Part 2, Chapter 12 Summary
The Evidence of the German Lady’s-Maid
Poirot explains to Bouc that he was trying to find some flaw in Miss Debenham’s calmness. Both Bouc and Doctor Constantine are shocked that Poirot might suspect such a charming, unemotional woman of committing such a crime of passion.
The inspector begs the men to rid themselves of the notion that this was an “unpremeditated and sudden crime.” He suspects Debenham because of something he overheard earlier in his journey, which he now shares with them. If what he heard is true, both Debenham and Colonel Arbuthnot committed the crime; however, they do not provide one another an alibi. Debenham’s alibi is provided by a Swedish woman she does not know, and Macqueen provides Arbuthnot’s alibi.
The other reason Poirot suspects Debenham is that she has the kind of “cool, intelligent, resourceful brain” required to plan such a murder. Bouc still does not believe Debenham could have done it.
The last passenger to be interviewed is Hildegarde Schmidt, the lady’s-maid. The respectable, although perhaps not overly bright, woman waits patiently for Poirot to question her after he asks her to write her name and address; the interview is conducted in German.
Schmidt’s mistress often sent for her on nights when she could not sleep. Last night the maid cared for the Princess for about half an hour before returning to her own compartment. She saw no one but the conductor, who emerged from a compartment several doors away from the Princess’s and nearly collided with Schmidt. He passed her and continued down the corridor toward the dining car. She remembers a bell ringing, but the conductor did not answer it.
Poirot assures her that the conductor simply had many tasks to perform last night. Schmidt tells him it was not the same conductor who woke her at the Princess’s request, although she would recognize him if she saw him. Poirot whispers a request to Bouc, who goes to the door to give an order.
Schmidt has never been to America but has heard that Ratchett was responsible for a child’s death. The woman is moved to tears at the thought of such an abominable act, and Poirot offers her the monogrammed handkerchief from the murder scene, hoping she might claim it as her own. The maid hesitates when Poirot asks if it is hers, and she reddens a bit. It is a lady’s handkerchief, hand-embroidered and probably from Paris. Poirot asks pointedly if it is hers or if she knows whose it is. Only Poirot notices the hesitation before she exclaims that she knows nothing about it.
Bouc brings the three sleeping-car conductors into the dining car. None of them is the conductor Schmidt saw in the corridor last night. These men are all big and tall; the man she saw was small and dark with a little mustache—and when he said “pardon,” his voice was “weak, like a woman.”