The Adventure of the 'Western Star'
written by Agatha Christie and narrated by David Suchet



Lord Yardly turned out to be a cheery, loud-voiced sportsman with a rather red face, but with a good-humoured bonhomie about him that was distinctly attractive and made up for any lack of mentality.

“Extraordinary business this, Monsieur Poirot. Can’t make head or tail of it. Seems my wife’s been getting odd kind of letters, and that Miss Marvell’s had ’em too. What does it all mean?”

Poirot handed him the copy of Society Gossip.

“First, milord, I would ask you if these facts are substantially correct?”

The peer took it. His face darkened with anger as he read.

“Damned nonsense!” he spluttered. “There’s never been any romantic story attaching to the diamond. It came from India originally, I believe. I never heard of all this Chinese god stuff.”

“Still, the stone is known as ‘The Star of the East.’ ”

“Well, what if it is?” he demanded wrathfully.

Poirot smiled a little, but made no direct reply.

“What I would ask you to do, milord, is to place yourself in my hands. If you do so unreservedly, I have great hopes of averting the catastrophe.”

“Then you think there’s actually something in these wildcat tales?”

“Will you do as I ask you?”

“Of course I will, but—”

“Bien! Then permit that I ask you a few questions. This affair of Yardly Chase, is it, as you say, all fixed up between you and Mr. Rolf?”

“Oh, he told you about it, did he? No, there’s nothing settled.” He hesitated, the brick-red colour of his face deepening. “Might as well get the thing straight. I’ve made rather an ass of myself in many ways, Monsieur Poirot—and I’m head over ears in debt—but I want to pull up. I’m fond of the kids, and I want to straighten things up, and be able to live on at the old place. Gregory Rolf is offering me big money—enough to set me on my feet again. I don’t want to do it—I hate the thought of all that crowd playacting round the Chase—but I may have to, unless—” He broke off.

Poirot eyed him keenly. “You have, then, another string to your bow? Permit that I make a guess? It is to sell The Star of the East?”

Lord Yardly nodded. “That’s it. It’s been in the family for some generations, but it’s not essential. Still, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to find a purchaser. Hoffberg, the Hatton Garden man, is on the lookout for a likely customer, but he’ll have to find one soon, or it’s a washout.”

“One more question, permettez—Lady Yardly, which plan does she approve?”

“Oh, she’s bitterly opposed to my selling the jewel. You know what women are. She’s all for this film stunt.”

“I comprehend,” said Poirot. He remained a moment or so in thought, then rose briskly to his feet. “You return to Yardly Chase at once? Bien! Say no word to anyone—to anyone, mind—but expect us there this evening. We will arrive shortly after five.

“All right, but I don’t see—”

“Ça n’a pas d’importance,” said Poirot kindly. “You will that I preserve for you your diamond, n’est-ce pas?”

“Yes, but—”

“Then do as I say.”

A sadly bewildered nobleman left the room.


It was half past five when we arrived at Yardly Chase, and followed the dignified butler to the old panelled hall with its fire of blazing logs. A pretty picture met our eyes: Lady Yardly and her two children, the mother’s proud dark head bent down over the two fair ones. Lord Yardly stood near, smiling down on them.

“Monsieur Poirot and Captain Hastings,” announced the butler.

Lady Yardly looked up with a start, for her husband came forward uncertainly, his eyes seeking instruction from Poirot. The little man was equal to the occasion.

“All my excuses! It is that I investigate still this affair of Miss Marvell’s. She comes to you on Friday, does she not? I make a little tour first to make sure that all is secure. Also I wanted to ask Lady Yardly if she recollected at all the postmarks on the letters she received?”

Lady Yardly shook her head regretfully. “I’m afraid I don’t. It’s stupid of me. But, you see, I never dreamt of taking them seriously.”

“You’ll stay the night?” said Lord Yardly.

“Oh, milord, I fear to incommode you. We have left our bags at the inn.”

“That’s all right.” Lord Yardly had his cue. “We’ll send down for them. No, no—no trouble, I assure you.”

