Main And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None

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Ten strangers, apparently with little in common, are lured to an island mansion off the coast of Devon by a mysterious host.

They sit down for dinner and a record begins to play. The voice of their host accuses each person of hiding a guilty secret. By the end of the night one of them will be dead.

Stranded by a violent storm, they begin to die – one by one.
Each of them is guilty. But who is the killer?

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Most frequently terms

When the motorboat doesn't arrive as planned, all of the guests are distressed, except for General MacArthur. Why does he handle the situation better than most?
26 September 2020 (07:22) 
i loved this book and can’t wait to read other agatha christie novels
22 January 2021 (09:24) 
Osman Bey
I loved this book! Thrilling! Spine-shivering!
19 March 2021 (00:45) 
Steve Yao
...that’s why it’s the best!
21 March 2021 (11:12) 
The book was really thrilling but the only bummer was that we couldn't find the real culprit.
10 April 2021 (17:32) 
Oh my god! Could a book be more hair-raising, thrilling and interesting? I think not!
17 May 2021 (21:29) 
Original book is called Ten Little Niggers, the original book tells whose the culprit
23 June 2021 (07:33) 
One of the best mystery books you will find out there. It is a must read and I’m looking forward to reading other Agatha Christie books.
If you want better formatting, I suggest you convert the file into a PDF as it is better for reading unless you have kindle or Apple Books.
12 July 2021 (15:26) 
It's a great mystery book!
I really like the way she writes, it's captivating!
02 August 2021 (13:42) 
I have an original Copy of the book and I know who the culprit is!

Spoiler alert!!

it was Justice Wargrave!
Sorry not sorry
31 August 2021 (12:22) 
The Dancing Queen
@AI -

You REALLY are a piece of trash, aren't you? Why the HECK would you put a goddamn SPOILER in THIS comment section?
09 October 2021 (12:12) 
@The Dancing Queen
yes, he is garbage.
19 November 2021 (19:32) 

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Agatha Christie

And Then There Were None

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About the Publisher


HarperCollins Publishers (Australia) Pty. Ltd.

25 Ryde Road (P.O. Box 321)

Pymble, NSW 2073, Australia


HarperCollins Canada

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Toronto, ON, M4W, 1A8, Canada

New Zealand

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Auckland, New Zealand

United Kingdom

HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

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London, W6 8JB, UK

United States

HarperCollins Publishers Inc.

10 East 53rd Street

New York, NY 10022



They had carried Mr. Justice Wargrave up to his room and laid him on the bed.

Then they had come down again and had stood in the hall looking at each other.

Blore said heavily:

“What do we do now?”

Lombard said briskly:

“Have something to eat. We’ve got to eat, you know.”

Once again they went into the kitchen. Again they opened a tin of tongue. They ate mechanically, almost without tasting.

Vera said:

“I shall never eat tongue again.”

They finished the meal. They sat round the kitchen table staring at each other.

Blore said:

“Only four of us now …Who’ll be the next?”

Armstrong stared. He said, almost mechanically:

“We must be very careful—” and stopped.

Blore nodded.

“That’s what he said … and now he’s dead!”

Armstrong said:

“How did it happen, I wonder?”

Lombard swore. He said:

“A damned clever doublecross! That stuff was planted in Miss Claythorne’s room and it worked just as it was intended to. Everyone dashes up there thinking she’s being murdered. And so—in the confusion—someone—caught the old boy off his guard.”

Blore said:

“Why didn’t anyone hear the shot?”

Lombard shook his head.

“Miss Claythorne was screaming, the wind was howling, we were running about and calling out. No, it wouldn’t be heard.” He paused. “But that trick’s not going;  to work again. He’ll have to try something else next.”

Blore said:

“He probably will.”

There was an unpleasant tone in his voice. The two men eyed each other.

Armstrong said:

“Four of us, and we don’t know which….”

Blore said:

“I know….”

Vera said:

“I haven’t the least doubt….”

Armstrong said slowly:

“I suppose I do know really….”

Philip Lombard said:

“I think I’ve got a pretty good idea now….”

Again they all looked at each other….

Vera staggered to her feet. She said:

“I feel awful. I must go to bed … I’m dead beat.”

Lombard said:

“Might as well. No good sitting watching each other.”

Blore said:

“I’ve no objection….”

The doctor murmured:

“The best thing to do—although I doubt if any of us will sleep.”

They moved to the door. Blore said:

“I wonder where that revolver is now?…”


They went up the stairs.

The next move was a little like a scene in a farce.

Each one of the four stood with a hand on his or her bedroom door handle. Then, as though at a signal, each one stepped into the room and pulled the door shut. There were sounds of bolts and locks, of the moving of furniture.

Four frightened people were barricaded in until morning.


Philip Lombard drew a breath of relief as he turned from adjusting a chair under the door handle.

He strolled across to the dressing table.

By the light of the flickering candle he studied his face curiously.

He said softly to himself:

“Yes, this business has got you rattled all right.”

His sudden wolf-like smile flashed out.

He undressed quickly.

He went over to the bed, placing his wristwatch on the table by the bed.

Then he opened the drawer of the table.

He stood there, staring down at the revolver that was inside it….


Vera Claythorne lay in bed.

The candle still burned beside her.

And yet she could not summon the courage to put it out.

She was afraid of the dark….

She told herself again and again: “You’re all right until morning. Nothing happened last night. Nothing will happen tonight. Nothing can happen. You’re locked and bolted in. No one can come near you….”

And she thought suddenly:

“Of course! I can stay here! Stay here locked in! Food doesn’t really matter! I can stay here—safely—till help comes! Even if it’s a day—or two days….”

Stay here. Yes, but could she stay here? Hour after hour—with no one to speak to, with nothing to do but think.…

She’d begin to think of Cornwall—of Hugo—of—of what she’d said to Cyril.

Horrid whiney little boy, always pestering her….

“Miss Claythorne, why can’t I swim out to the rock? I can. I know I can.”

Was it her voice that had answered?

“Of course, you can, Cyril, really. I know that.”

“Can I go then, Miss Claythorne?”

“Well, you see, Cyril, your mother gets so nervous about you. I’ll tell you what. Tomorrow you can swim out to the rock. I’ll talk to your mother on the beach and distract her attention. And then, when she looks for you, there you’ll be standing on the rock waving to her! It will be a surprise!”

“Oh, good egg, Miss Claythorne! That will be a lark!”

She’d said it now. Tomorrow! Hugo was going to Newquay. When he came back—it would be all over.

Yes, but supposing it wasn’t? Supposing it went wrong? Cyril might be rescued in time. And then—then he’d say, “Miss Claythorne said I could.” Well, what of it? One must take some risk! If the worst happened she’d brazen it out. “How can you tell such a wicked lie, Cyril? Of course, I never said any such thing!” They’d believe her all right. Cyril often told stories. He was an untruthful child. Cyril would know, of course. But that didn’t matter … and anyway nothing would go wrong. She’d pretend to swim out after him. But she’d arrive too late … Nobody would ever suspect….

Had Hugo suspected? Was that why he had looked at her in that queer far-off way?… Had Hugo known?

Was that why he had gone off after the inquest so hurriedly?

He hadn’t answered the one letter she had written to him….


Vera turned restlessly in bed. No, no, she mustn’t think of Hugo. It hurt too much! That was all over, over and done with … Hugo must be forgotten.

Why, this evening, had she suddenly felt that Hugo was in the room with her?

She stared up at the ceiling, stared at the big black hook in the middle of the room.

She’d never noticed that hook before.

The seaweed had hung from that.

She shivered as she remembered that cold clammy touch on her neck.

She didn’t like that hook on the ceiling. It drew your eyes, fascinated you … a big black hook….


Ex-Inspector Blore sat on the side of his bed.

His small eyes, red-rimmed and bloodshot, were alert in the solid mass of his face. He was like a wild boar waiting to charge.

He felt no inclination to sleep.

The menace was coming very near now … Six out of ten!

For all his sagacity, for all his caution and astuteness, the old judge had gone the way of the rest.

Blore snorted with a kind of savage satisfaction.

What was it the old geezer had said?

“We must be very careful….”

Self-righteous smug old hypocrite. Sitting up in court feeling like God Almighty. He’d got his all right … No more being careful for him.

And now there were four of them. The girl, Lombard, Armstrong and himself.

Very soon another of them would go … But it wouldn’t be William Henry Blore. He’d see to that all right.

(But the revolver … What about the revolver? That was the disturbing factor—the revolver!)

Blore sat on his bed, his brow furrowed, his little eyes creased and puckered while he pondered the problem of the revolver….

In the silence he could hear the clocks strike downstairs.


He relaxed a little now—even went so far as to lie down on his bed. But he did not undress.

He lay there thinking. Going over the whole business from the beginning, methodically, painstakingly, as he had been wont to do in his police officer days. It was thoroughness that paid in the end.

The candle was burning down. Looking to see if the matches were within easy reach of his hand, he blew it out.

Strangely enough, he found the darkness disquieting. It was as though a thousand age-old fears woke and struggled for supremacy in his brain. Faces floated in the air—the judge’s face crowned with that mockery of grey wool—the cold dead face of Mrs. Rogers—the convulsed purple face of Anthony Marston.

Another face—pale, spectacled, with a small straw-coloured moustache.

A face that he had seen sometime or other—but when? Not on the island. No, much longer ago than that.

Funny that he couldn’t put a name to it … Silly sort of face really—fellow looked a bit of a mug.

Of course!

It came to him with a real shock.


Odd to think he’d completely forgotten what Landor looked like. Only yesterday he’d been trying to recall the fellow’s face, and hadn’t been able to.

And now here it was, every feature clear and distinct, as though he had seen it only yesterday.

Landor had had a wife—a thin slip of a woman with a worried face. There’d been a kid, too, a girl about fourteen. For the first time, he wondered what had become of them.

(The revolver. What had become of the revolver? That was much more important.)

The more he thought about it the more puzzled he was … He didn’t understand this revolver business.

Somebody in the house had got that revolver….

Downstairs a clock struck one.

Blore’s thoughts were cut short. He sat up on the bed, suddenly alert. For he had heard a sound—a very faint sound—somewhere outside his bedroom door.

There was someone moving about in the darkened house.

The perspiration broke out on his forehead. Who was it, moving secretly and silently along the corridors? Someone who was up to no good, he’d bet that!

Noiselessly, in spite of his heavy build, he dropped off the bed and with two strides was standing by the door listening.

But the sound did not come again. Nevertheless Blore was convinced that he was not mistaken. He had heard a footfall just outside his door. The hair rose slightly on his scalp. He knew fear again….

Someone creeping about stealthily in the night.

