Tantissimi classici della letteratura e della cultura politica,
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Abbe Prevost - MANON LESCAUT
Alcott, Louisa M. - AN OLDFASHIONED GIRL
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE MEN
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE WOMEN
Alcott, Louisa May - JACK AND JILL
Alcott, Louisa May - LIFE LETTERS AND JOURNALS
Andersen, Hans Christian - FAIRY TALES
Anonimo - BEOWULF
Ariosto, Ludovico - ORLANDO ENRAGED
Aurelius, Marcus - MEDITATIONS
Austen, Jane - EMMA
Austen, Jane - MANSFIELD PARK
Austen, Jane - NORTHANGER ABBEY
Austen, Jane - PERSUASION
Austen, Jane - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Austen, Jane - SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Authors, Various - LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Authors, Various - SELECTED ENGLISH LETTERS
Autori Vari - THE WORLD ENGLISH BIBLE
Bacon, Francis - THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
Balzac, Honore de - EUGENIE GRANDET
Balzac, Honore de - FATHER GORIOT
Baroness Orczy - THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Barrie, J. M. - PETER AND WENDY
Barrie, James M. - PETER PAN
Bierce, Ambrose - THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Blake, William - SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
Boccaccio, Giovanni - DECAMERONE
Brent, Linda - INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
Bronte, Charlotte - JANE EYRE
Bronte, Charlotte - VILLETTE
Buchan, John - GREENMANTLE
Buchan, John - MR STANDFAST
Buchan, John - THE 39 STEPS
Bunyan, John - THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
Burckhardt, Jacob - THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
Burnett, Frances H. - A LITTLE PRINCESS
Burnett, Frances H. - LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
Burnett, Frances H. - THE SECRET GARDEN
Butler, Samuel - EREWHON
Carlyle, Thomas - PAST AND PRESENT
Carlyle, Thomas - THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Cellini, Benvenuto - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Cervantes - DON QUIXOTE
Chaucer, Geoffrey - THE CANTERBURY TALES
Chesterton, G. K. - A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Chesterton, G. K. - THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE
Chesterton, G. K. - THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
Chesterton, G. K. - THE WISDOM OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - TWELVE TYPES
Chesterton, G. K. - WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA
Chesterton, Gilbert K. - HERETICS
Chopin, Kate - AT FAULT
Chopin, Kate - BAYOU FOLK
Chopin, Kate - THE AWAKENING AND SELECTED SHORT STORIES
Clark Hall, John R. - A CONCISE ANGLOSAXON DICTIONARY
Clarkson, Thomas - AN ESSAY ON THE SLAVERY AND COMMERCE OF THE HUMAN SPECIES
Clausewitz, Carl von - ON WAR
Coleridge, Herbert - A DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST OR OLDEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH
Coleridge, S. T. - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Coleridge, S. T. - HINTS TOWARDS THE FORMATION OF A MORE COMPREHENSIVE THEORY
Coleridge, S. T. - THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
Collins, Wilkie - THE MOONSTONE
Collodi - PINOCCHIO
Conan Doyle, Arthur - A STUDY IN SCARLET
Conan Doyle, Arthur - MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
Conrad, Joseph - HEART OF DARKNESS
Conrad, Joseph - LORD JIM
Conrad, Joseph - NOSTROMO
Conrad, Joseph - THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS
Conrad, Joseph - TYPHOON
Crane, Stephen - LAST WORDS
Crane, Stephen - MAGGIE
Crane, Stephen - THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Crane, Stephen - WOUNDS IN THE RAIN
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: HELL
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PARADISE
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PURGATORY
Darwin, Charles - THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN
Darwin, Charles - THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Defoe, Daniel - A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES
Defoe, Daniel - A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR
Defoe, Daniel - CAPTAIN SINGLETON
Defoe, Daniel - MOLL FLANDERS
Defoe, Daniel - ROBINSON CRUSOE
Defoe, Daniel - THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN
Defoe, Daniel - THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE
Deledda, Grazia - AFTER THE DIVORCE
Dickens, Charles - A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Dickens, Charles - A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Dickens, Charles - BLEAK HOUSE
Dickens, Charles - DAVID COPPERFIELD
Dickens, Charles - DONBEY AND SON
Dickens, Charles - GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Dickens, Charles - HARD TIMES
Dickens, Charles - LETTERS VOLUME 1
Dickens, Charles - LITTLE DORRIT
Dickens, Charles - MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT
Dickens, Charles - NICHOLAS NICKLEBY
Dickens, Charles - OLIVER TWIST
Dickens, Charles - OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
Dickens, Charles - PICTURES FROM ITALY
Dickens, Charles - THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
Dickens, Charles - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Dickens, Charles - THE PICKWICK PAPERS
Dickinson, Emily - POEMS
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Du Maurier, George - TRILBY
Dumas, Alexandre - THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Dumas, Alexandre - THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
Dumas, Alexandre - THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Eliot, George - DANIEL DERONDA
Eliot, George - MIDDLEMARCH
Eliot, George - SILAS MARNER
Eliot, George - THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
Engels, Frederick - THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING-CLASS IN ENGLAND IN 1844
Equiano - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Esopo - FABLES
Fenimore Cooper, James - THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Fielding, Henry - TOM JONES
France, Anatole - THAIS
France, Anatole - THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
France, Anatole - THE LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC
France, Anatole - THE SEVEN WIVES OF BLUEBEARD
Frank Baum, L. - THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ
Frank Baum, L. - THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Franklin, Benjamin - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frazer, James George - THE GOLDEN BOUGH
Freud, Sigmund - DREAM PSYCHOLOGY
Galsworthy, John - COMPLETE PLAYS
Galsworthy, John - STRIFE
Galsworthy, John - STUDIES AND ESSAYS
Galsworthy, John - THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Galsworthy, John - THE FORSYTE SAGA
Galsworthy, John - THE LITTLE MAN
Galsworthy, John - THE SILVER BOX
Galsworthy, John - THE SKIN GAME
Gaskell, Elizabeth - CRANFORD
Gaskell, Elizabeth - MARY BARTON
Gaskell, Elizabeth - NORTH AND SOUTH
Gaskell, Elizabeth - THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Gay, John - THE BEGGAR'S OPERA
Gentile, Maria - THE ITALIAN COOK BOOK
Gilbert and Sullivan - PLAYS
Goethe - FAUST
Gogol - DEAD SOULS
Goldsmith, Oliver - SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
Goldsmith, Oliver - THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD
Grahame, Kenneth - THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Grimm, Brothers - FAIRY TALES
Harding, A. R. - GINSENG AND OTHER MEDICINAL PLANTS
Hardy, Thomas - A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES
Hardy, Thomas - FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Hardy, Thomas - JUDE THE OBSCURE
Hardy, Thomas - TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
Hardy, Thomas - THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE
Hartley, Cecil B. - THE GENTLEMEN'S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - LITTLE MASTERPIECES
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - THE SCARLET LETTER
Henry VIII - LOVE LETTERS TO ANNE BOLEYN
Henry, O. - CABBAGES AND KINGS
Henry, O. - SIXES AND SEVENS
Henry, O. - THE FOUR MILLION
Henry, O. - THE TRIMMED LAMP
Henry, O. - WHIRLIGIGS
Hindman Miller, Gustavus - TEN THOUSAND DREAMS INTERPRETED
Hobbes, Thomas - LEVIATHAN
Homer - THE ILIAD
Homer - THE ODYSSEY
Hornaday, William T. - THE EXTERMINATION OF THE AMERICAN BISON
Hume, David - A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE
Hume, David - AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING
Hume, David - DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION
Ibsen, Henrik - A DOLL'S HOUSE
Ibsen, Henrik - AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
Ibsen, Henrik - GHOSTS
Ibsen, Henrik - HEDDA GABLER
Ibsen, Henrik - JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN
Ibsen, Henrik - ROSMERHOLM
Ibsen, Henrik - THE LADY FROM THE SEA
Ibsen, Henrik - THE MASTER BUILDER
Ibsen, Henrik - WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN
Irving, Washington - THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
James, Henry - ITALIAN HOURS
James, Henry - THE ASPERN PAPERS
James, Henry - THE BOSTONIANS
James, Henry - THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
James, Henry - THE TURN OF THE SCREW
James, Henry - WASHINGTON SQUARE
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN IN A BOAT
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL
Jevons, Stanley - POLITICAL ECONOMY
Johnson, Samuel - A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH TONGUE
Jonson, Ben - THE ALCHEMIST
Jonson, Ben - VOLPONE
Joyce, James - A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Joyce, James - CHAMBER MUSIC
Joyce, James - DUBLINERS
Joyce, James - ULYSSES
Keats, John - ENDYMION
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1817
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1820
King James - THE BIBLE
Kipling, Rudyard - CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS
Kipling, Rudyard - INDIAN TALES
Kipling, Rudyard - JUST SO STORIES
Kipling, Rudyard - KIM
Kipling, Rudyard - THE JUNGLE BOOK
Kipling, Rudyard - THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Kipling, Rudyard - THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK
Lawrence, D. H - THE RAINBOW
Lawrence, D. H - THE WHITE PEACOCK
Lawrence, D. H - TWILIGHT IN ITALY
Lawrence, D. H. - AARON'S ROD
Lawrence, D. H. - SONS AND LOVERS
Lawrence, D. H. - THE LOST GIRL
Lawrence, D. H. - WOMEN IN LOVE
Lear, Edward - BOOK OF NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - LAUGHABLE LYRICS
Lear, Edward - MORE NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - NONSENSE SONG
Leblanc, Maurice - ARSENE LUPIN VS SHERLOCK HOLMES
Leblanc, Maurice - THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE HOLLOW NEEDLE
Leblanc, Maurice - THE RETURN OF ARSENE LUPIN
Lehmann, Lilli - HOW TO SING
Leroux, Gaston - THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER
Leroux, Gaston - THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM
Leroux, Gaston - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
London, Jack - MARTIN EDEN
London, Jack - THE CALL OF THE WILD
London, Jack - WHITE FANG
Machiavelli, Nicolo' - THE PRINCE
Malthus, Thomas - PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION
Mansfield, Katherine - THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES
Marlowe, Christopher - THE JEW OF MALTA
Marryat, Captain - THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST
Maupassant, Guy De - BEL AMI
Melville, Hermann - MOBY DICK
Melville, Hermann - TYPEE
Mill, John Stuart - PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
Milton, John - PARADISE LOST
Mitra, S. M. - HINDU TALES FROM THE SANSKRIT
Montaigne, Michel de - ESSAYS
Montgomery, Lucy Maud - ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
More, Thomas - UTOPIA
Nesbit, E. - FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
Nesbit, E. - THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET
Nesbit, E. - THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Nesbit, E. - THE STORY OF THE AMULET
Newton, Isaac - OPTICKS
Nietsche, Friedrich - BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Nietsche, Friedrich - THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
Nightingale, Florence - NOTES ON NURSING
Owen, Wilfred - POEMS
Ozaki, Yei Theodora - JAPANESE FAIRY TALES
Pascal, Blaise - PENSEES
Pellico, Silvio - MY TEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT
Perrault, Charles - FAIRY TALES
Pirandello, Luigi - THREE PLAYS
Plato - THE REPUBLIC
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 1
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 2
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 3
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 4
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 5
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
Potter, Beatrix - THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT
Proust, Marcel - SWANN'S WAY
Radcliffe, Ann - A SICILIAN ROMANCE
Ricardo, David - ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION
Richardson, Samuel - PAMELA
Rider Haggard, H. - ALLAN QUATERMAIN
Rider Haggard, H. - KING SOLOMON'S MINES
Rousseau, J. J. - THE ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF INEQUALITY AMONG MANKIND
Ruskin, John - THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE
Schiller, Friedrich - THE DEATH OF WALLENSTEIN
Schiller, Friedrich - THE PICCOLOMINI
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE ART OF CONTROVERSY
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE WISDOM OF LIFE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
Scott, Walter - IVANHOE
Scott, Walter - QUENTIN DURWARD
Scott, Walter - ROB ROY
Scott, Walter - THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR
Scott, Walter - WAVERLEY
Sedgwick, Anne Douglas - THE THIRD WINDOW
Sewell, Anna - BLACK BEAUTY
Shakespeare, William - COMPLETE WORKS
Shakespeare, William - HAMLET
Shakespeare, William - OTHELLO
Shakespeare, William - ROMEO AND JULIET
Shelley, Mary - FRANKENSTEIN
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - A DEFENCE OF POETRY AND OTHER ESSAYS
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Sheridan, Richard B. - THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
Sienkiewicz, Henryk - QUO VADIS
Smith, Adam - THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
Smollett, Tobias - TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY
Spencer, Herbert - ESSAYS ON EDUCATION AND KINDRED SUBJECTS
Spyri, Johanna - HEIDI
Sterne, Laurence - A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
Sterne, Laurence - TRISTRAM SHANDY
Stevenson, Robert Louis - A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES
Stevenson, Robert Louis - ESSAYS IN THE ART OF WRITING
Stevenson, Robert Louis - KIDNAPPED
Stevenson, Robert Louis - NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE BLACK ARROW
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Stevenson, Robert Louis - TREASURE ISLAND
Stoker, Bram - DRACULA
Strindberg, August - LUCKY PEHR
Strindberg, August - MASTER OLOF
Strindberg, August - THE RED ROOM
Strindberg, August - THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
Strindberg, August - THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES
Swift, Jonathan - A MODEST PROPOSAL
Swift, Jonathan - A TALE OF A TUB
Swift, Jonathan - GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
Swift, Jonathan - THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS AND OTHER SHORT PIECES
Tagore, Rabindranath - FRUIT GATHERING
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE GARDENER
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE HUNGRY STONES AND OTHER STORIES
Thackeray, William - BARRY LYNDON
Thackeray, William - VANITY FAIR
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE BOOK OF SNOBS
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE ROSE AND THE RING
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE VIRGINIANS
Thoreau, Henry David - WALDEN
Tolstoi, Leo - A LETTER TO A HINDU
Tolstoy, Lev - ANNA KARENINA
Tolstoy, Lev - WAR AND PEACE
Trollope, Anthony - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Trollope, Anthony - BARCHESTER TOWERS
Trollope, Anthony - FRAMLEY PARSONAGE
Trollope, Anthony - THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS
Trollope, Anthony - THE MAN WHO KEPT HIS MONEY IN A BOX
Trollope, Anthony - THE WARDEN
Trollope, Anthony - THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Twain, Mark - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Twain, Mark - SPEECHES
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
Twain, Mark - THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
Vari, Autori - THE MAGNA CARTA
Verga, Giovanni - SICILIAN STORIES
Verne, Jules - 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS
Verne, Jules - A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Verne, Jules - ALL AROUND THE MOON
Verne, Jules - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Verne, Jules - FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON
Verne, Jules - FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Verne, Jules - MICHAEL STROGOFF
Verne, Jules - THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
Voltaire - PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
Vyasa - MAHABHARATA
Wallace, Edgar - SANDERS OF THE RIVER
Wallace, Edgar - THE DAFFODIL MYSTERY
Wallace, Lew - BEN HUR
Webster, Jean - DADDY LONG LEGS
Wedekind, Franz - THE AWAKENING OF SPRING
Wells, H. G. - KIPPS
Wells, H. G. - THE INVISIBLE MAN
Wells, H. G. - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Wells, H. G. - THE STOLEN BACILLUS AND OTHER INCIDENTS
Wells, H. G. - THE TIME MACHINE
Wells, H. G. - THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
Wells, H. G. - WHAT IS COMING
Wharton, Edith - THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
White, Andrew Dickson - FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE
Wilde, Oscar - A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Wilde, Oscar - AN IDEAL HUSBAND
Wilde, Oscar - DE PROFUNDIS
Wilde, Oscar - LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN
Wilde, Oscar - SALOME
Wilde, Oscar - SELECTED POEMS
Wilde, Oscar - THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Wilde, Oscar - THE CANTERVILLE GHOST
Wilde, Oscar - THE HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER TALES
Wilde, Oscar - THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Wilde, Oscar - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY
Wilde, Oscar - THE SOUL OF MAN
Wilson, Epiphanius - SACRED BOOKS OF THE EAST
Wollstonecraft, Mary - A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
Woolf, Virgina - NIGHT AND DAY
Woolf, Virgina - THE VOYAGE OUT
Woolf, Virginia - JACOB'S ROOM
Woolf, Virginia - MONDAY OR TUESDAY
Wordsworth, William - POEMS
Wordsworth, William - PROSE WORKS
Zola, Emile - THERESE RAQUIN
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ISTRUZIONI D'USO DETTAGLIATE
THE THIRTY-NINE STEPS
by JOHN BUCHAN
TO THOMAS ARTHUR NELSON
LOTHIAN AND BORDER HORSE)
My Dear Tommy,
You and I have long cherished an affection for that elemental type of
tale which Americans call the 'dime novel' and which we know as the
'shocker'--the romance where the incidents defy the probabilities, and
march just inside the borders of the possible. During an illness last
winter I exhausted my store of those aids to cheerfulness, and was
driven to write one for myself. This little volume is the result, and
I should like to put your name on it in memory of our long friendship,
in the days when the wildest fictions are so much less improbable than
1. The Man Who Died
2. The Milkman Sets Out on his Travels
3. The Adventure of the Literary Innkeeper
4. The Adventure of the Radical Candidate
5. The Adventure of the Spectacled Roadman
6. The Adventure of the Bald Archaeologist
7. The Dry-Fly Fisherman
8. The Coming of the Black Stone
9. The Thirty-Nine Steps
10. Various Parties Converging on the Sea
The Man Who Died
I returned from the City about three o'clock on that May afternoon
pretty well disgusted with life. I had been three months in the Old
Country, and was fed up with it. If anyone had told me a year ago that
I would have been feeling like that I should have laughed at him; but
there was the fact. The weather made me liverish, the talk of the
ordinary Englishman made me sick. I couldn't get enough exercise, and
the amusements of London seemed as flat as soda-water that has been
standing in the sun. 'Richard Hannay,' I kept telling myself, 'you
have got into the wrong ditch, my friend, and you had better climb out.'
It made me bite my lips to think of the plans I had been building up
those last years in Bulawayo. I had got my pile--not one of the big
ones, but good enough for me; and I had figured out all kinds of ways
of enjoying myself. My father had brought me out from Scotland at the
age of six, and I had never been home since; so England was a sort of
Arabian Nights to me, and I counted on stopping there for the rest of
But from the first I was disappointed with it. In about a week I was
tired of seeing sights, and in less than a month I had had enough of
restaurants and theatres and race-meetings. I had no real pal to go
about with, which probably explains things. Plenty of people invited
me to their houses, but they didn't seem much interested in me. They
would fling me a question or two about South Africa, and then get on
their own affairs. A lot of Imperialist ladies asked me to tea to meet
schoolmasters from New Zealand and editors from Vancouver, and that was
the dismalest business of all. Here was I, thirty-seven years old,
sound in wind and limb, with enough money to have a good time, yawning
my head off all day. I had just about settled to clear out and get
back to the veld, for I was the best bored man in the United Kingdom.
That afternoon I had been worrying my brokers about investments to give
my mind something to work on, and on my way home I turned into my
club--rather a pot-house, which took in Colonial members. I had a long
drink, and read the evening papers. They were full of the row in the
Near East, and there was an article about Karolides, the Greek Premier.
I rather fancied the chap. From all accounts he seemed the one big man
in the show; and he played a straight game too, which was more than
could be said for most of them. I gathered that they hated him pretty
blackly in Berlin and Vienna, but that we were going to stick by him,
and one paper said that he was the only barrier between Europe and
Armageddon. I remember wondering if I could get a job in those parts.
It struck me that Albania was the sort of place that might keep a man
About six o'clock I went home, dressed, dined at the Cafe Royal, and
turned into a music-hall. It was a silly show, all capering women and
monkey-faced men, and I did not stay long. The night was fine and
clear as I walked back to the flat I had hired near Portland Place.
The crowd surged past me on the pavements, busy and chattering, and I
envied the people for having something to do. These shop-girls and
clerks and dandies and policemen had some interest in life that kept
them going. I gave half-a-crown to a beggar because I saw him yawn; he
was a fellow-sufferer. At Oxford Circus I looked up into the spring
sky and I made a vow. I would give the Old Country another day to fit
me into something; if nothing happened, I would take the next boat for
My flat was the first floor in a new block behind Langham Place. There
was a common staircase, with a porter and a liftman at the entrance,
but there was no restaurant or anything of that sort, and each flat was
quite shut off from the others. I hate servants on the premises, so I
had a fellow to look after me who came in by the day. He arrived
before eight o'clock every morning and used to depart at seven, for I
never dined at home.
I was just fitting my key into the door when I noticed a man at my
elbow. I had not seen him approach, and the sudden appearance made me
start. He was a slim man, with a short brown beard and small, gimlety
blue eyes. I recognized him as the occupant of a flat on the top
floor, with whom I had passed the time of day on the stairs.
'Can I speak to you?' he said. 'May I come in for a minute?' He was
steadying his voice with an effort, and his hand was pawing my arm.
I got my door open and motioned him in. No sooner was he over the
threshold than he made a dash for my back room, where I used to smoke
and write my letters. Then he bolted back.
'Is the door locked?' he asked feverishly, and he fastened the chain
with his own hand.
'I'm very sorry,' he said humbly. 'It's a mighty liberty, but you
looked the kind of man who would understand. I've had you in my mind
all this week when things got troublesome. Say, will you do me a good
'I'll listen to you,' I said. 'That's all I'll promise.' I was
getting worried by the antics of this nervous little chap.
There was a tray of drinks on a table beside him, from which he filled
himself a stiff whisky-and-soda. He drank it off in three gulps, and
cracked the glass as he set it down.
'Pardon,' he said, 'I'm a bit rattled tonight. You see, I happen at
this moment to be dead.'
I sat down in an armchair and lit my pipe.
'What does it feel like?' I asked. I was pretty certain that I had to
deal with a madman.
A smile flickered over his drawn face. 'I'm not mad--yet. Say, Sir,
I've been watching you, and I reckon you're a cool customer. I reckon,
too, you're an honest man, and not afraid of playing a bold hand. I'm
going to confide in you. I need help worse than any man ever needed
it, and I want to know if I can count you in.'
'Get on with your yarn,' I said, 'and I'll tell you.'
He seemed to brace himself for a great effort, and then started on the
queerest rigmarole. I didn't get hold of it at first, and I had to
stop and ask him questions. But here is the gist of it:
He was an American, from Kentucky, and after college, being pretty well
off, he had started out to see the world. He wrote a bit, and acted as
war correspondent for a Chicago paper, and spent a year or two in
South-Eastern Europe. I gathered that he was a fine linguist, and had
got to know pretty well the society in those parts. He spoke
familiarly of many names that I remembered to have seen in the
He had played about with politics, he told me, at first for the
interest of them, and then because he couldn't help himself. I read
him as a sharp, restless fellow, who always wanted to get down to the
roots of things. He got a little further down than he wanted.
I am giving you what he told me as well as I could make it out. Away
behind all the Governments and the armies there was a big subterranean
movement going on, engineered by very dangerous people. He had come on
it by accident; it fascinated him; he went further, and then he got
caught. I gathered that most of the people in it were the sort of
educated anarchists that make revolutions, but that beside them there
were financiers who were playing for money. A clever man can make big
profits on a falling market, and it suited the book of both classes to
set Europe by the ears.
He told me some queer things that explained a lot that had puzzled
me--things that happened in the Balkan War, how one state suddenly came
out on top, why alliances were made and broken, why certain men
disappeared, and where the sinews of war came from. The aim of the
whole conspiracy was to get Russia and Germany at loggerheads.
When I asked why, he said that the anarchist lot thought it would give
them their chance. Everything would be in the melting-pot, and they
looked to see a new world emerge. The capitalists would rake in the
shekels, and make fortunes by buying up wreckage. Capital, he said,
had no conscience and no fatherland. Besides, the Jew was behind it,
and the Jew hated Russia worse than hell.
'Do you wonder?' he cried. 'For three hundred years they have been
persecuted, and this is the return match for the pogroms. The Jew is
everywhere, but you have to go far down the backstairs to find him.
