Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express

by

Agatha Christie

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Mary Debenham is a British governess in her twenties who attends the first leg of the journey from Aleppo to Istanbul along with Poirot and Colonel Arbuthnot. Ms. Debenham is austere and stoic, even in the face of a brutal murder. Poirot describes her as very “Anglo-Saxon.” Her strange and somewhat suspicious conversation with Colonel Arbuthnot on the way to Istanbul, which Poirot overhears, is the first suggestion that they have more than a passing acquaintance. It’s later revealed that Ms. Debenham was Daisy Armstrong’s governess.

Mary Debenham Quotes in Murder on the Orient Express

The Murder on the Orient Express quotes below are all either spoken by Mary Debenham or refer to Mary Debenham. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Justice Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harper edition of Murder on the Orient Express published in 2011.
Part 1 Chapter 1  Quotes

She had never seen anyone quite so heavily muffled up. It must be very cold outside. That was why they heated the train so terribly. She tried to force the window down lower, but it would not go. The Wagon Lit conductor had come up to the two men. The train was about to depart, he said. Monsieur had better mount. The little man removed his hat. What an egg-shaped head he had! In spite of her preoccupations Mary Debenham smiled. A ridiculous-looking little man. The sort of little man one could never take seriously.

Related Characters: Hercule Poirot, Mary Debenham
Page Number: 6-7
Explanation and Analysis:

The Colonel sat down. "Boy," he called in peremptory fashion. He gave an order for eggs and coffee. His eyes rested for a moment on Hercule Poirot they passed on indifferently. Poirot, reading the English mind correctly, knew that he had said to himself, "Only some damned foreigner."

Related Characters: Colonel Arbuthnot (speaker), Hercule Poirot, Mary Debenham
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2 Chapter 11 Quotes

“You are, I think, a little bit contemptuous of the way I prosecute my inquiries," he said with a twinkle. "Not so, you think, would an English inquiry be conducted. There everything would be cut and dried—it would be all kept to the facts—a wellordered business. But I, Mademoiselle, have my little originalities. I look first at my witness, I sum up his or her character, and I frame my questions accordingly.”

Related Characters: Hercule Poirot (speaker), Mary Debenham
Page Number: 160
Explanation and Analysis:
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Murder on the Orient Express PDF

