My Dear Tommy,


and I have long cherished an affection


that elemental type

of tale

which Americans call the ‘dime novel’


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.

, , , , , 


, , , , , 



The Man

who Died


The Milkman Sets Out

on his Travels


The Adventure

of the Literary Innkeeper


The Adventure

of the Radical Candidate


The Adventure

of the Spectacled Roadman


The Adventure

of the Bald Archaeologist


The Dry-Fly Fisherman


The Coming

of the Black Stone


The Thirty-Nine Steps


Various Parties Converging

on the Sea


The Man

who Died

I returned

from the City

about three o’clock


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;


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.

, , , , , 


from the first I was disappointed

with it.


about a week I was tired

of seeing sights,


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.


of people invited me

to their houses,

but they didn’t seem much interested

in me.


would fling me a question

or two

about South Africa,


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,


that was the dismalest business

of all.

Here was I,

thirty-seven years old,


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,


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,


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


could be said

for most

of them.

I gathered

that they hated him pretty blackly

in Berlin

and Vienna,


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,



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,


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.


would give the Old Country another day

to fit me

into something;

if nothing happened,


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,


there was no restaurant

or anything


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


by the day.

He arrived

before eight o’clock every morning

and used

to depart

at seven,

for I never dined

at home.

, , , , , 

I was just fitting my key

into the door

when I noticed a man

at my elbow.

I had not seen him approach,

and the sudden appearance made me start.

He was a slim man,

with a short brown beard

and small,

gimlety blue eyes.

I recognized him

as the occupant

of a flat

on the top floor,

with whom I had passed the time

of day

on the stairs.

, , , , , 

‘Can I speak

to you?’

he said.

‘May I come


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


would understand.

I’ve had you

in my mind all this week

when things got troublesome.


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,


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.

, , , , , 


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




I’ve been watching you,

and I reckon you’re a cool customer.

I reckon,


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.’

, , , , , 



with your yarn,’

I said,

‘and I’ll tell you.’

, , , , , 

He seemed

to brace himself

for a great effort,


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,



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.


behind all the Governments

and the armies

there was a big subterranean movement going on,


by very dangerous people.

He had come

on it

by accident;

it fascinated him;

he went further,


then he got caught.

I gathered

that most

of the people

in it were the sort

of educated anarchists

that make revolutions,


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


that happened

in the Balkan War,

how one state suddenly came out

on top,

why alliances were made

and broken,

why certain men disappeared,


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.


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.


he said,

had no conscience

and no fatherland.


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.


if you’re

on the biggest kind

of job

and are bound

to get

to the real boss,


to one you are brought up

against a little white-faced Jew

in a bath-chair

with an eye

like a rattlesnake.



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.’

, , , , , 


could not help saying

that his Jew-anarchists seemed

to have got left

behind a little.

, , , , , 


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,


if you survive you get

to love the thing.

Those foolish devils

of soldiers have found something they care for,


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,


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.

, , , , , 


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


that it was difficult,

for any fool

could guess

as much.

But I found out the way they were going

to get him,


that knowledge was deadly.


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


would skin their grandmothers.


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


that date.

Now Karolides is reckoned the principal guest,


if my friends have their way he

will never return

to his admiring countrymen.’

, , , , , 

‘That’s simple enough,


I said.


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.


if his Government are warned he

won’t come,

for he does not know

how big the stakes

will be

on June the 15th.’

, , , , , 


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 precautions.’

, , , , , 

‘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.


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.


that man is going

to be your servant,

Franklin P. Scudder.’

, , , , , 

I was getting


like the little chap.

His jaw had shut

like a rat-trap,


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,


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,


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


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,



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


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,


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


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,


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,


there seemed nothing

to do but

to make an appeal

to you.

I watched

from my window

till I saw you come home,


then slipped down the stair

to meet you  ...



I guess you know about

as much

as me

of this business.’

, , , , , 

He sat blinking

like an owl,


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,


then cut my throat,


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.


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.


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,


if so be you are not I

should warn you

that I’m a handy man

with a gun.’

, , , , , 


he said,

jumping up

with some briskness.

‘I haven’t the privilege

of your name,


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.


he carried himself


if he had been drilled,

and was the very model,


to the brown complexion,

of some British officer

who had had a long spell

in India.

He had a monocle,


which he stuck

in his eye,

and every trace

of the American had gone out

of his speech.

, , , , , 

‘My hat!

Mr Scudder

--’ I stammered.

, , , , , 

‘Not Mr Scudder,’

he corrected;

‘Captain Theophilus Digby,

of the 40th Gurkhas,

presently home

on leave.

I’ll thank you

to remember that,


, , , , , 

I made him up a bed

in my smoking-room

and sought my own couch,

more cheerful

than I had been

for the past month.

Things did happen occasionally,


in this God-forgotten metropolis.

, , , , , 

I woke next morning

to hear my man,


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.

, , , , , 


that row,


I said.

‘There’s a friend

of mine,



(I couldn’t remember the name)

‘dossing down

in there.

Get breakfast

for two


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,


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


if his life depended

on it.

, , , , , 

I left him

with the newspaper

and a box

of cigars,

and went down

to the City

till luncheon.

When I got back the lift-man had an important face.

, , , , , 

‘Nawsty business ‘ere this morning,



in No. 15 been

and shot ‘isself.

They’ve just took ‘im

to the mortiary.

The police are up

there now.’

, , , , , 

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


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,


which he beat me hollow.

I think he was nursing his nerves back

to health,

for he had had a pretty

trying time.


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.


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.


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.

, , , , , 



he said,

‘I judge I

should let you a bit deeper

into this business.


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,


would come

from the very highest quarters,



would be no thought

of suspicion.

He mentioned the name

of a woman

--Julia Czechenyi

--as having something

to do

with the danger.


would be the decoy,

I gathered,

to get Karolides out

of the care

of his guards.

He talked,


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


could hood his eyes

like a hawk.

, , , , , 

He spoke a good deal

about death,


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


at the window.

I used

to thank God

for such mornings way back

in the Blue-Grass country,

and I guess I’ll thank Him

when I wake up

on the other side

of Jordan.’

, , , , , 

Next day he was much more cheerful,

and read the life

of Stonewall Jackson much

of the time.

I went out

to dinner

with a mining engineer I had got

to see

on business,

and came back

about half-past ten

in time

for our game

of chess

before turning in.

, , , , , 

I had a cigar

in my mouth,

I remember,

as I pushed open the smoking-room door.

The lights were not lit,

which struck me

as odd.

I wondered

if Scudder had turned

in already.

, , , , , 

I snapped the switch,


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.

, , , , , 


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,


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.


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,


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


could come forward

and swear

to my character.


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.

, , , , , 


if I told the whole story,


by any miracle was believed,


would be playing their game.


would stay

at home,

which was

what they wanted.


