Rogue Male


Rogue Male . . . is a novel written in the first person. It is the confession of an English aristocrat with a name internationally known, who appears to have taken little part in politics or society, but to have earned his notoriety through exploration and big-game hunting. ’Lest what I write,’ he says, ‘should ever, by accident or intention, become public property, I will not mention who I am.’

He became obsessed with the idea of stalking the biggest game of all, a European dictator. He does not tell us whether he went east or west from Poland, his starting point. He was caught when his telescopic sight was coming on to the target.

His claim that he never actually meant to shoot was, naturally enough, considered incredible by the secret police; indeed he himself shows a reticence about his motives which cannot altogether be accounted for by his very English reserve. He was questioned and tortured until some official recognized the name on his passport, and his stony of a sporting stalk seemed possible, if unlikely. But his captors dared not let him go; they threw him over a cliff and staged his death to look like an accident.

He fell, however, into a patch of bog, and by skillful woodcraft convinced the search parties that he had been drowned. While they were looking for his body he escaped to England.

He visited his attorney, whom he calls Saul, to settle up his affairs and give warning that he intended to disappear for a number of years; but as soon as he left Saul’s office he was recognized and followed. He escaped from his hunters in the London underground railways, but was compelled to kill one of them — an episode that lies very heavy on his conscience.

Now that the police were after him (though without knowing his identity) as well as the foreign secret service, he had to vanish completely; he secretly made his way to Dorset, and went to ground in the midst of a thick hedge through which ran a disused and forgotten lane. He writes that he first discovered this lane while giving some woman ’the first sight and feeling of the land that was to be her home.’ He says little else about her except, oddly, to protest that he was not in love with her.

He burrowed into the sandstone to make himself a shelter and lived securely in the lane for several weeks; he had as companion a cat, Asmodeus, which had also run wild and taken to the cover of the great hedge. Bored by the monotony of his life and worried by his conscience, he tried to clarify his thoughts in writing the first part of the present journal.

The second part, written in the same place but under circumstances of extreme danger and discomfort, tells how the police came to know that he was in Dorset, how he tricked them into believing he had escaped to a port, and how, on the way back to his den, he was shot at and slightly wounded by a foreign agent whom he knows as Major Quive-Smith, and who is evidently an experienced hunter himself. He discovers that the major has rented the shooting over the neighboring farms, and thus has the right to walk about with a gun and to fire it.

Cornered, helpless, unsure of himself and his motives, he retires underground and disguises the mouth of his den so that Quive-Smith will not notice it. Day after day he remains motionless in the filth and damp, hoping that the major will lose patience and go away. ‘I will not kill,’ he writes. ‘To hide I am ashamed. So I endure without object.’

To-day begins the third part of the journal. . . .

With each twelve months of the Atlantic





I HAVE a use for this record, so I finish it. By God, it is good to write with a purpose, good to grudge the time I must spend on it, instead of whining, as it were, up my own sleeve! This will not, I think, be a pleasant task, nor dispassionate. But I can and must be frank.

I remained in my burrow for eleven days — for a week because it was a week, for two more days to prove to myself that I was not being unduly impatient, and still two more for good measure. Eleven days seemed ample to persuade Quive-Smith that I had either died in cover or left the district; I was entitled to find out whether he had gone. Asmodeus’s behavior suggested that he had. For the middle days the cat had been coming and going in dignified leisure, his ears upright and the hair along his back unruffled. For the last three I had not seen him at all. His delicate movements made the reason perfectly clear; he could not endure the dirt any longer.

Without climbing a tree or exposing myself on open ground — both too dangerous — it was impossible to spy on Quive-Smith during the day; so I decided to look for him after nightfall in the farm itself. Inch by inch I emerged from the blackberry bush and crawled on my stomach to the hedge at the top of Pat’s pasture, then through it and over the close turf of the down to much the same point that the major himself had occupied. It was cold and very dark, with a slight ground mist; I was quite safe so long as I moved slowly and avoided the lanes. It was very heaven to be out on the grass and breathing. A blazing summer noon couldn’t have given me more pleasure than that foul November night.

There was little wind. The countryside was utterly silent except for the drip of the trees. I could see the lights in Patachon’s farm and smell the sweet wood smoke from his chimneys. I dropped down into the vale and made my way to the farm along the edge of the open road, coming to the back of the north wing across an orchard. Here there was a high wall with the sloping roof of a farm building above it. From the top of the gable I should have the yard and the whole front of the house under observation. I didn’t dare to enter the yard itself. Even if the dogs neither heard nor saw me, the southwest wind, such as it was, would have carried my scent to them.