He listened—but the sound was not repeated.

And now a new temptation assailed him. He wanted, desperately, to go out and investigate. If he could only see who it was prowling about in the darkness.

But to open his door would be the action of a fool. Very likely that was exactly what the other was waiting for. He might even have meant Blore to hear what he had heard, counting on him coming out to investigate.

Blore stood rigid—listening. He could hear sounds everywhere now, cracks, rustles, mysterious whispers—but his dogged, realistic brain knew them for what they were—the creations of his own heated imagination.

And then suddenly he heard something that was not imagination. Footsteps, very soft, very cautious, but plainly audible to a man listening with all his ears as Blore was listening.

They came softly along the corridor (both Lombard’s and Armstrong’s rooms were farther from the stairhead than his). They passed his door without hesitating or faltering.

And as they did so, Blore made up his mind.

He meant to see who it was! The footsteps had definitely passed his door going to the stairs. Where was the man going?

When Blore acted, he acted quickly, surprisingly so for a man who looked so heavy and slow. He tiptoed back to the bed, slipped matches into his pocket, detached the plug of the electric lamp by his bed and picked it up, winding the flex round it. It was a chromium affair with a heavy ebonite base—a useful weapon.

He sprinted noiselessly across the room, removed the chair from under the door handle and with precaution unlocked and unbolted the door. He stepped out into the corridor. There was a faint sound in the hall below. Blore ran noiselessly in his stockinged feet to the head of the stairs.

At that moment he realized why it was he had heard all these sounds so clearly. The wind had died down completely and the sky must have cleared. There was faint moonlight coming in through the landing window and it illuminated the hall below.

Blore had an instantaneous glimpse of a figure just passing out through the front door.

In the act of running down the stairs in pursuit, he paused.

Once again, he had nearly made a fool of himself! This was a trap, perhaps, to lure him out of the house!

But what the other man didn’t realize was that he had made a mistake, had delivered himself neatly into Blore’s hands.

For, of the three tenanted rooms upstairs, one must now be empty. All that had to be done was to ascertain which!

Blore went swiftly back along the corridor.

He paused first at Dr. Armstrong’s door and tapped. There was no answer.

He waited a minute, then went on to Philip Lombard’s room.

Here the answer came at once.

“Who’s there?”

“It’s Blore. I don’t think Armstrong is in his room. Wait a minute.”

He went on to the door at the end of the corridor. Here he tapped again.

“Miss Claythorne. Miss Claythorne.”

Vera’s voice, startled, answered him.

“Who is it? What’s the matter?”

“It’s all right, Miss Claythorne. Wait a minute. I’ll come back.”

He raced back to Lombard’s room. The door opened as he did so. Lombard stood there. He held a candle in his left hand. He had pulled on his trousers over his pyjamas. His right hand rested in the pocket of his pyjama jacket. He said sharply:

“What the hell’s all this?”

Blore explained rapidly. Lombard’s eyes lit up.

“Armstrong—eh? So he’s our pigeon!” He moved along to Armstrong’s door. “Sorry, Blore, but I don’t take anything on trust.”

He rapped sharply on the panel.


There was no answer.

Lombard dropped to his knees and peered through the keyhole. He inserted his little finger gingerly into the lock.

He said:

“Key’s not in the door on the inside.”

Blore said:

“That means he locked it on the outside and took it with him.”

Philip nodded.

“Ordinary precaution to take. We’ll get him, Blore… This time, we’ll get him! Half a second.”

He raced along to Vera’s room.



“We’re hunting Armstrong. He’s out of his room. Whatever you do, don’t open your door. Understand?”

“Yes, I understand.”

“If Armstrong comes along and says that I’ve been killed, or Blore’s been killed, pay no attention. See? Only open your door if both Blore and I speak to you. Got that?”

Vera said:

“Yes. I’m not a complete fool.”

Lombard said:


He joined Blore. He said:

“And now—after him! The hunt’s up!”

Blore said:

“We’d better be careful. He’s got a revolver, remember.”

Philip Lombard racing down the stairs chuckled.

He said:

“That’s where you’re wrong.” He undid the front door, remarking, “Latch pushed back—so he could get in again easily.”

He went on:

“I’ve got that revolver!” He took it half out of his pocket as he spoke. “Found it put back in my drawer tonight.”

Blore stopped dead on the doorstep. His face changed. Philip Lombard saw it.

“Don’t be a damned fool, Blore! I’m not going to shoot you! Go back and barricade yourself in if you like! I’m off after Armstrong.”

He started off into the moonlight. Blore, after a minute’s hesitation, followed him.

He thought to himself:

“I suppose I’m asking for it. After all—”

After all he had tackled criminals armed with revolvers before now. Whatever else he lacked, Blore did not lack courage. Show him the danger and he would tackle it pluckily. He was not afraid of danger in the open, only of danger undefined and tinged with the supernatural.


Vera, left to await results, got up and dressed.

She glanced over once or twice at the door. It was a good solid door. It was both bolted and locked and had an oak chair wedged under the handle.

It could not be broken open by force. Certainly not by Dr. Armstrong. He was not a physically powerful man.

If she were Armstrong intent on murder, it was cunning that she would employ, not force.

She amused herself by reflecting on the means he might employ.

He might, as Philip had suggested, announce that one of the other two men was dead. Or he might possibly pretend to be mortally wounded himself, might drag himself groaning to her door.

There were other possibilities. He might inform her that the house was on fire. More, he might actually set the house on fire … Yes, that would be a possibility. Lure the other two men out of the house, then, having previously laid a trail of petrol, he might set light to it. And she, like an idiot, would remain barricaded in her room until it was too late.

She crossed over to the window. Not too bad. At a pinch one could escape that way. It would mean a drop—but there was a handy flower bed.

She sat down and picking up her diary began to write in it in a clear flowing hand.

One must pass the time.

Suddenly she stiffened to attention. She had heard a sound. It was, she thought, a sound like breaking glass. And it came from somewhere downstairs.

She listened hard, but the sound was not repeated.

She heard, or thought she heard, stealthy sounds of footsteps, the creak of stairs, the rustle of garments—but there was nothing definite and she concluded, as Blore had done earlier, that such sounds had their origin in her own imagination.

But presently she heard sounds of a more concrete nature. People moving about downstairs—the murmur of voices. Then the very decided sound of someone mounting the stairs—doors opening and shutting—feet going up to the attics overhead. More noises from there.

Finally the steps came along the passage. Lombard’s voice said:

“Vera. You all right?”

“Yes. What happened?”

Blore’s voice said:

“Will you let us in?”

Vera went to the door. She removed the chair, unlocked the door and slid back the bolt. She opened the door. The two men were breathing hard, their feet and the bottom of their trousers were soaking wet.

She said again:

“What’s happened?”

Lombard said:

“Armstrong’s disappeared.…”


Vera cried:


Lombard said:

“Vanished clean off the island.”

Blore concurred:

“Vanished—that’s the word! Like some damned conjuring trick.”

Vera said impatiently:

“Nonsense! He’s hiding somewhere!”

Blore said:

“No, he isn’t! I tell you, there’s nowhere to hide on this island. It’s as bare as your hand! There’s moonlight outside. As clear as day it is. And he’s not to be found.”

Vera said:

“He doubled back to the house.”

Blore said:

“We thought of that. We’ve searched the house, too. You must have heard us. He’s not here, I tell you. He’s gone—clean vanished, vamoosed….”

Vera said incredulously:

“I don’t believe it.”

Lombard said:

“It’s true, my dear.”

He paused and then said:

“There’s one other little fact. A pane in the dining room window has been smashed—and there are only three little soldier boys on the table.”

The Agatha Christie Collection


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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 mouth-wash, 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….”


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 motorboat 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:


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.

Then, when plates were cleared, Dr. Armstrong moved back his chair a little, cleared his throat importantly and spoke.

He said:

“I thought it better to wait until you had had your breakfast before telling you of a sad piece of news. Mrs. Rogers died in her sleep.”

There were startled and shocked ejaculations.

Vera exclaimed:

“How awful! Two deaths on this island since we arrived!”

Mr. Justice Wargrave, his eyes narrowed, said in his small precise clear voice:

“H’m—very remarkable—what was the cause of death?”

Armstrong shrugged his shoulders.

“Impossible to say offhand.”

“There must be an autopsy?”

“I certainly couldn’t give a certificate. I have no knowledge whatsoever of the woman’s state of health.”

Vera said:

“She was a very nervous-looking creature. And she had a shock last night. It might have been heart failure, I suppose?”

Dr. Armstrong said dryly:

“Her heart certainly failed to beat—but what caused it to fail is the question.”

One word fell from Emily Brent. It fell hard and clear into the listening group.

“Conscience!” she said.

Armstrong turned to her.

“What exactly do you mean by that, Miss Brent?”

Emily Brent, her lips tight and hard, said:

“You all heard. She was accused, together with her husband, of having deliberately murdered her former employer—an old lady.”

“And you think?”

Emily Brent said:

“I think that the accusation was true. You all saw her last night. She broke down completely and fainted. The shock of having her wickedness brought home to her was too much for her. She literally died of fear.”

Dr. Armstrong shook his head doubtfully.

“It is a possible theory,” he said. “One cannot adopt it without more exact knowledge of her state of health. If there was cardiac weakness—”

Emily Brent said quietly:

“Call it if you prefer, an Act of God.”

Everyone looked shocked. Mr. Blore said uneasily:

“That’s carrying things a bit far, Miss Brent.”

She looked at them with shining eyes. Her chin went up. She said:

“You regard it as impossible that a sinner should be struck down by the wrath of God! I do not!”

The judge stroked his chin. He murmured in a slightly ironic voice:

“My dear lady, in my experience of ill-doing, Providence leaves the work of conviction and chastisement to us mortals—and the process is often fraught with difficulties. There are no short cuts.”

Emily Brent shrugged her shoulders.

Blore said sharply:

“What did she have to eat and drink last night after she went up to bed?”

Armstrong said:


“She didn’t take anything? A cup of tea? A drink of water? I’ll bet you she had a cup of tea. That sort always does.”

“Rogers assures me she had nothing whatsoever.”

“Ah,” said Blore. “But he might say so!”

His tone was so significant that the doctor looked at him sharply.

Philip Lombard said:

“So that’s your idea?”

Blore said aggressively:

“Well, why not? We all heard that accusation last night. May be sheer moonshine—just plain lunacy! On the other hand, it may not. Allow for the moment that it’s true. Rogers and his Missus polished off that old lady. Well, where does that get you? They’ve been feeling quite safe and happy about it—”

Vera interrupted. In a low voice she said:

“No, I don’t think Mrs. Rogers ever felt safe.”