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,


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,


that long knife

would not be the end

of Scudder

if I

could play the game

in his place.

, , , , , 

It took me an hour

or two

to think this out,



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,


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,


if I weathered the other dangers,


would not be believed

in the end.

I must take my chance

of that,

and hope

that something might happen


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,


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,


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


almost any chance

of activity was welcome.

When I had

to sit alone


that corpse

and wait

on Fortune I was no better

than a crushed worm,


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


which I had seen him making notes.

That had no doubt been taken

by his murderer.

, , , , , 


as I looked up

from my task I saw

that some drawers had been pulled out

in the writing-table.


would never have left them


that state,

for he was the tidiest

of mortals.

Someone must have been searching

for something


for the pocket-book.

, , , , , 

I went round the flat

and found

that everything had been ransacked

--the inside

of books,




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,


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


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,


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,


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,


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.


as I reviewed the situation I

could find no arguments

to bring

against my decision

of the previous night,


with a wry mouth I resolved

to go


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


with a latch-key.


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


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.


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,


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.

, , , , , 


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,


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,


, , , , , 

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


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,


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,


by a sailor

and a stout woman

with a child.

He went off grumbling,


as I mopped my brow I observed

to my companions

in my broadest Scots

that it was a sore job catching trains.

I had already entered upon my part.

, , , , , 

‘The impidence o’

that gyaird!’ said the lady bitterly.

‘He needit a Scotch tongue

to pit him

in his place.

He was complainin’ o’ this wean no haein’ a ticket

and her no fower

till August twalmonth,

and he was objectin’

to this gentleman spittin’.’

, , , , , 

The sailor morosely agreed,

and I started my new life

in an atmosphere

of protest

against authority.

I reminded myself

that a week ago I had been finding the world dull.

, , , , , 


The Adventure

of the Literary Innkeeper

I had a solemn time travelling north

that day.

It was fine May weather,

with the hawthorn flowering

on every hedge,

and I asked myself why,

when I was still a free man,

I had stayed on

in London

and not got the good

of this heavenly country.

I didn’t dare face the restaurant car,

but I got a luncheon-basket

at Leeds

and shared it

with the fat woman.

Also I got the morning’s papers,

with news

about starters

for the Derby

and the beginning

of the cricket season,

and some paragraphs about

how Balkan affairs were settling down

and a British squadron was going

to Kiel.

, , , , , 

When I had done

with them I got out Scudder’s little black pocket-book

and studied it.

It was pretty well filled

with jottings,

chiefly figures,

though now


then a name was printed in.

For example,

I found the words ‘Hofgaard’,


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


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


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,


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


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,


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,


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,


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


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,



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,


and thick sweet milk.

, , , , , 

At the darkening her man came


from the hills,

a lean giant,


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,


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,


by six I had breakfasted

and was striding southwards again.

My notion was

to return

to the railway line a station

or two farther


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,


as I reasoned,


would take some hours

to fix the blame

on me,

and several more

to identify the fellow

who got

on board the train

at St Pancras.

, , , , , 

It was the same jolly,

clear spring weather,

and I simply

could not contrive

to feel careworn.

Indeed I was

in better spirits

than I had been

for months.

Over a long ridge

of moorland I took my road,

skirting the side

of a high hill

which the herd had called Cairnsmore

of Fleet.

Nesting curlews

and plovers were crying everywhere,

and the links

of green pasture

by the streams were dotted

with young lambs.

All the slackness

of the past months was slipping

from my bones,

and I stepped out

like a four-year-old.

By-and-by I came

to a swell

of moorland

which dipped

to the vale

of a little river,

and a mile away

in the heather I saw the smoke

of a train.

, , , , , 

The station,

when I reached it,


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,


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,


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


if the latter had earned his sovereign hardly;


for me he had been cheap

at the price,

for he seemed

to have occupied the police

for the better part

of the day.

In the latest news I found a further instalment

of the story.

The milkman had been released,

I read,

and the true criminal,

about whose identity the police were reticent,

was believed

to have got away

from London

by one

of the northern lines.

There was a short note

about me

as the owner

of the flat.

I guessed the police had stuck

that in,

as a clumsy contrivance

to persuade me

that I was unsuspected.

, , , , , 

There was nothing else

in the paper,


about foreign politics

or Karolides,

or the things

that had interested Scudder.

I laid it down,

and found

that we were approaching the station


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,


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.


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.

, , , , , 


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.

, , , , , 


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.

, , , , , 


would have been all right



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,


in cover

of the bushes put a hundred yards

or so

behind me.


from my shelter I peered back,

and saw the guard

and several passengers gathered round the open carriage door

and staring

in my direction.


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.


and his dog,

which was attached

by a rope

to his waist,

suddenly cascaded out

of the carriage,


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,


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.


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,


that once their grip closed

on me I

should find no mercy.

, , , , , 

I looked back,


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.


of all I looked

into the blue May sky,


there I saw


which set my pulses racing  ...

, , , , , 

Low down

in the south a monoplane was climbing

into the heavens.

I was

as certain


if I had been told

that that aeroplane was looking

for me,


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,


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,


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



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.

, , , , , 


that place an inn?’

I asked.

, , , , , 

‘At your service,’

he said politely.

‘I am the landlord,


and I hope you

will stay the night,


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.

, , , , , 


what better chance

could you ask?’

I cried.


I’ve often thought

that an innkeeper

would make the best story-teller

in the world.’

, , , , , 

‘Not now,’

he said eagerly.


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


I looked

at the inn standing golden

in the sunset

against the brown hills.

, , , , , 

‘I’ve knocked a bit

about the world,

and I wouldn’t despise such a hermitage.

D’you think

that adventure is found only

in the tropics


among gentry

in red shirts?

Maybe you’re rubbing shoulders

with it

at this moment.’

, , , , , 


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.’

, , , , , 


on the bridge

in the soft May gloaming I pitched him a lovely yarn.

It was true

in essentials,


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;


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.


can lie

as snug here


if you were

in a moss-hole.

I’ll see

that nobody blabs,


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.


there was a long article,



about Karolides

and the state

of affairs

in the Balkans,


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,


by an elaborate system

of experiments I had pretty well discovered

what were the nulls

and stops.

The trouble was the key word,


when I thought

of the odd million words he might have used I felt pretty hopeless.


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,


there was the sound

of people alighting.

There seemed

to be two

of them,


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.


in the dining-room having whiskies-and-sodas.

They asked

about you

and said they had hoped

to meet you here.


and they described you jolly well,


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


if they were part

of a letter



‘Black Stone.

Scudder had got


to this,

but he

could not act

for a fortnight.

I doubt

if I

can do any good now,


as Karolides is uncertain

about his plans.


if Mr T. advises I

will do the best I  ...’

