And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

  General Macarthur said:

  ‘Ha! delightful spot!’

  But he felt uneasy. Damned odd sort of place.

  As the party ascended the steps and came out on a terrace above, their spirits revived. In the open doorway of the house a correct butler was awaiting them, and something about his gravity reassured them. And then the house itself was really most attractive, the view from the terrace magnificent…

  The butler came forward bowing slightly. He was a tall lank man, grey-haired and very respectable. He said:

  ‘Will you come this way, please.’

  In the wide hall drinks stood ready. Rows of bottles. Anthony Marston’s spirits cheered up a little. He’d just been thinking this was a rum kind of show. None of his lot! What could old Badger have been thinking about to let him in for this? However, the drinks were all right. Plenty of ice, too.

  What was it the butler chap was saying?

  Mr Owen—unfortunately delayed—unable to get here till tomorrow. Instructions—everything they wanted—if they would like to go to their rooms?…dinner would be at eight o’clock…


  Vera had followed Mrs Rogers upstairs. The woman had thrown open a door at the end of a passage and Vera had walked into a delightful bedroom with a big window that opened wide upon the sea and another looking east. She uttered a quick exclamation of pleasure.

  Mrs Rogers was saying:

  ‘I hope you’ve got everything you want, Miss?’

  Vera looked round. Her luggage had been brought up and had been unpacked. At one side of the room a door stood open into a pale blue-tiled bathroom.

  She said quickly:

  ‘Yes, everything, I think.’

  ‘You’ll ring the bell if you want anything, Miss?’

  Mrs Rogers had a flat monotonous voice. Vera looked at her curiously. What a white bloodless ghost of a woman! Very respectable-looking, with her hair dragged back from her face and her black dress. Queer light eyes that shifted the whole time from place to place.

  Vera thought:

  ‘She looks frightened of her own shadow.’

  Yes, that was it—frightened!

  She looked like a woman who walked in mortal fear…

  A little shiver passed down Vera’s back. What on earth was the woman afraid of?

  She said pleasantly:

  ‘I’m Mrs Owen’s new secretary. I expect you know that.’

  Mrs Rogers said:

  ‘No, Miss, I don’t know anything. Just a list of the ladies and gentlemen and what rooms they were to have.’

  Vera said:

  ‘Mrs Owen didn’t mention me?’

  Mrs Rogers’ eyelashes flickered.

  ‘I haven’t seen Mrs Owen—not yet. We only came here two days ago.’

  Extraordinary people, these Owens, thought Vera. Aloud she said:

  ‘What staff is there here?’

  ‘Just me and Rogers, Miss.’

  Vera frowned. Eight people in the house—ten with the host and hostess—and only one married couple to do for them.

  Mrs Rogers said:

  ‘I’m a good cook and Rogers is handy about the house. I didn’t know, of course, that there was to be such a large party.’

  Vera said:

  ‘But you can manage?’

  ‘Oh yes, Miss, I can manage. If there’s to be large parties often perhaps Mrs Owen could get extra help in.’

  Vera said, ‘I expect so.’

  Mrs Rogers turned to go. Her feet moved noiselessly over the ground. She drifted from the room like a shadow.

  Vera went over to the window and sat down on the window seat. She was faintly disturbed. Everything—somehow—was a little queer. The absence of the Owens, the pale ghostlike Mrs Rogers. And the guests! Yes, the guests were queer, too. An oddly assorted party.

  Vera thought:

  ‘I wish I’d seen the Owens…I wish I knew what they were like.’

  She got up and walked restlessly about the room.

  A perfect bedroom decorated throughout in the modern style. Off-white rugs on the gleaming parquet floor—faintly tinted walls—a long mirror surrounded by lights. A mantelpiece bare of ornaments save for an enormous block of white marble shaped like a bear, a piece of modern sculpture in which was inset a clock. Over it, in a gleaming chromium frame, was a big square of parchment—a poem.

