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John Buchan


I was free now but I felt rather sick. I could still smell the smoke of the dynamite and an hour later I had to rest.
It was about eleven o'clock when I reached the road safely. I wanted to go back to Mr. Turnbull's cottage. My coat was there, with Scudder's note-book in the pocket, and I had to have that book. My plan then was to find the railway and travel to the south. After that I would go straight to Artinswell to meet Sir Walter Bullivant.
It was a beautiful night. I knew that Turnbull's cottage was about eighteen miles away. It was too far for me to walk before morning. So I decided to hide during the day and travel only at night.
When the sun rose, I was near a river. I washed in the clean cold water because I was very dirty. My shirt and trousers were torn, and I was afraid to meet anyone in that condition. But a little beyond the river I came to a cottage. And I was so hungry that I had to stop there.
The man was away from the house, and at first his wife was suspicious of me. She picked up an axe and seemed quite ready to attack me.
'I've had a bad fall in the hills,' I said, 'and I'm feeling ill. Will you help me?'
She did not ask any questions but invited me into the house. She gave me a glass of milk and some bread and cheese. Then I sat by the fire in her kitchen and we talked. I offered her a sovereign for her trouble, but she refused it at first.
'If it isn't your money, I don't want it,' she said.
I grew quite angry. 'But it i's my money. Do you think that I have stolen it?'
She accepted it then and unlocked a cupboard in the wall. She took out and gave me a warm Scottish plaid and one of her husband's hats. When I left her cottage, I was like a real Scotsman!
I walked for two or three hours. Then the weather changed and it began to rain. But I kept warm and dry under the plaid. A little later I came to a large rock which hung over some low ground. The grass under the rock was quite dry. So I lay down and slept there all day.
When I woke up, it was almost dark. The weather was still wet and cold, and I was uncertain about the way. Twice I took the wrong path and probably walked twenty miles. But at six o'clock in the morning I reached Mr. Turnbull's cottage.
Mr. Turnbull opened the door himself, but he did not recognize me. 'Who are you?' he asked. 'Why do you come here on a Sunday morning? I'm just getting ready to go to church.'
I had forgotten the days of the week. Every day had seemed the same to me. I felt so ill that I could not answer him. But then he recognized me.
'Have you got my glasses?' he asked.
I took them out of my pocket and gave them to him.
'Of course you've come back for your coat,' he said. 'Come in, man. You look very ill. Wait. I'll get you a chair.'
When I was in Rhodesia, I had often had malaria. And it was still in my body. I knew the signs of it very well. Now the rain and the cold had brought it back again. But soon Mr. Turnbull was taking off my clothes and leading me to the bed.
I stayed with him for ten days, and he looked after me very well. The malaria lasted about six days. Then my body grew cool again and I got up.
He went out to work every morning and returned in the evening. I used to rest all day. He had a cow which gave us milk. And there was always some food in the house.
One evening I said, 'There's a small airfield about fifteen miles away. Have you ever seen it? A little plane lands there sometimes. Do you know who owns the place?'
'I don't know,' he said. 'I've seen the plane, of course, but I don't know anything about it.'
He brought me several newspapers while I was staying with him. And I read them with interest. But I saw nothing about the murder in London.
Turnbull did not ask me any questions, not even my name. I was surprised about this, and one day I said, 'Has anyone asked you about me?'
'There was a man in a motor-car,' he said. 'He stopped one day and asked me about the other roadman. That was you of course. He seemed such a strange fellow that I didn't tell him anything.'