The wall was built of flints and easily climbed, but there was a gap of two feet between the top of the wall and the lower edge of the slates which gave me trouble. A rotten iron gutter ran below the slates, and it was difficult to reach the roof without momentarily putting some weight on this gutter. Eventually I got up by way of a stout iron bracket and the gable end.

I lay on the slates with my head over the coping. I could see right into the living room of the farm — a peaceful and depressing sight. Quive-Smith was playing chess with Patachon’s small daughter. I was surprised to see him sitting so carelessly before a lighted window with the blind up, and all black Dorset outside; but then I understood that, as always, I had underrated him. The clever devil knew that he was safe wit h his head nearly touching that of the child across the board. He was teaching her the game. I saw him laugh and shake his head and show her some move she should have made.

It was a bitter shock to find him still there. The eleven days had seemed an eternity to me. To him they were just eleven days; it was even possible, I thought, that he had been enjoying himself. My disappointment turned to fury. It was the first time in the whole of this business that I’lost my temper. I lay on that roof picking at the moss on the stone coping, and cursing Quive-Smith, his country, his party, and his boss in a white-hot silence. I blasted him to hell, him and his friend and Patachon and their manservants and maidservants. If my thoughts had hit those walls, I should have created a massacre that would have done credit to a plunging Jehovah called from eternity by the anathemas of a thousand infuriated priests.

It shook me out of my melancholy, that blazing, silent orgasm of rage. I didn’t stop to think that I had brought all this on myself, nor to consider that if I had actually been transported to that living room I should have shown a damned silly punctilious courtesy to the lot of them. I let myself go. I don’t remember anything like it since I enjoyed — certainly, enjoyed — speechless temper at the age of seven.

I was brought back to reality by a fit of shivering. I had sweated with wrath and the perspiration was cooling in the night air. It’s strange that I noticed it, for all my clothes were as permanently wet as those of a seaman in the days of sail. There must be a special virtue in sweat, cooling one spiritually as well as physically.

I watched the living room until the child went to bed. Then the major joined Patachon in front of the fire, and Patachon’s wife entered with two huge china mugs of cider. All three settled down to newspapers. There was nothing more to be learned.

I sidled towards the gable end, the weight of my body taken on shoulder and thigh, left hand on the coping and right hand testing the slates ahead lest one should be loose. I was concerned, God help me, with the noise of a single slate sliding down the roof into the gutter! A few feet from the end there was a subsidence beneath me. The slates sagged. I seemed to be floating on a heavy liquid that moulded itself to me, suddenly became brittle, and crashed to the floor of the barn. For an instant I swung from the coping and then that too gave way. Five feet of stone tile, a solid expanse of slate, and I myself roared down on to a pile of iron drinking troughs. It sounded like the collapse of a foundry.

I found later that I had reopened the wound in my shoulder and suffered various cuts and bruises, but at the time I was only shaken. I picked myself up from that welter of ironwork and dashed to the open door of the barn. I didn’t go through it. Quive-Smith had thrown up the window of the living room, and his long legs were already over the sill. My only thought was that he mustn’t know I was still in this part of the country. The dogs started barking and jumping against their chains. Patachon opened the front door and stumped over the threshold, flashlight in hand.

I retreated into the barn and dived under the drinking troughs. They were ranged side by side, so that there was room for me between any two, and covered by the slates and rubble from the roof. Quive-Smith and the farmer entered the barn immediately afterwards.

‘Damn un!’ stormed Patachon, observing the damage. ‘’Tis that beggarin’ murderer aafter my cheeses. Over t’ barn and down to dairy! I knew ‘e was astealin’ of ‘em. Over t’ barn and down to dairy! ‘

I don’t suppose he had lost an ounce, but farmers always suspect something is being stolen from them; there are so many things to steal. Quive-Smith obligingly agreed with me.

‘Oh, I don’t think there was anybody on the roof,’ he said. ‘Look at that!’

I knew what he was pointing at — a broken beam. It hadn’t even broken with a crack. It had just given way like a sponge of wood dust.

‘Deathwatch beetle,’ said the major. ‘I met the same thing in the East Riding, by Jove! Tithe barn it was. Poor chap broke his bloody neck!’

It didn’t ring quite true, but it was a gallant attempt at the right manner.

