And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Lombard’s eyebrows went up. He said:

  ‘My dear fellow, I’ve no medical knowledge.’

  ‘No, no, I mean as to the general situation.’

  ‘Oh, that’s different.’

  Armstrong said:

  ‘Frankly, what do you think of the position?’

  Lombard reflected a minute. Then he said:

  ‘It’s rather suggestive, isn’t it?’

  ‘What are your ideas on the subject of that woman? Do you accept Blore’s theory?’

  Philip puffed smoke into the air. He said:

  ‘It’s perfectly feasible—taken alone.’


  Armstrong’s tone sounded relieved. Philip Lombard was no fool.

  The latter went on:

  ‘That is, accepting the premise that Mr and Mrs Rogers have successfully got away with murder in their time. And I don’t see why they shouldn’t. What do you think they did exactly? Poisoned the old lady?’

  Armstrong said slowly:

  ‘It might be simpler than that. I asked Rogers this morning what this Miss Brady had suffered from. His answer was enlightening. I don’t need to go into medical details, but in a certain form of cardiac trouble, amyl nitrite is used. When an attack comes on an ampoule of amyl nitrite is broken and it is inhaled. If amyl nitrite were withheld—well, the consequences might easily be fatal.’

  Philip Lombard said thoughtfully:

  ‘As simple as that. It must have been—rather tempting.’

  The doctor nodded.

  ‘Yes, no positive action. No arsenic to obtain and administer—nothing definite—just—negation! And Rogers hurried through the night to fetch a doctor and they both felt confident that no one could ever know.’

  ‘And even if any one knew, nothing could ever be proved against them,’ added Philip Lombard.

  He frowned suddenly.

  ‘Of course—that explains a good deal.’

  Armstrong said, puzzled:

  ‘I beg your pardon.’

  Lombard said:

  ‘I mean—it explains Soldier Island. There are crimes that cannot be brought home to their perpetrators. Instance the Rogerses’. Another instance, old Wargrave, who committed his murder strictly within the law.’

  Armstrong said sharply: ‘You believe that story?’

  Philip Lombard smiled.

  ‘Oh, yes, I believe it. Wargrave murdered Edward Seton all right, murdered him as surely as if he’d stuck a stiletto through him! But he was clever enough to do it from the judge’s seat in wig and gown. So in the ordinary way you can’t bring his little crime home to him.’

  A sudden flash passed like lightning through Armstrong’s mind.

  ‘Murder in Hospital. Murder on the Operating-table. Safe—yes, safe as houses!’

  Philip Lombard was saying:

  ‘Hence—Mr Owen—hence—Soldier Island!’

  Armstrong drew a deep breath.

  ‘Now we’re getting down to it. What’s the real purpose of getting us all here?’

  Philip Lombard said:

  ‘What do you think?’

  Armstrong said abruptly:

  ‘Let’s go back a minute to this woman’s death. What are the possible theories? Rogers killed her because he was afraid she would give the show away. Second possibility: she lost her nerve and took an easy way out herself.’

  Philip Lombard said:

  ‘Suicide, eh?’

  ‘What do you say to that?’

  Lombard said:

  ‘It could have been—yes—if it hadn’t been for Marston’s death. Two suicides within twelve hours is a little too much to swallow! And if you tell me that Anthony Marston, a young bull with no nerves and precious little brains, got the wind up over having mowed down a couple of kids and deliberately put himself out of the way—well, the idea’s laughable! And anyway, how did he get hold of the stuff? From all I’ve ever heard, potassium cyanide isn’t the kind of stuff you take about with you in your waistcoat pocket. But that’s your line of country.’

  Armstrong said:

  ‘Nobody in their senses carries potassium cyanide. It might be done by someone who was going to take a wasps’ nest.’

  ‘The ardent gardener or landowner, in fact? Again, not Anthony Marston. It strikes me that that cyanide is going to need a bit of explaining. Either Anthony Marston meant to do away with himself before he came here, and therefore came prepared—or else—’

  Armstrong prompted him.

