5. The Christian Name of Princess Dragomiroff
When the Count and Countess had departed, Poirot looked across at the other two.
“You see,” he said “we make progress.”
“Excellent work,” said M. Bouc cordially. “On my part, I should never have dreamed of suspecting Count and Countess Andrenyi. I will admit I thought them quitehors de combat. I suppose there is no doubt that she committed the crime? It is rather sad. Still, they will not guillotine her. There are extenuating circumstances. A few years’ imprisonment-that will be all.”
“In fact you are quite certain of her guilt.”
“My dear friend-surely there is no doubt of it? I thought your reassuring manner was only to smooth things over till we are dug out of the snow and the police take charge.”
“You do not believe the Count’s positive assertion-on his word of honor-that his wife is innocent?”
“Mon cher – naturally-what elsecould he say? He adores his wife. He wants to save her! He tells his lie very well-quite in the grand seigneur manner. But what else than a lie could it be?”
“Well, you know, I had the preposterous idea that it might be the truth.”
“No, no. The handkerchief, remember. The handkerchief clinches the matter.”
“Oh, I am not so sure about the handkerchief. You remember, I always told you that there were two possibilities as to the ownership of the handkerchief.”
“All the same-“
M. Bouc broke off. The door at the end had opened, and Princess Dragomiroff entered the dining-car. She came straight to them and all three men rose to their feet.
She spoke to Poirot, ignoring the others.
“I believe, Monsieur,” she said, “that you have a handkerchief of mine.”
Poirot shot a glance of triumph at the other two.
“Is this it, Madame?”
He produced the little square of fine cambric.
“That is it. It has my initial in the corner.”
“But, Madame la Princesse, that is the letter H,” said M. Bouc. “Your Christian name-pardon me-is Natalia.”
She gave him a cold stare.
“That is correct, Monsieur. My handkerchiefs are always initialled in the Russian characters. H is N in Russian.”
M. Bouc was somewhat taken aback. There was something about this indomitable old lady which made him feel flustered and uncomfortable.
“You did not tell us that this handkerchief was yours at the inquiry this morning.”
“You did not ask me,” said the Princess drily.
“Pray be seated, Madame,” said Poirot.
She sighed. “I may as well, I suppose.” She sat down.
“You need not make a long business of this, Messieurs.”
Your next question will be-How did my handkerchief come to be lying by a murdered man’s body! My reply to that is that I have no idea.”
“You have really no idea?”
“You will excuse me, Madame, but how much can we rely upon the truthfulness of your replies?”
Poirot said the words very softly.
Princess Dragomiroff answered contemptuously. “I suppose you mean because I did not tell you that Helena Andrenyi was Mrs. Armstrong’s sister?”
“In fact you deliberately lied to us in the matter.”
“Certainly. I would do the same again. Her mother was my friend. I believe, Messieurs, in loyalty-to one’s friends and one’s family and one’s caste.”
“You do not believe in doing your utmost to further the ends of justice?”
“In this case I consider that justice-strict justice-has been done.”
Poirot leaned forward.
“You see my difficulty, Madame. In this matter of the handkerchief, even, am I to believe you?