فصل 07

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فصل 07

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Chapter seven

The Fisherman

I was free now but I felt rather sick. I could smell the smoke of the dynamite and an hour later I had to rest.

It was about 11 o’clock when I reached the road safely. I wanted to go back to Mr Turnbull’s cottage. My coat was there, with Scudder’s notebook in the pocket, and I had to have that book. My plan then was to find the railway and travel to the south. After that I hoped to go straight to Artinswell to meet Sir Walter Bullivant.

It was a beautiful night. I knew that Turnbull’s cottage was about 30 kilometres away. It was too far for me to walk before morning. So I decided to hide during the day and travel only at night.

When the sun rose, I was near a river. I washed in the clean cold water because I was very dirty. My shirt and trousers were torn, and I was afraid to meet anyone in that state. But just the other side of the river I came to a cottage. And I was so hungry that I had to stop there.

The man was not at home, and at first his wife did not like the look of me. She picked up a stick and seemed ready to attack me.

‘I’ve had a bad fall in the hills,’ I said, ‘and I’m feeling ill. Will you help me?’

She did not ask any questions but invited me into the house. She gave me a glass of milk and some bread and cheese. Then I sat by the fire in her kitchen and we talked. I offered her money for her trouble, but she refused it at first.

‘If it isn’t your money, I don’t want it,’ she said.

I grew quite angry. ‘But it is my money. Do you think that I stole it?’

She accepted it then and unlocked a cupboard in the wall. She gave me a warm piece of Scottish cloth to put over my shoulder and one of her husband’s hats. When I left her cottage, I was like a real Scotsman!

I walked for two or three hours. Then the weather changed and it began to rain. But I kept warm and dry under the cloth. A little later I came to a large rock which hung over some low ground. The grass under the rock was quite dry. So I lay down and slept there all day.

When I woke up, it was almost dark. The weather was the same, wet and cold, and I was not sure of the way. Twice I took the wrong path and probably walked more than 30 kilometres. But at six o’clock in the morning I reached Mr Turnbull’s cottage.

Mr Turnbull opened the door himself, but he did not know me. ‘Who are you?’ he asked. ‘Why are you coming here on a Sunday morning? I’m just getting ready to go to church.’

I knew nothing about the days of the week; every day seemed the same to me. I felt too ill to answer him. But then he remembered me.

‘Have you got my glasses?’ he asked.

I took them out of my pocket and gave them to him.

‘Of course, you’ve come back for your coat,’ he said. ‘Come in, man. You look terrible. Wait. I’ll get you a chair.’

When I was in Rhodesia, I was often ill. And one of these African illnesses returned time after time. I knew the signs very well. Soon Mr Turnbull was taking off my clothes and leading me to a bed.

I stayed with him for ten days, and he looked after me very well. The illness lasted about six days. Then my body returned to its usual temperature and I got up.

He went out to work every morning and returned in the evening. I rested all day. He had a cow which gave us milk. And there was always some food in the house.

One evening I said, ‘There’s a small airfield about 24 kilometres away. Do you know it? A little plane lands there sometimes. Who owns the place?’

‘I don’t know,’ he said. ‘I’ve seen the plane, of course, but I don’t know anything about it.’

He brought me several newspapers while I was staying with him. I read them with interest, but I saw nothing about the murder in London. Turnbull did not ask me any questions, not even my name. I was surprised about this, and one day I said, ‘Has anyone asked you about me?’

‘There was a man in a car,’ he said. ‘He stopped one day and asked me about the other roadman. That was you, of course. He seemed a very strange man, so I didn’t tell him anything.’

When I left the cottage, I gave Turnbull five pounds. He did not want to take the money at all. His face grew red, and he was quite rude to me. ‘I don’t want money,’ he said. ‘When I was ill, you helped me. Then you were ill, and I helped you. I can’t take such a lot of money.’ But he took it in the end.