  ‘Or else?’

  Philip Lombard grinned.

  ‘Why make me say it? When it’s on the tip of your own tongue. Anthony Marston was murdered, of course.’


  Dr Armstrong drew a deep breath.

  ‘And Mrs Rogers?’

  Lombard said slowly:

  ‘I could believe in Anthony’s suicide (with difficulty) if it weren’t for Mrs Rogers. I could believe in Mrs Rogers’ suicide (easily) if it weren’t for Anthony Marston. I can believe that Rogers put his wife out of the way—if it were not for the unexpected death of Anthony Marston. But what we need is a theory to explain two deaths following rapidly on each other.’

  Armstrong said:

  ‘I can perhaps give you some help towards that theory.’

  And he repeated the facts that Rogers had given him about the disappearance of the two little china figures.

  Lombard said:

  ‘Yes, little china figures…There were certainly ten last night at dinner. And now there are eight, you say?’

  Dr Armstrong recited:

  ‘Ten little soldier boys going out to dine;

  One went and choked himself and then there were Nine.

  ‘Nine little soldier boys sat up very late;

  One overslept himself and then there were Eight.’

  The two men looked at each other. Philip Lombard grinned and flung away his cigarette.

  ‘Fits too damned well to be a coincidence! Anthony Marston dies of asphyxiation or choking last night after dinner, and Mother Rogers oversleeps herself with a vengeance.’

  ‘And therefore?’ said Armstrong.

  Lombard took him up.

  ‘And therefore another kind of soldier. The Unknown Soldier! X! Mr Owen! U. N. Owen! One Unknown Lunatic at Large!’

  ‘Ah!’ Armstrong breathed a sigh of relief. ‘You agree. But you see what it involves? Rogers swore that there was no one but ourselves and he and his wife on the island.’

  ‘Rogers is wrong! Or possibly Rogers is lying!’

  Armstrong shook his head.

  ‘I don’t think he’s lying. The man’s scared. He’s scared nearly out of his senses.’

  Philip Lombard nodded.

  He said:

  ‘No motor-boat this morning. That fits in. Mr Owen’s little arrangements again to the fore. Soldier Island is to be isolated until Mr Owen has finished his job.’

  Armstrong had gone pale. He said:

  ‘You realize—the man must be a raving maniac!’

  Philip Lombard said, and there was a new ring in his voice:

  ‘There’s one thing Mr Owen didn’t realize.’

  ‘What’s that?’

  ‘This island’s more or less a bare rock. We shall make short work of searching it. We’ll soon ferret out U. N. Owen, Esq.’

  Dr Armstrong said warningly:

  ‘He’ll be dangerous.’

  Philip Lombard laughed.

  ‘Dangerous? Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf? I’ll be dangerous when I get hold of him!’

  He paused and said:

  ‘We’d better rope in Blore to help us. He’ll be a good man in a pinch. Better not tell the women. As for the others, the General’s ga-ga, I think, and old Wargrave’s forte is masterly inactivity. The three of us can attend to this job.’

  Chapter 8


  Blore was easily roped in. He expressed immediate agreement with their arguments.

  ‘What you’ve said about those china figures, sir, makes al
l the difference. That’s crazy, that is! There’s only one thing. You don’t think this Owen’s idea might be to do the job by proxy, as it were?’

  ‘Explain yourself, man.’

  ‘Well, I mean like this. After the racket last night this young Marston gets the wind up and poisons himself. And Rogers, he gets the wind up too and bumps off his wife! All according to U.N.O’s plan.’

  Armstrong shook his head. He stressed the point about the cyanide. Blore agreed.

  ‘Yes, I’d forgotten that. Not a natural thing to be carrying about with you. But how did it get into his drink, sir?’

  Lombard said:

  ‘I’ve been thinking about that. Marston had several drinks that night. Between the time he had his last one and the time he finished the one before it, there was quite a gap. During that time his glass was lying about on some table or other. I think—though I can’t be sure, it was on the little table near the window. The window was open. Somebody could have slipped a dose of the cyanide into the glass.’