, , , , , 

I manufactured it rather neatly,


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


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.


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.


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,


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,


with the dust

on her

which told

of a long journey.

I started her,


into the chauffeur’s seat,

and stole gently out


to the plateau.

, , , , , 


at once the road dipped so

that I lost sight

of the inn,

but the wind seemed

to bring me the sound

of angry voices.

, , , , , 


The Adventure

of the Radical Candidate

You may picture me driving

that 40 h.p.


for all she was worth

over the crisp moor roads


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


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.

, , , , , 



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.


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,


and had an odd trick

of giving them all a numerical value


then striking a balance,

which stood

for the reliability

of each stage

in the yarn.

The four names he had printed were authorities,


there was a man,


who got five out

of a possible five;

and another fellow,


who got three.

The bare bones

of the tale were all

that was

in the book


and one queer phrase

which occurred half a dozen times inside brackets.

‘(Thirty-nine steps)’ was the phrase;


at its last time

of use it ran

--’(Thirty-nine steps,

I counted them

--high tide 10.17 p.m.)’.


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,


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


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,


then Vienna

would chip


with an ultimatum.

Russia wouldn’t

like that,



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,


in five hours let fly

at us.

That was the idea,

and a pretty good one too.


and fair speeches,


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.


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,


that the two General Staffs met every now

and then,

and made plans

for joint action

in case

of war.


in June a very great swell was coming


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;


it was something uncommonly important.

, , , , , 


on the 15th day

of June

there were

to be others

in London


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,


for France,


to be diverted

to their pockets.

And it was

to be used,


--used a week

or two later,

with great guns

and swift torpedoes,


in the darkness

of a summer night.

, , , , , 

This was the story I had been deciphering

in a back room

of a country inn,

overlooking a cabbage garden.

This was the story

that hummed

in my brain

as I swung

in the big touring-car

from glen

to glen.

, , , , , 

My first impulse had been

to write a letter

to the Prime Minister,

but a little reflection convinced me

that that

would be useless.


would believe my tale?

I must show a sign,

some token

in proof,

and Heaven knew what


could be.

Above all,

I must keep going myself,


to act

when things got riper,


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,


in a break

of the trees I saw a great castle.

I swung

through little old thatched villages,


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;


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,


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,


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,


there was the risk

of getting


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,


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.


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,


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.

, , , , , 


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,



before me a car was sliding athwart my course.

In a second


would have been the deuce

of a wreck.

I did the only thing possible,

and ran slap

into the hedge

on the right,


to find something soft beyond.

, , , , , 


there I was mistaken.

My car slithered

through the hedge

like butter,


then gave a sickening plunge forward.

I saw

what was coming,


on the seat


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,


and pitched,


then dropped

with an almighty smash fifty feet

to the bed

of the stream.

, , , , , 


that thorn let me go.

I subsided first

on the hedge,


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,


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.


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?’

, , , , , 


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


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.


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,



you haven’t told me your name.


Any relation

of old Tommy Twisdon

of the Sixtieth?



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,



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


for forty,


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


can tell our people

what a wash-out Protection is

in the Colonies.

All you fellows have the gift

of the gab

--I wish

to Heaven I had it.

I’ll be

for evermore

in your debt.’

, , , , , 

I had very few notions

about Free Trade one way

or the other,

but I saw no other chance

to get

what I wanted.

My young gentleman was far too absorbed

in his own difficulties

to think

how odd it was

to ask a stranger

who had just missed death

by an ace

and had lost a 1,000-guinea car

to address a meeting

for him

on the spur

of the moment.

But my necessities did not allow me

to contemplate oddnesses or

to pick

and choose my supports.

, , , , , 

‘All right,’

I said.

‘I’m not much good

as a speaker,

but I’ll tell them a bit

about Australia.’

, , , , , 

At my words the cares

of the ages slipped

from his shoulders,

and he was rapturous

in his thanks.

He lent me a big driving coat

--and never troubled

to ask

why I had started

on a motor tour without possessing an ulster


as we slipped down the dusty roads,


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,


I’m Liberal,

because my family have always been Whigs.’


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.


a very clean,


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.’

, , , , , 


said my host,

while I thanked Providence

for the devious ways I had been brought

to safety.


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,


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


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


which he read,


when he let go

of them he fell

into one prolonged stutter.

Every now


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,


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,


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,


then sending Germany an ultimatum telling her

to do the same

or we

would knock her

into a cocked hat.

He said that,


for the Tories,


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.

, , , , , 


in a queer way I liked the speech.


could see the niceness

of the chap shining out

behind the muck


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,



should be no Australian there


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


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,



when he proposed a vote

of thanks,


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,


he said.


you’re coming home

with me.

I’m all alone,


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


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.

, , , , , 


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.


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


and pamphlets

that agent chap

of mine keeps sending me.

But you surely

don’t think Germany

would ever go

to war

with us?’

, , , , , 


that question

in six weeks

and it

won’t need an answer,’

I said.

‘If you’ll give me your attention

for half an hour I am going

to tell you a story.’

, , , , , 


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,


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.


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.


it’s your duty,

as a law-abiding citizen.


in a month’s time you’ll be sorry,

but you have no cause

to think

of that.’

, , , , , 

He was looking

at me

with bright steady eyes.

‘What was your job

in Rhodesia,

Mr Hannay?’

he asked.

, , , , , 

‘Mining engineer,’

I said.

‘I’ve made my pile cleanly

and I’ve had a good time

in the making

of it.’

, , , , , 

‘Not a profession

that weakens the nerves,

is it?’

, , , , , 

I laughed.



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.


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.



can I do?’

, , , , , 


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.


won’t help you.

This is Foreign Office business,

and my uncle

would have nothing

to do

with it.


you’d never convince him.


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


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’.

, , , , , 


said Sir Harry.

‘That’s the proper style.

By the way,

you’ll find my godfather

--his name’s Sir Walter Bullivant


at his country cottage

for Whitsuntide.

It’s close

to Artinswell

on the Kenner.

That’s done.


what’s the next thing?’

, , , , , 


about my height.

Lend me the oldest tweed suit you’ve got.


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.


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


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


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.


can put

in a week

among the shepherds,

and be

as safe


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.


at any rate,


could get early news

of my enemies.

, , , , , 


The Adventure

of the Spectacled Roadman

I sat down

on the very crest

of the pass

and took stock

of my position.

, , , , , 

Behind me was the road climbing

through a long cleft

in the hills,

which was the upper glen

of some notable river.

In front was a flat space

of maybe a mile,

all pitted

with bog-holes

and rough

with tussocks,


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,


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,


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.


there was only the calling

of plovers

and the tinkling

of little streams.

