فصل 01

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کتاب های ساده

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فصل 01

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Chapter one

The Man Who Died

My name is Richard Hannay and I am thirty-seven years old.

I was born in Scotland, but in 1883 my family moved to Rhodesia. I grew up in Africa and worked hard for 20 years. Then, in March 1914, I returned to Britain. That was five months before the First World War began. I brought a lot of money with me and I wanted to have a good time. Britain was the centre of all my dreams and plans, and I hoped to stay there for the rest of my life.

In May I was living in a flat in London. One evening I was alone there, reading the newspaper. I was interested in a story about Karolides, the Greek Prime Minister.

‘He’s a good man,’ I thought to myself, ‘and he’s honest too. He’s probably the strongest Prime Minister in Europe, and the Germans hate him.’

The sound of the doorbell interrupted my reading. I put down the newspaper and opened the door. A man was standing outside. He was a thin man with a brown beard and small blue eyes. I did not know his name, but he had a flat on the top floor of the building.

‘Can I speak to you?’ he asked. ‘May I come in for a minute?’

I invited him in and shut the door. He seemed very nervous.

‘I’m very sorry,’ he said. ‘But I’m in trouble. Will you help me?’

‘Well, I’ll listen to you,’ I said. ‘But I can’t promise more than that.’

I mixed a strong drink for him and he drank it quickly. When he put down the glass, he broke it.

‘Sorry,’ he said. ‘I’m rather nervous tonight and there’s a good reason for that. Now you seem honest, sir. You look like a man who is not easily frightened. Well, I’m in great trouble and I need a good friend.’

‘Tell me about it,’ I said, ‘and then I’ll give you my answer.’

‘I’m an American,’ he said. ‘A few years ago I came to Europe to work for an American newspaper. I learned several languages and discovered quite a lot about European politics. I also found out about the German plans for war and I know a group of German spies. Well, these spies are looking for me now, and that’s my problem. If you know anything about politics, sir, you’ll know this. Europe is very near to war, and there’s only one man who can stop it.’

‘Who is he?’ I asked.

‘Karolides, the Greek Prime Minister.’

‘Oh, I’ve just read something about him,’ I said. ‘There’s a story in the evening paper.’

‘Yes. Well, the Germans want to kill him,’ he said. ‘They will kill me too if they can. Karolides is going to come to London next month and he is going to visit the Foreign Office on 15 June. They’ve chosen that date to kill him. I’m the only man who can save him.’

‘And how can I help you, Mr-?’

‘Scudder,’ he said. ‘Franklin P. Scudder. I’ve just told you, sir, that these spies want to kill me. I thought that I was quite safe from my enemies in London. But yesterday evening I found a card in my letterbox, and there was a man’s name on it. It was the name of one of the spies, my worst enemy.’

‘You should tell the Foreign Office,’ I said. ‘They’ll help you and perhaps they can save Karolides too.’

‘There’s no time for that. My enemies know that I’m in this building. They’re probably waiting outside. Do you think that I can hide in your flat, sir?’

‘Well, I want to check your story first,’ I said. ‘I’ll go outside and look around. If I see anything unusual, I’ll agree to help you. Is that all right?’

I left the flat and went out into the street. A man was standing outside the building. He lifted his hand when he saw me. I looked around quickly and saw a face at a window across the street. The man’s sign was answered, and the face moved away from the window. I bought another newspaper at the corner of the street and then went back to the flat.

‘All right, Mr Scudder,’ I said. ‘You can stay here tonight. I’ve checked your story. There’s a man outside who is acting rather strangely. I think that your enemies are staying in the house across the street.’

Scudder stayed quietly in my flat for several days. When I went out, he was very nervous. There was always someone standing outside the building. I saw the face at the window opposite mine a few times, but nobody came to the flat. Scudder read and smoked. He filled a little black book with notes, and counted the days to 15 June.

One day he said, ‘Time is passing quickly, Hannay. While they’re watching the house, I won’t be able to get away. If they catch me, will you continue the fight?’

I liked Scudder’s adventures, and his story was exciting. But I had no interest in politics. He continued to talk, and I listened to some of it. He told me about a woman by the name of Julia Czechenyi, who was one of the spies. ‘She’s a terrible enemy, Hannay,’ he said, ‘but the old man is worse.’

This old man was Scudder’s chief enemy, and he described him very clearly. ‘It’s strange,’ he said, ‘but he has the voice of a young man. And his eyes, Hannay! When you see his eyes, you never forget them. They’re small and often half shut, like the eyes of a bird.’

He talked for a long time that day. I cannot remember everything that he said. But I knew that he was more nervous than usual.

In the evening I went out to dinner with a friend. It was half past ten when I returned. I opened the door of the flat and went in. The lights were not lit and this seemed rather strange I put them on and looked around. There was nobody there, so I thought that Scudder was already in bed.

I walked into the next room and saw something in the corner. For a moment I could not see what it was. Then I suddenly felt very cold and weak. I wanted to open my mouth and cry out. But I could not move or say anything. Scudder was lying on his back with a knife through his heart.

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