فصل 06

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فصل 06

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Chapter six

The Man with the Strange Eyes

It was a cold night and I was very hungry. Turnbull had my coat, and my watch and Scudder’s notebook were in one of its pockets. My money was in the pocket of my trousers. I lay down in some long grass but could not sleep. I thought about all the people who were helping me. And I decided that I was a very lucky man.

Food was my main problem. I closed my eyes and saw thick pieces of meat on a white plate. I remembered all my past meals in London. There I often refused fruit after dinner! Now an apple was just a dream.

Towards morning I slept a little, but I woke again at about six o’clock. I sat up and looked down the hill. Then I lay back down again in great surprise. Men were searching the long grass below me and they were not far away.

I moved a few feet and hid behind a rock. Then I climbed up behind the rock to the top of the hill. When I reached the top, I looked back again. My enemies were a long way below. I ran over the hill-top to the other side. Nobody could see me there, so I ran for half a kilometre. Then I climbed to the top again and looked down. The men saw me and moved towards me. I ran back over the hill-top and returned to my first hiding place. My enemies were now going the wrong way, and I felt safer.

My best plan was to go to the north, and I chose a good path. Soon there was a river between me and my enemies. But when they discovered their mistake, they turned back quickly. I saw them suddenly above the hill-top, and they began to shout at me. I saw then that they were not my real enemies. Two of them were policemen.

‘Jopley has reported me,’ I thought, ‘and now they’re looking for the murderer.’

Two men ran down and began to climb my hill. The policemen ran across the hill-tops to the north. I felt frightened now because these men knew the country. I had strong legs but did not know the best paths.

I left my hill-top and ran down towards a different river. There was a road along the side of it, and there was a gate at the side of the road. I jumped over the gate and ran across a field. The path led through a group of trees. I stopped in the trees and looked back. The police were half a kilometre behind me.

I climbed over a low wall where the trees came to an end. I found myself in a farmyard. The farmhouse was about 30 metres away.

There was a glass building at the side of the house, and an old man was sitting at a desk inside. He looked up at me when I walked towards the building. The room was full of books and cases which contained old pieces of stone and broken pots. I saw several glass cases of old money. Books and papers covered the old man’s desk.

He was a kind-looking old man with a round face and not much hair. When I entered, he did not move or speak. I could not say a word either. I looked at him and saw his eyes. They were small and clear and very intelligent. The skin on his head was smooth and shone like a glass bottle.

Then he said slowly, ‘You are in a hurry, my friend.’

His eyes followed mine across the farmyard and the field. Some people were climbing over the gate at the road.

‘Ah, they’re policemen,’ he said, ‘and you’re running away from them. Well, we can talk about it later. I don’t want the police to come in here. If you go into the next room, you’ll see two doors. Go through the doorway on the left and shut it behind you. You’ll be quite safe in there.’

Then he picked up a pen and went on with his work.

I did what he said. I went into the next room and through the left-hand doorway. It was very dark inside. There was only one window, which was high up in the wall. I was safe from the police in that room but I was not very happy. Everything seemed too easy, and I began to think to myself, ‘Why did that old man help me? He doesn’t know me, and he didn’t ask me any questions.’

While I was waiting, I thought about food again. I made plans for my breakfast, and it was very exciting. I wanted eggs. The old man could not refuse to give me some. I was ready for about ten of them. I was thinking about this meal when the door opened. A man who was standing outside made a sign to me. I followed him to the old gentleman’s room.

‘Have the police gone?’ I asked.

‘Yes. They asked me if you were here. But I didn’t tell them anything important. This is a lucky morning for you, Mr Hannay.’

He spoke quietly and with the voice of a young man. I was watching him all the time. He closed his eyes but they were only half-shut, like the eyes of a bird. And I suddenly remembered Scudder’s words. ‘If you see his eyes, Hannay, you’ll never forget them. ‘Was this man Scudder’s worst enemy? And was I now in the enemy’s house? Was it time to kill him? He guessed my plan and smiled. Then his eyes moved to the door behind me. I turned. Two large men were standing there for his protection.

He knew my name but he did not know my face. And this was my only chance.

‘What are you talking about?’ I asked. ‘My name isn’t Richard Hannay. It’s Ainslie.’

‘Is it? But of course you have other names. We won’t fight about a name.’ He continued to smile at me.

I thought of another plan quickly. I had no coat and my clothes were very dirty. So I began to tell him a story.

‘Why did you save me from the police?’ I asked. ‘I didn’t want to steal that money. It has given me a lot of trouble. You can have it.’ And I took four pounds from my pocket and threw them on the old man’s desk.

‘Take it,’ I said, ‘and let me go.’

‘Oh, no, Mr Hannay, I won’t let you go. You know too much. You’re acting very well but not well enough.’

I couldn’t tell if he was sure about me.

‘I am not acting,’ I said. ‘Why don’t you believe me? I stole that money because I was hungry. The two men left the car and went away after the accident. I climbed down the bank and found the money on the floor of the car. The police are looking for me, and I’m very tired.’

The old man was clearly not sure now.

‘Tell me your adventures,’ he said. ‘Tell me about yesterday.’

‘I can’t. I’m really hungry. Give me a meal first, and then I’ll tell you everything.’

He made a sign to one of the men, who brought me some cold meat and a glass of milk. Suddenly, while I was eating, the old man spoke to me in German. I did not look up or answer him.

When I finished eating, I began my story again. I was on my way from Leith to visit my brother in Wigtown. I was not travelling by train because I did not have much money. On my way I saw an accident. A car ran off the road. A man jumped out of the car before it fell. And then another man came. They talked for a few moments and then went away together. I climbed down to the car. It was completely destroyed, but I found the four pounds on the floor. I put the money in my pocket and ran away.

