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Ten Little Niggers


Ten Little Niggers: Page 13


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"The motor boat's not coming," he said.

Blore turned his square shoulder slightly and viewed the last speaker
thoughtfully.

"You think not too, General?"

General Macarthur said sharply:

"Of course it won't come. We're counting on the motor boat to take us off the
island. That's the meaning of the whole business. We're not going to leave the
island... None of us will ever leave... Il's the end, you see - the end of
everything..."

He hesitated, then he said in a low strange voice:



"That's peace - real peace. To come to the end - not to have to go on... Yes,
peace..."

He turned abruptly and walked away. Along the terrace, then down the slope
towards the sea - obliquely - to the end of the island where loose rocks went out
into the water.



He walked a little unsteadily, like a man who was only half awake.

Blore said:

"There goes another one who's balmy! Looks as though it'll end with the whole lot
going that way."

Philip Lombard said:

"I don't fancy you will, Blore."

The ex-Inspector laughed.

"It would take a lot to send me off my head." He added drily: "And I don't think
you'll be going that way either, Mr. Lombard."

Philip Lombard said:

"I feel quite sane at the minute, thank you."



IV

Dr. Armstrong came out onto the terrace. He stood there hesitating. To his left
were Blore and Lombard. To his right was Wargrave, slowly pacing up and down,
his head bent down.

Armstrong, after a moment of indecision, turned towards the latter.

But at that moment Rogers came quickly out of the house.



"Could I have a word with you, sir, please?"

Armstrong turned.

He was startled at what he saw.

Rogers' face was working. Its colour was greyish green. His hands shook.

It was such a contrast to his restraint of a few minutes ago that Armstrong was
quite taken aback.

"Please, sir, if I could have a word with you. Inside, sir."

The doctor turned back and re-entered the house with the frenzied butler. He
said:



"What's the matter, man? Pull yourself together."


"In here, sir, come in here."

He opened the dining-room door. The doctor passed in. Rogers followed him and
shut the door behind him.



"Well," said Armstrong, "what is it?"

The muscles of Rogers' throat were working. He was swallowing. He jerked out

"There's things going on, sir, that I don't understand."

Armstrong said sharply: "Things? What things?"



"You'll think I'm crazy, sir. You'll say it isn't anything. But it's got to be
explained, sir. It's got to be explained. Because it doesn't make any sense."

"Well, man, tell me what it is? Don't go on talking in riddles."

Rogers swallowed again.

He said:

"It's those little figures, sir. In the middle of the table. The little china figures.
Ten of them, there were. I'll swear to that, ten of them."

Armstrong said:

"Yes, ten. We counted them last night at dinner."

Rogers came nearer.



"That's just it, sir. Last night, when I was clearing up, there wasn't but nine, sir.
I noticed it and thought it queer. But that's all I thought. And now, sir, this
morning. I didn't notice when I laid the breakfast. I was upset and all that.

"But now, sir, when I came to clear away. See for yourself if you don't believe me.

"There's only eight, sir! Only eight! It doesn't make sense, does it? Only eight..."




Chapter 7



After breakfast, Emily Brent had suggested to Vera Claythorne that they should
walk up to the summit again and watch for the boat. Vera had acquiesced.

The wind had freshened. Small white crests were appearing on the sea. There
were no fishing boats out - and no sign of the motor boat.

The actual village of Sticklehaven could not be seen, only the hill above it, a
jutting-out cliff of red rock concealed the actual little bay.

Emily Brent said:

"The man who brought us out yesterday seemed a dependable sort of person. It is
really very odd that he should be so late this morning."

Vera did not answer. She was fighting down a rising feeling of panic.

She said to herself angrily:

"You must keep cool. This isn't like you. You've always had excellent nerves."

Aloud she said after a minute or two:

"I wish he would come. I - 1 want to get away."

Emily Brent said drily:

"I've no doubt we all do."

Vera said:



"It's all so extraordinary... There seems no - no meaning in it all."