When I left the cottage, I gave Turnbull five pounds. He did not want to take the money at all. His face grew red, and he was quite rude to me. But at last he took it and said, 'I don't want money. When I was ill, you helped me. Now you've been ill, and I've helped you. It isn't worth a lot of money.'
The weather was beautiful that morning, but I was beginning to feel nervous. It was the 12th of June, and I had to finish Scudder's business before the 15th.
I had dinner at a quiet inn in Moffat and then went to the railway station. It was seven o'clock in the evening.
'What time does the train go to London?' I asked.
'Ten minutes to twelve,' the railway man said.
It was a long time to wait, so I left the station. I found a quiet place near a hill-top and lay down there to sleep. I was so tired that I slept until twenty minutes to twelve. Then I ran down to the station where the train was waiting.
I decided not to go to London. I got out of the train at Crewe and waited there for two hours. The next train took me to Birmingham, and I reached Reading at six o'clock in the evening. Two hours later I was looking for Sir Walter Bullivant's cottage at Artinswell.
The River Kennet flowed beside the road. The English air was sweet and warm, quite different from Scottish air. I stood for a few minutes on a bridge which crossed the river. And I began to sing 'Annie Laurie' in a low voice.
A fisherman came up from the bank of the river. As he walked towards me, he began to sing 'Annie Laurie' also.
The fisherman was a great big fellow. He was wearing an old pair of grey trousers and a large hat. He looked at me and smiled. And I thought that he had a wise and honest face. Then he looked down with me at the water.
'It's clean and clear, isn't it?' he said. 'The Kennet's a fine river. Look at that big fish down there. But the sun has gone now. If you tried all night, you wouldn't catch him.'
'Where?' I said. 'I can't see him.'
'Look. Down there. A yard from those water plants.'
'Oh, yes. I can see him now. He's like a big black stone, isn't he?'
'Ah,' he said, and sang a few more words of 'Annie Laurie'.
He was still looking down at the water as he said, 'Your name is Twisdon, I believe.'
'No,' I said. Then I suddenly remembered my other names and added quickly, 'Oh, yes, that's right.'
He laughed. 'A good spy always knows his own name,' he said.
Some men were crossing the bridge behind us, and Sir Walter raised his voice.
'No, I won't,' he said. 'You're strong enough to work, aren't you? You can get a meal from my kitchen, but I won't give you a penny.'
The men went past, and the fisherman moved away from me. He pointed to a white gate a hundred yards away and said, 'That's my house. Wait here for five minutes and then go around to the back door.'
When I reached his cottage, the back door was open. Sir Walter's butler was waiting to welcome me.
'Come this way, sir,' he said, and he led me up the stairs. He took me into one of the bedrooms. There was a complete set of clothes on the bed. I noticed a dinner-suit and a clean white shirt. But there were other clothes too and several pairs of shoes.
'I hope that these things will fit you, sir,' the butler said. 'Your bath is ready in the next room. I'll ring the bell for dinner at nine o'clock, sir.'
When he had gone out, I sat down. I thought that I was dreaming. At this time the day before I had been asleep on a Scottish hill-top. Now I was in this wonderful
house, and Sir Walter did not even know my name.
I had a bath and then put on the white shirt and the dinner-suit. Everything fitted me very well. The bell rang for dinner, and I went down to meet Sir Walter.
'You're very kind, sir,' I said, 'but I must tell you the truth. I haven't done anything wrong, but the police are looking for me at this moment.'
He smiled. 'That's all right. We can talk about these things after dinner. I'm glad that you got here safely.'

