Read 100 Best Sellers books

Ten Little Niggers


Ten Little Niggers: Page 22


Unlimited reading from over 1 million ebooks
He isn't in his room or anywhere else. And
there's no kettle on and the kitchen fire isn't even lit."

Blore swore under his breath. He said:

"Where the devil can he be? Out on the island somewhere? Wait till I get some
clothes on. See if the others know anything."

Philip Lombard nodded. He moved along the line of closed doors.

He found Armstrong up and nearly dressed. Mr. Justice Wargrave, like Blore,
had to be roused from sleep. Vera Claythorne was dressed. Emily Brent's room
was empty.

The little party moved through the house. Rogers' room, as Philip Lombard had
already ascertained, was untenanted. The bed had been slept in, and his razor
and sponge and soap were wet.

Lombard said:

"He got up all right."

Vera said in a low voice which she tried to make firm and assured:

"You don't think he's - hiding somewhere - waiting for us?"

Lombard said:



"My dear girl, I'm prepared to think anything of any one! My advice is that we
keep together until we find him."

Armstrong said:

"He must be out on the island somewhere."

Blore who had joined them, dressed, but still unshaved, said:

"Where's Miss Brent got to - that's another mystery?"

But as they arrived in the hall, Emily Brent came in through the front door.
She
had on a mackintosh. She said:

"The sea is as high as ever. I shouldn't think any boat could put out today."

Blore said:

"Have you been wandering about the island alone, Miss Brent? Don't you realize
that that's an exceedingly foolish thing to do?"

Emily Brent said:

"I assure you, Mr. Blore, that I kept an extremely sharp lookout."

Blore grunted. He said:

"Seen anything of Rogers?"

Miss Brent's eyebrows rose.



"Rogers? No, I haven't seen him this morning. Why?"

Mr. Justice Wargrave, shaved, dressed and with his false teeth in position, came
down the stairs. He moved to the open dining-room door. He said:

"He laid the table for breakfast, I see."

Lombard said:

"He might have done that last night."

They all moved inside the room, looking at the neatly set plates and cutlery. At
the row of cups on the sideboard. At the felt mats placed ready for the coffee urn.

It was Vera who saw it first. She caught the judge's arm and the grip of her
athletic fingers made the old gentleman wince.

She cried out:

"The Indians! Look!"

There were only six china figures in the middle of the table.



II



They found him shortly afterwards.

He was in the little wash-house across the yard. He had been chopping sticks in
preparation for lighting the kitchen fire. The small chopper was still in his hand.



A bigger chopper, a heavy affair, was leaning against the door - the metal of it
stained a dull brown. It corresponded only too well with the deep wound in the
back of Rogers' head...



Ill

"Perfectly clear," said Armstrong. "The murderer must have crept up behind him,
swung the chopper once and brought it down on his head as he was bending
over."

Blore was busy on the handle of the chopper and the flour sifter from the kitchen.

Mr. Justice Wargrave asked:

"Would it have needed great force, doctor?"

Armstrong said gravely:

"A woman could have done it if that's what you mean." He gave a quick glance
round. Vera Claythorne and Emily Brent had retired to the kitchen. "The girl
could have done it easily - she's an athletic type. In appearance Miss Brent is
fragile looking, but that type of woman has often a lot of wiry strength. And you
must remember that any one who's mentally unhinged has a good deal of
unsuspected strength."

The judge nodded thoughtfully.

Blore rose from his knees with a sigh. He said:

"No fingerprints. Handle was wiped afterwards."



A sound of laughter was heard - they turned sharply. Vera Claythorne was
standing in the yard. She cried out in a high shrill voice, shaken with wild bursts
of laughter:

"Do they keep bees on this island? Tell me that. Where do we go for honey? Ha!
ha!"

They stared at her uncomprehendingly. It was as though the sane well-balanced
girl had gone mad before their eyes. She went on in that high unnatural voice:

"Don't stare like that! As though you thought I was mad. It's sane enough what
I'm asking. Bees, hives, bees! Oh, don't you understand? Haven't you read that
idiotic rhyme? It's up in all your bedrooms - put there for you to study! We might
have come here straightaway if we'd had sense. Seven little Indian boys chopping
up sticks. And the next verse. I know the whole thing by heart, I tell you! Six
little Indian boys playing with a hive. And that's why I'm asking - do they keep
bees on this island? - isn't it funny? - isn't it damned funny...?"

