Before moving on to the next witness, Poirot and M. Bouc ask Pierre Michel about the button that Mrs. Hubbard found. Pierre flies into a panic when the implication becomes clear to him, but insists that he has not lost a button, and finds conductors from the adjacent train cars to vouch for him. Pierre Michel insists that he saw no one else in the hall on his way to Mrs. Hubbard’s. This prompts speculation about whether a suspect could have slipped out of Mrs. Hubbard’s room between her ringing of the bell and Pierre Michel’s arrival.
Pierre Michel has already been disturbed by any implication that he’s failed in his duty to safeguard the passengers on the train, but when faced with evidence that implicates him directly in the murder, he loses all composure. Although the other conductors vouch for him, clearly a lot is riding on his testimony that he was the only one in the hallway when he answered Mrs. Hubbard’s bell.
Poirot again dismisses Pierre Michel and calls for the Russian Princess Dragomiroff. The investigators offer to meet her in her cabin, but she appears in the dining car nonetheless. Her presence is imposing, as “she had eyes like jewels, dark and imperious, revealing latent energy and an intellectual force that could be felt at once.”
Princess Dragomiroff is an elderly woman, but she shows her strength of will when she reports to the dining car rather than allowing the investigators to come to her. The description of her eyes as “jewels” illustrates intelligence but also a haughtiness or aristocratic birthright that might make her a challenging witness.
Although Russian by origin, Princess Dragomiroff now resides in Paris and is on her way home after staying at the Austrian embassy. For much of the previous night, she claims that she was in her cabin with her German maid, Hildegarde Schmidt, who massaged her to relieve her arthritis.
Princess Dragomiroff’s essential cosmopolitanism is typical of aristocrats at the time. She’s clearly well-traveled in Europe, owing to her Russian birth, French residence, contacts at the Austrian embassy, and German lady’s maid.
It emerges that Princess Dragomiroff personally knew the Armstrongs through Sonia’s mother Linda Arden. As a result, she finds it entirely just that Ratchett, the man who ruined them, is dead. She alludes to a much younger sister of Sonia Armstrong who married an Englishman and resides in England. Poirot also asks about the color of her dressing gown, which is “black-satin.”
Here, as with Mr. MacQueen, a witness somewhat incriminates herself through a personal connection to the Armstrong case. However, being a frail, elderly woman and an aristocrat, the Princess is not what one would call a prime suspect for the murder. Nevertheless, Poirot asks about her dressing gown. It’s a question that might cause some offense, owing to the Princess’s age and status, but it shows the extent to which Poirot has fixated on the scarlet kimono that he feels the need to ask anyway.
Then, the Princess leaves, but not before repeating Hercule Poirot’s name and declaring, “It is Destiny,” a remark that puzzles Poirot.
Her curious remarks about Hercule Poirot at the end of her interview betray some knowledge of his reputation. And the reference to “destiny” cryptically addresses how an internationally renowned detective should happen to be present when a murder is committed on a snowed-in train. It’s a sly wink at narrative conveniences that brought Poirot to the Orient Express.