I enjoyed that meal, and the wine was good too. Sir Walter was an interesting man who had travelled in many foreign countries. I talked about Rhodesia and the fish in the Zambezi River, and he told me some of his adventures.

After dinner we went into his library, and the butler brought us coffee. It was a very nice room, with books and fine pictures around the walls. I decided to buy a house like that when I had finished Scudder's work.
Sir Walter lay back in his chair.
'I've obeyed Harry's orders,' he said. 'And now I'm ready to listen, Mr. Hannay. You've got some news, I believe.'
I was surprised to hear my real name, but I began my story. And I told him everything. I described my meeting with Scudder and his fears about Karolides. I told him about the murder and my adventure with the milkman.
'Where did you go then?' he asked.
'I went to Galloway. I soon discovered the secret of Scudder's code and then I could read his notes.'
'Have you still got them?'
Then I described my meeting with Sir Harry and how I had helped him at Brattleburn.
Sir Walter laughed. 'Harry can't make a speech,' he said. 'He's a very good fellow but his ideas are all wrong. Go on with your story, Mr. Hannay.'
I told him about Turnbull then and my job as a roadman.
He was very interested in that.
'Can you describe those fellows in the car?' he asked.
'Well, one of them was thin and dark. I had seen him before at the inn with the fat one. But I didn't know the third man who was older than the others.'
'And what happened after that?'
'I met Marmaduke Jopley next, and had a bit of fun with him.' Sir Walter laughed again when I described that part of the story. But he did not laugh at the bald old man in the farmhouse.
'How did you escape from the place?' he asked.
'I found dynamite, fuses and detonators in a cupboard,' I replied, 'and I almost destroyed the building. There's a small airfield there where the plane lands. After that I was ill for a week with malaria. It would have been worse if I hadn't had the thick plaid. And Turnbull looked after me very well. Then I travelled south by train, and here I am.'
Sir Walter stood up slowly and looked down at me.
'You needn't be afraid of the police, Hannay,' he said. 'They aren't looking for you now,'
I was surprised to hear this.
'Why?' I cried. 'Have they found the murderer?'
'No, not yet. But the police know that you didn't kill Scudder.'
'How do they know that?'
'Because I received a letter from Scudder. He had done several jobs for me, and I knew him quite well. He was a good spy with only one fault.'
'What was that?'

'He always wanted to work alone, and he failed for that reason. The best spies always work with other spies, but Scudder couldn't do that. I was very sorry about it because he was a fine fellow and a very brave man. I had a letter from him on May 31st.'

'But he was dead then. He was murdered on May 23rd, wasn't he?'
'Yes, and he wrote the letter on the 23rd. He was always
trying to deceive his enemies. So he sent the letter first to Spain, and then it came back to England.'
'What did he write about?'
'He told me that Britain was in great danger. He also said that he was staying with a good friend. And I believe that the "good friend" was you, Hannay. He promised to write again soon.'
'What did you do then?'
'I went to the police immediately. They had discovered your name and we sent a telegram to Rhodesia. The answer was all right, so we were not suspicious about you. I guessed why you had left London. You wanted to continue Scudder's work, didn't you? Then I got Harry's letter and I guessed that Twisdon was Richard Hannay.'
I was very glad to hear all this. My country's enemies were my enemies, but the police were now my friends. And I was a free man again!
The big fisherman sat down and smiled at me.
'Show me Scudder's notes,' he said.
I took out the little book and began to explain the code to him. He was very quick and he knew what the names meant. We worked hard for an hour or more.
'Scudder was right about one thing,' he said. 'A French officer is coming to London on June 15th, and that's the day after tomorrow. I thought that it was all secret. Of course we know that there are a few German spies in England. We've got some of our fellows in Germany too. But how did they all discover the secret of this Frenchman's visit? I don't believe Scudder's story about war and the Black Stone. He used to have some strange ideas.'
Sir Walter stood up again and walked about the room. 'The Black Stone,' he repeated. 'Der Schwarzestein. It's like something out of a cheap story, isn't it? I don't believe the part about Karolides either. He's an important man, I know, but nobody wants to kill him. There may be some danger which Scudder had heard about. But it isn't very important. It's the usual spy business which the Germans
enjoy very much. Sometimes they kill a man, as they killed Scudder. And the German Government pays them for it.'
The butler came into the room.
'It's the telephone, sir,' he said. 'Your office in London. Mr. Heath wants to speak to you.'
Sir Walter left the library. When he returned a few minutes later, he looked quite pale.

'Scudder was right,' he said, 'and I was wrong. Karolides is dead. He was shot about three hours ago.'

Adapted by Roland John for Intermediate Level


Click here to read CHAPTER 8: The Coming of the Black Stone