Take any big Teutonic business concern. If you have dealings with it
the first man you meet is Prince von und Zu Something, an elegant young
man who talks Eton-and-Harrow English. But he cuts no ice. If your
business is big, you get behind him and find a prognathous Westphalian
with a retreating brow and the manners of a hog. He is the German
business man that gives your English papers the shakes. But if you're
on the biggest kind of job and are bound to get to the real boss, ten
to one you are brought up against a little white-faced Jew in a
bath-chair with an eye like a rattlesnake. Yes, Sir, he is the man who
is ruling the world just now, and he has his knife in the Empire of the
Tzar, because his aunt was outraged and his father flogged in some
one-horse location on the Volga.'
I could not help saying that his Jew-anarchists seemed to have got left
behind a little.
'Yes and no,' he said. 'They won up to a point, but they struck a
bigger thing than money, a thing that couldn't be bought, the old
elemental fighting instincts of man. If you're going to be killed you
invent some kind of flag and country to fight for, and if you survive
you get to love the thing. Those foolish devils of soldiers have found
something they care for, and that has upset the pretty plan laid in
Berlin and Vienna. But my friends haven't played their last card by a
long sight. They've gotten the ace up their sleeves, and unless I can
keep alive for a month they are going to play it and win.'
'But I thought you were dead,' I put in.
'MORS JANUA VITAE,' he smiled. (I recognized the quotation: it was
about all the Latin I knew.) 'I'm coming to that, but I've got to put
you wise about a lot of things first. If you read your newspaper, I
guess you know the name of Constantine Karolides?'
I sat up at that, for I had been reading about him that very afternoon.
'He is the man that has wrecked all their games. He is the one big
brain in the whole show, and he happens also to be an honest man.
Therefore he has been marked down these twelve months past. I found
that out--not that it was difficult, for any fool could guess as much.
But I found out the way they were going to get him, and that knowledge
was deadly. That's why I have had to decease.'
He had another drink, and I mixed it for him myself, for I was getting
interested in the beggar.
'They can't get him in his own land, for he has a bodyguard of Epirotes
that would skin their grandmothers. But on the 15th day of June he is
coming to this city. The British Foreign Office has taken to having
International tea-parties, and the biggest of them is due on that date.
Now Karolides is reckoned the principal guest, and if my friends have
their way he will never return to his admiring countrymen.'
'That's simple enough, anyhow,' I said. 'You can warn him and keep him
'And play their game?' he asked sharply. 'If he does not come they
win, for he's the only man that can straighten out the tangle. And if
his Government are warned he won't come, for he does not know how big
the stakes will be on June the 15th.'
'What about the British Government?' I said. 'They're not going to let
their guests be murdered. Tip them the wink, and they'll take extra
'No good. They might stuff your city with plain-clothes detectives and
double the police and Constantine would still be a doomed man. My
friends are not playing this game for candy. They want a big occasion
for the taking off, with the eyes of all Europe on it. He'll be
murdered by an Austrian, and there'll be plenty of evidence to show the
connivance of the big folk in Vienna and Berlin. It will all be an
infernal lie, of course, but the case will look black enough to the
world. I'm not talking hot air, my friend. I happen to know every
detail of the hellish contrivance, and I can tell you it will be the
most finished piece of blackguardism since the Borgias. But it's not
going to come off if there's a certain man who knows the wheels of the
business alive right here in London on the 15th day of June. And that
man is going to be your servant, Franklin P. Scudder.'
I was getting to like the little chap. His jaw had shut like a
rat-trap, and there was the fire of battle in his gimlety eyes. If he
was spinning me a yarn he could act up to it.
'Where did you find out this story?' I asked.
'I got the first hint in an inn on the Achensee in Tyrol. That set me
inquiring, and I collected my other clues in a fur-shop in the Galician
quarter of Buda, in a Strangers' Club in Vienna, and in a little
bookshop off the Racknitzstrasse in Leipsic. I completed my evidence
ten days ago in Paris. I can't tell you the details now, for it's
something of a history. When I was quite sure in my own mind I judged
it my business to disappear, and I reached this city by a mighty queer
circuit. I left Paris a dandified young French-American, and I sailed
from Hamburg a Jew diamond merchant. In Norway I was an English
student of Ibsen collecting materials for lectures, but when I left
Bergen I was a cinema-man with special ski films. And I came here from
Leith with a lot of pulp-wood propositions in my pocket to put before
the London newspapers. Till yesterday I thought I had muddied my trail
some, and was feeling pretty happy. Then ...'
The recollection seemed to upset him, and he gulped down some more
'Then I saw a man standing in the street outside this block. I used to
stay close in my room all day, and only slip out after dark for an hour
or two. I watched him for a bit from my window, and I thought I
recognized him ... He came in and spoke to the porter ... When I came
back from my walk last night I found a card in my letter-box. It bore
the name of the man I want least to meet on God's earth.'
I think that the look in my companion's eyes, the sheer naked scare on
his face, completed my conviction of his honesty. My own voice
sharpened a bit as I asked him what he did next.
'I realized that I was bottled as sure as a pickled herring, and that
there was only one way out. I had to die. If my pursuers knew I was
dead they would go to sleep again.'
'How did you manage it?'
'I told the man that valets me that I was feeling pretty bad, and I got
myself up to look like death. That wasn't difficult, for I'm no slouch
at disguises. Then I got a corpse--you can always get a body in London
if you know where to go for it. I fetched it back in a trunk on the
top of a four-wheeler, and I had to be assisted upstairs to my room.
You see I had to pile up some evidence for the inquest. I went to bed
and got my man to mix me a sleeping-draught, and then told him to clear
out. He wanted to fetch a doctor, but I swore some and said I couldn't
abide leeches. When I was left alone I started in to fake up that
corpse. He was my size, and I judged had perished from too much
alcohol, so I put some spirits handy about the place. The jaw was the
weak point in the likeness, so I blew it away with a revolver. I
daresay there will be somebody tomorrow to swear to having heard a
shot, but there are no neighbours on my floor, and I guessed I could
risk it. So I left the body in bed dressed up in my pyjamas, with a
revolver lying on the bed-clothes and a considerable mess around. Then
I got into a suit of clothes I had kept waiting for emergencies. I
didn't dare to shave for fear of leaving tracks, and besides, it wasn't
any kind of use my trying to get into the streets. I had had you in my
mind all day, and there seemed nothing to do but to make an appeal to
you. I watched from my window till I saw you come home, and then
slipped down the stair to meet you ... There, Sir, I guess you know
about as much as me of this business.'
He sat blinking like an owl, fluttering with nerves and yet desperately
determined. By this time I was pretty well convinced that he was going
straight with me. It was the wildest sort of narrative, but I had
heard in my time many steep tales which had turned out to be true, and
I had made a practice of judging the man rather than the story. If he
had wanted to get a location in my flat, and then cut my throat, he
would have pitched a milder yarn.
'Hand me your key,' I said, 'and I'll take a look at the corpse.
Excuse my caution, but I'm bound to verify a bit if I can.'
He shook his head mournfully. 'I reckoned you'd ask for that, but I
haven't got it. It's on my chain on the dressing-table. I had to
leave it behind, for I couldn't leave any clues to breed suspicions.
The gentry who are after me are pretty bright-eyed citizens. You'll
have to take me on trust for the night, and tomorrow you'll get proof
of the corpse business right enough.'
I thought for an instant or two. 'Right. I'll trust you for the
night. I'll lock you into this room and keep the key. Just one word,
Mr Scudder. I believe you're straight, but if so be you are not I
should warn you that I'm a handy man with a gun.'
'Sure,' he said, jumping up with some briskness. 'I haven't the
privilege of your name, Sir, but let me tell you that you're a white
man. I'll thank you to lend me a razor.'
I took him into my bedroom and turned him loose. In half an hour's
time a figure came out that I scarcely recognized. Only his gimlety,
hungry eyes were the same. He was shaved clean, his hair was parted in
the middle, and he had cut his eyebrows. Further, he carried himself
as if he had been drilled, and was the very model, even to the brown
complexion, of some British officer who had had a long spell in India.
He had a monocle, too, which he stuck in his eye, and every trace of
the American had gone out of his speech.
'My hat! Mr Scudder--' I stammered.
'Not Mr Scudder,' he corrected; 'Captain Theophilus Digby, of the 40th
Gurkhas, presently home on leave. I'll thank you to remember that,
I made him up a bed in my smoking-room and sought my own couch, more
cheerful than I had been for the past month. Things did happen
occasionally, even in this God-forgotten metropolis.
I woke next morning to hear my man, Paddock, making the deuce of a row
at the smoking-room door. Paddock was a fellow I had done a good turn
to out on the Selakwe, and I had inspanned him as my servant as soon as
I got to England. He had about as much gift of the gab as a
hippopotamus, and was not a great hand at valeting, but I knew I could
count on his loyalty.
'Stop that row, Paddock,' I said. 'There's a friend of mine,
Captain--Captain' (I couldn't remember the name) 'dossing down in
there. Get breakfast for two and then come and speak to me.'
I told Paddock a fine story about how my friend was a great swell, with
his nerves pretty bad from overwork, who wanted absolute rest and
stillness. Nobody had got to know he was here, or he would be besieged
by communications from the India Office and the Prime Minister and his
cure would be ruined. I am bound to say Scudder played up splendidly
when he came to breakfast. He fixed Paddock with his eyeglass, just
like a British officer, asked him about the Boer War, and slung out at
me a lot of stuff about imaginary pals. Paddock couldn't learn to call
me 'Sir', but he 'sirred' Scudder as if his life depended on it.
I left him with the newspaper and a box of cigars, and went down to the
City till luncheon. When I got back the lift-man had an important face.
'Nawsty business 'ere this morning, Sir. Gent in No. 15 been and shot
'isself. They've just took 'im to the mortiary. The police are up
I ascended to No. 15, and found a couple of bobbies and an inspector
busy making an examination. I asked a few idiotic questions, and they
soon kicked me out. Then I found the man that had valeted Scudder, and
pumped him, but I could see he suspected nothing. He was a whining
fellow with a churchyard face, and half-a-crown went far to console him.
I attended the inquest next day. A partner of some publishing firm
gave evidence that the deceased had brought him wood-pulp propositions,
and had been, he believed, an agent of an American business. The jury
found it a case of suicide while of unsound mind, and the few effects
were handed over to the American Consul to deal with. I gave Scudder a
full account of the affair, and it interested him greatly. He said he
wished he could have attended the inquest, for he reckoned it would be
about as spicy as to read one's own obituary notice.
The first two days he stayed with me in that back room he was very
peaceful. He read and smoked a bit, and made a heap of jottings in a
note-book, and every night we had a game of chess, at which he beat me
hollow. I think he was nursing his nerves back to health, for he had
had a pretty trying time. But on the third day I could see he was
beginning to get restless. He fixed up a list of the days till June
15th, and ticked each off with a red pencil, making remarks in
shorthand against them. I would find him sunk in a brown study, with
his sharp eyes abstracted, and after those spells of meditation he was
apt to be very despondent.
Then I could see that he began to get edgy again. He listened for
little noises, and was always asking me if Paddock could be trusted.
Once or twice he got very peevish, and apologized for it. I didn't
blame him. I made every allowance, for he had taken on a fairly stiff
It was not the safety of his own skin that troubled him, but the
success of the scheme he had planned. That little man was clean grit
all through, without a soft spot in him. One night he was very solemn.
'Say, Hannay,' he said, 'I judge I should let you a bit deeper into
this business. I should hate to go out without leaving somebody else
to put up a fight.' And he began to tell me in detail what I had only
heard from him vaguely.
I did not give him very close attention. The fact is, I was more
interested in his own adventures than in his high politics. I reckoned
that Karolides and his affairs were not my business, leaving all that
to him. So a lot that he said slipped clean out of my memory. I
remember that he was very clear that the danger to Karolides would not
begin till he had got to London, and would come from the very highest
quarters, where there would be no thought of suspicion. He mentioned
the name of a woman--Julia Czechenyi--as having something to do with
the danger. She would be the decoy, I gathered, to get Karolides out
of the care of his guards. He talked, too, about a Black Stone and a
man that lisped in his speech, and he described very particularly
somebody that he never referred to without a shudder--an old man with a
young voice who could hood his eyes like a hawk.
He spoke a good deal about death, too. He was mortally anxious about
winning through with his job, but he didn't care a rush for his life.
'I reckon it's like going to sleep when you are pretty well tired out,
and waking to find a summer day with the scent of hay coming in at the
window. I used to thank God for such mornings way back in the
Blue-Grass country, and I guess I'll thank Him when I wake up on the
other side of Jordan.'
Next day he was much more cheerful, and read the life of Stonewall
Jackson much of the time. I went out to dinner with a mining engineer
I had got to see on business, and came back about half-past ten in time
for our game of chess before turning in.
I had a cigar in my mouth, I remember, as I pushed open the
smoking-room door. The lights were not lit, which struck me as odd. I
wondered if Scudder had turned in already.
I snapped the switch, but there was nobody there. Then I saw something
in the far corner which made me drop my cigar and fall into a cold
My guest was lying sprawled on his back. There was a long knife
through his heart which skewered him to the floor.
The Milkman Sets Out on his Travels
I sat down in an armchair and felt very sick. That lasted for maybe
five minutes, and was succeeded by a fit of the horrors. The poor
staring white face on the floor was more than I could bear, and I
managed to get a table-cloth and cover it. Then I staggered to a
cupboard, found the brandy and swallowed several mouthfuls. I had seen
men die violently before; indeed I had killed a few myself in the
Matabele War; but this cold-blooded indoor business was different.
Still I managed to pull myself together. I looked at my watch, and saw
that it was half-past ten.
An idea seized me, and I went over the flat with a small-tooth comb.
There was nobody there, nor any trace of anybody, but I shuttered and
bolted all the windows and put the chain on the door. By this time my
wits were coming back to me, and I could think again. It took me about
an hour to figure the thing out, and I did not hurry, for, unless the
murderer came back, I had till about six o'clock in the morning for my
I was in the soup--that was pretty clear. Any shadow of a doubt I
might have had about the truth of Scudder's tale was now gone. The
proof of it was lying under the table-cloth. The men who knew that he
knew what he knew had found him, and had taken the best way to make
certain of his silence. Yes; but he had been in my rooms four days,
and his enemies must have reckoned that he had confided in me. So I
would be the next to go. It might be that very night, or next day, or
the day after, but my number was up all right.
Then suddenly I thought of another probability. Supposing I went out
now and called in the police, or went to bed and let Paddock find the
body and call them in the morning. What kind of a story was I to tell
about Scudder? I had lied to Paddock about him, and the whole thing
looked desperately fishy. If I made a clean breast of it and told the
police everything he had told me, they would simply laugh at me. The
odds were a thousand to one that I would be charged with the murder,
and the circumstantial evidence was strong enough to hang me. Few
people knew me in England; I had no real pal who could come forward and
swear to my character. Perhaps that was what those secret enemies were
playing for. They were clever enough for anything, and an English
prison was as good a way of getting rid of me till after June 15th as a
knife in my chest.
Besides, if I told the whole story, and by any miracle was believed, I
would be playing their game. Karolides would stay at home, which was
what they wanted. Somehow or other the sight of Scudder's dead face
had made me a passionate believer in his scheme. He was gone, but he
had taken me into his confidence, and I was pretty well bound to carry
on his work.
You may think this ridiculous for a man in danger of his life, but that
was the way I looked at it. I am an ordinary sort of fellow, not
braver than other people, but I hate to see a good man downed, and that
long knife would not be the end of Scudder if I could play the game in
It took me an hour or two to think this out, and by that time I had
come to a decision. I must vanish somehow, and keep vanished till the
end of the second week in June. Then I must somehow find a way to get
in touch with the Government people and tell them what Scudder had told
me. I wished to Heaven he had told me more, and that I had listened
more carefully to the little he had told me. I knew nothing but the
barest facts. There was a big risk that, even if I weathered the other
dangers, I would not be believed in the end. I must take my chance of
that, and hope that something might happen which would confirm my tale
in the eyes of the Government.
My first job was to keep going for the next three weeks. It was now
the 24th day of May, and that meant twenty days of hiding before I
could venture to approach the powers that be. I reckoned that two sets
of people would be looking for me--Scudder's enemies to put me out of
existence, and the police, who would want me for Scudder's murder. It
was going to be a giddy hunt, and it was queer how the prospect
comforted me. I had been slack so long that almost any chance of
activity was welcome. When I had to sit alone with that corpse and
wait on Fortune I was no better than a crushed worm, but if my neck's
safety was to hang on my own wits I was prepared to be cheerful about
My next thought was whether Scudder had any papers about him to give me
a better clue to the business. I drew back the table-cloth and
searched his pockets, for I had no longer any shrinking from the body.
The face was wonderfully calm for a man who had been struck down in a
moment. There was nothing in the breast-pocket, and only a few loose
coins and a cigar-holder in the waistcoat. The trousers held a little
penknife and some silver, and the side pocket of his jacket contained
an old crocodile-skin cigar-case. There was no sign of the little
black book in which I had seen him making notes. That had no doubt
been taken by his murderer.
But as I looked up from my task I saw that some drawers had been pulled
out in the writing-table. Scudder would never have left them in that
state, for he was the tidiest of mortals. Someone must have been
searching for something--perhaps for the pocket-book.
I went round the flat and found that everything had been ransacked--the
inside of books, drawers, cupboards, boxes, even the pockets of the
clothes in my wardrobe, and the sideboard in the dining-room. There
was no trace of the book. Most likely the enemy had found it, but they
had not found it on Scudder's body.
Then I got out an atlas and looked at a big map of the British Isles.
My notion was to get off to some wild district, where my veldcraft
would be of some use to me, for I would be like a trapped rat in a
city. I considered that Scotland would be best, for my people were
Scotch and I could pass anywhere as an ordinary Scotsman. I had half
an idea at first to be a German tourist, for my father had had German
partners, and I had been brought up to speak the tongue pretty
fluently, not to mention having put in three years prospecting for
copper in German Damaraland. But I calculated that it would be less
conspicuous to be a Scot, and less in a line with what the police might
know of my past. I fixed on Galloway as the best place to go. It was
the nearest wild part of Scotland, so far as I could figure it out, and
from the look of the map was not over thick with population.
A search in Bradshaw informed me that a train left St Pancras at 7.10,
which would land me at any Galloway station in the late afternoon.
That was well enough, but a more important matter was how I was to make
my way to St Pancras, for I was pretty certain that Scudder's friends
would be watching outside. This puzzled me for a bit; then I had an
inspiration, on which I went to bed and slept for two troubled hours.
I got up at four and opened my bedroom shutters. The faint light of a
fine summer morning was flooding the skies, and the sparrows had begun
to chatter. I had a great revulsion of feeling, and felt a
God-forgotten fool. My inclination was to let things slide, and trust
to the British police taking a reasonable view of my case. But as I
reviewed the situation I could find no arguments to bring against my
decision of the previous night, so with a wry mouth I resolved to go on
with my plan. I was not feeling in any particular funk; only
disinclined to go looking for trouble, if you understand me.
I hunted out a well-used tweed suit, a pair of strong nailed boots, and
a flannel shirt with a collar. Into my pockets I stuffed a spare
shirt, a cloth cap, some handkerchiefs, and a tooth-brush. I had drawn
a good sum in gold from the bank two days before, in case Scudder
should want money, and I took fifty pounds of it in sovereigns in a
belt which I had brought back from Rhodesia. That was about all I
wanted. Then I had a bath, and cut my moustache, which was long and
drooping, into a short stubbly fringe.
Now came the next step. Paddock used to arrive punctually at 7.30 and
let himself in with a latch-key. But about twenty minutes to seven, as
I knew from bitter experience, the milkman turned up with a great
clatter of cans, and deposited my share outside my door. I had seen
that milkman sometimes when I had gone out for an early ride. He was a
young man about my own height, with an ill-nourished moustache, and he
wore a white overall. On him I staked all my chances.
I went into the darkened smoking-room where the rays of morning light
were beginning to creep through the shutters. There I breakfasted off
a whisky-and-soda and some biscuits from the cupboard. By this time it
was getting on for six o'clock. I put a pipe in my pocket and filled
my pouch from the tobacco jar on the table by the fireplace.
As I poked into the tobacco my fingers touched something hard, and I
drew out Scudder's little black pocket-book ...
That seemed to me a good omen. I lifted the cloth from the body and
was amazed at the peace and dignity of the dead face. 'Goodbye, old
chap,' I said; 'I am going to do my best for you. Wish me well,
wherever you are.'
Then I hung about in the hall waiting for the milkman. That was the
worst part of the business, for I was fairly choking to get out of
doors. Six-thirty passed, then six-forty, but still he did not come.
The fool had chosen this day of all days to be late.
At one minute after the quarter to seven I heard the rattle of the cans
outside. I opened the front door, and there was my man, singling out
my cans from a bunch he carried and whistling through his teeth. He
jumped a bit at the sight of me.
'Come in here a moment,' I said. 'I want a word with you.' And I led
him into the dining-room.
'I reckon you're a bit of a sportsman,' I said, 'and I want you to do
me a service. Lend me your cap and overall for ten minutes, and here's
a sovereign for you.'
His eyes opened at the sight of the gold, and he grinned broadly.
'Wot's the gyme?'he asked.
'A bet,' I said. 'I haven't time to explain, but to win it I've got to
be a milkman for the next ten minutes. All you've got to do is to stay
here till I come back. You'll be a bit late, but nobody will complain,
and you'll have that quid for yourself.'
'Right-o!' he said cheerily. 'I ain't the man to spoil a bit of sport.
'Ere's the rig, guv'nor.'
I stuck on his flat blue hat and his white overall, picked up the cans,
banged my door, and went whistling downstairs. The porter at the foot
told me to shut my jaw, which sounded as if my make-up was adequate.
At first I thought there was nobody in the street. Then I caught sight
of a policeman a hundred yards down, and a loafer shuffling past on the
other side. Some impulse made me raise my eyes to the house opposite,
and there at a first-floor window was a face. As the loafer passed he
looked up, and I fancied a signal was exchanged.
I crossed the street, whistling gaily and imitating the jaunty swing of
the milkman. Then I took the first side street, and went up a
left-hand turning which led past a bit of vacant ground. There was no
one in the little street, so I dropped the milk-cans inside the
hoarding and sent the cap and overall after them. I had only just put
on my cloth cap when a postman came round the corner. I gave him good
morning and he answered me unsuspiciously. At the moment the clock of
a neighbouring church struck the hour of seven.
There was not a second to spare. As soon as I got to Euston Road I
took to my heels and ran. The clock at Euston Station showed five
minutes past the hour. At St Pancras I had no time to take a ticket,
let alone that I had not settled upon my destination. A porter told me
the platform, and as I entered it I saw the train already in motion.
Two station officials blocked the way, but I dodged them and clambered
into the last carriage.
Three minutes later, as we were roaring through the northern tunnels,
an irate guard interviewed me. He wrote out for me a ticket to
Newton-Stewart, a name which had suddenly come back to my memory, and
he conducted me from the first-class compartment where I had ensconced
myself to a third-class smoker, occupied by a sailor and a stout woman
with a child. He went off grumbling, and as I mopped my brow I
observed to my companions in my broadest Scots that it was a sore job
catching trains. I had already entered upon my part.
'The impidence o' that gyaird!' said the lady bitterly. 'He needit a
Scotch tongue to pit him in his place. He was complainin' o' this wean
no haein' a ticket and her no fower till August twalmonth, and he was
objectin' to this gentleman spittin'.'
The sailor morosely agreed, and I started my new life in an atmosphere
of protest against authority. I reminded myself that a week ago I had
been finding the world dull.
The Adventure of the Literary Innkeeper
I had a solemn time travelling north that day. It was fine May
weather, with the hawthorn flowering on every hedge, and I asked myself
why, when I was still a free man, I had stayed on in London and not got
the good of this heavenly country. I didn't dare face the restaurant
car, but I got a luncheon-basket at Leeds and shared it with the fat
woman. Also I got the morning's papers, with news about starters for
the Derby and the beginning of the cricket season, and some paragraphs
about how Balkan affairs were settling down and a British squadron was
going to Kiel.
When I had done with them I got out Scudder's little black pocket-book
and studied it. It was pretty well filled with jottings, chiefly
figures, though now and then a name was printed in. For example, I
found the words 'Hofgaard', 'Luneville', and 'Avocado' pretty often,
and especially the word 'Pavia'.