Blore looked slightly annoyed at the interruption.

“Just like a woman,” his glance said.

He resumed:

“That’s as may be. Anyway there’s no active danger to them as far as they know. Then, last night, some unknown lunatic spills the beans. What happens? The woman cracks—she goes to pieces. Notice how her husband hung over her as she was coming round. Not all husbandly solicitude! Not on your life! He was like a cat on hot bricks. Scared out of his life as to what she might say.

“And there’s the position for you! They’ve done a murder and got away with it. But if the whole thing’s going to be raked up, what’s going to happen? Ten to one, the woman will give the show away. She hasn’t got the nerve to stand up and brazen it out. She’s a living danger to her husband, that’s what she is. He’s all right. He’ll lie with a straight face till kingdom comes—but he can’t be sure of her! And if she goes to pieces, his neck’s in danger! So he slips something into a cup of tea and makes sure that her mouth is shut permanently.”

Armstrong said slowly:

“There was no empty cup by her bedside—there was nothing there at all. I looked.”

Blore snorted.

“Of course there wouldn’t be! First thing he’d do when she’d drunk it would be to take that cup and saucer away and wash it up carefully.”

There was a pause. Then General Macarthur said doubtfully:

“It may be so. But I should hardly think it possible that a man would do that—to his wife.”

Blore gave a short laugh.

He said:

“When a man’s neck’s in danger, he doesn’t stop to think too much about sentiment.”

There was a pause. Before any one could speak, the door opened and Rogers came in.

He said, looking from one to the other:

“Is there anything more I can get you?”

Mr. Justice Wargrave stirred a little in his chair. He asked:

“What time does the motorboat usually come over?”

“Between seven and eight, sir. Sometimes it’s a bit after eight. Don’t know what Fred Narracott can be doing this morning. If he’s ill he’d send his brother.”

Philip Lombard said:

“What’s the time now?”

“Ten minutes to ten, sir.”

Lombard’s eyebrows rose. He nodded slowly to himself.

Rogers waited a minute or two.

General Macarthur spoke suddenly and explosively:

“Sorry to hear about your wife, Rogers. Doctor’s just been telling us.”

Rogers inclined his head.

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”

He took up the empty bacon dish and went out. Again there was a silence.


On the terrace outside Philip Lombard said:

“About this motorboat—”

Blore looked at him.

Blore nodded his head.

He said:

“I know what you’re thinking, Mr. Lombard. I’ve asked myself the same question. Motorboat ought to have been here nigh on two hours ago. It hasn’t come? Why?”

“Found the answer?” asked Lombard.

“It’s not an accident—that’s what I say. It’s part and parcel of the whole business. It’s all bound up together.”

Philip Lombard said:

“It won’t come, you think?”

A voice spoke behind him—a testy impatient voice.

“The motorboat’s not coming,” it said.

Blore turned his square shoulder slightly and viewed the last speaker thoughtfully.

“You think not too, General?”

General Macarthur said sharply:

“Of course it won’t come. We’re counting on the motorboat to take us off the island. That’s the meaning of the whole business. We’re not going to leave the island… None of us will ever leave … It’s the end, you see—the end of everything….”

He hesitated, then he said in a low strange voice:

“That’s peace—real peace. To come to the end—not to have to go on … Yes, peace….”

He turned abruptly and walked away. Along the terrace, then down the slope towards the sea—obliquely—to the end of the island where loose rocks went out into the water.

He walked a little unsteadily, like a man who was only half awake.

Blore said:

“There goes another one who’s barmy! Looks as though it’ll end with the whole lot going that way.”

Philip Lombard said:

“I don’t fancy you will, Blore.”

The ex-Inspector laughed.

“It would take a lot to send me off my head.” He added dryly: “And I don’t think you’ll be going that way either, Mr. Lombard.”

Philip Lombard said:

“I feel quite sane at the minute, thank you.”


Dr. Armstrong came out on to the terrace. He stood there hesitating. To his left were Blore and Lombard. To his right was Wargrave, slowly pacing up and down, his head bent down.

Armstrong, after a moment of indecision, turned towards the latter.

But at that moment Rogers came quickly out of the house.

“Could I have a word with you, sir, please?”

Armstrong turned.

He was startled at what he saw.

Rogers’ face was working. Its colour was greyish green. His hands shook.

It was such a contrast to his restraint of a few minutes ago that Armstrong was quite taken aback.

“Please sir, if I could have a word with you. Inside, sir.”

The doctor turned back and reentered the house with the frenzied butler. He said:

“What’s the matter, man, pull yourself together.”

“In here, sir, come in here.”

He opened the dining room door. The doctor passed in. Rogers followed him and shut the door behind him.

“Well,” said Armstrong, “what is it?”

The muscles of Rogers’ throat were working. He was swallowing. He jerked out:

“There’s things going on, sir, that I don’t understand.”

Armstrong said sharply:

“Things? What things?”

“You’ll think I’m crazy, sir. You’ll say it isn’t anything. But it’s got to be explained, sir. It’s got to be explained. Because it doesn’t make any sense.”

“Well, man, tell me what it is. Don’t go on talking in riddles.”

Rogers swallowed again.

He said:

“It’s those little figures, sir. In the middle of the table. The little china figures. Ten of them, there were. I’ll swear to that, ten of them.”

Armstrong said:

“Yes, ten. We counted them last night at dinner.”

Rogers came nearer.

“That’s just it, sir. Last night, when I was clearing up, there wasn’t but nine, sir. I noticed it and thought it queer. But that’s all I thought. And now, sir, this morning. I didn’t notice when I laid the breakfast. I was upset and all that.

“But now, sir, when I came to clear away. See for yourself if you don’t believe me.

“There’s only eight, sir! Only eight! It doesn’t make sense, does it? Only eight.…”


The Man in the Brown Suit

The Secret of Chimneys

The Seven Dials Mystery

The Mysterious Mr. Quin

The Sittaford Mystery

Parker Pyne Investigates

Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?

Murder Is Easy

The Regatta Mystery and Other Stories

And Then There Were None

Towards Zero

Death Comes as the End

Sparkling Cyanide

The Witness for the Prosecution and
    Other Stories

Crooked House

Three Blind Mice and Other Stories

They Came to Baghdad

Destination Unknown

Ordeal by Innocence

Double Sin and Other Stories

The Pale Horse

Star over Bethlehem: Poems and
    Holiday Stories

Endless Night

Passenger to Frankfurt

The Golden Ball and Other Stories

The Mousetrap and Other Plays

The Harlequin Tea Set

The Hercule Poirot Mysteries

The Mysterious Affair at Styles

The Murder on the Links

Poirot Investigates

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

The Big Four

The Mystery of the Blue Train

Peril at End House

Lord Edgware Dies

Murder on the Orient Express

Three Act Tragedy

Death in the Clouds

The A.B.C. Murders

Murder in Mesopotamia

Cards on the Table

Murder in the Mews and Other Stories

Dumb Witness

Death on the Nile

Appointment with Death

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas

Sad Cypress

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe

Evil Under the Sun

Five Little Pigs

The Hollow

The Labors of Hercules

Taken at the Flood

The Underdog and Other Stories

Mrs. McGinty’s Dead

After the Funeral

Hickory Dickory Dock

Dead Man’s Folly

Cat Among the Pigeons

The Clocks

Third Girl

Hallowe’en Party

Elephants Can Remember

Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case

The Miss Marple Mysteries

The Murder at the Vicarage

The Body in the Library

The Moving Finger

A Murder Is Announced

They Do It with Mirrors

A Pocket Full of Rye

4:50 from Paddington

The Mirror Crack’d

A Caribbean Mystery

At Bertram’s Hotel


Sleeping Murder

Miss Marple: The Complete Short
    Story Collection

The Tommy and Tuppence Mysteries

The Secret Adversary

Partners in Crime

N or M?

By the Pricking of My Thumbs

Postern of Fate

About the Author

Agatha Christie is the most widely published author of all time and in any language, outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare. Her books have sold more than a billion copies in English and another billion in a hundred foreign languages. She is the author of eighty crime novels and short-story collections, nineteen plays, two memoirs, and six novels written under the name Mary Westmacott.

She first tried her hand at detective fiction while working in a hospital dispensary during World War I, creating the now legendary Hercule Poirot with her debut novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles. With The Murder in the Vicarage, published in 1930, she introduced another beloved sleuth, Miss Jane Marple. Additional series characters include the husband-and-wife crime-fighting team of Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, private investigator Parker Pyne, and Scotland Yard detectives Superintendent Battle and Inspector Japp.

Many of Christie’s novels and short stories were adapted into plays, films, and television series. The Mousetrap, her most famous play of all, opened in 1952 and is the longest-running play in history. Among her best-known film adaptations are Murder on the Orient Express (1974) and Death on the Nile (1978), with Albert Finney and Peter Ustinov playing Hercule Poirot, respectively. On the small screen Poirot has been most memorably portrayed by David Suchet, and Miss Marple by Joan Hickson and subsequently Geraldine McEwan and Julia McKenzie.

Christie was first married to Archibald Christie and then to archaeologist Sir Max Mallowan, whom she accompanied on expeditions to countries that would also serve as the settings for many of her novels. In 1971 she achieved one of Britain’s highest honors when she was made a Dame of the British Empire. She died in 1976 at the age of eighty-five. Her one hundred and twentieth anniversary was celebrated around the world in 2010.

Visit for exclusive information on your favorite HarperCollins authors.



Philip Lombard had the habit of waking at daybreak. He did so on this particular morning. He raised himself on an elbow and listened. The wind had somewhat abated but was still blowing. He could hear no sound of rain….

At eight o’clock the wind was blowing more strongly, but Lombard did not hear it. He was asleep again.

At nine-thirty he was sitting on the edge of his bed looking at his watch. He put it to his ear. Then his lips drew back from his teeth in that curious wolf-like smile characteristic of the man.

He said very softly:

“I think the time has come to do something about this.”

At twenty-five minutes to ten he was tapping on the closed door of Blore’s room.

The latter opened it cautiously. His hair was tousled and his eyes were still dim with sleep.

Philip Lombard said affably:

“Sleeping the clock round? Well, shows you’ve got an easy conscience.”

Blore said shortly:

“What’s the matter?”

Lombard answered:

“Anybody called you—or brought you any tea? Do you know what time it is?”

Blore looked over his shoulder at a small travelling clock by his bedside.

He said:

“Twenty-five to ten. Wouldn’t have believed I could have slept like that. Where’s Rogers?”

Philip Lombard said:

“It’s a case of echo answers where.”

“What d’you mean?” asked the other sharply.

