Out on the hotel terrace, Hercule Poirot is jolted out of his thoughts by the sound of someone calling his name. It’s Linnet, wearing a majestic purple gown. Poirot, who already knows who Linnet is, says that he is at her service. Linnet asks to have a conversation with him in the card room of the hotel. Poirot accepts and accompanies her there. Linnet says she knows of Poirot’s reputation for being clever, but Poirot says that he is on vacation and doesn’t take cases while on holiday. Linnet confidently persists, however, claiming that she is being persecuted and that the matter is something her husband (Simon) has convinced her she can’t take to the police.
After being an observer for the beginning of the story, Poirot is finally being drawn into a more active role. Linnet wants Poirot’s help partially because she’s desperate, but also because she knows he has a good reputation, and she always likes to be the one with the best things. Poirot tries to refuse, but Linnet keeps going because she isn’t used to the concept of people turning her down.
Linnet describes her problem to Poirot: her new husband, Simon, used to be engaged to Jacqueline de Bellefort. Jacqueline, in Linnet’s telling, “took it rather hard” when that engagement was broken off, and she has made threats toward Linnet, although she hasn’t attempted to follow through on any of the threats yet. Instead, Jacqueline has decided to follow Linnet and Simon wherever they go. Linnet and Simon are currently on their honeymoon, and they saw Jacqueline stalking them in Venice and Brindisi. When they took the boat up the Nile, they were prepared to see her on board, but instead, Jacqueline was waiting for them at the hotel (a meeting that Poirot witnessed).
Much of the information Linnet tells Poirot has already been hinted at, but here it is all laid out clearly. The biggest revelation is how persistent Jacqueline has been—Egypt is not, in fact, the first time that she’s seen Linnet and Simon since they got married. This begins to paint a picture of Jacqueline as obsessed, perhaps even mentally unstable.
Linnet wonders to Poirot what Jacqueline could possibly want to achieve by following her and Simon everywhere. Poirot muses that “It is not always a question of gain, Madame.” Linnet says that Poirot must get Jacqueline to stop following them around everywhere. He asks if she has made any direct threats. When Linnet says no, Poirot admits there isn’t much he (or anyone else) can do to stop her. Linnet insists there must be some solution. Poirot suggests going on to a new location, but Linnet doubts this will work and dislikes the idea that she should have to be on the run.
Linnet is used to always having the resources to accomplish whatever it is she wants to do, so it’s a surprise to her when Poirot tells her there really isn’t much she can do to get rid of Jacqueline. Linnet doesn’t like the idea of running because it would mean acknowledging the fact that Jacqueline holds power over her, and Linnet is used to always being the one in power.
Poirot asks Linnet to elaborate on why Jacqueline’s presence is bothering her so much. He begins recounting the story of what he overheard a month or two ago at the restaurant Chez Ma Tante: Jacqueline, looking very in love with Simon, told him that they would spend their honeymoon in Egypt. He says that Jacqueline mentioned “a friend who, she was very positive, would not let her down,” suggesting that that friend was Linnet. Linnet, blushing, replies that she already told Poirot she and Jacqueline were friends.
This scene does not reveal much new information, but Poirot brings these details up again, since events in a mystery novel often take on difference significance after a big revelation. In this case, it’s a little strange that Jacqueline and Simon were planning a honeymoon in Egypt, but that Simon ended up taking Linnet instead. This move could be another sign of how Linnet jealously wants to take everything from Jacqueline, even her honeymoon location, or it could mean something more.
Poirot asks Linnet if she is familiar with a particular story about King David in the Bible. It’s about a rich man with an abundance of livestock who nevertheless decided to take a poor man’s single ewe lamb. Linnet gets angry and claims Poirot is accusing her of stealing Simon from Jacqueline. She argues that this wasn’t the case—that Simon loved Jacqueline less intensely than she loved him.
It isn’t clear how religious Poirot is, but he’s nonetheless interested in concepts of justice that come up in Bible stories. His quoting of the Bible suggests that Linnet’s conflict with Jacquelin is not a modern problem, but in fact, just the newest iteration of a conflict that goes back to ancient times—which is appropriate given how many ancient have survived in Egypt.
Linnet tells Poirot that Simon was second-guessing his engagement to Jacqueline before he even met Linnet, and once he did meet Linnet, he realized that she was the one he truly loved. Once he realized that, it was only rational to break off his engagement, since to marry Jacqueline would have been to ruin three lives instead of just one. (If he was unhappy marrying Jacqueline, he would be a bad husband and make her unhappy too, as well as making Linnet unhappy by not marrying her). Poirot admits this is logical but insists it doesn’t explain everything.
Linnet is a master at self-deception, so it isn’t clear if her account of events can be trusted. Still, she does for the first time lay out a plausible scenario in which Jacqueline is unambiguously the villain, and Poirot can’t dismiss the possibility outright. Still, his insistence that there is more to the story is enough to cast doubt on what Linnet says here.
Poirot asks Linnet if perhaps the reason why she finds Jacqueline’s presence so unbearable is because it stirs feelings of guilt in her. Linnet is indignant, but Poirot insists that just like the rich man in the Bible story he mentioned earlier, she had to take the poor man’s one ewe lamb. Linnet keeps disagreeing, flatly denying that what Poirot says is true, but Poirot insists that she simply isn’t being honest with herself.
Linnet’s anger and indignation in this scene should be read as a sign that Poirot is getting closer to the truth than she’d like. Though Linnet is an unpleasant character, Christie does extend some sympathy toward her, showing how painful it is for Linnet to have to face truths about her life that she and others have tried to keep in the shadows.
Ultimately, Linnet asks Poirot if he could speak to Jacqueline on behalf of her and Simon, who, Linnet notes, is “simply furious” over the whole matter. Poirot agrees to do so, but he isn’t optimistic that he’ll be able to accomplish anything. After hearing Poirot’s response, Linnet replies forcefully that Jaqueline is “extraordinary” and that there’s no telling what she might do. Poirot asks about specific threats, and Linnet says Jacqueline has threatened to kill her and Simon. She says Jacqueline “can be rather—Latin sometimes.” Poirot finally says that he will intervene, but he makes clear to Linnet’s dismay that he is not doing it on behalf of Linnet or for a commission—he is doing it solely “in the interests of humanity.”
Chapter Four ends by establishing Jacqueline not just as someone with a grudge, but as someone who might even have a motivation for murder. Poirot’s refusal of a commission is important—by not accepting money from Linnet, it means he isn’t obligated to find a solution that’s to her liking. As an impartial observer, he gets to decide his own idea of justice—and perhaps Linnet doesn’t like this because a part of her still isn’t sure that she’s on the right side of justice. The description of Jacqueline as “Latin” is one of several times in the story where traits stereotypically associated with a certain ethnicity are conflated with being violent. Though the characters may themselves be racist, Christie largely plays this racist cliché straight instead of subverting it.