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Joseph Conrad - Retold by Robin Waterfield
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What happens to
this group of spies
meet in the Soho shop?
Ossipon walked into the pub.
There were about thirty tables against the walls. He bought himself a beer and
looked for a place to sit. He saw a man at one of the tables, and looked
surprised. He went over to the table and spoke to the man.
able to help me to understand this business,' he said.
The little man
with glasses waited for the noise in the pub
to die down.
Then he said,
'If I do know something, why do you think I'll tell you?'
stopped talking he picked up the glass of beer from the table in front of him
and had a long drink. Ossipon looked at the little man. He was small and
but he seemed so sure of himself. He spoke in short sentences, but was perfectly
happy not to say anything sometimes.
Ossipon said, 'Have you been out much today?'
'No. I stayed
in bed all the morning,' answered the other. 'Why?'
want to know something, but in front of this little man, the big Ossipon always
felt small, so he said, 'Oh, nothing.' But then he tried another question: 'Did
you walk down here?'
'No, I took a
bus.' The little man lived in north London, in a room in a small house. His room
was ordinary, but it had a very large cupboard. When the servant came to clean
his room, the little man did not leave the room, but carefully watched the
cleaner. When he left the house, he always
locked his room and took
his key with
'Have you been here long?' Ossipon asked.
'An hour or
more,' answered the other.
'An hour,' said Ossipon. 'Then
perhaps you haven't heard the news. I heard it
only just now, in the street.'
The little man
shook his head, but didn't seem to want to know the news.
'I didn't know that you were in here. I just came in here for a drink.'
'Oh, I come in
here sometimes,' the other man said.
that you, of all people, haven't heard the news,' Ossipon continued. 'You of all
But still the
little man said nothing.
'Do you give your explosives
to anyone who asks you for
them?' asked Ossipon.
'Yes, I never
say no, as long as I have some to give,' answered the little man.
'Do you think
you're right to do that?'
'Yes, I'm sure of it. Why not?'
'And if a detective asks you for some?'
don't come near me,' said the little man. 'They're too afraid.It's dangerous.'
know very well that I always have some explosives
on me.' He touched the pocket
of his coat lightly. 'It's in a
thick bottle,' he said.
'Yes, people have told me,' Ossipon said. 'But if six of them
jump on you and hold you, you
won't be able to do anything.'
'You're wrong. I never walk outside
after dark, and I always walk with my right
hand in my pocket. I hold a rubber ball lightly in my hand. I only have to push
this ball and twenty seconds later...'
'You have to
wait twenty seconds!' said Ossipon. 'That's terrible!'
matter. I have the explosives, but that's not important. I'm brave enough to
push the ball – that's the important thing. And the police know it, so they
away from me. I'm the only true anarchist,
you know. I never play. I work fourteen hours a day, and
go hungry sometimes.
Explosives cost money, so sometimes I don't have money for food. I see you're
looking at my drink. Yes, I've had two beers already, and after this I'll have
another one. Why not? I'm having a holiday.'
I'm afraid you
won't be happy after you've heard me,' said Ossipon. 'I have to tell you that a
bomb killed a man in Greenwich Park this morning.'
'How do you know?'
'It's in the
newspapers. I bought a paper and
ran in here to read it. Then I saw you. I've
got it in my pocket now.'
He pulled out
the newspaper. 'Ah, here it is. Bomb in Greenwich Park, at half past eleven this
morning. A foggy morning. Large hole in the ground under a tree. Pieces of a
man's body all over the place, and leaves and bits of tree. They think the man
to bomb the Observatory.'
He gave the
newspaper to the other man, who read it and put it down on the table.
He didn't say anything.
'What have you done?' Ossipon asked. 'You didn't plan this, did you? Tell me,
who did you give the explosives to?'
I'll tell you. Verloc.'
'No, true I'm
afraid. He was an important man in your group, wasn't he?'
than important. And the police never seemed to notice him.That was good.
He was married, you know. What will that woman do now?'
He stopped to think.The little man
waited. He was called 'the Scientist' by his friends. No one knew his real name.
'Did Verloc tell you anything?' Ossipon asked
at last. 'Why did he want the
'He said they
were for a building. The bomb was
safe. 'Put it against the building,' I told
him, 'and then run away. In twenty minutes... boom!'
'What went wrong do you think?'
'I don't know. Perhaps he dropped it.'
a bad time for this,' Ossipon said. 'Yundt is ill in bed: he's probably
dying. Michaelis is out of town somewhere, writing a book. I'm the only oneleft now. I
want the police to know that Verloc did this without us, without the help of the
group. But how can I tell them?'
was paying a waiter and getting ready to leave. Ossipon
continued to think out
'No, of course, the police don't know anything.Verloc is in
small pieces. The police have no idea. Did anyone see him? Can anyone say, 'It
was Mr Verloc?' I don't think so. It was foggy. Good, good.Perhaps
everything will be all right for the rest of us. Perhaps I'll go to the shop. I don't think that it's a
'Yes', said the
Scientist, the perfect anarchist, 'why don't you do that?
Go to the woman.'
anarchists: people who believe strongly
that governments are not necessary(anarquistas)
looked for: searched, tried to locate
(buscó) went over to: headed for(se
dirigió a) you'll be able to: you will be capable to
estará en condiciones de) to die down: became progressively weaker(disminuyera) picked up: took and lifted upward
not strong (débil)
did you walk down here?:
did you come here on
fasten with a lock or key (cerraba
for a long time
(mucho tiempo) perhaps you haven't heard: maybe
you are not aware of(quizás
no haya escuchado)
shook his head: said "no" with his head(negó
con la cabeza) to anyone who asks you for them:
to any person who requires
the explosives from you
(a cualquiera que se los pida) as long as:
(mientras que) on me: with me
(encima, conmigo) thick bottle:
jump on you:
get on your back (lo
atacan por detrás) after dark:
(después del atardecer)
it doesn't matter:
no matter, never mind
(no tiene importancia)
stay away from me: keep a distance from me(se
alejan de mí, no se acercan a mí) go hungry:
not to have any food
(dejo de comer, paso hambre) ran in here:
came here in a rush(vine
corriendo) pulled out:
took out, brought
with fog (con
to attack with
una bomba en)
finally, in the end (al final) safe:
not dangerous (segura,
para nada peligrosa)
escape (huye, escapa)
what went wrong?:
what was unsuccessful? what didn't work? (¿qué falló?)
he dropped it:
the bomb fell down from his hands (se le cayó)
losing life (muriéndose)
present now (que queda ahora)
continued to think out loud:
went on considering carefully in a loud voice (siguió pensando
en voz alta)
ambush (trampa, emboscada)