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Ten Little Niggers: Page 12
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There they had discovered William Henry Blore, standing
staring at the mainland.
"No sign of that motor boat yet. I've been watching for it."
Vera said, smiling:
"Devon's a sleepy county. Things are usually late."
Philip Lombard was looking the other way, out to sea.
He said abruptly:
"What d'you think of the weather?"
Glancing up at the sky, Blore remarked:
"Looks all right to me."
Lombard pursed up his mouth into a whistle.
"It will come on to blow before the day's out."
"Squally - eh?"
From below them came the boom of a gong.
Philip Lombard said:
"Breakfast? Well, I could do with some."
As they went down the steep slope Blore said to Lombard in a ruminating voice:
"You know, it beats me - why that young fellow wanted to do himself in! I've been
worrying about it all night."
Vera was a little ahead. Lombard hung back slightly. He said:
"Got any alternative theory?"
"I'd want some proof. Motive, to begin with. Well-off I should say he was."
Emily Brent came out of the drawing-room window to meet them.
She said sharply:
"Is the boat coming?"
"Not yet," said Vera.
They went in to breakfast. There was a vast dish of eggs and bacon on the
sideboard and tea and coffee.
Rogers held the door open for them to pass in, then shut it from the outside.
Emily Brent said:
"That man looks ill this morning."
Dr. Armstrong, who was standing by the window, cleared his throat. He said:
"You must excuse any - er - shortcomings this morning. Rogers has had to do the
best he can for breakfast single-handed. Mrs. Rogers has - er - not been able to
carry on this morning."
Emily Brent said sharply:
"What's the matter with the woman?"
Dr. Armstrong said easily:
"Let us start our breakfast. The eggs will be cold. Afterwards, there are several
matters I want to discuss with you all."
They took the hint. Plates were filled, coffee and tea was poured. The meal
Discussion of the island was, by mutual consent, tabooed. They spoke instead in
a desultory fashion of current events. The news from abroad, events in the world
of sport, the latest reappearance of the Loch Ness monster.
Then, when plates were cleared, Dr. Armstrong moved back his chair a little,
cleared his throat importantly and spoke.
"I thought it better to wait until you had had your breakfast before telling you of
a sad piece of news. Mrs. Rogers died in her sleep."
There were startled and shocked ejaculations.
"How awful! Two deaths on this island since we arrived!"
Mr. Justice Wargrave, his eyes narrowed, said in his small precise clear voice:
"H'm - very remarkable - what was the cause of death?"
Armstrong shrugged his shoulders.
"Impossible to say offhand."
"There must be an autopsy?"
"I certainly couldn't give a certificate. I have no knowledge whatsoever of the
woman's state of health."
"She was a very nervous-looking creature. And she had a shock last night. It
might have been heart failure, I suppose?"
Dr. Armstrong said drily:
"Her heart certainly failed to beat - but what caused it to fail is the question."
One word fell from Emily Brent. It fell hard and clear into the listening group.
"Conscience!" she said.
Armstrong turned to her.
"What exactly do you mean by that, Miss Brent?"
Emily Brent, her lips tight and hard, said:
"You all heard. She was accused, together with her husband, of having
deliberately murdered her former employer - an old lady."
"And you think?"
Emily Brent said:
"I think that that accusation was true. You all saw her last night. She broke
down completely and fainted. The shock of having her wickedness brought home
to her was too much for her. She literally died of fear."
Dr. Armstrong shook his head doubtfully.
"It is a possible theory," he said. "One cannot adopt it without more exact
knowledge of her state of health. If there was cardiac weakness -"
Emily Brent said quietly.
"Call it, if you prefer, an Act of God."
Every one looked shocked. Mr. Blore said uneasily:
"That's carrying things a bit far, Miss Brent."
She looked at them with shining eyes. Her chin went up. She said:
"You regard it as impossible that a sinner should be struck down by the wrath of
God! I do not!"
The judge stroked his chin. He murmured in a slightly ironic voice:
"My dear lady, in my experience of ill-doing, Providence leaves the work of
conviction and chastisement to us mortals - and the process is often fraught with
difficulties. There are no short cuts."
Emily Brent shrugged her shoulders.
Blore said sharply:
"What did she have to eat and drink last night after she went up to bed?"
"She didn't take anything? A cup of tea? A drink of water? I'll bet you she had a
cup of tea. That sort always does."
"Rogers assures me she had nothing whatsoever."
"Ah," said Blore. "But he might say so!"
His tone was so significant that the doctor looked at him sharply.
Philip Lombard said:
"So that's your idea?"
Blore said aggressively:
"Well, why not? We all heard that accusation last night. May be sheer moonshine
- just plain lunacy! On the other hand, it may not. Allow for the moment that it's
true. Rogers and his missus polished off that old lady. Well, where does that get
you? They've been feeling quite safe and happy about it -"
Vera interrupted. In a low voice she said:
"No, I don't think Mrs. Rogers ever felt safe."
Blore looked slightly annoyed at the interruption. "Just like a woman," his glance
"That's as may be. Anyway there's no active danger to them as far as they know.
Then, last night, some unknown lunatic spills the beans. What happens? The
woman cracks - she goes to pieces. Notice how her husband hung over her as she
was coming round. Not all husbandly solicitude! Not on your life! He was like a
cat on hot bricks. Scared out of his life as to what she might say.
"And there's the position for you! They've done a murder and got away with it.
But if the whole thing's going to be raked up, what's going to happen? Ten to one,
the woman will give the show away. She hasn't got the nerve to stand up and
brazen it out. She's a living danger to her husband, that's what she is. He's all
right. He'll lie with a straight face till kingdom comes - but he can't be sure of
her! And if she goes to pieces, his neck's in danger! So he slips something into a
cup of tea and makes sure that her mouth is shut permanently."
Armstrong said slowly:
"There was no empty cup by her bedside - there was nothing there at all. I
"Of course there wouldn't be! First thing he'd do when she'd drunk it would be to
take that cup and saucer away and wash it up carefully."
There was a pause. Then General Macarthur said doubtfully:
"It may be so. But I should hardly think it possible that a man would do that - to
Blore gave a short laugh.
"When a man's neck's in danger, he doesn't stop to think too much about
There was a pause. Before any one could speak, the door opened and Rogers came
He said, looking from one to the other:
"Is there anything more I can get you? I'm sorry there was so little toast, but
we've run right out of bread. The new bread hasn't come over from the mainland
Mr. Justice Wargrave stirred a little in his chair. He asked:
"What time does the motor boat usually come over?"
"Between seven and eight, sir. Sometimes it's a bit after eight. Don't know what
Fred Narracott can be doing this morning. If he's ill he'd send his brother."
Philip Lombard said:
"What's the time now?"
"Ten minutes to ten, sir."
Lombard's eyebrows rose. He nodded slowly to himself.
Rogers waited a minute or two.
General Macarthur spoke suddenly and explosively.
"Sorry to hear about your wife, Rogers. Doctor's just been telling us."
Rogers inclined his head.
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."
He took up the empty bacon dish and went out.
Again there was silence.
On the terrace outside Philip Lombard said:
"About this motor boat -"
Blore looked at him.
Blore nodded his head.
"I know what you're thinking, Mr. Lombard. I've asked myself the same question.
Motor boat ought to have been here nigh on two hours ago. It hasn't come? Why?"
"Found the answer?" asked Lombard.
"It's not an accident - that's what I say. It's part and parcel of the whole business.
It's all bound up together."
Philip Lombard said:
"It won't come, you think?"
A voice spoke behind him - a testy impatient voice.
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