, , , , , 

It was now

about seven o’clock,


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,


as I looked it dropped several hundred feet

and began

to circle round the knot

of hill

in narrowing circles,


as a hawk wheels

before it pounces.

Now it was flying very low,

and now the observer

on board caught sight

of me.


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,


would conclude

that I

would try

to escape

by the road.


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,


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


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,


as I ran I kept scanning the brow

of the hill

before me.

Was it imagination,

or did I see figures



perhaps more


in a glen beyond the stream?

, , , , , 

If you are hemmed


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


that table-cloth

of a place?


would have buried myself

to the neck

in mud

or lain below water

or climbed the tallest tree.


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.

, , , , , 


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,


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.


on me!

My heid’s burstin’!’ he cried.

, , , , , 

He was a wild figure,

about my own size

but much bent,

with a week’s beard

on his chin,

and a pair

of big horn spectacles.

, , , , , 

‘I canna dae’t,’

he cried again.

‘The Surveyor maun just report me.


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.


and some ither chiels sat down

to the drinkin’,

and here I am.


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.

, , , , , 



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;


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,


and collar,

and gave him them

to carry home;



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,


there was a forearm

which might have been a blacksmith’s,


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,


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,


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,


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



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.


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


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


that long white road.

, , , , , 



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?


A fair bit

of road,


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


with my work,


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  ...


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.

, , , , , 


of the men I had seen before

from the window

of the Galloway inn

--one lean,


and dark,

the other comfortable

and smiling.

The third had the look

of a countryman

--a vet,


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.

, , , , , 


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.


in gude time.


that that paper cam’ out last Setterday I’m just Sax days late.’

, , , , , 

He picked it up,


at the superscription,

and laid it down again.


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


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.’

, , , , , 


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 minutes.

, , , , , 

My heart leaped

with an enormous relief,

but I went

on wheeling my stones.

It was

as well,

for ten minutes later the car returned,


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.


could not keep up this roadmaking business

for long.

A merciful Providence had kept Mr Turnbull indoors,


if he appeared

on the scene


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.


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,


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,


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.

, , , , , 


there he was now,

nattily dressed,

in a fine new car,


on his way

to visit some

of his smart friends.

A sudden daftness took me,


in a second I had jumped

into the tonneau

and had him

by the shoulder.

, , , , , 



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,


, , , , , 

He did

as bid,

for he was blind

with terror.

Over my dirty trousers

and vulgar shirt I put

on his smart driving-coat,

which buttoned high

at the top

and thereby hid the deficiencies

of my collar.

I stuck the cap

on my head,

and added his gloves

to my get-up.

The dusty roadman

in a minute was transformed

into one

of the neatest motorists

in Scotland.

On Mr Jopley’s head I clapped Turnbull’s unspeakable hat,

and told him

to keep it there.

, , , , , 


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.

, , , , , 


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.


if you play me any tricks,


above all

if you open your mouth,

as sure

as there’s a God

above me I’ll wring your neck.


, , , , , 

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


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,


into an unfrequented corner

of the hills.

Soon the villages were left behind,

then the farms,



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.


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-cars.

, , , , , 


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


of all

--my pipe

and tobacco pouch.

Only my money accompanied me

in my belt,


about half a pound

of ginger biscuits

in my trousers pocket.

, , , , , 

I supped off half those biscuits,


by worming myself deep

into the heather got some kind

of warmth.

My spirits had risen,

and I was beginning

to enjoy this crazy game

of hide-and-seek.

So far I had been miraculously lucky.

The milkman,

the literary innkeeper,

Sir Harry,

the roadman,

and the idiotic Marmie,

were all pieces

of undeserved good fortune.

Somehow the first success gave me a feeling

that I was going

to pull the thing through.

, , , , , 

My chief trouble was

that I was desperately hungry.

When a Jew shoots himself

in the City


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,


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,


then my own boots placed neatly

in a blaeberry bush.

I raised myself

on my arms

and looked down

into the valley,


that one look set me lacing up my boots

in mad haste.

, , , , , 


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,


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


which I scrambled

to the top

of the ridge.


there I looked back,

and saw

that I was still undiscovered.

My pursuers were patiently quartering the hillside

and moving upwards.

, , , , , 


behind the skyline I ran

for maybe half a mile,

till I judged I was

above the uppermost end

of the glen.

Then I showed myself,

and was instantly noted

by one

of the flankers,

who passed the word

to the others.

I heard cries coming up

from below,

and saw

that the line

of search had changed its direction.

I pretended

to retreat

over the skyline,

but instead went back the way I had come,


in twenty minutes was

behind the ridge overlooking my sleeping place.


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,


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


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.


there had been cover I

would have tried a bit

of stalking,


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.


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,


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.


there were trees there,


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


which I had descended.

, , , , , 


that I did not look back;

I had no time.

I ran up the burnside,


over the open places,


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.


there I saw the chimneys

of the house smoking a few hundred yards

to my left.

I forsook the burnside,

crossed another dyke,



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,


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,


at my approach.

The house

before me was the ordinary moorland farm,

with a more pretentious whitewashed wing added.


to this wing was a glass veranda,


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,


on one side,


on the other a mass

of books.

More books showed

in an inner room.

On the floor,


of tables,

stood cases such

as you see

in a museum,


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,


about five minutes

to spare,

to tell a stranger

who I was


what I wanted,


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.

, , , , , 


I see,’

he said,

and took up a pair

of field-glasses through

which he patiently scrutinized the figures.

, , , , , 

‘A fugitive

from justice,



we’ll go

into the matter

at our leisure.

Meantime I object

to my privacy being broken

in upon

by the clumsy rural policeman.


into my study,

and you

will see two doors facing you.

Take the one

on the left

and close it

behind you.


will be perfectly safe.’

, , , , , 

And this extraordinary man took up his pen again.

, , , , , 

I did

as I was bid,

and found myself

in a little dark chamber

which smelt

of chemicals,

and was lit only

by a tiny window high up

in the wall.

The door had swung

behind me

with a click

like the door

of a safe.

Once again I had found an unexpected sanctuary.

, , , , , 

All the same I was not comfortable.

There was something

about the old gentleman

which puzzled

and rather terrified me.

He had been too easy

and ready,



if he had expected me.

And his eyes had been horribly intelligent.

, , , , , 

No sound came

to me


that dark place.

For all I knew the police might be searching the house,


if they did they

would want

to know

what was

behind this door.

I tried

to possess my soul

in patience,


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.


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.


as the reflection darted

across my mind I saw a slender chance.

, , , , , 


don’t know

what you mean,’

I said roughly.


who are you calling Richard Hannay?

My name’s Ainslie.’

, , , , , 


he said,

still smiling.


of course you have others.


won’t quarrel

about a name.’

, , , , , 

I was pulling myself together now,

and I reflected

that my garb,

lacking coat

and waistcoat

and collar,


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.

