shabd-logo

Chapter 2

12 July 2023

34 Viewed 34

OUTSIDE OAKBRIDGE STATION a little group of people stood in momentary uncertainty. Behind them stood porters with suitcases. One of these called "Jim!" The driver of one of the taxis stepped forward.

"You'm for Indian Island, maybe?" he asked in a soft Devon voice. Four voices gave assent-and then immediately afterward gave quick surreptitious glances at each other.

The driver said, addressing his remarks to Mr. Justice Wargrave as the senior member of the party:

"There are two taxis here, sir. One of them must wait till the slow train from Exeter gets in-a matter of five minutes-there's one gentleman coming by that. Perhaps one of you wouldn't mind waiting? You'd be more comfortable that way."

Vera Claythome, her own secretarial position clear in her mind, spoke at once. "I'll wait," she said, "if you will go on?" She looked at the other three, her glance and voice had that slight suggestion of command in it that comes from having occupied a position of authority. She might have been directing which tennis sets the girls were to play in. Miss Brent said stiffly, "Thank you," bent her head, and entered one of the taxis, the door of which the driver was holding open.

Mr. Justice Wargrave followed her. Captain Lombard said:

"I'll wait with Miss-" "Claythome," said Vera.

"My name is Lombard, Philip Lombard."

The porters were piling luggage on the taxi. Inside, Mr. Justice Wargrave said with due legal caution:

"Beautiful weather we are having." Miss Brent said:

"Yes, indeed."

A very distinguished old gentleman, she thought to herself. Quite unlike the usual type of man in seaside guest houses. Evidently Mrs. or Miss Oliver had good connections. . .

Mr. Justice Wargrave inquired:

"Do you know this part of the world well?"

"I have been to Cornwall and to Torquay, but this is my first visit to this part of Devon."

The judge said:

"I also am unacquainted with this part of the world." The taxi drove off.

The driver of the second taxi said:

"Like to sit inside while you're waiting?" Vera said decisively:

"Not at all."

Captain Lombard smiled. He said:

"That sunny wall looks more attractive. Unless you'd rather go inside the station?"

"No, indeed. It's so delightful to get out of that stuffy train." He answered:

"Yes, travelling by train is rather trying in this weather." Vera said conventionally:

"I do hope it lasts-the weather, I mean. Our English summers are so treacherous." With a slight lack of originality Lombard asked:

"Do you know this part of the world well?"

"No, I've never been here before." She added quickly, conscientiously determined to make her position clear at once, "I haven't even seen my employer yet." "Your employer?"

"Yes, I'm Mrs. Owen's secretary."

"Oh, I see." Just imperceptibly his manner changed. It was slightly more assured-easier in tone. He said: "Isn't that rather unusual?"

Vera laughed.

"Oh, no, I don't think so. Her own secretary was suddenly taken ill and she wired to an agency for a substitute and they sent me."

"So that was it. And suppose you don't like the post when you've got there?" Vera laughed again.

"Oh, it's only temporary-a holiday post. I've got a permanent job at a girls' school. As a matter of fact, I'm frightfully thrilled at the prospect of seeing Indian Island. There's been such a lot about it in the papers. Is it really very fascinating?"

Lombard said:

"I don't know. I haven't seen it."

"Oh, really? The Owens are frightfully keen on it, I suppose. What are they like? Do tell me."

Lombard thought: Awkward, this-am I supposed to have met them or not? He said quickly:

"There's a wasp crawling up your arm. No-keep quite still." He made a convincing pounce. "There. It's gone!"

"Oh, thank you. There are a lot of wasps about this summer."

"Yes, I suppose it's the heat. Who are we waiting for, do you know?" "I haven't the least idea."

The loud drawn-out scream of an approaching train was heard. Lombard said:

"That will be the train now."

It was a tall soldierly old man who appeared at the edit from the platform. His grey hair was clipped close and he had a neatly trimmed white moustache. His porter, staggering slightly under the weight of the solid leather suitcase, indicated Vera and Lombard.

Vera came forward in a competent manner. She said:

"I am Mrs. Owen's secretary. There is a car here waiting." She added: "This is Mr. Lombard."

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. "Good-looking fellow. Something just a little wrong about him. ')

The three of them got into the waiting taxi. They drove through the sleepy streets of little Oakbridge and continued about a mile on the main Plymouth road. Then they plunged into a maze of cross-country lanes, steep, green and narrow. General Macarthur said:

"Don't know this part of Devon at all. My little place is in East Devon- just on the border-line of Dorset."

Vera said:

"It really is lovely here. The hills and the red earth and everything so green and luscious looking."

Philip Lombard said critically:

"It's a bit shut in. I like open country myself. Where you can see what's  coming. "

General Macarthur said to him:

"You've seen a bit of the world, I fancy?" Lombard shrugged his shoulders disparagingly. "I've knocked about here and there, sir."

He thought to himself: "He'll ask me now if I was old enough to be in the War. These old boys always do."

But General Macarthur did not mention the War.
 

3
Articles
And Then There Were None
4.5
And Then There Were None was Agatha Christie’s most successful book. With over 100 million copies sold worldwide, it is also the bestselling crime novel of all time. Called ‘Agatha Christie’s masterpiece’ (Spectator) and the ‘most baffling mystery Agatha Christie has ever written’ (New York Times), it was famously difficult to write. Christie said she liked it for its ‘difficult technique which was a challenge’. In And Then There Were None, ten strangers are invited to Soldier Island, an isolated rock near the Devon coast. Cut off from the mainland, with their generous hosts Mr and Mrs U.N. Owen mysteriously absent, they are each accused of a terrible crime. When one of the party dies suddenly they realise they may be harbouring a murderer among their number.