5. The Evidence of the Swedish Lady
M. Bouc was handling the button that Mrs. Hubbard had left behind her.
“This button. I cannot understand it. Does it mean that after all, Pierre Michel is involved in some way?” he asked. He paused, then continued, as Poirot did not reply. “What have you to say, my friend?”
“That button, it suggests possibilities,” said Poirot thoughtfully. “Let us interview next the Swedish lady before we discuss the evidence that we have heard.”
He sorted through the pile of passports in front of him. “Ah! here we are. Greta Ohlsson, age forty-nine.”
M. Bouc gave directions to the restaurant attendant, and presently the lady with the yellowish grey bun of hair and the long, mild, sheep-like face was ushered in. She peered short-sightedly at Poirot through her glasses, but was quite calm.
It transpired that she understood and spoke French, so the conversation took place in that language. Poirot first asked her the questions to which he already knew the answers-her name, age, and address. He then asked her her occupation.
She was, she told him, matron in a missionary school near Stamboul. She was a trained nurse.
“You know, of course, of what took place last night, Mademoiselle?”
“Naturally. It is very dreadful. And the American lady tells me that the murderer was actually in her compartment.”
“I hear, Mademoiselle, that you were the last person to see the murdered man alive?”
“I do not know. It may be so. I opened the door of his compartment by mistake. I was much ashamed. It was a most awkward mistake.”
“You actually saw him?”
“Yes. He was reading a book. I apologised quickly and withdrew.”
“Did he say anything to you?”
A slight flush showed on the worthy lady’s cheek.
“He laughed and said a few
words. I-I did not quite catch them.”
“And what did you do after that, Mademoiselle?” asked Poirot, passing from the subject tactfully.
“I went in to the American lady, Mrs. Hubbard. I asked her for some aspirin and she gave it to me.”
“Did she ask you whether the communicating door between her compartment and that of Mr. Ratchett was bolted?”
“And was it?”
“And after that?”
“After that I went back to my compartment, took the aspirin, and lay down.”
“What time was all this?”
“When I got into bed it was five minutes to eleven. I know because I looked at my watch before I wound it up.”
“Did you go to sleep quickly?”
“Not very quickly. My head got better, but I lay awake some time.”
“Had the train come to a stop before you went to sleep?”
“I do not think so. We stopped, I think, at a station just as I was getting drowsy.”
“That would be Vincovci. Now your compartment, Mademoiselle, is this one?” He indicated it on the plan.
“That is so, yes.”
“You had the upper or the lower berth?”
“The lower berth, No. 10.”
“And you had a companion?’
“Yes, a young English lady. Very nice, very amiable. She had travelled from Baghdad.”
“After the train left Vincovci, did she leave the compartment?”
“No, I am sure she did not.”
“Why are you sure if you were asleep?”
“I sleep very lightly. I am used to waking at a sound. I am sure that if she had come down from the berth above I should have awakened.”
“Did you yourself leave the compartment?”
“Not until this morning.”
“Have you a scarlet silk kimono, Mademoiselle?”
“No, indeed. I have a good comfortable dressing-gown of Jaeger material.”