Justice Wargrave reads the paper on a first class train and starts thinking about his destination: Soldier Island. He remembers the gossip that an American millionaire had lived there but that it was then bought by Mr. Owen. This started many rumors that it had actually been bought by a movie star or a Lord.
This establishes the mystery surrounding Soldier Island. No one knows the history of the place, only that it has been owned by someone wealthy.
Justice Wargrave takes a letter out of his pocket. It is his invitation to Soldier Island from Constance Culmington, a woman he hasn't seen for seven years. Wargrave believes that all this mystery and gossip around the Island is typical of someone like Constance.
The Justice's thoughts introduce information about the Island. In contrast, to Constance, Wargrave is presented as a reliable figure, a sense strengthened by his professional connection to the law.
Vera Claythorne is riding the same train in third class and looks over a letter from Una Nancy Owen, asking Vera to come to Soldier Island as a secretary. Vera remembers all the gossip about the island and is excited to see it. She has been working as a games mistress at a school, which she doesn't enjoy but feels lucky to have because of a scandal in her past.
This quick jump between class groups highlights the fact that no one knows anything but gossip about the island -- regardless of his or her privilege. Information is already beginning to conflict, introducing the mystery.
Details from Vera's past come back: how nice Mrs. Hamilton was to her, Hugo, and Cyril's head bobbing up and down swimming to the rock. She remembers lying by the sea with Hugo, and then quickly tries to put him out of her mind.
The lives of the characters are as mysterious as Soldier Island. Vera's actions also introduce a typical reaction to guilt in the novel: to put it immediately out of one's mind.
Philip Lombard looks at Vera from across the carriage and thinks her an attractive and practical looking girl. He is on his way to Soldier Island for a mysterious job. Mr. Isaac Morris gave him one hundred guineas to go to the Island and take the job, but would not tell him why. Philip Lombard thinks the whole thing sounds a bit strange, but remembers that he has gotten himself out of many tight spots in the past.
Vera has just been daydreaming about a mysterious past but Lombard sees her as practical. Appearances can be deceiving in the novel. Lombard is also introduced as a man with a mysterious, or guilty past.
Miss Emily Brent sits rigidly in her train car thinking about the weakness and laziness of the current generation. She goes over her invitation to Soldier Island in her head. It's from someone she met in a guest house a couple years ago but the signature is messy (she can only make out U.N.O…) and Miss Brent cannot remember exactly who this woman she met in the past is. But Miss Brent doesn't have much money anymore and is happy to have a free vacation.
In addition to her rigid and self-righteous introduction, Miss Brent is also shown as being motivated by money. Her thoughts further demonstrate that no one knows exactly why they were invited to Soldier Island.
General Macarthur, in another train car, thinks about the trip he's on to Soldier Island, where he will be meeting some of his old army friends. He is excited to talk about old times, and hopes that none of them believe or remember the rumor that had floated around about him nearly thirty years ago.
Macarthur's first thought is guilt about his dark past. Almost every character is shaped by his or her guilt or obsession with the past.
Dr. Armstrong is driving up north, tired from his busy schedule as a doctor. He thinks about his success and the fact that he has been hired to look over Mrs. Owen of Soldiers Island for such a huge fee. He then remembers how lucky he is that the bad event fifteen years ago didn't ruin his career.
Armstrong's guilt is overpowered by the knowledge of his success and money. This shows another technique that characters use to cope with personal guilt. For Armstrong, the benefits outweigh the original crime.
Tony Marston speeds his sports car past Dr. Armstrong. He thinks that Mr. Owen's island should be fun, but wonders whether there will be enough drinks. He thinks it's too bad that a movie star didn't really buy the Island. As he stops the car and steps out of it to get a drink, some women watch his handsome body.
Tony Marston has no feelings of guilt – he is essentially conscienceless. He is almost barbaric – there is nothing more to him that his love of speed and thrills and his beautiful exterior.
Mr. Blore is on the slow train from Plymouth, looking at a list of all the guests going to Soldier Island. He thinks that the “job ought to be easy enough.” Blore decides that he should pretend to be from South Africa.
Not only will the guests of Soldier Island hide or obscure their pasts, some will also flat out lie.
Mr. Blore remembers Soldier Island from when he was a boy and wonders why anyone would want to build a house there. A man in the corner of the train wakes up and says that there is a storm coming. Mr. Blore comments that the weather looks fine, but the old man assures him that a storm will come.
Blore has actually seen Soldier Island and knows that it is not an idyllic spot. The mysterious prediction of a coming storm forebodes bad events to come.