Part 3, Chapter 7 Summary
The Identity of Mary Debenham
Mary Debenham arrives at the dining car in an aura of beautiful defiance. Her eyes move to Colonel Arbuthnot for just a moment before she addresses Poirot. He tells her he wants to know why she lied to him this morning, why she did not tell him she was living with the Armstrongs at the time of the kidnapping or that she had been to America. Since Poirot has discovered the truth, Debenham admits the truth.
Her explanation for lying is simple: she still has to earn her living. A governess must maintain an impeccable reputation, and no Englishwoman would ever hire someone whose name, and perhaps whose photograph, had been published in connection to a scandal such as the Armstrong kidnapping. It is not a fear of blame but a fear of publicity that motivated her, and she was unwilling to risk such exposure.
Poirot wonders if the governess recognized Countess Andrenyi as Helena, Sonia’s younger sister. Debenham did not know her and is surprised to know she is here. Although Poirot asks gently about the conversation he overheard, Debenham still will not reveal her secret.
Suddenly she lays her head “face down on her outstretched arms” and cries. Arbuthnot angrily calls Poirot a scoundrel and Debenham leaves, ashamed that she has shown such weakness and made a fool of herself. Arbuthnot follows her after again threatening Poirot; the inspector is amused at the Englishman’s emotional outburst.
Bouc is amazed at Poirot’s “miraculous guess” regarding Debenham. Poirot explains his reasoning. He surmised that if Debenham was part of the murder investigation, she had to have been part of the Armstrong household. Debenham does not resemble the Miss Freebody Helena remembers because she had to reinvent herself quickly after the kidnapping notoriety. Poirot remembered a London shop called Debenham and Freebody and assumed the governess chose the name quickly from that shop.
Bouc is still angry that everyone on the train continues to lie.