Mrs. Allerton, in a black evening gown, goes down to the steamer’s dining room, where she meets her son, Tim, at the door. She reveals to Tim that she asked Hercule Poirot to sit at their table, which Tim responds to with uncharacteristically strong annoyance. Mrs. Allerton apologizes and says she thought Tim would like hearing Poirot’s detective stories. Tim asks if there’s any way to still turn Poirot down, but she can’t imagine how, so he resigns himself to it. Mrs. Allerton wonders what got into her son—usually he was too “cosmopolitan” to have “the ordinary Britisher’s dislike—and mistrust—of foreigners.”
Tim’s dislike of Poirot is suspicious, as it implies that he has something to hide form the detective. Though Mrs. Allerton blames it on casual xenophobia (fear of foreign people), it seems more likely that it has something to do with all the jewels that go missing whenever Tim is around.
Poirot joins the table and confirms with Mrs. Allerton that it’s really OK for him to sit with her and Tim. Mrs. Allerton says that of course it is, and then suggests they look through the passenger list for the steamer and try to match the names to the people in the room. They see Jacqueline at a table with Rosalie and Mrs. Otterbourne, and identify a man named Dr. Bessner as sitting at a different table with four other men.
This passage begins to situate all the various characters aboard the Karnak. For a whodunnit, it is important for the reader to be introduced to all the characters relatively early on the story, since they need a fair chance at guessing who the culprit is.
Poirot and the Allertons can’t identify who Miss Bowers is yet, but they do see Simon and Linnet (wearing an expensive frock and a pearl necklace) seated off in a corner with Pennington. They figure out that Fanthorp is one of the other men at Dr. Bessner’s table, and Mrs. Allerton identifies Ferguson as the dark-haired young man who she describes as “our anti-capitalist friend.” Finally, she identifies Richetti as “our Italian archaeological friend” and Miss Van Schuyler as “the very ugly old American lady” who is accompanied by the younger Miss Bowers and Miss Cornelia Robson.
This is the first appearance of Linnet’s pearl necklace on the boat, and it will become an important symbol of her character. The dark-haired young man, meanwhile, is finally revealed to be Ferguson.
As the passengers eat and then mingle, Poirot spends most of the night listening to Mrs. Otterbourne talk about her writing. On the way back to his cabin, he finds Jacqueline at the deck railing, looking out at the Nile with a miserable expression. When he wishes her goodnight, she asks if he’s surprised to see her. He says he’s “not so much surprised as sorry”—that she made a dangerous decision by coming and that it may be too late to reverse course. She says she must follow her star, and he warns her to look out for a “false star.” As Poirot goes to bed, he hears Simon’s voice in his head, repeating “We’ve got to go through with it now.” It makes him unhappy.
Poirot’s regret at seeing Jacqueline seems to be genuine—even though he enjoys solving crimes, he would rather they didn’t happen in the first place. Jacqueline, too, seems to be having second thoughts. Simon’s message that Poirot hears, “We’ve got to go through with it now,” could be a dream—it’s also possible that he really did say those words, though the circumstances surrounding them are mysterious. The sense of inevitability—of people having to follow stars or go through with things—recalls the one-way flow of the Nile and the finality of the death that is going to happen on the river.