13. Summary of the Passengers’ Evidence
“A small dark man with a womanish voice,” said M. Bouc.
The three conductors and Hildegarde Schmidt had been dismissed.
M. Bouc made a despairing gesture. “But I understand nothing-but nothing, of all of this! The enemy that this Ratchett spoke of, he was then on the train after all? But where is he now? How can he have vanished into thin air? My head, it whirls. Say something, then, my friend, I implore you. Show me how the impossible can be possible!”
“It is a good phrase that,” said Poirot. “The impossible cannot have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances.”
“Explain to me, then, quickly, what actually happened on the train last night.”
“I am not a magician, mon cher. I am, like you, a very puzzled man. This affair advances in a very strange manner.”
“It does not advance at all. It stays where it was.”
Poirot shook his head. “No, that is not true. We are more advanced. We know certain things. We have heard the evidence of the passengers.”
“And what has that told us? Nothing at all.”
“I would not say that, my friend.”
“I exaggerate, perhaps. The American Hardman, and the German maid-yes, they have added something to our knowledge. That is to say, they have made the whole business more unintelligible than it was.”
“No, no, no,” said Poirot soothingly.
M. Bouc turned upon him. “Speak, then, let us hear the wisdom of Hercule Poirot.”
“Did I not tell you that I was, like you, a very puzzled man? But at least we can face our problem. We can arrange such facts as we have with order and method.”
“Pray continue, Monsieur,” said Dr. Constantine.
Poirot cleared his throat and straightened a piece of blotting-paper.
“Let us review the case as it stands at this moment. First, there are certain indisputable facts. This man, Ratchett or Cassetti, was stabbed in twelve places and died last night. That is fact one.”
“I grant it you-I grant it, mon vieux,” said M. Bouc with a gesture of irony.
Hercule Poirot was not at all put out. He continued calmly.
“I will pass over for the moment certain rather peculiar appearances which Dr. Constantine and I have already discussed together. I will come to them presently. The next fact of importance, to my mind, is thetime of the crime.”
“That, again, is one of the few things we do know,” said M. Bouc. “The crime was committed at a quarter past one this morning. Everything goes to show that that was so.”
“Noteverything. You exaggerate. There is, certainly, a fair amount of evidence to support that view.”
“I am glad you admit that at least.”
Poirot went on calmly, unperturbed by the interruption. “We have before us three possibilities.
“(1)-that the crime was committed, as you say, at a quarter past one. This is supported by the evidence of the watch, by the evidence of Mrs. Hubbard, and by the evidence of the German woman, Hildegarde Schmidt. It agrees with the evidence of Dr. Constantine.
“(2)-that the crime was committedlater, and that the evidence of the watch was deliberately faked in order to mislead.
“(3)-that the crime was committedearlier, and the evidence faked for the same reason as above.
“Now if we accept possibility (1) as the most likely to have occurred, and the one supported by most evidence, we must also accept certain facts arising from it. If the crime was committed at a quarter past one, the murderer cannot have left the train, and the questions arise: Where is he? Andwho is he?