Poirot permitted himself to be persuaded, and sitting down by Lady Yardly, began to make friends with the children. In a short time they were all romping together, and had dragged me into the game.

“Vous êtes bonne mère,” said Poirot, with a gallant little bow, as the children were removed reluctantly by a stern nurse.

Lady Yardly smoothed her ruffled hair.

“I adore them,” she said with a little catch in her voice.

“And they you—with reason!” Poirot bowed again.

A dressing gong sounded, and we rose to go up to our rooms. At that moment the butler emerged with a telegram on a salver which he handed to Lord Yardly. The latter tore it open with a brief word of apology. As he read it he stiffened visibly.

With an ejaculation he handed it to his wife. Then he glanced at my friend.

“Just a minute, Monsieur Poirot, I feel you ought to know about this. It’s from Hoffberg. He thinks he’s found a customer for the diamond—an American, sailing for the States tomorrow. They’re sending down a chap tonight to vet the stone. By Jove, though, if this goes through—” Words failed him.

Lady Yardly had turned away. She still held the telegram in her hand.

“I wish you wouldn’t sell it, George,” she said, in a low voice. “It’s been in the family so long.” She waited, as though for a reply, but when none came her face hardened. She shrugged her shoulders. “I must go and dress. I suppose I had better display ‘the goods.’ ” She turned to Poirot with a slight grimace. “It’s one of the most hideous necklaces that was ever designed! George has always promised to have the stones reset for me, but it’s never been done.” She left the room.

Half an hour later, we three were assembled in the great drawing room awaiting the lady. It was already a few minutes past the dinner hour.

Suddenly there was a low rustle, and Lady Yardly appeared framed in the doorway, a radiant figure in a long white shimmering dress. Round the column of her neck was a rivulet of fire. She stood there with one hand just touching the necklace.

“Behold the sacrifice,” she said gaily. Her ill-humour seemed to have vanished. “Wait while I turn the big light on and you shall feast your eyes on the ugliest necklace in England.”

The switches were just outside the door. As she stretched out her hand to them, the incredible thing happened. Suddenly, without any warning, every light was extinguished, the door banged, and from the other side of it came a long-drawn piercing woman’s scream.

“My God!” cried Lord Yardly. “That was Maude’s voice! What has happened?”

We rushed blindly for the door, cannoning into each other in the darkness. It was some minutes before we could find it. What a sight met our eyes! Lady Yardly lay senseless on the marble floor, a crimson mark on her white throat where the necklace had been wrenched from her neck.

As we bent over her, uncertain for the moment whether she was dead or alive, her eyelids opened.

“The Chinaman,” she whispered painfully. “The Chinaman—the side door.”

Lord Yardly sprang up with an oath. I accompanied him, my heart beating wildly. The Chinaman again! The side door in question was a small one in the angle of the wall, not more than a dozen yards from the scene of the tragedy. As we reached it, I gave a cry. There, just short of the threshold, lay the glittering necklace, evidently dropped by the thief in the panic of his flight. I swooped joyously down on it. Then I uttered another cry which Lord Yardly echoed. For in the middle of the necklace was a great gap. The Star of the East was missing!

“That settles it,” I breathed. “These were no ordinary thieves. This one stone was all they wanted.”

“But how did the fellow get in?”

“Through this door.”

“But it’s always locked.”

I shook my head. “It’s not locked now. See.” I pulled it open as I spoke.

As I did so something fluttered to the ground. I picked it up. It was a piece of silk, and the embroidery was unmistakable. It had been torn from a Chinaman’s robe.

“In his haste it caught in the door,” I explained. “Come, hurry. He cannot have gone far as yet.”

But in vain we hunted and searched. In the pitch darkness of the night, the thief had found it easy to make his getaway. We returned reluctantly, and Lord Yardly sent off one of the footmen posthaste to fetch the police.

Lady Yardly, aptly ministered to by Poirot, who is as good as a woman in these matters, was sufficiently recovered to be able to tell her story.

