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Murder on the Orient Express

Agatha Christie

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Murder on the Orient Express | Part 2, Chapter 6 : The Evidence (The Evidence of the Russian Princess) | Summary



Hercule Poirot tells Pierre Michel, the wagon-lit conductor, he has lost a button from his tunic, but Michel denies the button is his. Realizing he is a suspect, he insists upon his innocence. Two other conductors with whom he was speaking when Hubbard's bell rang confirm Michel's statement.

Everyone seems perplexed, but Poirot states it is "a question of time." He explains the conductor did not come right away when the bell rang. Instead he probably only heard the bell on its third or fourth ring. By the time the conductor entered the coach, the murderer had had ample time to slip out of Hubbard's door and return to their own compartment or hide in a toilet. Bouc is pleased with this explanation and declares it fits, but Poirot reminds him "it is not quite so simple as that" and states the doctor will tell him so.

Princess Dragomiroff then comes to the dining car for her interview. She may look like a toad to some, readers learn, but she has imperious eyes revealing a strong intellectual force. Poirot asks her to write her full name and address, but she tells him he can write it because "there is nothing difficult" about it. He asks her where she is traveling from and to give a brief account of her movements of the night before, from dinner on. She states she retired to her bed after dinner and read until about 11:00 p.m. She was unable to fall asleep, so she rang for her maid, Hildegarde Schmidt, around 12:45 a.m. The maid gave her a massage and read to her for about half an hour. The train had stopped by the time Schmidt left, and Dragomiroff heard nothing unusual while her maid was with her.

Poirot asks questions about Schmidt and learns she has been with Dragomiroff for 15 years and is considered highly trustworthy; "her people" come from a German estate of her late husband's. He asks if she has ever been in America and learns she has been many times and knows members of the Armstrong family. She was godmother to Sonia Armstrong, Daisy Armstrong's mother, and is a close friend of Linda Arden, Sonia's mother. She tells Poirot that Arden is alive but lives in seclusion due to frail health. Sonia had a younger sister, but Dragomiroff is unaware of her whereabouts and thinks she married an Englishman and is living in England. She asks Poirot why he wants to know about the Armstrongs, and he tells her the murdered man was responsible for the Armstrong kidnapping and murder. Dragomiroff expresses satisfaction with Ratchett's murder, calling it "an entirely admirable happening." Poirot concludes his questioning by asking her the color of her dressing gown. It is blue, not scarlet.

Dragomiroff then asks Poirot his name. He informs her, and she says, "I remember now. This is Destiny." Without further comment, she leaves.


M. Bouc's questioning of the conductors provides new information. It shows there likely was a time lapse between the time Mrs. Hubbard rang the bell and when Pierre Michel responded. Once again Bouc is quick to jump to conclusions, readily accepting Hercule Poirot's description of how the murderer may have left Samuel Ratchett's compartment and escaped detection. But Poirot was merely hypothesizing, not stating what definitively happened. He has not yet interviewed everyone and knows he does not have all the facts, so he is not willing to draw any conclusions. The questioning also gives the three conductors alibis. Although Michel is under suspicion due to the found button, two people confirm he was with them at the time Hubbard allegedly saw a man in her compartment.

Unlike the other characters who have been interviewed so far, Princess Dragomiroff reveals she is not so pliant nor easily intimidated. She refuses to write her address for Poirot, telling him to do it himself. She easily expresses her opinion of Ratchett's murder without acting as if her admission creates suspicion of her. And she boldly asks Poirot his name and makes a cryptic comment about destiny. Poirot is puzzled by her comment, suggesting she is his intellectual match. Dragomiroff evidently knows of Poirot's reputation. Does she fear what he will discover, or does she have confidence he will do the right thing with the information?

Dragomiroff has a strong motivation if she is the killer. She is a close friend of the murdered child's grandmother and was her mother's godmother. Yet her class status seems to exempt her from suspicion, unlike Pierre Michel, who readily comes under suspicion when a button is found. As with her maid, her association with the aristocracy seems to establish her good character—though of course readers will continue to suspect her nevertheless.

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