, , , , , 


for God’s sake stop jawing,’

I cried.


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,



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.


can do

what you like,

old boy!

Ned Ainslie’s got no fight left

in him.’

, , , , , 


could see

that the doubt was gaining.

, , , , , 

‘Will you oblige me

with the story

of your recent doings?’

he asked.

, , , , , 

‘I can’t,


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,


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,


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.

, , , , , 


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.


if it had been you,


that had found the quids,


would have troubled you.’

, , , , , 

‘You’re a good liar,


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  ...



I beg pardon,


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,


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.


will be three

to luncheon.’

, , , , , 

Then he looked steadily

at me,


that was the hardest ordeal

of all.

, , , , , 

There was something weird

and devilish

in those eyes,




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,


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,


I said.

, , , , , 


he spoke

in German

to one

of the men

in the doorway,


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


what had been the old farmhouse.

There was no carpet

on the uneven floor,

and nothing

to sit down


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


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.


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,


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,


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.


at any rate were fellow-countrymen

and honest men,

and their tender mercies

would be kinder

than these ghoulish aliens.

But they wouldn’t have listened

to me.

That old devil

with the eyelids had not taken long

to get rid

of them.

I thought he probably had some kind

of graft

with the constabulary.

Most likely he had letters

from Cabinet Ministers saying he was

to be given every facility

for plotting

against Britain.

That’s the sort

of owlish way we run our politics

in the Old Country.

, , , , , 

The three

would be back

for lunch,

so I hadn’t more

than a couple

of hours

to wait.

It was simply waiting

on destruction,

for I

could see no way out

of this mess.

I wished

that I had Scudder’s courage,

for I am free

to confess I didn’t feel any great fortitude.

The only thing

that kept me going was

that I was pretty furious.

It made me boil

with rage

to think

of those three spies getting the pull

on me

like this.

I hoped that

at any rate I might be able

to twist one

of their necks

before they downed me.

, , , , , 

The more I thought

of it the angrier I grew,

and I had

to get up

and move

about the room.

I tried the shutters,

but they were the kind

that lock

with a key,

and I couldn’t move them.

From the outside came the faint clucking

of hens

in the warm sun.

Then I groped

among the sacks

and boxes.

I couldn’t open the latter,

and the sacks seemed

to be full

of things

like dog-biscuits

that smelt

of cinnamon.


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


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,


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,


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.


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,



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,


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;


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,


for myself


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


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?


that case


would be a glorious skyward journey

for me

and the German servants


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 shoulder.

, , , , , 


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.


behind me I felt fresh air.

The jambs

of the window had fallen,


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,


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


to a bed

of chaff.

A nail caught the seat

of my trousers,

and I left a wisp

of heather-mixture

behind me.

, , , , , 

The mill had been long out

of use.

The ladders were rotten

with age,


in the loft the rats had gnawed great holes

in the floor.

Nausea shook me,

and a wheel

in my head kept turning,

while my left shoulder

and arm seemed

to be stricken

with the palsy.

I looked out

of the window

and saw a fog still hanging

over the house

and smoke escaping

from an upper window.

Please God I had set the place

on fire,

for I

could hear confused cries coming

from the other side.

, , , , , 

But I had no time

to linger,

since this mill was obviously a bad hiding-place.

Anyone looking

for me

would naturally follow the lade,

and I made certain the search

would begin

as soon

as they found

that my body was not

in the storeroom.

From another window I saw that

on the far side

of the mill stood an old stone dovecot.

If I

could get

there without leaving tracks I might find a hiding-place,

for I argued

that my enemies,

if they thought I

could move,

would conclude I had made

for open country,


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,


on the threshold

where the door hung

on broken hinges.

Peeping out,

I saw


between me

and the dovecot was a piece

of bare cobbled ground,

where no footmarks

would show.

Also it was mercifully hid

by the mill buildings

from any view

from the house.

I slipped

across the space,


to the back

of the dovecot

and prospected a way

of ascent.

, , , , , 

That was one

of the hardest jobs I ever took on.

My shoulder

and arm ached

like hell,

and I was so sick

and giddy

that I was always

on the verge

of falling.

But I managed it somehow.

By the use

of out-jutting stones

and gaps

in the masonry

and a tough ivy root I got

to the top

in the end.

There was a little parapet behind

which I found space

to lie down.

Then I proceeded

to go off

into an old-fashioned swoon.

, , , , , 

I woke

with a burning head

and the sun glaring

in my face.

For a long time I lay motionless,

for those horrible fumes seemed

to have loosened my joints

and dulled my brain.

Sounds came

to me

from the house

--men speaking throatily

and the throbbing

of a stationary car.

There was a little gap

in the parapet


which I wriggled,



which I had some sort

of prospect

of the yard.

I saw figures come out

--a servant

with his head bound up,


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.


could hear them kicking

over the barrels

and pulling up the rotten planking.

Then they came outside,

and stood just below the dovecot arguing fiercely.

The servant

with the bandage was being soundly rated.

I heard them fiddling

with the door

of the dovecote


for one horrid moment I fancied they were coming up.

Then they thought better

of it,

and went back

to the house.

, , , , , 


that long blistering afternoon I lay baking

on the rooftop.

Thirst was my chief torment.

My tongue was

like a stick,


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


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.


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,


there was no higher point nearer

than the big hills six miles off.

The actual summit,

as I have mentioned,

was a biggish clump

of trees

--firs mostly,

with a few ashes

and beeches.

On the dovecot I was almost

on a level

with the tree-tops,


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,


would think it had gone

over the hill beyond the trees.

As the place was

on the top

of a rise

in the midst

of a big amphitheatre,

any observer

from any direction

would conclude it had passed out

of view

behind the hill.

Only a man very close

at hand

would realize

that the aeroplane had not gone over

but had descended

in the midst

of the wood.

An observer

with a telescope

on one

of the higher hills might have discovered the truth,

but only herds went there,

and herds do not carry spy-glasses.

When I looked

from the dovecot I

could see far away a blue line

which I knew was the sea,

and I grew furious

to think

that our enemies had this secret conning-tower

to rake our waterways.

, , , , , 

Then I reflected that


that aeroplane came back the chances were ten

to one

that I

would be discovered.


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


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


would not rise

till late.

My thirst was too great

to allow me

to tarry,


about nine o’clock,

so far

as I

could judge,

I started

to descend.

It wasn’t easy,

and half-way down I heard the back door

of the house open,

and saw the gleam

of a lantern

against the mill wall.

For some agonizing minutes I hung

by the ivy

and prayed

that whoever it was

would not come round

by the dovecot.

Then the light disappeared,

and I dropped

as softly

as I could


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



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,


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.


that lay the moor,


in five minutes I was deep

in bracken

and heather.