‘Rotted!’ agreed Patachon in a disgusted tone. ‘Damn un, ‘e’s rotted!’

‘Got to happen sometime,’ answered Quive-Smith. ‘We ought to be thankful no one was hurt.’

‘Bin there three ‘underd years,’ grumbled Patachon, ‘and ‘e ‘as to come beggarin’ down on our ‘eads!’

‘Oh, well,’ the major said cheerfully, ‘I’ll turn to in the morning and give you a hand. Nothing to be done now! Nothing at all!’

I had had a bad fright. I was hurt and shaken. So I went without thinking to Safety — not to the form of safety adapted to the case, but to Safety in general. And that meant my burrow — darkness, rest, freedom from pursuit. I hadn’t a thought — any more than, I suppose, the fox has such a thought — that the earth might mean death. Under the influence of panic when Quive-Smith shot me I had behaved in the same way, but then it was excusable. I didn’t know what the devil I was up against, and to seek general Safety was as sound as any other move. To seek it now was simply a reflex action.

I took, of course, the most beautiful and cunning route; the animal could be trusted to perform that futility to perfection. I went through water and through sheep. I waited in cover to be sure there was no pursuit. I knew finally and definitely that there was no pursuit; that I was alone on the down above my lane. Then I covered the last lap with extreme caution and entered my burrow with attention to every dead leaf and every blade of grass.


All the next day I remained underground, congratulating myself on my good fortune. The stench and dirt were revolting, but I persuaded myself that in three or four days I could open my door and cleanse and dry the den, and Asmodeus would come back and we could live peacefully until it was safe for me to hang around the ports and get out of the country. My hands were all right again, showing little deformity. The left eye was still queer, but the right was so foul, filmy, and bloodshot that the difference between them was no longer remarkable. A shave and haircut were all I needed, and then I could pass anywhere as a criminal who had just celebrated his release from prison with a two-day binge.

After nightfall I heard some activity in the lane, and sat with my ear to the ventilator. I couldn’t translate the noises. There were two men, but they did not speak to each other. I expect they whispered, but owing to the curve of the little tunnel I could not hear so slight a sound. Something heavy was being moved, and once I heard a thud against the door. My thoughts played with the idea of a man trap, a log perhaps that would fall on my head; they were certainly building something in the runway I had once used. Since I used it no longer I felt very clever and secure. I told myself that I was disappointed, merely disappointed, for they would wait another week or two for the result of their trap and I should have to stay underground.

All the time, as I now see, I was conscious of extreme terror and my heart was beating as if I had been running for my life. Only by an effort did I stop myself from talking aloud. I am very clever, I was saying to myself over and over again. They’ll find themselves run in for murder, I said, if they catch somebody else. And then the terror came up in my throat, for there was silence in the lane and little bits of earth were falling down my bolt hole into the inner chamber.

I lay between the two dens, watching the trickle of earth and listening to the quick strokes of a chopper. A man, as I thought, jumped or fell into the hole, and a wave of rubble rolled down to the bottom. I reached for my knife, and waited. He’s at my mercy, I said; I can make what terms I like. I was obsessed with the idea of talking, not killing. A reasonable man, I told myself. He’ll see sense. He plays chess.

There was no further sound, none at all. The man had stuck in the hole or died. I crept up the slope of foul earth and lay on my back, poking an ash pole up the chimney as far as the twist. It didn’t meet the body I expected; it met a hard obstruction. I withdrew myself as far as I could, for fear of some trap or explosive, and poked harder. The thing felt solid with a smooth under-surface. I lit a candle and examined it. It was the sawn end of a tree trunk which had been jammed into my hole.

I crawled to the door and pushed against it; nothing moved. Then I felt a sense of panic with which was mingled relief that the end had come at last. I intended to rush out and let them shoot. A quick death, merited. I took the axe that had hollowed out the sandstone and drove it between the planks of the door. It turned. I ripped off the planks. On the far side of them was an iron plate. It rang hollow except in the centre. They had jammed it in place with a balk of timber, the other end of which rested against the opposite bank of the lane.

I don’t know what happened to me then. When I heard Quive-Smith’s voice I was lying on the bag with my head on my arms, pretending to myself that I was thinking things out. I was controlled, but my ears were drumming and my skin oozing cold sweat. I suppose that if one sits on hysteria long enough and hard enough one loses consciousness. Something has to give way, and if the mind won’t the body must.