  She stood in front of the fireplace and read it. It was the old nursery rhyme that she remembered from her childhood days.

  Ten little soldier boys went out to dine;

  One choked his little self and then there were Nine.

  Nine little soldier boys sat up very late;

  One overslept himself and then there were Eight.

  Eight little soldier boys travelling in Devon;

  One said he’d stay there and then there were Seven.

  Seven little soldier boys chopping up sticks;

  One chopped himself in halves and then there were Six.

  Six little soldier boys playing with a hive;

  A bumble bee stung one and then there were Five.

  Five little soldier boys going in for law;

  One got in Chancery and then there were Four.

  Four little soldier boys going out to sea;

  A red herring swallowed one and then there were Three.

  Three little soldier boys walking in the Zoo;

  A big bear hugged one and then there were Two.

  Two little soldier boys sitting in the sun;

  One got frizzled up and then there was One.

  One little soldier boy left all alone;

  He went and hanged himself and then there were None.

  Vera smiled. Of course! This was Soldier Island!

  She went and sat again by the window looking out to sea.

  How big the sea was! From here there was no land to be seen anywhere—just a vast expanse of blue water rippling in the evening sun.

  The sea…So peaceful today—sometimes so cruel…The sea that dragged you down to its depths. Drowned…Found drowned…Drowned at sea…Drowned—drowned—drowned…

  No, she wouldn’t remember…She would not think of it!

  All that was over…


  Dr Armstrong came to Soldier Island just as the sun was sinking into the sea. On the way across he had chatted to the boatman—a local man. He was anxious to find out a little about these people who owned Soldier Island, but the man Narracott seemed curiously ill-informed, or perhaps unwilling to talk.

  So Dr Armstrong chatted instead of the weather and of fishing.

  He was tired after his long motor drive. His eyeballs ached. Driving west you were driving against the sun.

  Yes, he was very tired. The sea and perfect peace—that was what he needed. He would like, really, to take a long holiday. But he couldn’t afford to do that. He could afford it financially, of course, but he couldn’t afford to drop out. You were soon forgotten nowadays. No, now that he had arrived, he must keep his nose to the grindstone.

  He thought:

  ‘All the same, this evening, I’ll imagine to myself that I’m not going back—that I’ve done with London and Harley Street and all the rest of it.’

  There was something magical about an island—the mere word suggested fantasy. You lost touch with the world—an island was a world of its own. A world, perhaps, from which you might never return.

  He thought:

  ‘I’m leaving my ordinary life behind me.’

  And, smiling to himself, he began to make plans, fantastic plans for the future. He was still smiling when he walked up the rock-cut steps.

  In a chair on the terrace an old gentleman was sitting and the sight of him was vaguely familiar to Dr Armstrong. Where had he seen that frog-like face, that tortoise-like neck, that hunched up attitude—yes and those pale shrewd little eyes? Of course—old Wargrave. He’d given evidence once before him. Always looked half-asleep, but was shrewd as could be when it came to a point of law. Had great
power with a jury—it was said he could make their minds up for them any day of the week. He’d got one or two unlikely convictions out of them. A hanging judge, some people said.

  Funny place to meet him…here—out of the world.


  Mr Justice Wargrave thought to himself:

  ‘Armstrong? Remember him in the witness-box. Very correct and cautious. All doctors are damned fools. Harley Street ones are the worst of the lot.’ And his mind dwelt malevolently on a recent interview he had had with a suave personage in that very street.

  Aloud he grunted:

  ‘Drinks are in the hall.’

  Dr Armstrong said:

  ‘I must go and pay my respects to my host and hostess.’

  Mr Justice Wargrave closed his eyes again, looking decidedly reptilian, and said:

  ‘You can’t do that.’

  Dr Armstrong was startled.

  ‘Why not?’

  The judge said:

  ‘No host and hostess. Very curious state of affairs. Don’t understand this place.’

  Dr Armstrong stared at him for a minute. When he thought the old gentleman had actually gone to sleep, Wargrave said suddenly:

  ‘D’you know Constance Culmington?’

