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Ten Little Niggers: Page 9
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Anthony shrugged his shoulders.
"Speed's come to stay. English roads are hopeless, of course. Can't get up a decent
pace on them."
He looked round vaguely for his glass, picked it up off a table and went over to
the side table and helped himself to another whiskey and soda. He said over his
"Well, anyway, it wasn't my fault. Just an accident!"
The manservant, Rogers, had been moistening his lips and twisting his hands.
He said now in a low deferential voice:
"If I might just say a word, sir."
"Go ahead, Rogers."
Rogers cleared his throat and passed his tongue once more over his dry lips.
"There was a mention, sir, of me and Mrs. Rogers. And of Miss Brady. There isn't
a word of truth in it, sir. My wife and I were with Miss Brady till she died. She
was always in poor health, sir, always from the time we came to her. There was a
storm, sir, that night - the night she was taken bad. The telephone was out of
order. We couldn't get the doctor to her. I went for him, sir, on foot. But he got
there too late. We'd done everything possible for her, sir. Devoted to her, we
were. Any one will tell you the same. There was never a word said against us.
Not a word."
Lombard looked thoughtfully at the man's twitching face, his dry lips, the fright
in his eyes. He remembered the crash of the falling coffee tray. He thought, but
did not say, "Oh, yea?"
Blore spoke - spoke in his hearty bullying official manner.
"Came into a little something at her death, though? Eh?"
Rogers drew himself up. He said stiffly:
"Miss Brady left us a legacy in recognition of our faithful services. And why not,
I'd like to know?"
"What about yourself, Mr. Blore?"
"What about me?"
"Your name was included in the list."
Blore went purple.
"Landor, you mean? That was the bank robbery - London and Commercial."
Mr. Justice Wargrave stirred. He said:
"I remember. It didn't come before me, but I remember the case. Landor was
convicted on your evidence. You were the police officer in charge of the case?"
"Landor got penal servitude for life and died in Dartmoor a year later. He was a
"He was a crook. It was he who knocked out the night watchman. The case was
quite clear against him."
Wargrave said slowly:
"You were complimented, I think, on your able handling of the case."
Blore said sulkily:
"I got my promotion."
He added in a thick voice:
"I was only doing my duty."
Lombard laughed - a sudden ringing laugh. He said:
"What a duty-loving, law-abiding lot we all seem to be! Myself excepted. What
about you, doctor - and your little professional mistake? Illegal operation, was
Emily Brent glanced at him in sharp distaste and drew herself away a little.
Dr. Armstrong, very much master of himself, shook his head good-humouredly.
"I'm at a loss to understand the matter," he said. "The name meant nothing to me
when it was spoken. What was it - Clees? Close? I really can't remember having a
patient of that name, or being connected with a death in any way. The thing's a
complete mystery to me. Of course, it's a long time ago. It might possibly be one
of my operation cases in hospital. They come too late, so many of these people.
Then, when the patient dies, they always consider it's the surgeon's fault."
He sighed, shaking his head.
"Drunk - that's what it was - drunk... And I operated! Nerves all to pieces - hands
shaking. I killed her, all right. Poor devil - elderly woman - simple job if I'd been
sober. Lucky for me there's loyalty in our profession. The Sister knew, of course -
but she held her tongue, God, it gave me a shock! Pulled me up. But who could
have known about it - after all these years?"
There was a silence in the room. Everybody was looking, covertly or openly, at
Emily Brent. It was a minute or two before she became aware of the expectation.
Her eyebrows rose on her narrow forehead. She said:
"Are you waiting for me to say something? I have nothing to say."
The judge said:
"Nothing, Miss Brent?"
Her lips closed tightly.
The judge stroked his face. He said mildly:
"You reserve your defence?"
Miss Brent said coldly:
"There is no question of defence. I have always acted in accordance with the
dictates of my conscience. I have nothing with which to reproach myself."
There was an unsatisfied feeling in the air. But Emily Brent was not one to be
swayed by public opinion. She sat unyielding.
The judge cleared his throat once or twice. Then he said:
"Our inquiry rests there. Now, Rogers, who else is there on this island besides
ourselves and you and your wife?"
"Nobody, sir. Nobody at all."
"You're sure of that?"
"Quite sure, sir."
"I am not yet clear as to the purpose of our Unknown host in getting us to
assemble here. But in my opinion this person, whoever he may be, is not sane in
the accepted sense of the word.
"He may be dangerous. In my opinion it would be well for us to leave this place as
soon as possible. I suggest that we leave tonight."
"I beg your pardon, sir, but there's no boat on the island."
"No boat at all?"
"How do you communicate with the mainland?"
"Fred Narracott, he comes over every morning, sir. He brings the bread and the
milk and the post, and takes the orders."
Mr. Justice Wargrave said:
"Then in my opinion it would be well if we all left tomorrow morning as soon as
Narracott's boat arrives."
There was a chorus of agreement with only one dissentient voice. It was Anthony
Marston who disagreed with the majority.
"A bit unsporting, what?" he said. "Ought to ferret out the mystery before we go.
Whole thing's like a detective story. Positively thrilling."
The judge said acidly:
"At my time of life, I have no desire for 'thrills,' as you call them."
Anthony said with a grin:
"The legal life's narrowing! I'm all for crime! Here's to it."
He picked up his drink and drank it off at a gulp.
Too quickly, perhaps. He choked - choked badly. His face contorted, turned
purple. He gasped for breath - then slid down off his chair, the glass falling from
It was so sudden and so unexpected that it took every one's breath away. They
remained stupidly staring at the crumpled figure on the ground.
Then Dr. Armstrong jumped up and went over to him, kneeling beside him.
When he raised his head his eyes were bewildered.
He said in a low awe-struck whisper:
"My God! he's dead!"
They didn't take it in. Not at once.
Dead? Dead? That young Norse God in the prime of his health and strength.
Struck down all in a moment. Healthy young men didn't die like that, choking
over a whiskey and soda...
No, they couldn't take it in.
Dr. Armstrong was peering into the dead man's face. He sniffed at the blue
twisted lips. Then he picked up the glass from which Anthony Marston had been
General Macarthur said:
"Dead: D'you mean the fellow just choked and - and died?"
The physician said:
"You can call it choking if you like. He died of asphyxiation right enough."
He was sniffing now at the glass. He dipped a finger into the dregs and very
cautiously just touched the finger with the tip of his tongue.
His expression altered.
General Macarthur said:
"Never knew a man could die like that -just of a choking fit!"
Emily Brent said in a clear voice:
"In the midst of life we are in death."
Dr. Armstrong stood up. He said brusquely:
"No, a man doesn't die of a mere choking fit. Marston's death wasn't what we call
a natural death."
Vera said almost in a whisper:
"Was there - something - in the whiskey?"
"Yes. Can't say exactly. Everything points to one of the cyanides.
smell of Prussic Acid, probably Potassium Cyanide. It acts pretty well
The judge said sharply:
"It was in his glass?"
The doctor strode to the table where the drinks were. He removed the stopper
from the whiskey and smelt and tasted it. Then he tasted the soda water. He
shook his head.
"They're both all right."
"You mean - he must have put the stuff in his glass himself!"
Armstrong nodded with a curiously dissatisfied expression. He said:
"Seems like it."
"Suicide, eh? That's a queer go."
Vera said slowly:
"You'd never think that he would kill himself. He was so alive. He was - oh
enjoying himself! When he came down the hill in his car this evening he looked
he looked - oh, I can't explain!"
But they knew what she meant.
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