Murder on the Orient Express
Chapters 7–9, Part two
Count Andrenyi and Countess Andrenyi are summoned into the dining car for questioning, but only the Count appears. He tells Poirot that he can be of no service and both he and the Countess slept through the whole affair and heard nothing all evening. The Count is unaffected when Poirot reveals the identity of Ratchett. Mousier le Comte indicates he does not know the Armstrong family. The Count tells Poirot that he and the Countess retuned to Compartment No.13 after dinner and played piquet together until 11. At that time, the conductor made up his compartment and he went to sleep as well. Poirot insists on seeing the Countess, despite the Count's protestations. The Count gives Poirot his and the Countess's passports and there is a spot of grease on Elena's. The name on the Countess's passport is Elena Maria Goldenberg, she is age 20. On Poirot's request, the Count reluctantly returns with the Countess. She corroborates the Count's story and tells Poirot she never accompanied the Count to America. The Countess tells Poirot her husband smokes cigarettes and cigars. Her bathrobe is corn-colored chiffon.
Poirot calls Colonel Arbuthnot in for questioning. The Colonel tells Poirot he came from India to Syria to land, "for his own reasons." He tells Poirot he first met Miss Debenham on the train from Kirkuk to Nisibin, the same train the two shared with Poirot. Poirot asks for the Colonel's opinion of Miss Debenham. The Colonel responds, "She is a lady" and could not have been involved with the crime. The Colonel informs Poirot that the previous evening he had been up late talking with Hector McQueen about Indian politics. At Vincovci he and McQueen got out of the car, but quickly returned because of the cold. In McQueen's compartment the men had a smoke—the Colonel smoked a pipe. The only person he recalls passing the doorway was a woman who had a particular fruity scent. At about 2:45 he retired to his own compartment for bed. When he went to his compartment the conductor was at the end of the hallway. Arbuthnot also recalls the door of No. sixteen was cracked and a man was suspiciously peering out. When Arbuthnot approached, he quickly shut the door.
The man peeking out of compartment No.16, the American Mr. Hardman, is called in for questioning. He is the last of the first class passengers to be questioned. Hardman's passport says he is a traveling salesman selling typewriter ribbons, but when Poirot tells Hardman who he is Hardman reveals his true identity. His name is Cyrus B. Hardman and he works as a private detective for McNeil's Detective Agency in New York City. He was brought to Europe trailing several crooks, but was then hired by Ratchett as protection. Ratchett showed Hardman some threatening letters, he was sure someone wanted to murder him. Ratchett described his assailant as a small man, with dark skin and a womanish voice. Hardman was supposed to have the compartment directly next to Ratchett, but ended up in No. sixteen instead. He kept his door open to watch the hallway. Hardman saw no stranger pass in the Hallway the night Ratchett was killed Hardman is very surprised to hear Ratchett is Cassetti, the Armstrong kidnapper. He tells Poirot that he was out West when the whole case happened and probably would not even recognize Cassetti.
Christie has been criticized for the less-than-diverse social setting of her books. The majority of her mysteries examine the British upper-middle class society from which she, herself, came. Especially in her pre-war writing, she emphasizes the moneyed traveler and leisure class. Most of her characters have maids, butlers, gardeners and other such servants. The children have nurses and governesses. There are working class men and women in Christie's novels, but they typically play minor parts—usually finding the body or are murdered themselves.
The social setting of Murder on The Orient Express adheres to Christie's upper-middle class standard. There are working-class people on the train, but all were Armstrong servants. With the exception of Ms. Debenham, the servants have minor parts in the story and are generally weaker than the aristocratic characters. This is especially apparent as Poirot interviews each character. Princess Dragomiroff, Countess and Count Andrenyi, Mrs. Hubbard, Colonel Arbuthnot is all particularly strong while Antonio and Greta Van Ohlsson collapse into emotion and tears.
Greta Ohlsson is, perhaps, the prime example of this weakness. Even though she is trained, professional nurse, she cannot contain her emotion and caring for Daisy Armstrong. In her first interview with Poirot she almost makes it through the interview, but when Poirot mentions Daisy Armstrong she is visibly shaken with emotion and her eyes well with tears. This moment marks the beginning of Greta's decline throughout the novel. By the final scene, she is almost always crying. Antonio provides another example of weak emotion. When Poirot identifies him as the Armstrong's chauffer, he immediately angers, "It is a conspiracy. You are going to frame me?" and must tell Poirot what a wonderful child Daisy was. Antonio's voice softens and he begins to cry.
Poirot often speaks of English stiffness and resolve, which becomes the true distinguishing factor between classes on the train. For instance, Poirot knows that Colonel Arbuthnot knows Mary very well because the Colonel calls her by her first name. An Englishman would never call a lady by her first name unless they had known each other for a long while. Poirot also pokes fun at Mary Debenham's own coldness, which he finds both attractive and typical for an English woman. She is described as efficient, distanced and impersonal. When Mary enters in Part three, Chapter 8 she is defiant, her nostrils flared and suggesting a "gallant ship plunging into a rough sea." Mary only breaks into tears after being heavily questioned and prodded by Poirot. Colonel Arbuthnot remains strong. How long one can withstand showing emotion is a test of one's "English- ness" and certainly a gauge of one's class standing.
Like Colonel Arbuthnot, the aristocratic characters can contain their emotions more than the working class characters. It is no surprise that Linda Arden, the famous and terribly wealthy actress, concludes the book and calmly tells Poirot the details of their plot—she has the privilege of composure and poise. The train is a perfect place to see class difference. Especially with such a diverse crowd gathered, from all classes, all nationalities and all ages, we can clearly see the characteristics common to social class.
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