Now I was certain that Scudder never did anything without a reason, and
I was pretty sure that there was a cypher in all this. That is a
subject which has always interested me, and I did a bit at it myself
once as intelligence officer at Delagoa Bay during the Boer War. I
have a head for things like chess and puzzles, and I used to reckon
myself pretty good at finding out cyphers. This one looked like the
numerical kind where sets of figures correspond to the letters of the
alphabet, but any fairly shrewd man can find the clue to that sort
after an hour or two's work, and I didn't think Scudder would have been
content with anything so easy. So I fastened on the printed words, for
you can make a pretty good numerical cypher if you have a key word
which gives you the sequence of the letters.
I tried for hours, but none of the words answered. Then I fell asleep
and woke at Dumfries just in time to bundle out and get into the slow
Galloway train. There was a man on the platform whose looks I didn't
like, but he never glanced at me, and when I caught sight of myself in
the mirror of an automatic machine I didn't wonder. With my brown
face, my old tweeds, and my slouch, I was the very model of one of the
hill farmers who were crowding into the third-class carriages.
I travelled with half a dozen in an atmosphere of shag and clay pipes.
They had come from the weekly market, and their mouths were full of
prices. I heard accounts of how the lambing had gone up the Cairn and
the Deuch and a dozen other mysterious waters. Above half the men had
lunched heavily and were highly flavoured with whisky, but they took no
notice of me. We rumbled slowly into a land of little wooded glens and
then to a great wide moorland place, gleaming with lochs, with high
blue hills showing northwards.
About five o'clock the carriage had emptied, and I was left alone as I
had hoped. I got out at the next station, a little place whose name I
scarcely noted, set right in the heart of a bog. It reminded me of one
of those forgotten little stations in the Karroo. An old
station-master was digging in his garden, and with his spade over his
shoulder sauntered to the train, took charge of a parcel, and went back
to his potatoes. A child of ten received my ticket, and I emerged on a
white road that straggled over the brown moor.
It was a gorgeous spring evening, with every hill showing as clear as a
cut amethyst. The air had the queer, rooty smell of bogs, but it was
as fresh as mid-ocean, and it had the strangest effect on my spirits.
I actually felt light-hearted. I might have been a boy out for a
spring holiday tramp, instead of a man of thirty-seven very much wanted
by the police. I felt just as I used to feel when I was starting for a
big trek on a frosty morning on the high veld. If you believe me, I
swung along that road whistling. There was no plan of campaign in my
head, only just to go on and on in this blessed, honest-smelling hill
country, for every mile put me in better humour with myself.
In a roadside planting I cut a walking-stick of hazel, and presently
struck off the highway up a bypath which followed the glen of a
brawling stream. I reckoned that I was still far ahead of any pursuit,
and for that night might please myself. It was some hours since I had
tasted food, and I was getting very hungry when I came to a herd's
cottage set in a nook beside a waterfall. A brown-faced woman was
standing by the door, and greeted me with the kindly shyness of
moorland places. When I asked for a night's lodging she said I was
welcome to the 'bed in the loft', and very soon she set before me a
hearty meal of ham and eggs, scones, and thick sweet milk.
At the darkening her man came in from the hills, a lean giant, who in
one step covered as much ground as three paces of ordinary mortals.
They asked me no questions, for they had the perfect breeding of all
dwellers in the wilds, but I could see they set me down as a kind of
dealer, and I took some trouble to confirm their view. I spoke a lot
about cattle, of which my host knew little, and I picked up from him a
good deal about the local Galloway markets, which I tucked away in my
memory for future use. At ten I was nodding in my chair, and the 'bed
in the loft' received a weary man who never opened his eyes till five
o'clock set the little homestead a-going once more.
They refused any payment, and by six I had breakfasted and was striding
southwards again. My notion was to return to the railway line a
station or two farther on than the place where I had alighted yesterday
and to double back. I reckoned that that was the safest way, for the
police would naturally assume that I was always making farther from
London in the direction of some western port. I thought I had still a
good bit of a start, for, as I reasoned, it would take some hours to
fix the blame on me, and several more to identify the fellow who got on
board the train at St Pancras.
It was the same jolly, clear spring weather, and I simply could not
contrive to feel careworn. Indeed I was in better spirits than I had
been for months. Over a long ridge of moorland I took my road,
skirting the side of a high hill which the herd had called Cairnsmore
of Fleet. Nesting curlews and plovers were crying everywhere, and the
links of green pasture by the streams were dotted with young lambs.
All the slackness of the past months was slipping from my bones, and I
stepped out like a four-year-old. By-and-by I came to a swell of
moorland which dipped to the vale of a little river, and a mile away in
the heather I saw the smoke of a train.
The station, when I reached it, proved to be ideal for my purpose. The
moor surged up around it and left room only for the single line, the
slender siding, a waiting-room, an office, the station-master's
cottage, and a tiny yard of gooseberries and sweet-william. There
seemed no road to it from anywhere, and to increase the desolation the
waves of a tarn lapped on their grey granite beach half a mile away. I
waited in the deep heather till I saw the smoke of an east-going train
on the horizon. Then I approached the tiny booking-office and took a
ticket for Dumfries.
The only occupants of the carriage were an old shepherd and his dog--a
wall-eyed brute that I mistrusted. The man was asleep, and on the
cushions beside him was that morning's SCOTSMAN. Eagerly I seized on
it, for I fancied it would tell me something.
There were two columns about the Portland Place Murder, as it was
called. My man Paddock had given the alarm and had the milkman
arrested. Poor devil, it looked as if the latter had earned his
sovereign hardly; but for me he had been cheap at the price, for he
seemed to have occupied the police for the better part of the day. In
the latest news I found a further instalment of the story. The milkman
had been released, I read, and the true criminal, about whose identity
the police were reticent, was believed to have got away from London by
one of the northern lines. There was a short note about me as the
owner of the flat. I guessed the police had stuck that in, as a clumsy
contrivance to persuade me that I was unsuspected.
There was nothing else in the paper, nothing about foreign politics or
Karolides, or the things that had interested Scudder. I laid it down,
and found that we were approaching the station at which I had got out
yesterday. The potato-digging station-master had been gingered up into
some activity, for the west-going train was waiting to let us pass, and
from it had descended three men who were asking him questions. I
supposed that they were the local police, who had been stirred up by
Scotland Yard, and had traced me as far as this one-horse siding.
Sitting well back in the shadow I watched them carefully. One of them
had a book, and took down notes. The old potato-digger seemed to have
turned peevish, but the child who had collected my ticket was talking
volubly. All the party looked out across the moor where the white road
departed. I hoped they were going to take up my tracks there.
As we moved away from that station my companion woke up. He fixed me
with a wandering glance, kicked his dog viciously, and inquired where
he was. Clearly he was very drunk.
'That's what comes o' bein' a teetotaller,' he observed in bitter
I expressed my surprise that in him I should have met a blue-ribbon
'Ay, but I'm a strong teetotaller,' he said pugnaciously. 'I took the
pledge last Martinmas, and I havena touched a drop o' whisky sinsyne.
Not even at Hogmanay, though I was sair temptit.'
He swung his heels up on the seat, and burrowed a frowsy head into the
'And that's a' I get,' he moaned. 'A heid better than hell fire, and
twae een lookin' different ways for the Sabbath.'
'What did it?' I asked.
'A drink they ca' brandy. Bein' a teetotaller I keepit off the whisky,
but I was nip-nippin' a' day at this brandy, and I doubt I'll no be
weel for a fortnicht.' His voice died away into a splutter, and sleep
once more laid its heavy hand on him.
My plan had been to get out at some station down the line, but the
train suddenly gave me a better chance, for it came to a standstill at
the end of a culvert which spanned a brawling porter-coloured river. I
looked out and saw that every carriage window was closed and no human
figure appeared in the landscape. So I opened the door, and dropped
quickly into the tangle of hazels which edged the line.
It would have been all right but for that infernal dog. Under the
impression that I was decamping with its master's belongings, it
started to bark, and all but got me by the trousers. This woke up the
herd, who stood bawling at the carriage door in the belief that I had
committed suicide. I crawled through the thicket, reached the edge of
the stream, and in cover of the bushes put a hundred yards or so behind
me. Then from my shelter I peered back, and saw the guard and several
passengers gathered round the open carriage door and staring in my
direction. I could not have made a more public departure if I had left
with a bugler and a brass band.
Happily the drunken herd provided a diversion. He and his dog, which
was attached by a rope to his waist, suddenly cascaded out of the
carriage, landed on their heads on the track, and rolled some way down
the bank towards the water. In the rescue which followed the dog bit
somebody, for I could hear the sound of hard swearing. Presently they
had forgotten me, and when after a quarter of a mile's crawl I ventured
to look back, the train had started again and was vanishing in the
I was in a wide semicircle of moorland, with the brown river as radius,
and the high hills forming the northern circumference. There was not a
sign or sound of a human being, only the plashing water and the
interminable crying of curlews. Yet, oddly enough, for the first time
I felt the terror of the hunted on me. It was not the police that I
thought of, but the other folk, who knew that I knew Scudder's secret
and dared not let me live. I was certain that they would pursue me
with a keenness and vigilance unknown to the British law, and that once
their grip closed on me I should find no mercy.
I looked back, but there was nothing in the landscape. The sun glinted
on the metals of the line and the wet stones in the stream, and you
could not have found a more peaceful sight in the world. Nevertheless
I started to run. Crouching low in the runnels of the bog, I ran till
the sweat blinded my eyes. The mood did not leave me till I had
reached the rim of mountain and flung myself panting on a ridge high
above the young waters of the brown river.
From my vantage-ground I could scan the whole moor right away to the
railway line and to the south of it where green fields took the place
of heather. I have eyes like a hawk, but I could see nothing moving in
the whole countryside. Then I looked east beyond the ridge and saw a
new kind of landscape--shallow green valleys with plentiful fir
plantations and the faint lines of dust which spoke of highroads. Last
of all I looked into the blue May sky, and there I saw that which set
my pulses racing ...
Low down in the south a monoplane was climbing into the heavens. I was
as certain as if I had been told that that aeroplane was looking for
me, and that it did not belong to the police. For an hour or two I
watched it from a pit of heather. It flew low along the hill-tops, and
then in narrow circles over the valley up which I had come. Then it
seemed to change its mind, rose to a great height, and flew away back
to the south.
I did not like this espionage from the air, and I began to think less
well of the countryside I had chosen for a refuge. These heather hills
were no sort of cover if my enemies were in the sky, and I must find a
different kind of sanctuary. I looked with more satisfaction to the
green country beyond the ridge, for there I should find woods and stone
About six in the evening I came out of the moorland to a white ribbon
of road which wound up the narrow vale of a lowland stream. As I
followed it, fields gave place to bent, the glen became a plateau, and
presently I had reached a kind of pass where a solitary house smoked in
the twilight. The road swung over a bridge, and leaning on the parapet
was a young man.
He was smoking a long clay pipe and studying the water with spectacled
eyes. In his left hand was a small book with a finger marking the
place. Slowly he repeated--
As when a Gryphon through the wilderness
With winged step, o'er hill and moory dale
Pursues the Arimaspian.
He jumped round as my step rung on the keystone, and I saw a pleasant
sunburnt boyish face.
'Good evening to you,' he said gravely. 'It's a fine night for the
The smell of peat smoke and of some savoury roast floated to me from
'Is that place an inn?' I asked.
'At your service,' he said politely. 'I am the landlord, Sir, and I
hope you will stay the night, for to tell you the truth I have had no
company for a week.'
I pulled myself up on the parapet of the bridge and filled my pipe. I
began to detect an ally.
'You're young to be an innkeeper,' I said.
'My father died a year ago and left me the business. I live there with
my grandmother. It's a slow job for a young man, and it wasn't my
choice of profession.'
He actually blushed. 'I want to write books,' he said.
'And what better chance could you ask?' I cried. 'Man, I've often
thought that an innkeeper would make the best story-teller in the
'Not now,' he said eagerly. 'Maybe in the old days when you had
pilgrims and ballad-makers and highwaymen and mail-coaches on the road.
But not now. Nothing comes here but motor-cars full of fat women, who
stop for lunch, and a fisherman or two in the spring, and the shooting
tenants in August. There is not much material to be got out of that.
I want to see life, to travel the world, and write things like Kipling
and Conrad. But the most I've done yet is to get some verses printed
in CHAMBERS'S JOURNAL.' I looked at the inn standing golden in the
sunset against the brown hills.
'I've knocked a bit about the world, and I wouldn't despise such a
hermitage. D'you think that adventure is found only in the tropics or
among gentry in red shirts? Maybe you're rubbing shoulders with it at
'That's what Kipling says,' he said, his eyes brightening, and he
quoted some verse about 'Romance bringing up the 9.15'.
'Here's a true tale for you then,' I cried, 'and a month from now you
can make a novel out of it.'
Sitting on the bridge in the soft May gloaming I pitched him a lovely
yarn. It was true in essentials, too, though I altered the minor
details. I made out that I was a mining magnate from Kimberley, who
had had a lot of trouble with I.D.B. and had shown up a gang. They
had pursued me across the ocean, and had killed my best friend, and
were now on my tracks.
I told the story well, though I say it who shouldn't. I pictured a
flight across the Kalahari to German Africa, the crackling, parching
days, the wonderful blue-velvet nights. I described an attack on my
life on the voyage home, and I made a really horrid affair of the
Portland Place murder. 'You're looking for adventure,' I cried; 'well,
you've found it here. The devils are after me, and the police are
after them. It's a race that I mean to win.'
'By God!' he whispered, drawing his breath in sharply, 'it is all pure
Rider Haggard and Conan Doyle.'
'You believe me,' I said gratefully.
'Of course I do,' and he held out his hand. 'I believe everything out
of the common. The only thing to distrust is the normal.'
He was very young, but he was the man for my money.
'I think they're off my track for the moment, but I must lie close for
a couple of days. Can you take me in?'
He caught my elbow in his eagerness and drew me towards the house.
'You can lie as snug here as if you were in a moss-hole. I'll see that
nobody blabs, either. And you'll give me some more material about your
As I entered the inn porch I heard from far off the beat of an engine.
There silhouetted against the dusky West was my friend, the monoplane.
He gave me a room at the back of the house, with a fine outlook over
the plateau, and he made me free of his own study, which was stacked
with cheap editions of his favourite authors. I never saw the
grandmother, so I guessed she was bedridden. An old woman called
Margit brought me my meals, and the innkeeper was around me at all
hours. I wanted some time to myself, so I invented a job for him. He
had a motor-bicycle, and I sent him off next morning for the daily
paper, which usually arrived with the post in the late afternoon. I
told him to keep his eyes skinned, and make note of any strange figures
he saw, keeping a special sharp look-out for motors and aeroplanes.
Then I sat down in real earnest to Scudder's note-book.
He came back at midday with the SCOTSMAN. There was nothing in it,
except some further evidence of Paddock and the milkman, and a
repetition of yesterday's statement that the murderer had gone North.
But there was a long article, reprinted from THE TIMES, about Karolides
and the state of affairs in the Balkans, though there was no mention of
any visit to England. I got rid of the innkeeper for the afternoon,
for I was getting very warm in my search for the cypher.
As I told you, it was a numerical cypher, and by an elaborate system of
experiments I had pretty well discovered what were the nulls and stops.
The trouble was the key word, and when I thought of the odd million
words he might have used I felt pretty hopeless. But about three
o'clock I had a sudden inspiration.
The name Julia Czechenyi flashed across my memory. Scudder had said it
was the key to the Karolides business, and it occurred to me to try it
on his cypher.
It worked. The five letters of 'Julia' gave me the position of the
vowels. A was J, the tenth letter of the alphabet, and so represented
by X in the cypher. E was XXI, and so on. 'Czechenyi' gave me the
numerals for the principal consonants. I scribbled that scheme on a
bit of paper and sat down to read Scudder's pages.
In half an hour I was reading with a whitish face and fingers that
drummed on the table.
I glanced out of the window and saw a big touring-car coming up the
glen towards the inn. It drew up at the door, and there was the sound
of people alighting. There seemed to be two of them, men in
aquascutums and tweed caps.
Ten minutes later the innkeeper slipped into the room, his eyes bright
'There's two chaps below looking for you,' he whispered. 'They're in
the dining-room having whiskies-and-sodas. They asked about you and
said they had hoped to meet you here. Oh! and they described you jolly
well, down to your boots and shirt. I told them you had been here last
night and had gone off on a motor bicycle this morning, and one of the
chaps swore like a navvy.'
I made him tell me what they looked like. One was a dark-eyed thin
fellow with bushy eyebrows, the other was always smiling and lisped in
his talk. Neither was any kind of foreigner; on this my young friend
I took a bit of paper and wrote these words in German as if they were
part of a letter--
... 'Black Stone. Scudder had got on to this, but he could not
act for a fortnight. I doubt if I can do any good now, especially
as Karolides is uncertain about his plans. But if Mr T. advises
I will do the best I ...'
I manufactured it rather neatly, so that it looked like a loose page of
a private letter.
'Take this down and say it was found in my bedroom, and ask them to
return it to me if they overtake me.'
Three minutes later I heard the car begin to move, and peeping from
behind the curtain caught sight of the two figures. One was slim, the
other was sleek; that was the most I could make of my reconnaissance.
The innkeeper appeared in great excitement. 'Your paper woke them up,'
he said gleefully. 'The dark fellow went as white as death and cursed
like blazes, and the fat one whistled and looked ugly. They paid for
their drinks with half-a-sovereign and wouldn't wait for change.'
'Now I'll tell you what I want you to do,' I said. 'Get on your
bicycle and go off to Newton-Stewart to the Chief Constable. Describe
the two men, and say you suspect them of having had something to do
with the London murder. You can invent reasons. The two will come
back, never fear. Not tonight, for they'll follow me forty miles along
the road, but first thing tomorrow morning. Tell the police to be here
bright and early.'
He set off like a docile child, while I worked at Scudder's notes.
When he came back we dined together, and in common decency I had to let
him pump me. I gave him a lot of stuff about lion hunts and the
Matabele War, thinking all the while what tame businesses these were
compared to this I was now engaged in! When he went to bed I sat up
and finished Scudder. I smoked in a chair till daylight, for I could
About eight next morning I witnessed the arrival of two constables and
a sergeant. They put their car in a coach-house under the innkeeper's
instructions, and entered the house. Twenty minutes later I saw from
my window a second car come across the plateau from the opposite
direction. It did not come up to the inn, but stopped two hundred
yards off in the shelter of a patch of wood. I noticed that its
occupants carefully reversed it before leaving it. A minute or two
later I heard their steps on the gravel outside the window.
My plan had been to lie hid in my bedroom, and see what happened. I
had a notion that, if I could bring the police and my other more
dangerous pursuers together, something might work out of it to my
advantage. But now I had a better idea. I scribbled a line of thanks
to my host, opened the window, and dropped quietly into a gooseberry
bush. Unobserved I crossed the dyke, crawled down the side of a
tributary burn, and won the highroad on the far side of the patch of
trees. There stood the car, very spick and span in the morning
sunlight, but with the dust on her which told of a long journey. I
started her, jumped into the chauffeur's seat, and stole gently out on
to the plateau.
Almost at once the road dipped so that I lost sight of the inn, but the
wind seemed to bring me the sound of angry voices.
The Adventure of the Radical Candidate
You may picture me driving that 40 h.p. car for all she was worth over
the crisp moor roads on that shining May morning; glancing back at
first over my shoulder, and looking anxiously to the next turning; then
driving with a vague eye, just wide enough awake to keep on the
highway. For I was thinking desperately of what I had found in
The little man had told me a pack of lies. All his yarns about the
Balkans and the Jew-Anarchists and the Foreign Office Conference were
eyewash, and so was Karolides. And yet not quite, as you shall hear.
I had staked everything on my belief in his story, and had been let
down; here was his book telling me a different tale, and instead of
being once-bitten-twice-shy, I believed it absolutely.
Why, I don't know. It rang desperately true, and the first yarn, if
you understand me, had been in a queer way true also in spirit. The
fifteenth day of June was going to be a day of destiny, a bigger
destiny than the killing of a Dago. It was so big that I didn't blame
Scudder for keeping me out of the game and wanting to play a lone hand.
That, I was pretty clear, was his intention. He had told me something
which sounded big enough, but the real thing was so immortally big that
he, the man who had found it out, wanted it all for himself. I didn't
blame him. It was risks after all that he was chiefly greedy about.
The whole story was in the notes--with gaps, you understand, which he
would have filled up from his memory. He stuck down his authorities,
too, and had an odd trick of giving them all a numerical value and then
striking a balance, which stood for the reliability of each stage in
the yarn. The four names he had printed were authorities, and there
was a man, Ducrosne, who got five out of a possible five; and another
fellow, Ammersfoort, who got three. The bare bones of the tale were
all that was in the book--these, and one queer phrase which occurred
half a dozen times inside brackets. '(Thirty-nine steps)' was the
phrase; and at its last time of use it ran--'(Thirty-nine steps, I
counted them--high tide 10.17 p.m.)'. I could make nothing of that.
The first thing I learned was that it was no question of preventing a
war. That was coming, as sure as Christmas: had been arranged, said
Scudder, ever since February 1912. Karolides was going to be the
occasion. He was booked all right, and was to hand in his checks on
June 14th, two weeks and four days from that May morning. I gathered
from Scudder's notes that nothing on earth could prevent that. His
talk of Epirote guards that would skin their own grandmothers was all
The second thing was that this war was going to come as a mighty
surprise to Britain. Karolides' death would set the Balkans by the
ears, and then Vienna would chip in with an ultimatum. Russia wouldn't
like that, and there would be high words. But Berlin would play the
peacemaker, and pour oil on the waters, till suddenly she would find a
good cause for a quarrel, pick it up, and in five hours let fly at us.
That was the idea, and a pretty good one too. Honey and fair speeches,
and then a stroke in the dark. While we were talking about the
goodwill and good intentions of Germany our coast would be silently
ringed with mines, and submarines would be waiting for every battleship.
But all this depended upon the third thing, which was due to happen on
June 15th. I would never have grasped this if I hadn't once happened
to meet a French staff officer, coming back from West Africa, who had
told me a lot of things. One was that, in spite of all the nonsense
talked in Parliament, there was a real working alliance between France
and Britain, and that the two General Staffs met every now and then,
and made plans for joint action in case of war. Well, in June a very
great swell was coming over from Paris, and he was going to get nothing
less than a statement of the disposition of the British Home Fleet on
mobilization. At least I gathered it was something like that; anyhow,
it was something uncommonly important.
But on the 15th day of June there were to be others in London--others,
at whom I could only guess. Scudder was content to call them
collectively the 'Black Stone'. They represented not our Allies, but
our deadly foes; and the information, destined for France, was to be
diverted to their pockets. And it was to be used, remember--used a
week or two later, with great guns and swift torpedoes, suddenly in the
darkness of a summer night.
This was the story I had been deciphering in a back room of a country
inn, overlooking a cabbage garden. This was the story that hummed in
my brain as I swung in the big touring-car from glen to glen.
My first impulse had been to write a letter to the Prime Minister, but
a little reflection convinced me that that would be useless. Who would
believe my tale? I must show a sign, some token in proof, and Heaven
knew what that could be. Above all, I must keep going myself, ready to
act when things got riper, and that was going to be no light job with
the police of the British Isles in full cry after me and the watchers
of the Black Stone running silently and swiftly on my trail.
I had no very clear purpose in my journey, but I steered east by the
sun, for I remembered from the map that if I went north I would come
into a region of coalpits and industrial towns. Presently I was down
from the moorlands and traversing the broad haugh of a river. For
miles I ran alongside a park wall, and in a break of the trees I saw a
great castle. I swung through little old thatched villages, and over
peaceful lowland streams, and past gardens blazing with hawthorn and
yellow laburnum. The land was so deep in peace that I could scarcely
believe that somewhere behind me were those who sought my life; ay, and
that in a month's time, unless I had the almightiest of luck, these
round country faces would be pinched and staring, and men would be
lying dead in English fields.
About mid-day I entered a long straggling village, and had a mind to
stop and eat. Half-way down was the Post Office, and on the steps of
it stood the postmistress and a policeman hard at work conning a
telegram. When they saw me they wakened up, and the policeman advanced
with raised hand, and cried on me to stop.
I nearly was fool enough to obey. Then it flashed upon me that the
wire had to do with me; that my friends at the inn had come to an
understanding, and were united in desiring to see more of me, and that
it had been easy enough for them to wire the description of me and the
car to thirty villages through which I might pass. I released the
brakes just in time. As it was, the policeman made a claw at the hood,
and only dropped off when he got my left in his eye.
