4. The Grease Spot on a Hungarian Passport
Poirot shared a table with M. Bouc and the doctor.
The company assembled in the restaurant car was a very subdued one. They spoke little. Even the loquacious Mrs. Hubbard was unnaturally quiet. She murmured as she sat:
“I don’t feel as though I had the heart to eat anything,” and then partook of everything offered her, encouraged by the Swedish lady who seemed to regard her as a special charge.
Before the meal was served, Poirot had caught the chief attendant by the sleeve and murmured something to him. Constantine made a pretty good guess as to what the instructions had been when he noticed that the Count and Countess Andrenyi were always served last and that at the end of the meat there was a delay in making out their bill. It therefore came about that the Count and Countess were the last left in the restaurant car.
When they rose at length and moved in the direction of the door, Poirot sprang up and followed them.
“Pardon, Madame, you have dropped your handkerchief.”
He was holding out to her the tiny monogrammed square.
She took it, glanced at it, then handed it back to him. “You are mistaken, Monsieur, that is not my handkerchief.”
“Not your handkerchief? Are you sure?”
“Perfectly sure, Monsieur.”
“And yet, Madame, it has your initial-the initial H.”
The Count made a sudden movement. Poirot ignored him. His eyes were fixed on the Countess’s face.
Looking steadily at him she replied:
“I do not understand, Monsieur. My initials are E. A.”
“I think not. Your name is Helena-not Elena. Helena Goldenberg, the younger daughter of Linda Arden-Helena Goldenberg, the sister of Mrs. Armstrong.”
There was a dead silence for a minute or two. Both the Count and the Countess had gone deadly white.
Poirot said in a gentler tone:
“It is of no use denying. That is the truth, is it not?”
The Count burst out furiously, “I demand, Monsieur, by what right you-“
She interrupted him, putting up a small hand towards his mouth.
“No, Rudolph. Let me speak. It is useless to deny what this gentleman says. We had better sit down and talk the matter out.”
Her voice had changed. It still had the southern richness of tone, but it had become suddenly more clear cut and incisive. It was, for the first time, a definitely American voice.
The Count was silenced. He obeyed the gesture of her hand and they both sat down opposite Poirot.
“Your statement, Monsieur, is quite true,” said the Countess. “I am Helena Goldenberg, the younger sister of Mrs. Armstrong.”
“You did not acquaint me with that fact this morning, Madame la Comtesse.”
“In fact, all that your husband and you told me was a tissue of lies.”
“Monsieur!” cried the Count angrily.
“Do not be angry, Rudolph. M. Poirot puts the fact rather brutally, but what he says is undeniable.”
“I am glad you admit the fact so freely, Madame. Will you now tell me your reasons for that, and also for altering your Christian name on your passport?”
“That was my doing entirely,” put in the Count.
Helena said quietly: “Surely, M. Poirot, you can guess my reason-our reason. This man who was killed is the man who murdered my baby niece, who killed my sister, who broke my brother-in-law’s heart. Three of the people I loved best and who made up my home-my world!”
Her voice rang out passionately. She was a true daughter of that mother the emotional force of whose acting had moved huge audiences to tears.
She went on more quietly.