He found it difficult to go to sleep again at once. For one thing, he missed the motion of the train. If it was a station outside it was curiously quiet. By contrast, the noises on the train seemed unusually loud. He could hear Ratchett moving about next door – a click as he pulled down the washbasin, the sound of the tap running, a splashing noise, then another click as the basin shut to again.1footsteps passed up the corridor outside, the shuffling footsteps of someone in bedroom slippers.
Hercule Poirot lay awake staring at the ceiling. Why was the station outside so silent? His throat felt dry. He had forgotten to ask for his usual bottle of mineral water. He looked at his watch again. Just after a quarter past one.2He would ring for the conductor and ask him for some mineral water. His finger went out to the bell, but he paused as in the stillness he heard a ting. The man couldn’t answer every bell at once.
It sounded again and again. Where was the man? Somebody was getting impatient.
Whoever it was was keeping their finger solidly on the push.
Suddenly with a rush, his footsteps echoing up the aisle,4 the man came. He knocked at a door not far from Poirot’s own.
Then came voices – the conductor’s, deferential, apologetic, and a woman’s – insistent and voluble.5
Poirot smiled to himself.
The altercation – if it was one- went on for some time. It’s proportions were ninety per cent of Mrs. Hubbard’s to a soothing ten per cent of the conductor’s. Finally the matter seemed to be adjusted. Poirot heard distinctly:
“bonne Nuit, Madame,” and a closing door.
He pressed his own finger on the bell.
The conductor arrived promptly. He looked hot and worried.
“De l’eau minerale, s’il vous plait.”
Bien, Monsieur.” Perhaps a twinkle in Poirot’s eye led him to unburden himself.
“La Dame Americaine – ”
He wiped his forehead.
“Imagine to yourself the time I have had with her! She insits – but insists – 6 that there is a man in her compartment! figure to yourself, Monsieur. In a space of this size.” He swept a hand round. “Where would he conceal himself? I argue with her I point out that it is impossible. She insists. She woke up and there was a man there. And how, I ask, did he get out and leave the door bolted behind him? But she will not listen to reason. As though, there were not enough to worry us already. This snow -”