Mary Debenham Character Timeline in Murder on the Orient Express

The timeline below shows where the character Mary Debenham appears in Murder on the Orient Express. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1 Chapter 1 
Detective Methods and Inner Lives Theme Icon
Meanwhile, inside the Taurus Express, Mary Debenham peers out the window at two men below—a French officer and a “ridiculous-looking little... (full context)
National Identity and International Connections Theme Icon
Detective Methods and Inner Lives Theme Icon
Later, Poirot notices the female passenger, Mary Debenham, in the dining car. She’s about twenty-eight and has a “cool efficiency” about her,... (full context)
Detective Methods and Inner Lives Theme Icon
Deception and Genre Expectations Theme Icon
...Miss Debenham in her work as a governess, dealing with “tyrannical mothers” and “tiresome brats.” Mary Debenham assures him that the parents are more afraid of her than she is of... (full context)
National Identity and International Connections Theme Icon
Deception and Genre Expectations Theme Icon
...steps out to enjoy some fresh air and overhears another conversation between the Colonel and Miss Debenham . She cuts him off and references a time “When it’s all over.” They seem... (full context)
Detective Methods and Inner Lives Theme Icon
Deception and Genre Expectations Theme Icon
...the train is slightly delayed due to a fire under the dining car, which puts Miss Debenham into a panic. In French, she expresses her worry that she’ll miss her connection to... (full context)
Part 1 Chapter 3
National Identity and International Connections Theme Icon
Detective Methods and Inner Lives Theme Icon
Ms. Debenham , the British governess whom Poirot met briefly in Syria, is also in the dining... (full context)
National Identity and International Connections Theme Icon
Detective Methods and Inner Lives Theme Icon
...sake of her reputation as a governess. His “gaze was fixed upon the back of Mary Debenham’s head.” Poirot then shifts attention to a middle-aged woman across the room, who’s probably... (full context)
Part 1 Chapter 5
National Identity and International Connections Theme Icon
Detective Methods and Inner Lives Theme Icon
Deception and Genre Expectations Theme Icon
Poirot has a short conversation with Mary Debenham about the delay. Unlike the other passengers, she seems remarkably stoic, seeking, as she... (full context)
Part 2 Chapter 5
Deception and Genre Expectations Theme Icon
Afterward, Greta Ohlsson returned to her cabin, which she shared with Ms. Debenham . She slept in her cabin for the rest of the night, claiming that Ms.... (full context)
Part 2 Chapter 8
National Identity and International Connections Theme Icon
Detective Methods and Inner Lives Theme Icon
...than he need have been” to draw him out. Poirot leans on his connection to Mary Debenham, which the Colonel finds “highly irregular.” (full context)
National Identity and International Connections Theme Icon
Detective Methods and Inner Lives Theme Icon
...are very reserved.” Poirot further implies that the Colonel feels “warmly” in the matter of Mary Debenham, to which the Colonel reacts with hostility. (full context)
National Identity and International Connections Theme Icon
Detective Methods and Inner Lives Theme Icon
Colonel Arbuthnot leaves but not before vouching again for Mary Debenham, calling her a “pukka sahib.” After his departure, Poirot sums up the interview, finding... (full context)
Part 2 Chapter 11
National Identity and International Connections Theme Icon
Deception and Genre Expectations Theme Icon
Mary Debenham is next, and Poirot finds her uncooperative, giving noncommittal responses to each question and... (full context)
National Identity and International Connections Theme Icon
Detective Methods and Inner Lives Theme Icon
Deception and Genre Expectations Theme Icon
Poirot says what Mary is thinking: that she’s contemptuous of the way he conducts the investigation and that she... (full context)
Detective Methods and Inner Lives Theme Icon
Deception and Genre Expectations Theme Icon
Ms. Debenham recites her recent history as a governess in Baghdad. Poirot mentions that he assumed she... (full context)
Detective Methods and Inner Lives Theme Icon
Deception and Genre Expectations Theme Icon
Before she leaves, Ms. Debenham says that her roommate, the Swedish woman Greta Ohlsson, is worried that she’s a suspect... (full context)
Part 2 Chapter 12
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Deception and Genre Expectations Theme Icon
Poirot is confused by the interview with Ms. Debenham . He tells M. Bouc that he believes this was a premeditated crime, rather than... (full context)
National Identity and International Connections Theme Icon
Detective Methods and Inner Lives Theme Icon
...left to call: Hildegarde Schmidt, who is Princess Dragomiroff’s lady’s maid. Poirot was adversarial with Ms. Debenham , but with Hildegarde “he was at his kindest and most genial, setting the woman... (full context)
Part 2 Chapter 15
Detective Methods and Inner Lives Theme Icon
Deception and Genre Expectations Theme Icon
He moves on to Greta Ohlsson and Ms. Debenham , performing a quick search of Greta’s luggage and sending her to minister to Mrs.... (full context)
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Mary Debenham flatly refuses to talk further, and Poirot departs. Afterward, Poirot delivers a proverb to... (full context)
Part 3 Chapter 2
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M. Bouc narrows it down to Mrs. Hubbard, Mary Debenham (whose middle name is Hermione), and Hildegarde Schmidt. To this, Poirot responds, “Ah! And... (full context)
Part 3 Chapter 6
National Identity and International Connections Theme Icon
Detective Methods and Inner Lives Theme Icon
...Arbuthnot is unimpressed and continues to stonewall him. Poirot asks about the ominous conversation with Ms. Debenham in Syria, and he begins to slip into French, asking “Pourqoui?” when Arbuthnot refuses to... (full context)
Detective Methods and Inner Lives Theme Icon
Finding little cooperation, Poirot ventures that Ms. Debenham was Daisy Armstrong’s governess at the time of the kidnapping, after there was “a minute’s... (full context)
Part 3 Chapter 7
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Deception and Genre Expectations Theme Icon
Mary Debenham arrives with her “head thrown back as if in defiance.” Her appearance “suggested the... (full context)
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Mary attributes the lie to a desire to escape scandal so that she could find further... (full context)
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...every bone in your damned body.” They both leave, but not before Arbuthnot insists that Mary has nothing to do with “this business.” (full context)
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M. Bouc marvels at the “guess” that brought out Ms. Debenham’s former occupation. Poirot had already suspected Ms. Debenham’s position when questioning the Countess about Daisy’s... (full context)
Part 3 Chapter 9
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Poirot supports a closer relationship between the passengers by reference to Ms. Debenham and Colonel Arbuthnot, who know each other too well to have just met on the... (full context)