Definitely Soldiers Island was news!
“Watch and pray,” he said. “Watch and pray. The day of judgment is at hand.”
The faded blue eyes, shrewd in spite of their age, sized up Lombard. For a moment a judgment showed in them – had there been anyone to read it.
He might have noticed that a curious constraint came over the other members of the party. It was as though the mention of their host and hostess had a curiously paralyzing effect on the guests.
The sea . . . So peaceful today – sometimes so cruel … The sea that dragged you down to its depth. Drowned … Found drowned … Drowned at sea … Drowned – drowned – drowned …
“Oh, yes. I've no doubt in my own mind that we have been invited here by a madman – probably a dangerous homicidal lunatic.”
“Whoever it was who enticed us here, that person knows or has taken the trouble to find out a good deal about us all”
He thought: Best of an island is once you get there – you can't go any farther … you've come to the end of things …
He knew, suddenly, that he didn't want to leave the island.
Why had Anthony Marston wanted to die? She didn't want to die.
She couldn't imagine wanting to die …
Death was for – the other people …
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 …”
“I mean – it explains Soldier Island. There are crimes that cannot be brought home to their perpetrators. Instance the Rogerses'. Another instance, old Wargrave, who committed his murder strictly within the law.”
“Your argument seems logical. I agree that one of us is possessed by a devil.”
“I know very well that I'm not the murderer, and I don't fancy there's anything insane about you, Vera. You strike me as being one of the sanest most levelheaded girls I've come across. I'd stake my reputation on your sanity.
“The damned fool, he believed every word I said to him. It was easy … I must be careful, though, very careful.”
“One more of us acquitted – too late!”
There was little pretense now – no formal veneer of conversation. They were five enemies linked together by a mutual instinct of self-preservation.
And all of them, suddenly, looked less like human beings. They were reverting to more bestial types.
Philip Lombard's senses seemed heightened, rather than diminished. His ears reacted to the slightest sound. His step was lighter and quicker, his body lithe and graceful. And he smiled often, his lips curling back from his long white teeth.
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?
“But don't you see, he's mad? It's all mad! The whole thing of going by the rhyme is mad! Dressing up the judge, killing Rogers when he was chopping sticks – drugging Mrs. Roberts so that she overslept herself – arranging for a bumble bee when Miss Brent died! It's like some horrible child playing a game. It's all got to fit in.”
“Why did I never see his face properly before? A wolf – that's what it is – a wolf's face … Those horrible teeth …”
How very quiet the house was. And yet –it didn't seem like an empty house …
Hugo, upstairs, waiting for her …
“And therefore, sir, there must have been someone else on the island. Someone who tidied up when the whole business was over. But where was he all the time – and were did he go to? The Sticklehaven people are absolutely certain that no one could have left the island before the rescue boat got there. But in that case –”
“But in that case,” he said, “who killed them?”
I was born with other traits besides my romantic fancy. I have a definite sadistic delight in seeing or causing death.
I have wanted – let me admit frankly – to commit a murder myself. I recognized this as the desire of the artist to express himself! I was, or could me, an artist in crime! My imagination, sternly checked by the exigencies of my profession, waxed secretly to colossal force.
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.