  Blore said unbelievingly:

  ‘Without our all seeing him, sir?’

  Lombard said dryly:

  ‘We were all—rather concerned elsewhere.’

  Armstrong said slowly:

  ‘That’s true. We’d all been attacked. We were walking about, moving about the room. Arguing, indignant, intent on our own business. I think it could have been done…’

  Blore shrugged his shoulders.

  ‘Fact is, it must have been done! Now then, gentlemen, let’s make a start. Nobody’s got a revolver, by any chance? I suppose that’s too much to hope for.’

  Lombard said:

  ‘I’ve got one.’ He patted his pocket.

  Blore’s eyes opened very wide. He said in an over-casual tone:

  ‘Always carry that about with you, sir?’

  Lombard said:

  ‘Usually. I’ve been in some tight places, you know.’

  ‘Oh,’ said Blore and added: ‘Well, you’ve probably never been in a tighter place than you are today! If there’s a lunatic hiding on this island, he’s probably got a young arsenal on him—to say nothing of a knife or dagger or two.’

  Armstrong coughed.

  ‘You may be wrong there, Blore. Many homicidal lunatics are very quiet unassuming people. Delightful fellows.’

  Blore said:

  ‘I don’t feel this one is going to be of that kind, Dr Armstrong.’


  The three men started on their tour of the island.

  It proved unexpectedly simple. On the north-west side, towards the coast, the cliffs fell sheer to the sea below, their surface unbroken.

  On the rest of the island there were no trees and very little cover. The three men worked carefully and methodically, beating up and down from the highest point to the water’s edge, narrowly scanning the least irregularity in the rock which might point to the entrance to a cave. But there were no caves.

  They came at last, skirting the water’s edge, to where General Macarthur sat looking out to sea. It was very peaceful here with the lap of the waves breaking over the rocks. The old man sat very upright, his eyes fixed on the horizon.

  He paid no attention to the approach of the searchers. His oblivion of them made one at least faintly uncomfortable.

  Blore thought to himself:

  ‘’Tisn’t natural—looks as though he’d gone into a trance or something.’

  He cleared his throat and said in a would-be conversational tone:

  ‘Nice peaceful spot you’ve found for yourself, sir.’

  The General frowned. He cast a quick look over his shoulder. He said:

  ‘There is so little time—so little time. I really must insist that no one disturbs me.’

  Blore said genially:

  ‘We won’t disturb you. We’re just making a tour of the island so to speak. Just wondered, you know, if someone might be hiding on it.’

  The General frowned and said:

  ‘You don’t understand—you don’t understand at all. Please go away.’

  Blore retreated. He said, as he joined the other two:

  ‘He’s crazy…It’s no good talking to him.’

  Lombard asked with some curiosity:

  ‘What did he say?’

  Blore shrugged his shoulders.

  ‘Something about there being no time and that he didn’t want to be disturbed.’

  Dr Armstrong frowned.

  He murmured:

  ‘I wonder now…’


  The search of the island was practically completed. The three men stood on the highest point looking over towards the mainland. There were no boats out. The wind was freshening.

  Lombard said:

  ‘No fishing boats out. There’s a storm coming. Damned nuisance you can’t see the village from here. We could signal or do something.’

  Blore said:

  ‘We might light a bonfire tonight.’

  Lombard said, frowning:

  ‘The devil of it is that that’s all probably been provided for.’

  ‘In what way, sir?’

  ‘How do I know? Practical joke, perhaps. We’re to be marooned here, no attention is to be paid to signals, etc. Possibly the village has been told there’s a wager on. Some damn’ fool story anyway.’

  Blore said dubiously:

  ‘Think they’d swallow that?’

  Lombard said dryly:

  ‘It’s easier of belief than the truth! If the village were told that the island was to be isolated until Mr Unknown Owen had quietly murdered all his guests—do you think they’d believe that?’