I saw that main roads were no place for me, and turned into the byways.
It wasn't an easy job without a map, for there was the risk of getting
on to a farm road and ending in a duck-pond or a stable-yard, and I
couldn't afford that kind of delay. I began to see what an ass I had
been to steal the car. The big green brute would be the safest kind of
clue to me over the breadth of Scotland. If I left it and took to my
feet, it would be discovered in an hour or two and I would get no start
in the race.
The immediate thing to do was to get to the loneliest roads. These I
soon found when I struck up a tributary of the big river, and got into
a glen with steep hills all about me, and a corkscrew road at the end
which climbed over a pass. Here I met nobody, but it was taking me too
far north, so I slewed east along a bad track and finally struck a big
double-line railway. Away below me I saw another broadish valley, and
it occurred to me that if I crossed it I might find some remote inn to
pass the night. The evening was now drawing in, and I was furiously
hungry, for I had eaten nothing since breakfast except a couple of buns
I had bought from a baker's cart. Just then I heard a noise in the
sky, and lo and behold there was that infernal aeroplane, flying low,
about a dozen miles to the south and rapidly coming towards me.
I had the sense to remember that on a bare moor I was at the
aeroplane's mercy, and that my only chance was to get to the leafy
cover of the valley. Down the hill I went like blue lightning,
screwing my head round, whenever I dared, to watch that damned flying
machine. Soon I was on a road between hedges, and dipping to the
deep-cut glen of a stream. Then came a bit of thick wood where I
Suddenly on my left I heard the hoot of another car, and realized to my
horror that I was almost up on a couple of gate-posts through which a
private road debouched on the highway. My horn gave an agonized roar,
but it was too late. I clapped on my brakes, but my impetus was too
great, and there before me a car was sliding athwart my course. In a
second there would have been the deuce of a wreck. I did the only
thing possible, and ran slap into the hedge on the right, trusting to
find something soft beyond.
But there I was mistaken. My car slithered through the hedge like
butter, and then gave a sickening plunge forward. I saw what was
coming, leapt on the seat and would have jumped out. But a branch of
hawthorn got me in the chest, lifted me up and held me, while a ton or
two of expensive metal slipped below me, bucked and pitched, and then
dropped with an almighty smash fifty feet to the bed of the stream.
Slowly that thorn let me go. I subsided first on the hedge, and then
very gently on a bower of nettles. As I scrambled to my feet a hand
took me by the arm, and a sympathetic and badly scared voice asked me
if I were hurt.
I found myself looking at a tall young man in goggles and a leather
ulster, who kept on blessing his soul and whinnying apologies. For
myself, once I got my wind back, I was rather glad than otherwise.
This was one way of getting rid of the car.
'My blame, Sir,' I answered him. 'It's lucky that I did not add
homicide to my follies. That's the end of my Scotch motor tour, but it
might have been the end of my life.'
He plucked out a watch and studied it. 'You're the right sort of
fellow,' he said. 'I can spare a quarter of an hour, and my house is
two minutes off. I'll see you clothed and fed and snug in bed.
Where's your kit, by the way? Is it in the burn along with the car?'
'It's in my pocket,' I said, brandishing a toothbrush. 'I'm a Colonial
and travel light.'
'A Colonial,' he cried. 'By Gad, you're the very man I've been praying
for. Are you by any blessed chance a Free Trader?'
'I am,' said I, without the foggiest notion of what he meant.
He patted my shoulder and hurried me into his car. Three minutes later
we drew up before a comfortable-looking shooting box set among
pine-trees, and he ushered me indoors. He took me first to a bedroom
and flung half a dozen of his suits before me, for my own had been
pretty well reduced to rags. I selected a loose blue serge, which
differed most conspicuously from my former garments, and borrowed a
linen collar. Then he haled me to the dining-room, where the remnants
of a meal stood on the table, and announced that I had just five
minutes to feed. 'You can take a snack in your pocket, and we'll have
supper when we get back. I've got to be at the Masonic Hall at eight
o'clock, or my agent will comb my hair.'
I had a cup of coffee and some cold ham, while he yarned away on the
'You find me in the deuce of a mess, Mr--by-the-by, you haven't told me
your name. Twisdon? Any relation of old Tommy Twisdon of the
Sixtieth? No? Well, you see I'm Liberal Candidate for this part of
the world, and I had a meeting on tonight at Brattleburn--that's my
chief town, and an infernal Tory stronghold. I had got the Colonial
ex-Premier fellow, Crumpleton, coming to speak for me tonight, and had
the thing tremendously billed and the whole place ground-baited. This
afternoon I had a wire from the ruffian saying he had got influenza at
Blackpool, and here am I left to do the whole thing myself. I had
meant to speak for ten minutes and must now go on for forty, and,
though I've been racking my brains for three hours to think of
something, I simply cannot last the course. Now you've got to be a
good chap and help me. You're a Free Trader and can tell our people
what a wash-out Protection is in the Colonies. All you fellows have
the gift of the gab--I wish to Heaven I had it. I'll be for evermore
in your debt.'
I had very few notions about Free Trade one way or the other, but I saw
no other chance to get what I wanted. My young gentleman was far too
absorbed in his own difficulties to think how odd it was to ask a
stranger who had just missed death by an ace and had lost a
1,000-guinea car to address a meeting for him on the spur of the
moment. But my necessities did not allow me to contemplate oddnesses
or to pick and choose my supports.
'All right,' I said. 'I'm not much good as a speaker, but I'll tell
them a bit about Australia.'
At my words the cares of the ages slipped from his shoulders, and he
was rapturous in his thanks. He lent me a big driving coat--and never
troubled to ask why I had started on a motor tour without possessing an
ulster--and, as we slipped down the dusty roads, poured into my ears
the simple facts of his history. He was an orphan, and his uncle had
brought him up--I've forgotten the uncle's name, but he was in the
Cabinet, and you can read his speeches in the papers. He had gone
round the world after leaving Cambridge, and then, being short of a
job, his uncle had advised politics. I gathered that he had no
preference in parties. 'Good chaps in both,' he said cheerfully, 'and
plenty of blighters, too. I'm Liberal, because my family have always
been Whigs.' But if he was lukewarm politically he had strong views on
other things. He found out I knew a bit about horses, and jawed away
about the Derby entries; and he was full of plans for improving his
shooting. Altogether, a very clean, decent, callow young man.
As we passed through a little town two policemen signalled us to stop,
and flashed their lanterns on us.
'Beg pardon, Sir Harry,' said one. 'We've got instructions to look out
for a car, and the description's no unlike yours.'
'Right-o,' said my host, while I thanked Providence for the devious
ways I had been brought to safety. After that he spoke no more, for
his mind began to labour heavily with his coming speech. His lips kept
muttering, his eye wandered, and I began to prepare myself for a second
catastrophe. I tried to think of something to say myself, but my mind
was dry as a stone. The next thing I knew we had drawn up outside a
door in a street, and were being welcomed by some noisy gentlemen with
rosettes. The hall had about five hundred in it, women mostly, a lot
of bald heads, and a dozen or two young men. The chairman, a weaselly
minister with a reddish nose, lamented Crumpleton's absence,
soliloquized on his influenza, and gave me a certificate as a 'trusted
leader of Australian thought'. There were two policemen at the door,
and I hoped they took note of that testimonial. Then Sir Harry started.
I never heard anything like it. He didn't begin to know how to talk.
He had about a bushel of notes from which he read, and when he let go
of them he fell into one prolonged stutter. Every now and then he
remembered a phrase he had learned by heart, straightened his back, and
gave it off like Henry Irving, and the next moment he was bent double
and crooning over his papers. It was the most appalling rot, too. He
talked about the 'German menace', and said it was all a Tory invention
to cheat the poor of their rights and keep back the great flood of
social reform, but that 'organized labour' realized this and laughed
the Tories to scorn. He was all for reducing our Navy as a proof of
our good faith, and then sending Germany an ultimatum telling her to do
the same or we would knock her into a cocked hat. He said that, but
for the Tories, Germany and Britain would be fellow-workers in peace
and reform. I thought of the little black book in my pocket! A giddy
lot Scudder's friends cared for peace and reform.
Yet in a queer way I liked the speech. You could see the niceness of
the chap shining out behind the muck with which he had been spoon-fed.
Also it took a load off my mind. I mightn't be much of an orator, but
I was a thousand per cent better than Sir Harry.
I didn't get on so badly when it came to my turn. I simply told them
all I could remember about Australia, praying there should be no
Australian there--all about its labour party and emigration and
universal service. I doubt if I remembered to mention Free Trade, but
I said there were no Tories in Australia, only Labour and Liberals.
That fetched a cheer, and I woke them up a bit when I started in to
tell them the kind of glorious business I thought could be made out of
the Empire if we really put our backs into it.
Altogether I fancy I was rather a success. The minister didn't like
me, though, and when he proposed a vote of thanks, spoke of Sir Harry's
speech as 'statesmanlike' and mine as having 'the eloquence of an
When we were in the car again my host was in wild spirits at having got
his job over. 'A ripping speech, Twisdon,' he said. 'Now, you're
coming home with me. I'm all alone, and if you'll stop a day or two
I'll show you some very decent fishing.'
We had a hot supper--and I wanted it pretty badly--and then drank grog
in a big cheery smoking-room with a crackling wood fire. I thought the
time had come for me to put my cards on the table. I saw by this man's
eye that he was the kind you can trust.
'Listen, Sir Harry,' I said. 'I've something pretty important to say
to you. You're a good fellow, and I'm going to be frank. Where on
earth did you get that poisonous rubbish you talked tonight?'
His face fell. 'Was it as bad as that?' he asked ruefully. 'It did
sound rather thin. I got most of it out of the PROGRESSIVE MAGAZINE
and pamphlets that agent chap of mine keeps sending me. But you surely
don't think Germany would ever go to war with us?'
'Ask that question in six weeks and it won't need an answer,' I said.
'If you'll give me your attention for half an hour I am going to tell
you a story.'
I can see yet that bright room with the deers' heads and the old prints
on the walls, Sir Harry standing restlessly on the stone curb of the
hearth, and myself lying back in an armchair, speaking. I seemed to be
another person, standing aside and listening to my own voice, and
judging carefully the reliability of my tale. It was the first time I
had ever told anyone the exact truth, so far as I understood it, and it
did me no end of good, for it straightened out the thing in my own
mind. I blinked no detail. He heard all about Scudder, and the
milkman, and the note-book, and my doings in Galloway. Presently he
got very excited and walked up and down the hearth-rug.
'So you see,' I concluded, 'you have got here in your house the man
that is wanted for the Portland Place murder. Your duty is to send
your car for the police and give me up. I don't think I'll get very
far. There'll be an accident, and I'll have a knife in my ribs an hour
or so after arrest. Nevertheless, it's your duty, as a law-abiding
citizen. Perhaps in a month's time you'll be sorry, but you have no
cause to think of that.'
He was looking at me with bright steady eyes. 'What was your job in
Rhodesia, Mr Hannay?' he asked.
'Mining engineer,' I said. 'I've made my pile cleanly and I've had a
good time in the making of it.'
'Not a profession that weakens the nerves, is it?'
I laughed. 'Oh, as to that, my nerves are good enough.' I took down a
hunting-knife from a stand on the wall, and did the old Mashona trick
of tossing it and catching it in my lips. That wants a pretty steady
He watched me with a smile. 'I don't want proof. I may be an ass on
the platform, but I can size up a man. You're no murderer and you're
no fool, and I believe you are speaking the truth. I'm going to back
you up. Now, what can I do?'
'First, I want you to write a letter to your uncle. I've got to get in
touch with the Government people sometime before the 15th of June.'
He pulled his moustache. 'That won't help you. This is Foreign Office
business, and my uncle would have nothing to do with it. Besides,
you'd never convince him. No, I'll go one better. I'll write to the
Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Office. He's my godfather, and one
of the best going. What do you want?'
He sat down at a table and wrote to my dictation. The gist of it was
that if a man called Twisdon (I thought I had better stick to that
name) turned up before June 15th he was to entreat him kindly. He said
Twisdon would prove his bona fides by passing the word 'Black Stone'
and whistling 'Annie Laurie'.
'Good,' said Sir Harry. 'That's the proper style. By the way, you'll
find my godfather--his name's Sir Walter Bullivant--down at his country
cottage for Whitsuntide. It's close to Artinswell on the Kenner.
That's done. Now, what's the next thing?'
'You're about my height. Lend me the oldest tweed suit you've got.
Anything will do, so long as the colour is the opposite of the clothes
I destroyed this afternoon. Then show me a map of the neighbourhood
and explain to me the lie of the land. Lastly, if the police come
seeking me, just show them the car in the glen. If the other lot turn
up, tell them I caught the south express after your meeting.'
He did, or promised to do, all these things. I shaved off the remnants
of my moustache, and got inside an ancient suit of what I believe is
called heather mixture. The map gave me some notion of my whereabouts,
and told me the two things I wanted to know--where the main railway to
the south could be joined and what were the wildest districts near at
hand. At two o'clock he wakened me from my slumbers in the
smoking-room armchair, and led me blinking into the dark starry night.
An old bicycle was found in a tool-shed and handed over to me.
'First turn to the right up by the long fir-wood,' he enjoined. 'By
daybreak you'll be well into the hills. Then I should pitch the
machine into a bog and take to the moors on foot. You can put in a
week among the shepherds, and be as safe as if you were in New Guinea.'
I pedalled diligently up steep roads of hill gravel till the skies grew
pale with morning. As the mists cleared before the sun, I found myself
in a wide green world with glens falling on every side and a far-away
blue horizon. Here, at any rate, I could get early news of my enemies.
The Adventure of the Spectacled Roadman
I sat down on the very crest of the pass and took stock of my position.
Behind me was the road climbing through a long cleft in the hills,
which was the upper glen of some notable river. In front was a flat
space of maybe a mile, all pitted with bog-holes and rough with
tussocks, and then beyond it the road fell steeply down another glen to
a plain whose blue dimness melted into the distance. To left and right
were round-shouldered green hills as smooth as pancakes, but to the
south--that is, the left hand--there was a glimpse of high heathery
mountains, which I remembered from the map as the big knot of hill
which I had chosen for my sanctuary. I was on the central boss of a
huge upland country, and could see everything moving for miles. In the
meadows below the road half a mile back a cottage smoked, but it was
the only sign of human life. Otherwise there was only the calling of
plovers and the tinkling of little streams.
It was now about seven o'clock, and as I waited I heard once again that
ominous beat in the air. Then I realized that my vantage-ground might
be in reality a trap. There was no cover for a tomtit in those bald
I sat quite still and hopeless while the beat grew louder. Then I saw
an aeroplane coming up from the east. It was flying high, but as I
looked it dropped several hundred feet and began to circle round the
knot of hill in narrowing circles, just as a hawk wheels before it
pounces. Now it was flying very low, and now the observer on board
caught sight of me. I could see one of the two occupants examining me
Suddenly it began to rise in swift whorls, and the next I knew it was
speeding eastward again till it became a speck in the blue morning.
That made me do some savage thinking. My enemies had located me, and
the next thing would be a cordon round me. I didn't know what force
they could command, but I was certain it would be sufficient. The
aeroplane had seen my bicycle, and would conclude that I would try to
escape by the road. In that case there might be a chance on the moors
to the right or left. I wheeled the machine a hundred yards from the
highway, and plunged it into a moss-hole, where it sank among pond-weed
and water-buttercups. Then I climbed to a knoll which gave me a view
of the two valleys. Nothing was stirring on the long white ribbon that
I have said there was not cover in the whole place to hide a rat. As
the day advanced it was flooded with soft fresh light till it had the
fragrant sunniness of the South African veld. At other times I would
have liked the place, but now it seemed to suffocate me. The free
moorlands were prison walls, and the keen hill air was the breath of a
I tossed a coin--heads right, tails left--and it fell heads, so I
turned to the north. In a little I came to the brow of the ridge which
was the containing wall of the pass. I saw the highroad for maybe ten
miles, and far down it something that was moving, and that I took to be
a motor-car. Beyond the ridge I looked on a rolling green moor, which
fell away into wooded glens.
Now my life on the veld has given me the eyes of a kite, and I can see
things for which most men need a telescope ... Away down the slope, a
couple of miles away, several men were advancing, like a row of
beaters at a shoot ...
I dropped out of sight behind the sky-line. That way was shut to me,
and I must try the bigger hills to the south beyond the highway. The
car I had noticed was getting nearer, but it was still a long way off
with some very steep gradients before it. I ran hard, crouching low
except in the hollows, and as I ran I kept scanning the brow of the
hill before me. Was it imagination, or did I see figures--one, two,
perhaps more--moving in a glen beyond the stream?
If you are hemmed in on all sides in a patch of land there is only one
chance of escape. You must stay in the patch, and let your enemies
search it and not find you. That was good sense, but how on earth was
I to escape notice in that table-cloth of a place? I would have buried
myself to the neck in mud or lain below water or climbed the tallest
tree. But there was not a stick of wood, the bog-holes were little
puddles, the stream was a slender trickle. There was nothing but short
heather, and bare hill bent, and the white highway.
Then in a tiny bight of road, beside a heap of stones, I found the
He had just arrived, and was wearily flinging down his hammer. He
looked at me with a fishy eye and yawned.
'Confoond the day I ever left the herdin'!' he said, as if to the world
at large. 'There I was my ain maister. Now I'm a slave to the
Goavernment, tethered to the roadside, wi' sair een, and a back like a
He took up the hammer, struck a stone, dropped the implement with an
oath, and put both hands to his ears. 'Mercy on me! My heid's
burstin'!' he cried.
He was a wild figure, about my own size but much bent, with a week's
beard on his chin, and a pair of big horn spectacles.
'I canna dae't,' he cried again. 'The Surveyor maun just report me.
I'm for my bed.'
I asked him what was the trouble, though indeed that was clear enough.
'The trouble is that I'm no sober. Last nicht my dochter Merran was
waddit, and they danced till fower in the byre. Me and some ither
chiels sat down to the drinkin', and here I am. Peety that I ever
lookit on the wine when it was red!'
I agreed with him about bed. 'It's easy speakin',' he moaned. 'But I
got a postcard yestreen sayin' that the new Road Surveyor would be
round the day. He'll come and he'll no find me, or else he'll find me
fou, and either way I'm a done man. I'll awa' back to my bed and say
I'm no weel, but I doot that'll no help me, for they ken my kind o'
Then I had an inspiration. 'Does the new Surveyor know you?' I asked.
'No him. He's just been a week at the job. He rins about in a wee
motor-cawr, and wad speir the inside oot o' a whelk.'
'Where's your house?' I asked, and was directed by a wavering finger to
the cottage by the stream.
'Well, back to your bed,' I said, 'and sleep in peace. I'll take on
your job for a bit and see the Surveyor.'
He stared at me blankly; then, as the notion dawned on his fuddled
brain, his face broke into the vacant drunkard's smile.
'You're the billy,' he cried. 'It'll be easy eneuch managed. I've
finished that bing o' stanes, so you needna chap ony mair this
forenoon. Just take the barry, and wheel eneuch metal frae yon quarry
doon the road to mak anither bing the morn. My name's Alexander
Turnbull, and I've been seeven year at the trade, and twenty afore that
herdin' on Leithen Water. My freens ca' me Ecky, and whiles Specky,
for I wear glesses, being waik i' the sicht. Just you speak the
Surveyor fair, and ca' him Sir, and he'll be fell pleased. I'll be
back or mid-day.'
I borrowed his spectacles and filthy old hat; stripped off coat,
waistcoat, and collar, and gave him them to carry home; borrowed, too,
the foul stump of a clay pipe as an extra property. He indicated my
simple tasks, and without more ado set off at an amble bedwards. Bed
may have been his chief object, but I think there was also something
left in the foot of a bottle. I prayed that he might be safe under
cover before my friends arrived on the scene.
Then I set to work to dress for the part. I opened the collar of my
shirt--it was a vulgar blue-and-white check such as ploughmen wear--and
revealed a neck as brown as any tinker's. I rolled up my sleeves, and
there was a forearm which might have been a blacksmith's, sunburnt and
rough with old scars. I got my boots and trouser-legs all white from
the dust of the road, and hitched up my trousers, tying them with
string below the knee. Then I set to work on my face. With a handful
of dust I made a water-mark round my neck, the place where Mr
Turnbull's Sunday ablutions might be expected to stop. I rubbed a good
deal of dirt also into the sunburn of my cheeks. A roadman's eyes
would no doubt be a little inflamed, so I contrived to get some dust in
both of mine, and by dint of vigorous rubbing produced a bleary effect.
The sandwiches Sir Harry had given me had gone off with my coat, but
the roadman's lunch, tied up in a red handkerchief, was at my disposal.
I ate with great relish several of the thick slabs of scone and cheese
and drank a little of the cold tea. In the handkerchief was a local
paper tied with string and addressed to Mr Turnbull--obviously meant to
solace his mid-day leisure. I did up the bundle again, and put the
paper conspicuously beside it.
My boots did not satisfy me, but by dint of kicking among the stones I
reduced them to the granite-like surface which marks a roadman's
foot-gear. Then I bit and scraped my finger-nails till the edges were
all cracked and uneven. The men I was matched against would miss no
detail. I broke one of the bootlaces and retied it in a clumsy knot,
and loosed the other so that my thick grey socks bulged over the
uppers. Still no sign of anything on the road. The motor I had
observed half an hour ago must have gone home.
My toilet complete, I took up the barrow and began my journeys to and
from the quarry a hundred yards off.
I remember an old scout in Rhodesia, who had done many queer things in
his day, once telling me that the secret of playing a part was to think
yourself into it. You could never keep it up, he said, unless you
could manage to convince yourself that you were it. So I shut off all
other thoughts and switched them on to the road-mending. I thought of
the little white cottage as my home, I recalled the years I had spent
herding on Leithen Water, I made my mind dwell lovingly on sleep in a
box-bed and a bottle of cheap whisky. Still nothing appeared on that
long white road.
Now and then a sheep wandered off the heather to stare at me. A heron
flopped down to a pool in the stream and started to fish, taking no
more notice of me than if I had been a milestone. On I went, trundling
my loads of stone, with the heavy step of the professional. Soon I
grew warm, and the dust on my face changed into solid and abiding grit.
I was already counting the hours till evening should put a limit to Mr
Turnbull's monotonous toil. Suddenly a crisp voice spoke from the
road, and looking up I saw a little Ford two-seater, and a round-faced
young man in a bowler hat.
'Are you Alexander Turnbull?' he asked. 'I am the new County Road
Surveyor. You live at Blackhopefoot, and have charge of the section
from Laidlawbyres to the Riggs? Good! A fair bit of road, Turnbull,
and not badly engineered. A little soft about a mile off, and the
edges want cleaning. See you look after that. Good morning. You'll
know me the next time you see me.'
Clearly my get-up was good enough for the dreaded Surveyor. I went on
with my work, and as the morning grew towards noon I was cheered by a
little traffic. A baker's van breasted the hill, and sold me a bag of
ginger biscuits which I stowed in my trouser-pockets against
emergencies. Then a herd passed with sheep, and disturbed me somewhat
by asking loudly, 'What had become o' Specky?'
'In bed wi' the colic,' I replied, and the herd passed on ... just
about mid-day a big car stole down the hill, glided past and drew up a
hundred yards beyond. Its three occupants descended as if to stretch
their legs, and sauntered towards me.
Two of the men I had seen before from the window of the Galloway
inn--one lean, sharp, and dark, the other comfortable and smiling. The
third had the look of a countryman--a vet, perhaps, or a small farmer.
He was dressed in ill-cut knickerbockers, and the eye in his head was
as bright and wary as a hen's.
'Morning,' said the last. 'That's a fine easy job o' yours.'
I had not looked up on their approach, and now, when accosted, I slowly
and painfully straightened my back, after the manner of roadmen; spat
vigorously, after the manner of the low Scot; and regarded them
steadily before replying. I confronted three pairs of eyes that missed
'There's waur jobs and there's better,' I said sententiously. 'I wad
rather hae yours, sittin' a' day on your hinderlands on thae cushions.
It's you and your muckle cawrs that wreck my roads! If we a' had oor
richts, ye sud be made to mend what ye break.'
The bright-eyed man was looking at the newspaper lying beside
'I see you get your papers in good time,' he said.
I glanced at it casually. 'Aye, in gude time. Seein' that that paper
cam' out last Setterday I'm just Sax days late.'
He picked it up, glanced at the superscription, and laid it down again.
One of the others had been looking at my boots, and a word in German
called the speaker's attention to them.
