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John Buchan


All that day I travelled to the north. The train stopped at Leeds station where I bought a basket of food and the morning newspapers. Another ticket-collector came in and told me that I had to change trains at Dumfries.
I read the papers, but of course there was nothing in them about Scudder's death. It was too early for that. Then I took out Scudder's little book. It was full of figures but there were also a few strange names. I noticed the words 'Hofgaard', 'Luneville', 'Avocado' and 'Pavia'. 'Pavia' appeared several times.
It was clearly some kind of code and I have always been interested in codes. I looked carefully at this one. Scudder had written numbers instead of letters. But what did the names mean? I knew that some of them were towns. But had he used them instead of People's names? There is usually a key-word in codes like this, and I tried to guess it. 'Hofgaard' was clearly not the key-word because it did not suit the rest of the code. I tried the other words too but none suited the code.
I slept for an hour or two, and then the ticket-collector's voice woke me up.
'Be quick, sir. I mean that you have to change here.'I looked out of the window. We were at Dumfries, and the train had stopped. I got out and crossed the station to the Galloway train. 
The train was quite full, and I had an interesting conversation with a farmer. He thought that I was a farmer too! We talked about cattle and crops and prices. Many people got out at different stations, but I continued. At five o'clock the train stopped at a small place which suited me very well. I cannot remember its name, but it was quiet. And it was a long way from London.
I got out and a child took my ticket. It was such a fine evening that I felt quite happy. I followed the road for a mile perhaps and then took a path along a valley. It was not long before I reached a cottage. There was a woman at the door of the cottage and I spoke to her. She answered me very politely, and I said, 'May I stay here tonight?'
'You're welcome,' she replied. 'Please come in.' 
Very soon she laid a fine meal in front of me, and I drank several glasses of thick sweet milk.
When it grew dark, her husband came home. He was a big man with a thick black moustache. We talked politely for an hour or more, and smoked some of my tobacco. They did not ask me any questions but guessed perhaps that I was a farmer.
In the morning I enjoyed a large breakfast. But when I offered half a sovereign to the woman, she would not take it. It was a warm day, so she gave me a small can of milk to take with me. It was nine o'clock when I left the cottage.
I walked a few miles to the south because I wanted to return to the railway. But of course I could not go back to the same little station. The railway men and the child would recognize me if they saw me again. And then they would remember me.
So I went towards the next station and on my way there made a plan. The safest way was to return to Dumfries. The police might be searching for me, and I should be safer in a big town.
When I reached the station, I bought a ticket to Dumfries. I did not have long to wait until a train came in. I got in with an old man and his dog, and the man soon went to sleep. I borrowed his morning paper which lay beside him.
The story of the murder was on the first page. Big letters said 'MURDER IN A LONDON FLAT'.
The milkman had waited for me for half an hour. Then he had called the police. They had got into my flat and found Scudder's body. The milkman had been arrested and taken to prison! I felt very sorry for the poor man.
The story was continued on the back page. And the latest news was that the milkman had been released. The  police were now looking for a man named Richard Hannay! They thought that he had escaped by train and gone to Scotland.
I was glad that the milkman had been released. He knew nothing about the murder, and I had only given him a sovereign. He had been arrested and sent to prison for that!
The train stopped at a station which I recognized. It was the place where I had got out the night before. Another train had just arrived from Dumfries, and three men had got out of it. They were talking to the railway men and the child. I watched them carefully. The child was pointing along the road which I had taken.
The train started again. While it was moving out of the station, I covered my face with the newspaper. It had gone a mile perhaps when it suddenly stopped again. We were not at a station. The train was near a bridge over a river.
This was my chance, and I changed my plan at once. I opened the door and jumped out. It would have been a good idea if I had not forgotten the dog. When I jumped, the dog tried to follow me. The old man woke up and rushed to the door.
'Help! help!' he cried. 
I ran down to the river bank and hid among some bushes there. The ticket-collector and several people had come along and were standing at the open door. A man was pointing towards the river bank.
But a lucky chance saved me. I had not noticed that the dog was tied to the man. Suddenly the dog jumped out and pulled the old man out too. They rolled down the bank, and everybody forgot me for a moment. The old man was rescued, but in the excitement the dog bit somebody. I took my chance and ran away through the bushes.
When I looked back, the excitement was over. The people were climbing into the train again, and soon it began to move.
I walked along the river bank and thought about my problem. I was safe but I was also afraid. I do not mean that I was afraid of the police. I was thinking about Scudder's enemies and their plans which I knew. I felt sure that they would try to kill me or have me sent to prison. They were a danger to me, and I could not hide my fear. My troubles were not over yet.
I climbed away from the river until I reached the top of a hill. There were other hills around me, and I could see clearly for several miles. There were the railway station and one or two cottages. Dust was rising over towards the east and that meant a road. Then I looked up into the blue sky, and my heart almost stopped beating.
A small plane was flying towards me. And I knew at once that Scudder's enemies were in that plane. The British police never used aircraft to look for people.
I rolled behind a rock and watched the machine. It flew along the river bank in narrow circles. It was so low that I could see the pilot. But I was sure that he did not see me. Then it climbed and turned. It flew over the river again and went back to the south.
I decided at once to leave those hills. There was no place for me to hide. And my enemies would soon find me if they could look down on me from the sky.
At six o'clock I reached the road. I followed it for a few miles. It was beginning to get dark when I came to a house beside a bridge. I was surprised to see one house standing alone in that wild country.
A young man was standing on the bridge reading.
'Good evening,' he said. 'It's a fine evening, isn't it?'
'Yes, indeed,' I replied. 'Is this house an inn?'
'Yes, sir, and I'm the inn-keeper. Would you like to stay here tonight?'
'You're a very young inn-keeper, aren't you?'
'Well, my father died last year and left me this inn. I'm living here with my mother but I don't like the work at all. I'd rather write stories, but what can I write about? I don't meet many interesting people.'
I suddenly got the idea that this young man could help me. 'I'll tell you a story,' I said, 'and it's true too. I need a friend. And I'll tell you this story in order to get your help. I'll give you permission to write it, but don't do anything before June 15th. That's a very important date.'
Then I sat on the bridge and told him a story. He listened carefully, and his eyes were bright with excitement.
'I'm a farmer from Rhodesia,' I said, 'and,I came to Britain a few weeks ago. I travelled by ship from German West Africa. The Germans there thought that I was a spy. And they followed me all the way to Britain. They've already killed my best friend, and now they're trying to kill me. Have you read the newspaper today?'
He nodded.
'Well then, you know about the murder of Franklin Scudder.'
'He was my best friend, and he was killed in my own flat.'
I told him that Scudder had worked for the Foreign Office. And I explained that he had known some of the Germans' secrets. It was quite a long story, and I made it very exciting.
At the end I said, 'You're looking for adventure, aren't you? Well, you've found it now. These German spies may come here, and I want to hide from them.'
He took my arm politely and pulled me towards the inn. 'You'll be safe here, sir,' he said. 'You must tell me your adventures again, and I'll write them down.'
'All right. But I have some work to do first. Scudder gave me a long message in code. And I must find out what it means.'
While we were going into the inn, I heard the plane again. It was flying low towards the bridge.
I had a quiet room at the back of the house. The inn-keeper's mother brought me my meals. The place suited me very well.

