The next evening, Cornelia stands inside the temple of Abu Simbel, which the Karnak visited previously on the voyage out (although that time was during the day). She remarks to Ferguson that she wishes Dr. Bessner were there, but Ferguson responds that he can’t stand Bessner. He tries to tell her she’s being bullied, both by Dr. Bessner and by Miss Van Schuyler, but Cornelia protests. Cornelia talks about how she’s not as elegant as Linnet, but Ferguson retorts that Linnet is “the sort of woman who ought to be shot as an example.” Cornelia blames his bad mood on his digestion, and Ferguson gives up in exasperation.
Ferguson’s remarks to Cornelia that she’s being bullied seem to be accurate, but they’re also self-serving, since he is trying to present himself in a better light. Ferguson’s insistence that Linnet “ought to be shot” might sound shocking, but he’s said the same thing before and has proven that he doesn’t always follow up on his grand pronouncements.
Cornelia returns to the observation saloon, where Miss Van Schuyler (accompanied by Miss Bowers) is talking with Dr. Bessner. Fanthorp is seated nearby, while Simon and Linnet are playing bridge with Pennington and Race, and Poirot is yawning in a corner. Miss Van Schuyler tells Poirot that she recognizes him, though she didn’t realize it until that moment. She then leaves with Cornelia and Miss Bowers.
This passage puts all the characters into position for what will be a very important scene. The ominous foreshadowing at the end of the previous chapter creates suspense about what will happen to disrupt the relative peace here. The fact that a murder has yet to happen halfway through the book also helps build suspense, as it subverts expectations about the mystery genre (crimes usually happen closer to the start of mystery novels).
Poirot leaves the saloon for the deck and comes upon Jacqueline. Poirot admits to her that he’s been extremely tired lately. Jacqueline says it’s just been that kind of day and wishes him a good night. Poirot heads to his cabin.
The fact that Poirot is heading to bed is important, because it means he won’t be able to witness firsthand whatever happens next.
II. Cornelia, having helped Miss Van Schuyler to bed, comes back to the saloon with some needlework. Simon, Linnet, Race, and Pennington are still playing bridge. Jacqueline comes up to Cornelia and begins making conversation. Jacqueline calls the evening “A real honeymoon night” then looks over at Linnet. She orders a strong drink then shoots a glance at Simon, making him anxious. Taking the drink, she says, “Well, here’s to crime.” She begins humming to herself: “He was her man and he did her wrong…”
Jacqueline’s interest in the honeymoon table, combined with the song she sings, are both surely signs that a conflict is brewing. She even jokes about it saying, “Well, here’s to crime.”
Simon makes a bad play in bridge, and Linnet declares that she’s sleepy. Race and Pennington agree that they are too, while Simon says he’ll have a drink before retiring. Cornelia also gets ready to leave, but Jacqueline implores her not to, so she stays a little longer. Later, Cornelia tries to leave again, and Jacqueline forbids her again. Cornelia worries that Jacqueline is drinking too much. Fanthorp, meanwhile, sticks to himself and reads a book.
Simon’s poor bridge playing calls back to Poirot’s earlier assessment that Simon isn’t particularly bright. This could mean that if he’s involved in the death that’s going to happen, he won’t be particularly clever at covering his tracks. Meanwhile, Jacqueline’s insistence that Cornelia stay behind—and the fact that she repeats the request—seems suspicious. But since Jacqueline is drunk, it isn’t clear if she’s acting rationally.
Jacqueline asks Cornelia to talk about herself. Cornelia does so, although she’s more used to listening than talking. Jacqueline, meanwhile, seems to be interested in something else. Suddenly she turns to Simon and tells him he should ring the bell to ask the stewards for another drink. Simon replies that they’ve gone to bed and that she’s had enough to drink. They argue, and Cornelia tries to leave, but Jacqueline says she needs her support. Fanthorp pretends not to notice the argument as he leaves the saloon.
The cruel joke in this scene is that Cornelia finally gets a chance to talk about herself, but Jacqueline only asks her to do that so she can go ahead making her own plans. She seems to be plotting something against Simon, as her insistence on him ordering another drink and on Cornelia staying in the saloon is peculiar. Fanthorp doesn’t want to get involved—a trait of his that will be brought up again, later in the book.
Jacqueline tells Simon she’d rather kill him than see him with another woman. Suddenly, she pulls out a gun and shoots at him. Simon falls, while Cornelia screams and fetches Fanthorp back. The shot seems to have hit Simon’s leg—he’s holding a crimson-stained handkerchief just below his knee. Jacqueline is paralyzed by what she’s done and apologizes. Simon tells Fanthorp to help them avoid a scandal over the whole incident. Jacqueline says she wishes she were dead. Simon orders them to get Jacqueline away from him and call Miss Bowers and Dr. Bessner. He insists that they shouldn’t disturb Linnet over this.
This passage is shocking because after all the mentions of characters who want to shoot Linnet, it is actually Simon who Jacqueline shoots at. There is a lot of commotion, and the events around the shooting will be revisited several times, and the specific cast of characters who witness the event will become significant. Jacqueline’s apparent regret isn’t a surprise, given how anxious she’d been earlier in the day.
Fanthorp pulls Jacqueline aside and tells her to pull herself together. Eventually, she does. Miss Bowers arrives and leads Jacqueline away. Fanthorp hurries to find Dr. Bessner and tell him what’s happened. By the time Dr. Bessner arrives, Simon is breathing heavily by an open window, looking pale. Dr. Bessner examines the bone and notes that it’s fractured, with a massive loss of blood. Fanthorp, Bessner and Cornelia take Simon back to be operated on. After a successful procedure, Dr. Bessner gives Simon a sedative. Before Simon passes out, he asks Fanthorp to go back and find Jacqueline’s pistol.
Miss Bowers takes Jacqueline away, and Dr. Bessner takes Simon—which is important because, at least with the information currently available, Miss Bowers and Dr. Bessner are reliable characters who have nothing in particular to gain or lose from the Linnet-Jacqueline-Simon love triangle. Bessner confirms that Simon’s wound is real and gives him a sedative, meaning he’ll be out for the rest of the night.
Miss Bowers meets Fanthorp by Jacqueline’s cabin and says she just gave her a morphine injection. A few minutes later, Fanthorp comes back to Bessner’s cabin and reveals that he can’t find the pistol—it’s not under the settee where Jacqueline kicked it earlier. Unsure what to make of this, the two men separate.
Like Simon, Jacqueline will also be sedated for the rest of the night. The missing pistol is a major clue and one that Poirot will return to again and again as he considers the case.