The Lemesurier Inheritance is a short story, written by Agatha Christie which was first published in The Sketch in December 1923 in the U.K. It was published in the U.S. in The Blue Book Magazine in November 1925. In 1951, the story appeared as part of the anthology The Underdog and Other Stories published in the U.S. In the U.K., the story was anthologized and published as part of Poirot's Early Cases in 1974.
Poirot and Hastings are dining with a friend Captain Vincent Lemesurier and his uncle Hugo when news arrives that Vincent's father is taken ill and dying. Vincent appears shocked and upset and rushes off. The next day, Vincent is found dead, having fallen off a train. A relative explains to Poirot and Hastings that there is a family curse at work.
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Sometime during the latter days of the First World War, having recently met up again at Styles, Hercule Poirot and Hastings have dined at the Carlton when they meet Captain Vincent Lemesurier, who Hastings knew in France. He is there with his uncle Hugo when a cousin of theirs called Roger rushes in with the news that Vincent's father has had a serious fall from a horse and is not expected to last the night. Vincent and Uncle Hugo rush off leaving Roger with Poirot and Hastings.
Hastings is surprised that Vincent had turned deadly pale and appeared shocked by the news. He knew that Vincent and his father were never particularly close. Roger explains that it is partially due to the fact that the Lemesurier curse has struck again and informs the two of the fate which hangs over the family. The story dates from medieval times when an ancestor suspected his wife of being unfaithful and his young child of not being his own. In a fit of rage he killed them both – possibly by walling them up alive. His wife cursed him before she died that no first-born son of his descendants would ever inherit. After her death, her husband discovered that she was entirely innocent and spent the remainder of his days in absolute repentance. Nevertheless, the curse has come true time and again over the centuries.
The next day, Poirot and Hastings learn that Vincent himself died when falling from the train on the way to see his dying father. His death is put down to a mental breakdown, on top of the shell-shock he suffered on the western front. Over the next few years all of Vincent's uncles except for Hugo die, leaving the latter the inheritor of the family estate.
One morning, Poirot receives a visit from Hugo's wife. She is an American and a former actress and doesn't believe in the curse however she is concerned about the elder of her two young sons, Ronald, who is eight. He has had three narrow escapes from death in the past few months. One of them was when the boy was climbing up some ivy on the wall of their home and it supposedly collapsed under his weight, however she saw for herself that the branch had previously been cut. In the house are Roger Lemesurier, who seems to have survived the curse over the years, the children's governess and Mr Lemesurier's secretary, John Gardiner. Poirot and Hastings travel to the home in Northumberland and remake their acquaintance of Hugo. He has aged badly over the years since they last met; believing implicitly that his son is doomed. He also tells Poirot that he soon will die as he has an incurable disease. Poirot and Hastings also meet the other people in the house.
Several days later, Ronald is stung by a bee and Poirot is immediately concerned. He tells Hastings not to go to sleep but to keep a hidden vigil with him in Ronald's room. Quicker than expected, a figure creeps into the darkened bedroom and is about to inject the young boy when Poirot and Hastings overpower him. It is Hugo, the boy's father, driven insane by the curse and his actions over the past few years in murdering his brothers to gain the estate. Hugo dies in an asylum some months afterwards. Mrs Lemesurier marries John Gardiner whom Poirot suspects is Ronald's real father, bearing in mind the similarity of their hair colour.
- Hercule Poirot
- Captain Hastings
- Captain Vincent Lemesurier
- Hugo Lemesurier
- Major Roger Lemesurier
- Ronald Lemesurier
- John Lemesurier
- Mrs Sadie Lemesurier
- Ronald Lemesurier Jr.
- Gerald Lemesurier
- Miss Saunders
- John Gardiner
- Lady Claygate
Film, TV, or theatrical versions
Agatha Christie's Poirot
The story was not adapted as an episode for the ITV series Agatha Christie's Poirot, one of the few not to have been so treated. A character by the name of "Lucinda Lemesurier" occurs in the film adaptation of "The Labours of Hercules" as a form of homage to this story but the link is tenuous.
- 1923 The Sketch, Issue 1612 (London), 18 December 1923
- 1925 The Blue Book Magazine, Vol. 42 No. 1 (Chicago), November 1925
- 1951 The Underdog and Other Stories, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1951, Hardback, 248 pp
- 1974, Poirot's Early Cases, Collins Crime Club (London), September 1974, Hardcover, 256 pp; ISBN 0-00-231312-X