Lombard said:

“I mean that Rogers is missing. He isn’t in his room or anywhere else. And there’s no kettle on and the kitchen fire isn’t even lit.”

Blore swore under his breath. He said:

“Where the devil can he be? Out on the island somewhere? Wait till I get some clothes on. See if the others know anything.”

Philip Lombard nodded. He moved along the line of closed doors.

He found Armstrong up and nearly dressed. Mr. Justice Wargrave, like Blore, had to be roused from sleep. Vera Claythorne was dressed. Emily Brent’s room was empty.

The little party moved through the house. Rogers’ room, as Philip Lombard had already ascertained, was untenanted. The bed had been slept in, and his razor and sponge and soap were wet.

Lombard said:

“He got up all right.”

Vera said in a low voice which she tried to make firm and assured:

“You don’t think he’s—hiding somewhere—waiting for us?”

Lombard said:

“My dear girl, I’m prepared to think anything of anyone! My advice is that we keep together until we find him.”

Armstrong said:

“He must be out on the island somewhere.”

Blore, who had joined them, dressed, but still unshaved, said:

“Where’s Miss Brent got to—that’s another mystery?”

But as they arrived in the hall, Emily Brent came in through the front door. She had on a mackintosh. She said:

“The sea is as high as ever. I shouldn’t think any boat could put out today.”

Blore said:

“Have you been wandering about the island alone, Miss Brent? Don’t you realize that that’s an exceedingly foolish thing to do?”

Emily Brent said:

“I assure you, Mr. Blore, that I kept an extremely sharp look out.”

Blore grunted. He said:

“Seen anything of Rogers?”

Miss Brent’s eyebrows rose.

“Rogers? No, I haven’t seen him this morning. Why?”

Mr. Justice Wargrave, shaved, dressed and with his false teeth in position, came down the stairs. He moved to the open dining room door. He said:

“Ha, laid the table for breakfast, I see.”

Lombard said:

“He might have done that last night.”

They all moved inside the room, looking at the neatly set plates and cutlery. At the row of cups on the sideboard. At the felt mats placed ready for the coffee urn.

It was Vera who saw it first. She caught the judge’s arm and the grip of her athletic fingers made the old gentleman wince.

She cried out:

“The soldiers! Look!”

There were only six china figures in the middle of the table.


They found him shortly afterwards.

He was in the little washhouse across the yard. He had been chopping sticks in preparation for lighting the kitchen fire. The small chopper was still in his hand. A bigger chopper, a heavy affair, was leaning against the door—the metal of it stained a dull brown. It corresponded only too well with the deep wound in the back of Rogers’ head….


“Perfectly clear,” said Armstrong. “The murderer must have crept up behind him, swung the chopper once and brought it down on his head as he was bending over.”

Blore was busy on the handle of the chopper and the flour sifter from the kitchen.

Mr. Justice Wargrave asked:

“Would it have needed great force, doctor?”

Armstrong said gravely:

“A woman could have done it if that’s what you mean.” He gave a quick glance around. Vera Claythorne and Emily Brent had retired to the kitchen. “The girl could have done it easily—she’s an athletic type. In appearance Miss Brent is fragile-looking, but that type of woman has often a lot of wiry strength. And you must remember that anyone who’s mentally unhinged has a good deal of unsuspected strength.”

The judge nodded thoughtfully.

Blore rose to his knees with a sigh. He said:

“No fingerprints. Handle was wiped afterwards.”

A sound of laughter was heard—they turned sharply. Vera Claythorne was standing in the yard. She cried out in a high shrill voice, shaken with wild bursts of laughter:

“Do they keep bees on this island? Tell me that. Where do we go for honey? Ha! ha!”

They stared at her uncomprehendingly. It was as though the sane well-balanced girl had gone mad before their eyes. She went on in that high unnatural voice:

“Don’t stare like that! As though you thought I was mad. It’s sane enough what I’m asking. Bees, hives, bees! Oh, don’t you understand? Haven’t you read that idiotic rhyme? It’s up in all your bedrooms—put there for you to study! We might have come here straightaway if we’d had sense. Seven little soldier boys chopping up sticks. And the next verse. I know the whole thing by heart, I tell you! Six little soldier boys playing with a hive. And that’s why I’m asking—do they keep bees on this island?—isn’t it funny?—isn’t it damned funny …?”

She began laughing wildly again. Dr. Armstrong strode forward. He raised his hand and struck her a flat blow on the cheek.

She gasped, hiccupped—and swallowed. She stood motionless a minute, then she said:

“Thank you … I’m all right now.”

Her voice was once more calm and controlled—the voice of the efficient games mistress.

She turned and went across the yard into the kitchen saying: “Miss Brent and I are getting you breakfast. Can you—bring some sticks to light the fire?”

The marks of the doctor’s hand stood out red on her cheek.

As she went into the kitchen Blore said:

“Well, you dealt with that all right, doctor.”

Armstrong said apologetically:

“Had to! We can’t cope with hysteria on the top of everything else.”

Philip Lombard said:

“She’s not a hysterical type.”

Armstrong agreed.

“Oh no. Good healthy sensible girl. Just the sudden shock. It might happen to anybody.”

Rogers had chopped a certain amount of firewood before he had been killed. They gathered it up and took it into the kitchen. Vera and Emily Brent were busy, Miss Brent was raking out the stove. Vera was cutting the rind off the bacon.

Emily Brent said:

“Thank you. We’ll be as quick as we can—say half an hour to three-quarters. The kettle’s got to boil.”


Ex-Inspector Blore said in a low hoarse voice to Philip Lombard:

“Know what I’m thinking?”

Philip Lombard said:

“As you’re just about to tell me, it’s not worth the trouble of guessing.”

Ex-Inspector Blore was an earnest man. A light touch was incomprehensible to him. He went on heavily:

“There was a case in America. Old gentleman and his wife—both killed with an axe. Middle of the morning. Nobody in the house but the daughter and the maid. Maid, it was proved, couldn’t have done it. Daughter was a respectable middle-aged spinster. Seemed incredible. So incredible that they acquitted her. But they never found any other explanation.” He paused. “I thought of that when I saw the axe—and then when I went into the kitchen and saw her there so neat and calm. Hadn’t turned a hair! That girl, coming all over hysterical—well, that’s natural—the sort of thing you’d expect—don’t you think so?”

Philip Lombard said laconically:

“It might be.”

Blore went on.

“But the other! So neat and prim—wrapped up in that apron—Mrs. Rogers’ apron, I suppose—saying: ‘Breakfast will be ready in half an hour or so.’ If you ask me that woman’s as mad as a hatter! Lots of elderly spinsters go that way—I don’t mean go in for homicide on the grand scale, but go queer in their heads. Unfortunately it’s taken her this way. Religious mania—thinks she’s God’s instrument, something of that kind! She sits in her room, you know, reading her Bible.”

Philip Lombard sighed and said:

“That’s hardly proof positive of an unbalanced mentality, Blore.”

But Blore went on, ploddingly, perseveringly:

“And then she was out—in her mackintosh, said she’d been down to look at the sea.”

The other shook his head.

He said:

“Rogers was killed as he was chopping firewood—that is to say first thing when he got up. The Brent wouldn’t have needed to wander about outside for hours afterwards. If you ask me, the murderer of Rogers would take jolly good care to be rolled up in bed snoring.”

Blore said:

“You’re missing the point, Mr. Lombard. If the woman was innocent she’d be too dead scared to go wandering about by herself. She’d only do that if she knew that she had nothing to fear. That’s to say if she herself is the criminal.”

Philip Lombard said:

“That’s a good point … yes, I hadn’t thought of that.”

He added with a faint grin:

“Glad you don’t still suspect me.”

Blore said rather shamefacedly:

“I did start by thinking of you—that revolver—and the queer story you told—or didn’t tell. But I’ve realized now that that was really a bit too obvious.” He paused and said: “Hope you feel the same about me.”

Philip said thoughtfully:

“I may be wrong, of course, but I can’t feel that you’ve got enough imagination for this job. All I can say is, if you’re the criminal, you’re a damned fine actor and I take my hat off to you.” He lowered his voice. “Just between ourselves, Blore, and taking into account that we’ll probably both be a couple of stiffs before another day is out, you did indulge in that spot of perjury, I suppose?”

Blore shifted uneasily from one foot to the other. He said at last:

“Doesn’t seem to make much odds now. Oh well, here goes, Landor was innocent right enough. The gang had got me squared and between us we got him put away for a stretch. Mind you, I wouldn’t admit this—”

“If there were any witnesses,” finished Lombard with a grin. “It’s just between you and me. Well, I hope you made a tidy bit out of it.”

“Didn’t make what I should have done. Mean crowd, the Purcell gang. I got my promotion, though.”

“And Landor got penal servitude and died in prison.”

“I couldn’t know he was going to die, could I?” demanded Blore.

“No, that was your bad luck.”

“Mine? His, you mean.”

“Yours, too. Because, as a result of it, it looks as though your own life is going to be cut unpleasantly short.”

“Me?” Blore stared at him. “Do you think I’m going to go the way of Rogers and the rest of them? Not me! I’m watching out for myself pretty carefully, I can tell you.”

Lombard said:

“Oh well—I’m not a betting man. And anyway if you were dead I wouldn’t get paid.”

“Look here, Mr. Lombard, what do you mean?”

Philip Lombard showed his teeth. He said:

“I mean, my dear Blore, that in my opinion you haven’t got a chance!”


“Your lack of imagination is going to make you absolutely a sitting target. A criminal of the imagination of U. N. Owen can make rings round you any time he—or she—wants to.”

Blore’s face went crimson. He demanded angrily:

“And what about you?”

Philip Lombard’s face went hard and dangerous.

He said:

“I’ve a pretty good imagination of my own. I’ve been in tight places before now and got out of them! I think—I won’t say more than that but I think I’ll get out of this one.”


The eggs were in the frying pan. Vera, toasting bread, thought to herself:

“Why did I make a hysterical fool of myself? That was a mistake. Keep calm, my girl, keep calm.”

After all, she’d always prided herself on her levelheadedness!

“Miss Claythorne was wonderful—kept her head—started off swimming after Cyril at once.”

Why think of that now? All that was over—over … Cyril had disappeared long before she got near the rock. She had felt the current take her, sweeping her out to sea. She had let herself go with it—swimming quietly, floating—till the boat arrived at last….

They had praised her courage and her sangfroid.…

But not Hugo. Hugo had just—looked at her.…

God, how it hurt, even now, to think of Hugo….

Where was he? What was he doing? Was he engaged—married?

Emily Brent said sharply:

“Vera, that toast is burning.”

