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John Buchan


At last I sat down feeling very sick. I sat there for perhaps five minutes and then I felt afraid. I was so nervous that I had to cover Scudder's body with a tablecloth. But I could still see the form of the handle of the knife. It was pointing at me like a finger. I got a drink for myself and sat down again to think.
Scudder was dead and his body proved his story. His enemies had killed him because he knew their plans.
'They'll kill me next,' I thought. 'They know that he lived on the top floor. They know that he has been in my flat for three or four days. And they'll guess that he told me their plans.'
What could I do? Well, I could go to the police at once and tell them the story. But they would be suspicious if I told them about Scudder's death. 'They'll guess that I killed him,' I thought. 'They may blame me for his death.'
I thought about the matter for a long time and then I made a plan. I had not known Scudder very well but I had liked him. I enjoyed an adventure too, and I wanted to continue his work.
'I may write to the Prime, Minister,' I thought, 'or to the Foreign Office. But perhaps that won't be necessary. I'll disappear for a few weeks. Then I'll come back to London and go to the police.'
I went over to Scudder's body and took off the cloth. I had seen him writing in a little book and I searched his pockets. But the book was gone, and he had no papers at all.
I opened my desk and took out a map of Britain. I thought that Scotland was the best place for my plan. I was born there and I still speak like a Scotsman. In Rhodesia I had learned German very well too, and I thought about going to Germany. But perhaps Scotland was the better idea.
I chose Galloway, which was a wild part of the country. There were few big towns there, and it was not too far to travel. I knew that there was a train to Scotland in the morning. It left London at ten minutes past seven. But how could I get out of the flat? I should not be able to escape if Scudder's enemies were outside the building.
Then suddenly I had a wonderful idea. Every morning at half-past six the milkman delivered my milk. He was a young man and we were the same size. He had a short black moustache and wore a white hat and coat. My idea was to borrow his clothes and the can of milk. Then I could escape from the building as the milkman.
I went to bed then and slept for a few hours. In the morning I had a bath and carefully cut my moustache. It was long and dark and I cut it short. I counted my money and put fifty pounds in my pocket. While I was getting ready, I remembered my tobacco. When I put my fingers into the large tobacco-box, I felt something hard under the tobacco. It was Scudder's little black book, and I put it in my pocket. 
It was a good sign, I thought. Scudder had hidden it there, and his enemies had not found it.
It was twenty minutes to seven now, and the milkman was late. But suddenly I heard the noise of the milk-can on the stairs, and I opened the door.
'Come in, please,' I said. 'I want to speak to you.'
He came into the flat, and I shut the door.
'Listen,' I said, 'you're a good fellow, and I want you to help me.' I took a sovereign out of my pocket and added, 'If you agree, I'll give you this.
'When he saw the sovereign, his eyes opened wide.
'What do you want me to do?' he asked.
'I want to borrow your clothes and your milk-can for a few minutes,' I said.
He laughed and said, 'What do you want them for?'
'Well, I've just remembered something, but I can't explain it now. Let me borrow the things, and I'll be back in ten minutes.' I put the sovereign into his hand.
'All right,' he said. 'I like a bit of fun too.'
I put on his clothes and we went out of the flat. I shut the door behind me.
'Don't follow me,' I said. 'I'll soon be back.'
I went down the stairs and into the street. I made a noise with the milk-can and began to sing. A man who was standing outside looked at me, but he did not say anything. I looked at the house across the street and noticed the face at the window again. I turned into another street and began to run. Then I took off the milkman's clothes and threw them, and the milk-can, over a wall.
When I arrived at the railway station, it was ten minutes past seven. The train was moving slowly out of the station, and I had no time to buy a ticket. I ran forward and caught the handle of a door. I got it open and climbed into the train.
The ticket-collector soon came along. He was rather angry with me, and I had to invent some excuses. But he accepted these and wrote a ticket to Newton-Stewart in Galloway.

Adapted by Roland John for Intermediate Level


Click here to read CHAPTER 3: The Literary Inn-keeper