فصل 08

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فصل 08

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Chapter eight

The Black Stone

In the morning the butler took away the dinner-suit and gave me some other clothes. I went down to breakfast and found Sir Walter at the table. There was a telegram in his hand.

‘I was busy last night,’ he said. ‘I spoke to the Foreign Secretary and to the Secretary for War. They telephoned the First Lord of the Admiralty, and they’re bringing the Frenchman to London today, not tomorrow. His name’s Royer, and he’ll be here at five o’clock this evening. This telegram is from the First Lord of the Admiralty.’

He offered me the hot food on the table, and I began to eat. It was a very good breakfast.

‘I don’t think that this change is going to help us,’ he continued. ‘Our enemies discovered the first date, so they’ll probably discover the new one too. There has to be a German spy in the Foreign Office or in the War Office. Only five men knew that Royer was coming. That’s what we believed, at least. But someone told Scudder and the Germans.’

‘Can’t you change your plans for war?’ I asked.

‘We can but we don’t want to. We’ve thought a lot about these plans and they’re the best possible ones.’

‘But if it’s necessary, you will change them.’

‘Perhaps. It’s a difficult problem, Hannay. Our enemies aren’t children. They’re not going to steal any papers from Royer. They want to know our plans, but they want to get them in secret. Then Royer will go back to France and say, “Here are the British plans for war, and they’re completely secret. The Germans don’t know anything about them.”’

‘Then you’ll have to give the Frenchman special protection,’ I said. ‘Someone who will stay by his side all the time.’

‘Royer is having dinner with the Foreign Secretary tonight. Then he’s coming to my house, where he’ll meet four people.

They are Sir Arthur Drew, General Winstanley, Mr Whittaker and me. The First Lord isn’t well, so Whittaker is coming in his place. And he’s bringing the plans from the First Lord’s office at the Admiralty. We’ll take them to Royer, who will then leave for Portsmouth. A warship is waiting there to take him to France. He’ll have special protection all the time.’

After breakfast we left for London by car.

Sir Walter said, ‘I’m taking you to Scotland Yard, Hannay. I want you to meet the Chief of Police.’

It was half past eleven when we reached Scotland Yard. We walked into the great dark building, and I met the Chief of Police. His name was MacGillivray.

‘I’ve brought you the murderer,’ Sir Walter said.

The Chief smiled. ‘I’ll be very happy when you bring me the real murderer, Bullivant. Good morning, Mr Hannay. You interest us greatly.’

‘And he’s going to tell you some interesting things,’ Sir Walter said, ‘but not today. You have to wait for twenty-four hours, I’m afraid. Mr Hannay is a free man now, isn’t he?’

‘Yes, of course,’ the Chief of Police said. Then he turned to me. ‘Do you want to go back to your old flat? It’s ready for you, but perhaps you’d like to move to a different home.’

I was thinking about Scudder and could not reply.

‘Well,’ Sir Walter said, ‘I have to go now. Perhaps we’ll need some of your men, MacGillivray, tonight or tomorrow. There will probably be some trouble.’

When we were leaving, Sir Walter took my hand.

‘You’re all right now, Hannay,’ he said. ‘You’ll be quite safe in London. Come and see me tomorrow. But don’t talk about these spies, will you? It’s best to stay in your flat today.’ He laughed suddenly. ‘If these Black Stone people see you, they’ll kill you.’ When Sir Walter had left, I felt quite alone. I was a free man, and everything was all right. But I was very nervous. I went to the Savoy Hotel and ordered a fine meal. But I did not enjoy it. People were looking at me, and I thought, ‘Do they know me? Did they see my photograph in the newspapers?’ I soon left the hotel.

In the afternoon I got a taxi and drove several kilometres to North London. I paid the taxi-driver and then began to walk back. I walked for hours and at last came to the centre of London again. I was feeling very unhappy. It was six o’clock, and important things were taking place in London. Royer was already there. Sir Walter was busy at the Foreign Office or making plans for the meeting. The Black Stone spies were watching and waiting quietly. But what was I doing? I was walking around the centre of London.

Suddenly a strange thought came into my head. I believed that there was great danger in London that day. And I was suddenly sure that only I could fight against it. But what could I do? Sir Walter did not need me. I could not walk into a meeting of important officers and Ministers. I could look for the German spies, of course. I was quite sure of one thing: my country needed me in this time of trouble. I had to destroy their plans; the German spies must not win.

‘But is that true, Hannay?’ I said to myself. ‘Can’t Sir Walter and his friends easily look after Britain? Doesn’t the First Lord of the Admiralty know his business better than you do? Can a few German spies do anything against all of them?’

I was not sure. There was a little voice in my ear which repeated again and again: ‘Do something, Hannay. Get up and do something now. If you don’t, you’ll never sleep well again.’

At half past nine I was walking along Jermyn Street. And I decided what to do. I decided to go to Sir Walter’s house. I knew the address and I could easily find it. He did not want to see me, but I had to do something.

