none of which, however, appear to have been present in this case. I presume Mrs. Inglethorp took the coffee after dinner about eight o'clock, whereas the symptoms did not manifest themselves until the early hours of the morning, which, on the face of it, points to the drug having been taken much later in the evening."
"Mrs. Inglethorp was in the habit of drinking a cup of coco in the middle of the night. Could the strychnine have been administered in that?"
"No, I myself took a sample of the coco remaining in the saucepan and had it analysed. There was no strychnine present."
I heard Poirot chuckle softly beside me.
"How did you know?" I whispered.
"I should say"--the doctor was continuing--"that I would have been considerably surprised at any other result."