“Oh sorry, Miss Brent, so it is. How stupid of me.”

Emily Brent lifted out the last egg from the sizzling fat.

Vera, putting a fresh piece of bread on the toasting fork, said curiously:

“You’re wonderfully calm, Miss Brent.”

Emily Brent said, pressing her lips together:

“I was brought up to keep my head and never to make a fuss.”

Vera thought mechanically:

“Repressed as a child … That accounts for a lot….”

She said:

“Aren’t you afraid?”

She paused and then added:

“Or don’t you mind dying?”

Dying! It was as though a sharp little gimlet had run into the solid congealed mess of Emily Brent’s brain. Dying? But she wasn’t going to die! The others would die—yes—but not she, Emily Brent. This girl didn’t understand! Emily wasn’t afraid, naturally—none of the Brents were afraid. All her people were Service people. They faced death unflinchingly. They led upright lives just as she, Emily Brent, had led an upright life … She had never done anything to be ashamed of … And so, naturally, she wasn’t going to die….

“The Lord is mindful of his own.” “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day….” It was daylight now—there was no terror. “We shall none of us leave this island.” Who had said that? General Macarthur, of course, whose cousin had married Elsie MacPherson. He hadn’t seemed to care. He had seemed—actually—to welcome the idea! Wicked! Almost impious to feel that way. Some people thought so little of death that they actually took their own lives. Beatrice Taylor… Last night she had dreamed of Beatrice—dreamt that she was outside pressing her face against the window and moaning, asking to be let in. But Emily Brent hadn’t wanted to let her in. Because, if she did, something terrible would happen….

Emily came to herself with a start. That girl was looking at her very strangely. She said in a brisk voice:

“Everything’s ready, isn’t it? We’ll take the breakfast in.”


Breakfast was a curious meal. Every one was very polite.

“May I get you some more coffee, Miss Brent?”

“Miss Claythorne, a slice of ham?”

“Another piece of toast?”

Six people, all outwardly self-possessed and normal.

And within? Thoughts that ran round in a circle like squirrels in a cage….

“What next? What next? Who? Which?”

“Would it work? I wonder. It’s worth trying. If there’s time. My God, if there’s time….”

“Religious mania, that’s the ticket … Looking at her, though, you can hardly believe it … Suppose I’m wrong….”

“It’s crazy—everything’s crazy. I’m going crazy. Wool disappearing—red silk curtains—it doesn’t make sense. I can’t get the hang of it….”

“The damned fool, he believed every word I said to him. It was easy … I must be careful, though, very careful.”

“Six of those little china figures … only six—how many will there be by tonight? …”

“Who’ll have the last egg?”


“Thanks, can I cut you some bread?”

Six people, behaving normally at breakfast….

A Manuscript Document Sent To Scotland Yard by the Master of the Emma Jane Fishing Trawler

From my earliest youth I realized that my nature was a mass of contradictions. I have, to begin with, an incurably romantic imagination. The practice of throwing a bottle into the sea with an important document inside was one that never failed to thrill me when reading adventure stories as a child. It thrills me still—and for that reason I have adopted this course—writing my confession, enclosing it in a bottle, sealing the latter, and casting it into the waves. There is, I suppose, a hundred to one chance that my confession may be found—and then (or do I flatter myself?) a hitherto unsolved murder mystery will be explained.

I was born with other traits besides my romantic fancy. I have a definite sadistic delight in seeing or causing death. I remember experiments with wasps—with various garden pests … From an early age I knew very strongly the lust to kill.

But side by side with this went a contradictory trait—a strong sense of justice. It is abhorrent to me that an innocent person or creature should suffer or die by any act of mine. I have always felt strongly that right should prevail.

It may be understood—I think a psychologist would understand—that with my mental makeup being what it was, I adopted the law as a profession. The legal profession satisfied nearly all my instincts.

Crime and its punishment has always fascinated me. I enjoy reading every kind of detective story and thriller. I have devised for my own private amusement the most ingenious ways of carrying out a murder.

When in due course I came to preside over a court of law, that other secret instinct of mine was encouraged to develop. To see a wretched criminal squirming in the dock, suffering the tortures of the damned, as his doom came slowly and slowly nearer, was to me an exquisite pleasure. Mind you, I took no pleasure in seeing an innocent man there. On at least two occasions I stopped cases where to my mind the accused was palpably innocent, directing the jury that there was no case. Thanks, however, to the fairness and efficiency of our police force, the majority of the accused persons who have come before me to be tried for murder, have been guilty.

I will say here that such was the case with the man Edward Seton. His appearance and manner were misleading and he created a good impression on the jury. But not only the evidence, which was clear, though unspectacular, but my own knowledge of criminals told me without any doubt that the man had actually committed the crime with which he was charged, the brutal murder of an elderly woman who trusted him.

I have a reputation as a hanging judge, but that is unfair. I have always been strictly just and scrupulous in my summing up of a case.

All I have done is to protect the jury against the emotional effect of emotional appeals by some of our more emotional counsel. I have drawn their attention to the actual evidence.

For some years past I have been aware of a change within myself, a lessening of control—a desire to act instead of to judge.

I have wanted—let me admit it frankly—to commit a murder myself. I recognized this as the desire of the artist to express himself! I was, or could be, an artist in crime! My imagination, sternly checked by the exigencies of my profession, waxed secretly to colossal force.

I must—I must—I must—commit a murder! And what is more, it must be no ordinary murder! It must be a fantastical crime—something stupendous—out of the common! In that one respect, I have still, I think, an adolescent’s imagination.

I wanted something theatrical, impossible!

I wanted to kill … Yes, I wanted to kill….

But—incongruous as it may seem to some—I was restrained and hampered by my innate sense of justice. The innocent must not suffer.

And then, quite suddenly, the idea came to me—started by a chance remark uttered during casual conversation. It was a doctor to whom I was talking—some ordinary undistinguished GP. He mentioned casually how often murder must be committed which the law was unable to touch.

And he instanced a particular case—that of an old lady, a patient of his who had recently died. He was, he said, himself convinced that her death was due to the withholding of a restorative drug by a married couple who attended on her and who stood to benefit very substantially by her death. That sort of thing, he explained, was quite impossible to prove, but he was nevertheless quite sure of it in his own mind. He added that there were many cases of a similar nature going on all the time—cases of deliberate murder—and all quite untouchable by the law.

That was the beginning of the whole thing. I suddenly saw my way clear. And I determined to commit not one murder, but murder on a grand scale.

A childish rhyme of my infancy came back into my mind—the rhyme of the ten little soldier boys. It had fascinated me as a child of two—the inexorable diminishment—the sense of inevitability.

I began, secretly, to collect victims….

I will not take up space here by going into details of how this was accomplished. I had a certain routine line of conversation which I employed with nearly every one I met—and the results I got were really surprising. During the time I was in a nursing home I collected the case of Dr. Armstrong—a violently teetotal Sister who attended on me being anxious to prove to me the evils of drink by recounting to me a case many years ago in hospital when a doctor under the influence of alcohol had killed a patient on whom he was operating. A careless question as to where the Sister in question had trained, etc., soon gave me the necessary data. I tracked down the doctor and the patient mentioned without difficulty.

A conversation between two old military gossips in my Club put me on the track of General Macarthur. A man who had recently returned from the Amazon gave me a devastating résumé of the activities of one Philip Lombard. An indignant memsahib in Majorca recounted the tale of the Puritan Emily Brent and her wretched servant girl. Anthony Marston I selected from a large group of people who had committed similar offences. His complete callousness and his inability to feel any responsibility for the lives he had taken made him, I considered, a type dangerous to the community and unfit to live. Ex-Inspector Blore came my way quite naturally, some of my professional brethren discussing the Landor case with freedom and vigour. I took a serious view of his offence. The police, as servants of the law, must be of a high order of integrity. For their word is perforce believed by virtue of their profession.

Finally there was the case of Vera Claythorne. It was when I was crossing the Atlantic. At a late hour one night the sole occupants of the smoking room were myself and a good-looking young man called Hugo Hamilton.

Hugo Hamilton was unhappy. To assuage that unhappiness he had taken a considerable quantity of drink. He was in the maudlin confidential stage. Without much hope of any result I automatically started my routine conversational gambit. The response was startling. I can remember his words now. He said:

“You’re right. Murder isn’t what most people think—giving someone a dollop of arsenic—pushing them over a cliff—that sort of stuff.” He leaned forward, thrusting his face into mine. He said, “I’ve known a murderess—known her, I tell you. And what’s more I was crazy about her … God help me, sometimes I think I still am … It’s hell, I tell you—hell. You see, she did it more or less for me … Not that I ever dreamed … Women are fiends—absolute fiends—you wouldn’t think a girl like that—a nice straight jolly girl—you wouldn’t think she’d do that, would you? That she’d take a kid out to sea and let it drown—you wouldn’t think a woman could do a thing like that?”

I said to him:

“Are you sure she did do it?”

He said and in saying it he seemed suddenly to sober up:

“I’m quite sure. Nobody else ever thought of it. But I knew the moment I looked at her—when I got back—after … And she knew I knew … What she didn’t realize was that I loved that kid….”

He didn’t say anymore, but it was easy enough for me to trace back the story and reconstruct it.

I needed a tenth victim. I found him in a man named Morris. He was a shady little creature. Amongst other things he was a dope pedlar and he was responsible for inducing the daughter of friends of mine to take to drugs. She committed suicide at the age of twenty-one.

During all this time of search my plan had been gradually maturing in my mind. It was now complete and the coping stone to it was an interview I had with a doctor in Harley Street. I have mentioned that I underwent an operation. My interview in Harley Street told me that another operation would be useless. My medical adviser wrapped up the information very prettily, but I am accustomed to getting at the truth of a statement.

I did not tell the doctor of my decision—that my death should not be a slow and protracted one as it would be in the course of nature. No, my death should take place in a blaze of excitement. I would live before I died.

And now to the actual mechanics of the crime of Soldier Island. To acquire the island, using the man Morris to cover my tracks, was easy enough. He was an expert in that sort of thing. Tabulating the information I had collected about my prospective victims, I was able to concoct a suitable bait for each. None of my plans miscarried. All my guests arrived at Soldier Island on the 8th of August. The party included myself.

Morris was already accounted for. He suffered from indigestion. Before leaving London I gave him a capsule to take last thing at night which had, I said, done wonders for my own gastric juices. He accepted unhesitatingly—the man was a slight hypochondriac. I had no fear that he would leave any compromising documents or memoranda behind. He was not that sort of man.