“I was just going to turn on the other light,” she said, “when a man sprang on me from behind. He tore my necklace from my neck with such force that I fell headlong to the floor. As I fell I saw him disappearing through the side door. Then I realized by the pigtail and the embroidered robe that he was a Chinaman.” She stopped with a shudder.

The butler reappeared. He spoke in a low voice to Lord Yardly.

“A gentleman from Mr. Hoffberg’s, m’lord. He says you expect him.”

“Good heavens!” cried the distracted nobleman. “I must see him, I suppose. No, not here, Mullings, in the library.”

I drew Poirot aside.

“Look here, my dear fellow, hadn’t we better get back to London?”

“You think so, Hastings? Why?”

“Well”—I coughed delicately—“things haven’t gone very well, have they? I mean, you tell Lord Yardly to place himself in your hands and all will be well—and then the diamond vanishes from under your very nose!”

“True,” said Poirot, rather crestfallen. “It was not one of my most striking triumphs.”

This way of describing events almost caused me to smile, but I stuck to my guns.

“So, having—pardon the expression—rather made a mess of things, don’t you think it would be more graceful to leave immediately?”

“And the dinner, the without doubt excellent dinner, that the chef of Lord Yardly has prepared?”

“Oh, what’s dinner!” I said impatiently.

Poirot held up his hands in horror.

“Mon Dieu! It is that in this country you treat the affairs gastronomic with a criminal indifference.”

“There’s another reason why we should get back to London as soon as possible,” I continued.

“What is that, my friend?”

“The other diamond,” I said, lowering my voice. “Miss Marvell’s.”

“Eh bien, what of it?”

“Don’t you see?” His unusual obtuseness annoyed me. What had happened to his usually keen wits? “They’ve got one, now they’ll go for the other.”

“Tiens!” cried Poirot, stepping back a pace and regarding me with admiration. “But your brain marches to a marvel, my friend! Figure to yourself that for the moment I had not thought of that! But there is plenty of time. The full of the moon, it is not until Friday.”

I shook my head dubiously. The full of the moon theory left me entirely cold. I had my way with Poirot, however, and we departed immediately, leaving behind us a note of explanation and apology for Lord Yardly.

My idea was to go at once to the Magnificent, and relate to Miss Marvell what had occurred, but Poirot vetoed the plan, and insisted that the morning would be time enough. I gave in rather grudgingly.

In the morning Poirot seemed strangely disinclined to stir out. I began to suspect that, having made a mistake to start with, he was singularly loath to proceed with the case. In answer to my persuasions, he pointed out, with admirable common sense, that as the details of the affair at Yardly Chase were already in the morning papers the Rolfs would know quite as much as we could tell them. I gave way unwillingly.

Events proved my forebodings to be justified. About two o’clock, the telephone rang. Poirot answered it. He listened for some moments, then with a brief “Bien, j’y serai” he rang off, and turned to me.

“What do you think, mon ami?” He looked half ashamed, half excited. “The diamond of Miss Marvell, it has been stolen.”

“What?” I cried, springing up. “And what about the ‘full of the moon’ now?” Poirot hung his head. “When did this happen?”

“This morning, I understand.”

I shook my head sadly. “If only you had listened to me. You see I was right.”

“It appears so, mon ami,” said Poirot cautiously. “Appearances are deceptive, they say, but it certainly appears so.”

As we hurried in a taxi to the Magnificent, I puzzled out the true inwardness of the scheme.

“That ‘full of the moon’ idea was clever. The whole point of it was to get us to concentrate on the Friday, and so be off our guard beforehand. It is a pity you did not realize that.”

“Ma foi!” said Poirot airily, his nonchalance quite restored after its brief eclipse. “One cannot think of everything!”

I felt sorry for him. He did so hate failure of any kind.

“Cheer up,” I said consolingly. “Better luck next time.”

At the Magnificent, we were ushered at once into the manager’s office. Gregory Rolf was there with two men from Scotland Yard. A pale-faced clerk sat opposite them.

Rolf nodded to us as we entered.

“We’re getting to the bottom of it,” he said. “But it’s almost unbelievable. How the guy had the nerve I can’t think.”

