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Ten Little Niggers


Ten Little Niggers: Page 10


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Anthony Marston, in the height of his youth and
manhood, had seemed like a being who was immortal. And now, crumpled and
broken, he lay on the floor.

Dr. Armstrong said:

"Is there any possibility other than suicide?"

Slowly every one shook his head. There could be no other explanation. The drinks
themselves were untampered with. They had all seen Anthony Marston go across
and help himself. It followed therefore that any Cyanide in the drink must have
been put there by Anthony Marston himself.

And yet - why should Anthony Marston commit suicide?

Blore said thoughtfully:

"You know, doctor, it doesn't seem right to me. I shouldn't have said Mr. Marston
was a suicidal type of gentleman."

Armstrong answered:

I agree.



II



They had left it like that. What else was there to say?

Together Armstrong and Lombard had carried the inert body of Anthony
Marston to his bedroom and had laid him there covered over with a sheet.



When they came downstairs again, the others were standing in a group,
shivering a little, though the night was not cold.

Emily Brent said:

"We'd better go to bed. It's late."



It was past twelve o'clock. The suggestion was a wise one - yet every one
hesitated. It was as though they clung to each other's company for reassurance.

The judge said:

"Yes, we must get some sleep."

Rogers said:

"I haven't cleared yet - in the dining-room."

Lombard said curtly:

"Do it in the morning."

Armstrong said to him:

"Is your wife all right?"

"I'll go and see, sir."

He returned a minute or two later.



"Sleeping beautiful, she is."

"Good," said the doctor. "Don't disturb her."

"No, sir. I'll just put things straight in the dining-room and make sure
everything's locked up right, and then I'll turn in."

He went across the hall into the dining-room.

The others went upstairs, a slow unwilling procession.

If this had been an old house, with creaking wood, and dark shadows, and
heavily panelled walls, there might have been an eerie feeling. But this house
was the essence of modernity. There were no dark corners - no possible sliding
panels - it was flooded with electric light - everything was new and bright and
shining. There was nothing hidden in this house, nothing concealed. It had no
atmosphere about it.

Somehow, that was the most frightening thing of all...

They exchanged good-nights on the upper landing. Each of them went into his or
her own room, and each of them automatically, almost without conscious
thought, locked the door...



Ill



In his pleasant softly tinted room, Mr. Justice Wargrave removed his garments
and prepared himself for bed.



He was thinking about Edward Seton.



He remembered Seton very well. His fair hair, his blue eyes, his habit of looking
you straight in the face with a pleasant air of straightforwardness. That was
what had made so good an impression on the jury.

Llewellyn, for the Crown, had bungled it a bit. He had been over-vehement, had
tried to prove too much.

Matthews, on the other hand, for the Defence, had been good. His points had
told. His cross-examinations had been deadly. His handling of his client in the
witness box had been masterly.

And Seton had come through the ordeal of cross-examination well. He had not
got excited or over-vehement. The jury had been impressed. It had seemed to
Matthews, perhaps, as though everything had been over bar the shouting.

The judge wound up his watch carefully and placed it by the bed.

He remembered exactly how he had felt sitting there - listening, making notes,
appreciating everything, tabulating every scrap of evidence that told against the
prisoner.

He'd enjoyed that case! Matthews' final speech had been first-class. Llewellyn,
coming after it, had failed to remove the good impression that the defending
counsel had made.

And then had come his own summing up...

Carefully, Mr. Justice Wargrave removed his false teeth and dropped them into a
glass of water. The shrunken lips fell in. It was a cruel mouth now, cruel and
predatory.



Hooding his eyes, the judge smiled to himself.

He'd cooked Seton's goose all right!

With a slightly rheumatic grunt, he climbed into bed and turned out the electric
light.



IV

Downstairs in the dining-room, Rogers stood puzzled.

He was staring at the china figures in the centre of the table.

