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Ten Little Niggers


Ten Little Niggers: Page 17


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His red-brick face grew a little deeper in hue.
He said, almost blurting out the words:

"Look here, doctor, you did give her some dope, you know."

Armstrong stared at him.



"Dope? What do you mean?"

"Last night. You said yourself you'd give her something to make her sleep."

"Oh, that, yes. A harmless sedative."

"What was it exactly?"

"I gave her a mild dose of trional. A perfectly harmless preparation."

Blore grew redder still. He said:

"Look here - not to mince matters - you didn't give her an overdose, did you?"

Dr. Armstrong said angrily:

"I don't know what you mean."



Blore said:

"It's possible, isn't it, that you may have made a mistake? These things do
happen once in awhile."

Armstrong said sharply:

"I did nothing of the sort. The suggestion is ridiculous," He stopped and added in
a cold biting tone: "Or do you suggest that I gave her an overdose on purpose?"

Philip Lombard said quickly:



"Look here, you two, got to keep our heads. Don't let's start slinging accusations
about."

Blore said sullenly:

"I only suggested the doctor had made a mistake."

Dr. Armstrong smiled with an effort. He said, showing his teeth in a somewhat
mirthless smile:

"Doctors can't afford to make mistakes of that kind, my friend."

Blore said deliberately:

"It wouldn't be the first you've made - if that gramophone record is to be
believed!"

Armstrong went white. Philip Lombard said quickly and angrily to Blore:



"What's the sense of making yourself offensive? We're all in the same boat. We've
got to pull together. What about your own pretty little spot of perjury?"

Blore took a step forward, his hands clenched. He said in a thick voice:

"Perjury be damned! That's a foul lie! You may try and shut me up, Mr. Lombard,
but there's things I want to know - and one of them is about you!"

Lombard's eyebrows rose.

"About me?"



"Yes. I want to know why you brought a revolver down here on a pleasant social

visit?"

Lombard said:

"You do, do you?"

"Yes, I do, Mr. Lombard."

Lombard said unexpectedly:

"You know, Blore, you're not nearly such a fool as you look."

"That's as may be. What about that revolver?"



Lombard smiled.

"I brought it because I expected to run into a spot of trouble."

Blore said suspiciously:

"You didn't tell us that last night."

Lombard shook his head.

"You were holding out on us?" Blore persisted.

"In a way, yes," said Lombard.

"Well, come on, out with it."



Lombard said slowly:

"I allowed you all to think that I was asked here in the same way as most of the
others, That's not quite true. As a matter of fact I was approached by a little
Jewboy - Morris his name was. He offered me a hundred guineas to come down
here and keep my eyes open - said I'd got a reputation for being a good man in a
tight place."

"Well?" Blore prompted impatiently.

Lombard said with a grin:

"That's all."

Dr. Armstrong said:

"But surely he told you more than that?"

"Oh, no, he didn't. Just shut up like a clam. I could take it or leave it - those were
his words. I was hard up. I took it." Blore looked unconvinced. He said:

"Why didn't you tell us all this last night?"

"My dear man -" Lombard shrugged eloquent shoulders. "How was I to know that
last night wasn't exactly the eventuality I was here to cope with? I lay low and
told a noncommittal story."

Dr. Armstrong said shrewdly:

"But now - you think differently?"



Lombard's face changed. It darkened and hardened. He said:

"Yes, I believe now that I'm in the same boat as the rest of you. That hundred
guineas was just Mr. Owen's little bit of cheese to get me into the trap along with
the rest of you."

He said slowly:

"For we are in a trap - I'll take my oath on that! Mrs. Rogers' death! Tony
Marston's! The disappearing Indian boys on the dinner-table! Oh, yes, Mr.
Owen's hand is plainly to be seen - but where the devil is Mr. Owen himself?"

Downstairs the gong pealed a solemn call to lunch.