  Dr Armstrong said:

  ‘There are moments when I can’t believe it myself. And yet—’

  Philip Lombard, his lips curling back from his teeth said:

  ‘And yet—that’s just it! You’ve said it, doctor!’

  Blore was gazing down into the water.

  He said:

  ‘Nobody could have clambered down here, I suppose?’

  Armstrong shook his head.

  ‘I doubt it. It’s pretty sheer. And where could he hide?’

  Blore said:

  ‘There might be a hole in the cliff. If we had a boat now, we could row round the island.’

  Lombard said:

  ‘If we had a boat, we’d all be halfway to the mainland by now!’

  ‘True enough, sir.’

  Lombard said suddenly:

  ‘We can make sure of this cliff. There’s only one place where there could be a recess—just a little to the right below here. If you fellows can get hold of a rope, you can let me down to make sure.’

  Blore said:

  ‘Might as well be sure. Though it seems absurd—on the face of it! I’ll see if I can get hold of something.’

  He started off briskly down to the house.

  Lombard stared up at the sky. The clouds were beginning to mass themselves together. The wind was increasing.

  He shot a sideways look at Armstrong. He said:

  ‘You’re very silent, doctor. What are you thinking?’

  Armstrong said slowly:

  ‘I was wondering exactly how mad old Macarthur was…’


  Vera had been restless all the morning. She had avoided Emily Brent with a kind of shuddering aversion.

  Miss Brent herself had taken a chair just round the corner of the house so as to be out of the wind. She sat there knitting.

  Every time Vera thought of her she seemed to see a pale drowned face with seaweed entangled in the hair…A face that had once been pretty—impudently pretty perhaps—and which was now beyond the reach of pity or terror.

  And Emily Brent, placid and righteous, sat knitting.

  On the main terrace, Mr Justice Wargrave sat huddled in a porter’s chair. His head was poked down well into his neck.

  When Vera looked at him, she saw a man standing in the dock—a young man with fair hair and blue eyes and a bewildered frightened face. E
dward Seton. And in imagination she saw the judge’s old hands put the black cap on his head and begin to pronounce sentence…

  After a while Vera strolled slowly down to the sea. She walked along towards the extreme end of the island where an oldman sat staring out to the horizon.

  General Macarthur stirred at her approach. His head turned—there was a queer mixture of questioning and apprehension in his look. It startled her. He stared intently at her for a minute or two.

  She thought to herself:

  ‘How queer. It’s almost as though he knew…’

  He said:

  ‘Ah, it’s you! You’ve come…’

  Vera sat down beside him. She said:

  ‘Do you like sitting here looking out to sea?’

  He nodded his head gently.

  ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘It’s pleasant. It’s a good place, I think, to wait.’

  ‘To wait?’ said Vera sharply. ‘What are you waiting for?’

  He said gently:

  ‘The end. But I think you know that, don’t you? It’s true, isn’t it? We’re all waiting for the end.’

  She said unsteadily:

  ‘What do you mean?’

  General Macarthur said gravely:

  ‘None of us are going to leave the island. That’s the plan. You know it, of course, perfectly. What, perhaps, you can’t understand is the relief!’

  Vera said wonderingly:

  ‘The relief?’

  He said:

  ‘Yes. Of course, you’re very young…you haven’t got to that yet. But it does come! The blessed relief when you know that you’ve done with it all—that you haven’t got to carry the burden any longer. You’ll feel that too, someday…’

  Vera said hoarsely:

  ‘I don’t understand you.’

  Her fingers worked spasmodically. She felt suddenly afraid of this quiet old soldier.

  He said musingly:

  ‘You see, I loved Leslie. I loved her very much…’

  Vera said questioningly:

  ‘Was Leslie your wife?’

  ‘Yes, my wife…I loved her—and I was very proud of her. She was so pretty—and so gay.’

  He was silent for a minute or two, then he said:

  ‘Yes, I loved Leslie. That’s why I did it.’

  Vera said:

  ‘You mean—’ and paused.

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