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Ten Little Niggers


Ten Little Niggers: Page 31


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The light was golden and mellow. It
enveloped them in a golden glow.



Vera said, with a sudden nervous little giggle:

"Pity we can't have a bathe..."

Philip was looking down towards the sea. He said abruptly:

"What's that, there? You see - by that big rock? No - a little further to the right."




Vera stared. She said:

"It looks like somebody's clothes!"

"A bather, eh?" Lombard laughed. "Queer. I suppose it's only seaweed."

Vera said:



"Let's go and look."

"It is clothes," said. Lombard as they drew nearer. "A bundle of them. That's a
boot. Come on, let's scramble along here."

They scrambled over the rocks.

Vera stopped suddenly. She said:

"It's not clothes - it's a man..."

The man was wedged between two rocks, flung there by the tide earlier in the
day.



Lombard and Vera reached it in a last scramble. They bent down.
A purple discoloured face - a hideous drowned face...
Lombard said:
"My God! It's Armstrong..."




Chapter 16



Aeons passed... worlds span and whirled... Time was motionless... It stood still -
it passed through a thousand ages...

No, it was only a minute or so...

Two people were standing looking down on a dead man...

Slowly, very slowly, Vera Claythorne and Philip Lombard lifted their heads and
looked into each other's eyes...



II



Lombard laughed.



He said:



"So that's it, is it, Vera?"



Vera said:



"There's no one on the island - no one at all - except us two..."

Her voice was a whisper - nothing more.

Lombard said:

"Precisely. So we know where we are, don't we?"

Vera said:

"How was it worked - that trick with the marble bear?"

He shrugged his shoulders.

"A conjuring trick, my dear - a very good one..."

Their eyes met again.

Vera thought:

"Why did I never see his face properly before. A wolf - that's what it is - a wolfs
face... Those horrible teeth..."

Lombard said, and his voice was a snarl - dangerous - menacing:

"This is the end, you understand. We've come to the truth now. And it's the
end..."



Vera said quietly:

"I understand..."

She stared out to sea. General Macarthur had stared out to sea - when - only
yesterday? Or was it the day before? He too had said, "This is the end..."

He had said it with acceptance - almost with welcome.

But to Vera the words - the thought - brought rebellion.

No, it should not be the end.

She looked down at the dead man. She said:

"Poor Dr. Armstrong..."

Lombard sneered.

He said:



What's this? Womanly pity?"



Vera said:



"Why not? Haven't you any pity?"



He said:



'I've no pity for you. Don't expect it!"



Vera looked down again at the body. She said:

"We must move him. Carry him up to the house."

"To join the other victims, I suppose? All neat and tidy. As far as I'm concerned
he can stay where he is."

Vera said:

"At any rate, let's get him out of reach of the sea."

Lombard laughed. He said:

"If you like."

He bent - tugging at the body. Vera leaned against him, helping him. She pulled
and tugged with all her might.

Lombard panted:

"Not such an easy job."

They managed it, however, drawing the body clear of the high water mark.

Lombard said as he straightened up:

"Satisfied?"

Vera said:

"Quite."



Her tone warned him. He spun around. Even as he clapped his hand to his pocket
he knew that he would find it empty.

She had moved a yard or two and was facing him, revolver in hand.

Lombard said:

"So that's the reason for your womanly solicitude! You wanted to pick my pocket."

She nodded.

She held it steadily and unwaveringly.

Death was very near to Philip Lombard now. It had never, he knew, been nearer.

Nevertheless he was not beaten yet.

He said authoritatively:

"Give that revolver to me."

Vera laughed.

Lombard said:

"Come on, hand it over."

His quick brain was working. Which way - which method - talk her over - lull her
into security - or a swift dash -



All his life Lombard had taken the risky way. He took it now.

He spoke slowly, argumentatively.

"Now look here, my dear girl, you just listen -"

And then he sprang. Quick as a panther - as any other feline creature...

Automatically Vera pressed the trigger...

Lombard's leaping body stayed poised in mid-spring, then crashed heavily to the
ground.

Vera came warily forward, the revolver ready in her hand.

But there was no need of caution.

Philip Lombard was dead - shot through the heart...



Ill



Relief possessed Vera - enormous exquisite relief.



At last it was over.



There was no more fear - no more steeling of her nerves.



She was alone on the island...



Alone with nine dead bodies...



But what did that matter? She was alive.



She sat there - exquisitely happy - exquisitely at peace.



No more fear...



IV



The sun was setting when Vera moved at last. Sheer reaction had kept her
immobile. There had been no room in her for anything but the glorious sense of
safety.

She realized now that she was hungry and sleepy. Principally sleepy. She wanted
to throw herself on her bed and sleep and sleep and sleep...

Tomorrow, perhaps, they would come and rescue her - but she didn't really mind.
She didn't mind staying here. Not now that she was alone...

Oh! blessed, blessed peace...

She got to her feet and glanced up at the house.

Nothing to be afraid of any longer! No terrors waiting for her! Just an ordinary
well-built modern house. And yet, a little earlier in the day, she had not been
able to look at it without shivering...

Fear - what a strange thing fear was...



Well, it was over now. She had conquered - had triumphed over the most deadly
peril. By her own quick-wittedness and adroitness she had turned the tables on
her would-be destroyer.

She began to walk up towards the house.

The sun was setting, the sky to the west was streaked with red and orange. It
was beautiful and peaceful...

Vera thought:

"The whole thing might be a dream..."

How tired she was - terribly tired. Her limbs ached, her eyelids were drooping.
Not to be afraid any more... To sleep. Sleep... sleep... sleep...

To sleep safely since she was alone on the island. One little Indian boy left all
alone.

She smiled to herself.

She went in at the front door. The house, too, felt strangely peaceful.

Vera thought:

"Ordinarily one wouldn't care to sleep where there's a dead body in practically
every bedroom!"

Should she go the kitchen and get herself something to eat?

She hesitated a moment, then decided against it. She was really too tired...



She paused by the dining-room door. There were still three little china figures in
the middle of the table.

Vera laughed.

She said:

"You're behind the times, my dears."

She picked up two of them and tossed them out through the window. She heard
them crash on the stone of the terrace.

The third little figure she picked up and held in her hand. She said:

"You can come with me. We've won, my dear! We've won!"

The hall was dim in the dying light.

Vera, the little Indian clasped in her hand, began to mount the stairs. Slowly,
because her legs were suddenly very tired.

"One little Indian boy left all alone." How did it end? Oh, yes! "He got married
and then there were none."

Married... Funny, how she suddenly got the feeling again that Hugo was in the
house...

Very strong. Yes, Hugo was upstairs waiting for her.

Vera said to herself:



"Don't be a fool. You're so tired that you're imagining the most fantastic things..."

Slowly up the stairs...

At the top of them something fell from her hand, making hardly any noise on the
soft pile carpet. She did not notice that she had dropped the revolver. She was
only conscious of clasping a little china figure.

How very quiet the house was. And yet - it didn't seem like an empty house...

Hugo, upstairs, waiting for her...

"One little Indian boy left all alone... What was the last line again? Something
about being married - or was it something else?

She had come now to the door of her room. Hugo was waiting for her inside - she
was quite sure of it.

She opened the door...

She gave a gasp...

What was that - hanging from the hook in the ceiling? A rope with a noose all
ready? And a chair to stand upon - a chair that could be kicked away...

That was what Hugo wanted...

And of course that was the last line of the rhyme.

"He went and hanged himself and then there were none...



The little china figure fell from her hand. It rolled unheeded and broke against
the fender.

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