And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie


  He remembered Seton very well. His fair hair, his blue eyes, his habit of looking you straight in the face with a pleasant air of straightforwardness. That was what had made so good an impression on the jury.

  Llewellyn, for the Crown, had bungled it a bit. He had been over-vehement, had tried to prove too much.

  Matthews, on the other hand, for the Defence, had been good. His points had told. His cross-examinations had been deadly. His handling of his client in the witness-box had been masterly.

  And Seton had come through the ordeal of cross-examination well. He had not got excited or over-vehement. The jury had been impressed. It had seemed to Matthews, perhaps, as though everything had been over bar the shouting.

  The judge wound up his watch carefully and placed it by the bed.

  He remembered exactly how he had felt sitting there—listening, making notes, appreciating everything, tabulating every scrap of evidence that told against the prisoner.

  He’d enjoyed that case! Matthews’ final speech had been first-class. Llewellyn, coming after it, had failed to remove the good impression that the defending counsel had made.

  And then had come his own summing up…

  Carefully, Mr Justice Wargrave removed his false teeth and dropped them into a glass of water. The shrunken lips fell in. It was a cruel mouth now, cruel and predatory.

  Hooding his eyes, the judge smiled to himself.

  He’d cooked Seton’s goose all right!

  With a slightly rheumatic grunt, he climbed into bed and turned out the electric light.

  IV

  Downstairs in the dining-room, Rogers stood puzzled.

  He was staring at the china figures in the centre of the table.

  He muttered to himself:

  ‘That’s a rum go! I could have sworn there were ten of them.’

  V

  General Macarthur tossed from side to side.

  Sleep would not come to him.

  In the darkness he kept seeing Arthur Richmond’s face.

  He’d liked Arthur—he’d been damned fond of Arthur. He’d been pleased that Leslie liked him too.

  Leslie was so capricious. Lots of good fellows that Leslie would turn up her nose at and pronounce dull. ‘Dull!’ Just like that.

  But she hadn’t found Arthur Richmond dull. They’d got on well together from the beginning. They’d talked of plays and music and pictures together. She’d teased him, made fun of him, ragged him. And he, Macarthur, had been delighted at the thought that Leslie took quite a motherly interest in the boy.

  Motherly indeed! Damn’ fool not to remember that Richmond was twenty-eight to Leslie’s twenty-nine.

  He’d loved Leslie. He could see her now. Her heart-shaped face, and her dancing deep grey eyes, and the brown curling mass of her hair. He’d loved Leslie and he’d believed in her absolutely.

  Out there in France, in the middle of all the hell of it, he’d sat thinking of her, taken her picture out of the breast pocket of his tunic.

  And then—he’d found out!

  It had come about exactly in the way things happened in books. The letter in the wrong envelope. She’d been writing to them both and she’d put her letter to Richmond in the envelope addressed to her husband. Even now, all these years after, he could feel the shock of it—the pain…

  God, it had hurt!

  And the business had been going on some time. The letter made that clear. Weekends! Richmond’s last leave…

  Leslie—Leslie and Arthur!

  God damn the fellow! Damn his smiling face, his brisk ‘Yes, sir.’ Liar and hypocrite! Stealer of another man’s wife!

  It had gathered slowly—that cold murderous rage.

  He’d managed to carry on as usual—to show nothing. He’d tried to make his manner to Richmond just the same.

  Had he succeeded? He thought so. Richmond hadn’t suspected. Inequalities of temper were easily accounted for out there, where men’s nerves were continually snapping under the strain.

  Only young Armitage had looked at him curiously once or twice. Quite a young chap, but he’d had perceptions, that boy.

  Armitage, perhaps, had guessed—when the time came.

  He’d sent Richmond deliberately to death. Only a miracle could have brought him through unhurt. That miracle didn’t happen. Yes, he’d sent Richmond to his death and he wasn’t sorry. It had been easy enough. Mistakes were being made all the time, officers being sent to death needlessly. All was confusion, panic. People might say afterwards ‘Old Macarthur lost his nerve a bit, made some colossal blunders, sacrificed some of his best men.’ They couldn’t say more.