He muttered to himself:



That's a rum go! I could have sworn there were ten of them."



V

General Macarthur tossed from side to side.

Sleep would not come to him.

In the darkness he kept seeing Arthur Richmond's face.

He'd liked Arthur - he'd been damned fond of Arthur. He'd been pleased that
Leslie liked him too.



Leslie was so capricious. Lots of good fellows that Leslie would turn up her nose
at and pronounce dull. "Dull!" Just like that.

But she hadn't found Arthur Richmond dull. They'd got on well together from the
beginning. They'd talked of plays and music and pictures together. She'd teased
him, made fun of him, ragged him. And he, Macarthur, had been delighted at the
thought that Leslie took quite a motherly interest in the boy.

Motherly indeed! Damn fool not to remember that Richmond was twenty-eight to
Leslie's twenty-nine.

He'd loved Leslie. He could see her now. Her heart-shaped face, and her dancing
deep grey eyes, and the brown curling mass of her hair. He'd loved Leslie and
he'd believed in her absolutely.

Out there in France, in the middle of all the hell of it, he'd sat thinking of her,
taken her picture out of the breast pocket of his tunic.

And then - he'd found out!

It had come about exactly in the way things happened in books. The letter in the
wrong envelope. She'd been writing to them both and she'd put her letter to
Richmond in the envelope addressed to her husband. Even now, all these years
later, he could feel the shock of it - the pain...

God, it had hurt!

And the business had been going on some time. The letter made that clear. Week-
ends! Richmond's last leave...

Leslie - Leslie and Arthur!



God damn the fellow! Damn his smiling face, his brisk "Yes, sir." Liar and
hypocrite! Stealer of another man's wife!

It had gathered slowly - that cold murderous rage.

He'd managed to carry on as usual - to show nothing. He'd tried to make his
manner to Richmond just the same.

Had he succeeded? He thought so. Richmond hadn't suspected. Inequalities of
temper were easily accounted for out there, where men's nerves were continually
snapping under the strain.

Only young Armitage had looked at him curiously once or twice. Quite a young
chap, but he'd had perceptions, that boy.

Armitage, perhaps, had guessed - when the time came.

He'd sent Richmond deliberately to death. Only a miracle could have brought him
through unhurt. That miracle didn't happen. Yes, he'd sent Richmond to his
death and he wasn't sorry. It had been easy enough. Mistakes were being made
all the time, officers being sent to death needlessly. All was confusion, panic.
People might say afterwards, "Old Macarthur lost his nerve a bit, made some
colossal blunders, sacrificed some of his best men." They couldn't say more.

But young Armitage was different. He'd looked at his commanding officer very
oddly. He'd known, perhaps, that Richmond was being deliberately sent to death.

(And after the War was over - had Armitage talked?)



Leslie hadn't known. Leslie had wept for her lover (he supposed) but her weeping
was over by the time he'd come back to England. He'd never told her that he'd
found her out. They'd gone on together - only, somehow, she hadn't seemed very
real any more. And then, three or four years later, she'd got double pneumonia
and died.

That had been a long time ago. Fifteen years - sixteen years?

And he'd left the Army and come to live in Devon - bought the sort of little place
he'd always meant to have. Nice neighbours - pleasant part of the world. There
was a bit of shooting and fishing. He'd gone to church on Sundays. (But not the
day that the lesson was read about David putting Uriah in the forefront of the
battle. Somehow he couldn't face that. Gave him an uncomfortable feeling.)

Everybody had been very friendly. At first, that is. Later, he'd had an uneasy
feeling that people were talking about him behind his back. They eyed him
differently, somehow. As though they'd heard something - some lying rumour...

(Armitage? Supposing Armitage had talked?)

He'd avoided people after that - withdrawn into himself. Unpleasant to feel that
people were discussing you.

And all so long ago. So - so purposeless now. Leslie had faded into the distance
and Arthur Richmond, too.

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