A very few minutes sufficed to give us the facts. Mr. Rolf had gone out of the hotel at 11:15. At 11:30, a gentleman, so like him in appearance as to pass muster, entered the hotel and demanded the jewel case from the safe deposit. He duly signed the receipt, remarking carelessly as he did so: “Looks a bit different from my ordinary one, but I hurt my hand getting out of the taxi.” The clerk merely smiled and remarked that he saw very little difference. Rolf laughed and said: “Well, don’t run me in as a crook this time, anyway. I’ve been getting threatening letters from a Chinaman, and the worst of it is I look rather like a Chink myself—it’s something about the eyes.”

“I looked at him,” said the clerk who was telling us this, “and I saw at once what he meant. The eyes slanted up at the corners like an Oriental’s. I’d never noticed it before.”

“Darn it all, man,” roared Gregory Rolf, leaning forward, “do you notice it now?”

The man looked up at him and started.

“No, sir,” he said. “I can’t say I do.” And indeed there was nothing even remotely Oriental about the frank brown eyes that looked into ours.

The Scotland Yard man grunted. “Bold customer. Thought the eyes might be noticed, and took the bull by the horns to disarm suspicion. He must have watched you out of the hotel, sir, and nipped in as soon as you were well away.”

“What about the jewel case?” I asked.

“It was found in the corridor of the hotel. Only one thing had been taken—‘The Western Star.’ ”

We stared at each other—the whole thing was so bizarre, so unreal.

Poirot hopped briskly to his feet. “I have not been of much use, I fear,” he said regretfully. “Is it permitted to see Madame?”

“I guess she’s prostrated with the shock,” exclaimed Rolf.

“Then perhaps I might have a few words alone with you, monsieur?”


In about five minutes Poirot reappeared.

“Now, my friend,” he said gaily. “To a post office. I have to send a telegram.”

“Who to?”

“Lord Yardly.” He discounted further inquiries by slipping his arm through mine. “Come, come, mon ami. I know all that you feel about this terrible business. I have not distinguished myself! You, in my place, might have distinguished yourself. Bien! All is admitted. Let us forget it and have lunch.”

It was about four o’clock when we entered Poirot’s rooms. A figure rose from a chair by the window. It was Lord Yardly. He looked haggard and distraught.

“I got your wire and came up at once. Look here, I’ve been round to Hoffberg, and they know nothing about that man of theirs last night, or the wire either. Do you think that—”

Poirot held up his hand.

“My excuses! I sent that wire, and hired the gentleman in question.”

“You—but why? What?” The nobleman spluttered impotently.

“My little idea was to bring things to a head,” explained Poirot placidly.

“Bring things to a head! Oh, my God!” cried Lord Yardly.

“And the ruse succeeded,” said Poirot cheerfully. “Therefore, milord, I have much pleasure in returning you—this!” With a dramatic gesture he produced a glittering object. It was a great diamond.

“The Star of the East,” gasped Lord Yardly. “But I don’t understand—”

“No?” said Poirot. “It makes no matter. Believe me, it was necessary for the diamond to be stolen. I promised you that it would be preserved to you, and I have kept my word. You must permit me to keep my little secret. Convey, I beg of you, the assurance of my deepest respect to Lady Yardly, and tell her how pleased I am to be able to restore her jewel to her. What beau temps, is it not? Good day, milord.”

And smiling and talking, the amazing little man conducted the bewildered nobleman to the door. He returned gently rubbing his hands.

“Poirot,” I said. “Am I quite demented?”

“No, mon ami, but you are, as always, in a mental fog.”

“How did you get the diamond?”

“From Mr. Rolf.”


“Mais oui! The warning letters, the Chinaman, the article in Society Gossip, all sprang from the ingenious brain of Mr. Rolf! The two diamonds, supposed to be so miraculously alike—bah! they did not exist. There was only one diamond, my friend! Originally in the Yardly collection, for three years it has been in the possession of Mr. Rolf. He stole it this morning with the assistance of a touch of grease paint at the corner of each eye! Ah, I must see him on the film, he is indeed an artist, celui-là! ”

“But why should he steal his own diamond?” I asked, puzzled.