Quive-Smith was saying: ‘Can you hear me? ‘

I pulled myself together and sloshed a handful of water over my head. There was no point in keeping silence; he must have heard me battering on the iron. The only thing to do was to answer him and play for time.

‘Yes,’ I said, ‘I can hear you.’

‘Are you badly wounded?’

Damn him for asking that question then! I should have found it very useful later if I could have persuaded them that I was suffering from a neglected wound and incapable. As it was, I answered the truth: —

‘Nothing much. You hit a whiskey flask with a leather jacket behind it.’

He muttered something that I could not hear. He was speaking with his mouth close to the ventilation hole. If he jerked his head, the voice was lost.

I asked him how he had found me. He explained that he had gone straight from the barn to the lane on the off chance that I had been responsible for the broken roof and that he might see me returning to my mysterious hiding place.

‘Simple,’ he said, ‘so simple that I was very much afraid that it was what you meant me to do.’

I told him that I had never attempted to kill him, that I could have done it a dozen times if I had wished.

‘I supposed so,’ he replied. ‘But I counted on your leaving me alone. You would only have exchanged me for the police, and it was obviously wiser to persuade me that you had gone. You did, as a matter of fact.’

His voice had a weary harshness. He must have been in fear of his life all the time that he was at the farm. A braver man and a cleverer than I am, but without — I was going to write ‘ethics.’ But God knows what right I have to claim any! I have neither cruelty nor ambition, I think; but that is the only difference between Quive-Smith and myself.

‘Couldn’t you give me a cleaner death than this?’ I asked.

‘My dear fellow, I don’t want you to die at all,’ he said; ‘not now. I am so glad you had the sense not to break out while I was sealing you up. This position has taken me by surprise as well as you. I can’t promise you anything, but your death seems wholly unnecessary.’

‘The only alternative is the zoo,’ I answered.

He laughed at this for a nervous, uncontrollable moment. Lord, he must have been relieved to know where I was!

‘Nothing so drastic,’ he said. ‘I’m afraid you wouldn’t survive in captivity. No, if they take my advice, I shall be ordered to return you to your position and friends.’

‘On what condition?’

‘Trifling — but we needn’t go into that yet. Now, how are you off for food?’

‘Reasonably well, thank you.’

‘No little delicacies I can bring you from the farm?’

I nearly lost my temper at this. The man’s voice had just the right touch of concern; there was but the tiniest shade of irony to tell me that he was thoroughly enjoying his own acting. He would have brought me anything I asked, I have no doubt. For the cat-andmouse act to be subtle enough to please his taste, it had to be hardly distinguishable from genuine kindness.

‘I think not,’ I answered.

‘All right. But there’s no need for you to suffer any more.’

‘Look here!’ I said. ‘You won’t get any more out of me than your police did, and you can’t stay here indefinitely. So why not get it over?’

‘I can stay here for months,’ he answered quietly. ‘Months, you understand. I and my friend are going to study the habits and diet of the badger. The large piece of timber which is holding your door is for us to sit on. The bush placed in front of your door is a hide for the camera, and there will shortly be a camera in it. I’m afraid all these preparations are wasted since nobody ever comes into the lane. But if anyone should — well, all he will see is my friend or myself engaged in the harmless study of the life story of the badger. We might even get a nice young man with a microphone and have him tell the children what Bertie the Brock keeps under his tail.’

I called him a damned fool, and told him that the whole countryside would be consumed with curiosity — that all their doings would be public property in twenty-four hours.

‘I doubt it,’ he answered. ‘Nobody at the farm pays any attention to my innocent rambles. Somel imes I go out with a gun, sometimes not. Sometimes on foot, sometimes in the car. Why should they guess I am always in this lane? They have never seen you. They won’t see me. As for my assistant, he has no connection with me at all. He is staying in Chideock and his landlady thinks he is a night watchman at Bridport. He isn’t as careful in making his way here as I should like. But we can’t expect a paid agent to have our experience, can we, my dear fellow?’

This ‘dear fellow’ of his infuriated me. I am ashamed to remember that I rammed my axe against the door in anger.

‘How about that?’ I asked.

‘It makes surprisingly little noise,’ he said coolly.

It did, even in my closed space. He explained that there were felt and plywood over the iron.

‘And if you think it out,’ he added, ‘what would happen if anyone did hear you? That disagreeable peasant who owns the field over your head, for example? You would compel me to remove the pair of you, and to arrange the bodies to show murder and suicide.’

