Part 3, Chapter 4 Summary
The Grease Spot on the Hungarian Passport
Poirot, Bouc, and Constantine share a table at dinner; the rest of the passengers are subdued. Even Hubbard, the most loquacious and dramatic woman, is oddly quiet.
Poirot quickly asks the chief attendant to serve the Andrenyis last so they will be the last to leave the dining car. When the couple is finally walking out the door, Poirot hurries to follow them and claims the Countess dropped her handkerchief. The young woman looks at it but says the inspector must be mistaken. Poirot insists it must belong to her since her name is Helena Goldenberg and she is the daughter of Linda Arden and younger sister to Sonia Armstrong.
For a moment there is silence and the couple turns “deathly white.” Before the Count gets too upset, she says (in a suddenly more American voice) they will tell Poirot everything. She admits that everything Poirot said is true and that both she and her husband lied to him. They only did so because they discovered that Ratchett was the awful man responsible for the deaths of the three people Helena loved most. The Andrenyis knew Helena would have the greatest motive of anyone on the train, but she swears now that she did not kill Ratchett, although she has often been tempted to do so.
The Count admits to placing the grease spot in their passport strategically; the only thing he did not lie to the inspector about was his wife’s whereabouts last night. Poirot seems to believe them both.
The handkerchief is not Helena’s, although it is similar to some she owns; the couple heard that this handkerchief had been found at the murder scene and so both tried to eradicate any evidence of the Countess’s real name. The Count was deathly afraid that his wife would end up in prison for murder and felt he had no choice but to deceive Poirot.
Now Poirot asks for Helena’s help, reminding her of the “indirect victim” of the Armstrong tragedy. Susanne, the nurse-maid, had inadvertently and idly given information to the kidnappers regarding the child’s outings, and so she felt responsible for what happened to young Daisy. All Helena remembers is that the woman was French and a “pretty, laughing girl.” The nurse was named Stengelberg, a trained hospital nurse, devoted both to Daisy and Sonia Armstrong.
Poirot asks Helena if anyone on the train seems familiar to her, even someone who might have changed appearances since that time. She says no, although she does recall having a governess named Miss Freebody who also served as Sonia’s secretary. She was a red-haired Scotch woman. Helena insists that no one on the train seems familiar to her.