فصل 29

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

این فصل را می‌توانید به بهترین شکل و با امکانات عالی در اپلیکیشن «زیبوک» بخوانید

دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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When I arrived at my destination the following morning, I was met by a short, black-bearded Dutchman. There was a sound like thunder in the distance, and I asked him what it was.

‘Guns,’ he answered. So there was fighting in Johannesburg!

We drove into the edge of the city and every minute the sound of guns came nearer. At last we stopped at a house. A native boy opened the door and my driver asked me to enter.

In the hall, the man passed me and opened a door. ‘The young lady to see Mr Harry Rayburn,’ he said, and laughed.

I went in. A man sat writing behind a desk. He looked up.

‘Dear me,’ he said, ‘Miss Beddingfeld! How careless to be fooled a second time!’

‘Am I talking to Mr Chichester, or Miss Pettigrew?’ I asked. ‘You really are wonderful at make-up. All the time you were Miss Pettigrew, I never recognized you.’

My behaviour obviously surprised him.

‘Both characters are gone, for the moment. Please sit down.’

I did.

‘We must get to business. You…’

‘Let me stop you from wasting your time,’ I said. ‘I never do business with anyone but the man in charge.’

Mr Chichester-Pettigrew opened his mouth - but could not reply.

I smiled brightly. He did not like it at all.

‘You would be wise, young lady…’

I interrupted him. ‘You will save a lot of time and trouble by taking me straight to Sir Eustace Pedler.’


He was shocked.

‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Sir Eustace Pedler.’

‘I - I-‘

He ran from the room. I used this moment to settle my hat at a more charming angle. Then my enemy returned and said, respectfully, ‘Will you come this way, Miss Beddingfeld?’

I followed him up the stairs. He knocked at a door. A quick ‘Come in’ came from the room, and I went inside. Sir Eustace Pedler jumped up to greet me, cheerful and smiling. ‘Well, well, Miss Anne.’ He shook my hand. ‘I’m delighted to see you. Come and sit down. Not tired after your journey? That’s good.’

He sat down facing me, still smiling. ‘You were right to come straight to me. Minks, who you saw downstairs, is a clever actor - but a fool. So let us get to the facts. How long have you known I was the Colonel?’

‘Since Mr Pagett told me he had seen you in Marlow when you were supposed to be in the French Riviera.’

Sir Eustace nodded thoughtfully. ‘Yes, the fool. He ruined everything by telling you that. He kept his family secret because a personal secretary is not supposed to have a wife - they get in the way of work. He was so worried that I might have recognized him that he never questioned what I was doing there. But that’s just the kind of secret a man like Pagett would have - a wife and four children in a little house in Marlow. My bad luck! I had arranged everything so carefully too. I sent him to Florence and told the hotel in the Riviera that I was travelling for a night or two. Then, by the time the murder was discovered, I was back again in the Riviera, with nobody knowing I had ever left.’

‘Then it was you who tried to throw me overboard on the Kilmorden,’ I said.

He shrugged. ‘I apologize, my dear child. I always liked you - but I could not have my plans destroyed by a little girl.’

‘There is one thing I would like to know,’ I said. ‘How did you manage to get Pagett to hire Miss Pettigrew?’

‘Oh, that was simple. She met Pagett in the doorway of the Trade Commissioner’s office, told him I had telephoned, and that she had been chosen by the department to be my secretary.’

‘You’re very honest,’ I said, studying him.

‘There’s no reason why I should not be.’

I did not like that.

‘This was going to be my last job - to supply explosives and weapons to the strikers in Johannesburg and make sure that certain people were blamed. And I was careful to be paid in advance.’

‘Ah!’ I said slowly. ‘But what about me?’

‘That’s just it,’ said Sir Eustace softly. ‘What am I going to do with you? The simplest way of dealing with you - and, I may add, the most pleasant for me - is marriage. In law, wives cannot speak against their husbands. And I’d like a pretty young wife to hold my hand and look at me with bright eyes - don’t flash them at me so! You frighten me. Don’t you like that plan?’

