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Ten Little Niggers: Page 26
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go to her room and bathe her aching head and temples in cold water.
She got up and went towards the door. Then she remembered and came back and
got a candle out of the box. She lighted it, let a little wax pour into a saucer and
stuck the candle firmly to it. Then she went out of the room, shutting the door
behind her and leaving the four men inside.
She went up the stairs and along the passage to her room.
As she opened her door, she suddenly halted and stood stock still.
Her nostrils quivered.
The sea... The smell of the sea at St. Tredennick...
That was it. She could not be mistaken. Of course one smelt the sea on an island
anyway, but this was different. It was the smell there had been on the beach that
day - with the tide out and the rocks covered with seaweed drying in the sun.
"Can I swim out to the island, Miss Claythorne?"
"Why can't I swim out to the island?..."
Horrid whiny spoilt little brat! If it weren't for him, Hugo would be rich... able to
marry the girl he loved...
Surely - surely - Hugo was beside her? No, waiting for her in the room...
She made a step forward. The draught from the window caught the flame of the
candle. It flickered and went out...
Tn the dark she was suddenly afraid...
"Don't be a fool," Vera Claythorne urged herself. "It's all right. The others are
downstairs. All four of them. There's no one in the room. There can't be. You're
imagining things, my girl."
But that smell - that smell of the beach at St. Tredennick... That wasn't
imagined. It was true...
And there was some one in the room... She had heard something - surely she had
And then, as she stood there, listening - a cold, clammy hand touched her throat -
a wet hand, smelling of the sea...
Vera screamed. She screamed and screamed - screams of the utmost terror - wild
desperate cries for help.
She did not hear the sounds from below, of a chair being overturned, of a door
opening, of men's feet running up the stairs. She was conscious only of supreme
Then, restoring her sanity, lights flickered in the doorway - candles - men
hurrying into the room.
"What the devil?" "What's happened?" "Good God, what is it?"
She shuddered, took a step forward, collapsed on the floor.
She was only half aware of some one bending over her, of some one forcing her
head down between her knees.
Then a sudden exclamation, a quick "My God, look at that!" her senses returned.
She opened her eyes and raised her head. She saw what it was the men with the
candles were looking at.
A broad ribbon of wet seaweed was hanging down from the ceiling. It was that
which in the darkness had swayed against her throat. It was that which she had
taken for a clammy hand, a drowned hand come back from the dead to squeeze
the life out of her!...
She began to laugh hysterically. She said:
"It was seaweed - only seaweed - and that's what the smell was..."
And then the faintness came over her once more - waves upon waves of sickness.
Again some one took her head and forced it between her knees.
Aeons of time seemed to pass. They were offering her something to drink -
pressing the glass against her lips. She smelt brandy.
She was just about to gulp the spirit gratefully down when, suddenly, a warning
note - like an alarm bell - sounded in her brain. She sat up, pushing the glass
She said sharply:
"Where did this come from?"
Blore's voice answered. He stared a minute before speaking.
"I got it from downstairs."
"I won't drink it..."
There was a moment's silence, then Lombard laughed.
He said with appreciation:
"Good for you, Vera! You've got your wits about you - even if you have been
scared half out of your life. I'll get a fresh bottle that hasn't been opened."
He went swiftly out.
Vera said uncertainly:
"I'm all right now. I'll have some water."
Armstrong supported her as she struggled to her feet. She went over to the basin,
swaying and clutching at him for support. She let the cold tap run and then filled
Blore said resentfully:
"That brandy's all right."
"How do you know?"
Blore said angrily:
"I didn't put anything in it. That's what you're getting at, I suppose."
"I'm not saying you did. You might have done it, or some one might have
tampered with the bottle for just this emergency."
Lombard came swiftly back into the room.
He had a new bottle of brandy in his hands and a corkscrew.
He thrust the sealed bottle under Vera's nose.
"There you are, my girl. Absolutely no deception." He peeled off the tin foil and
drew the cork. "Lucky there's a good supply of spirits in the house. Thoughtful of
Vera shuddered violently.
Armstrong held the glass while Philip poured the brandy into it. He said:
"You'd better drink this, Miss Claythorne. You've had a nasty shock."
Vera drank a little of the spirit. The colour came back to her face.
Philip Lombard said with a laugh:
"Well, here's one murder that hasn't gone according to plan!"
Vera said almost in a whisper:
"You think - that was what was meant?"
"Expected you to pass out through fright! Some people would have, wouldn't they,
Armstrong did not commit himself. He said doubtfully:
"H'm, impossible to say. Young healthy subject - no cardiac weakness. Unlikely.
On the other hand -"
He picked up the glass of brandy that Blore had brought. He dipped a finger in it,
tasted it gingerly. His expression did not alter. He said dubiously: "H'm, tastes
Blore stepped forward angrily. He said:
"If you're saying that I tampered with that, I'll knock your ruddy block off."
Vera, her wits revived by the brandy, made a diversion by saying:
"Where's the judge?"
The three men looked at each other.
"That's odd... Thought he came up with us."
"So did I... What about it, doctor? You came up the stairs behind me."
"I thought he was following me... Of course, he'd be bound to go slower than we
did. He's an old man."
They looked at each other again.
"It's damned odd..."
"We must look for him."
He started for the door. The others followed him, Vera last.
As they went down the stairs Armstrong said over his shoulder:
"Of course he may have stayed in the living-room..."
They crossed the hall. Armstrong called out loudly:
"Wargrave, Wargrave, where are you?"
There was no answer. A deadly silence filled the house apart from the gentle
patter of the rain.
Then, in the entrance to the drawing-room door, Armstrong stopped dead. The
others crowded up and looked over his shoulder.
Somebody cried out.
Mr. Justice Wargrave was silting in his high-backed chair at the end of the room.
Two candles burnt on either side of him. But what shocked and startled the
onlookers was the fact that he sat there robed in scarlet with a judge's wig upon
Dr. Armstrong motioned to the others to keep back. He himself walked across to
the silent staring figure, reeling a little as he walked like a drunken man.
He bent forward, peering into the still face. Then, with a swift movement, he
raised the wig. It fell to the floor, revealing the high bald forehead with, in the
very middle, a round stained mark from which something had trickled...
Dr. Armstrong raised the limp hand and felt for the pulse. Then he turned to the
He said - and his voice was expressionless, dead, far away:
"He's been shot... "
"God - the revolver!"
The doctor said, still in the same lifeless voice:
"Got him through the head. Instantaneous."
Vera stooped to the wig. She said, and her voice shook with terror:
"Miss Brent's missing grey wool..."
"And the scarlet curtain that was missing from the bathroom..."
"So this is what they wanted them for..."
Suddenly Philip Lombard laughed - a high unnatural laugh.
'"Five little Indian boys going in for law; one got in Chancery and then there were
four.' That's the end of Mr. Bloody Justice Wargrave. No more pronouncing
sentence for him! No more putting on of the black cap! Here's the last time he'll
ever sit in court! No more summing up and sending innocent men to death. How
Edward Seton would laugh if he were here! God, how he'd laugh!"
His outburst shocked and startled the others.
"Only this morning you said he was the one!"
Philip Lombard's face changed - sobered.
He said in a low voice:
"I know I did..
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