Soon I was round the shoulder

of the rise,

in the little glen


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


that accursed dwelling.

, , , , , 


The Dry-Fly Fisherman

I sat down

on a hill-top

and took stock

of my position.

I wasn’t feeling very happy,

for my natural thankfulness

at my escape was clouded

by my severe bodily discomfort.

Those lentonite fumes had fairly poisoned me,

and the baking hours

on the dovecot hadn’t helped matters.

I had a crushing headache,

and felt

as sick

as a cat.

Also my shoulder was

in a bad way.

At first I thought it was only a bruise,

but it seemed

to be swelling,

and I had no use

of my left arm.

, , , , , 

My plan was

to seek Mr Turnbull’s cottage,

recover my garments,

and especially Scudder’s note-book,


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,


that meant I

could not get


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,



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


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,


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,


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.


would have bathed my shoulder,

but it ached so badly

that I

would not let her touch it.

, , , , , 


don’t know

what she took me for

--a repentant burglar,



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,


when I left

that cottage I was the living image

of the kind

of Scotsman you see

in the illustrations

to Burns’s poems.


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


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,


in the early dawn I was knocking

at Mr Turnbull’s door.

The mist lay close

and thick,


from the cottage I

could not see the highroad.

, , , , , 

Mr Turnbull himself opened

to me


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;


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.



ye’re terrible dune i’ the legs.

Haud up

till I get ye

to a chair.’

, , , , , 

I perceived I was


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,


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,


when my skin was cool again I found

that the bout had more

or less cured my shoulder.

But it was a baddish go,

and though I was out

of bed

in five days,

it took me some time

to get my legs again.

, , , , , 

He went out each morning,

leaving me milk

for the day,

and locking the door

behind him;

and came

in in the evening

to sit silent

in the chimney corner.

Not a soul came near the place.

When I was getting better,

he never bothered me

with a question.

Several times he fetched me a two days’ old SCOTSMAN,

and I noticed

that the interest

in the Portland Place murder seemed

to have died down.

There was no mention

of it,

and I

could find very little

about anything except a thing called the General Assembly

--some ecclesiastical spree,

I gathered.

, , , , , 

One day he produced my belt

from a lockfast drawer.

‘There’s a terrible heap o’ siller in’t,’

he said.

‘Ye’d better coont it

to see it’s a’ there.’

, , , , , 

He never

even sought my name.

I asked him

if anybody had been

around making inquiries subsequent

to my spell

at the road-making.

, , , , , 


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


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,


as soon

as I felt myself fit I decided

to be off.

That was not

till the twelfth day

of June,


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


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’.


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


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,


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,


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),


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



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,


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,


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.

, , , , , 


isn’t it?’

he said pleasantly.

‘I back our Kenner any day

against the Test.



that big fellow.

Four pounds

if he’s an ounce.

But the evening rise is over

and you can’t tempt ‘em.’

, , , , , 


don’t see him,’

said I. 



A yard

from the reeds just above

that stickle.’

, , , , , 

‘I’ve got him now.

You might swear he was a black stone.’

, , , , , 


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.

, , , , , 


I said.

‘I mean

to say,


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.


that an able-bodied man

like you

should dare

to beg.


can get a meal

from my kitchen,

but you’ll get no money

from me.’

, , , , , 

A dog-cart was passing,


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,


to a white gate a hundred yards on.

‘Wait five minutes


then go round

to the back door.’



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,


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,




shaving things

and hair-brushes,

even a pair

of patent shoes.

‘Sir Walter thought


how Mr Reggie’s things

would fit you,


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.


in ‘alf an hour,


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,


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,


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.


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,



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,


would create just such a room.


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 Hannay.’

, , , , , 

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,


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.


that he laughed uproariously.

, , , , , 

‘Harry talked dashed nonsense,

did he?

I quite believe it.


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


that ass Jopley.

, , , , , 

But the old man

in the moorland house solemnized him.

Again I had

to describe every detail

of his appearance.

, , , , , 


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.


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.’

, , , , , 


I asked

in amazement.

, , , , , 


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.

, , , , , 



that he was

in danger,

but had found shelter

with a good friend,


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,


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


when I got Harry’s scrawl I guessed

at the rest.

I have been expecting you any time this past week.’


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.

, , , , , 


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,



for example,

made him see red.


and the high finance.

, , , , , 

‘The Black Stone,’

he repeated.



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.


he has just been playing up

to Berlin

and Vienna

and giving my Chief some uneasy moments.


Scudder has gone off the track there.




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.’

, , , , , 


then the butler entered the room.

, , , , , 

‘There’s a trunk-call

from London,

Sir Walter.

It’s Mr ‘Eath,

and he wants

to speak

to you personally.’

, , , , , 

My host went off

to the telephone.

, , , , , 

He returned

in five minutes

with a whitish face.

‘I apologize

to the shade

of Scudder,’

he said.

‘Karolides was shot dead this evening

at a few minutes after seven.’

, , , , , 


The Coming

of the Black Stone

I came down

to breakfast next morning,

after eight hours

of blessed dreamless sleep,

to find Sir Walter decoding a telegram

in the midst

of muffins

and marmalade.

His fresh rosiness

of yesterday seemed a 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.


will be

in London

at five.


that the code word


should be “Porker”.’

, , , , , 

He directed me

to the hot dishes

and went on.

, , , , , 


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.


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.


on one

or two points change is simply impossible.



could be done,

I suppose,

if it were absolutely necessary.

But you see the difficulty,


Our enemies are not going

to be such fools as

to pick Royer’s pocket

or any childish game

like that.

They know


would mean a row

and put us

on our guard.

Their aim is

to get the details without any one

of us knowing,


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,


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,


then comes

to my house

where four people

will see him


from the Admiralty,


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.


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.


you’ll be my chauffeur today

and wear Hudson’s rig.


about his size.

You have a hand

in this business

and we are taking no risks.

There are desperate men

against us,


will not respect the country retreat

of an overworked official.’

, , , , , 

When I first came

to London I had bought a car

and amused myself

with running

about the south

of England,

so I knew something

of the geography.

I took Sir Walter

to town

by the Bath Road

and made good going.

It was a soft breathless June morning,

with a promise

of sultriness later,

but it was delicious enough swinging

through the little towns

with their freshly watered streets,

and past the summer gardens

of the Thames valley.

I landed Sir Walter

at his house

in Queen Anne’s Gate punctually

by half-past eleven.

The butler was coming up

by train

with the luggage.

, , , , , 

The first thing he did was

to take me round

to Scotland Yard.

There we saw a prim gentleman,

with a clean-shaven,

lawyer’s face.

, , , , , 

‘I’ve brought you the Portland Place murderer,’

was Sir Walter’s introduction.

