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Ten Little Niggers: Page 3
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Indian Island. He remembered Indian Island as a boy... Smelly sort of rock
covered with gulls - stood about a mile from the coast. It had got its name from
its resemblance to a man's head - an American Indian profile.
Funny idea to go and build a house on it! Awful in bad weather! But millionaires
were full of whims!
The old man in the corner woke up and said:
"You can't never tell at sea - never!"
Mr. Blore said soothingly, "That's right. You can't."
The old man hiccuped twice and said plaintively:
"There's a squall coming."
Mr. Blore said:
"No, no, mate, it's a lovely day."
The old man said angrily:
"There's a squall ahead. I can smell it."
"Maybe you're right," said Mr. Blore pacifically.
The train stopped at a station and the old fellow rose unsteadily.
"Thish where I get out." He fumbled with the window. Mr. Blore helped him.
The old man stood in the doorway. He raised a solemn hand and blinked his
"Watch and pray," he said. "Watch and pray. The day of judgement is at hand."
He collapsed through the doorway onto the platform. From a recumbent position
he looked up at Mr. Blore and said with immense dignity:
"I'm talking to you, young man. The day of judgement is very close at hand."
Subsiding onto his seat Mr. Blore thought to himself:
"He's nearer the day of judgement than I am!"
But there, as it happens, he was wrong...
Outside Oakbridge station a little group of people stood in momentary
uncertainty. Behind them stood porters with suitcases. One of these called "Jim!"
The driver of one of the taxis stepped forward.
"You'm for Indian Island, maybe? he asked in a soft Devon voice. Four voices
gave assent - and then immediately afterwards gave quick surreptitious glances
at each other.
The driver said, addressing his remarks to Mr. Justice Wargrave as the senior
member of the party:
"There are two taxis here, sir. One of them must wait till the slow train from
Exeter gets in - a matter of five minutes - there's one gentleman coming by that.
Perhaps one of you wouldn't mind waiting? You'd be more comfortable that way."
Vera Claythorne, her own secretarial position clear in her mind, spoke at once.
"I'll wait," she said, "if you will go on?" She looked at the other three, her glance
and voice had that slight suggestion of command in it that comes from having
occupied a position of authority. She might have been directing which tennis sets
the girls were to play in.
Miss Brent said stiffly, "Thank you," bent her head and entered one of the taxis,
the door of which the driver was holding open.
Mr. Justice Wargrave followed her.
Captain Lombard said:
"I'll wait with Miss -"
"Claythorne," said Vera.
"My name is Lombard, Philip Lombard."
The porters were piling luggage on the taxi. Inside, Mr. Justice Wargrave said
with due legal caution:
"Beautiful weather we are having."
Miss Brent said:
A very distinguished old gentleman, she thought to herself. Quite unlike the
usual type of man in seaside guest houses. Evidently Mrs. or Miss Oliver had
Mr. Justice Wargrave inquired:
"Do you know this part of the world well?"
"I have been to Cornwall and to Torquay, but this is my first visit to this part of
The judge said:
"I also am unacquainted with this part of the world."
The taxi drove off.
The driver of the second taxi said:
"Like to sit inside while you're waiting?"
Vera said decisively:
"Not at all."
Captain Lombard smiled.
"That sunny wall looks more attractive. Unless you'd rather go inside the
"No, indeed. It's so delightful to get out of that stuffy train."
"Yes, travelling by train is rather trying in this weather."
Vera said conventionally:
"I do hope it lasts - the weather, I mean. Our English summers are so
With a slight lack of originality Lombard asked:
"Do you know this part of the world well?"
"No, I've never been here before." She added quickly, conscientiously determined
to make her position clear at once, "I haven't even seen my employer yet."
"Yes, I'm Mrs. Owen's secretary."
"Oh, I see." Just imperceptibly his manner changed. It was slightly more assured
- easier in tone. He said: "Isn't that rather unusual?"
"Oh, no, I don't think so. Her own secretary was suddenly taken ill and she wired
to an agency for a substitute and they sent me."
"So that was it. And suppose you don't like the post when you've got there?"
Vera laughed again.
"Oh, it's only temporary - a holiday post. I've got a permanent job at a girls'
school. As a matter of fact I'm frightfully thrilled at the prospect of seeing Indian
Island. There's been such a lot about it in the papers. Is it really very
"I don't know. I haven't seen it."
"Oh, really? The Owens are frightfully keen on it, I suppose. What are they like?
Do tell me."
Lombard thought: "Awkward, this - am I supposed to have met them or not?" He
"There's a wasp crawling up your arm. No - keep quite still."
He made a convincing pounce. "There. It's gone!"
"Oh, thank you. There are a lot of wasps about this summer."
"Yes, I suppose it's the heat. Who are we waiting for, do you know?"
"I haven't the least idea."
The loud drawn out scream of an approaching train was heard. Lombard said:
"That will be the train now."
It was a tall soldierly old man who appeared at the exit from the platform. His
grey hair was clipped close and he had a neatly trimmed white moustache.
His porter, staggering slightly under the weight of the solid leather suitcase,
indicated Vera and Lombard.
Vera came forward in a competent manner. She said:
"I am Mrs. Owen's secretary. There is a car here waiting." She added: "This is
The faded blue eyes, shrewd in spite of their age, sized up Lombard. For a
moment a judgement showed in them - had there been any one to read it.
"Good-looking fellow. Something just a little wrong about him..."
The three of them got into the waiting taxi. They drove through the sleepy
streets of little Oakbridge and continued about a mile on the main Plymouth
road. Then they plunged into a maze of cross country lanes, steep, green and
General Macarthur said:
"Don't know this part of Devon at all. My little place is in East Devon - just on
the border-line of Dorset."
"It really is lovely here. The hills and the red earth and everything so green and
Philip Lombard said critically:
"It's a bit shut in... I like open country myself. Where you can see what's
General Macarthur said to him:
"You've seen a bit of the world, I fancy?"
Lombard shrugged his shoulders disparagingly.
"I've knocked about here and there, sir."
He thought to himself: "He'll ask me now if I was old enough to be in the War.
These old boys always do."
But General Macarthur did not mention the War.
They came up over a steep hill and down a zig-zag track to Sticklehaven - a mere
cluster of cottages with a fishing boat or two drawn up on the beach.
Illuminated by the setting sun, they had their first glimpse of Indian Island
jutting up out of the sea to the south.
Vera said, surprised:
"It's a long way out."
She had pictured it differently, close to shore, crowned with a beautiful white
house. But there was no house visible, only the boldly silhouetted rock with its
faint resemblance to a giant Indian's head. There was something sinister about
it. She shivered faintly.
Outside a little inn, the Seven Stars, three people were sitting. There was the
hunched elderly figure of the judge, the upright form of Miss Brent, and a third
man - a big bluff man who came forward and introduced himself.
"Thought we might as well wait for you," he said. "Make one trip of it. Allow me
to introduce myself. Name's Davis. Natal, South Africa's my natal spot, ha, ha!"
He laughed breezily.
Mr. Justice Wargrave looked at him with active malevolence. He seemed to be
wishing that he could order the court to be cleared. Miss Emily Brent was clearly
not sure if she liked colonials.
"Any one care for a little nip before we embark?" asked Mr. Davis hospitably.
Nobody assenting to this proposition, Mr. Davis turned and held up a finger.
"Mustn't delay, then. Our good host and hostess will be expecting us," he said.
He might have noticed that a curious constraint came over the other members of
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