The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan
written by Agatha Christie and narrated by David Suchet


“Poirot,” I said, “a change of air would do you good.”

“You think so, mon ami?”

“I am sure of it.”

“Eh—eh?” said my friend, smiling. “It is all arranged, then?”

“You will come?”

“Where do you propose to take me?”

“Brighton. As a matter of fact, a friend of mine in the City put me on to a very good thing, and—well, I have money to burn, as the saying goes. I think a weekend at the Grand Metropolitan would do us all the good in the world.”

“Thank you, I accept most gratefully. You have the good heart to think of an old man. And the good heart, it is in the end worth all the little grey cells. Yes, yes, I who speak to you am in danger of forgetting that sometimes.”

I did not relish the implication. I fancy that Poirot is sometimes a little inclined to underestimate my mental capacities. But his pleasure was so evident that I put my slight annoyance aside.

“Then, that’s all right,” I said hastily.

Saturday evening saw us dining at the Grand Metropolitan in the midst of a gay throng. All the world and his wife seemed to be at Brighton. The dresses were marvellous, and the jewels—worn sometimes with more love of display than good taste—were something magnificent.

“Hein, it is a good sight, this!” murmured Poirot. “This is the home of the Profiteer, is it not so, Hastings?”

“Supposed to be,” I replied. “But we’ll hope they aren’t all tarred with the Profiteering brush.”

Poirot gazed round him placidly.

“The sight of so many jewels makes me wish I had turned my brains to crime, instead of to its detection. What a magnificent opportunity for some thief of distinction! Regard, Hastings, that stout woman by the pillar. She is, as you would say, plastered with gems.”

I followed his eyes.

“Why,” I exclaimed, “it’s Mrs. Opalsen.”

“You know her?”

“Slightly. Her husband is a rich stockbroker who made a fortune in the recent oil boom.”

After dinner we ran across the Opalsens in the lounge, and I introduced Poirot to them. We chatted for a few minutes, and ended by having our coffee together.

Poirot said a few words in praise of some of the costlier gems displayed on the lady’s ample bosom, and she brightened up at once.

“It’s a perfect hobby of mine, Mr. Poirot. I just love jewellery. Ed knows my weakness, and every time things go well he brings me something new. You are interested in precious stones?”

“I have had a good deal to do with them one time and another, madame. My profession has brought me into contact with some of the most famous jewels in the world.”

He went on to narrate, with discreet pseudonyms, the story of the historic jewels of a reigning house, and Mrs. Opalsen listened with bated breath.

“There now,” she exclaimed, as he ended. “If it isn’t just like a play! You know, I’ve got some pearls of my own that have a history attached to them. I believe it’s supposed to be one of the finest necklaces in the world—the pearls are so beautifully matched and so perfect in colour. I declare I really must run up and get it!”

“Oh, madame,” protested Poirot, “you are too amiable. Pray do not derange yourself!”

“Oh, but I’d like to show it to you.”

The buxom dame waddled across to the lift briskly enough. Her husband, who had been talking to me, looked at Poirot inquiringly.

“Madame your wife is so amiable as to insist on showing me her pearl necklace,” explained the latter.

“Oh, the pearls!” Opalsen smiled in a satisfied fashion. “Well, they are worth seeing. Cost a pretty penny too! Still, the money’s there all right; I could get what I paid for them any day—perhaps more. May have to, too, if things go on as they are now. Money’s confoundedly tight in the City. All this infernal EPD.” He rambled on, launching into technicalities where I could not follow him.

He was interrupted by a small page boy who approached him and murmured something in his ear.

“Eh—what? I’ll come at once. Not taken ill, is she? Excuse me, gentlemen.”

He left us abruptly. Poirot leaned back and lit one of his tiny Russian cigarettes. Then, carefully and meticulously, he arranged the empty coffee cups in a neat row, and beamed happily on the result.

The minutes passed. The Opalsens did not return.

“Curious,” I remarked, at length. “I wonder when they will come back.”

Poirot watched the ascending spirals of smoke, and then said thoughtfully:

“They will not come back.”


“Because, my friend, something has happened.”

“What sort of thing? How do you know?” I asked curiously.

Poirot smiled.

“A few minutes ago the manager came hurriedly out of his office and ran upstairs. He was much agitated. The liftboy is deep in talk with one of the pages. The lift-bell has rung three times, but he heeds it not. Thirdly, even the waiters are distrait; and to make a waiter distrait—” Poirot shook his head with an air of finality. “The affair must indeed be of the first magnitude. Ah, it is as I thought! Here come the police.”