The order of death upon the island had been subjected by me to special thought and care. There were, I considered, amongst my guests, varying degrees of guilt. Those whose guilt was the lightest should, I decided, pass out first, and not suffer the prolonged mental strain and fear that the more cold-blooded offenders were to suffer.

Anthony Marston and Mrs. Rogers died first, the one instantaneously the other in a peaceful sleep. Marston, I recognized, was a type born without that feeling of moral responsibility which most of us have. He was amoral—pagan. Mrs. Rogers, I had no doubt, had acted very largely under the influence of her husband.

I need not describe closely how those two met their deaths. The police will have been able to work that out quite easily. Potassium cyanide is easily obtained by householders for putting down wasps. I had some in my possession and it was easy to slip it into Marston’s almost empty glass during the tense period after the gramophone recital.

I may say that I watched the faces of my guests closely during that indictment and I had no doubt whatever, after my long court experience, that one and all were guilty.

During recent bouts of pain, I had been ordered a sleeping draught—Chloral Hydrate. It had been easy for me to suppress this until I had a lethal amount in my possession. When Rogers brought up some brandy for his wife, he set it down on a table and in passing that table I put the stuff into the brandy. It was easy, for at that time suspicion had not begun to set in.

General Macarthur met his death quite painlessly. He did not hear me come up behind him. I had, of course, to choose my time for leaving the terrace very carefully, but everything was successful.

As I had anticipated, a search was made of the island and it was discovered that there was no one on it but our seven selves. That at once created an atmosphere of suspicion. According to my plan I should shortly need an ally. I selected Dr. Armstrong for that part. He was a gullible sort of man, he knew me by sight and reputation and it was inconceivable to him that a man of my standing should actually be a murderer! All his suspicions were directed against Lombard and I pretended to concur in these. I hinted to him that I had a scheme by which it might be possible to trap the murderer into incriminating himself.

Though a search had been made of everyone’s room, no search had as yet been made of the persons themselves. But that was bound to come soon.

I killed Rogers on the morning of August 10th. He was chopping sticks for lighting the fire and did not hear me approach. I found the key to the dining room door in his pocket. He had locked it the night before.

In the confusion attending the finding of Rogers’ body I slipped into Lombard’s room and abstracted his revolver. I knew that he would have one with him—in fact I had instructed Morris to suggest as much when he interviewed him.

At breakfast I slipped my last dose of chloral into Miss Brent’s coffee when I was refilling her cup. We left her in the dining room. I slipped in there a little while later—she was nearly unconscious and it was easy to inject a strong solution of cyanide into her. The bumble bee business was really rather childish—but somehow, you know, it pleased me. I liked adhering as closely as possible to my nursery rhyme.

Immediately after this what I had already foreseen happened—indeed I believe I suggested it myself. We all submitted to a rigorous search. I had safely hidden away the revolver, and had no more cyanide or chloral in my possession.

It was then that I intimated to Armstrong that we must carry our plan into effect. It was simply this—I must appear to be the next victim. That would perhaps rattle the murderer—at any rate once I was supposed to be dead I could move about the house and spy upon the unknown murderer.

Armstrong was keen on the idea. We carried it out that evening. A little plaster of red mud on the forehead—the red curtain and the wool and the stage was set. The lights of the candles were very flickering and uncertain and the only person who would examine me closely was Armstrong.

It worked perfectly. Miss Claythorne screamed the house down when she found the seaweed which I had thoughtfully arranged in her room. They all rushed up, and I took up my pose of a murdered man.

The effect on them when they found me was all that could be desired. Armstrong acted his part in the most professional manner. They carried me upstairs and laid me on my bed. Nobody worried about me, they were all too deadly scared and terrified of each other.

I had a rendezvous with Armstrong outside the house at a quarter to two. I took him up a little way behind the house on the edge of the cliff. I said that here we could see if any one else approached us, and we should not be seen from the house as the bedrooms faced the other way. He was still quite unsuspicious—and yet he ought to have been warned—if he had only remembered the words of the nursery rhyme. “A red herring swallowed one …” He took the red herring all right.

It was quite easy. I uttered an exclamation, leant over the cliff, told him to look, wasn’t that the mouth of a cave? He leant right over. A quick vigorous push sent him off his balance and splash into the heaving sea below. I returned to the house. It must have been my footfall that Blore heard. A few minutes after I had returned to Armstrong’s room I left it, this time making a certain amount of noise so that someone should hear me. I heard a door open as I got to the bottom of the stairs. They must have just glimpsed my figure as I went out of the front door.

It was a minute or two before they followed me. I had gone straight round the house and in at the dining room window which I had left open. I shut the window and later I broke the glass. Then I went upstairs and laid myself out again on my bed.

I calculated that they would search the house again, but I did not think they would look closely at any of the corpses, a mere twitch aside of the sheet to satisfy themselves that it was not Armstrong masquerading as a body. This is exactly what occurred.

I forgot to say that I returned the revolver to Lombard’s room. It may be of interest to someone to know where it was hidden during the search. There was a big pile of tinned food in the larder. I opened the bottommost of the tins—biscuits I think it contained, bedded in the revolver and replaced the strip of adhesive tape.

I calculated, and rightly, that no one would think of working their way through a pile of apparently untouched foodstuffs, especially as all the top tins were soldered.

The red curtain I had concealed by laying it flat on the seat of one of the drawing room chairs under the chintz cover and the wool in the seat cushion, cutting a small hole.

And now came the moment that I had anticipated—three people who were so frightened of each other that anything might happen—and one of them had a revolver. I watched them from the windows of the house. When Blore came up alone I had the big marble clock poised ready. Exit Blore.…

From my window I saw Vera Claythorne shoot Lombard. A daring and resourceful young woman. I always thought she was a match for him and more. As soon as that had happened I set the stage in her bedroom.

It was an interesting psychological experiment. Would the consciousness of her own guilt, the state of nervous tension consequent on having just shot a man, be sufficient, together with the hypnotic suggestion of the surroundings, to cause her to take her own life? I thought it would. I was right. Vera Claythorne hanged herself before my eyes where I stood in the shadow of the wardrobe.

And now for the last stage. I came forward, picked up the chair and set it against the wall. I looked for the revolver and found it at the top of the stairs where the girl had dropped it. I was careful to preserve her fingerprints on it.

And now?

I shall finish writing this. I shall enclose it and seal it in a bottle and I shall throw the bottle into the sea.


Yes, why?

It was my ambition to invent a murder mystery that no one could solve.

But no artist, I now realize, can be satisfied with art alone. There is a natural craving for recognition which cannot be gainsaid.

I have, let me confess it in all humility, a pitiful human wish that someone should know just how clever I have been….

In all this, I have assumed that the mystery of Soldier Island will remain unsolved. It may be, of course, that the police will be cleverer than I think. There are, after all, three clues. One: the police are perfectly aware that Edward Seton was guilty. They know, therefore, that one of the ten people on the island was not a murderer in any sense of the word, and it follows, paradoxically, that that person must logically be the murderer. The second clue lies in the seventh verse of the nursery rhyme. Armstrong’s death is associated with a “red herring” which he swallowed—or rather which resulted in swallowing him! That is to say that at that stage of the affair some hocus-pocus is clearly indicated—and that Armstrong was deceived by it and sent to his death. That might start a promising line of inquiry. For at that period there are only four persons and of those four I am clearly the only one likely to inspire him with confidence.

The third is symbolical. The manner of my death marking me on the forehead. The brand of Cain.

There is, I think, little more to say.

After entrusting my bottle and its message to the sea I shall go to my room and lay myself down on the bed. To my eyeglasses is attached what seems a length of fine black cord—but it is elastic cord. I shall lay the weight of the body on the glasses. The cord I shall loop round the door handle and attach it, not too solidly, to the revolver. What I think will happen is this.

My hand, protected with a handkerchief, will press the trigger. My hand will fall to my side, the revolver, pulled by the elastic, will recoil to the door, jarred by the door handle it will detach itself from the elastic and fall. The elastic, released, will hang down innocently from the eyeglasses on which my body is lying. A handkerchief lying on the floor will cause no comment whatever.

I shall be found, laid neatly on my bed, shot through the forehead in accordance with the record kept by my fellow victims. Times of death cannot be stated with any accuracy by the time our bodies are examined.

When the sea goes down, there will come from the mainland boats and men.

And they will find ten dead bodies and an unsolved problem on Soldier Island.


Lawrence Wargrave.



Lombard said slowly:

“So we’ve been wrong—wrong all along! Built up a nightmare of superstition and fantasy all because of the coincidence of two deaths!”

Armstrong said gravely:

“And yet, you know, the argument holds. Hang it all, I’m a doctor, I know something about suicides. Anthony Marston wasn’t a suicidal type.”

Lombard said doubtfully:

“It couldn’t, I suppose, have been an accident?”

Blore snorted, unconvinced.

“Damned queer sort of accident,” he grunted.

There was a pause, then Blore said:

“About the woman—” and stopped.

“Mrs. Rogers?”

“Yes. It’s possible, isn’t it, that that might have been an accident?”

Philip Lombard said:

“An accident? In what way?”

Blore looked slightly embarrassed. His red-brick face grew a little deeper in hue. He said, almost blurting out the words:

“Look here, doctor, you did give her some dope, you know.”

Armstrong stared at him.

“Dope? What do you mean?”

“Last night. You said yourself you’d given her something to make her sleep.”

“Oh that, yes. A harmless sedative.”

“What was it exactly?”

“I gave her a mild dose of trional. A perfectly harmless preparation.”

Blore grew redder still. He said:

“Look here—not to mince matters—you didn’t give her an overdose, did you?”

Dr. Armstrong said angrily:

“I don’t know what you mean.”

Blore said:

“It’s possible, isn’t it, that you may have made a mistake? These things do happen once in a while.”

Armstrong said sharply:

“I did nothing of the sort. The suggestion is ridiculous.” He stopped and added in a cold biting tone: “Or do you suggest that I gave her an overdose on purpose?”

Philip Lombard said quickly:

“Look here, you two, got to keep our heads. Don’t let’s start slinging accusations about.”

Blore said sullenly:

“I only suggested the doctor had made a mistake.”

Dr. Armstrong smiled with an effort. He said, showing his teeth in a somewhat mirthless smile:

“Doctors can’t afford to make mistakes of that kind, my friend.”

Blore said deliberately:

“It wouldn’t be the first you’ve made—if that gramophone record is to be believed!”

Armstrong went white. Philip Lombard said quickly and angrily to Blore:

“What’s the sense of making yourself offensive? We’re all in the same boat. We’ve got to pull together. What about your own pretty little spot of perjury?”

