There are two taxis to meet the guests at the train station. The guests start to introduce themselves to each other. Lombard remarks to Vera that it seems strange that she is taking up a secretarial post in the middle of summer, but she assures him it is not.
Mr. Blore introduces himself to the group as Mr. Davis from South Africa. When he mentions that they shouldn't keep their hosts waiting a strange hush comes over the group.
The taxis carry them to a dock. As all the guests are boarding the small boat to be ferried to the island, a large car zips down the road driven by a young, handsome and powerful man. Anthony Marston honks his horn and gets out of the car, he seems “something more than mortal.” Many of the guests remember this fact later.
The novel foreshadows the death of Marston by mentioning that he seems “more then mortal” and then quickly jumping out of the present action to mention that the other characters will remember this thought later
The ferryman, Fred Narracott, thinks as he drives the boat that this is a strange bunch of guests. He was expecting fancier people in yachting clothes like the parties the American millionaire, Elmer Robson, used to have. Narracott thinks that Mr. Owen must be a “different kind of gentleman,” but he is not sure because he has never seen Mr. or Mrs. Owen. Everything was organized and paid for by Mr. Morris.
Narracott, an outsider, first notices the strangeness of the group. The fact that he is from a lower class makes him able to view the action as an outsider and clearly see that this bunch doesn't seem to fit together. Yet he also reveals that he knows nothing about the situation on Soldier Island.
Narracott looks over everyone in the boat and decided that only Mr. Marston looks like he should be there, since Marston looks like he was born into money. But, Narracott decides, what did he know? The whole event seems very odd to him.
The same class difference that gives him clarity makes Narracott afraid to made any judgments about the group.
The house finally comes into view. It is a very modern house. Lombard comments that it must be difficult to land the boat in bad weather and Narracott says that the house can sometimes be cut off for a week or more.
The scene is set—the guests will be cut off from the world. Although the house is well equipped, they will have no access to anything else.
The guests enter the house, where the butler, Mr. Rogers, is waiting for them. The house is lovely, as is the view of the ocean. The butler brings them into the hall where drinks are laid out and tells them all that Mr. Owen is delayed and won't arrive until tomorrow. But he left instructions and everything is arranged; dinner is at eight.
The beautiful surroundings contradict all the foreboding information about the island that has just been presented. Yet the mystery deepens when it becomes clear that the host is not there.
Vera is brought into her room by Mr. Rogers's wife, Mrs. Rogers who Vera thinks looks “frightened of her own shadow.” Vera becomes uncomfortable wondering what this woman is afraid of. Vera asks Mrs. Rogers if she knows that Vera is going to be the Owen's new secretary, to which Mrs. Rogers responds that she knows nothing, only a list of the names of the guests. Mrs. Rogers reveals that she and Mr. Rogers have never seen Mr. Owen. They are the only servants on the island.
Mrs. Rogers's wife seems guilt-ridden as well. In spite of the fact that she is taking care of the house with her husband, Mrs. Rogers knows nothing about the why the guests are here or what is going on. There is absolutely no information about the Island available. It is a complete mystery.
Vera thinks that it's strange the Rogers have never seen Mr. Owen. She also thinks that the guests seem odd. She walks around her modern bedroom and notices a white marble bear on her mantelpiece. She then sees the old nursery rhyme hanging on the wall: “Ten Little Soldier Boys.” It tells of 10 boys who die, first from choking, then oversleeping, getting stung by a bee, etc. Vera smiles when she remembers that this is Soldier's Island. She then looks out the window at the sea and thinks of drowning.
The rhyme – which gives the Island and the books their names – entertains Vera at first. At this point it only appears to be a cute decoration. Christie slowly introduces the information that will come to plague her characters. She also shows that Vera is consumed with guilt – it crops up whenever she is idle.
Dr. Armstrong arrives at the Island late. He was tired after his long drive and is excited to get to the island where he feels he can leave the whole world behind. Dr. Armstrong runs into Justice Wargrave on the terrace and remembers how he has had to testify for some of Wargrave's cases. He remembers that people call Wargrave a “hanging judge.”
Armstrong believes (incorrectly) that the island will be a place of rest. He also introduces the fact that Wargrave is connected to death; the judge does not just bring about justice, he is a man who seems to enjoy pronouncing death sentences.
Wargrave also remembers Armstrong and thinks he is, like all doctors, a damn fool. Wargrave tells Armstrong that the host and hostess are not here. He asks Armstrong if he knows Constance Culmington. He does not, and Wargrave thinks how strange it is that there has been no mention of the woman who invited him to the island.
Spoiler alert! At this point in the novel it is not at all possible to know that Wargrave will turn out to be the murderer. But note how Christie allows Wargrave to lie to himself in his thoughts, masking that he is the mastermind. She leaves very few clues for the reader – only the ones that the other characters could see.
Antony Marston takes a bath and thinks about the evening to come. A shave, a cocktail, dinner … and then what?
The guests are primed for excitement. Though certainly not the kind that will come.
Mr. Blore worries that people know that he is lying. He notices the nursery rhyme and thinks it a “neat touch.” He remembers coming to Soldier Island as a child and never thought he would do this sort of job here. He thinks it's a good thing that he can't foresee the future.
Blore intends his comment about not being able to see the future to relate to the guilt he feels regarding his current profession. But Christie also uses it to foreshadow the events to come.
General Macarthur decides he wants to leave the island, but the motorboat has left so he'll have to stay. He thinks Lombard is strange and lying about something. Lombard smiles to himself as he walks down the stairs and thinks that he is going to enjoy this week.
Macarthur is the first person to realize that something is wrong. Christie contrasts Macarthur's worry with Lombard's calmness in order to highlight that no one really know what is happening on the island. Not even the reader
Emily Brent sits in her room reading from the Bible about sinners receiving their punishment in hell. Then she goes down to dinner.
The Bible offers a traditional sense of justice and guilt. This will return later to show how the murderer—who also believes in punishment for the guilty—is playing God. Note also, though, that Miss Brent, who also believes in these biblical teachings, denies her own guilt later.