The weather was beautiful that morning, but I was beginning to feel nervous. It was 12 June, and I had to finish Scudder’s business before the 15th. I had dinner at a quiet inn in Moffat and then went to the railway station. It was seven o’clock in the evening.

‘What time does the train go to London?’ I asked.

‘Ten minutes to twelve,’ the railway man said.

It was a long time to wait, so I left the station. I found a quiet place near a hill-top and lay down there to sleep. I was so tired that I slept until twenty minutes to twelve. Then I ran down to the station where the train was waiting.

I decided not to go to London. I got out of the train at Crewe and waited there for two hours. The next train took me to Birmingham, and I reached Reading at six o’clock in the evening. Two hours later I was looking for Sir Walter Bullivant’s cottage at Artinswell.

The River Kennet ran along next to the road. The English air was sweet and warm, quite different from Scottish air. I stood for a few minutes on a bridge which went across the river. And I began to sing “Annie Laurie” in a low voice.

A fisherman came up from the bank of the river. As he walked towards me, he began to sing “Annie Laurie” too.

The fisherman was a great big man. He was wearing an old pair of grey trousers and a large hat. He looked at me and smiled. And I thought that he had a good and honest face. Then he looked down with me at the water.

‘It’s clean and clear, isn’t it?’ he said. ‘The Kennet’s a fine river. Look at that big fish down there. But the sun has gone now. If you try all night, you won’t catch him.’

‘Where?’ I said. ‘I can’t see him.’

‘Look. Down there. A metre from those water plants.’

‘Oh, yes. I can see him now. He’s like a big black stone, isn’t he?’

‘Ah,’ he said, and sang a few more words of “Annie Laurie”.

He continued to look down at the water. ‘Your name is Twisdon, I believe,’ he said.

‘No,’ I said. Then I remembered my other names and added quickly, ‘Oh, yes, that’s right.’

He laughed. ‘A good spy always knows his own name,’ he said.

Some men were walking across the bridge behind us, and Sir Walter spoke more loudly.

‘No, I won’t,’ he said. ‘You’re strong enough to work, aren’t you? You can get a meal from my kitchen, but I won’t give you any money.’

The men went past, and the fisherman moved away from me. He showed me to a white gate a hundred metres away and said, ‘That’s my house. Wait here for five minutes and then go around to the back door.’

When I reached his cottage, the back door was open. Sir Walter’s butler was waiting to welcome me.

‘Come this way, sir,’ he said, and he led me up the stairs. He took me into one of the bedrooms. There were clothes on the bed. I saw a dinner-suit and a clean white shirt. But there were other clothes too and several pairs of shoes.

‘I hope that these things will fit you, sir,’ the butler said. ‘Your bath is ready in the next room. You’ll hear the bell for dinner at nine o’clock, sir.’

When he left, I sat down. I thought that I was dreaming. At this time the day before I was asleep on a Scottish hill-top. Now I was in this beautiful house, and Sir Walter did not even know my name.

I had a bath and then put on the white shirt and the dinner-suit. Everything fitted me very well. The bell went for dinner, and I hurried down to meet Sir Walter.

‘You’re very kind, sir,’ I said, ‘but it is time to tell you about my situation. I haven’t done anything wrong, but the police are looking for me at this moment.’

He smiled. ‘That’s all right. We can talk about these things after dinner. I’m pleased that you got here safely.’

I enjoyed that meal, and the wine was good too. Sir Walter was an interesting man who had travelled in many foreign countries. I talked about Rhodesia and the fish in the Zambesi River, and he told me some of his adventures.

After dinner we went into his library, and the butler brought us coffee. It was a very nice room, with books and fine pictures around the walls. I decided to buy a house like that after I finished Scudder’s work.

Sir Walter lay back in his chair.

‘I’ve followed Harry’s orders,’ he said. ‘And now I’m ready to listen, Mr Hannay. You’ve got some news, I believe.’

I was surprised to hear my real name, but I began my story. And I told him everything. I described my meeting with Scudder and his fears about Karolides. I told him about the murder and my adventure with the milkman.