  ‘Er—no, I’m afraid I don’t.’

  ‘It’s of no consequence,’ said the judge. ‘Very vague woman—and practically unreadable handwriting. I was just wondering if I’d come to the wrong house.’

  Dr Armstrong shook his head and went on up to the house.

  Mr Justice Wargrave reflected on the subject of Constance Culmington. Undependable like all women.

  His mind went on to the two women in the house, the tight-lipped old maid and the girl. He didn’t care for the girl, cold-blooded young hussy. No, three women, if you counted the Rogers woman. Odd creature, she looked scared to death. Respectable pair and knew their job.

  Rogers coming out on the terrace that minute, the judge asked him:

  ‘Is Lady Constance Culmington expected, do you know?’

  Rogers stared at him.

  ‘No, sir, not to my knowledge.’

  The judge’s eyebrows rose. But he only grunted.

  He thought:

  ‘Soldier Island, eh? There’s a fly in the ointment.’


  Anthony Marston was in his bath. He luxuriated in the steaming water. His limbs had felt cramped after his long drive. Very few thoughts passed through his head. Anthony was a creature of sensation—and of action.

  He thought to himself:

  ‘Must go through with it, I suppose,’ and thereafter dismissed everything from his mind.

  Warm steaming water—tired limbs—presently a shave—a cocktail—dinner.

  And after—?


  Mr Blore was tying his tie. He wasn’t very good at this sort of thing.

  Did he look all right? He supposed so.

  Nobody had been exactly cordial to him…Funny the way they all eyed each other—as though they knew…

  Well, it was up to him.

  He didn’t mean to bungle his job.

  He glanced up at the framed nursery rhyme over the mantelpiece.

  Neat touch, having that there!

  He thought:

  Remember this island when I was a kid. Never thought I’d be doing this sort of a job in a house here. Good thing, perhaps, that one can’t foresee the future.


  General Macarthur was frowning to himself.

  Damn it all, the whole thing was deuced odd! Not at all what he’d been led to expect…

  For two pins he’d make an excuse and get away…Throw up the whole business…

  But the motor-boat had gone back to the mainland.

  He’d have to stay.

  That fellow Lombard now, he was a queer chap.

  Not straight. He’d swear the man wasn’t straight.


  As the gong sounded, Philip Lombard came out of his room and walked to the head of the stairs. He moved like a panther, smoothly and noiselessly. There was something of the panther about him altogether. A beast of prey—pleasant to the eye.

  He was smiling to himself.

  A week—eh?

  He was going to enjoy that week.


  In her bedroom, Emily Brent, dressed in black silk ready for dinner, was reading her Bible.

  Her lips moved as she followed the words:

  ‘The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made: in the net which they hid is their own foot taken. The Lord is known by the judgment which he executeth: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. The wicked shall be turned into hell.’

  Her lips tight closed. She shut the Bible.

  Rising, she pinned a cairngorm brooch at her neck, and went down to dinner.

  Chapter 3


  Dinner was drawing to a close.

  The food had been good, the wine perfect. Rogers waited well.

  Every one was in better spirits. They had begun to talk to each other with more freedom and intimacy.

  Mr Justice Wargrave, mellowed by the excellent port, was being amusing in a caustic fashion, Dr Armstrong and Tony Marston were listening to him. Miss Brent chatted to General Macarthur, they had discovered some mutual friends. Vera Claythorne was asking Mr Davis intelligent questions about South Africa. Mr Davis was quite fluent on the subject. Lombard listened to the conversation. Once or twice he looked up quickly, and his eyes narrowed. Now and then his eyes played round the table, studying the others.

  Anthony Marston said suddenly:

  ‘Quaint, these things, aren’t they?’

  In the centre of the round table, on a circular glass stand, were some little china figures.

  ‘Soldiers,’ said Tony. ‘Soldier Island. I suppose that’s the idea.’