, , , , , 

The reply was a wry smile.


would have been a welcome present,



I presume,

is Mr Richard Hannay,


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.



can promise 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.


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


there was no need

of a public exculpation.


on that,

of course,

you must please yourself.’

, , , , , 

‘We may want your assistance later on,


Sir Walter said

as we left.

, , , , , 

Then he turned me loose.

, , , , , 


and see me tomorrow,


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,


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,


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,


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.

, , , , , 


that I took a taxi

and drove miles away up

into North London.

I walked back

through fields

and lines

of villas

and terraces


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.


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,


that I alone

could avert it,


could grapple

with it.

But I was out

of the game now.


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.


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,


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


if a voice kept speaking

in my ear,

telling me

to be up

and doing,

or I

would never sleep again.

, , , , , 

The upshot was


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,


at the corner

of Duke Street passed a group

of young men.

They were

in evening dress,

had been dining somewhere,

and were going


to a music-hall.


of them was Mr Marmaduke Jopley.

, , , , , 

He saw me

and stopped short.

, , , , , 

‘By God,

the murderer!’ he cried.


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,


if he didn’t believe it,


to be taken

to Scotland Yard,



that matter

to the nearest police station.

But a delay


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,


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,


that I was Hannay the murderer.

, , , , , 


damn it all,’

I cried,

‘make the fellow shut up.

I advise you

to leave me alone,


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.’

, , , , , 


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,


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,


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.


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,


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,


then shut it

behind me.

‘Sir Walter is engaged,


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,


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,


with a face

like a graven image waited

to be questioned.

Then he gave them it.

He told them whose house it was,


what his orders were,

and simply froze them off the doorstep.


could see it all

from my alcove,

and it was better

than any play.

, , , , , 

I hadn’t waited long


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,


what I was

to do next.

I was still perfectly convinced

that I was wanted,

but when


how I had no notion.

I kept looking

at my watch,


as the time crept


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,


in passing he glanced

in my direction,


for a second we looked each other

in the face.

, , , , , 


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.



that fraction

of time something sprang

into his eyes,


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,


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,


, , , , , 

I rang off


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


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,


there was General Winstanley,


from the long scar

on his forehead.


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,


this visit is ill-timed.’

, , , , , 

I was getting back my coolness.

‘That remains

to be seen,


I said;

‘but I think it may be

in the nick

of time.

For God’s sake,


tell me

who went out a minute ago?’

, , , , , 

‘Lord Alloa,’

Sir Walter said,


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.’

, , , , , 



--’ someone stammered.

, , , , , 

‘The Black Stone,’

I cried,

and I sat down

in the chair so

recently vacated

and looked round

at five badly scared gentlemen.

, , , , , 


The Thirty-Nine Steps

‘Nonsense!’ said the official

from the Admiralty.

, , , , , 

Sir Walter got up

and left the room

while we looked blankly

at the table.

He came back

in ten minutes

with a long face.

‘I have spoken

to Alloa,’

he said.

‘Had him out

of bed

--very grumpy.

He went straight home after Mulross’s dinner.’

, , , , , 

‘But it’s madness,’


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


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,


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.

, , , , , 


will tell you a tale,’

he said.

‘It happened many years ago

in Senegal.

I was quartered

in a remote station,


to pass the time used

to go fishing

for big barbel

in the river.

A little Arab mare used

to carry my luncheon basket


of the salted dun breed you got

at Timbuctoo

in the old days.


one morning I had good sport,

and the mare was unaccountably restless.


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.


could see her all the time,

as I thought,


of a corner

of my eye,


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,


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.

, , , , , 


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,


in a land

where men’s senses are keen,


should we busy preoccupied urban folk not err also?’

, , , , , 

Sir Walter nodded.

No one was ready

to gainsay him.

, , , , , 

‘But I

don’t see,’


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.


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,


what good his visit here

would do

that spy fellow?


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.’

, , , , , 


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.



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


that man was here.

I told something

of the military plans

of my Government.

I was permitted

to say so much.


that information

would be worth many millions

to our enemies.


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.’

, , , , , 


said Whittaker,

‘there is the post.

By this time the news

will be

on its way.’

, , , , , 


said the Frenchman.

‘You do not understand the habits

of the spy.

He receives personally his reward,

and he delivers personally his intelligence.


in France know something

of the breed.

There is still a chance,


These men must cross the sea,


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.


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.



I remember something

in it.’

, , , , , 

He unlocked the door

of a bureau

and gave it

to me.

, , , , , 

I found the place.


I read,

and again,



--HIGH TIDE 10.17 p.m. 

The Admiralty man was looking

at me


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


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,


if he had meant

that I didn’t think he

would have mentioned the number.

It must be some place


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.


there was no regular steamer sailing


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.

, , , , , 


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,


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.


would a man be likely

to leave

for Germany,

a man

in a hurry,

who wanted a speedy

and a secret passage?


from any

of the big harbours.

And not

from the Channel

or the West Coast

or Scotland,



he was starting

from London.

I measured the distance

on the map,

and tried

to put myself

in the enemy’s shoes.


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.


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:





there are several sets

of stairs;


that matters distinguished

by having thirty-nine steps.

, , , , , 


Full tide

at 10.17 p.m. Leaving shore only possible

at full tide.

, , , , , 


Steps not dock steps,

and so place probably not harbour.

, , , , , 


No regular night steamer

at 10.17.


of transport must be tramp



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.

, , , , , 



Place not harbour

but open coast.

, , , , , 


Boat small



or launch.

, , , , , 


Place somewhere

on East Coast

between Cromer

and Dover.

, , , , , 

It struck me

as odd

that I

should be sitting


that desk

with a Cabinet Minister,

a Field-Marshal,

two high Government officials,

and a French General watching me,


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.


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


there are several staircases down

to the beach,



which has thirty-nine steps.

I think it’s a piece

of open coast

with biggish cliffs,


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.


there no Inspector

of Coastguards

or some fellow

like that

who knows the East Coast?’

, , , , , 

Whittaker said

there was,


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


there are cliffs,


where several sets

of steps run down

to the beach.’

, , , , , 

He thought

for a bit.

‘What kind

of steps do you mean,


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,


to speak?’

, , , , , 

Sir Arthur looked

towards me.

‘We mean regular staircases,’

I said.

, , , , , 

He reflected a minute

or two.


don’t know

that I

can think

of any.

Wait a second.

There’s a place

in Norfolk


--beside a golf-course,


there are a couple

of staircases,

to let the gentlemen get a lost ball.’

, , , , , 

‘That’s not it,’

I said.

, , , , , 


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.

, , , , , 



I can’t think


anywhere else.

Of course,

there’s the Ruff


‘What’s that?’

I asked.

, , , , , 

‘The big chalk headland

in Kent,


to Bradgate.

