The group arrives Wadi Halfa at night. The next morning, the group goes on an expedition to ascend the Second Cataract (except Signor Richetti, who insists on making a different, undisclosed trip). All take donkeys except Poirot and Mrs. Allerton, who walk. Poirot asks Mrs. Allerton what the word “fey” means, and she says it’s “the kind of exalted happiness that comes before a disaster.” Poirot comments that he finds it odd that Mrs. Allerton used the word yesterday so shortly before the boulder almost killed Linnet. Mrs. Allerton realizes she likes talking to Poirot, perhaps in part because her son Tim is so rude to him.
Signor Richetti’s absence is suspicious, though it’s not clear how, if at all, it relates to Linnet and her fortune. Mrs. Allerton’s use of a word relating to disaster just before the boulder incident is also a bit suspicious, as this could hint that she somehow knew about it ahead of time.
Meanwhile, Tim and Rosalie are talking. Rosalie says Tim is lucky to have a mother like Mrs. Allerton. He wants to return the compliment but can’t bring himself to say the same about Mrs. Otterbourne.
This brief scene shows how Tim and Rosalie are both similar and different: while they both have overbearing mothers, other people find Mrs. Allerton likable, but the same can’t necessarily be said about Mrs. Otterbourne.
Miss Van Schuyler, who wasn’t physically able to make the ascent of the Second Cataract, stayed near the launch area with Miss Bowers. Miss Van Schuyler laments that Cornelia didn’t stay behind with her and instead went with the young man Ferguson; Miss Bowers corrects her and says she actually saw Cornelia with Dr. Bessner.
Cornelia is using her freedom to escape her cousin and meet some of the other passengers. Still, the characters she gravitates toward are Ferguson and Dr. Bessner, who, though not nearly as overbearing as Miss Van Schuyler, both definitely like to hear themselves talk.
When the party gets back to the Karnak, Linnet is surprised to find a telegram for her and immediately rips it open. An angry Signor Richetti snatches the telegram away from her, and she realizes she grabbed the wrong telegram, thinking it said “Ridgeway,” not “Richetti.” He doesn’t take Linnet’s apology very well, and she leaves angrily with Simon.
Richetti’s anger is seemingly an exaggerated reaction to an innocent mistake. This, combined with his mysterious insistence on leaving the tour group earlier make him a suspicious character.
Poirot then notices Jacqueline de Bellefort clutching the railing. She looks possessed and starts mumbling about how “They’ve got beyond me. […] I can’t—I can’t hurt them anymore…” She regrets coming on the trip and says she’d sooner kill Simon than see him and Linnet happy. She leaves abruptly.
Thought Jacqueline seemed in control when she made her entrance at the Cataract Hotel, she’s now beginning to lose her nerve. She is, ironically, doing to herself exactly what she’s been attempting to do to Linnet.
After Jacqueline leaves, Poirot is surprised to feel a hand on his shoulder from Colonel Race, an old acquaintance that he met at a strange (and deadly) dinner party in London a year ago. Race explains that he’s making the return journey on the Karnak, and they decide to have a drink. As they talk, Poirot notes that a government boat would be faster than a tourist one like the Karnak, at which point Race admits that he’s there on business. He’s after a man who led some rioters and has committed five or six murders and who is supposedly on the Karnak under an assumed name.
Colonel Race is a recurring character in Agatha Christie novels, who previously helped Poirot solve a case in Cards on the Table. Though he is not as well-known as Poirot, he is the lead detective in other books. His appearance here, halfway through the journey, marks a turning point in the story. The fact that he is looking for a murderous political agitator is also significant, as Richetti and Ferguson have shown an interest in radical politics.
Poirot admits to Race that he’s uneasy about the atmosphere on the boat. He recounts some recent events for Race, not using names, but calling the passengers “Person A” and “Person B.” Poirot reveals that he advised Linnet and Simon to leave the Karnak and go onto Khartoum instead, but they didn’t listen. He hopes there will be no disaster but says he is afraid.
Chapter Eleven ends on an ominous note. Poirot senses that there will be a murder, and that there’s nothing that he can do to stop it.