  But young Armitage was different. He’d looked at his commanding officer very oddly. He’d known, perhaps, that Richmond was being deliberately sent to death.

  (After the War was over—had Armitage talked?)

  Leslie hadn’t known. Leslie had wept for her lover (he supposed) but her weeping was over by the time he’d come back to England. He’d never told her that he’d found her out. They’d gone on together—only, somehow, she hadn’t seemed very real any more. And then, three or four years later she’d got double pneumonia and died.

  That had been a long time ago. Fifteen years—sixteen years?

  And he’d left the Army and come to live in Devon—bought the sort of little place he’d always meant to have. Nice neighbours—pleasant part of the world. There was a bit of shooting and fishing. He’d gone to church on Sundays. (But not the day that the lesson was read about David putting Uriah in the forefront of the battle. Somehow he couldn’t face that. Gave him an uncomfortable feeling.)

  Everybody had been very friendly. At first, that is. Later, he’d had an uneasy feeling that people were talking about him behind his back. They eyed him differently, somehow. As though they’d heard something—some lying rumour…

  (Armitage? Supposing Armitage had talked.)

  He’d avoided people after that—withdrawn into himself. Unpleasant to feel that people were discussing you.

  And all so long ago. So—so purposeless now. Leslie had faded into the distance and Arthur Richmond too. Nothing of what had happened seemed to matter any more.

  It made life lonely, though. He’d taken to shunning his old Army friends.

  (If Armitage had talked, they’d know about it.)

  And now—this evening—a hidden voice had blared out that old hidden story.

  Had he dealt with it all right? Kept a stiff upper lip? Betrayed the right amount of feeling—indignation, disgust—but no guilt, no discomfiture? Difficult to tell.

  Surely nobody could have taken the accusation seriously. There had been a pack of other nonsense, just as far-fetched. That charming girl—the voice had accused her of drowning a child! Idiotic! Some madman throwing crazy accusations about!

  Emily Brent, too—actually a niece of old Tom Brent of the Regiment. It had accused her of murder! Any one could see with half an eye that the woman was as pious as could be—the kind that was hand and glove with parsons.

  Damned curious business the whole thing! Crazy, nothing less.

  Ever since they had got here—when was that? Why, damn it, it was only this afternoon! Seemed a good bit longer than that.

  He thought: ‘I wonder when we shall get away again.’

  Tomorrow, of course, when the motor-boat came from the mainland.

  Funny, just this minute he didn’t want much to get away from the island…To go back to the mainland, back to his little house, back to all the troubles and worries. Through the open window he could hear the waves breaking on the rocks—a little louder now than earlier in the evening. Wind was getting up, too.

  He thought: Peaceful sound. Peaceful place…

  He thought: Best of an island is once you get there—you can’t go any farther…you’ve come to the end of things…

  He knew, suddenly, that he didn’t want to leave the island.

  VI

  Vera Claythorne lay in bed, wide awake, staring up at the ceil
ing.

  The light beside her was on. She was frightened of the dark.

  She was thinking:

  ‘Hugo…Hugo…Why do I feel you’re so near to me tonight?…Somewhere quite close…

  ‘Where is he really? I don’t know. I never shall know. He just went away—right away—out of my life.’

  It was no good trying not to think of Hugo. He was close to her. She had to think of him—to remember…

  Cornwall…

  The black rocks, the smooth yellow sand. Mrs Hamilton, stout, good-humoured. Cyril, whining a little always, pulling at her hand.

  ‘I want to swim out to the rock, Miss Claythorne. Why can’t I swim out to the rock?’

  Looking up—meeting Hugo’s eyes watching her.

  The evenings after Cyril was in bed…

  ‘Come out for a stroll, Miss Claythorne.’

  ‘I think perhaps I will.’

  The decorous stroll down to the beach. The moonlight—the soft Atlantic air.

  And then, Hugo’s arms round her.

  ‘I love you. I love you. You know I love you, Vera?’

  Yes, she knew.

