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Ten Little Niggers

Ten Little Niggers: Page 19

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To put it simply, is there among us
one or more persons who could not possibly have administered either Cyanide to
Anthony Marston, or an overdose of sleeping draught to Mrs. Rogers, and who
had no opportunity of striking the blow that killed General Macarthur?"

Blore's rather heavy face lit up. He leant forward.

"Now you're talking, sir!" he said. "That's the stuff! Let's go into it. As regards
young Marston I don't think there's anything to be done. It's already been
suggested that some one from outside slipped something into the dregs of his
glass before he refilled it for the last time. A person actually in the room could
have done that even more easily. I can't remember if Rogers was in the room, but
any of the rest of us could certainly have done it."

He paused, then went on.

"Now take the woman Rogers. The people who stand out there are her husband
and the doctor. Either of them could have done it as easy as winking -"

Armstrong sprang to his feet. He was trembling.

"I protest - This is absolutely uncalled for! I swear that the dose I gave the
woman was perfectly -"

"Dr. Armstrong."

The small sour voice was compelling. The doctor stopped with a jerk in the
middle of his sentence. The small cold voice went on.

"Your indignation is very natural. Nevertheless you must admit that the facts
have got to be faced. Either you or Rogers could have administered a fatal dose
with the greatest ease. Let us now consider the position of the other people
present. What chance had I, had Inspector Blore, had Miss Brent, had Miss
Claythorne, had Mr. Lombard of administering poison? Can any one of us be
completely and entirely eliminated?" He paused. "I think not."

Vera said angrily:

"I was nowhere near the woman! All of you can swear to that."

Mr. Justice Wargrave waited a minute, then he said:

"As far as my memory serves me the facts were these - will any one please correct
me if I make a misstatement? Mrs. Rogers was lifted onto the sofa by Anthony
Marston and Mr. Lombard and Dr. Armstrong went to her. He sent Rogers for
brandy. There was then a question raised as to where the voice we had just heard
had come from. We all went into the next room with the exception of Miss Brent
who remained in this room - alone with the unconscious woman."

A spot of colour came into Emily Brent's cheeks. She stopped knitting. She said:

"This is outrageous!"

The remorseless small voice went on.

"When we returned to this room, you, Miss Brent, were bending over the woman
on the sofa."

Emily Brent said:

"Is common humanity a criminal offence?"

Mr. Justice Wargrave said:

"I am only establishing facts. Rogers then entered the room with the brandy
which, of course, he could quite well have doctored before entering the room. The
brandy was administered to the woman and shortly afterwards her husband and
Dr. Armstrong assisted her up to bed where Dr. Armstrong gave her a sedative."

Blore said:

"That's what happened. Absolutely. And that lets out the judge, Mr. Lombard,
myself and Miss Claythorne."

His voice was loud and jubilant. Mr. Justice Wargrave, bringing a cold eye to
bear upon him, murmured:

"Ah, but does it? We must take into account every possible eventuality."

Blore stared. He said:

"I don't get you."

Mr. Justice Wargrave said:

"Upstairs in her room, Mrs. Rogers is lying in bed. The sedative that the doctor
has given her begins to take effect. She is vaguely sleepy and acquiescent.
Supposing that at that moment there is a tap on the door and some one enters
bringing her, shall we say, a tablet, or a draught, with the message that 'the
doctor says you're to take this.' Do you imagine for one minute that she would not
have swallowed it obediently without thinking twice about it?"

There was a silence. Blore shifted his feet and frowned. Philip Lombard said:

"I don't believe in that story for a minute. Besides none of us left this room for
hours afterwards. There was Marston's death and all the rest of it."

The judge said:

"Some one could have left his or her bedroom - later."

Lombard objected:

"But then Rogers would have been up there."

Dr. Armstrong stirred.

"No," he said. "Rogers went downstairs to clear up in the dining-room and pantry.
Any one could have gone up to the woman's bedroom then without being seen."

Emily Brent said:

"Surely, doctor, the woman would have been fast asleep by then under the
influence of the drug you had administered?"

"In all likelihood, yes. But it is not a certainty. Until you have prescribed for a
patient more than once you cannot tell their reaction to different drugs. There is,
sometimes, a considerable period before a sedative takes effect. It depends on the
personal idiosyncrasy of the patient towards that particular drug."

Lombard said:

"Of course you would say that, doctor. Suits your book - eh?"

Again Armstrong's face darkened with anger.

But again that passionless cold little voice stopped the words on his lips.

"No good result can come from recrimination. Facts are what we have to deal
with. It is established, I think, that there is a possibility of such a thing as I have
outlined occurring. I agree that its probability value is not high; though there

again, it depends on who that person might have been. The appearance of Miss
Brent or of Miss Claythorne on such an errand would have occasioned no
surprise in the patient's mind. I agree that the appearance of myself, or of Mr.
Blore, or of Mr. Lombard could have been, to say the least of it, unusual, but I
still think the visit would have been received without the awakening of any real

Blore said:

"And that gets us - where?"


Mr. Justice Wargrave, stroking his lip and looking quite passionless and
inhuman, said:

"We have now dealt with the second killing, and have established the fact that no
one of us can be completely exonerated from suspicion."

He paused and went on.

"We come now to the death of General Macarthur. That took place this morning.
I will ask any one who considers that he or she has an alibi to state it in so many
words. I myself will state at once that I have no valid alibi. I spent the morning
sitting on the terrace and meditating on the singular position in which we all find

"I sat on that chair on the terrace for the whole morning until the gong went, but
there were, I should imagine, several periods during the morning when I was
quite unobserved and during which it would have been possible for me to walk

down to the sea, kill the General, and return to my chair. There is only my word
for the fact that I never left the terrace. In the circumstances that is not enough.
There must be proof."

Blore said:

"I was with Mr. Lombard and Dr. Armstrong all the morning. They'll bear me

Dr. Armstrong said:

"You went to the house for a rope."

Blore said:

"Of course, I did. Went straight there and straight back. You know I did."

Armstrong said:

"You were a long time..."

Blore turned crimson.

He said:

"What the hell do you mean by that, Dr. Armstrong?"

Armstrong repeated:

"I only said you were a long time."

"Had to find it, didn't I? Can't lay your hands on a coil of rope all in a minute."

Mr. Justice Wargrave said:

"During Inspector Blore's absence, were you two gentlemen together?"

Armstrong said hotly:

"Certainly. That is, Lombard went off for a few minutes. I remained where I

Lombard said with a smile:

"I wanted to test the possibilities of heliographing to the mainland. Wanted to
find the best spot. I was only absent a minute or two."

Armstrong nodded. He said:

"That's right. Not long enough to do a murder, I assure you."

The judge said:

"Did either of you two glance at your watches?"

"Well, no."

Philip Lombard said:

"I wasn't wearing one."

The judge said evenly:

"A minute or two is a vague expression."

He turned his head to the upright figure with the knitting lying on her lap.

"Miss Brent?"

Emily Brent said:

"I took a walk with Miss Claythorne up to the top of the island. Afterwards I sat
on the terrace in the sun."

The judge said:

"I don't think I noticed you there."

"No, I was round the corner of the house to the east. It was out of the wind

"And you sat there till lunch time?"


"Miss Claythorne?"

Vera answered readily and clearly.

"I was with Miss Brent early this morning. After that I wandered about a bit.
Then I went down and talked to General Macarthur."

Mr. Justice Wargrave interrupted. He said:

"What time was that?"

Vera for the first time was vague.

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