‘Where did you go then?’ he asked.

‘I went to Galloway. I soon discovered the secret of Scudder’s code and then I could read his notes.’

‘Have you got them with you?’

‘Yes.’

Then I described my meeting with Sir Harry and how I helped him at Brattleburn.

Sir Walter laughed. ‘Harry can’t make a speech,’ he said. ‘He’s a good man but his ideas are very strange. Please go on with your story, Mr Hannay.’

I told him about Turnbull then and my job as a roadman. He was very interested in that.

‘Can you describe those men in the car?’ he asked.

‘Well, one of them was thin and dark. I saw him before at the inn with the fat one. But I didn’t know the third man, who was older than the others.’

‘And what did you do after that?’

‘I met Marmaduke Jopley next, and had a bit of fun with him.’ Sir Walter laughed again when I described that part of the story. But he did not laugh at the old man in the farmhouse.

‘How did you get away from the place?’ he asked.

‘I found dynamite and detonators in a cupboard,’ I replied, ‘and I almost destroyed the building. There’s a small airfield there where the plane lands. After that I was ill for a week. Turnbull looked after me very well. Then I travelled south by train, and here I am.’

Sir Walter stood up slowly and looked down at me.

‘You needn’t be afraid of the police, Hannay,’ he said. ‘They aren’t looking for you now.’

I was surprised to hear this.

‘Why?’ I cried. ‘Have they found the murderer?’

‘No, not yet. But the police know that you didn’t kill Scudder.’

‘How do they know that?’

‘Because I received a letter from Scudder. He did several jobs for me, and I knew him quite well. He was a good spy, but he had one problem.’

‘What was that?’

‘He always wanted to work alone, and he failed for that reason. The best spies always work with others, but Scudder couldn’t do that. I was very sorry about it because he was a fine man. I had a letter from him on 31 May.’

‘But he was dead then. He was killed on 23 May, wasn’t he?’

‘Yes, and he wrote the letter on the 23rd. He sent the letter to Spain first, and then it came back to England.’

‘What did he write about?’

‘He told me that Britain was in great danger. He also said that he was staying with a good friend. And I believe that the “good friend” was you, Hannay. He promised to write again soon.’

‘What did you do then?’

‘I went to the police. They knew your name and we sent a telegram to Rhodesia. The answer was all right, so we were not worried about you. I guessed why you left London. You wanted to continue Scudder’s work, didn’t you? Then I got Harry’s letter and I guessed that Twisdon was Richard Hannay.’

I was very pleased to hear all this. My country’s enemies were my enemies, but the police were now my friends. And I was a free man again!

Sir Walter sat down and smiled at me.

‘Show me Scudder’s notes,’ he said.

I took out the little book and began to explain the code to him. He was very quick and he knew what the names meant. We worked hard for an hour or more.

‘Scudder was right about one thing,’ he said. ‘A French officer is coming to London on 15 June, and that’s the day after tomorrow. I thought that it was all secret. Of course we know that there are a few German spies in England. We’ve got some of our men in Germany too. But how did they all discover the secret of this Frenchman’s visit? I don’t believe Scudder’s story about war and the Black Stone. He always had some strange ideas.’

Sir Walter stood up again and walked about the room. ‘The Black Stone,’ he repeated. ‘Der Schwarzestein. It’s like something out of a cheap story, isn’t it? I don’t believe the part about Karolides either. He’s an important man, but nobody wants to kill him. Perhaps Scudder heard about some danger, but it isn’t very important. It’s the usual spy business, which the Germans enjoy very much. Sometimes they kill a man in the way that they killed Scudder. And the German government pays them for it.’

The butler came into the room.

‘It’s the telephone, sir,’ he said. ‘Your office in London. Mr Heath wants to speak to you.’

Sir Walter left the library. When he returned a few minutes later, he looked quite pale.

‘Scudder was right,’ he said, ‘and I was wrong. Karolides is dead. He was shot about three hours ago.’

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