فصل 02

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فصل 02

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CHAPTER TWO

At dinner four more guests of Sans Souci appeared - a middle-aged couple, Mr and Mrs Cayley, and a young mother, Mrs Sprot, who had come with her baby girl from London. She was placed next to Tommy and asked, ‘Do you think it’s safe now in London? Everyone seems to be going back.’

Before Tommy could reply, Miss Minton spoke up, ‘You must not risk going back. Think of your sweet little Betty. You know they say that the Blitzkrieg on England is coming soon - and a new type of poisonous gas, I believe.’

After dinner everyone moved into the lounge. The women started knitting again and Tommy had to listen to an extremely boring account of Major Bletchley’s experiences in India.

The fair young man went out, bowing at the door. Major Bletchley interrupted his own story to say to Tommy, ‘He’s a refugee. Got out of Germany a month before the war.’

‘He’s a German?’

‘Yes. His father was in trouble for criticizing the Nazis. Two of his brothers are in concentration camps.’

The following morning Tommy rose early and walked down to the sea front. He saw a familiar figure coming in the other direction. Tommy raised his hat. ‘Good morning,’ he said pleasantly. ‘Mrs Blenkensop, is it not? How did you get here? Tell me how you managed it, Tuppence.’

‘The moment Grant talked of our Mr Carter I knew it wouldn’t be an office job - and that I was not going to be allowed to join in. So when I went to get the sherry, I ran downstairs to the Browns’ apartment and telephoned Maureen. I told her to call me and what to say. She rang. I rushed off. Banged the hall door, but stayed inside, and then I simply listened to Mr Grant.’

‘And you overheard everything?’

‘Everything,’ smiled Tuppence happily.

‘But why call yourself Blenkensop?’ Tommy asked.

‘Why not? Why did you choose Meadowes?’

‘I didn’t choose it. I was told to name myself Meadowes. Mr Meadowes has a respectable past, which I have learnt.’

‘Very nice,’ said Tuppence. ‘Are you married?’

‘My wife died ten years ago in Singapore.’

‘Why in Singapore?’

‘We’ve all got to die somewhere. What’s wrong with Singapore?’

‘Oh, nothing. It’s probably a most suitable place to die. I’m a widow. Not very intelligent and I sometimes say silly things.’

‘Where did your husband die?’

‘Probably at home. I suppose he died of too much alcohol. I have three sons: Douglas, who is in the Navy; Raymond is in the Air Force and Cyril, my youngest son, is in the Army. Now, how are we going to cooperate?’

Tommy said thoughtfully, ‘We mustn’t be seen too much together.’

‘No. I think chasing is best.’

‘Chasing?’

‘I chase you. I’ve had two husbands and I’m looking for a third. You are the hunted widower. Every now and then I catch you. Everyone laughs and thinks it very funny.’

‘Sounds perfect,’ agreed Tommy. He caught her arm. ‘Look over there.’

Near the pier they saw Carl von Deinim listening to a girl who was talking forcefully.

‘I think this is where you leave me,’ Tuppence murmured.

‘Right,’ agreed Tommy. He turned and walked off in the opposite direction.

Tuppence slowly continued her walk. As she passed the young couple she overheard a few words.

‘But you must be careful, Carl. The least suspicion…’

Words that suggested something? Yes, but they could mean anything. She turned and again passed the two. More words from the girl floated to her.

‘Arrogant English, how I hate them!’

Mrs Blenkensop’s eyebrows rose. Carl von Deinim was a refugee from the Nazis, living in safety in England. It was not wise of him to listen to such words. Again Tuppence turned. But this time the couple had parted, the girl to cross the road, Carl von Deinim to wait for Tuppence. He quickly bowed.

Tuppence gave a silly laugh, ‘Good morning, Mr von Deinim, isn’t it? Such a lovely morning.’

‘Ah, yes. The weather is fine.’

‘Yes, it is,’ Tuppence said. ‘I don’t often come out before breakfast. And this little walk has given me quite an appetite.’

‘You go back to Sans Souci now? If you permit, I will walk with you.’

‘Are you also out to get an appetite?’ inquired Tuppence.

He shook his head. ‘Oh no. My breakfast, I have already had it. I am on my way to work.’

‘Work?’

