The Mysterious Affair at Styles
1. I Go to Styles
The intense interest aroused in the public by what was known at the time as "The
Styles Case" has now somewhat subsided. Nevertheless, in view of the world-
wide notoriety which attended it, I have been asked, both by my friend Poirot and
the family themselves, to write an account of the whole story. This, we trust, will
effectually silence the sensational rumours which still persist.
I will therefore briefly set down the circumstances which led to my being
connected with the affair.
I had been invalided home from the Front; and, after spending some months in a
rather depressing Convalescent Home, was given a month's sick leave. Having
no near relations or friends, I was trying to make up my mind what to do, when I
ran across John Cavendish. I had seen very little of him for some years. Indeed, I
had never known him particularly well. He was a good fifteen years my senior, for
one thing, though he hardly looked his forty-five years. As a boy, though, I had
often stayed at Styles, his mother's place in Essex.
We had a good yarn about old times, and it ended in his inviting me down to
Styles to spend my leave there.
"The mater will be delighted to see you again--after all those years," he added.
"Your mother keeps well?" I asked.
"Oh, yes. I suppose you know that she has married again?"
I am afraid I showed my surprise rather plainly. Mrs. Cavendish, who had married
John's father when he was a widower with two sons, had been a handsome
woman of middle-age as I remembered her. She certainly could not be a day less
than seventy now. I recalled her as an energetic, autocratic personality,
somewhat inclined to charitable and social notoriety, with a fondness for opening
bazaars and playing the Lady Bountiful. She was a most generous woman, and
possessed a considerable fortune of her own.
Their country-place, Styles Court, had been purchased by Mr. Cavendish early in
their married life. He had been completely under his wife's ascendancy, so much
so that, on dying, he left the place to her for her lifetime, as well as the larger part
of his income; an arrangement that was distinctly unfair to his two sons. Their
step-mother, however, had always been most generous to them; indeed, they
were so young at the time of their father's remarriage that they always thought of
her as their own mother.
Lawrence, the younger, had been a delicate youth. He had qualified as a doctor
but early relinquished the profession of medicine, and lived at home while
pursuing literary ambitions; though his verses never had any marked success.
John practiced for some time as a barrister, but had finally settled down to the
more congenial life of a country squire. He had married two years ago, and had
taken his wife to live at Styles, though I entertained a shrewd suspicion that he
would have preferred his mother to increase his allowance, which would have
enabled him to have a home of his own. Mrs. Cavendish, however, was a lady
who liked to make her own plans, and expected other people to fall in with them,
and in this case she certainly had the whip hand, namely: the purse strings.