فصل 18

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CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

Anne’s Story

I will never forget my first sight of Table Mountain. I got up early and went out on deck as we came into the bay. There were white clouds above Table Mountain, and below, all the way down to the sea, was the town, golden and magical in the morning sunlight. I heard a quiet footstep behind me - and knew who it was. Then his voice came, pleasant and normal. ‘Miss Beddingfeld. I want to apologize. I behaved very badly last night.’

I turned. ‘It - it was a strange night,’ I said.

‘Will you forgive me?’

I held out my hand and he took it. ‘You are mixed up in a dangerous business, Miss Beddingfeld. I want to warn you, leave it alone. These men will do anything. They are murderers. Look at last night.’

‘I know. But why are you warning me?’

He said quietly, ‘It may be the last thing I can do for you. Once I am off this ship I will be all right - but I may not get off this ship.’

‘What?’ I cried.

‘I’m afraid you are not the only person on board who knows I am “The Man in the Brown Suit”.’

‘If you think I told anybody…’ I said angrily.

He smiled. ‘I trust you, Miss Beddingfeld. If I ever said I did not, I lied. But there is one person on board who has always known. If he speaks, I am finished. But I am going to gamble, I am going to take a risk that he will stay silent.’

‘What makes you think you can win?’

‘Because if the police get me, I will be no more use to him. If I am free, I might be! Well, in an hour I will know.’

He held my hand hard, for a minute his eyes seemed to burn into mine, then he turned and left.

I did not enjoy the next two hours of formalities. Not until I was on land and all the passengers had got off the ship and no arrest had been made, did I breathe easily again. Then I realized that it was a day filled with sunshine. Cape Town was beautiful: the sun, the air, the flowers! I was delighted.

The Mount Nelson Hotel had given me a room next to Suzanne’s with a lovely view of Table Bay - but we did not take time to admire it. We went straight down to breakfast.

‘Did you see Sir Eustace?’ I asked Suzanne afterwards in private. ‘He was marching out of the breakfast-room as we went in. He’d had a bad meal and was telling the waiter what he thought about it.’

Suzanne smiled. ‘And did you see Mr Pagett, Anne? He’s got a lump on his head. What has he been doing?’

‘He’s been trying to push me into the sea,’ I replied, and gave her the details.

Suzanne was having lunch with friends that morning, and they came to the hotel at eleven to collect her. I was left to entertain myself. I went through the grounds of the hotel and followed a cool, shady street until I came to the main road. I walked around, enjoying the sunlight and a market full of flowers and fruit.

When I returned to the hotel, I found, to my surprise and pleasure, a note from a Mr Raffini, the curator of the Cape Town Museum. He had read in the newspaper that I would be arriving on the Kilmorden - I was described as the daughter of Professor Beddingfeld. He had known and admired my father, and his wife would like to invite me to tea with them that afternoon at their house.

I set off after lunch and followed his directions. The train to Muizenberg, where the curator lived, travelled slowly around Table Mountain for half an hour and when it stopped, I was facing the sea again.

There was some very exciting bathing here - the people had short, curved boards and came floating in on the waves. It was too early to go to tea, so I went to the bathing pavilion to hire a bathing suit and towel. They asked if I wanted a surf board.

‘Yes, please.’ I said.

Surfing looks easy. It is not. By accident I got a good ride on my board, and came out delighted, and determined to return on the first opportunity.

The curator’s house was high up on the mountain. I rang the bell, and a smiling local boy answered it.

‘Mrs Raffini?’ I inquired.

He welcomed me in, led me along a hall and opened a door. For a moment, I paused in sudden doubt. As I went inside, the door shut sharply behind me.

A man got up from his seat behind a table. ‘Miss Beddingfeld. Here you are. And here you stay.’

I had made a fool of myself. I was in the hands of the enemy.

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