Blore took a step forward, his hands clenched. He said in a thick voice:

“Perjury, be damned! That’s a foul lie! You may try and shut me up, Mr. Lombard, but there’s things I want to know—and one of them is about you!”

Lombard’s eyebrows rose.

“About me?”

“Yes. I want to know why you brought a revolver down here on a pleasant social visit?”

Lombard said:

“You do, do you?”

“Yes, I do, Mr. Lombard.”

Lombard said unexpectedly:

“You know, Blore, you’re not nearly such a fool as you look.”

“That’s as may be. What about that revolver?”

Lombard smiled.

“I brought it because I expected to run into a spot of trouble.”

Blore said suspiciously:

“You didn’t tell us that last night.”

Lombard shook his head.

“You were holding out on us?” Blore persisted.

“In a way, yes,” said Lombard.

“Well, come on, out with it.”

Lombard said slowly:

“I allowed you all to think that I was asked here in the same way as most of the others. That’s not quite true. As a matter of fact I was approached by a little Jew-boy—Morris his name was. He offered me a hundred guineas to come down here and keep my eyes open—said I’d got a reputation for being a good man in a tight place.”

“Well?” Blore prompted impatiently.

Lombard said with a grin:

“That’s all.”

Dr. Armstrong said:

“But surely he told you more than that?”

“Oh no, he didn’t. Just shut up like a clam. I could take it or leave it—those were his words. I was hard up. I took it.”

Blore looked unconvinced. He said:

“Why didn’t you tell us all this last night?”

“My dear man—” Lombard shrugged eloquent shoulders. “How was I to know that last night wasn’t exactly the eventuality I was here to cope with? I lay low and told a noncommittal story.”

Dr. Armstrong said shrewdly:

“But now—you think differently?”

Lombard’s face changed. It darkened and hardened. He said:

“Yes. I believe now that I’m in the same boat as the rest of you. That hundred guineas was just Mr. Owen’s little bit of cheese to get me into the trap along with the rest of you.”

He said slowly:

“For we are in a trap—I’ll take my oath on that! Mrs. Rogers’ death! Tony Marston’s! The disappearing soldier boys on the dinner table! Oh yes, Mr. Owen’s hand is plainly seen—but where the devil is Mr. Owen himself?”

Downstairs the gong pealed a solemn call to lunch.


Rogers was standing by the dining room door. As the three men descended the stairs he moved a step or two forward. He said in a low anxious voice:

“I hope lunch will be satisfactory. There is cold ham and cold tongue, and I’ve boiled some potatoes. And there’s cheese and biscuits, and some tinned fruits.”

Lombard said:

“Sounds all right. Stores are holding out, then?”

“There is plenty of food, sir—of a tinned variety. The larder is very well stocked. A necessity, that, I should say, sir, on an island where one may be cut off from the mainland for a considerable period.”

Lombard nodded.

Rogers murmured as he followed the three men into the dining room:

“It worries me that Fred Narracott hasn’t been over today. It’s peculiarly unfortunate, as you might say.”

“Yes,” said Lombard, “peculiarly unfortunate describes it very well.”

Miss Brent came into the room. She had just dropped a ball of wool and was carefully rewinding the end of it.

As she took her seat at table she remarked:

“The weather is changing. The wind is quite strong and there are white horses on the sea.”

Mr. Justice Wargrave came in. He walked with a slow measured tread. He darted quick looks from under his bushy eyebrows at the other occupants of the dining room. He said:

“You have had an active morning.”

There was a faint malicious pleasure in his voice.

Vera Claythorne hurried in. She was a little out of breath.

She said quickly:

“I hope you didn’t wait for me. Am I late?”

Emily Brent said:

“You’re not the last. The General isn’t here yet.”

They sat round the table.

Rogers addressed Miss Brent.

“Will you begin, Madam, or will you wait?”

Vera said:

“General Macarthur is sitting right down by the sea. I don’t expect he would hear the gong there anyway”—she hesitated—“he’s a little vague today, I think.”

Rogers said quickly:

“I will go down and inform him luncheon is ready.”

Dr. Armstrong jumped up.

“I’ll go,” he said. “You others start lunch.”

He left the room. Behind him he heard Rogers’ voice.

“Will you take cold tongue or cold ham, Madam?”


The five people sitting round the table seemed to find conversation difficult. Outside, sudden gusts of wind came up and died away.

Vera shivered a little and said:

“There is a storm coming.”

Blore made a contribution to the discourse. He said conversationally:

“There was an old fellow in the train from Plymouth yesterday. He kept saying a storm was coming. Wonderful how they know weather, these old salts.”

Rogers went round the table collecting the meat plates.

Suddenly, with the plates held in his hands, he stopped.

He said in an odd scared voice:

“There’s somebody running….”

They could all hear it—running feet along the terrace.

In that minute, they knew—knew without being told….

As by common accord, they all rose to their feet. They stood looking towards the door.

Dr. Armstrong appeared, his breath coming fast.

He said:

“General Macarthur—”

“Dead!” The word burst from Vera explosively.

Armstrong said:

“Yes, he’s dead….”

There was a pause—a long pause.

Seven people looked at each other and could find no words to say.


The storm broke just as the old man’s body was borne in through the door.

The others were standing in the hall.

There was a sudden hiss and roar as the rain came down.

As Blore and Armstrong passed up the stairs with their burden, Vera Claythorne turned suddenly and went into the deserted dining room.

It was as they had left it. The sweet course stood ready on the sideboard untasted.

Vera went up to the table. She was there a minute or two later when Rogers came softly into the room.

He started when he saw her. Then his eyes asked a question.

He said:

“Oh, Miss, I—I just came to see….”

In a loud harsh voice that surprised herself Vera said:

“You’re quite right, Rogers. Look for yourself. There are only seven.…”


General Macarthur had been laid on his bed.

After making a last examination Armstrong left the room and came downstairs. He found the others assembled in the drawing room.

Miss Brent was knitting. Vera Claythorne was standing by the window looking out at the hissing rain. Blore was sitting squarely in a chair, his hands on his knees. Lombard was walking restlessly up and down. At the far end of the room Mr. Justice Wargrave was sitting in a grandfather chair. His eyes were half closed.

They opened as the doctor came into the room. He said in a clear penetrating voice:

“Well, doctor?”

Armstrong was very pale. He said:

“No question of heart failure or anything like that. Macarthur was hit with a life preserver or some such thing on the back of the head.”

A little murmur went round, but the clear voice of the judge was raised once more.

“Did you find the actual weapon used?”


“Nevertheless you are sure of your facts?”

“I am quite sure.”

Mr. Justice Wargrave said quietly:

“We know now exactly where we are.”

There was no doubt now who was in charge of the situation. This morning Wargrave had sat huddled in his chair on the terrace refraining from any overt activity. Now he assumed command with the ease born of a long habit of authority. He definitely presided over the court.

Clearing his throat, he once more spoke.

“This morning, gentlemen, whilst I was sitting on the terrace, I was an observer of your activities. There could be little doubt of your purpose. You were searching the island for an unknown murderer?”

“Quite right, sir,” said Philip Lombard.

The judge went on.

“You had come, doubtless, to the same conclusion that I had—namely that the deaths of Anthony Marston and Mrs. Rogers were neither accidental nor were they suicides. No doubt you also reached a certain conclusion as to the purpose of Mr. Owen in enticing us to this island?”

Blore said hoarsely:

“He’s a madman! A loony.”

The judge coughed.

“That almost certainly. But it hardly affects the issue. Our main preoccupation is this—to save our lives.”

Armstrong said in a trembling voice:

“There’s no one on the island, I tell you. No one!”

The judge stroked his jaw.

He said gently:

“In the sense you mean, no. I came to that conclusion early this morning. I could have told you that your search would be fruitless. Nevertheless I am strongly of the opinion that ‘Mr. Owen’ (to give him the name he himself has adopted) is on the island. Very much so. Given the scheme in question which is neither more nor less than the execution of justice upon certain individuals for offences which the law cannot touch, there is only one way in which that scheme could be accomplished. Mr. Owen could only come to the island in one way.

“It is perfectly clear. Mr. Owen is one of us.…”


“Oh, no, no, no….”

It was Vera who burst out—almost in a moan. The judge turned a keen eye on her.

He said:

“My dear young lady, this is no time for refusing to look facts in the face. We are all in grave danger. One of us is U. N. Owen. And we do not know which of us. Of the ten people who came to this island three are definitely cleared. Anthony Marston, Mrs. Rogers, and General Macarthur have gone beyond suspicion. There are seven of us left. Of those seven, one is, if I may so express myself, a bogus little soldier boy.”

He paused and looked round.

“Do I take it that you all agree?”

Armstrong said:

“It’s fantastic—but I suppose you’re right.”

Blore said:

“Not a doubt of it. And if you ask me, I’ve a very good idea—”

A quick gesture of Mr. Justice Wargrave’s hand stopped him. The judge said quietly:

“We will come to that presently. At the moment all I wish to establish is that we are in agreement on the facts.”

Emily Brent, still knitting, said:

“Your argument seems logical. I agree that one of us is possessed by a devil.”

Vera murmured:

“I can’t believe it … I can’t….”

Wargrave said:


“I agree, sir, absolutely.”

The judge nodded his head in a satisfied manner. He said:

“Now let us examine the evidence. To begin with, is there any reason for suspecting one particular person? Mr. Blore, you have, I think, something to say.”

Blore was breathing hard. He said:

“Lombard’s got a revolver. He didn’t tell the truth—last night. He admits it.”

Philip Lombard smiled scornfully.

He said:

“I suppose I’d better explain again.”

He did so, telling the story briefly and succinctly.

Blore said sharply:

“What’s to prove it? There’s nothing to corroborate your story.”

The judge coughed.

“Unfortunately,” he said, “we are all in that position. There is only our own word to go upon.”

He leaned forward.

“You have none of you yet grasped what a very peculiar situation this is. To my mind there is only one course of procedure to adopt. Is there any one whom we can definitely eliminate from suspicion on the evidence which is in our possession?”

Dr. Armstrong said quickly:

“I, am a well-known professional man. The mere idea that I can be suspected of—”

Again a gesture of the judge’s hand arrested a speaker before he finished his speech. Mr. Justice Wargrave said in his small clear voice:

“I too, am a well-known person! But, my dear sir, that proves less than nothing! Doctors have gone mad before now. Judges have gone mad. So,” he added, looking at Blore, “have policemen!”

Lombard said:

“At any rate, I suppose you’ll leave the women out of it.”

The judge’s eyebrows rose. He said in the famous “acid” tones that Counsel knew so well:

“Do I understand you to assert that women are not subject to homicidal mania?”

