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فصل 19

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Chapter nineteen

The night before the lorry was going to take them into Baghdad, Richard found Victoria alone in the living room, sitting with a book.

‘What are you reading?’

‘You don’t have much fiction here. It’s A Tale of Two Cities. I always thought Dickens would be boring. But I’m finding it most exciting.’

‘Where have you got to?’ He looked over her shoulder and read out, ‘And the knitting women count one.’

‘I think she’s very frightening,’ said Victoria.

‘Madame Defarge? Yes. Though I have always doubted that you could work a list of names into your knitting. But then I can’t knit.’

‘Oh I think you could,’ said Victoria, considering how she would manage it by making lots of deliberate mistakes with the stitches. ‘Yes, it could be done.’

Suddenly two things came together in her mind with the force of an explosion. The man with the hand-knitted red scarf- and that name, Lefarge.

Not Lefarge. Carmichael had not said Lefarge. It was Defarge! And of course he meant Madame Defarge.

She was brought back to reality by Richard saying, ‘Is anything wrong?’

‘No - no, that is, I just thought of something.’

‘I see.’ Richard raised his eyebrows in his most superior way. ‘Your last name perhaps?’

‘I know my own name,’ Victoria said annoyed.

‘That’s not quite true,’ said Richard smiling. ‘It’s no good, Victoria. You’ve been very clever. You’ve studied your subject and you know something about it - but I’ve laid traps for you. I’ve said some completely ridiculous things about archaeology and you’ve accepted them.’ He paused. ‘You’re not Venetia Savile. Who are you?’

‘I told you the first time I met you,’ said Victoria. ‘I’m Victoria Jones.’

‘Dr Pauncefoot Jones’ niece?’

‘No - but my name is Jones.’

‘You told me a lot of other things.’

‘Yes, I did. And they were all true! But you didn’t believe me. And that made me mad, because though I do tell lies - what I told you then wasn’t a lie. And so I said my name was Pauncefoot Jones - I’ve said that before out here, and it’s always worked very well. How could I have known you were actually coming to this place?’

‘It must have been a shock,’ said Richard seriously. ‘But you did very well.’

‘Inside I was absolutely terrified,’ said Victoria. ‘But I felt that if I waited until I got here to explain, at least I would be safe.’‘Safe? Look here, Victoria, was that wild story you told me about being chloroformed really true?’

‘Of course it was true! If I wanted to invent a story, I could make up a much better one than that, and tell it better!’

‘Knowing you as I do now, I can see that!’

‘So why are you willing to think it’s possible now?’

Richard said slowly, ‘Because if, as you say, you were mixed up in Carmichael’s death - well, then it might be true.’

‘That’s how it all began,’ said Victoria.

She told him of the night of Carmichael’s death, of her talk with Mr Dakin, of her journey to Basrah, of her job in the Olive Branch, of Catherine’s dislike of Dr Rathbone and the very strange business of the dyed hair. The only things she left out were the red scarf and Madame Defarge.

Richard sat back and looked at her. ‘Is this real? Are you real? And are you the heroine in danger, or the evil adventurer?’ Victoria said in a practical manner, ‘The real point is, what are we going to say to Dr Pauncefoot Jones about me?’

‘Nothing,’ said Richard.

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