14. The Evidence of the Weapon
With more vigour than chivalry, A Bouc deposited the fainting lady with her head on the table. Dr. Constantine yelled for one of the restaurant attendants, who came at a run.
“Keep her head so,” said the doctor. “If she revives give her a little cognac. You understand?”
Then he hurried off after the other two. His interest lay wholly in the crime-swooning middle-aged ladies did not interest him at all.
It is possible that Mrs. Hubbard revived rather more quickly by these methods than she might otherwise have done. A few minutes later she was sitting up, sipping cognac from a glass proffered by the attendant, and talking once more.
“I just can’t tell you how terrible it was! I don’t suppose anybody on this train can understand my feelings. I’ve always been very, very sensitive ever since I was a child. The mere sight of blood-ugh! Why, even now I get faint when I think about it!”
The attendant proffered the glass again. “Encore un peu, Madame?”
“D’you think I’d better? I’m a lifelong teetotaller. I never touch spirits or wine at any time. All my family are abstainers. Still, perhaps as this is only medicinal-“
She sipped once more.
In the meantime Poirot and M. Bouc, closely followed by Dr. Constantine, had hurried out of the restaurant car and along the corridor of the Stamboul coach towards Mrs. Hubbard’s compartment.
Every traveller on the train seemed to be congregated outside the door. The conductor, a harassed look on his face, was keeping them back.
“Mais il n’y a rien avoir,” he said, and repeated the sentiment in several other languages.
“Let me pass if you please,” said M. Bouc.
Squeezing his rotundity past the obstructing passengers he entered the compartment, Poirot close behind him.
“I am glad you have
come, Monsieur,” said the conductor with a sigh of relief. “Everyone has been trying to enter. The American lady-such screams as she gave-ma foi, I thought she too had been murdered! I came at a run, and there she was screaming like a mad woman; and she cried out that she must fetch you, and she departed screeching at the top of her voice and telling everybody whose carriage she passed what had occurred.”
He added, with a gesture of the hand: “It is in there, Monsieur. I have not touched it.”
Hanging on the handle of the door that gave access to the next compartment was a large-checked rubber sponge-bag. Below it on the floor, just where it had fallen from Mrs. Hubbard’s hand, was a straight-bladed dagger-a cheap affair, sham Oriental with an embossed hilt and a tapering blade. The blade was stained with patches of what looked like rust.
Poirot picked it up delicately.
“Yes,” he murmured. “There is no mistake. Here is our missing weapon all right-eh, doctor?”
The doctor examined it.
“You need not be so careful,” said Poirot. “There will be no fingerprints on it save those of Mrs. Hubbard.” Constantine’s examination did not take long.
“It is the weapon all right,” he said. “It would account for any of the wounds.”
“I implore you, my friend, do not say that!” The doctor looked astonished.
“Already we are heavily overburdened by coincidence. Two people decided to stab M. Ratchett last night. It is too much of a good thing that both of them should select the same weapon.”
“As, to that, the coincidence is not perhaps so great as it seems,” said the doctor. “Thousands of these sham Eastern daggers are made and shipped to the bazaars of Constantinople.”