She began laughing wildly again. Dr. Armstrong strode forward. He raised his
hand and struck her a flat blow on the cheek.

She gasped, hiccuped - and swallowed. She stood motionless a minute, then she
said:

"Thank you... I'm all right now."

Her voice was once more calm and controlled - the voice of the efficient games
mistress.



She turned and went across the yard into the kitchen saying: "Miss Brent and I
are getting you breakfast. Can you - bring some sticks to light the fire?"

The marks of the doctor's hand stood out red on her cheek.

As she went into the kitchen Blore said:

"Well, you dealt with that all right, doctor."

Armstrong said apologetically:

"Had to! We can't cope with hysteria on the top of everything else."

Philip Lombard said:

"She's not a hysterical type."

Armstrong agreed.

"Oh, no. Good healthy sensible girl. Just the sudden shock. It might happen to
anybody."

Rogers had chopped a certain amount of firewood before he had been killed. They
gathered it up and took it into the kitchen. Vera and Emily Brent were busy.
Miss Brent was raking out the stove. Vera was cutting the rind off the bacon.

Emily Brent said:

"Thank you. We'll be as quick as we can - say half an hour to three quarters. The
kettle's got to boil."



IV

Ex-Inspector Blore said in a low hoarse voice to Philip Lombard:

"Know what I'm thinking?"

Philip Lombard said:

"As you're just about to tell me, it's not worth the trouble of guessing."

Ex-Inspector Blore was an earnest man. A light touch was incomprehensible to
him. He went on heavily:

"There was a case in America. Old gentleman and his wife - both killed with an
axe. Middle of the morning. Nobody in the house but the daughter and the maid.
Maid, it was proved, couldn't have done it. Daughter was a respectable middle-
aged spinster. Seemed incredible. So incredible that they acquitted her. But they
never found any other explanation." He paused. "I thought of that when I saw the
axe - and then when I went into the kitchen and saw her there so neat and calm.
Hadn't turned a hair! That girl, coming all over hysterical - well, that's natural -
the sort of thing you'd expect - don't you think so?"

Philip Lombard said laconically:

"It might be."

Blore went on.

"But the other! So neat and prim - wrapped up in that apron - Mrs. Rogers'
apron, I suppose - saying: 'Breakfast will be ready in half an hour or so.' If you



ask me that woman's as mad as a hatter! Lots of elderly spinsters go that way - 1
don't mean go in for homicide on the grand scale, but go queer in their heads.
Unfortunately it's taken her this way. Religious mania - thinks she's God's
instrument, something of that kind! She sits in her room, you know, reading her
Bible."

Philip Lombard sighed and said:

"That's hardly proof positive of an unbalanced mentality, Blore."

But Blore went on, ploddingly, perseveringly:

"And then she was out - in her mackintosh, said she'd been down to look at the
sea."

The other shook his head.

He said:

"Rogers was killed as he was chopping firewood - that is to say first thing when
he got up. The Brent woman wouldn't have needed to wander about outside for
hours afterwards. If you ask me, the murderer of Rogers would take jolly good
care to be rolled up in bed snoring."

Blore said:

"You're missing the point, Mr. Lombard. If the woman was innocent she'd be too
dead scared to go wandering about by herself. She'd only do that if she knew that
she had nothing to fear. That's to say if she herself is the criminal."

Philip Lombard said:



"That's a good point... Yes, I hadn't thought of that."

He added with a faint grin:

"Glad you don't still suspect me."

Blore said rather shamefacedly:

"I did start by thinking of you - that revolver - and the queer story you told - or
didn't tell. But I've realized now that that was really a bit too obvious," He
paused and said: "Hope you feel the same about me."

Philip said thoughtfully:

"I may be wrong, of course, but I can't feel that you've got enough imagination for
this job.

Unlimited reading from over 1 million ebooks FREE