‘I am a research chemist. I came to this country to escape Nazi persecution. I had very little money - no friends. I do now what useful work I can.’

He stared straight ahead. Tuppence was conscious of the strong emotions he was trying to hide.

She answered vaguely, ‘Oh, yes, I see.’

‘My two brothers are in concentration camps. My father died in one. My mother died of sadness and fear.’

Tuppence thought, ‘The way he says that - it’s as if he had memorised it.’

They walked in silence for some moments. Two men passed them. Tuppence heard one say to his companion, ‘I’m sure that man is a German.’

Carl von Deinim’s hidden emotions came to the surface. ‘You heard - you heard - that is what they say - I…’

‘My dear boy’, Tuppence suddenly returned to being her real self, ‘don’t be an idiot. You can’t have it both ways. You’re alive, that’s the main thing. Alive and free. But this country’s at war and you’re a German.’ She smiled suddenly. ‘You can’t expect the man in the street to know whether you’re a bad German or a good German.’

He stared at her. Then suddenly he too smiled. ‘To be a good German I must be on time at my work. Good morning.’

Tuppence stared after him then she said to herself, ‘Mrs Blenkensop, you stopped being a silly man-chaser then. Pay more attention in future. Now for breakfast.’

Inside Sans Souci Mrs Perenna was having a conversation with someone.

‘And get the cooked ham at Quillers - it was cheaper last time there, and be careful about the vegetables…’ She stopped as Tuppence entered.

‘Oh, good morning, Mrs Blenkensop, you’re up early. Breakfast is all-ready in the dining-room.’ She pointed to her companion, ‘This is my daughter, Sheila. You haven’t met her. She only came home last night.’

Tuppence looked with interest at Sheila - the girl she had just seen talking to Carl von Deinim. Tuppence said a few pleasant words, and went into the dining-room. There were three people having breakfast - Mrs Sprot and her baby girl, and Mrs O’Rourke.

The old woman looked at Tuppence with huge interest. ‘It’s a fine thing to be out walking before breakfast,’ she remarked. ‘A grand appetite it gives you.’

‘Nice bread and milk, darling,’ said Mrs Sprot to her daughter, trying to put a spoonful into the child’s mouth, but baby Betty cleverly avoided this by a quick movement of her head and stared at Tuppence with large round eyes. She pointed a milky finger at the newcomer, gave her a brilliant smile and said, ‘Gaga bouch.’

‘She likes you,’ cried Mrs Sprot, smiling warmly at Tuppence.

‘Bouch,’ said Betty Sprot. ‘Ah pooth ah bag,’ she added.

And what does she mean by that?’ demanded Mrs O’Rourke with interest.

‘She doesn’t speak very clearly yet,’ confessed Mrs Sprot. ‘She’s only just over two, you know. She can say “Mama”, though, can’t you, darling?’

Betty looked thoughtfully at her mother and said, ‘Cuggle bick.’

‘It’s a language of their own they have, the little angels,’ said Mrs O’Rourke. ‘Betty, darling, say “Mama” now.’

Betty looked hard at Mrs O’Rourke, frowned and said with great emphasis, ‘Nazer.’

‘She’s doing her best! And a lovely sweet girl she is.’ Mrs O’Rourke stood up with difficulty, smiled in a frightening manner at Betty, and walked slowly out of the room.

‘Ga, ga, ga,’ said Betty with huge satisfaction, and beat the table with her spoon.

Tuppence asked with a grin, ‘What does Nazer really mean?’

‘I’m afraid it’s what Betty says when she doesn’t like anyone or anything.’ Mrs Sprot said, her face reddening.

‘I thought so’, said Tuppence laughing.

‘Mrs O’Rourke tries to be kind,’ said Mrs Sprot, ‘but she is alarming with that deep voice.’

The door opened and Major Bletchley and Tommy appeared. Tuppence began to play the part of a man-chasing widow. ‘Ah, Mr Meadowes,’ she called out. ‘I got back before you! But I’ve left you a little breakfast!’ She pointed to the chair beside her. Tommy sat down at the other end of the table. Betty Sprot said ‘Putch!’ to Major Bletchley, who was delighted.

‘And how’s little Miss Betty this morning?’

Tuppence who was watching all of them thought, ‘There must be some mistake. There can’t be anything suspicious going on here. There simply can’t!’

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