The Orient Express pulls into Belgrade, at which point Poirot exchanges cabins with M. Bouc, who moves into the adjacent train car occupied only by a Greek doctor. As night approaches, Poirot notices “barriers break down” and the passengers become more comfortable with each other. Colonel Arbuthnot talks at length with Hector Macqueen about politics while Mrs. Hubbard takes the somewhat helpless Swedish woman under her wing, offering aspirin for a headache. Mrs. Hubbard feels some sympathy for the Swedish woman because she’s delicate and doesn’t speak English well.
Travel on the Orient Express has the effect of breaking down barriers between people of diverse backgrounds, and prejudices that would be ironclad in daily life are starting to fall away. Exemplifying this, the older British soldier Arbuthnot is talking politics with the younger American Macqueen. The Swedish woman’s illness also draws out the do-gooder American Mrs. Hubbard, who, in a culturally blinkered fashion, attributes some of her difficulties to poor English.
Poirot passes Ratchett in his cabin, who gives him a hostile look and shuts the door. Mrs. Hubbard gossips with Poirot about Mr. Ratchett, noting that she “wouldn’t be surprised if that man turned out to be a murderer.” She’s concerned because her compartment is right next to Ratchett’s. Poirot then retires to bed in his own cabin, which borders Ratchett’s on the other side.
It’s telling that anyone who interacts with Ratchett even briefly comes away thinking the man is pure evil. Mrs. Hubbard goes as far as to say that he might be a murderer, a sort of wink at the reader who is expecting a “murder” on the Orient Express. This could be taken as Christie’s attempt to direct or misdirect the reader.
Poirot falls asleep, but he’s startled awake hours later when he hears a loud groan and notices that the train is stopped. Peering into the hallway, he sees the conductor (Pierre Michel) check in on Ratchett and a voice responds in French that everything is okay.
Christie doesn’t normally reproduce the text of French words, but she does here when “a voice” answers the conductor. This indicates that the language is of special importance here.