'You've a fine taste in boots,' he said. 'These were never made by a
'They were not,' I said readily. 'They were made in London. I got
them frae the gentleman that was here last year for the shootin'. What
was his name now?' And I scratched a forgetful head. Again the sleek
one spoke in German. 'Let us get on,' he said. 'This fellow is all
They asked one last question.
'Did you see anyone pass early this morning? He might be on a bicycle
or he might be on foot.'
I very nearly fell into the trap and told a story of a bicyclist
hurrying past in the grey dawn. But I had the sense to see my danger.
I pretended to consider very deeply.
'I wasna up very early,' I said. 'Ye see, my dochter was merrit last
nicht, and we keepit it up late. I opened the house door about seeven
and there was naebody on the road then. Since I cam' up here there has
just been the baker and the Ruchill herd, besides you gentlemen.'
One of them gave me a cigar, which I smelt gingerly and stuck in
Turnbull's bundle. They got into their car and were out of sight in
My heart leaped with an enormous relief, but I went on wheeling my
stones. It was as well, for ten minutes later the car returned, one of
the occupants waving a hand to me. Those gentry left nothing to chance.
I finished Turnbull's bread and cheese, and pretty soon I had finished
the stones. The next step was what puzzled me. I could not keep up
this roadmaking business for long. A merciful Providence had kept Mr
Turnbull indoors, but if he appeared on the scene there would be
trouble. I had a notion that the cordon was still tight round the
glen, and that if I walked in any direction I should meet with
questioners. But get out I must. No man's nerve could stand more than
a day of being spied on.
I stayed at my post till five o'clock. By that time I had resolved to
go down to Turnbull's cottage at nightfall and take my chance of
getting over the hills in the darkness. But suddenly a new car came up
the road, and slowed down a yard or two from me. A fresh wind had
risen, and the occupant wanted to light a cigarette. It was a touring
car, with the tonneau full of an assortment of baggage. One man sat in
it, and by an amazing chance I knew him. His name was Marmaduke
Jopley, and he was an offence to creation. He was a sort of blood
stockbroker, who did his business by toadying eldest sons and rich
young peers and foolish old ladies. 'Marmie' was a familiar figure, I
understood, at balls and polo-weeks and country houses. He was an
adroit scandal-monger, and would crawl a mile on his belly to anything
that had a title or a million. I had a business introduction to his
firm when I came to London, and he was good enough to ask me to dinner
at his club. There he showed off at a great rate, and pattered about
his duchesses till the snobbery of the creature turned me sick. I
asked a man afterwards why nobody kicked him, and was told that
Englishmen reverenced the weaker sex.
Anyhow there he was now, nattily dressed, in a fine new car, obviously
on his way to visit some of his smart friends. A sudden daftness took
me, and in a second I had jumped into the tonneau and had him by the
'Hullo, Jopley,' I sang out. 'Well met, my lad!' He got a horrid
fright. His chin dropped as he stared at me. 'Who the devil are YOU?'
'My name's Hannay,' I said. 'From Rhodesia, you remember.'
'Good God, the murderer!' he choked.
'Just so. And there'll be a second murder, my dear, if you don't do as
I tell you. Give me that coat of yours. That cap, too.'
He did as bid, for he was blind with terror. Over my dirty trousers
and vulgar shirt I put on his smart driving-coat, which buttoned high
at the top and thereby hid the deficiencies of my collar. I stuck the
cap on my head, and added his gloves to my get-up. The dusty roadman
in a minute was transformed into one of the neatest motorists in
Scotland. On Mr Jopley's head I clapped Turnbull's unspeakable hat,
and told him to keep it there.
Then with some difficulty I turned the car. My plan was to go back the
road he had come, for the watchers, having seen it before, would
probably let it pass unremarked, and Marmie's figure was in no way like
'Now, my child,' I said, 'sit quite still and be a good boy. I mean
you no harm. I'm only borrowing your car for an hour or two. But if
you play me any tricks, and above all if you open your mouth, as sure
as there's a God above me I'll wring your neck. SAVEZ?'
I enjoyed that evening's ride. We ran eight miles down the valley,
through a village or two, and I could not help noticing several
strange-looking folk lounging by the roadside. These were the watchers
who would have had much to say to me if I had come in other garb or
company. As it was, they looked incuriously on. One touched his cap
in salute, and I responded graciously.
As the dark fell I turned up a side glen which, as I remember from the
map, led into an unfrequented corner of the hills. Soon the villages
were left behind, then the farms, and then even the wayside cottage.
Presently we came to a lonely moor where the night was blackening the
sunset gleam in the bog pools. Here we stopped, and I obligingly
reversed the car and restored to Mr Jopley his belongings.
'A thousand thanks,' I said. 'There's more use in you than I thought.
Now be off and find the police.'
As I sat on the hillside, watching the tail-light dwindle, I reflected
on the various kinds of crime I had now sampled. Contrary to general
belief, I was not a murderer, but I had become an unholy liar, a
shameless impostor, and a highwayman with a marked taste for expensive
The Adventure of the Bald Archaeologist
I spent the night on a shelf of the hillside, in the lee of a boulder
where the heather grew long and soft. It was a cold business, for I
had neither coat nor waistcoat. These were in Mr Turnbull's keeping,
as was Scudder's little book, my watch and--worst of all--my pipe and
tobacco pouch. Only my money accompanied me in my belt, and about half
a pound of ginger biscuits in my trousers pocket.
I supped off half those biscuits, and by worming myself deep into the
heather got some kind of warmth. My spirits had risen, and I was
beginning to enjoy this crazy game of hide-and-seek. So far I had been
miraculously lucky. The milkman, the literary innkeeper, Sir Harry,
the roadman, and the idiotic Marmie, were all pieces of undeserved good
fortune. Somehow the first success gave me a feeling that I was going
to pull the thing through.
My chief trouble was that I was desperately hungry. When a Jew shoots
himself in the City and there is an inquest, the newspapers usually
report that the deceased was 'well-nourished'. I remember thinking
that they would not call me well-nourished if I broke my neck in a
bog-hole. I lay and tortured myself--for the ginger biscuits merely
emphasized the aching void--with the memory of all the good food I had
thought so little of in London. There were Paddock's crisp sausages
and fragrant shavings of bacon, and shapely poached eggs--how often I
had turned up my nose at them! There were the cutlets they did at the
club, and a particular ham that stood on the cold table, for which my
soul lusted. My thoughts hovered over all varieties of mortal edible,
and finally settled on a porterhouse steak and a quart of bitter with a
welsh rabbit to follow. In longing hopelessly for these dainties I
I woke very cold and stiff about an hour after dawn. It took me a
little while to remember where I was, for I had been very weary and had
slept heavily. I saw first the pale blue sky through a net of heather,
then a big shoulder of hill, and then my own boots placed neatly in a
blaeberry bush. I raised myself on my arms and looked down into the
valley, and that one look set me lacing up my boots in mad haste.
For there were men below, not more than a quarter of a mile off, spaced
out on the hillside like a fan, and beating the heather. Marmie had
not been slow in looking for his revenge.
I crawled out of my shelf into the cover of a boulder, and from it
gained a shallow trench which slanted up the mountain face. This led
me presently into the narrow gully of a burn, by way of which I
scrambled to the top of the ridge. From there I looked back, and saw
that I was still undiscovered. My pursuers were patiently quartering
the hillside and moving upwards.
Keeping behind the skyline I ran for maybe half a mile, till I judged I
was above the uppermost end of the glen. Then I showed myself, and was
instantly noted by one of the flankers, who passed the word to the
others. I heard cries coming up from below, and saw that the line of
search had changed its direction. I pretended to retreat over the
skyline, but instead went back the way I had come, and in twenty
minutes was behind the ridge overlooking my sleeping place. From that
viewpoint I had the satisfaction of seeing the pursuit streaming up the
hill at the top of the glen on a hopelessly false scent.
I had before me a choice of routes, and I chose a ridge which made an
angle with the one I was on, and so would soon put a deep glen between
me and my enemies. The exercise had warmed my blood, and I was
beginning to enjoy myself amazingly. As I went I breakfasted on the
dusty remnants of the ginger biscuits.
I knew very little about the country, and I hadn't a notion what I was
going to do. I trusted to the strength of my legs, but I was well
aware that those behind me would be familiar with the lie of the land,
and that my ignorance would be a heavy handicap. I saw in front of me
a sea of hills, rising very high towards the south, but northwards
breaking down into broad ridges which separated wide and shallow dales.
The ridge I had chosen seemed to sink after a mile or two to a moor
which lay like a pocket in the uplands. That seemed as good a
direction to take as any other.
My stratagem had given me a fair start--call it twenty minutes--and I
had the width of a glen behind me before I saw the first heads of the
pursuers. The police had evidently called in local talent to their
aid, and the men I could see had the appearance of herds or
gamekeepers. They hallooed at the sight of me, and I waved my hand.
Two dived into the glen and began to climb my ridge, while the others
kept their own side of the hill. I felt as if I were taking part in a
schoolboy game of hare and hounds.
But very soon it began to seem less of a game. Those fellows behind
were hefty men on their native heath. Looking back I saw that only
three were following direct, and I guessed that the others had fetched
a circuit to cut me off. My lack of local knowledge might very well be
my undoing, and I resolved to get out of this tangle of glens to the
pocket of moor I had seen from the tops. I must so increase my
distance as to get clear away from them, and I believed I could do this
if I could find the right ground for it. If there had been cover I
would have tried a bit of stalking, but on these bare slopes you could
see a fly a mile off. My hope must be in the length of my legs and the
soundness of my wind, but I needed easier ground for that, for I was
not bred a mountaineer. How I longed for a good Afrikander pony!
I put on a great spurt and got off my ridge and down into the moor
before any figures appeared on the skyline behind me. I crossed a
burn, and came out on a highroad which made a pass between two glens.
All in front of me was a big field of heather sloping up to a crest
which was crowned with an odd feather of trees. In the dyke by the
roadside was a gate, from which a grass-grown track led over the first
wave of the moor.
I jumped the dyke and followed it, and after a few hundred yards--as
soon as it was out of sight of the highway--the grass stopped and it
became a very respectable road, which was evidently kept with some
care. Clearly it ran to a house, and I began to think of doing the
same. Hitherto my luck had held, and it might be that my best chance
would be found in this remote dwelling. Anyhow there were trees there,
and that meant cover.
I did not follow the road, but the burnside which flanked it on the
right, where the bracken grew deep and the high banks made a tolerable
screen. It was well I did so, for no sooner had I gained the hollow
than, looking back, I saw the pursuit topping the ridge from which I
After that I did not look back; I had no time. I ran up the burnside,
crawling over the open places, and for a large part wading in the
shallow stream. I found a deserted cottage with a row of phantom
peat-stacks and an overgrown garden. Then I was among young hay, and
very soon had come to the edge of a plantation of wind-blown firs.
From there I saw the chimneys of the house smoking a few hundred yards
to my left. I forsook the burnside, crossed another dyke, and almost
before I knew was on a rough lawn. A glance back told me that I was
well out of sight of the pursuit, which had not yet passed the first
lift of the moor.
The lawn was a very rough place, cut with a scythe instead of a mower,
and planted with beds of scrubby rhododendrons. A brace of black-game,
which are not usually garden birds, rose at my approach. The house
before me was the ordinary moorland farm, with a more pretentious
whitewashed wing added. Attached to this wing was a glass veranda, and
through the glass I saw the face of an elderly gentleman meekly
I stalked over the border of coarse hill gravel and entered the open
veranda door. Within was a pleasant room, glass on one side, and on
the other a mass of books. More books showed in an inner room. On the
floor, instead of tables, stood cases such as you see in a museum,
filled with coins and queer stone implements.
There was a knee-hole desk in the middle, and seated at it, with some
papers and open volumes before him, was the benevolent old gentleman.
His face was round and shiny, like Mr Pickwick's, big glasses were
stuck on the end of his nose, and the top of his head was as bright and
bare as a glass bottle. He never moved when I entered, but raised his
placid eyebrows and waited on me to speak.
It was not an easy job, with about five minutes to spare, to tell a
stranger who I was and what I wanted, and to win his aid. I did not
attempt it. There was something about the eye of the man before me,
something so keen and knowledgeable, that I could not find a word. I
simply stared at him and stuttered.
'You seem in a hurry, my friend,' he said slowly.
I nodded towards the window. It gave a prospect across the moor
through a gap in the plantation, and revealed certain figures half a
mile off straggling through the heather.
'Ah, I see,' he said, and took up a pair of field-glasses through which
he patiently scrutinized the figures.
'A fugitive from justice, eh? Well, we'll go into the matter at our
leisure. Meantime I object to my privacy being broken in upon by the
clumsy rural policeman. Go into my study, and you will see two doors
facing you. Take the one on the left and close it behind you. You
will be perfectly safe.'
And this extraordinary man took up his pen again.
I did as I was bid, and found myself in a little dark chamber which
smelt of chemicals, and was lit only by a tiny window high up in the
wall. The door had swung behind me with a click like the door of a
safe. Once again I had found an unexpected sanctuary.
All the same I was not comfortable. There was something about the old
gentleman which puzzled and rather terrified me. He had been too easy
and ready, almost as if he had expected me. And his eyes had been
No sound came to me in that dark place. For all I knew the police
might be searching the house, and if they did they would want to know
what was behind this door. I tried to possess my soul in patience, and
to forget how hungry I was.
Then I took a more cheerful view. The old gentleman could scarcely
refuse me a meal, and I fell to reconstructing my breakfast. Bacon and
eggs would content me, but I wanted the better part of a flitch of
bacon and half a hundred eggs. And then, while my mouth was watering
in anticipation, there was a click and the door stood open.
I emerged into the sunlight to find the master of the house sitting in
a deep armchair in the room he called his study, and regarding me with
'Have they gone?' I asked.
'They have gone. I convinced them that you had crossed the hill. I do
not choose that the police should come between me and one whom I am
delighted to honour. This is a lucky morning for you, Mr Richard
As he spoke his eyelids seemed to tremble and to fall a little over his
keen grey eyes. In a flash the phrase of Scudder's came back to me,
when he had described the man he most dreaded in the world. He had
said that he 'could hood his eyes like a hawk'. Then I saw that I had
walked straight into the enemy's headquarters.
My first impulse was to throttle the old ruffian and make for the open
air. He seemed to anticipate my intention, for he smiled gently, and
nodded to the door behind me.
I turned, and saw two men-servants who had me covered with pistols.
He knew my name, but he had never seen me before. And as the
reflection darted across my mind I saw a slender chance.
'I don't know what you mean,' I said roughly. 'And who are you calling
Richard Hannay? My name's Ainslie.'
'So?' he said, still smiling. 'But of course you have others. We
won't quarrel about a name.'
I was pulling myself together now, and I reflected that my garb,
lacking coat and waistcoat and collar, would at any rate not betray me.
I put on my surliest face and shrugged my shoulders.
'I suppose you're going to give me up after all, and I call it a damned
dirty trick. My God, I wish I had never seen that cursed motor-car!
Here's the money and be damned to you,' and I flung four sovereigns on
He opened his eyes a little. 'Oh no, I shall not give you up. My
friends and I will have a little private settlement with you, that is
all. You know a little too much, Mr Hannay. You are a clever actor,
but not quite clever enough.'
He spoke with assurance, but I could see the dawning of a doubt in his
'Oh, for God's sake stop jawing,' I cried. 'Everything's against me.
I haven't had a bit of luck since I came on shore at Leith. What's the
harm in a poor devil with an empty stomach picking up some money he
finds in a bust-up motor-car? That's all I done, and for that I've
been chivvied for two days by those blasted bobbies over those blasted
hills. I tell you I'm fair sick of it. You can do what you like, old
boy! Ned Ainslie's got no fight left in him.'
I could see that the doubt was gaining.
'Will you oblige me with the story of your recent doings?' he asked.
'I can't, guv'nor,' I said in a real beggar's whine. 'I've not had
a bite to eat for two days. Give me a mouthful of food, and then
you'll hear God's truth.'
I must have showed my hunger in my face, for he signalled to one of the
men in the doorway. A bit of cold pie was brought and a glass of beer,
and I wolfed them down like a pig--or rather, like Ned Ainslie, for I
was keeping up my character. In the middle of my meal he spoke
suddenly to me in German, but I turned on him a face as blank as a
Then I told him my story--how I had come off an Archangel ship at Leith
a week ago, and was making my way overland to my brother at Wigtown. I
had run short of cash--I hinted vaguely at a spree--and I was pretty
well on my uppers when I had come on a hole in a hedge, and, looking
through, had seen a big motor-car lying in the burn. I had poked about
to see what had happened, and had found three sovereigns lying on the
seat and one on the floor. There was nobody there or any sign of an
owner, so I had pocketed the cash. But somehow the law had got after
me. When I had tried to change a sovereign in a baker's shop, the
woman had cried on the police, and a little later, when I was washing
my face in a burn, I had been nearly gripped, and had only got away by
leaving my coat and waistcoat behind me.
'They can have the money back,' I cried, 'for a fat lot of good it's
done me. Those perishers are all down on a poor man. Now, if it had
been you, guv'nor, that had found the quids, nobody would have troubled
'You're a good liar, Hannay,' he said.
I flew into a rage. 'Stop fooling, damn you! I tell you my name's
Ainslie, and I never heard of anyone called Hannay in my born days.
I'd sooner have the police than you with your Hannays and your
monkey-faced pistol tricks ... No, guv'nor, I beg pardon, I don't mean
that. I'm much obliged to you for the grub, and I'll thank you to let
me go now the coast's clear.'
It was obvious that he was badly puzzled. You see he had never seen
me, and my appearance must have altered considerably from my
photographs, if he had got one of them. I was pretty smart and well
dressed in London, and now I was a regular tramp.
'I do not propose to let you go. If you are what you say you are, you
will soon have a chance of clearing yourself. If you are what I
believe you are, I do not think you will see the light much longer.'
He rang a bell, and a third servant appeared from the veranda.
'I want the Lanchester in five minutes,' he said. 'There will be three
Then he looked steadily at me, and that was the hardest ordeal of all.
There was something weird and devilish in those eyes, cold, malignant,
unearthly, and most hellishly clever. They fascinated me like the
bright eyes of a snake. I had a strong impulse to throw myself on his
mercy and offer to join his side, and if you consider the way I felt
about the whole thing you will see that that impulse must have been
purely physical, the weakness of a brain mesmerized and mastered by a
stronger spirit. But I managed to stick it out and even to grin.
'You'll know me next time, guv'nor,' I said.
'Karl,' he spoke in German to one of the men in the doorway, 'you will
put this fellow in the storeroom till I return, and you will be
answerable to me for his keeping.'
I was marched out of the room with a pistol at each ear.
The storeroom was a damp chamber in what had been the old farmhouse.
There was no carpet on the uneven floor, and nothing to sit down on but
a school form. It was black as pitch, for the windows were heavily
shuttered. I made out by groping that the walls were lined with boxes
and barrels and sacks of some heavy stuff. The whole place smelt of
mould and disuse. My gaolers turned the key in the door, and I could
hear them shifting their feet as they stood on guard outside.
I sat down in that chilly darkness in a very miserable frame of mind.
The old boy had gone off in a motor to collect the two ruffians who had
interviewed me yesterday. Now, they had seen me as the roadman, and
they would remember me, for I was in the same rig. What was a roadman
doing twenty miles from his beat, pursued by the police? A question or
two would put them on the track. Probably they had seen Mr Turnbull,
probably Marmie too; most likely they could link me up with Sir Harry,
and then the whole thing would be crystal clear. What chance had I in
this moorland house with three desperadoes and their armed servants?
I began to think wistfully of the police, now plodding over the hills
after my wraith. They at any rate were fellow-countrymen and honest
men, and their tender mercies would be kinder than these ghoulish
aliens. But they wouldn't have listened to me. That old devil with
the eyelids had not taken long to get rid of them. I thought he
probably had some kind of graft with the constabulary. Most likely he
had letters from Cabinet Ministers saying he was to be given every
facility for plotting against Britain. That's the sort of owlish way
we run our politics in the Old Country.
The three would be back for lunch, so I hadn't more than a couple of
hours to wait. It was simply waiting on destruction, for I could see
no way out of this mess. I wished that I had Scudder's courage, for I
am free to confess I didn't feel any great fortitude. The only thing
that kept me going was that I was pretty furious. It made me boil with
rage to think of those three spies getting the pull on me like this. I
hoped that at any rate I might be able to twist one of their necks
before they downed me.
The more I thought of it the angrier I grew, and I had to get up and
move about the room. I tried the shutters, but they were the kind that
lock with a key, and I couldn't move them. From the outside came the
faint clucking of hens in the warm sun. Then I groped among the sacks
and boxes. I couldn't open the latter, and the sacks seemed to be full
of things like dog-biscuits that smelt of cinnamon. But, as I
circumnavigated the room, I found a handle in the wall which seemed
It was the door of a wall cupboard--what they call a 'press' in
Scotland--and it was locked. I shook it, and it seemed rather flimsy.
For want of something better to do I put out my strength on that door,
getting some purchase on the handle by looping my braces round it.
Presently the thing gave with a crash which I thought would bring in my
warders to inquire. I waited for a bit, and then started to explore
the cupboard shelves.
There was a multitude of queer things there. I found an odd vesta or
two in my trouser pockets and struck a light. It was out in a second,
but it showed me one thing. There was a little stock of electric
torches on one shelf. I picked up one, and found it was in working
With the torch to help me I investigated further. There were bottles
and cases of queer-smelling stuffs, chemicals no doubt for experiments,
and there were coils of fine copper wire and yanks and yanks of thin
oiled silk. There was a box of detonators, and a lot of cord for
fuses. Then away at the back of the shelf I found a stout brown
cardboard box, and inside it a wooden case. I managed to wrench it
open, and within lay half a dozen little grey bricks, each a couple of
I took up one, and found that it crumbled easily in my hand. Then I
smelt it and put my tongue to it. After that I sat down to think. I
hadn't been a mining engineer for nothing, and I knew lentonite when I
With one of these bricks I could blow the house to smithereens. I had
used the stuff in Rhodesia and knew its power. But the trouble was
that my knowledge wasn't exact. I had forgotten the proper charge and
the right way of preparing it, and I wasn't sure about the timing. I
had only a vague notion, too, as to its power, for though I had used it
I had not handled it with my own fingers.
But it was a chance, the only possible chance. It was a mighty risk,
but against it was an absolute black certainty. If I used it the odds
were, as I reckoned, about five to one in favour of my blowing myself
into the tree-tops; but if I didn't I should very likely be occupying a
six-foot hole in the garden by the evening. That was the way I had to
look at it. The prospect was pretty dark either way, but anyhow there
was a chance, both for myself and for my country.
The remembrance of little Scudder decided me. It was about the
beastliest moment of my life, for I'm no good at these cold-blooded
resolutions. Still I managed to rake up the pluck to set my teeth and
choke back the horrid doubts that flooded in on me. I simply shut off
my mind and pretended I was doing an experiment as simple as Guy Fawkes
I got a detonator, and fixed it to a couple of feet of fuse. Then I
took a quarter of a lentonite brick, and buried it near the door below
one of the sacks in a crack of the floor, fixing the detonator in it.
For all I knew half those boxes might be dynamite. If the cupboard
held such deadly explosives, why not the boxes? In that case there
would be a glorious skyward journey for me and the German servants and
about an acre of surrounding country. There was also the risk that the
detonation might set off the other bricks in the cupboard, for I had
forgotten most that I knew about lentonite. But it didn't do to begin
thinking about the possibilities. The odds were horrible, but I had to
I ensconced myself just below the sill of the window, and lit the fuse.
Then I waited for a moment or two. There was dead silence--only a
shuffle of heavy boots in the passage, and the peaceful cluck of hens
from the warm out-of-doors. I commended my soul to my Maker, and
wondered where I would be in five seconds ...
A great wave of heat seemed to surge upwards from the floor, and hang
for a blistering instant in the air. Then the wall opposite me flashed
into a golden yellow and dissolved with a rending thunder that hammered
my brain into a pulp. Something dropped on me, catching the point of
my left shoulder.
And then I think I became unconscious.
My stupor can scarcely have lasted beyond a few seconds. I felt myself
being choked by thick yellow fumes, and struggled out of the debris to
my feet. Somewhere behind me I felt fresh air. The jambs of the
window had fallen, and through the ragged rent the smoke was pouring
out to the summer noon. I stepped over the broken lintel, and found
myself standing in a yard in a dense and acrid fog. I felt very sick
and ill, but I could move my limbs, and I staggered blindly forward
away from the house.