Lombard said irritably:

“Of course not. But all the same, it hardly seems possible—”

He stopped. Mr. Justice Wargrave still in the same thin sour voice addressed Armstrong.

“I take it, Dr. Armstrong, that a woman would have been physically capable of striking the blow that killed poor Macarthur?”

The doctor said calmly:

“Perfectly capable—given a suitable instrument, such as a rubber truncheon or cosh.”

“It would require no undue exertion of force?”

“Not at all.”

Mr. Justice Wargrave wriggled his tortoise-like neck. He said:

“The other two deaths have resulted from the administration of drugs. That, no one will dispute, is easily compassed by a person of the smallest physical strength.”

Vera cried angrily:

“I think you’re mad!”

His eyes turned slowly till they rested on her. It was the dispassionate stare of a man well used to weighing humanity in the balance. She thought:

“He’s just seeing me as a—as a specimen. And—” the thought came to her with real surprise, “he doesn’t like me much!”

In a measured tone the judge was saying:

“My dear young lady, do try and restrain your feelings. I am not accusing you.” He bowed to Miss Brent. “I hope, Miss Brent, that you are not offended by my insistence that all of us are equally under suspicion?”

Emily Brent was knitting. She did not look up. In a cold voice she said:

“The idea that I should be accused of taking a fellow creature’s life—not to speak of the lives of three fellow creatures—is of course, quite absurd to any one who knows anything of my character. But I quite appreciate the fact that we are all strangers to one another and that, in those circumstances, nobody can be exonerated without the fullest proof. There is, as I have said, a devil amongst us.”

The judge said:

“Then we are agreed. There can be no elimination on the ground of character or position alone.”

Lombard said: “What about Rogers?”

The judge looked at him unblinkingly.

“What about him?”

Lombard said:

“Well, to my mind, Rogers seems pretty well ruled out.”

Mr. Justice Wargrave said:

“Indeed, and on what grounds?”

Lombard said:

“He hasn’t got the brains for one thing. And for another his wife was one of the victims.”

The judge’s heavy eyebrows rose once more. He said:

“In my time, young man, several people have come before me accused of the murders of their wives—and have been found guilty.”

“Oh! I agree. Wife murder is perfectly possible—almost natural, let’s say! But not this particular kind! I can believe in Rogers killing his wife because he was scared of her breaking down and giving him away, or because he’d taken a dislike to her, or because he wanted to link up with some nice little bit rather less long in the tooth. But I can’t see him as the lunatic Mr. Owen dealing out crazy justice and starting on his own wife for a crime they both committed.”

Mr. Justice Wargrave said:

“You are assuming hearsay to be evidence. We do not know that Rogers and his wife conspired to murder their employer. That may have been a false statement, made so that Rogers should appear to be in the same position as ourselves. Mrs. Rogers’ terror last night may have been due to the fact that she realized her husband was mentally unhinged.”

Lombard said:

“Well, have it your own way. U. N. Owen is one of us. No exceptions allowed. We all qualify.”

Mr. Justice Wargrave said:

“My point is that there can be no exceptions allowed on the score of character, position, or probability. What we must now examine is the possibility of eliminating one or more persons on the facts. To put it simply, is there among us one or more persons who could not possibly have administered either cyanide to Anthony Marston, or an overdose of sleeping draught to Mrs. Rogers, and who had no opportunity of striking the blow that killed General Macarthur?”

Blore’s rather heavy face lit up. He leant forward.

“Now you’re talking, sir!” he said. “That’s the stuff! Let’s go into it. As regards young Marston I don’t think there’s anything to be done. It’s already been suggested that someone from outside slipped something into the dregs of his glass before he refilled it for the last time. A person actually in the room could have done that even more easily. I can’t remember if Rogers was in the room, but any of the rest of us could certainly have done it.”

He paused, then went on:

“Now take the woman Rogers. The people who stand out there are her husband and the doctor. Either of them could have done it as easy as winking—”

Armstrong sprang to his feet. He was trembling.

“I protest—this is absolutely uncalled for! I swear that the dose I gave the woman was perfectly—”

“Dr. Armstrong.”

The small sour voice was compelling. The doctor stopped with a jerk in the middle of his sentence. The small cold voice went on:

“Your indignation is very natural. Nevertheless you must admit that the facts have got to be faced. Either you or Rogers could have administered a fatal dose with the greatest ease. Let us now consider the position of the other people present. What chance had I, had Inspector Blore, had Miss Brent, had Miss Claythorne, had Mr. Lombard of administering poison? Can any one of us be completely and entirely eliminated?” He paused. “I think not.”

Vera said angrily:

“I was nowhere near the woman! All of you can swear to that.”

Mr. Justice Wargrave waited a minute, then he said:

“As far as my memory serves me the facts were these—will any one please correct me if I make a misstatement? Mrs. Rogers was lifted on to the sofa by Anthony Marston and Mr. Lombard and Dr. Armstrong went to her. He sent Rogers for brandy. There was then a question raised as to where the voice we had just heard had come from. We all went into the next room with the exception of Miss Brent who remained in this room—alone with the unconscious woman.”

A spot of colour came into Emily Brent’s cheeks. She stopped knitting. She said:

“This is outrageous!”

The remorseless small voice went on:

“When we returned to this room, you, Miss Brent, were bending over the woman on the sofa.”

Emily Brent said:

“Is common humanity a criminal offence?”

Mr. Justice Wargrave said:

“I am only establishing facts. Rogers then entered the room with the brandy which, of course, he could quite well have doctored before entering the room. The brandy was administered to the woman and shortly afterwards her husband and Dr. Armstrong assisted her up to bed where Dr. Armstrong gave her a sedative.”

Blore said:

“That’s what happened. Absolutely. And that lets out the judge, Mr. Lombard, myself and Miss Claythorne.”

His voice was loud and jubilant. Mr. Justice Wargrave, bringing a cold eye to bear upon him, murmured:

“Ah, but does it? We must take into account every possible eventuality.”

Blore stared. He said:

“I don’t get you.”

Mr. Justice Wargrave said:

“Upstairs in her room, Mrs. Rogers is lying in bed. The sedative that the doctor has given her begins to take effect. She is vaguely sleepy and acquiescent. Supposing that at that moment there is a tap on the door and someone enters bringing her, shall we say, a tablet, or a draught, with the message that ‘The doctor says you’re to take this.’ Do you imagine for one minute that she would not have swallowed it obediently without thinking twice about it?”

There was a silence. Blore shifted his feet and frowned. Philip Lombard said:

“I don’t believe in that story for a minute. Besides none of us left this room for hours afterwards. There was Marston’s death and all the rest of it.”

The judge said:

“Someone could have left his or her bedroom—later.”

Lombard objected:

“But then Rogers would have been up there.”

Dr. Armstrong stirred.

“No,” he said. “Rogers went downstairs to clear up in the dining room and pantry. Anyone could have gone up to the woman’s bedroom then without being seen.”

Emily Brent said:

“Surely, doctor, the woman would have been fast asleep by then under the influence of the drug you had administered?”

“In all likelihood, yes. But it is not a certainty. Until you have prescribed for a patient more than once you cannot tell their reaction to different drugs. There is, sometimes, a considerable period before a sedative takes effect. It depends on the personal idiosyncrasy of the patient towards that particular drug.”

Lombard said:

“Of course you would say that, doctor. Suits your book—eh?”

Again Armstrong’s face darkened with anger.

But again that passionless cold little voice stopped the words on his lips.

“No good result can come from recrimination. Facts are what we have to deal with. It is established, I think, that there is a possibility of such a thing as I have outlined occurring. I agree that its probability value is not high; though there again, it depends on who that person might have been. The appearance of Miss Brent or of Miss Claythorne on such an errand would have occasioned no surprise in the patient’s mind. I agree that the appearance of myself, or of Mr. Blore, or of Mr. Lombard would have been, to say the least of it, unusual, but I still think the visit would have been received without the awakening of any real suspicion.”

Blore said:

“And that gets us—where?”


Mr. Justice Wargrave, stroking his lip and looking quite passionless and inhuman, said:

“We have now dealt with the second killing, and have established the fact that no one of us can be completely exonerated from suspicion.”

He paused and went on.

“We come now to the death of General Macarthur. That took place this morning. I will ask anyone who considers that he or she has an alibi to state it in so many words. I myself will state at once that I have no valid alibi. I spent the morning sitting on the terrace and meditating on the singular position in which we all find ourselves.

“I sat on that chair on the terrace for the whole morning until the gong went, but there were, I should imagine, several periods during the morning when I was quite unobserved and during which it would have been possible for me to walk down to the sea, kill the General, and return to my chair. There is only my word for the fact that I never left the terrace. In the circumstances that is not enough. There must be proof.”

Blore said:

“I was with Mr. Lombard and Dr. Armstrong all the morning. They’ll bear me out.”

Dr. Armstrong said:

“You went to the house for a rope.”

Blore said:

“Of course, I did. Went straight there and straight back. You know I did.”

Armstrong said:

“You were a long time….”

Blore turned crimson. He said:

“What the hell do you mean by that, Dr. Armstrong?”

Armstrong repeated:

“I only said you were a long time.”

“Had to find it, didn’t I? Can’t lay your hands on a coil of rope all in a minute.”

Mr. Justice Wargrave said:

“During Inspector Blore’s absence, were you two gentlemen together?”

Armstrong said hotly:

“Certainly. That is, Lombard went off for a few minutes. I remained where I was.”

Lombard said with a smile:

“I wanted to test the possibilities of heliographing to the mainland. Wanted to find the best spot. I was only absent a minute or two.”

Armstrong nodded. He said:

“That’s right. Not long enough to do a murder, I assure you.”

The judge said:

“Did either of you two glance at your watches?”

“Well, no.”

Philip Lombard said:

“I wasn’t wearing one.”

The judge said evenly:

“A minute or two is a vague expression.”

He turned his head to the upright figure with the knitting lying on her lap.

“Miss Brent?”

Emily Brent said:

“I took a walk with Miss Claythorne up to the top of the island. Afterwards I sat on the terrace in the sun.”

The judge said:

“I don’t think I noticed you there.”

“No, I was round the corner of the house to the east. It was out of the wind there.”

“And you sat there till lunchtime?”


“Miss Claythorne?”

Vera answered readily and clearly:

“I was with Miss Brent early this morning. After that I wandered about a bit. Then I went down and talked to General Macarthur.”

Mr. Justice Wargrave interrupted. He said:

“What time was that?”

Vera for the first time was vague. She said:

“I don’t know. About an hour before lunch, I think—or it might have been less.”

Blore asked:

“Was it after we’d spoken to him or before?”

Vera said:

“I don’t kn