“For many reasons. To begin with, Lady Yardly was getting restive.”

“Lady Yardly?”

“You comprehend she was left much alone in California. Her husband was amusing himself elsewhere. Mr. Rolf was handsome, he had an air about him of romance. But au fond, he is very businesslike, ce monsieur! He made love to Lady Yardly, and then he blackmailed her. I taxed the lady with the truth the other night, and she admitted it. She swore that she had only been indiscreet, and I believe her. But, undoubtedly, Rolf had letters of hers that could be twisted to bear a different interpretation. Terrified by the threat of a divorce, and the prospect of being separated from her children, she agreed to all he wished. She had no money of her own, and she was forced to permit him to substitute a paste replica for the real stone. The coincidence of the date of the appearance of ‘The Western Star’ struck me at once. All goes well. Lord Yardly prepares to range himself—to settle down. And then comes the menace of the possible sale of the diamond. The substitution will be discovered. Without doubt she writes off frantically to Gregory Rolf who has just arrived in England. He soothes her by promising to arrange all—and prepares for a double robbery. In this way he will quiet the lady, who might conceivably tell all to her husband, an affair which would not suit our blackmailer at all, he will have £50,000 insurance money (aha, you had forgotten that!), and he will still have the diamond! At this point I put my fingers in the pie. The arrival of a diamond expert is announced. Lady Yardly, as I felt sure she would, immediately arranges a robbery—and does it very well too! But Hercule Poirot, he sees nothing but facts. What happens in actuality? The lady switches off the light, bangs the door, throws the necklace down the passage, and screams. She has already wrenched out the diamond with pliers


“But we saw the necklace round her neck!” I objected.

“I demand pardon, my friend. Her hand concealed the part of it where the gap would have shown. To place a piece of silk in the door beforehand is child’s play! Of course, as soon as Rolf read of the robbery, he arranged his own little comedy. And very well he played it!”

“What did you say to him?” I asked with lively curiosity.

“I said to him that Lady Yardly had told her husband all, that I was empowered to recover the jewel, and that if it were not immediately handed over proceedings would be taken. Also a few more little lies which occurred to me. He was as wax in my hands!”

I pondered the matter.

“It seems a little unfair on Mary Marvell. She has lost her diamond through no fault of her own.”

“Bah!” said Poirot brutally. “She has a magnificent advertisement. That is all she cares for, that one! Now the other, she is different. Bonne mère, très femme! ”

“Yes,” I said doubtfully, hardly sharing Poirot’s views on femininity. “I suppose it was Rolf who sent her the duplicate letters.”

“Pas du tout,” said Poirot briskly. “She came by the advice of Mary Cavendish to seek my aid in her dilemma. Then she heard that Mary Marvell, whom she knew to be her enemy, had been here, and she changed her mind jumping at a pretext that you, my friend, offered her. A very few questions sufficed to show me that you told her of the letters, not she you! She jumped at the chance your words offered.”

“I don’t believe it,” I cried, stung.

“Si, si, mon ami, it is a pity that you study not the psychology. She told you that the letters were destroyed? Oh, la la, never does a woman destroy a letter if she can avoid it! Not even if it would be more prudent to do so!”

“It’s all very well,” I said, my anger rising, “but you’ve made a perfect fool of me! From beginning to end! No, it’s all very well to try and explain it away afterwards. There really is a limit!”

“But you were so enjoying yourself, my friend, I had not the heart to shatter your illusions.”

“It’s no good. You’ve gone a bit too far this time.”

“Mon Dieu! but how you enrage yourself for nothing, mon ami! ”

“I’m fed up!” I went out, banging the door. Poirot had made an absolute laughingstock of me. I decided that he needed a sharp lesson. I would let some time elapse before I forgave him. He had encouraged me to make a perfect fool of myself.

HTML style by Stephen Thomas, University of Adelaide

Modified by Skip for ESL Bits English Language Learning