It’s got a lot

of villas

on the top,

and some

of the houses have staircases down

to a private beach.

It’s a very high-toned sort

of place,

and the residents

there like

to keep

by themselves.’

, , , , , 

I tore open the Tide Tables

and found Bradgate.

High tide

there was

at 10.27 p.m.

on the 15th

of June.

, , , , , 


on the scent

at last,’

I cried excitedly.


can I find out

what is the tide

at the Ruff?’

, , , , , 


can tell you that,


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,


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.


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.


for one,’

he said,

‘am content

to leave the matter

in Mr Hannay’s hands.’

, , , , , 

By half-past three I was tearing past the moonlit hedgerows

of Kent,

with MacGillivray’s best man

on the seat beside me.

, , , , , 


Various Parties Converging

on the Sea

A pink

and blue June morning found me

at Bradgate looking

from the Griffin Hotel

over a smooth sea

to the lightship

on the Cock sands

which seemed the size

of a bell-buoy.

A couple

of miles farther south

and much nearer the shore a small destroyer was anchored.


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


that beach I saw nothing

but the sea-gulls.

, , , , , 

It took him more

than an hour

to do the job,


when I saw him coming

towards me,

conning a bit

of paper,


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.






and ‘twenty-one’

where the cliffs grew lower.


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.


could pick up very little information

about him,


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


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,


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,



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,


in front the ordinary seaside flower-garden full

of marguerites

and scraggy geraniums.

There was a flagstaff


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


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


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,


at a moment

to flee.

Scaife said she must be a fast boat

for her build,


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,


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.



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,


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,


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,



that I had clung.

But the whole business had never seemed so difficult


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,


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.


there I had a full view

of the court,


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.


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,


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,


that he must have a tub.

I heard his very words

--’I’ve got

into a proper lather,’

he said.


will bring down my weight

and my handicap,


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;


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


what they seemed

--three ordinary,


suburban Englishmen,


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


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,


if it survived this June night

would bank its winnings.

, , , , , 

There seemed only one thing

to do

--go forward


if I had no doubts,


if I was going

to make a fool

of myself

to do it handsomely.


in my life have I faced a job

with greater disinclination.


would rather

in my

then mind have walked

into a den

of anarchists,


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,


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


which he had been first observed,


--this is the important part

--really play up

to these surroundings

and behave


if he had never been out

of them,


would puzzle the cleverest detectives

on earth.

And he used

to tell a story


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.


that man had seen him

in decent company

before he

would have recognized him;

but he had only seen him snuffing the lights

in a public-house

with a revolver.

, , , , , 

The recollection

of Peter’s talk gave me the first real comfort

that I had had

that day.

Peter had been a wise old bird,

and these fellows I was after were

about the pick

of the aviary.


if they were playing Peter’s game?

A fool tries

to look different:

a clever man looks the same

and is different.

, , , , , 


there was

that other maxim

of Peter’s

which had helped me

when I had been a roadman.

‘If you are playing a part,


will never keep it up

unless you convince yourself

that you are it.’


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


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,


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.


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,


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,


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.

, , , , , 


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,


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,


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.


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,



hardly find my voice.

, , , , , 

I asked

for Mr Appleton,

and was ushered in.

My plan had been

to walk straight

into the dining-room,


by a sudden appearance wake

in the men

that start

of recognition


would confirm my theory.


when I found myself


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.

, , , , , 



said the old man.

‘I haven’t a very good memory,

but I’m afraid you must tell me your errand,


for I really

don’t know it.’

, , , , , 



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.’

, , , , , 


said the old man,

and he looked really shocked.


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.

, , , , , 


of the others spoke up.

‘That was the Portland Place murder.

I read

about it.

Good heavens,

you must be mad,


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 bewilderment.

, , , , , 

Then the plump one spoke up.

He stammered a little,

like a man picking his words.

, , , , , 

‘Don’t get flustered,


he said.

‘It is all a ridiculous mistake;

but these things happen sometimes,

and we

can easily set it right.


won’t be hard

to prove our innocence.


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.’

, , , , , 



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.


--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,


said the young man,

addressing me respectfully,


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,


, , , , , 



The old fellow seemed

to be recovering his voice.


we’ll do anything

in our power

to assist the authorities.


--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,


Just think

of it!

What a story

to tell

at the club.


Mr Hannay,

I suppose I

should be angry,

to show my innocence,

but it’s too funny!


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,


to cover my confusion I got up,


to the door

and switched

on the electric light.

The sudden glare made them blink,

and I stood scanning the three faces.

, , , , , 


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,


there was nothing

to identify them.

I simply can’t explain

why I who,

as a roadman,

had looked

into two pairs

of eyes,


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.

, , , , , 



that pleasant dining-room,

with etchings

on the walls,

and a picture

of an old lady

in a bib

above the mantelpiece,


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,


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


that house.

, , , , , 


said the old man politely,

‘are you reassured

by your scrutiny,


, , , , , 

I couldn’t find a word.

, , , , , 

‘I hope you’ll find it consistent

with your duty

to drop this ridiculous business.

I make no complaint,

but you’ll see

how annoying it must be

to respectable people.’

, , , , , 

I shook my head.

, , , , , 

‘O Lord,’

said the young man.

‘This is a bit too thick!’

‘Do you propose

to march us off

to the police station?’

asked the plump one.

‘That might be the best way out

of it,

but I suppose you

won’t be content

with the local branch.

I have the right

to ask

to see your warrant,

but I

don’t wish

to cast any aspersions upon you.

You are only doing your duty.

But you’ll admit it’s horribly awkward.

What do you propose

to do?’

, , , , , 

There was nothing

to do except

to call

in my men

and have them arrested,


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.

, , , , , 


Peter Pienaar,’

I groaned inwardly,


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.


will give Mr Hannay time

to think

over things,

and you know we have been wanting a fourth player.

Do you play,


, , , , , 

I accepted


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,


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,


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,


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,


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,


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,




as ruthless

as a steam hammer.


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.


almost choked me,

and I couldn’t answer

when my partner spoke.

Only a little longer

could I endure their company.

, , , , , 




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,


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.

, , , , , 



said the young man.

‘I thought you had dropped

that rot.

I’ve simply got

to go.


can have my address,

and I’ll give any security you like.’

, , , , , 


I said,

‘you must stay.’

, , , , , 


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,


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


that voice?

, , , , , 

There must have been,


as I glanced

at him,

his eyelids fell


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


which a man might be expected

to carry a pistol.

, , , , , 



cried a voice,



as it spoke I saw two

of my fellows emerge

on the moonlit lawn.

, , , , , 

The young dark man leapt

for the window,


through it,


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


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


if a lever had been pulled.

Then came a low rumbling far,

far below the ground,


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  ...



, , , , , 

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.

, , , , ,