  Vera leaned forward.

  ‘I wonder. How many are there? Ten?’

  ‘Yes—ten there are.’

  Vera cried:

  ‘What fun! They’re the ten little soldier boys of the nursery rhyme, I suppose. In my bedroom the rhyme is framed and hung up over the mantelpiece.’

  Lombard said:

  ‘In my room, too.’

  ‘And mine.’

  ‘And mine.’

  Everybody joined in the chorus. Vera said:

  ‘It’s an amusing idea, isn’t it?’

  Mr Justice Wargrave grunted:

  ‘Remarkably childish,’ and helped himself to port.

  Emily Brent looked at Vera Claythorne. Vera Claythorne looked at Miss Brent. The two women rose.

  In the drawing-room the French windows were open on to the terrace and the sound of the sea murmuring against the rocks came up to them.

  Emily Brent said, ‘Pleasant sound.’

  Vera said sharply, ‘I hate it.’

  Miss Brent’s eyes looked at her in surprise. Vera flushed. She said, more composedly:

  ‘I don’t think this place would be very agreeable in a storm.’

  Emily Brent agreed.

  ‘I’ve no doubt the house is shut up in winter,’ she said. ‘You’d never get servants to stay here for one thing.’

  Vera murmured:

  ‘It must be difficult to get servants anyway.’

  Emily Brent said:

  ‘Mrs Oliver has been lucky to get these two. The woman’s a good cook.’

  Vera thought:

  ‘Funny how elderly people always get names wrong.’

  She said:

  ‘Yes, I think Mrs Owen has been very lucky indeed.’

  Emily Brent had brought a small piece of embroidery out of her bag. Now, as she was about to thread her needle, she paused.

  She said sharply:

  ‘Owen? Did you say Owen?’


  Emily Brent said sharply:

  ‘I’ve never met anyone called Owen in my life.’

  Vera stared.

  ‘But surely—’

  She did
not finish her sentence. The door opened and the men joined them. Rogers followed them into the room with the coffee tray.

  The judge came and sat down by Emily Brent. Armstrong came up to Vera. Tony Marston strolled to the open window. Blore studied with naïve surprise a statuette in brass—wondering perhaps if its bizarre angularities were really supposed to be the female figure. General Macarthur stood with his back to the mantelpiece. He pulled at his little white moustache. That had been a damned good dinner! His spirits were rising. Lombard turned over the pages of Punch that lay with other papers on a table by the wall.

  Rogers went round with the coffee tray. The coffee was good—really black and very hot.

  The whole party had dined well. They were satisfied with themselves and with life. The hands of the clock pointed to twenty minutes past nine. There was a silence—a comfortable replete silence.

  Into that silence came The Voice. Without warning, inhuman, penetrating…

  ‘Ladies and gentlemen! Silence please!’

  Everyone was startled. They looked round—at each other, at the walls. Who was speaking?

  The Voice went on—a high clear voice:

  ‘You are charged with the following indictments:

  ‘Edward George Armstrong, that you did upon the 14th day of March, 1925, cause the death of Louisa Mary Clees.

  ‘Emily Caroline Brent, that upon the 5th of November, 1931, you were responsible for the death of Beatrice Taylor.

  ‘William Henry Blore, that you brought about the death of James Stephen Landor on October 10th, 1928.

  ‘Vera Elizabeth Claythorne, that on the 11th day of August, 1935, you killed Cyril Ogilvie Hamilton.

  ‘Philip Lombard, that upon a date in February, 1932, you were guilty of the death of twenty-one men, members of an East African tribe.

  ‘John Gordon Macarthur, that on the 4th of January, 1917, you deliberately sent your wife’s lover, Arthur Richmond, to his death.

  ‘Anthony James Marston, that upon the 14th day of November last, you were guilty of the murder of John and Lucy Combes.

  ‘Thomas Rogers and Ethel Rogers, that on the 6th of May, 1929, you brought about the death of Jennifer Brady.

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