Two men had just entered the hotel—one in uniform, the other in plain clothes. They spoke to a page, and were immediately ushered upstairs. A few minutes later, the same boy descended and came up to where we were sitting.

“Mr. Opalsen’s compliments, and would you step upstairs?”

Poirot sprang nimbly to his feet. One would have said that he awaited the summons. I followed with no less alacrity.

The Opalsens’ apartments were situated on the first floor. After knocking on the door, the page boy retired, and we answered the summons. “Come in!” A strange scene met our eyes. The room was Mrs. Opalsen’s bedroom, and in the centre of it, lying back in an armchair, was the lady herself, weeping violently. She presented an extraordinary spectacle, with the tears making great furrows in the powder with which her complexion was liberally coated. Mr. Opalsen was striding up and down angrily. The two police officials stood in the middle of the room, one with a notebook in hand. An hotel chambermaid, looking frightened to death, stood by the fireplace; and on the other side of the room a Frenchwoman, obviously Mrs. Opalsen’s maid, was weeping and wringing her hands, with an intensity of grief that rivalled that of her mistress.

Into this pandemonium stepped Poirot, neat and smiling. Immediately, with an energy surprising in one of her bulk Mrs. Opalsen sprang from her chair towards him.

“There now; Ed may say what he likes, but I believe in luck, I do. It was fated I should meet you the way I did this evening, and I’ve a feeling that if you can’t get my pearls back for me nobody can.”

“Calm yourself, I pray of you, madame.” Poirot patted her hand soothingly. “Reassure yourself. All will be well. Hercule Poirot will aid you!”

Mr. Opalsen turned to the police inspector.

“There will be no objection to my—er—calling in this gentleman, I suppose?”

“None at all, sir,” replied the man civilly, but with complete indifference. “Perhaps now your lady’s feeling better she’ll just let us have the facts?”

Mrs. Opalsen looked helplessly at Poirot. He led her back to her chair.

“Seat yourself, madame, and recount to us the whole history without agitating yourself.”

Thus abjured, Mrs. Opalsen dried her eyes gingerly, and


“I came upstairs after dinner to fetch my pearls for Mr. Poirot here to see. The chambermaid and Célestine were both in the room as usual—”

“Excuse me, madame, but what do you mean by ‘as usual?’ ”

Mr. Opalsen explained.

“I make it a rule that no one is to come into this room unless Célestine, the maid, is there also. The chambermaid does the room in the morning while Célestine is present, and comes in after dinner to turn down the beds under the same conditions; otherwise she never enters the room.”

“Well, as I was saying,” continued Mrs. Opalsen, “I came up. I went to the drawer here”—she indicated the bottom right-hand drawer of the kneehole dressing table—“took out my jewel case and unlocked it. It seemed quite as usual—but the pearls were not there!”

The inspector had been busy with his notebook. When had you last seen them?” he asked.

“They were there when I went down to dinner.”

“You are sure?”

“Quite sure. I was uncertain whether to wear them or not, but in the end I decided on the emeralds, and put them back in the jewel case.”

“Who locked up the jewel case?”

“I did. I wear the key on a chain round my neck.” She held it up as she spoke.

The inspector examined it, and shrugged his shoulders.

“The thief must have had a duplicate key. No difficult matter. The lock is quite a simple one. What did you do after you’d locked the jewel case?”

“I put it back in the bottom drawer where I always keep it.”

“You didn’t lock the drawer?”

“No, I never do. My maid remains in the room till I come up, so there’s no need.”

The inspector’s face grew greyer.

“Am I to understand that the jewels were there when you went down to dinner, and that since then the maid has not left the room?”

Suddenly, as though the horror of her own situation for the first time burst upon her, Célestine uttered a piercing shriek, and, flinging herself upon Poirot, poured out a torrent of incoherent French.

The suggestion was infamous! That she should be suspected of robbing Madame! The police were well known to be of a stupidity incredible! But Monsieur, who was a Frenchman—”

“A Belgian,” interjected Poirot, but Célestine paid no attention to the correction.

