The Veiled Lady is a short story by Agatha Christie which was first published in The Sketch in October 1923 in the U.K. In the U.S., the story was first published in The Blue Book Magazine also in March 1925. The story was gathered and included in the U.S. edition of the collection Poirot Investigates published by Dodd, Mead and Company in the U.S. in 1925. In 1946 it appeared as part of the collection Poirot Lends a Hand, now extremely rare. In 1974 the story was included in Poirot's Early Cases.
Hercule Poirot is approached by a heavily veiled lady who asks him to help deal with a blackmailer.
(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)
Hercule Poirot is bored with the lack of interesting cases which come his way, telling Hastings that the criminals of England fear him too much and he dismisses the suggestion that most of them don't even know that he exists. Captain Hastings remembers a recent matter in which a jeweller's shop window in Bond Street was broken and a perpetrator, despite being quickly arrested, only having paste copies of the six stolen stones on him, he having immediately passed the real jewels onto an accomplice. He suggests this as a case of interest but Poirot feels that although the matter was well-planned, it was not of real interest.
It is then that they receive a visitor: a heavily veiled lady. She reveals that she is Lady Millicent Castle Vaughan whose engagement to the Duke of Southshire has recently been announced. During the war, she wrote a letter to a man who was subsequently killed and this letter, whose contents could be misinterpreted, has fallen into the hands of a Mr Lavington, a blackmailer who is demanding twenty thousand pounds for its return, a sum she can in no way afford. She tells him that she went to Lavington's house in Wimbledon to plead with him but it was useless. He showed her that the letter was kept in a Chinese puzzle box but he told her that this was secreted in a place that she could never find it. Lavington calls on Poirot at his invitation but laughs at his request to return the letter, saying that he will reduce his demand to eighteen thousand pounds and Lady Millicent has until Tuesday when he returns from Paris to find the sum. Stung by this rebuke, Poirot decides that the only course of action is to sneak into Lavington's house. He calls there in the morning, knowing that the owner is away and presents himself to the housekeeper as a man recommended by Scotland Yard who can fix burglar-proof locks on the window. He then uses the opportunity to leave the window unfastened and he and Hastings return that night. After a long search, they find the puzzle box hidden within a joined-together log of wood in the coal-bin.
The next day Lady Millicent calls for the letter. Delighted, she asks for the puzzle box as a souvenir but Poirot is too quick for her and prevents her taking it. In another compartment in the box are the six missing jewels from the Bond Street robbery. Japp appears from another room and recognised the lady as "Gertie", an accomplice of Lavington, whose real name is Reed, who was attempting to double-cross his fellow gang members and who was killed in Holland a day or so before. The gang members knew that both the jewels and the bogus letter were kept in the puzzle box and decided to use Poirot to retrieve it. Japp takes the lady away and Poirot tells an astonished Hastings that it was the cheap shoes she was wearing that made him suspicious that she wasn't who she pretended to be. Poirot points out that a woman of Lady Millicent's class might dress shoddily but would never be seen wearing low-quality shoes. Poirot is pleased to point out that not only do the criminals of England know him, they try to use him when their own efforts come to nothing!
Film, TV, or theatrical versions
Agatha Christie's Poirot
A television film with David Suchet as Poirot was produced as episode 2 of Series 2 of the ITV series Agatha Christie's Poirot, first broadcast on 14 January 1990. The adaptation is fairly faithful to the original story.
- 1923: The Sketch, Issue 1601 (London), 3 October 1923, as "The Case of the Veiled Lady".
- 1925: The Blue Book Magazine, Vol. 40 No. 5 (Chicago), March 1925
- 1925: Poirot Investigates, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1925
- 1946: Poirot Lends a Hand, Polybooks (London and New York), 1946
- 1954: Nero Wolfe Mystery Magazine, vol. 1 no. 1, Jan 1954.
- 1961: Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, vol. 37 no. 3, whole no. 208, Mar 1961, as "The Chinese Puzzle Box".
- 1961: Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine (Australia), no. 167, May 1961, as "The Chinese Puzzle Box".
- 1961: Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine (UK), no. 103, Aug 1961, as "The Chinese Puzzle Box".
- 1974: Poirot's Early Cases, Collins Crime Club (London), September 1974, Hardcover, 256 pp; ISBN 0-00-231312-X