  (Or thought she knew.)

  ‘I can’t ask you to marry me. I’ve not got a penny. It’s all I can do to keep myself. Queer, you know, once, for three months I had the chance of being a rich man to look forward to. Cyril wasn’t born until three months after Maurice died. If he’d been a girl…’

  If the child had been a girl, Hugo would have come into everything. He’d been disappointed, he admitted.

  ‘I hadn’t built on it, of course. But it was a bit of a knock. Oh well, luck’s luck! Cyril’s a nice kid. I’m awfully fond of him.’ And he was fond of him, too. Always ready to play games or amuse his small nephew. No rancour in Hugo’s nature.

  Cyril wasn’t really strong. A puny child—no stamina. The kind of child, perhaps, who wouldn’t live to grow up…

  And then—?

  ‘Miss Claythorne, why can’t I swim to the rock?’

  Irritating whiney repetition.

  ‘It’s too far, Cyril.’

  ‘But, Miss Claythorne…’

  Vera got up. She went to the dressing-table and swallowed three aspirins.

  She thought:

  ‘I wish I had some proper sleeping stuff.’

  She thought:

  ‘If I were doing away with myself I’d take an overdose of veronal—something like that—not cyanide!’

  She shuddered as she remembered Anthony Marston’s convulsed purple face.

  As she passed the mantelpiece, she looked up at the framed doggerel.

  ‘Ten little soldier boys went out to dine;

  One choked his little self and then there were Nine.’

  She thought to herself:

  ‘It’s horrible—just like us this evening…’

  Why had Anthony Marston wanted to die?

  She didn’t want to die.

  She couldn’t imagine wanting to die…

  Death was for—the other people…

  Chapter 6

  I

  Dr Armstrong was dreaming…

  It was very hot in the operating-room…

  Surely they’d got the temperature too high? The sweat was rolling down his face. His hands were clammy. Difficult to hold the scalpel firmly…

  How beautifully sharp it was…

  Easy to do a murder with a knife like that. And of course he was doing a murder…

  The woman’s body looked different. It had been a large unwieldy body. This was a spare meagre body. And the face was hidden.

  Who was it that he had to kill?

  He couldn’t remember. But he must know! Should he ask Sister?

  Sister was watching him. No, he couldn’t ask her. She was suspicious, he could see that.

  But who was it on the operating-table?

  They shouldn’t have covered up the face like that…

  If he could only see the face…

  Ah! that was better. A young probationer was pulling off the handkerchief.

  Emily Brent, of course. It was Emily Brent that he had to kill. How malicious her eyes were! Her lips were moving. What was she saying?

  ‘In the midst of life we are in death…’

  She was laughing now. No, nurse, don’t put the handkerchief back. I’ve got to see. I’ve got to give the anaesthetic. Where’s the ether? I must have brought the ether with me. What have you done with the ether, Sister? Châteauneuf-du-Pape? Yes, that will do quite as well.

  Take the handkerchief away, nurse.

  Of course! I knew it all the time! It’s Anthony Marston! His face is purple and convulsed. But he’s not dead—he’s laughing. I tell you he’s laughing! He’s shaking the operating-table.

  Look out, man, look out. Nurse, steady it—steady it—

  With a start Dr Armstrong woke up. It was morning. Sunlight was pouring into the room.

  And someone was leaning over him—shaking him. It was Rogers. Rogers, with a white face, saying: ‘Doctor—doctor!’

  Dr Armstrong woke up completely.

  He sat up in bed. He said sharply:

  ‘What is it?’

  ‘It’s the wife, doctor. I can’t get her to wake. My God! I can’t get her to wake. And—and she don’t look right to me.’

  Dr Armstrong was quick and efficient. He wrapped himself in his dressing-gown and followed Rogers.

  He bent over the bed where the woman was lying peacefully on her side. He lifted the cold hand, raised the eyelid. It was some few minutes before he straightened himself and turned from the bed.

  Rogers whispered:

  ‘Is—she—is she—?’

  He passed a tongue over dry lips.

  Armstrong nodded.