I went into a shop in the nearest village and tried to buy some food. I offered a pound to the shopkeeper. She did not like the look of me and called the police. I got away, but the policeman tore my coat off.

‘Well,’ I cried, ‘they can have the money back. A poor man hasn’t got a chance.’

‘That’s a good story, Hannay,’ the old man said. ‘But I don’t believe it.’ Then he sat back in his chair and began to play with his right ear.

‘It’s true,’ I shouted. ‘My name is Ainslie, not Hannay. Those policemen knew me and were shouting my name from the hill top.’

I looked at the clear eyes and the shining head in front of me. He was not at all sure. He did not know my face. It was different from my photographs. And my clothes were very old and dirty.

‘You’ll have to stay here,’ he said at last. ‘If you aren’t Richard Hannay, you’ll be quite safe. But if you are, I’ll kill you myself.’

He pushed a bell and another man came in.

‘Bring the car,’ he said. ‘There’ll be three for dinner.’

He looked at me again, and there was something quite terrible in his eyes. They were cold and hard, and very dangerous.

I could not look away from them. They made me weak, like a child, and I wanted to go to him. He was Scudder s worst enemy. But for a moment I needed to join him.

He spoke in German to one of the men. And when I heard his words, my strange thoughts left me.

‘Karl, put him in the back room and don’t let him get away. Remember that,’ he said.

The room was very dark, but the two men did not come inside with me. They sat down outside, where I could hear them talking. I felt around the walls of the room and touched several boxes. Then I sat down on one of the boxes to think about my problems.

The old man’s friends did know my face. They knew me as the roadman, and I was wearing Turnbull’s clothes. I could imagine their questions: Why were the police looking for a roadman? Why was he found 30 kilometres away from his job? They probably remembered Marmaduke Jopley too, I thought, and Sir Harry. I could not continue to lie to these foreign enemies and I did not want to be alone with them here. My chances of getting away were not very great.

Suddenly I grew angry and hated these German spies in Britain. I could not sit in this dark place and do nothing. I had to attack them or try to get away.

I got up and walked around the room again. The boxes were too strong for me to open, but then I found a cupboard in the wall. It was probably locked, because I could not open it. But there was a hole in the door. I pushed my fingers into the hole and then pulled hard. The door of the cupboard broke open.

There were some strange things inside. There were bottles and small boxes and some old yellow bags. I found a box of detonators. I took out the detonators and placed them on the floor. At the back of the cupboard I found a strong box. At first I thought that it was locked. But it opened quite easily, and it was full of sticks of dynamite.

I could destroy the house with this dynamite. I often used it in Rhodesia and I knew it well. It could very easily destroy me too! This was clearly a chance to get away, and it was probably my only chance. So I decided to take it.

I found a hole in the floor near the doorway. I pushed a stick of dynamite into the hole and tied a detonator and a long piece of cotton to it. Then I moved one of the boxes until it stood over the hole. I sat down near the cupboard and lit the piece of cotton. I watched the fire as it moved along the cotton. The two men were talking quietly outside the door.

Suddenly there was a terrible noise, and great heat and light came up from the floor. They hung for a moment in the air, and then clouds of dirt took their place. Thick yellow smoke filled the room, and at first I could not see anything. But there was light in the room now from a great hole in the wall. I ran towards it. The air outside was also full of smoke, and I could hear the sound of voices.

I climbed through the hole and ran. I was in the farmyard at the back of the house. About 30 metres away there was a tall stone bird-house. The building had no doors or windows but there were a lot of small holes for the birds. And the roof seemed flat. It looked a good place to hide.

I ran through the smoke to the back of the bird-house. Then I began to climb. It was hard work, and I went up very slowly. But at last I reached the top and lay down behind a low wall. I felt sick from the smoke and very tired. But I was safe up there and soon I fell asleep.

I probably slept for several hours. When I woke up, the afternoon sun was very strong. I could hear men’s voices again and the sound of a car. I lifted my head a little and looked over the wall. Four or five men were walking across the farmyard to the house. The old man was with them and he was clearly very angry. He shouted something in German to the other men. The thin dark one was there, and the fat one too.

I lay on the roof of the bird-house all afternoon. I was very thirsty. There was a little river next to the farm and I could hear the sound of water. I felt the money in my pocket. Almost no price was too high for a glass of water at that moment!

Two men drove away in the car. A little later another man rode towards the east on a horse. The search was beginning, but they were all going the wrong way. I sat up on the roof and looked around. At first I saw nothing very interesting but then my eyes fell on a large area of trees. These trees were half a kilometre from the house, and they stood around a flat green field.

‘That looks like an airfield,’ I thought. ‘It’s a good place for a secret airfield.’

You could not see the field from the ground and a small plane could land there between the trees.

Then I saw a thin blue line far away to the south. It was the sea. So our enemies had this secret airfield in Scotland, and they could watch our ships every day. The thought made me very angry. It made me nervous too. Someone in a plane could easily see me below them. But I could do nothing until it was dark.

I lay and waited on the roof of the bird-house. At about six o’clock a man came out through the hole in my prison. He walked slowly towards the bird-house, and I felt quite frightened for a moment. But then we both heard the plane at the same time. The man turned and went back inside.

The plane did not fly over the house, and I was happy about that. It flew around the trees once and then landed. Some lights shone for a moment or two, and ten minutes later I heard voices.

After that everything was quiet, and it began to grow dark.

I waited until about nine o’clock. Then I climbed down from the roof and reached the ground safely. I moved away from the bird-house on my hands and knees. I went first to the little river. I lay there and drank the cold water. Then I began to run. I wanted to get as far away as possible from that terrible house.

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