Simon and Linnet Doyle come out of the Cataract hotel along with a sharp-looking, gray-haired American. Tim Allerton rises from a nearby chair to greet them and introduce himself. Linnet says she remembers him and introduces the American as her trustee, Mr. Pennington. Tim then takes the whole party to the hotel terrace to meet his mother, Mrs. Allerton. As they talk, the doors to the room open, and Linnet slightly stiffens—but then she relaxes when the person turns out to be a “funny little man.” Mrs. Allerton notes that the man is the celebrity detective Hercule Poirot, which interests Linnet.
As more of the characters meet before the titular trip on the Nile, the connections between them (and thus the possible motives for a crime) multiply. It’s unclear why Linnet is so on-edge here—but given the way she reacted to Jacqueline’s presence in the previous chapter, it’s likely that her demeanor is somehow related to the love triangle between herself, Simon, and Jacqueline.
Mrs. Otterbourne, looking ridiculous in the turban she’s wearing, asks Poirot to come sit with her and her daughter Rosalie. Poirot asks if Mrs. Otterbourne has a new novel on the way. She’s delighted to be recognized, laments the fact that her frank depictions of sex result in her books getting banned, and admits she’s been lazy and is on vacation in order to get inspiration for her next erotic novel, Snow on the Desert’s Face. Mrs. Otterbourne suddenly says she should go get Poirot a copy of her previous book now. Rosalie offers to get it for her, and despite Mrs. Otterbourne’s protests, she leaves to get it.
Mrs. Otterbourne is often considered to be a parody of the real-life writer Elinor Glyn, who was massively popular but who some critics reviled. Based on this unflattering portrayal of her, Christie probably wasn’t a fan. Rosalie’s sudden insistence on getting the book instead of Mrs. Otterbourne may seem strange and out of character for Rosalie, but it will make sense later.
As Poirot and Mrs. Otterbourne talk, Mrs. Otterbourne mentions that she rarely drinks anything other than water or lemonade. Poirot orders a benedictine (French liqueur) for himself and a lemon squash for her. Rosalie comes back with the book but refuses Poirot’s offer to get her a drink. The book is titled Under the Fig Tree, and the cover resembles Eve from Adam and Eve. Poirot says he’s honored, but at the same moment, he is surprised to notice the look of pain in Rosalie’s eyes. Just then, the drinks arrive. All three of them become quiet and look out at the Nile.
A thin young woman walks through the doors into the terrace, and everyone watches her with the sense that she is important. The girl moves deliberately and sits in a place where she can look deliberately at Linnet, which after a while causes Linnet to say something to Simon, then change her seat so that she faces the opposite direction. The girl smokes and smiles to herself, looking at Linnet the whole time. After 15 minutes, Linnet goes back into the hotel, with Simon following close behind. The narrator reveals that the girl is Jacqueline, who lights her cigarette and stares out at the Nile, still smiling to herself.
Normally, Linnet is the character who makes grand entrances—but this time, Jacqueline gets to have her turn. Her introduction in this passage recalls the femme fatales of hard-boiled detective stories (which was still a very young genre at the time Christie was writing in the 1930s). Jacqueline’s smile and gaze at the Nile are both mysterious, but it’s clear that whatever she has in mind is something Linnet isn’t going to like.