Study Guide

Murder on the Orient Express Part 2, Chapter 8

By Agatha Christie

Part 2, Chapter 8

The Evidence of Colonel Arbuthnot

  • Poirot moves on to interview another one of the first class passengers: Colonel Arbuthnot. Arbuthnot is a man of "true British brevity" (2.8.6). That is, he answers with yes's and no's.
  • Here's the rundown:
    • He is coming home on leave from England on a train, not the usual boat. Why? Reasons of his own, he says.
    • He stopped in Baghdad for three days. He claims not to have known Mary Debenham until the train.
    • Poirot asks his opinion of Mary Debenham, and says the crime was probably committed by a woman. (Yep, he's trying to push the Colonel's buttons.) Arbuthnot gets a little worked up and says the idea is absurd.
    • As for his actions last night, he tells the same story as MacQueen: the two of them were discussing Indian politics. Though the Colonel generally doesn't like Americans, he's made an exception for MacQueen.
    • Colonel Arbuthnot went to bed around 2 in the morning. MacQueen called the conductor as Arbuthnot left for his compartment.
    • He did get off with MacQueen at the Vincovi stop, but briefly, because of the blizzard.
    • Back in the compartment, he did indeed smoke a pipe. A pipe!
    • Did he see anyone pass by? No, he did not see anyone. He smelled a woman, though. He knows because it reminded him of the plight of women in Russia.
    • Arbuthnot has never been to America, but admits to knowing Colonel Toby Armstrong, Daisy Armstrong's father.
    • He says that if Ratchett was Cassetti, then he got what he deserved.
    • He also mentions something interesting: "trial by jury is a sound system" (2.8.90).
    • Arbuthnot mentions that he noticed that the door beyond his, No. 16, had a man peeping out of it when he got back to his compartment. The man looked suspicious.
    • Before he goes, Colonel Arbuthnot also mentions that Miss Debenham is a "pukka sahib." Poirot explains that this means her father and Colonel Arbuthnot's father went to same kind of school. But wait… aren't they not supposed to know each other?
  • Poirot and M. Bouc agree that, although they have a clue that points to Colonel Arbuthnot, he doesn't fit the crime. Each crime has a "signature" (2.8.121), Poirot tells us, and this one does not have Arbuthnot's.

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