Monsieur would not stand by and see her falsely accused, while that infamous chambermaid was allowed to go scot-free. She had never liked her—a bold, red-faced thing—a born thief. She had said from the first that she was not honest. And had kept a sharp watch over her too, when she was doing Madame’s room! Let those idiots of policemen search her, and if they did not find Madame’s pearls on her it would be very surprising!

Although this harangue was uttered in rapid and virulent French, Célestine had interlarded it with a wealth of gesture, and the chambermaid realized at least a part of her meaning. She reddened angrily.

“If that foreign woman’s saying I took the pearls, it’s a lie!” she declared heatedly. “I never so much as saw them.”

“Search her!” screamed the other. “You will find it is as

I say.”

“You’re a lair—do you hear?” said the chambermaid, advancing upon her. “Stole ’em yourself, and want to put it on me. Why, I was only in the room about three minutes before the lady came up, and then you were sitting here the whole time, as you always do, like a cat watching a mouse.”

The inspector looked across inquiringly at Célestine. “Is that true? Didn’t you leave the room at all?”

“I did not actually leave her alone,” admitted Célestine reluctantly, “but I went into my own room through the door here twice—once to fetch a reel of cotton, and once for my scissors. She must have done it then.”

“You wasn’t gone a minute,” retorted the chambermaid angrily. “Just popped out and in again. I’d be glad if the police would search me. I’ve nothing to be afraid of.”

At this moment there was a tap at the door. The inspector went to it. His face brightened when he saw who it was.

“Ah!” he said. “That’s rather fortunate. I sent for one of our female searchers, and she’s just arrived. Perhaps if you wouldn’t mind going into the room next door.”

He looked at the chambermaid, who stepped across the threshold with a toss of her head, the searcher following her closely.

The French girl had sunk sobbing into a chair. Poirot was looking round the room, the main features of which I have made clear by a sketch.


“Where does that door lead?” he inquired, nodding his head towards the one by the window.

“Into the next apartment, I believe,” said the inspector. “It’s bolted, anyway, on this side.”

Poirot walked across to it, tried it, then drew back the bolt and tried it again.

“And on the other side as well,” he remarked. “Well, that seems to rule out that.”

He walked over to the windows, examining each of them in turn.

“And again—nothing. Not even a balcony outside.”

“Even if there were,” said the inspector impatiently, “I don’t see how that would help us, if the maid never left the room.”

“Évidemment,” said Poirot, not disconcerted. “As Mademoiselle is positive she did not leave the room—”

He was interrupted by the reappearance of the chambermaid and the police searcher.

“Nothing,” said the latter laconically.

“I should hope not, indeed,” said the chambermaid virtuously. “And that French hussy ought to be ashamed of herself taking away an honest girl’s character.”

“There, there, my girl; that’s all right,” said the inspector, opening the door. “Nobody suspects you. You go along and get on with your work.”

The chambermaid went unwillingly.

“Going to search her?” she demanded, pointing at Célestine.

“Yes, yes!” He shut the door on her and turned the key.

Célestine accompanied the searcher into the small room in her turn. A few minutes later she also returned. Nothing had been found on her.

The inspector’s face grew graver.

“I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to come along with me all the same, miss.” He turned to Mrs. Opalsen. “I’m sorry, madam, but all the evidence points that way. If she’s not got them on her, they’re hidden somewhere about the room.”

Célestine uttered a piercing shriek, and clung to Poirot’s arm. The latter bent and whispered something in the girl’s ear. She looked up at him doubtfully.

“Si, si, mon enfant—I assure you it is better not to resist.” Then he turned to the inspector. “You permit, monsieur? A little experiment—purely for my own satisfaction.”

“Depends on what it is,” replied the police officer noncommittally.

Poirot addressed Célestine once more.

“You have told us that you went into your room to fetch a reel of cotton. Whereabouts was it?”

“On top of the chest of drawers, monsieur.”

“And the scissors?”

“They also.”

“Would it be troubling you too much, mademoiselle, to ask you to repeat those two actions? You were sitting here with your work, you say?”

Célestine sat down, and then, at a sign from Poirot, rose, passed into the adjoining room, took up an object from the chest of drawers, and returned.

Poirot divided his attention between her movements and a large turnip of a watch which he held in the palm of his hand.

“Again, if you please, mademoiselle.”

At the conclusion of the second performance, he made a note in his pocketbook, and returned the watch to his pocket.

“Thank you, mademoiselle. And you, monsieur”—he bowed to the inspector—“for your courtesy.”

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