فصل 10

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فصل 10

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It was Tuppence’s turn to talk to the fisherman on the end of the pier. She had hoped that Mr Grant might have had some comfort for her. But no news of any kind had come from Tommy.

Trying her best to make her voice assured and business-like, Tuppence said, ‘I continue, of course.’

‘Of course. There will be time for tears after the battle. We’re in the middle of the battle now. And time is short. One piece of information you brought us has been proved correct. You overheard a reference to the ‘fourth’ when you listened to that telephone conversation in the hall at Sans Souci. The fourth referred to is the fourth of next month. It’s the date fixed for the big attack on this country.’

‘You’re sure?’

‘Yes, the fourth is The Day.’

‘But if you know that -‘

‘We know The Day. We know, or think we know, where. We’re as ready as we can be. But it’s the Fifth Column here we want to know about. A dozen men in high places, in command of troops in vital areas, can issue conflicting orders and throw the country into a state of confusion. This is necessary for the German plan to succeed. We’ve got to have inside information in time.

‘We have received information that Mrs Perenna is a member of the IRA with anti-British sympathies. But we can’t get proof. So keep going, Mrs Beresford. Go on, and do your best.’

‘The fourth,’ said Tuppence. ‘That’s barely a week ahead!’

‘It’s a week exactly.’

She frowned and began planning a new form of attack.

‘You see, Albert, it’s a possibility,’ Tuppence said a few hours later.

‘I see what you mean, Madam, of course. But I don’t like the idea very much, I must say.’

‘I think it might work.’

‘Yes, Madam, but it’s exposing yourself to attack - that’s what I don’t like - and I’m sure Mr Beresford wouldn’t like it either.’

‘Albert, we’ve done what we could, staying hidden. It seems to me that now the only chance is to come out into the open.’

‘How were you thinking of managing it, Madam?’

Tuppence said, ‘I thought I might lose a letter I’d written - make a lot of fuss about it, seem very upset. Then it would be found in the hall and Beatrice would probably put it on the table. Then the right person would take a look at it.’

‘What would be in the letter?’

‘Oh, that I’d been successful in discovering the identity of the person in question and that I was to make a full report personally tomorrow. Then, you see, Albert, N or M would have to come out in the open and try to kill me.’

‘Yes, and maybe they’d manage it, too.’

‘Not if I was on my guard. They’d have, I think, to trick me into going to some isolated place. That’s where your part would come in - because they don’t know about you.’

Tuppence was just leaving the local library when she was startled by a voice calling, ‘Mrs Beresford!’

She turned to see a tall dark young man with a slightly embarrassed smile.

‘Do you remember me?’ he asked. ‘I came to the flat with Deborah one day.’

Deborah’s friends! There were so many of them, and all looked very alike to Tuppence! It was annoying to have been recognised by one of Deborah’s young men just now.

‘I’m Anthony Marsdon,’ explained the young man.

Tuppence murmured, ‘Oh, of course,’ and shook hands.

Tony Marsdon went on, ‘I’m very glad to have found you, Mrs Beresford. You see, I’m working at the same job as Deborah, and something very awkward has happened.’

‘Yes?’ said Tuppence. ‘What is it?’

‘Well, you see, Deborah’s found out that you’re not down in Cornwall as she thought, and that makes it a bit awkward, doesn’t it, for you?’

‘Oh, no,’ said Tuppence concerned. ‘How did she find out?’

Tony Marsdon explained. He went on, ‘Deborah, of course, has no idea of what you’re really doing and it’s important that she shouldn’t know. My job, you see, is the same as yours. I’m supposed to be a beginner in the coding department. In fact, my instructions are to express views that are mildly Fascist - admiration of the German system, suggestions that an alliance with Hitler wouldn’t be a bad thing - just to see what response I get. There’s a good deal of dangerous talk like that going on, you see, and we want to find out who’s behind it.’

‘Dangerous talk everywhere,’ thought Tuppence.

‘But as soon as Deb told me about you,’ continued the young man, ‘I thought I’d better come straight down and warn you so that you can make up a story she’ll believe. You see, I happen to know what you are doing and that it’s of vital importance. It would be fatal if any hint of who you are was discovered. I thought perhaps you could pretend you’d joined Captain Beresford in Scotland or wherever he is. You might say to Deborah that you’d been allowed to work with him there.’

‘I might do that, certainly,’ said Tuppence thoughtfully.

Tony Marsdon said anxiously. ‘You don’t think I’m interfering?’

‘No, no, I’m very grateful to you.’

‘I’m - well - you see - I’m rather fond of Deborah,’ admitted Tony.

Tuppence smiled at him. After a moment or two she said slowly, ‘My husband isn’t in Scotland.’

‘Isn’t he?’

‘No, he’s down here with me. At least he was! Now - he’s disappeared.’

‘Oh, that’s bad - or isn’t it? Has he discovered something?’

Tuppence nodded. ‘I think so. That’s why I don’t think that his disappearance is really a bad sign. I think, sooner or later, he’ll communicate with me - in his own way.’ She smiled a little.

Tony said, with some embarrassment, ‘Of course, you know how all of this works, I expect. But you ought to be careful.’

Tuppence nodded. ‘I know what you mean. Beautiful heroines in books are always easily tricked. But Tommy and I have our methods. We’ve got a saying,’ she smiled. ‘Penny plain and tuppence coloured.’

‘What?’ The young man stared at her as though she had gone mad.

‘I ought to explain that my family nickname is “Tuppence” - I won’t go into why! So when Tommy and I want the other to know a letter is definitely from one of us, we use at least part of that old phrase, sometimes spelling “plain” as Playne. Originally you know, it referred to the cardboard scenes made for toy theatres which were very popular with families who put on the plays at home. You could buy plain scenes for a penny, but coloured ones cost tuppence.’

‘Oh, I see.’ The young man grinned. ‘Very clever!’

‘I hope so.’

‘Can I help in any way?’

‘Yes,’ said Tuppence thoughtfully. ‘I think perhaps you can.’

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