A Cry in the Night
The Simplon Orient Express arrived at Belgrade at a quarter to nine that evening. It was not due to depart again until 9.15, so Poirot descended to the platform. He did not, however, remain there long. The cold was bitter, and though the platform itself was protected, heavy snow was falling outside. He returned to his compartment. The conductor, who was on the platform stamping his feet and waving his arms to keep warm, spoke to him.
“Your valises have been moved, Monsieur. To the compartment No. 1, the compartment of M. Bouc.”
“But where is Monsieur Bouc, then?”
“He has moved into the coach from Athens which has just been put on.”
Poirot went in search of his friend. M. Bouc waved his protestations aside.
“It is nothing. It is nothing. It is more convenient like this. You are going through to England, so it is better that you should stay in the through coach to Calais. Me, I am very well here. It is most peaceful. This coach is empty save for myself and one little Greek doctor. Ah! my friend, what a night! They say there has not been so much snow for years. Let us hope we shall not be held up. I am not too happy about it, I can tell you.”
At 9.15 punctually the train pulled out of the station, and shortly afterwards Poirot got up, said good night to his friend, and made his way along the corridor back into his own coach which was in front next to the dining-car.
On this, the second day of the journey, barriers were breaking down. Colonel Arbuthnot was standing at the door of his compartment talking to MacQueen. When MacQueen saw Poirot he broke off something he was saying. He looked very much surprised.
“Why,” he cried, “I thought you’d left us. You said you were getting off at Belgrade.”
“You misunderstood me,” said Poirot, smiling. “I remember now, the train started from Stamboul just as
we were talking about it.”
“But, man, your baggage. It’s gone.”
“It has been moved into another compartment, that is all.”
“Oh! I see.”
He resumed his conversation with Arbuthnot, and Poirot passed on down the corridor.
Two doors from his own compartment, the elderly American, Mrs. Hubbard, was standing talking to the sheep-like lady, who was a Swede. Mrs. Hubbard was pressing a magazine on the other.
“No, do take it, my dear,” she said. “I’ve got plenty of other things to read. My, isn’t the cold something frightful?” She nodded amicably to Poirot.
“You are most kind,” said the Swedish lady.
“Not at all. I hope you’ll sleep well and that your head will be better in the morning.”
“It is the cold only. I make now myself a cup of tea.”
“Have you got some aspirin? Are you sure now? I’ve got plenty. Well, good night, my dear.”
She turned to Poirot conversationally as the other woman departed.
“Poor creature, she’s a Swede. As far as I can make out she’s a kind of missionary. A teaching one. A nice creature, but doesn’t talk much English. She wasmost interested in what I told her about my daughter.”
Poirot, by now, knew all about Mrs. Hubbard’s daughter. Everyone on the train who could understand English did! How she and her husband were on the staff of a big American college in Smyrna, and how this was Mrs. Hubbard’s first journey to the East, and what she thought of the Turks and their slipshod ways and the condition of their roads.
The door next to them opened and the thin pale manservant stepped out. Inside, Poirot caught a glimpse of Mr. Ratchett sitting up in bed.