‘I do not.’

Sir Eustace sighed. ‘The usual trouble, I suppose. You love someone else.’

‘I do love someone else.’

‘I thought as much,’ said this extraordinary person, leaning back in his chair, ‘The fact is, I do like you. I really don’t want to do anything terrible. Suppose you tell me the whole story. But be warned - I want the truth.’

I was not going to make that mistake. I had great respect for Sir Eustace’s intelligence. I told him the whole story, up to my rescue at Victoria Falls by Harry.

‘Wise girl,’ he said in approval. ‘You have told the truth. You’ve had amazing luck, of course, but sooner or later the amateur meets the professional. I am the professional, and I never made the mistake of trying to do my jobs myself. Always employ the expert - that is my principle. The one time I did not follow that, I failed - but I couldn’t trust anyone to kill Nadina for me. She knew too much. Once Nadina was dead and the diamonds were in my possession, I was safe from her threats to sell my identity. But I made a mess of the job. That idiot Pagett, with his wife and family! My fault - I found it amusing to employ the fellow. There is a lesson for you, Anne. In business, don’t enjoy your sense of humour too much. Now then, speaking of business, where are the diamonds?’

‘Harry Rayburn has them.’

He kept his smile. ‘I want those diamonds.’

‘I don’t see much chance of you getting them,’ I replied.

‘I don’t want to be unpleasant, but you should know that a dead girl found in this city will cause no surprise. Your only chance is this: you write to Harry Rayburn, telling him to join you here and bring the diamonds with him…’

‘I will not.’

‘Don’t interrupt me. I will take the diamonds in exchange for your life.’

‘And Harry?’

‘He will go free too.’

‘And how do I know you will keep your promise?’

‘You do not, my dear girl. You have to trust me and hope for the best.’

This was what I had been trying for. I was careful not to jump at the change too soon. Gradually I allowed myself to be forced into obeying. I wrote what Sir Eustace demanded.

When I had finished, he read it through. ‘That seems all right. Now the address.’

I gave it to him. He hit the bell on the table. Chichester-Pettigrew - that is, Minks - came in.

‘This letter is to go immediately - the usual route.’

‘Very well, Colonel.’

‘May I ask you a few questions, Sir Eustace,’ I said, as Chichester-Pettigrew left the room.

‘Certainly, Anne!’

‘Why did you accept Harry as your secretary, instead of taking him to the police?’

‘I wanted those diamonds, but Nadina was threatening to sell them to your Harry. That was another mistake I made - I thought she would have them with her that day in Marlow. But she was too clever. Carton, her husband, was dead too - and I had no idea where the diamonds were hidden. Then I managed to get a copy of a wireless message sent to Nadina by Carton from the Kilmorden - “Seventeen one twenty two”. Carton must have given that piece of paper you picked up to the wireless operator, because it was the same mistake - “seventeen” instead of “seventy-one”. I decided it was an appointment. When Harry was so determined to get aboard the Kilmorden I pretended to believe him. I was hoping to learn where the diamonds were hidden. When Harry set out to keep the appointment that night, Minks was sent to watch him. But Minks made a complete mess of it by stabbing him. Now, my dear Anne, I have other business I must deal with. Let me show you your room.’

He took me to a small room and a native boy brought up my suitcase. Sir Eustace was acting like a very kind host. I must ask for anything I wanted, he said, before he locked me in my prison. A bowl of hot water was on the washstand, so I unpacked the things I needed. Something hard and unfamiliar in my wash-bag puzzled me. To my utter amazement, I drew out a small gun. It hadn’t been there when I started from Kimberley. It was a useful thing to have in a house such as this. But modern clothes are not suited to carrying guns. In the end I pushed it carefully into the top of my stocking. It really seemed the only place.

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