Part 2, Chapter 11 Summary
The Evidence of Miss Debenham
Mary Hermione Debenham is a rather formidable woman and very neatly and properly dressed. She writes her address for Poirot as requested, and her writing is clear and legible. Debenham has little to tell her inquisitors, for she slept all night and heard nothing unusual.
Poirot asks her if she is distressed that a murder was committed on the train. Debenham is so surprised at the unexpected question that he repeats it. Upon reflection, Debenham says she is not distressed, although it was certainly an “unpleasant thing to have happen.”
Poirot is surprised that she does not show much emotion when he asks her impression of the murdered man. Debenham is dismissive of the question. The inspector remarks that she, like most English people, probably believes such an investigation should focus only on the facts.
Because he can see that Debenham will only talk about the facts, Poirot explains that he wants to ask her what she feels or thinks instead. To her, it seems like a waste of time to comment on a dead man.
Debenham knows Ratchett’s true identity as Mrs. Hubbard has been telling all the passengers, and Debenham thinks the Armstrong tragedy was abominable. She was traveling to London after acting as governess to two children in Baghdad but is not certain she will be returning after her holiday as she would rather find a position in London.
When Poirot suggests she will perhaps be getting married, Debenham clearly believes the inspector is being impertinent and does not respond. Poirot asks what Debenham thinks of Miss Ohlsson, the woman with whom she shares a compartment. Debenham says she is a pleasant woman; she also confirms that Ohlsson’s dressing gown is light brown and her own is mauve. She did, however, see someone in a scarlet kimono this morning at about five o’clock when she awoke and realized that train had been stopped for some time. Debenham looked out into the corridor and saw a woman wearing a shingle cap, “tallish and slim, wearing a scarlet kimono embroidered with dragons.”
None of this makes sense to Poirot, but he dismisses the woman. At the doorway, Debenham stops and tells Poirot that Ohlsson is worried that Poirot thinks she murdered Ratchett because she was perhaps the last one to see him alive. Debenham would like to assure Ohlsson that she is not a suspect.
Poirot reviews the key events of the murder and Ohlsson’s whereabouts before telling Debenham that Ohlsson is not a suspect. For the first time during the interview, Debenham smiles, saying Ohlsson is like a sheep that gets nervous and bleats. Having said very little, the English governess leaves.