The next morning I took out Scudder's note-book and began to work. The code was a difficult one, and I had to try many possible key-words. By noon I had found the spaces between the words but I could not discover the letters.
After dinner I tried again and worked hard until three o'clock. Then suddenly I had an idea. I was lying back in my chair when a woman's name came into my head. It was Julia Czechenyi. Scudder had told me that she was one of his worst enemies. Perhaps her name was the key-word. I tried it quickly on the code and it was right!
'Julia' has five letters, and Scudder had used these letters instead of a, e, i, o and u. J is the tenth letter in English, and so he used the number io instead of a. The letter e was the u of 'Julia', and u is the twenty-first letter. So Scudder had written 21 instead of e.
The name 'Czechenyi' gave me nine other numbers, and I could soon read Scudder's notes. I sat in my room working quietly for the rest of the afternoon.
The facts in Scudder's little book were terrible. Indeed, when the woman brought my tea, I was a very nervous man. My face looked pale, and I did not want to eat anything.
'Are you all right, sir?' she asked. 'You look very pale.'
'Oh, it's nothing,' I said. 'Please put the things on the table.'
There was a sudden noise outside the inn, and the woman left my room. I heard a motor-car stopping and then there were several voices.
A few minutes later the inn-keeper rushed into my room. 'Two men have just arrived,' he said, 'and they're looking for you. They described you very well.'
'What did you tell them?'
'I told them that you had stayed here last night but had left early this morning.'
'Can you describe them?'
'One is a thin fellow with dark eyes, and the other is rather fat.'
'Do they talk like Englishmen?'
He nodded. 'Oh, yes, I think so.'
I picked up a bit of paper and wrote quickly in German:
'. . . Black Stone. Scudder had heard about this., but, he could not do anything until June 15th. Karolides' plans are uncertain, and I may not be able to help. But if Mr. T. advises, I will try . . .'
When I had written the message, I tore the edges of the paper. It was like a part of a torn-up letter.
'Give this to them,' I said. 'Tell them that it was found in my room.'
Three minutes later the men drove away in the car. The inn-keeper appeared in great excitement.
'Your paper gave them a surprise,' he said. 'The dark fellow turned pale, and the fat one looked very ugly. They paid for their drinks and left at once.'
'Now I want you to do something for me,' I said. 'Get on your bicycle and go to the police at Newton-Stewart. Describe the two men and talk about the London murder. You can invent reasons. You can say that you heard a conversation between them. One man told the other that he had just been released from prison.. And say that you also heard Scudder's name. The hunt isn't over yet. Those two fellows will come back tomorrow morning, and the police must be here to arrest them.'
He went off at once, and I continued my work on Scudder's notes. It was six o'clock when he came back.
'It's all right,' he said. 'The police will be here at eight o'clock in the morning.'
We had a meal together, and I had to tell him my adventures again. He made notes about them during the meal. I could not sleep that night. I finished Scudder's book and then sat up in my chair until morning. I was thinking about Scudder's terrible story.
At eight o'clock three policemen arrived at the inn. The inn-keeper met them and showed them the garage. They left their car there and then came into the inn.
Twenty minutes later another car appeared and stopped two hundred yards from the inn. I was watching from a window above the front-door. The car was driven under some trees and left there. Two men got out of it and walked towards the inn.
The plan which I had made was not a very good one. I hoped that the police would arrest the men. If they did so, I should be quite safe.
But now I had a better idea. I wrote a note to the inn-keeper and left it in my room. Then I opened my window and dropped quietly into some bushes in the garden. I ran across the garden and along the edge of a field. A few minutes later I reached the trees.
I did not waste a moment. The car was standing there, and I got into it. I started the engine and drove away.
The wind carried the sound of angry voices to my ears. But soon I was travelling along that road at fifty miles an hour.

Adapted by Roland John for Intermediate Level


Click here to read CHAPTER 4: Sir Harry, The Young Politician