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Joseph Conrad - Retold by Robin Waterfield

Click on PLAY to listen.
Pulsa en REPRODUCIR para escuchar.

What happens to
this group of spies
and anarchists who
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.

'You'll be 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?'
When he 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 weak, 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?'


Ossipon did 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 him.
'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.
Ossipon said, '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.
'It's strange that you, of all people, haven't heard the news,' Ossipon continued. 'You of all people.'


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?'
'Hah! They don't come near me,' said the little man. 'They're too afraid.
It's dangerous.'
'Because they 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!'


'It doesn't 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 stay 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 was trying 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?'
'All right I'll tell you. Verloc.'
'Verloc! Impossible!'
'No, true I'm afraid. He was an important man in your group, wasn't he?'
'More useful 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 explosives?'
'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.'
It's 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 one left 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?'
The Scientist was paying a waiter and getting ready to leave. Ossipon continued to think out loud.
'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 trap.'
', said the Scientist, the perfect anarchist, 'why don't you do that? Go to the woman.'

Source: New English Digest


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 (usted estará en condiciones de)
to die down: became progressively weaker (disminuyera)
picked up: took and lifted upward (levantó)
weak: not strong (débil)
did want
: (emphatic use) really wanted (realmente quería)
did you walk down here?: did you come here on foot? (¿vino a pie?)
ordinary: average, not exceptional (simple, común)
locked: fasten with a lock or key (cerraba con llave)
: 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: provided that (mientras que)
on me: with me
(encima, conmigo)
thick bottle
: sturdy bottle (botella gruesa)

jump on you: get on your back (lo atacan por detrás)
after dark
: after sunset (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 out (sacó, extrajo
foggy: with fog (con niebla
to bomb: to attack with explosives (de poner una bomba en
at last
: finally, in the end (al final)
safe: not dangerous (segura, para nada peligrosa)
run away
: 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)
left now: 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)

ACTIVITY                                                                              ANSWERS

Choose the best alternative to complete the sentences below:

1. Ossipon was ...




... to see the Scientist in the pub.

2. When the servant came to clean his room, the Scientist was very ...




3. The Scientist said he visited the pub ...




4. The Scientist would rather ...


  go hungry


... than not have explosives.

5. Verloc was the most useful member of the group because he was ...




6. Ossipon wants to let the police know that Verloc was acting ...


  under orders

  within the group

7. Ossipon ...

  is certain

  is satisfied


... that the bombing is a police trap to arrest them.

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