Poirot carries on with his search of the passengers’ luggage while conducting short second interviews with them. Beginning with Hardman, Poirot searches his two bags but finds nothing except some bottles of liquor. Poirot expresses admiration for America but takes a moment to praise European women. Hardman looks out at the snow and “blinked as if the snow hurt his eyes.”
Poirot’s discussion of the merits of European women is out of character for him and something of a non-sequitur. Clearly, Poirot was attempting to provoke a response from Hardman, which he seems to get when Hardman looks out at the snow. In this case, Poirot knows or suspects something that hasn’t been openly discussed, a hallmark of the classic mystery.
Next up is Colonel Arbuthnot. In the search, Poirot finds pipe-cleaners that match exactly the one found in Ratchett’s cabin. Arbuthnot seems untroubled by the focus on the pipe-cleaners and notes that he always uses them “If I can get ‘em.”
The discovery of the pipe-cleaners matching the one found in Ratchett’s room all but proves that Arbuthnot was there, as no one else on the train seems to smoke a pipe.
With Princess Dragomiroff, Poirot assures her that, in her case, the search is a formality. The Princess seems to find his lack of suspicion strange, considering her personal connections to the Armstrong family. The Princess states that she loved Sonia Armstrong and projects that Poirot thinks she would not “soil my hands” with Ratchett’s murder. She openly claims that she would have liked to have her servants “flog” Ratchett. Poirot responds that her strength is in her will rather than her arms, and the Princess admits, almost regretfully, that it’s true she has no strength in “these.”
Strangely, the Princess seems disappointed that she’s not a suspect in Ratchett’s murder. She almost taunts Poirot, emphasizing her love of Sonia Armstrong and hatred of Ratchett, going so far as to say she would have had Ratchett killed. But the Princess, by her own admission, is a frail woman and would hardly have the strength to stab Ratchett twelve times, especially considering some of the wounds are quite deep. But her hatred of Ratchett and love of the Armstrongs seems genuine enough that her “will” is capable of the crime, if not her “arms.”
Next, Poirot searches the Count and Countess’s luggage, which is tricky due to their diplomatic status. They waive it in this case and Poirot talks as he searches; “Poirot seemed to be trying to mask an embarrassment by making various small pointless remarks…” Poirot finds that one of the labels on the Countess’s suitcase is wet and that she has a bottle of “trional,” a sleeping drug, in her cabinet.
As Lieutenant Dubosc discovered in his first conversation with Poirot, the detective is not inclined to small talk. But here, he makes “small pointless remarks” perhaps in an attempt to distract the Count and Countess.
He moves on to Greta Ohlsson and Ms. Debenham, performing a quick search of Greta’s luggage and sending her to minister to Mrs. Hubbard. Ms. Debenham suspects that he wanted to interview her privately. Poirot confronts her with two inconsistencies. One, the overheard conversation with Colonel Arbuthnot and the reference to “When it’s all over.” Two, her anxiety at missing her connection to the Orient Express but her calmness when faced with their present delay.
Poirot’s aggressive questioning of Mary Debenham has already put her on the defensive, and she suspects rightly that Poirot sending Greta away was a ruse. He presents several pieces of evidence that together show Mary is hiding something fairly significant. In doing so, Poirot all but leads Mary to shut down completely. He’s clearly on to something, but he can’t pursue it further.
Mary Debenham flatly refuses to talk further, and Poirot departs. Afterward, Poirot delivers a proverb to M. Bouc “Mon ami, if you wish to catch a rabbit you put a ferret into the hole, and if the rabbit is there—he runs.”
Here, Poirot explains his strategy to M. Bouc. As the proverb indicates, he’s not sure that the “rabbit is there,” or that Mary Debenham is guilty. But if she is, this aggressive posture will cause her to react in desperation, prompting a mistake or revelation.
Poirot searches Hildegarde Schmidt’s luggage where, true to his prediction, he finds a conductor’s uniform with one button missing. Hildegarde panics and insists that the uniform isn’t hers, and Poirot reassures her, strangely, by saying he’s as convinced of her innocence as he is that she’s a “good cook.”
Poirot had previously predicted that the conductor’s uniform may be found in Hildegarde’s luggage if she’s guilty, but if she’s innocent, it definitely will be. Finding the uniform as he predicted, Poirot seems to think it proves her innocence. His comment about Hildegarde’s cooking is another case of the detective knowing more than the reader, as we’ve seen no evidence of Hildegarde’s cooking skills.
The search of the luggage is finished with no further surprises. Poirot notes that the mystery of the scarlet kimono remains, a mystery that’s difficult because it’s been “made difficult.” Returning to his own bags, Poirot finds in them the scarlet kimono which he sees as “a defiance.”
Poirot appears amused by the discovery of the kimono in his own luggage, but he seems to have anticipated the possibility of finding it there. He calls it, “a defiance,” which seems to have been prompted by his intrusive searching of the luggage, indicating that he’s getting closer to the truth and that the perpetrator has chosen a bold move to confuse him. The scarlet kimono has been a persistent mystery that has affected Poirot’s handling of the case. And now the perpetrator seems well aware of his preoccupation with it, sending a signal by planting the garment.