Weekly classic film-related e-books from Meredy.com

Friday, May 29, 2009

Weekly Meredy.com E-book - The Thirty-Nine Steps

I love reading the books on which many classic flicks are based. In fact, I collect them. I thought you might like to read them, too. So, I'm starting something new. A free classic movie-related e-book will be featured weekly on my blog. And there will be a surprise waiting for you at the end of each book. :)

For today, I've chosen an old favorite of mine: The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan.

The Thirty-Nine Steps is an adventure novel by the British author (and future Governor General of Canada) John Buchan, first published in 1915 by William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh. It is the first of five novels featuring Richard Hannay, an all-action hero with a stiff upper lip and a miraculous habit of getting himself out of sticky situations.

The novel formed the basis for a number of film adaptations, notably Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 adaptation The 39 Steps starring Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll, a 1959 color remake starring Kenneth More and Taina Elg, a more faithful 1978 version, and a 2008 version for British television.

A Meredy.com E-book

Title: The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915)
Author: John Buchan
Edition: 1
Language: English
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Date first posted: March 2009
Date most recently updated: March 2009

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The Thirty-nine Steps
John Buchan




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 the facts.



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

CHAPTER ONE 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 my days.

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 from yawning.

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 the Cape.

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

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 turn?'

'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 newspapers.

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 at home.'

'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 whisky.

'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, Sir.'

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 liftman 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 there

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 job.

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

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

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 sweat.

My guest was lying sprawled on his back. There was a long knife through his heart which skewered him to the floor.

CHAPTER TWO 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 cogitations.

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 his

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 it.

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.

CHAPTER THREE 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

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

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 regret.

I expressed my surprise that in him I should have met a blue-ribbon stalwart.

'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 cushions.

'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 cutting.

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 houses.

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 road.'

The smell of peat smoke and of some savoury roast floated to me from the house.

'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.'

'Which was?'

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 world.'

'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

'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 this moment.'

'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 adventures?'

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 with excitement.

'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 was positive.

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 not sleep.

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.

CHAPTER FOUR 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 Scudder's pocket-book.

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 billy-o.

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

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 slackened speed.

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 hearth-rug.

'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

'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 emigration agent'.

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

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

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 heart.

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.

CHAPTER FIVE 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

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 green places.

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 through glasses.

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 threaded them.

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 dungeon.

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 roadman.

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 suckle.'

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

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' no-weel-ness.'

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 nothing.

'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 Turnbull's bundle.

'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 country shoemaker.'

'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 right.'

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 three

My  heart  leapt  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 shoulder.

'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?' he gasped.

'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

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 mine.

'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 motor-

CHAPTER SIX 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

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 fell asleep.

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 sky-line 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 sky-line, 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 had

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 watching me.

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

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 horribly intelligent.

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
curious eyes.

'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 Hannay.'

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 the table.

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 mind.

'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 stone wall.

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.'

'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 to luncheon.'

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

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 worth investigating.

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 order.

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 inches square.

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 saw it.

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 fireworks.

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 take them.

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

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

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 dovecote. 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 dovecote 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 dovecote
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 dovecote 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 dovecote 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 dovecote 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

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 dovecote. 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.

CHAPTER SEVEN 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 dovecote 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 British police.

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 clad.

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 darkening.

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 asked.

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 walls.

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'

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 enterprise.

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 'Annie Laurie'.

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 water.

'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 alias.

'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 deep.

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 me.'

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 awaiting me.

'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 young man.

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 day.

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 jopley.

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 possibles.'

'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.'

CHAPTER EIGHT 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 thought tarnished.

'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 Europe.'

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

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 introduction.

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 inconvenience.'

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 yourself.'

'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 temper.

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 Marmaduke jopley.

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 throat.

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 you up.'

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 important.'

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 Portsmouth ...

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 ill-timed.'

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.

CHAPTER NINE 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 his mind.'

'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 been foolish!'

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 back--'

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 the Admiralty.'

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 steps.

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 puzzling me.

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 like this:


(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 tide.

(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 beach.'

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 the Ruff--'

'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 10.17 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.

CHAPTER TEN 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 sea-gulls.

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 mine.

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 England.

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 called 'atmosphere'.

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

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 business.'

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 it.'

'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 month.'

'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 from?'

'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 innocent

Then the plump one spoke up. He stammered a little, like a man picking his words.

'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 killing people.'

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, Sir?'

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.


End of this Meredy.com E-book The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan

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