The elderly woman beside her said briskly:

"I'm very annoyed with myself for being so easily taken in. Really that letter is
absurd when one comes to examine it. But I had no doubts at the time - none at
all."

Vera murmured mechanically:

"I suppose not."

"One takes things for granted too much," said Emily Brent.

Vera drew a deep shuddering breath.

She said:

"Do you really think - what you said at breakfast?"

"Be a little more precise, my dear. To what in particular are you referring?"

Vera said in a low voice:

"Do you really think that Rogers and his wife did away with that old lady?"

Emily Brent gazed thoughtfully out to sea. Then she said:

"Personally, I am quite sure of it. What do you think?"



I don't know what to think."



Emily Brent said:

"Everything goes to support the idea. The way the woman fainted. And the man
dropped the coffee tray, remember. Then the way he spoke about it - it didn't ring
true. Oh, yes, I'm afraid they did it."

Vera said:

"The way she looked - scared of her own shadow! I've never seen a woman look so
frightened... She must have been always haunted by it..."

Miss Brent murmured:

"I remember a text that hung in my nursery as a child. 'Be sure thy sin will find
thee out.' It's very true, that. 'Be sure thy sin will find thee out.'"

Vera scrambled to her feet. She said:

"But, Miss Brent - Miss Brent - in that case -"

"Yes, my dear?"

"The others? What about the others?"



"I don't quite understand you."

"All the other accusations - they - they weren't true? But if it's true about the
Rogerses -" She stopped, unable to make her chaotic thought clear.

Emily Brent's brow, which had been frowning perplexedly, cleared.



She said:

"Ah, I understand you now. Well, there is that Mr. Lombard. He admits to having
abandoned twenty men to their deaths."

Vera said:

"They were only natives..."

Emily Brent said sharply:

"Black or white, they are our brothers."

Vera thought:

"Our black brothers - our black brothers. Oh, I'm going to laugh. I'm hysterical.
I'm not myself..."

Emily Brent continued thoughtfully:

"Of course, some of the other accusations were very far-fetched and ridiculous.
Against the judge, for instance, who was only doing his duty in his public
capacity, And the ex-Scotland Yard man. My own case, too."

She paused and then went on:

"Naturally, considering the circumstances, I was not going to say anything last
night. It was not a fit subject to discuss before gentlemen."

"No?"



Vera listened with interest. Miss Brent continued serenely:

"Beatrice Taylor was in service with me. Not a nice girl - as I found out too late. I
was very much deceived in her. She had nice manners and was very clean and
willing. I was very pleased with her. Of course all that was the sheerest
hypocrisy! She was a loose girl with no morals. Disgusting! It was some time
before I found out that she was what they call 'in trouble.'" She paused, her
delicate nose wrinkling itself in distaste. "It was a great shock to me. Her parents
were decent folk, too, who had brought her up very strictly. I'm glad to say they
did not condone her behaviour."

Vera said, staring at Miss Brent:

"What happened?"

"Naturally I did not keep her an hour under my roof. No one shall ever say that I
condoned immorality."

Vera said in a lower voice:

"What happened - to her?"

Miss Brent said:

"The abandoned creature, not content with having one sin on her conscience,
committed a still graver sin. She took her own life."

Vera whispered, horror-struck:

"She killed herself?"



"Yes, she threw herself into the river."

Vera shivered.

She stared at the calm delicate profile of Miss Brent. She said:

"What did you feel like when you knew she'd done that? Weren't you sorry?
Didn't you blame yourself?"

Emily Brent drew herself up.

"I? I had nothing with which to reproach myself."

Vera said:

"But if your - hardness - drove her to it"

Emily Brent said sharply:

"Her own action - her own sin - that was what drove her to it. If she had behaved
like a decent modest young woman none of this would have happened."

She turned her face to Vera. There was no self-reproach, no uneasiness in those
eyes. They were hard and self-righteous.

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