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Ten Little Niggers


Ten Little Niggers: Page 15


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Blore
agreed.



"Yes, I'd forgotten that. Not a natural thing to be carrying about with you. But
how did it get into his drink, sir?"

Lombard said:

"I've been thinking about that. Marston had several drinks that night. Between
the time he had his last one and the time he finished the one before it, there was
quite a gap. During that time his glass was lying about on some table or other. I
think - though I can't be sure, it was on the little table near the window. The
window was open. Somebody could have slipped a dose of the Cyanide into the
glass."

Blore said unbelievingly:

"Without our all seeing him, sir?"

Lombard said drily:

"We were all - rather concerned elsewhere."

Armstrong said slowly:



"That's true. We'd all been attacked. We were walking about, moving about the
room. Arguing, indignant, intent on our own business. I think it could have been
done..."

Blore shrugged his shoulders.

"Fact is, it must have been done! Now then, gentlemen, let's make a start.
Nobody's got a revolver, by any chance? I suppose that's too much to hope for."

Lombard said:

"I've got one." He patted his pocket.

Blore's eyes opened very wide. He said in an over-casual tone:

"Always carry that about with you, sir?"

Lombard said:

"Usually. I've been in some tight places, you know."



"Oh," said Blore and added: "Well, you've probably never been in a tighter place
than you are today! If there's a lunatic hiding on this island, he's probably got a
young arsenal on him - to say nothing of a knife or dagger or two."

Armstrong coughed.

"You may be wrong there, Blore. Many homicidal lunatics are very quiet,
unassuming people. Delightful fellows."

Blore said:



I don't feel this one is going to be of that kind, Dr. Armstrong."



II



The three men started on their tour of the island. It proved unexpectedly simple.
On the northwest side, towards the coast, the cliffs fell sheer to the sea below,
their surface unbroken.

On the rest of the island there were no trees and very little cover. The three men
worked carefully and methodically, beating up and down from the highest point
to the water's edge, narrowly scanning the least irregularity in the rock which
might point to the entrance to a cave. But there were no caves.

They came at last, skirting the water's edge, to where General Macarthur sat
looking out to sea. It was very peaceful here with the lap of the waves breaking
over the rocks. The old man sat very upright, his eyes fixed on the horizon.

He paid no attention to the approach of the searchers. His oblivion of them made
one at least faintly uncomfortable.

Blore thought to himself:

'"Tisn't natural - looks as though he'd gone into a trance or something."



He cleared his throat and said in a would-be conversational tone:

"Nice peaceful spot you've found for yourself, sir."

The General frowned. He cast a quick look over his shoulder. He said:



"There is so little time - so little time. I really must insist that no one disturbs
me.

Blore said genially:

"We won't disturb you. We're just making a tour of the island, so to speak. Just
wondered, you know, if some one might be hiding on it."

The General frowned and said:

"You don't understand - you don't understand at all. Please go away."

Blore retreated. He said, as he joined the other two:

"He's crazy... It's no good talking to him."

Lombard asked with some curiosity:

"What did he say?"

Blore shrugged his shoulders.

"Something about there being no time and that he didn't want to be disturbed."

Dr. Armstrong frowned.

He murmured:

"I wonder now..."



Ill

The search of the island was practically completed. The three men stood on the
highest point looking over towards the mainland. There were no boats out. The
wind was freshening.

Lombard said:

"No fishing boats out. There's a storm coming. Damned nuisance you can't see
the village from here. We could signal or do something."

Blore said:

"We might light a bonfire tonight."


Lombard said, frowning:

"The devil of it is that that's all probably been provided for."

"In what way, sir?"

"How do I know? Practical joke, perhaps. We're to be marooned here, no attention
is to be paid to signals, etc. Possibly the village has been told there's a wager on.
Some damn fool story anyway."

Blore said dubiously:

"Think they'd swallow that?"

Lombard said drily:



"It's easier of belief than the truth! If the village were told that the island was to
be isolated until Mr. Unknown Owen had quietly murdered all his guests - do you
think they'd believe that?"

Dr. Armstrong said:

"There are moments when I can't believe it myself. And yet -"

Philip Lombard, his lips curling back from his teeth, said:

"And yet - that's just it! You've said it, doctor!"

Blore was gazing down into the water.

He said:

"Nobody could have clambered down here, I suppose?"

Armstrong shook his head.

"I doubt it. It's pretty sheer. And where could he hide?"

Blore said:

"There might be a hole in the cliff. If we had a boat now, we could row round the
island."

Lombard said:

"If we had a boat, we'd all be halfway to the mainland by now!"



"True enough, sir."

Lombard said suddenly:

"We can make sure of this cliff. There's only one place where there could be a
recess - just a little to the right below here. If you fellows can get hold of a rope,
you can let me down to make sure."

Blore said:

"Might as well be sure. Though it seems absurd - on the face of it! I'll see if I can
get hold of something."

He started off briskly down to the house.

Lombard stared up at the sky. The clouds were beginning to mass themselves
together. The wind was increasing.

He shot a sideways look at Armstrong. He said:

"You're very silent, doctor. What are you thinking?"

Armstrong said slowly:

"I was wondering exactly how mad old Macarthur was..."



IV



Vera had been restless all the morning. She had avoided Emily Brent with a kind
of shuddering aversion.

Miss Brent herself had taken a chair just round the corner of the house so as to
be out of the wind. She sat there knitting.

Every time Vera thought of her she seemed to see a pale drowned face with
seaweed entangled in the hair... A face that had once been pretty - impudently
pretty perhaps - and which was now beyond the reach of pity or terror.

And Emily Brent, placid and righteous, sat knitting.

On the main terrace, Mr. Justice Wargrave sat huddled in a porter's chair. His
head was poked down well into his neck.

When Vera looked at him, she saw a man standing in the dock - a young man
with fair hair and blue eyes and a bewildered, frightened face. Edward Seton.
And in imagination she saw the judge's old hands put the black cap on his head
and begin to pronounce sentence...

After a while Vera strolled slowly down to the sea. She walked along towards the
extreme end of the island where an old man sat staring out to the horizon.

General Macarthur stirred at her approach. His head turned - there was a queer
mixture of questioning and apprehension in his look. It startled her. He stared
intently at her for a minute or two.

She thought to herself:

"How queer. It's almost as though he knew..."



He said:



"Ah! it's you! You've come..."

Vera sat down beside him. She said:

"Do you like sitting here looking out to sea?"

He nodded his head gently.

"Yes," he said. "It's pleasant. It's a good place, I think, to wait."

"To wait?" said Vera sharply. "What are you waiting for?"

He said gently:

"The end. But I think you know that, don't you? It's true, isn't it? We're all
waiting for the end."

She said unsteadily:

"What do you mean?"

General Macarthur said gravely:

"None of us are going to leave the island. That's the plan. You know it, of course,
perfectly. What, perhaps, you can't understand is the relief!"

Vera said wonderingly:

"The relief?"



He said:

"Yes. Of course, you're very young... you haven't got to that yet. But it does come!
The blessed relief when you know that you've done with it all - that you haven't
got to carry the burden any longer. You'll feel that too some day..."

Vera said hoarsely:

"I don't understand you."

Her fingers worked spasmodically. She felt suddenly afraid of this quiet old
soldier.

He said musingly:

"You see, I loved Leslie. I loved her very much..."

Vera said questioningly:

"Was Leslie your wife?"

"Yes, my wife... I loved her - and I was very proud of her. She was so pretty - and
so gay."

He was silent for a minute or two, then he said:

"Yes, I loved Leslie.

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