A small mill-lade ran in a wooden aqueduct at the other side of the
yard, and into this I fell. The cool water revived me, and I had just
enough wits left to think of escape. I squirmed up the lade among the
slippery green slime till I reached the mill-wheel. Then I wriggled
through the axle hole into the old mill and tumbled on to a bed of
chaff. A nail caught the seat of my trousers, and I left a wisp of
heather-mixture behind me.
The mill had been long out of use. The ladders were rotten with age,
and in the loft the rats had gnawed great holes in the floor. Nausea
shook me, and a wheel in my head kept turning, while my left shoulder
and arm seemed to be stricken with the palsy. I looked out of the
window and saw a fog still hanging over the house and smoke escaping
from an upper window. Please God I had set the place on fire, for I
could hear confused cries coming from the other side.
But I had no time to linger, since this mill was obviously a bad
hiding-place. Anyone looking for me would naturally follow the lade,
and I made certain the search would begin as soon as they found that my
body was not in the storeroom. From another window I saw that on the
far side of the mill stood an old stone dovecot. If I could get there
without leaving tracks I might find a hiding-place, for I argued that
my enemies, if they thought I could move, would conclude I had made for
open country, and would go seeking me on the moor.
I crawled down the broken ladder, scattering chaff behind me to cover
my footsteps. I did the same on the mill floor, and on the threshold
where the door hung on broken hinges. Peeping out, I saw that between
me and the dovecot was a piece of bare cobbled ground, where no
footmarks would show. Also it was mercifully hid by the mill buildings
from any view from the house. I slipped across the space, got to the
back of the dovecot and prospected a way of ascent.
That was one of the hardest jobs I ever took on. My shoulder and arm
ached like hell, and I was so sick and giddy that I was always on the
verge of falling. But I managed it somehow. By the use of out-jutting
stones and gaps in the masonry and a tough ivy root I got to the top in
the end. There was a little parapet behind which I found space to lie
down. Then I proceeded to go off into an old-fashioned swoon.
I woke with a burning head and the sun glaring in my face. For a long
time I lay motionless, for those horrible fumes seemed to have loosened
my joints and dulled my brain. Sounds came to me from the house--men
speaking throatily and the throbbing of a stationary car. There was a
little gap in the parapet to which I wriggled, and from which I had
some sort of prospect of the yard. I saw figures come out--a servant
with his head bound up, and then a younger man in knickerbockers. They
were looking for something, and moved towards the mill. Then one of
them caught sight of the wisp of cloth on the nail, and cried out to
the other. They both went back to the house, and brought two more to
look at it. I saw the rotund figure of my late captor, and I thought I
made out the man with the lisp. I noticed that all had pistols.
For half an hour they ransacked the mill. I could hear them kicking
over the barrels and pulling up the rotten planking. Then they came
outside, and stood just below the dovecot arguing fiercely. The
servant with the bandage was being soundly rated. I heard them
fiddling with the door of the dovecote and for one horrid moment I
fancied they were coming up. Then they thought better of it, and went
back to the house.
All that long blistering afternoon I lay baking on the rooftop. Thirst
was my chief torment. My tongue was like a stick, and to make it worse
I could hear the cool drip of water from the mill-lade. I watched the
course of the little stream as it came in from the moor, and my fancy
followed it to the top of the glen, where it must issue from an icy
fountain fringed with cool ferns and mosses. I would have given a
thousand pounds to plunge my face into that.
I had a fine prospect of the whole ring of moorland. I saw the car
speed away with two occupants, and a man on a hill pony riding east. I
judged they were looking for me, and I wished them joy of their quest.
But I saw something else more interesting. The house stood almost on
the summit of a swell of moorland which crowned a sort of plateau, and
there was no higher point nearer than the big hills six miles off. The
actual summit, as I have mentioned, was a biggish clump of trees--firs
mostly, with a few ashes and beeches. On the dovecot I was almost on a
level with the tree-tops, and could see what lay beyond. The wood was
not solid, but only a ring, and inside was an oval of green turf, for
all the world like a big cricket-field.
I didn't take long to guess what it was. It was an aerodrome, and a
secret one. The place had been most cunningly chosen. For suppose
anyone were watching an aeroplane descending here, he would think it
had gone over the hill beyond the trees. As the place was on the top
of a rise in the midst of a big amphitheatre, any observer from any
direction would conclude it had passed out of view behind the hill.
Only a man very close at hand would realize that the aeroplane had not
gone over but had descended in the midst of the wood. An observer with
a telescope on one of the higher hills might have discovered the truth,
but only herds went there, and herds do not carry spy-glasses. When I
looked from the dovecot I could see far away a blue line which I knew
was the sea, and I grew furious to think that our enemies had this
secret conning-tower to rake our waterways.
Then I reflected that if that aeroplane came back the chances were ten
to one that I would be discovered. So through the afternoon I lay and
prayed for the coming of darkness, and glad I was when the sun went
down over the big western hills and the twilight haze crept over the
moor. The aeroplane was late. The gloaming was far advanced when I
heard the beat of wings and saw it volplaning downward to its home in
the wood. Lights twinkled for a bit and there was much coming and
going from the house. Then the dark fell, and silence.
Thank God it was a black night. The moon was well on its last quarter
and would not rise till late. My thirst was too great to allow me to
tarry, so about nine o'clock, so far as I could judge, I started to
descend. It wasn't easy, and half-way down I heard the back door of
the house open, and saw the gleam of a lantern against the mill wall.
For some agonizing minutes I hung by the ivy and prayed that whoever it
was would not come round by the dovecot. Then the light disappeared,
and I dropped as softly as I could on to the hard soil of the yard.
I crawled on my belly in the lee of a stone dyke till I reached the
fringe of trees which surrounded the house. If I had known how to do
it I would have tried to put that aeroplane out of action, but I
realized that any attempt would probably be futile. I was pretty
certain that there would be some kind of defence round the house, so I
went through the wood on hands and knees, feeling carefully every inch
before me. It was as well, for presently I came on a wire about two
feet from the ground. If I had tripped over that, it would doubtless
have rung some bell in the house and I would have been captured.
A hundred yards farther on I found another wire cunningly placed on the
edge of a small stream. Beyond that lay the moor, and in five minutes
I was deep in bracken and heather. Soon I was round the shoulder of
the rise, in the little glen from which the mill-lade flowed. Ten
minutes later my face was in the spring, and I was soaking down pints
of the blessed water.
But I did not stop till I had put half a dozen miles between me and
that accursed dwelling.
The Dry-Fly Fisherman
I sat down on a hill-top and took stock of my position. I wasn't
feeling very happy, for my natural thankfulness at my escape was
clouded by my severe bodily discomfort. Those lentonite fumes had
fairly poisoned me, and the baking hours on the dovecot hadn't helped
matters. I had a crushing headache, and felt as sick as a cat. Also
my shoulder was in a bad way. At first I thought it was only a bruise,
but it seemed to be swelling, and I had no use of my left arm.
My plan was to seek Mr Turnbull's cottage, recover my garments, and
especially Scudder's note-book, and then make for the main line and get
back to the south. It seemed to me that the sooner I got in touch with
the Foreign Office man, Sir Walter Bullivant, the better. I didn't see
how I could get more proof than I had got already. He must just take
or leave my story, and anyway, with him I would be in better hands than
those devilish Germans. I had begun to feel quite kindly towards the
It was a wonderful starry night, and I had not much difficulty about
the road. Sir Harry's map had given me the lie of the land, and all I
had to do was to steer a point or two west of south-west to come to the
stream where I had met the roadman. In all these travels I never knew
the names of the places, but I believe this stream was no less than the
upper waters of the river Tweed. I calculated I must be about eighteen
miles distant, and that meant I could not get there before morning. So
I must lie up a day somewhere, for I was too outrageous a figure to be
seen in the sunlight. I had neither coat, waistcoat, collar, nor hat,
my trousers were badly torn, and my face and hands were black with the
explosion. I daresay I had other beauties, for my eyes felt as if they
were furiously bloodshot. Altogether I was no spectacle for
God-fearing citizens to see on a highroad.
Very soon after daybreak I made an attempt to clean myself in a hill
burn, and then approached a herd's cottage, for I was feeling the need
of food. The herd was away from home, and his wife was alone, with no
neighbour for five miles. She was a decent old body, and a plucky one,
for though she got a fright when she saw me, she had an axe handy, and
would have used it on any evil-doer. I told her that I had had a
fall--I didn't say how--and she saw by my looks that I was pretty sick.
Like a true Samaritan she asked no questions, but gave me a bowl of
milk with a dash of whisky in it, and let me sit for a little by her
kitchen fire. She would have bathed my shoulder, but it ached so badly
that I would not let her touch it.
I don't know what she took me for--a repentant burglar, perhaps; for
when I wanted to pay her for the milk and tendered a sovereign which
was the smallest coin I had, she shook her head and said something
about 'giving it to them that had a right to it'. At this I protested
so strongly that I think she believed me honest, for she took the money
and gave me a warm new plaid for it, and an old hat of her man's. She
showed me how to wrap the plaid around my shoulders, and when I left
that cottage I was the living image of the kind of Scotsman you see in
the illustrations to Burns's poems. But at any rate I was more or less
It was as well, for the weather changed before midday to a thick
drizzle of rain. I found shelter below an overhanging rock in the
crook of a burn, where a drift of dead brackens made a tolerable bed.
There I managed to sleep till nightfall, waking very cramped and
wretched, with my shoulder gnawing like a toothache. I ate the oatcake
and cheese the old wife had given me and set out again just before the
I pass over the miseries of that night among the wet hills. There were
no stars to steer by, and I had to do the best I could from my memory
of the map. Twice I lost my way, and I had some nasty falls into
peat-bogs. I had only about ten miles to go as the crow flies, but my
mistakes made it nearer twenty. The last bit was completed with set
teeth and a very light and dizzy head. But I managed it, and in the
early dawn I was knocking at Mr Turnbull's door. The mist lay close
and thick, and from the cottage I could not see the highroad.
Mr Turnbull himself opened to me--sober and something more than sober.
He was primly dressed in an ancient but well-tended suit of black; he
had been shaved not later than the night before; he wore a linen
collar; and in his left hand he carried a pocket Bible. At first he
did not recognize me.
'Whae are ye that comes stravaigin' here on the Sabbath mornin'?' he
I had lost all count of the days. So the Sabbath was the reason for
this strange decorum.
My head was swimming so wildly that I could not frame a coherent
answer. But he recognized me, and he saw that I was ill.
'Hae ye got my specs?' he asked.
I fetched them out of my trouser pocket and gave him them.
'Ye'll hae come for your jaicket and westcoat,' he said. 'Come in-bye.
Losh, man, ye're terrible dune i' the legs. Haud up till I get ye to a
I perceived I was in for a bout of malaria. I had a good deal of fever
in my bones, and the wet night had brought it out, while my shoulder
and the effects of the fumes combined to make me feel pretty bad.
Before I knew, Mr Turnbull was helping me off with my clothes, and
putting me to bed in one of the two cupboards that lined the kitchen
He was a true friend in need, that old roadman. His wife was dead
years ago, and since his daughter's marriage he lived alone.
For the better part of ten days he did all the rough nursing I needed.
I simply wanted to be left in peace while the fever took its course,
and when my skin was cool again I found that the bout had more or less
cured my shoulder. But it was a baddish go, and though I was out of
bed in five days, it took me some time to get my legs again.
He went out each morning, leaving me milk for the day, and locking the
door behind him; and came in in the evening to sit silent in the
chimney corner. Not a soul came near the place. When I was getting
better, he never bothered me with a question. Several times he fetched
me a two days' old SCOTSMAN, and I noticed that the interest in the
Portland Place murder seemed to have died down. There was no mention
of it, and I could find very little about anything except a thing
called the General Assembly--some ecclesiastical spree, I gathered.
One day he produced my belt from a lockfast drawer. 'There's a
terrible heap o' siller in't,' he said. 'Ye'd better coont it to see
it's a' there.'
He never even sought my name. I asked him if anybody had been around
making inquiries subsequent to my spell at the road-making.
'Ay, there was a man in a motor-cawr. He speired whae had ta'en my
place that day, and I let on I thocht him daft. But he keepit on at
me, and syne I said he maun be thinkin' o' my gude-brither frae the
Cleuch that whiles lent me a haun'. He was a wersh-lookin' sowl, and I
couldna understand the half o' his English tongue.'
I was getting restless those last days, and as soon as I felt myself
fit I decided to be off. That was not till the twelfth day of June,
and as luck would have it a drover went past that morning taking some
cattle to Moffat. He was a man named Hislop, a friend of Turnbull's,
and he came in to his breakfast with us and offered to take me with him.
I made Turnbull accept five pounds for my lodging, and a hard job I had
of it. There never was a more independent being. He grew positively
rude when I pressed him, and shy and red, and took the money at last
without a thank you. When I told him how much I owed him, he grunted
something about 'ae guid turn deservin' anither'. You would have
thought from our leave-taking that we had parted in disgust.
Hislop was a cheery soul, who chattered all the way over the pass and
down the sunny vale of Annan. I talked of Galloway markets and sheep
prices, and he made up his mind I was a 'pack-shepherd' from those
parts--whatever that may be. My plaid and my old hat, as I have said,
gave me a fine theatrical Scots look. But driving cattle is a mortally
slow job, and we took the better part of the day to cover a dozen miles.
If I had not had such an anxious heart I would have enjoyed that time.
It was shining blue weather, with a constantly changing prospect of
brown hills and far green meadows, and a continual sound of larks and
curlews and falling streams. But I had no mind for the summer, and
little for Hislop's conversation, for as the fateful fifteenth of June
drew near I was overweighed with the hopeless difficulties of my
I got some dinner in a humble Moffat public-house, and walked the two
miles to the junction on the main line. The night express for the
south was not due till near midnight, and to fill up the time I went up
on the hillside and fell asleep, for the walk had tired me. I all but
slept too long, and had to run to the station and catch the train with
two minutes to spare. The feel of the hard third-class cushions and
the smell of stale tobacco cheered me up wonderfully. At any rate, I
felt now that I was getting to grips with my job.
I was decanted at Crewe in the small hours and had to wait till six to
get a train for Birmingham. In the afternoon I got to Reading, and
changed into a local train which journeyed into the deeps of Berkshire.
Presently I was in a land of lush water-meadows and slow reedy streams.
About eight o'clock in the evening, a weary and travel-stained being--a
cross between a farm-labourer and a vet--with a checked black-and-white
plaid over his arm (for I did not dare to wear it south of the Border),
descended at the little station of Artinswell. There were several
people on the platform, and I thought I had better wait to ask my way
till I was clear of the place.
The road led through a wood of great beeches and then into a shallow
valley, with the green backs of downs peeping over the distant trees.
After Scotland the air smelt heavy and flat, but infinitely sweet, for
the limes and chestnuts and lilac bushes were domes of blossom.
Presently I came to a bridge, below which a clear slow stream flowed
between snowy beds of water-buttercups. A little above it was a mill;
and the lasher made a pleasant cool sound in the scented dusk. Somehow
the place soothed me and put me at my ease. I fell to whistling as I
looked into the green depths, and the tune which came to my lips was
A fisherman came up from the waterside, and as he neared me he too
began to whistle. The tune was infectious, for he followed my suit.
He was a huge man in untidy old flannels and a wide-brimmed hat, with a
canvas bag slung on his shoulder. He nodded to me, and I thought I had
never seen a shrewder or better-tempered face. He leaned his delicate
ten-foot split-cane rod against the bridge, and looked with me at the
'Clear, isn't it?' he said pleasantly. 'I back our Kenner any day
against the Test. Look at that big fellow. Four pounds if he's an
ounce. But the evening rise is over and you can't tempt 'em.'
'I don't see him,' said I.
'Look! There! A yard from the reeds just above that stickle.'
'I've got him now. You might swear he was a black stone.'
'So,' he said, and whistled another bar of 'Annie Laurie'.
'Twisdon's the name, isn't it?' he said over his shoulder, his eyes
still fixed on the stream.
'No,' I said. 'I mean to say, Yes.' I had forgotten all about my
'It's a wise conspirator that knows his own name,' he observed,
grinning broadly at a moor-hen that emerged from the bridge's shadow.
I stood up and looked at him, at the square, cleft jaw and broad, lined
brow and the firm folds of cheek, and began to think that here at last
was an ally worth having. His whimsical blue eyes seemed to go very
Suddenly he frowned. 'I call it disgraceful,' he said, raising his
voice. 'Disgraceful that an able-bodied man like you should dare to
beg. You can get a meal from my kitchen, but you'll get no money from
A dog-cart was passing, driven by a young man who raised his whip to
salute the fisherman. When he had gone, he picked up his rod.
'That's my house,' he said, pointing to a white gate a hundred yards
on. 'Wait five minutes and then go round to the back door.' And with
that he left me.
I did as I was bidden. I found a pretty cottage with a lawn running
down to the stream, and a perfect jungle of guelder-rose and lilac
flanking the path. The back door stood open, and a grave butler was
'Come this way, Sir,' he said, and he led me along a passage and up a
back staircase to a pleasant bedroom looking towards the river. There
I found a complete outfit laid out for me--dress clothes with all the
fixings, a brown flannel suit, shirts, collars, ties, shaving things
and hair-brushes, even a pair of patent shoes. 'Sir Walter thought as
how Mr Reggie's things would fit you, Sir,' said the butler. 'He keeps
some clothes 'ere, for he comes regular on the week-ends. There's a
bathroom next door, and I've prepared a 'ot bath. Dinner in 'alf an
hour, Sir. You'll 'ear the gong.'
The grave being withdrew, and I sat down in a chintz-covered easy-chair
and gaped. It was like a pantomime, to come suddenly out of beggardom
into this orderly comfort. Obviously Sir Walter believed in me, though
why he did I could not guess. I looked at myself in the mirror and saw
a wild, haggard brown fellow, with a fortnight's ragged beard, and dust
in ears and eyes, collarless, vulgarly shirted, with shapeless old
tweed clothes and boots that had not been cleaned for the better part
of a month. I made a fine tramp and a fair drover; and here I was
ushered by a prim butler into this temple of gracious ease. And the
best of it was that they did not even know my name.
I resolved not to puzzle my head but to take the gifts the gods had
provided. I shaved and bathed luxuriously, and got into the dress
clothes and clean crackling shirt, which fitted me not so badly. By
the time I had finished the looking-glass showed a not unpersonable
Sir Walter awaited me in a dusky dining-room where a little round table
was lit with silver candles. The sight of him--so respectable and
established and secure, the embodiment of law and government and all
the conventions--took me aback and made me feel an interloper. He
couldn't know the truth about me, or he wouldn't treat me like this. I
simply could not accept his hospitality on false pretences.
'I'm more obliged to you than I can say, but I'm bound to make things
clear,' I said. 'I'm an innocent man, but I'm wanted by the police.
I've got to tell you this, and I won't be surprised if you kick me out.'
He smiled. 'That's all right. Don't let that interfere with your
appetite. We can talk about these things after dinner.' I never ate a
meal with greater relish, for I had had nothing all day but railway
sandwiches. Sir Walter did me proud, for we drank a good champagne and
had some uncommon fine port afterwards. It made me almost hysterical
to be sitting there, waited on by a footman and a sleek butler, and
remember that I had been living for three weeks like a brigand, with
every man's hand against me. I told Sir Walter about tiger-fish in the
Zambesi that bite off your fingers if you give them a chance, and we
discussed sport up and down the globe, for he had hunted a bit in his
We went to his study for coffee, a jolly room full of books and
trophies and untidiness and comfort. I made up my mind that if ever I
got rid of this business and had a house of my own, I would create just
such a room. Then when the coffee-cups were cleared away, and we had
got our cigars alight, my host swung his long legs over the side of his
chair and bade me get started with my yarn.
'I've obeyed Harry's instructions,' he said, 'and the bribe he offered
me was that you would tell me something to wake me up. I'm ready, Mr
I noticed with a start that he called me by my proper name.
I began at the very beginning. I told of my boredom in London, and the
night I had come back to find Scudder gibbering on my doorstep. I told
him all Scudder had told me about Karolides and the Foreign Office
conference, and that made him purse his lips and grin.
Then I got to the murder, and he grew solemn again. He heard all about
the milkman and my time in Galloway, and my deciphering Scudder's notes
at the inn.
'You've got them here?' he asked sharply, and drew a long breath when I
whipped the little book from my pocket.
I said nothing of the contents. Then I described my meeting with Sir
Harry, and the speeches at the hall. At that he laughed uproariously.
'Harry talked dashed nonsense, did he? I quite believe it. He's as
good a chap as ever breathed, but his idiot of an uncle has stuffed his
head with maggots. Go on, Mr Hannay.'
My day as roadman excited him a bit. He made me describe the two
fellows in the car very closely, and seemed to be raking back in his
memory. He grew merry again when he heard of the fate of that ass
But the old man in the moorland house solemnized him. Again I had to
describe every detail of his appearance.
'Bland and bald-headed and hooded his eyes like a bird ... He sounds a
sinister wild-fowl! And you dynamited his hermitage, after he had
saved you from the police. Spirited piece of work, that!' Presently I
reached the end of my wanderings. He got up slowly, and looked down at
me from the hearth-rug.
'You may dismiss the police from your mind,' he said. 'You're in no
danger from the law of this land.'
'Great Scot!' I cried. 'Have they got the murderer?'
'No. But for the last fortnight they have dropped you from the list of
'Why?' I asked in amazement.
'Principally because I received a letter from Scudder. I knew
something of the man, and he did several jobs for me. He was half
crank, half genius, but he was wholly honest. The trouble about him
was his partiality for playing a lone hand. That made him pretty well
useless in any Secret Service--a pity, for he had uncommon gifts. I
think he was the bravest man in the world, for he was always shivering
with fright, and yet nothing would choke him off. I had a letter from
him on the 31st of May.'
'But he had been dead a week by then.'
'The letter was written and posted on the 23rd. He evidently did not
anticipate an immediate decease. His communications usually took a
week to reach me, for they were sent under cover to Spain and then to
Newcastle. He had a mania, you know, for concealing his tracks.'
'What did he say?' I stammered.
'Nothing. Merely that he was in danger, but had found shelter with a
good friend, and that I would hear from him before the 15th of June.
He gave me no address, but said he was living near Portland Place. I
think his object was to clear you if anything happened. When I got it
I went to Scotland Yard, went over the details of the inquest, and
concluded that you were the friend. We made inquiries about you, Mr
Hannay, and found you were respectable. I thought I knew the motives
for your disappearance--not only the police, the other one too--and
when I got Harry's scrawl I guessed at the rest. I have been expecting
you any time this past week.' You can imagine what a load this took off
my mind. I felt a free man once more, for I was now up against my
country's enemies only, and not my country's law.
'Now let us have the little note-book,' said Sir Walter.
It took us a good hour to work through it. I explained the cypher, and
he was jolly quick at picking it up. He emended my reading of it on
several points, but I had been fairly correct, on the whole. His face
was very grave before he had finished, and he sat silent for a while.
'I don't know what to make of it,' he said at last. 'He is right about
one thing--what is going to happen the day after tomorrow. How the
devil can it have got known? That is ugly enough in itself. But all
this about war and the Black Stone--it reads like some wild melodrama.
If only I had more confidence in Scudder's judgement. The trouble
about him was that he was too romantic. He had the artistic
temperament, and wanted a story to be better than God meant it to be.
He had a lot of odd biases, too. Jews, for example, made him see red.
Jews and the high finance.
'The Black Stone,' he repeated. 'DER SCHWARZE STEIN. It's like a
penny novelette. And all this stuff about Karolides. That is the weak
part of the tale, for I happen to know that the virtuous Karolides is
likely to outlast us both. There is no State in Europe that wants him
gone. Besides, he has just been playing up to Berlin and Vienna and
giving my Chief some uneasy moments. No! Scudder has gone off the
track there. Frankly, Hannay, I don't believe that part of his story.
There's some nasty business afoot, and he found out too much and lost
his life over it. But I am ready to take my oath that it is ordinary
spy work. A certain great European Power makes a hobby of her spy
system, and her methods are not too particular. Since she pays by
piecework her blackguards are not likely to stick at a murder or two.
They want our naval dispositions for their collection at the Marineamt;
but they will be pigeon-holed--nothing more.'
Just then the butler entered the room.