II



Rogers was standing by the dining-room door. As the three men descended the
stairs he moved a step or two forward. He said in a low anxious voice:

"I hope lunch will be satisfactory. There is cold ham and cold tongue, and I've
boiled some potatoes. And there's cheese and biscuits and some tinned fruits."

Lombard said:

"Sounds all right. Stores are holding out, then?"

"There is plenty of food, sir - of a tinned variety. The larder is very well stocked.
A necessity, that, I should say, sir, on an island where one may be cut off from
the mainland for a considerable period."



Lombard nodded.

Rogers murmured as he followed the three men into the dining-room:

"It wormes me that Fred Narracott hasn't been over today. It's peculiarly
unfortunate, as you might say,"



"Yes," said Lombard, "peculiarly unfortunate describes it very well."

Miss Brent came into the room. She had just dropped a ball of wool and was
carefully rewinding the end of it.

As she took her seat at table she remarked:

"The weather is changing. The wind is quite strong and there are white horses on
the sea."

Mr. Justice Wargrave came in. He walked with a slow measured tread. He darted
quick looks from under his bushy eyebrows at the other occupants of the dining-
room. He said:

"You have had an active morning."

There was a faint malicious pleasure in his voice.

Vera Claythorne hurried in. She was a little out of breath.

She said quickly:

"I hope you didn't wait for me. Am I late?"



Emily Brent said:

"You're not the last. The General isn't here yet."

They sat round the table.

Rogers addressed Miss Brent:

"Will you begin, Madam, or will you wait?"

Vera said:

"General Macarthur is sitting right down by the sea. I don't expect he would hear
the gong there and anyway" - she hesitated - "he's a little vague today, I think."

Rogers said quickly:

"I will go down and inform him luncheon is ready."


Dr. Armstrong jumped up.

"I'll go," he said. "You others start lunch."

He left the room. Behind him he heard Rogers' voice.

"Will you take cold tongue or cold ham, Madam?"



Ill



The five people sitting round the table seemed to find conversation difficult.
Outside sudden gusts of wind came up and died away.

Vera shivered a little and said:

"There is a storm coming."

Blore made a contribution to the discourse. He said conversationally:

"There was an old fellow in the train from Plymouth yesterday. He kept saying a
storm was coming. Wonderful how they know weather, these old salts."

Rogers went round the table collecting the meat plates.

Suddenly, with the plates held in his hands, he stopped. He said in an odd scared
voice:

"There's somebody running..."

They could all hear it - running feet along the terrace.

In that minute, they knew - knew without being told...

As by common accord, they all rose to their feet. They stood looking towards the
door.

Dr. Armstrong appeared, his breath coming fast.

He said:

"General Macarthur -"



"Dead!" The voice burst from Vera explosively.

Armstrong said:

"Yes, he's dead..."

There was a pause - a long pause.

Seven people looked at each other and could find no words to say.



IV

The storm broke just as the old man's body was borne in through the door.

The others were standing in the hall.

There was a sudden hiss and roar as the rain came down.

As Blore and Armstrong passed up the stairs with their burden, Vera Claythorne
turned suddenly and went into the deserted dining-room.

It was as they had left it. The sweet course stood ready on the sideboard
untasted,

Vera went up to the table. She was there a minute or two later when Rogers
came softly into the room.

He started when he saw her. Then his eyes asked a question.



He said:

"Oh, Miss, I - 1 just came to see..."

In a loud harsh voice that surprised herself Vera said:

"You're quite right, Rogers. Look for yourself. There are only seven..."



V



General Macarthur had been laid on his bed.

After making a last examination Armstrong left the room and came downstairs.
He found the others assembled in the drawing-room.

Miss Brent was knitting. Vera Claythorne was standing by the window looking
out at the hissing rain, Blore was sitting squarely in a chair, his hands on his
knees. Lombard was walking restlessly up and down. At the far end of the room
Mr. Justice Wargrave was sitting in a grandfather chair. His eyes were half
closed.

They opened as the doctor came into the room. He said in a clear penetrating
voice:

"Well, doctor?"

Armstrong was very pale.

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