  ‘Yes, she’s gone.’

  His eyes rested thoughtfully on the man before him. Then they went to the table by the bed, to the washstand, then back to the sleeping woman.

  Rogers said:

  ‘Was it—was it—’er ’eart, doctor?’

  Dr Armstrong was a minute or two before replying. Then he said:

  ‘What was her health like normally?’

  Rogers said:

  ‘She was a bit rheumaticky.’

  ‘Any doctor been attending her recently?’

  ‘Doctor?’ Rogers stared. ‘Not been to a doctor for years—neither of us.’

  ‘You’d no reason to believe she suffered from heart trouble?’

  ‘No, doctor. I never knew of anything.’

  Armstrong said:

  ‘Did she sleep well?’

  Now Rogers’ eyes evaded his. The man’s hands came together and turned and twisted uneasily. He muttered:

  ‘She didn’t sleep extra well—no.’

  The doctor said sharply:

  ‘Did she take things to make her sleep?’

  Rogers stared at him, surprised.

  ‘Take things? To make her sleep? Not that I knew of. I’m sure she didn’t.’

  Armstrong went over to the washstand.

  There were a certain number of bottles on it. Hair lotion, lavender water, cascara, glycerine of cucumber for the hands, a mouthwash, toothpaste and some Elliman’s.

  Rogers helped by pulling out the drawers of the dressing-table. From there they moved on to the chest of drawers. But there was no sign of sleeping draughts or tablets.

  Rogers said:

  ‘She didn’t have nothing last night, sir, except what you gave her…’

  II

  When the gong sounded for breakfast at nine o’clock it found everyone up and awaiting the summons.

  General Macarthur and the judge had been pacing the terrace outside, exchanging desultory comments on the political situation.

  Vera Claythorne and Philip Lombard had been up to the summit of the island behind the house. There they had discovered William Henry Blore, standing staring at the mainland.

  He said:

  ‘No sign of that motor-boat yet. I’ve been watching for it.?
??

  Vera said smiling:

  ‘Devon’s a sleepy county. Things are usually late.’

  Philip Lombard was looking the other way, out to sea.

  He said abruptly:

  ‘What d’you think of the weather?’

  Glancing up at the sky, Blore remarked:

  ‘Looks all right to me.’

  Lombard pursed up his mouth into a whistle.

  He said:

  ‘It will come on to blow before the day’s out.’

  Blore said:

  ‘Squally—eh?’

  From below them came the boom of a gong.

  Philip Lombard said:

  ‘Breakfast? Well, I could do with some.’

  As they went down the steep slope Blore said to Lombard in a ruminating voice:

  ‘You know, it beats me—why that young fellow wanted to do himself in! I’ve been worrying about it all night.’

  Vera was a little ahead. Lombard hung back slightly. He said:

  ‘Got any alternative theory?’

  ‘I’d want some proof. Motive, to begin with. Well-off I should say he was.’

  Emily Brent came out of the drawing-room window to meet them.

  She said sharply:

  ‘Is the boat coming?’

  ‘Not yet,’ said Vera.

  They went into breakfast. There was a vast dish of eggs and bacon on the sideboard and tea and coffee.

  Rogers held the door open for them to pass in, then shut it from the outside.

  Emily Brent said:

  ‘That man looks ill this morning.’

  Dr Armstrong, who was standing by the window, cleared his throat. He said:

  ‘You must excuse any—er—shortcomings this morning. Rogers has had to do the best he can for breakfast single-handed. Mrs Rogers has—er—not been able to carry on this morning.’

  Emily Brent said sharply:

  ‘What’s the matter with the woman?’

  Dr Armstrong said easily:

  ‘Let us start our breakfast. The eggs will be cold. Afterwards, there are several matters I want to discuss with you all.’

  They took the hint. Plates were filled, coffee and tea was poured. The meal began.

  Discussion of the island was, by mutual consent, tabooed. They spoke instead in a desultory fashion of current events. The news from abroad, events in the world of sport, the latest reappearance of the Loch Ness monster.

 
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