'There's a trunk-call from London, Sir Walter. It's Mr 'Eath, and he
wants to speak to you personally.'
My host went off to the telephone.
He returned in five minutes with a whitish face. 'I apologize to the
shade of Scudder,' he said. 'Karolides was shot dead this evening at a
few minutes after seven.'
The Coming of the Black Stone
I came down to breakfast next morning, after eight hours of blessed
dreamless sleep, to find Sir Walter decoding a telegram in the midst of
muffins and marmalade. His fresh rosiness of yesterday seemed a
'I had a busy hour on the telephone after you went to bed,' he said.
'I got my Chief to speak to the First Lord and the Secretary for War,
and they are bringing Royer over a day sooner. This wire clinches it.
He will be in London at five. Odd that the code word for a SOUS-CHEF
D/ETAT MAJOR-GENERAL should be "Porker".'
He directed me to the hot dishes and went on.
'Not that I think it will do much good. If your friends were clever
enough to find out the first arrangement they are clever enough to
discover the change. I would give my head to know where the leak is.
We believed there were only five men in England who knew about Royer's
visit, and you may be certain there were fewer in France, for they
manage these things better there.'
While I ate he continued to talk, making me to my surprise a present of
his full confidence.
'Can the dispositions not be changed?' I asked.
'They could,' he said. 'But we want to avoid that if possible. They
are the result of immense thought, and no alteration would be as good.
Besides, on one or two points change is simply impossible. Still,
something could be done, I suppose, if it were absolutely necessary.
But you see the difficulty, Hannay. Our enemies are not going to be
such fools as to pick Royer's pocket or any childish game like that.
They know that would mean a row and put us on our guard. Their aim is
to get the details without any one of us knowing, so that Royer will go
back to Paris in the belief that the whole business is still deadly
secret. If they can't do that they fail, for, once we suspect, they
know that the whole thing must be altered.'
'Then we must stick by the Frenchman's side till he is home again,' I
said. 'If they thought they could get the information in Paris they
would try there. It means that they have some deep scheme on foot in
London which they reckon is going to win out.'
'Royer dines with my Chief, and then comes to my house where four
people will see him--Whittaker from the Admiralty, myself, Sir Arthur
Drew, and General Winstanley. The First Lord is ill, and has gone to
Sheringham. At my house he will get a certain document from Whittaker,
and after that he will be motored to Portsmouth where a destroyer will
take him to Havre. His journey is too important for the ordinary
boat-train. He will never be left unattended for a moment till he is
safe on French soil. The same with Whittaker till he meets Royer.
That is the best we can do, and it's hard to see how there can be any
miscarriage. But I don't mind admitting that I'm horribly nervous.
This murder of Karolides will play the deuce in the chancelleries of
After breakfast he asked me if I could drive a car. 'Well, you'll be
my chauffeur today and wear Hudson's rig. You're about his size. You
have a hand in this business and we are taking no risks. There are
desperate men against us, who will not respect the country retreat of
an overworked official.'
When I first came to London I had bought a car and amused myself with
running about the south of England, so I knew something of the
geography. I took Sir Walter to town by the Bath Road and made good
going. It was a soft breathless June morning, with a promise of
sultriness later, but it was delicious enough swinging through the
little towns with their freshly watered streets, and past the summer
gardens of the Thames valley. I landed Sir Walter at his house in
Queen Anne's Gate punctually by half-past eleven. The butler was
coming up by train with the luggage.
The first thing he did was to take me round to Scotland Yard. There we
saw a prim gentleman, with a clean-shaven, lawyer's face.
'I've brought you the Portland Place murderer,' was Sir Walter's
The reply was a wry smile. 'It would have been a welcome present,
Bullivant. This, I presume, is Mr Richard Hannay, who for some days
greatly interested my department.'
'Mr Hannay will interest it again. He has much to tell you, but not
today. For certain grave reasons his tale must wait for four hours.
Then, I can promise you, you will be entertained and possibly edified.
I want you to assure Mr Hannay that he will suffer no further
This assurance was promptly given. 'You can take up your life where
you left off,' I was told. 'Your flat, which probably you no longer
wish to occupy, is waiting for you, and your man is still there. As
you were never publicly accused, we considered that there was no need
of a public exculpation. But on that, of course, you must please
'We may want your assistance later on, MacGillivray,' Sir Walter said
as we left.
Then he turned me loose.
'Come and see me tomorrow, Hannay. I needn't tell you to keep deadly
quiet. If I were you I would go to bed, for you must have considerable
arrears of sleep to overtake. You had better lie low, for if one of
your Black Stone friends saw you there might be trouble.'
I felt curiously at a loose end. At first it was very pleasant to be a
free man, able to go where I wanted without fearing anything. I had
only been a month under the ban of the law, and it was quite enough for
me. I went to the Savoy and ordered very carefully a very good
luncheon, and then smoked the best cigar the house could provide. But
I was still feeling nervous. When I saw anybody look at me in the
lounge, I grew shy, and wondered if they were thinking about the murder.
After that I took a taxi and drove miles away up into North London. I
walked back through fields and lines of villas and terraces and then
slums and mean streets, and it took me pretty nearly two hours. All
the while my restlessness was growing worse. I felt that great things,
tremendous things, were happening or about to happen, and I, who was
the cog-wheel of the whole business, was out of it. Royer would be
landing at Dover, Sir Walter would be making plans with the few people
in England who were in the secret, and somewhere in the darkness the
Black Stone would be working. I felt the sense of danger and impending
calamity, and I had the curious feeling, too, that I alone could avert
it, alone could grapple with it. But I was out of the game now. How
could it be otherwise? It was not likely that Cabinet Ministers and
Admiralty Lords and Generals would admit me to their councils.
I actually began to wish that I could run up against one of my three
enemies. That would lead to developments. I felt that I wanted
enormously to have a vulgar scrap with those gentry, where I could hit
out and flatten something. I was rapidly getting into a very bad
I didn't feel like going back to my flat. That had to be faced some
time, but as I still had sufficient money I thought I would put it off
till next morning, and go to a hotel for the night.
My irritation lasted through dinner, which I had at a restaurant in
Jermyn Street. I was no longer hungry, and let several courses pass
untasted. I drank the best part of a bottle of Burgundy, but it did
nothing to cheer me. An abominable restlessness had taken possession
of me. Here was I, a very ordinary fellow, with no particular brains,
and yet I was convinced that somehow I was needed to help this business
through--that without me it would all go to blazes. I told myself it
was sheer silly conceit, that four or five of the cleverest people
living, with all the might of the British Empire at their back, had the
job in hand. Yet I couldn't be convinced. It seemed as if a voice
kept speaking in my ear, telling me to be up and doing, or I would
never sleep again.
The upshot was that about half-past nine I made up my mind to go to
Queen Anne's Gate. Very likely I would not be admitted, but it would
ease my conscience to try.
I walked down Jermyn Street, and at the corner of Duke Street passed a
group of young men. They were in evening dress, had been dining
somewhere, and were going on to a music-hall. One of them was Mr
He saw me and stopped short.
'By God, the murderer!' he cried. 'Here, you fellows, hold him!
That's Hannay, the man who did the Portland Place murder!' He gripped
me by the arm, and the others crowded round. I wasn't looking for any
trouble, but my ill-temper made me play the fool. A policeman came up,
and I should have told him the truth, and, if he didn't believe it,
demanded to be taken to Scotland Yard, or for that matter to the
nearest police station. But a delay at that moment seemed to me
unendurable, and the sight of Marmie's imbecile face was more than I
could bear. I let out with my left, and had the satisfaction of seeing
him measure his length in the gutter.
Then began an unholy row. They were all on me at once, and the
policeman took me in the rear. I got in one or two good blows, for I
think, with fair play, I could have licked the lot of them, but the
policeman pinned me behind, and one of them got his fingers on my
Through a black cloud of rage I heard the officer of the law asking
what was the matter, and Marmie, between his broken teeth, declaring
that I was Hannay the murderer.
'Oh, damn it all,' I cried, 'make the fellow shut up. I advise you to
leave me alone, constable. Scotland Yard knows all about me, and
you'll get a proper wigging if you interfere with me.'
'You've got to come along of me, young man,' said the policeman. 'I
saw you strike that gentleman crool 'ard. You began it too, for he
wasn't doing nothing. I seen you. Best go quietly or I'll have to fix
Exasperation and an overwhelming sense that at no cost must I delay
gave me the strength of a bull elephant. I fairly wrenched the
constable off his feet, floored the man who was gripping my collar, and
set off at my best pace down Duke Street. I heard a whistle being
blown, and the rush of men behind me.
I have a very fair turn of speed, and that night I had wings. In a
jiffy I was in Pall Mall and had turned down towards St James's Park.
I dodged the policeman at the Palace gates, dived through a press of
carriages at the entrance to the Mall, and was making for the bridge
before my pursuers had crossed the roadway. In the open ways of the
Park I put on a spurt. Happily there were few people about and no one
tried to stop me. I was staking all on getting to Queen Anne's Gate.
When I entered that quiet thoroughfare it seemed deserted. Sir
Walter's house was in the narrow part, and outside it three or four
motor-cars were drawn up. I slackened speed some yards off and walked
briskly up to the door. If the butler refused me admission, or if he
even delayed to open the door, I was done.
He didn't delay. I had scarcely rung before the door opened.
'I must see Sir Walter,' I panted. 'My business is desperately
That butler was a great man. Without moving a muscle he held the door
open, and then shut it behind me. 'Sir Walter is engaged, Sir, and I
have orders to admit no one. Perhaps you will wait.'
The house was of the old-fashioned kind, with a wide hall and rooms on
both sides of it. At the far end was an alcove with a telephone and a
couple of chairs, and there the butler offered me a seat.
'See here,' I whispered. 'There's trouble about and I'm in it. But
Sir Walter knows, and I'm working for him. If anyone comes and asks if
I am here, tell him a lie.'
He nodded, and presently there was a noise of voices in the street, and
a furious ringing at the bell. I never admired a man more than that
butler. He opened the door, and with a face like a graven image waited
to be questioned. Then he gave them it. He told them whose house it
was, and what his orders were, and simply froze them off the doorstep.
I could see it all from my alcove, and it was better than any play.
I hadn't waited long till there came another ring at the bell. The
butler made no bones about admitting this new visitor.
While he was taking off his coat I saw who it was. You couldn't open a
newspaper or a magazine without seeing that face--the grey beard cut
like a spade, the firm fighting mouth, the blunt square nose, and the
keen blue eyes. I recognized the First Sea Lord, the man, they say,
that made the new British Navy.
He passed my alcove and was ushered into a room at the back of the
hall. As the door opened I could hear the sound of low voices. It
shut, and I was left alone again.
For twenty minutes I sat there, wondering what I was to do next. I was
still perfectly convinced that I was wanted, but when or how I had no
notion. I kept looking at my watch, and as the time crept on to
half-past ten I began to think that the conference must soon end. In a
quarter of an hour Royer should be speeding along the road to
Then I heard a bell ring, and the butler appeared. The door of the
back room opened, and the First Sea Lord came out. He walked past me,
and in passing he glanced in my direction, and for a second we looked
each other in the face.
Only for a second, but it was enough to make my heart jump. I had
never seen the great man before, and he had never seen me. But in that
fraction of time something sprang into his eyes, and that something was
recognition. You can't mistake it. It is a flicker, a spark of light,
a minute shade of difference which means one thing and one thing only.
It came involuntarily, for in a moment it died, and he passed on. In a
maze of wild fancies I heard the street door close behind him.
I picked up the telephone book and looked up the number of his house.
We were connected at once, and I heard a servant's voice.
'Is his Lordship at home?' I asked.
'His Lordship returned half an hour ago,' said the voice, 'and has gone
to bed. He is not very well tonight. Will you leave a message, Sir?'
I rang off and almost tumbled into a chair. My part in this business
was not yet ended. It had been a close shave, but I had been in time.
Not a moment could be lost, so I marched boldly to the door of that
back room and entered without knocking.
Five surprised faces looked up from a round table. There was Sir
Walter, and Drew the War Minister, whom I knew from his photographs.
There was a slim elderly man, who was probably Whittaker, the Admiralty
official, and there was General Winstanley, conspicuous from the long
scar on his forehead. Lastly, there was a short stout man with an
iron-grey moustache and bushy eyebrows, who had been arrested in the
middle of a sentence.
Sir Walter's face showed surprise and annoyance.
'This is Mr Hannay, of whom I have spoken to you,' he said
apologetically to the company. 'I'm afraid, Hannay, this visit is
I was getting back my coolness. 'That remains to be seen, Sir,' I
said; 'but I think it may be in the nick of time. For God's sake,
gentlemen, tell me who went out a minute ago?'
'Lord Alloa,' Sir Walter said, reddening with anger.
'It was not,' I cried; 'it was his living image, but it was not Lord
Alloa. It was someone who recognized me, someone I have seen in the
last month. He had scarcely left the doorstep when I rang up Lord
Alloa's house and was told he had come in half an hour before and
had gone to bed.'
'Who--who--' someone stammered.
'The Black Stone,' I cried, and I sat down in the chair so recently
vacated and looked round at five badly scared gentlemen.
The Thirty-Nine Steps
'Nonsense!' said the official from the Admiralty.
Sir Walter got up and left the room while we looked blankly at the
table. He came back in ten minutes with a long face. 'I have spoken
to Alloa,' he said. 'Had him out of bed--very grumpy. He went
straight home after Mulross's dinner.'
'But it's madness,' broke in General Winstanley. 'Do you mean to tell
me that that man came here and sat beside me for the best part of half
an hour and that I didn't detect the imposture? Alloa must be out of
'Don't you see the cleverness of it?' I said. 'You were too interested
in other things to have any eyes. You took Lord Alloa for granted. If
it had been anybody else you might have looked more closely, but it was
natural for him to be here, and that put you all to sleep.'
Then the Frenchman spoke, very slowly and in good English.
'The young man is right. His psychology is good. Our enemies have not
He bent his wise brows on the assembly.
'I will tell you a tale,' he said. 'It happened many years ago in
Senegal. I was quartered in a remote station, and to pass the time
used to go fishing for big barbel in the river. A little Arab mare
used to carry my luncheon basket--one of the salted dun breed you got
at Timbuctoo in the old days. Well, one morning I had good sport, and
the mare was unaccountably restless. I could hear her whinnying and
squealing and stamping her feet, and I kept soothing her with my voice
while my mind was intent on fish. I could see her all the time, as I
thought, out of a corner of my eye, tethered to a tree twenty yards
away. After a couple of hours I began to think of food. I collected
my fish in a tarpaulin bag, and moved down the stream towards the mare,
trolling my line. When I got up to her I flung the tarpaulin on her
He paused and looked round.
'It was the smell that gave me warning. I turned my head and found
myself looking at a lion three feet off ... An old man-eater, that was
the terror of the village ... What was left of the mare, a mass of
blood and bones and hide, was behind him.'
'What happened?' I asked. I was enough of a hunter to know a true yarn
when I heard it.
'I stuffed my fishing-rod into his jaws, and I had a pistol. Also my
servants came presently with rifles. But he left his mark on me.' He
held up a hand which lacked three fingers.
'Consider,' he said. 'The mare had been dead more than an hour, and
the brute had been patiently watching me ever since. I never saw the
kill, for I was accustomed to the mare's fretting, and I never marked
her absence, for my consciousness of her was only of something tawny,
and the lion filled that part. If I could blunder thus, gentlemen, in
a land where men's senses are keen, why should we busy preoccupied
urban folk not err also?'
Sir Walter nodded. No one was ready to gainsay him.
'But I don't see,' went on Winstanley. 'Their object was to get these
dispositions without our knowing it. Now it only required one of us to
mention to Alloa our meeting tonight for the whole fraud to be exposed.'
Sir Walter laughed dryly. 'The selection of Alloa shows their acumen.
Which of us was likely to speak to him about tonight? Or was he likely
to open the subject?'
I remembered the First Sea Lord's reputation for taciturnity and
shortness of temper.
'The one thing that puzzles me,' said the General, 'is what good his
visit here would do that spy fellow? He could not carry away several
pages of figures and strange names in his head.'
'That is not difficult,' the Frenchman replied. 'A good spy is trained
to have a photographic memory. Like your own Macaulay. You noticed he
said nothing, but went through these papers again and again. I think
we may assume that he has every detail stamped on his mind. When I was
younger I could do the same trick.'
'Well, I suppose there is nothing for it but to change the plans,' said
Sir Walter ruefully.
Whittaker was looking very glum. 'Did you tell Lord Alloa what has
happened?' he asked. 'No? Well, I can't speak with absolute
assurance, but I'm nearly certain we can't make any serious change
unless we alter the geography of England.'
'Another thing must be said,' it was Royer who spoke. 'I talked freely
when that man was here. I told something of the military plans of my
Government. I was permitted to say so much. But that information
would be worth many millions to our enemies. No, my friends, I see no
other way. The man who came here and his confederates must be taken,
and taken at once.'
'Good God,' I cried, 'and we have not a rag of a clue.'
'Besides,' said Whittaker, 'there is the post. By this time the news
will be on its way.'
'No,' said the Frenchman. 'You do not understand the habits of the
spy. He receives personally his reward, and he delivers personally his
intelligence. We in France know something of the breed. There is
still a chance, MES AMIS. These men must cross the sea, and there are
ships to be searched and ports to be watched. Believe me, the need is
desperate for both France and Britain.'
Royer's grave good sense seemed to pull us together. He was the man of
action among fumblers. But I saw no hope in any face, and I felt none.
Where among the fifty millions of these islands and within a dozen
hours were we to lay hands on the three cleverest rogues in Europe?
Then suddenly I had an inspiration.
'Where is Scudder's book?' I cried to Sir Walter. 'Quick, man, I
remember something in it.'
He unlocked the door of a bureau and gave it to me.
I found the place. THIRTY-NINE STEPS, I read, and again, THIRTY-NINE
STEPS--I COUNTED THEM--HIGH TIDE 10.17 P.M.
The Admiralty man was looking at me as if he thought I had gone mad.
'Don't you see it's a clue,' I shouted. 'Scudder knew where these
fellows laired--he knew where they were going to leave the country,
though he kept the name to himself. Tomorrow was the day, and it was
some place where high tide was at 10.17.'
'They may have gone tonight,' someone said.
'Not they. They have their own snug secret way, and they won't be
hurried. I know Germans, and they are mad about working to a plan.
Where the devil can I get a book of Tide Tables?'
Whittaker brightened up. 'It's a chance,' he said. 'Let's go over to
We got into two of the waiting motor-cars--all but Sir Walter, who went
off to Scotland Yard--to 'mobilize MacGillivray', so he said. We
marched through empty corridors and big bare chambers where the
charwomen were busy, till we reached a little room lined with books and
maps. A resident clerk was unearthed, who presently fetched from the
library the Admiralty Tide Tables. I sat at the desk and the others
stood round, for somehow or other I had got charge of this expedition.
It was no good. There were hundreds of entries, and so far as I could
see 10.17 might cover fifty places. We had to find some way of
narrowing the possibilities.
I took my head in my hands and thought. There must be some way of
reading this riddle. What did Scudder mean by steps? I thought of
dock steps, but if he had meant that I didn't think he would have
mentioned the number. It must be some place where there were several
staircases, and one marked out from the others by having thirty-nine
Then I had a sudden thought, and hunted up all the steamer sailings.
There was no boat which left for the Continent at 10.17 p.m.
Why was high tide so important? If it was a harbour it must be some
little place where the tide mattered, or else it was a heavy-draught
boat. But there was no regular steamer sailing at that hour, and
somehow I didn't think they would travel by a big boat from a regular
harbour. So it must be some little harbour where the tide was
important, or perhaps no harbour at all.
But if it was a little port I couldn't see what the steps signified.
There were no sets of staircases on any harbour that I had ever seen.
It must be some place which a particular staircase identified, and
where the tide was full at 10.17. On the whole it seemed to me that
the place must be a bit of open coast. But the staircases kept
Then I went back to wider considerations. Whereabouts would a man be
likely to leave for Germany, a man in a hurry, who wanted a speedy and
a secret passage? Not from any of the big harbours. And not from the
Channel or the West Coast or Scotland, for, remember, he was starting
from London. I measured the distance on the map, and tried to put
myself in the enemy's shoes. I should try for Ostend or Antwerp or
Rotterdam, and I should sail from somewhere on the East Coast between
Cromer and Dover.
All this was very loose guessing, and I don't pretend it was ingenious
or scientific. I wasn't any kind of Sherlock Holmes. But I have
always fancied I had a kind of instinct about questions like this. I
don't know if I can explain myself, but I used to use my brains as far
as they went, and after they came to a blank wall I guessed, and I
usually found my guesses pretty right.
So I set out all my conclusions on a bit of Admiralty paper. They ran
(1) Place where there are several sets of stairs; one that
matters distinguished by having thirty-nine steps.
(2) Full tide at 10.17 p.m. Leaving shore only possible at full
(3) Steps not dock steps, and so place probably not harbour.
(4) No regular night steamer at 10.17. Means of transport must
be tramp (unlikely), yacht, or fishing-boat.
There my reasoning stopped. I made another list, which I headed
'Guessed', but I was just as sure of the one as the other.
(1) Place not harbour but open coast.
(2) Boat small--trawler, yacht, or launch.
(3) Place somewhere on East Coast between Cromer and Dover.
It struck me as odd that I should be sitting at that desk with a
Cabinet Minister, a Field-Marshal, two high Government officials, and a
French General watching me, while from the scribble of a dead man I was
trying to drag a secret which meant life or death for us.
Sir Walter had joined us, and presently MacGillivray arrived. He had
sent out instructions to watch the ports and railway stations for the
three men whom I had described to Sir Walter. Not that he or anybody
else thought that that would do much good.
'Here's the most I can make of it,' I said. 'We have got to find a
place where there are several staircases down to the beach, one of
which has thirty-nine steps. I think it's a piece of open coast with
biggish cliffs, somewhere between the Wash and the Channel. Also it's
a place where full tide is at 10.17 tomorrow night.'
Then an idea struck me. 'Is there no Inspector of Coastguards or some
fellow like that who knows the East Coast?'
Whittaker said there was, and that he lived in Clapham. He went off in
a car to fetch him, and the rest of us sat about the little room and
talked of anything that came into our heads. I lit a pipe and went
over the whole thing again till my brain grew weary.
About one in the morning the coastguard man arrived. He was a fine old
fellow, with the look of a naval officer, and was desperately
respectful to the company. I left the War Minister to cross-examine
him, for I felt he would think it cheek in me to talk.
'We want you to tell us the places you know on the East Coast where
there are cliffs, and where several sets of steps run down to the
He thought for a bit. 'What kind of steps do you mean, Sir? There are
plenty of places with roads cut down through the cliffs, and most roads
have a step or two in them. Or do you mean regular staircases--all
steps, so to speak?'
Sir Arthur looked towards me. 'We mean regular staircases,' I said.
He reflected a minute or two. 'I don't know that I can think of any.
Wait a second. There's a place in Norfolk--Brattlesham--beside a
golf-course, where there are a couple of staircases, to let the
gentlemen get a lost ball.'
'That's not it,' I said.
'Then there are plenty of Marine Parades, if that's what you mean.
Every seaside resort has them.'
I shook my head. 'It's got to be more retired than that,' I said.
'Well, gentlemen, I can't think of anywhere else. Of course, there's
'What's that?' I asked.
'The big chalk headland in Kent, close to Bradgate. It's got a lot of
villas on the top, and some of the houses have staircases down to a
private beach. It's a very high-toned sort of place, and the residents
there like to keep by themselves.'
I tore open the Tide Tables and found Bradgate. High tide there was at
10.27 P.m. on the 15th of June.
'We're on the scent at last,' I cried excitedly. 'How can I find out
what is the tide at the Ruff?'
'I can tell you that, Sir,' said the coastguard man. 'I once was lent
a house there in this very month, and I used to go out at night to the
deep-sea fishing. The tide's ten minutes before Bradgate.'
I closed the book and looked round at the company.
'If one of those staircases has thirty-nine steps we have solved the
mystery, gentlemen,' I said. 'I want the loan of your car, Sir Walter,
and a map of the roads. If Mr MacGillivray will spare me ten minutes,
I think we can prepare something for tomorrow.'
It was ridiculous in me to take charge of the business like this, but
they didn't seem to mind, and after all I had been in the show from the
start. Besides, I was used to rough jobs, and these eminent gentlemen
were too clever not to see it. It was General Royer who gave me my
commission. 'I for one,' he said, 'am content to leave the matter in
Mr Hannay's hands.'