I came to Duke Street and walked past a group of young men.

They were wearing dinner-suits and were leaving a hotel. One of the young men was Mr Marmaduke Jopley. He saw me.

‘Look!’ he cried. ‘It’s the murderer! Hold him! Hold him! That’s Hannay the murderer!’

Jopley caught my arm, and the others hurried to help him. A policeman ran across the street. I hit Jopley hard with my left hand and saw him fall. But then the crowd held me and I could not move.

‘What’s the matter here?’ the policeman said.

‘That’s Hannay, the murderer,’ Jopley shouted.

‘Oh, be quiet,’ I said. ‘I’m not a murderer. Listen, officer. Don’t arrest me. The Chief of Police knows all about me. I was at Scotland Yard this morning.’

‘Now young man, come along with me,’ the policeman said. ‘I saw you begin this fight.’ He looked at Jopley, who was lying on the ground. ‘That man didn’t do anything to you, but I saw you hit him. Now come along quietly to the police station.’

I was very angry. I heard the little voice in my ear again. ‘You have to get away,’ it said. ‘Don’t spend another minute here.’

Suddenly I felt very strong. I turned quickly and threw the policeman to the ground. I pushed the other men away and ran along Duke Street.

I can run very fast when I want to. And that evening I almost flew. In a few minutes I reached Pall Mall and turned towards St James’s Park. I ran between the taxis in the Mall and across the bridge. There were very few people in the park and nobody stopped me. Sir Walter’s house was at Queen Anne’s Gate and there I began to walk.

Three or four cars were standing in the street outside the house. I walked up to the door and pushed the bell. The butler opened the door. I could hear cries far away, but the street was empty.

I have to see Sir Walter,’ I said. ‘My business is very important.’

‘Come in, sir,’ he said. ‘I’m afraid you can’t see him now. But you can wait in the hall until the meeting finishes.’

It was an old house with a large square hall. Doors led into several rooms on each side. An officer who was dressed in plain clothes stood outside one of the doors. I sat down in a corner near the telephone.

I made a sign to the butler. ‘I’m in trouble again,’ I said. ‘But I’m working for Sir Walter, and he knows all about it. The police and a crowd of people are following me. If they come here, please don’t let them come in. And don’t tell them that I’m here.’

‘All right, sir,’ he replied.

A minute or two later I heard voices outside. Then came the sound of the door-bell, and the butler went to answer it. Someone spoke to him from outside, and he suddenly stood up very straight.

‘I am sorry,’ he said. ‘This is Sir Walter Bullivant’s house, and Sir Walter is Chief Secretary at the Foreign Office. I’m afraid that I don’t know anything about a murderer. Now please go away, or I shall call the police myself.’

Then he shut the door and walked back through the hall.

Two minutes later I heard the bell again, and a man came in. While he was taking off his coat, I saw his face. It was a famous face, and I knew it from his photographs in the newspapers. The man was Lord Alloa, the First Lord of the Admiralty. He was a big man with a large nose and sharp blue eyes. He walked past me, and the plain clothes officer opened the door of the room for him.

I waited in the hall for twenty minutes. And during this time the little voice continued to speak in my ear. ‘Don’t go away,’ it said. ‘They’ll soon need you.’ A little bell went at the back of the house and the butler came into the hall. The First Lord left the meeting room, and the butler gave him his coat. I looked at the man for a moment, and he looked straight at me. It was all very fast. My heart jumped suddenly because I saw a light in his eyes. I did not know the First Lord, and he did not know me. But I was quite sure about that sudden light in his eyes. It meant that he knew my face. He looked away and walked to the door. The butler opened it for him and closed it behind him.

I picked up the telephone book and quickly found Lord Alloa’s number. His butler answered.

‘Is the First Lord at home?’ I asked.

‘Yes, sir,’ the voice said. ‘But he’s not very well. He’s in bed. Can I give him a message, sir?’

‘No, thank you,’ I said, and I put the telephone down.

I walked quickly across the hall and entered the meeting room. Five surprised faces looked up from a round table. Sir Walter was there and Drew, the War Minister. Sir Arthur Drew’s photograph was often in the papers. I already knew General Winstanley. An older man, who was probably Whittaker, stood next to him. The fifth man was short and fat.

Sir Walter looked quite angry.

‘This is Mr Hannay,’ he said. ‘I’ve already told you something about him. But why have you come here, Hannay? You know that we’re very busy.’

‘Your enemies are busy too, sir,’ I said. ‘And one of them has just left this room.’

Sir Walter’s face grew red as he said, ‘But that was Lord Alloa.’

‘It was not,’ I cried. ‘Lord Alloa is at home in bed. I have just spoken to his butler on the telephone. The man who was here knew my face. And Lord Alloa doesn’t know me.’

‘Then - who - who-?’ someone asked.

‘The Black Stone,’ I cried. I looked around the table and saw fear in five pairs of eyes.

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