Agatha christie murder on the orient express part12
4. The Evidence of the American Lady
Mrs. Hubbard arrived in the dining-car in such a state of breathless excitement that she was hardly able to articulate her words.
“Now just tell me this-who’s in authority here? I’ve got some very important information,very important indeed, and I’m going to tell it to someone in authority just as soon as I can. If you gentlemen-”
Her wavering glance fluctuated between the three men. Poirot leaned forward.
“Tell it to me, Madame,” he said. “But first, pray be seated.”
Mrs. Hubbard plumped heavily down on to the seat opposite to him.
“What I’ve got to tell you is just this. There was a murder on the train last night, and the murderer wasright there in my compartment !”
She paused to give dramatic emphasis to her words.
“You are sure of this, Madame?”
“Of course I’m sure! The idea! I know what I’m talking about. I’ll tell you everything there is to tell. I’d gotten into bed and gone to sleep, and suddenly I woke up-everything was dark-and I knew there was a man in my compartment. I was just so scared I couldn’t scream, if you know what I mean. I just lay there and thought, ‘Mercy, I’m going to be killed!’ I just can’t describe to you how I felt. These nasty trains, I thought, and all the outrages I’d read of. And I thought, ‘Well, anyway, he won’t get my jewellery’-because, you see, I’d put that in a stocking and hidden it under my pillow-which isn’t any too comfortable, by the way; kinda bumpy, if you know what I mean. But that’s neither here nor there. Where was I?”
“You realised, Madame, that there was a man in your compartment.”
“Yes, well, I just lay there with my eyes closed, and wondered what I’d do. And I thought, well, I’m just thankful that my daughter doesn’t know the plight I’m in. And then, somehow, I got my wits about me and I felt about with my hand and I pressed the bell for the conductor. I pressed it and I pressed it, but nothing happened-and I can tell you, I thought my heart was going to stop beating. ‘Mercy,’ I said to myself, ‘maybe they’ve murdered every single soul on the train.’ It was at a standstill anyhow and there was a nasty quiet feel in the air. But I just went on pressing that bell and oh! the relief when I heard footsteps coming running down the corridor and a knock on the door! ‘Come in,’ I screamed, and I switched on the lights at the same time. And would you believe it, there wasn’t asoul there!”
This seemed to Mrs. Hubbard to be a dramatic climax rather than an anticlimax.
“And what happened next, Madame?”
“Why, I told the man what had happened and he didn’t seem to believe me. Seemed to imagine I’d dreamed the whole thing. I made him look under the seat, though he said there wasn’t room for a man to squeeze himself in there. It was plain enough that the man had got away-but therehad been a man there, and it just made me mad the way the conductor tried to soothe me down! I’m not one to imagine things, Mr.-I don’t think I know your name?”
“Poirot, Madame; and this is M. Bouc, a director of the company, and Dr. Constantine.”
Mrs. Hubbard murmured, “Pleased to meet you, I’m sure,” to all three of them in an abstracted manner and then plunged once more into her recital.
“Now I’m just not going to pretend I was as bright as I might have been. I got it into my head that it was the man from next door-the poor fellow who’s been killed.