By half-past three I was tearing past the moonlit hedgerows of Kent,
with MacGillivray's best man on the seat beside me.
Various Parties Converging on the Sea
A pink and blue June morning found me at Bradgate looking from the
Griffin Hotel over a smooth sea to the lightship on the Cock sands
which seemed the size of a bell-buoy. A couple of miles farther south
and much nearer the shore a small destroyer was anchored. Scaife,
MacGillivray's man, who had been in the Navy, knew the boat, and told
me her name and her commander's, so I sent off a wire to Sir Walter.
After breakfast Scaife got from a house-agent a key for the gates of
the staircases on the Ruff. I walked with him along the sands, and sat
down in a nook of the cliffs while he investigated the half-dozen of
them. I didn't want to be seen, but the place at this hour was quite
deserted, and all the time I was on that beach I saw nothing but the
It took him more than an hour to do the job, and when I saw him coming
towards me, conning a bit of paper, I can tell you my heart was in my
mouth. Everything depended, you see, on my guess proving right.
He read aloud the number of steps in the different stairs.
'Thirty-four, thirty-five, thirty-nine, forty-two, forty-seven,' and
'twenty-one' where the cliffs grew lower. I almost got up and shouted.
We hurried back to the town and sent a wire to MacGillivray. I wanted
half a dozen men, and I directed them to divide themselves among
different specified hotels. Then Scaife set out to prospect the house
at the head of the thirty-nine steps.
He came back with news that both puzzled and reassured me. The house
was called Trafalgar Lodge, and belonged to an old gentleman called
Appleton--a retired stockbroker, the house-agent said. Mr Appleton was
there a good deal in the summer time, and was in residence now--had
been for the better part of a week. Scaife could pick up very little
information about him, except that he was a decent old fellow, who paid
his bills regularly, and was always good for a fiver for a local
charity. Then Scaife seemed to have penetrated to the back door of the
house, pretending he was an agent for sewing-machines. Only three
servants were kept, a cook, a parlour-maid, and a housemaid, and they
were just the sort that you would find in a respectable middle-class
household. The cook was not the gossiping kind, and had pretty soon
shut the door in his face, but Scaife said he was positive she knew
nothing. Next door there was a new house building which would give
good cover for observation, and the villa on the other side was to let,
and its garden was rough and shrubby.
I borrowed Scaife's telescope, and before lunch went for a walk along
the Ruff. I kept well behind the rows of villas, and found a good
observation point on the edge of the golf-course. There I had a view
of the line of turf along the cliff top, with seats placed at
intervals, and the little square plots, railed in and planted with
bushes, whence the staircases descended to the beach. I saw Trafalgar
Lodge very plainly, a red-brick villa with a veranda, a tennis lawn
behind, and in front the ordinary seaside flower-garden full of
marguerites and scraggy geraniums. There was a flagstaff from which an
enormous Union Jack hung limply in the still air.
Presently I observed someone leave the house and saunter along the
cliff. When I got my glasses on him I saw it was an old man, wearing
white flannel trousers, a blue serge jacket, and a straw hat. He
carried field-glasses and a newspaper, and sat down on one of the iron
seats and began to read. Sometimes he would lay down the paper and
turn his glasses on the sea. He looked for a long time at the
destroyer. I watched him for half an hour, till he got up and went
back to the house for his luncheon, when I returned to the hotel for
I wasn't feeling very confident. This decent common-place dwelling was
not what I had expected. The man might be the bald archaeologist of
that horrible moorland farm, or he might not. He was exactly the kind
of satisfied old bird you will find in every suburb and every holiday
place. If you wanted a type of the perfectly harmless person you would
probably pitch on that.
But after lunch, as I sat in the hotel porch, I perked up, for I saw
the thing I had hoped for and had dreaded to miss. A yacht came up
from the south and dropped anchor pretty well opposite the Ruff. She
seemed about a hundred and fifty tons, and I saw she belonged to the
Squadron from the white ensign. So Scaife and I went down to the
harbour and hired a boatman for an afternoon's fishing.
I spent a warm and peaceful afternoon. We caught between us about
twenty pounds of cod and lythe, and out in that dancing blue sea I took
a cheerier view of things. Above the white cliffs of the Ruff I saw
the green and red of the villas, and especially the great flagstaff of
Trafalgar Lodge. About four o'clock, when we had fished enough, I made
the boatman row us round the yacht, which lay like a delicate white
bird, ready at a moment to flee. Scaife said she must be a fast boat
for her build, and that she was pretty heavily engined.
Her name was the ARIADNE, as I discovered from the cap of one of the
men who was polishing brasswork. I spoke to him, and got an answer in
the soft dialect of Essex. Another hand that came along passed me the
time of day in an unmistakable English tongue. Our boatman had an
argument with one of them about the weather, and for a few minutes we
lay on our oars close to the starboard bow.
Then the men suddenly disregarded us and bent their heads to their work
as an officer came along the deck. He was a pleasant, clean-looking
young fellow, and he put a question to us about our fishing in very
good English. But there could be no doubt about him. His
close-cropped head and the cut of his collar and tie never came out of
That did something to reassure me, but as we rowed back to Bradgate my
obstinate doubts would not be dismissed. The thing that worried me was
the reflection that my enemies knew that I had got my knowledge from
Scudder, and it was Scudder who had given me the clue to this place.
If they knew that Scudder had this clue, would they not be certain to
change their plans? Too much depended on their success for them to
take any risks. The whole question was how much they understood about
Scudder's knowledge. I had talked confidently last night about Germans
always sticking to a scheme, but if they had any suspicions that I was
on their track they would be fools not to cover it. I wondered if the
man last night had seen that I recognized him. Somehow I did not think
he had, and to that I had clung. But the whole business had never
seemed so difficult as that afternoon when by all calculations I should
have been rejoicing in assured success.
In the hotel I met the commander of the destroyer, to whom Scaife
introduced me, and with whom I had a few words. Then I thought I would
put in an hour or two watching Trafalgar Lodge.
I found a place farther up the hill, in the garden of an empty house.
From there I had a full view of the court, on which two figures were
having a game of tennis. One was the old man, whom I had already seen;
the other was a younger fellow, wearing some club colours in the scarf
round his middle. They played with tremendous zest, like two city
gents who wanted hard exercise to open their pores. You couldn't
conceive a more innocent spectacle. They shouted and laughed and
stopped for drinks, when a maid brought out two tankards on a salver.
I rubbed my eyes and asked myself if I was not the most immortal fool
on earth. Mystery and darkness had hung about the men who hunted me
over the Scotch moor in aeroplane and motor-car, and notably about that
infernal antiquarian. It was easy enough to connect those folk with
the knife that pinned Scudder to the floor, and with fell designs on
the world's peace. But here were two guileless citizens taking their
innocuous exercise, and soon about to go indoors to a humdrum dinner,
where they would talk of market prices and the last cricket scores and
the gossip of their native Surbiton. I had been making a net to catch
vultures and falcons, and lo and behold! two plump thrushes had
blundered into it.
Presently a third figure arrived, a young man on a bicycle, with a bag
of golf-clubs slung on his back. He strolled round to the tennis lawn
and was welcomed riotously by the players. Evidently they were
chaffing him, and their chaff sounded horribly English. Then the plump
man, mopping his brow with a silk handkerchief, announced that he must
have a tub. I heard his very words--'I've got into a proper lather,'
he said. 'This will bring down my weight and my handicap, Bob. I'll
take you on tomorrow and give you a stroke a hole.' You couldn't find
anything much more English than that.
They all went into the house, and left me feeling a precious idiot. I
had been barking up the wrong tree this time. These men might be
acting; but if they were, where was their audience? They didn't know I
was sitting thirty yards off in a rhododendron. It was simply
impossible to believe that these three hearty fellows were anything but
what they seemed--three ordinary, game-playing, suburban Englishmen,
wearisome, if you like, but sordidly innocent.
And yet there were three of them; and one was old, and one was plump,
and one was lean and dark; and their house chimed in with Scudder's
notes; and half a mile off was lying a steam yacht with at least one
German officer. I thought of Karolides lying dead and all Europe
trembling on the edge of earthquake, and the men I had left behind me
in London who were waiting anxiously for the events of the next hours.
There was no doubt that hell was afoot somewhere. The Black Stone had
won, and if it survived this June night would bank its winnings.
There seemed only one thing to do--go forward as if I had no doubts,
and if I was going to make a fool of myself to do it handsomely. Never
in my life have I faced a job with greater disinclination. I would
rather in my then mind have walked into a den of anarchists, each with
his Browning handy, or faced a charging lion with a popgun, than enter
that happy home of three cheerful Englishmen and tell them that their
game was up. How they would laugh at me!
But suddenly I remembered a thing I once heard in Rhodesia from old
Peter Pienaar. I have quoted Peter already in this narrative. He was
the best scout I ever knew, and before he had turned respectable he had
been pretty often on the windy side of the law, when he had been wanted
badly by the authorities. Peter once discussed with me the question of
disguises, and he had a theory which struck me at the time. He said,
barring absolute certainties like fingerprints, mere physical traits
were very little use for identification if the fugitive really knew his
business. He laughed at things like dyed hair and false beards and
such childish follies. The only thing that mattered was what Peter
If a man could get into perfectly different surroundings from those in
which he had been first observed, and--this is the important
part--really play up to these surroundings and behave as if he had
never been out of them, he would puzzle the cleverest detectives on
earth. And he used to tell a story of how he once borrowed a black
coat and went to church and shared the same hymn-book with the man that
was looking for him. If that man had seen him in decent company before
he would have recognized him; but he had only seen him snuffing the
lights in a public-house with a revolver.
The recollection of Peter's talk gave me the first real comfort that I
had had that day. Peter had been a wise old bird, and these fellows I
was after were about the pick of the aviary. What if they were playing
Peter's game? A fool tries to look different: a clever man looks the
same and is different.
Again, there was that other maxim of Peter's which had helped me when I
had been a roadman. 'If you are playing a part, you will never keep it
up unless you convince yourself that you are it.' That would explain
the game of tennis. Those chaps didn't need to act, they just turned a
handle and passed into another life, which came as naturally to them as
the first. It sounds a platitude, but Peter used to say that it was
the big secret of all the famous criminals.
It was now getting on for eight o'clock, and I went back and saw Scaife
to give him his instructions. I arranged with him how to place his
men, and then I went for a walk, for I didn't feel up to any dinner. I
went round the deserted golf-course, and then to a point on the cliffs
farther north beyond the line of the villas.
On the little trim newly-made roads I met people in flannels coming
back from tennis and the beach, and a coastguard from the wireless
station, and donkeys and pierrots padding homewards. Out at sea in the
blue dusk I saw lights appear on the ARIADNE and on the destroyer away
to the south, and beyond the Cock sands the bigger lights of steamers
making for the Thames. The whole scene was so peaceful and ordinary
that I got more dashed in spirits every second. It took all my
resolution to stroll towards Trafalgar Lodge about half-past nine.
On the way I got a piece of solid comfort from the sight of a greyhound
that was swinging along at a nursemaid's heels. He reminded me of a
dog I used to have in Rhodesia, and of the time when I took him hunting
with me in the Pali hills. We were after rhebok, the dun kind, and I
recollected how we had followed one beast, and both he and I had clean
lost it. A greyhound works by sight, and my eyes are good enough, but
that buck simply leaked out of the landscape. Afterwards I found out
how it managed it. Against the grey rock of the kopjes it showed no
more than a crow against a thundercloud. It didn't need to run away;
all it had to do was to stand still and melt into the background.
Suddenly as these memories chased across my brain I thought of my
present case and applied the moral. The Black Stone didn't need to
bolt. They were quietly absorbed into the landscape. I was on the
right track, and I jammed that down in my mind and vowed never to
forget it. The last word was with Peter Pienaar.
Scaife's men would be posted now, but there was no sign of a soul. The
house stood as open as a market-place for anybody to observe. A
three-foot railing separated it from the cliff road; the windows on the
ground-floor were all open, and shaded lights and the low sound of
voices revealed where the occupants were finishing dinner. Everything
was as public and above-board as a charity bazaar. Feeling the
greatest fool on earth, I opened the gate and rang the bell.
A man of my sort, who has travelled about the world in rough places,
gets on perfectly well with two classes, what you may call the upper
and the lower. He understands them and they understand him. I was at
home with herds and tramps and roadmen, and I was sufficiently at my
ease with people like Sir Walter and the men I had met the night
before. I can't explain why, but it is a fact. But what fellows like
me don't understand is the great comfortable, satisfied middle-class
world, the folk that live in villas and suburbs. He doesn't know how
they look at things, he doesn't understand their conventions, and he is
as shy of them as of a black mamba. When a trim parlour-maid opened
the door, I could hardly find my voice.
I asked for Mr Appleton, and was ushered in. My plan had been to walk
straight into the dining-room, and by a sudden appearance wake in the
men that start of recognition which would confirm my theory. But when
I found myself in that neat hall the place mastered me. There were the
golf-clubs and tennis-rackets, the straw hats and caps, the rows of
gloves, the sheaf of walking-sticks, which you will find in ten
thousand British homes. A stack of neatly folded coats and waterproofs
covered the top of an old oak chest; there was a grandfather clock
ticking; and some polished brass warming-pans on the walls, and a
barometer, and a print of Chiltern winning the St Leger. The place was
as orthodox as an Anglican church. When the maid asked me for my name
I gave it automatically, and was shown into the smoking-room, on the
right side of the hall.
That room was even worse. I hadn't time to examine it, but I could see
some framed group photographs above the mantelpiece, and I could have
sworn they were English public school or college. I had only one
glance, for I managed to pull myself together and go after the maid.
But I was too late. She had already entered the dining-room and given
my name to her master, and I had missed the chance of seeing how the
three took it.
When I walked into the room the old man at the head of the table had
risen and turned round to meet me. He was in evening dress--a short
coat and black tie, as was the other, whom I called in my own mind the
plump one. The third, the dark fellow, wore a blue serge suit and a
soft white collar, and the colours of some club or school.
The old man's manner was perfect. 'Mr Hannay?' he said hesitatingly.
'Did you wish to see me? One moment, you fellows, and I'll rejoin you.
We had better go to the smoking-room.'
Though I hadn't an ounce of confidence in me, I forced myself to play
the game. I pulled up a chair and sat down on it.
'I think we have met before,' I said, 'and I guess you know my
The light in the room was dim, but so far as I could see their faces,
they played the part of mystification very well.
'Maybe, maybe,' said the old man. 'I haven't a very good memory, but
I'm afraid you must tell me your errand, Sir, for I really don't know
'Well, then,' I said, and all the time I seemed to myself to be talking
pure foolishness--'I have come to tell you that the game's up. I have
a warrant for the arrest of you three gentlemen.'
'Arrest,' said the old man, and he looked really shocked. 'Arrest!
Good God, what for?'
'For the murder of Franklin Scudder in London on the 23rd day of last
'I never heard the name before,' said the old man in a dazed voice.
One of the others spoke up. 'That was the Portland Place murder. I
read about it. Good heavens, you must be mad, Sir! Where do you come
'Scotland Yard,' I said.
After that for a minute there was utter silence. The old man was
staring at his plate and fumbling with a nut, the very model of
Then the plump one spoke up. He stammered a little, like a man picking
'Don't get flustered, uncle,' he said. 'It is all a ridiculous
mistake; but these things happen sometimes, and we can easily set it
right. It won't be hard to prove our innocence. I can show that I was
out of the country on the 23rd of May, and Bob was in a nursing home.
You were in London, but you can explain what you were doing.'
'Right, Percy! Of course that's easy enough. The 23rd! That was the
day after Agatha's wedding. Let me see. What was I doing? I came up
in the morning from Woking, and lunched at the club with Charlie
Symons. Then--oh yes, I dined with the Fishmongers. I remember, for
the punch didn't agree with me, and I was seedy next morning. Hang it
all, there's the cigar-box I brought back from the dinner.' He pointed
to an object on the table, and laughed nervously.
'I think, Sir,' said the young man, addressing me respectfully, 'you
will see you are mistaken. We want to assist the law like all
Englishmen, and we don't want Scotland Yard to be making fools of
themselves. That's so, uncle?'
'Certainly, Bob.' The old fellow seemed to be recovering his voice.
'Certainly, we'll do anything in our power to assist the authorities.
But--but this is a bit too much. I can't get over it.'
'How Nellie will chuckle,' said the plump man. 'She always said that
you would die of boredom because nothing ever happened to you. And now
you've got it thick and strong,' and he began to laugh very pleasantly.
'By Jove, yes. Just think of it! What a story to tell at the club.
Really, Mr Hannay, I suppose I should be angry, to show my innocence,
but it's too funny! I almost forgive you the fright you gave me! You
looked so glum, I thought I might have been walking in my sleep and
It couldn't be acting, it was too confoundedly genuine. My heart went
into my boots, and my first impulse was to apologize and clear out.
But I told myself I must see it through, even though I was to be the
laughing-stock of Britain. The light from the dinner-table
candlesticks was not very good, and to cover my confusion I got up,
walked to the door and switched on the electric light. The sudden
glare made them blink, and I stood scanning the three faces.
Well, I made nothing of it. One was old and bald, one was stout, one
was dark and thin. There was nothing in their appearance to prevent
them being the three who had hunted me in Scotland, but there was
nothing to identify them. I simply can't explain why I who, as a
roadman, had looked into two pairs of eyes, and as Ned Ainslie into
another pair, why I, who have a good memory and reasonable powers of
observation, could find no satisfaction. They seemed exactly what they
professed to be, and I could not have sworn to one of them.
There in that pleasant dining-room, with etchings on the walls, and a
picture of an old lady in a bib above the mantelpiece, I could see
nothing to connect them with the moorland desperadoes. There was a
silver cigarette-box beside me, and I saw that it had been won by
Percival Appleton, Esq., of the St Bede's Club, in a golf tournament.
I had to keep a firm hold of Peter Pienaar to prevent myself bolting
out of that house.
'Well,' said the old man politely, 'are you reassured by your scrutiny,
I couldn't find a word.
'I hope you'll find it consistent with your duty to drop this
ridiculous business. I make no complaint, but you'll see how annoying
it must be to respectable people.'
I shook my head.
'O Lord,' said the young man. 'This is a bit too thick!'
'Do you propose to march us off to the police station?' asked the plump
one. 'That might be the best way out of it, but I suppose you won't be
content with the local branch. I have the right to ask to see your
warrant, but I don't wish to cast any aspersions upon you. You are
only doing your duty. But you'll admit it's horribly awkward. What do
you propose to do?'
There was nothing to do except to call in my men and have them
arrested, or to confess my blunder and clear out. I felt mesmerized by
the whole place, by the air of obvious innocence--not innocence merely,
but frank honest bewilderment and concern in the three faces.
'Oh, Peter Pienaar,' I groaned inwardly, and for a moment I was very
near damning myself for a fool and asking their pardon.
'Meantime I vote we have a game of bridge,' said the plump one. 'It
will give Mr Hannay time to think over things, and you know we have
been wanting a fourth player. Do you play, Sir?'
I accepted as if it had been an ordinary invitation at the club. The
whole business had mesmerized me. We went into the smoking-room where
a card-table was set out, and I was offered things to smoke and drink.
I took my place at the table in a kind of dream. The window was open
and the moon was flooding the cliffs and sea with a great tide of
yellow light. There was moonshine, too, in my head. The three had
recovered their composure, and were talking easily--just the kind of
slangy talk you will hear in any golf club-house. I must have cut a
rum figure, sitting there knitting my brows with my eyes wandering.
My partner was the young dark one. I play a fair hand at bridge, but I
must have been rank bad that night. They saw that they had got me
puzzled, and that put them more than ever at their ease. I kept
looking at their faces, but they conveyed nothing to me. It was not
that they looked different; they were different. I clung desperately
to the words of Peter Pienaar.
Then something awoke me.
The old man laid down his hand to light a cigar. He didn't pick it up
at once, but sat back for a moment in his chair, with his fingers
tapping on his knees.
It was the movement I remembered when I had stood before him in the
moorland farm, with the pistols of his servants behind me.
A little thing, lasting only a second, and the odds were a thousand to
one that I might have had my eyes on my cards at the time and missed
it. But I didn't, and, in a flash, the air seemed to clear. Some
shadow lifted from my brain, and I was looking at the three men with
full and absolute recognition.
The clock on the mantelpiece struck ten o'clock.
The three faces seemed to change before my eyes and reveal their
secrets. The young one was the murderer. Now I saw cruelty and
ruthlessness, where before I had only seen good-humour. His knife, I
made certain, had skewered Scudder to the floor. His kind had put the
bullet in Karolides.
The plump man's features seemed to dislimn, and form again, as I looked
at them. He hadn't a face, only a hundred masks that he could assume
when he pleased. That chap must have been a superb actor. Perhaps he
had been Lord Alloa of the night before; perhaps not; it didn't matter.
I wondered if he was the fellow who had first tracked Scudder, and left
his card on him. Scudder had said he lisped, and I could imagine how
the adoption of a lisp might add terror.
But the old man was the pick of the lot. He was sheer brain, icy,
cool, calculating, as ruthless as a steam hammer. Now that my eyes
were opened I wondered where I had seen the benevolence. His jaw was
like chilled steel, and his eyes had the inhuman luminosity of a
bird's. I went on playing, and every second a greater hate welled up
in my heart. It almost choked me, and I couldn't answer when my
partner spoke. Only a little longer could I endure their company.
'Whew! Bob! Look at the time,' said the old man. 'You'd better think
about catching your train. Bob's got to go to town tonight,' he added,
turning to me. The voice rang now as false as hell. I looked at the
clock, and it was nearly half-past ten.
'I am afraid he must put off his journey,' I said.
'Oh, damn,' said the young man. 'I thought you had dropped that rot.
I've simply got to go. You can have my address, and I'll give any
security you like.'
'No,' I said, 'you must stay.'
At that I think they must have realized that the game was desperate.
Their only chance had been to convince me that I was playing the fool,
and that had failed. But the old man spoke again.
'I'll go bail for my nephew. That ought to content you, Mr Hannay.'
Was it fancy, or did I detect some halt in the smoothness of that voice?
There must have been, for as I glanced at him, his eyelids fell in that
hawk-like hood which fear had stamped on my memory.
I blew my whistle.
In an instant the lights were out. A pair of strong arms gripped me
round the waist, covering the pockets in which a man might be expected
to carry a pistol.
'SCHNELL, FRANZ,' cried a voice, 'DAS BOOT, DAS BOOT!' As it spoke I
saw two of my fellows emerge on the moonlit lawn.
The young dark man leapt for the window, was through it, and over the
low fence before a hand could touch him. I grappled the old chap, and
the room seemed to fill with figures. I saw the plump one collared,
but my eyes were all for the out-of-doors, where Franz sped on over the
road towards the railed entrance to the beach stairs. One man followed
him, but he had no chance. The gate of the stairs locked behind the
fugitive, and I stood staring, with my hands on the old boy's throat,
for such a time as a man might take to descend those steps to the sea.
Suddenly my prisoner broke from me and flung himself on the wall.
There was a click as if a lever had been pulled. Then came a low
rumbling far, far below the ground, and through the window I saw a
cloud of chalky dust pouring out of the shaft of the stairway.
Someone switched on the light.
The old man was looking at me with blazing eyes.
'He is safe,' he cried. 'You cannot follow in time ... He is gone ...
He has triumphed ... DER SCHWARZE STEIN IST IN DER SIEGESKRONE.'
There was more in those eyes than any common triumph. They had been
hooded like a bird of prey, and now they flamed with a hawk's pride. A
white fanatic heat burned in them, and I realized for the first time
the terrible thing I had been up against. This man was more than a
spy; in his foul way he had been a patriot.
As the handcuffs clinked on his wrists I said my last word to him.
'I hope Franz will bear his triumph well. I ought to tell you that the
ARIADNE for the last hour has been in our hands.'
Three weeks later, as all the world knows, we went to war. I joined
the New Army the first week, and owing to my Matabele experience got a
captain's commission straight off. But I had done my best service, I
think, before I put on khaki.
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corso 20 ORE fatta
apposta per chi come te passa tanto tempo viaggiando! Ideale per
chi fa il pendolare o compie ogni giorno lunghi tragitti sui
mezzi. Sfrutta anche tu i tempi morti per imparare o migliorare
il tuo inglese!
CORSI 20 ORE - I corsi di lingue più
completi per una preparazione di base superiore alla media in 5