It was true enough — so true, at any rate, that there was little object in pointing out that he couldn’t get at me without running a grave risk himself. He held the only firearm and all the cards. He could foresee a more or less satisfactory outcome if he killed me; but if I killed him I could foresee nothing but murder on my conscience, and death or disgrace eventually at the hands of the service to which he belonged. Psychologically I was at his mercy. My mind cowered.

‘We must stop talking now,’he said. ‘No conversation in daylight will be our rule. I shall be on duty from 10 A.M. to 8 P.M., and we shall talk during the last couple of hours. My assistant will be on duty the rest of the time Now, let me make the position perfectly clear. I cannot, I expect, prevent you from forcing your way out over the top of the door. But if you do, you’ll be shot before you can shoot, and closed up again in your cosy home. Your back door is very thoroughly blocked, and if we hear you working we shall cut off your air. So be careful, my dear fellow, and don’t lose heart! Quite calm — that’s the watchword. Your release is certain.’


The new man sat quite still. I imagined his figure as a silhouette thrown against the darkness of the door. I had only seen him at a distance. I thought of him as dark and thick, as a contrast to Quive-Smith, who was fair and tall. I was quite wrong.

All the time that I crouched at the ventilator, my mind had been drifting over the wildest images of escape, enveloping them, rejecting them, concentrating finally upon the two practical schemes. The first, as Quive-Smith had suggested, was to cut a passage diagonally upwards over the top of the door. I took one of my long spits and drove it through the red earth. So far as I could tell, it passed over the top of their plate; but the knowledge was useless. As he had said, if I stuck out my head I should be shot — and, by the tone of his voice, I knew he did not mean killed, but deliberately crippled. The final breakthrough was bound to be so noisy that the watcher would have ample warning.

The second, and far more likely, way of escape was by the bolt hole. They hadn’t caged me so neatly as they thought. Their tree trunk had not blocked the whole length of my tunnel; only its vertical section between the surface and the twist. The passage quarried through the sandstone was open. All I had to do was to cut a new passage through the earth, and surely I could work at that so silently that not a sound would be heard outside.

The air was foul, for the draft between ventilator and bolt hole no longer existed. The carbon dioxide that I breathed out collected between my shoulders and the working surface. My energy steadily diminished. I cleared a foot of clay and broken sandstone, and then had to return to the ventilator to breathe. On the next shift I cleared six inches; on the next three; on the next, again three. But I faded out before I reached the ventilator.

I came to after an unknown lapse of time. In the original den there was plenty of air so long as I did not work at anything too long or too fast. The ventilator was a passage some four feet long and curving down from the bank to the side of the den. It had a diameter large enough for Asmodeus to go in and out, but so small that I was always amazed he could.

It seemed to me at the time that I kept a remarkable control over myself. I concentrated on breathing in and out by the ventilator, forcing my mind to remain blank, to stay in that state where all activity is inhibited by shock and it is freed to wander through space obsessed by trivialities. I felt that I was, to use a horrid phrase, captain of my soul. I had hardly been tested. The only periods, I suspect, when a man feels captain of his soul are those when he has not the slightest need of such an organ.

For short intervals, separated by lengthy halts to breathe, I worked at the old chimney. There was no space to swing or thrust, nowhere to put the earth that fell. It was like trying to burrow through a sand hill, impossible to breathe, impossible to remove the debris. I could have obtained more air by boring another hole through to the lane (though it wouldn’t have done me much good in the inner chamber), but I dared not give them a direct view into the burrow. The one strength of my position was that they could never see what I was doing.

The day passed quickly. Time drags only when one is thinking fast, and all my mental processes were slowed down. I was lying by the ventilator when night fell and Quive-Smith wished me a cheerful good-evening.

‘Everything has gone splendidly,’ he said. ‘Splendidly! We’ll have you out of there in an hour. Free to go home, free to live on that lovely estate of yours, free to do anything you like. I’m very glad, my dear fellow. I have a great respect for you, you know.’

I replied that I doubted his respect, that I knew him to be a good party man.

‘I am,’ he agreed. ‘But I can admire such an individualist as you. What I respect in you is that you have no need of any law but your own. You’re prepared to rule, or to be suppressed, but you won’t obey. You are able to deal with your own conscience.’

‘I am not. But I see what you mean,’ I said.

‘You must be! A man in your position to commit what you described in the subsequent proceedings as a sporting stalk! And then calmly pitching a spy on the live rail at the Aldwych!’

I kept silence. I didn’t know where this was leading. I hated the philosophy he was ascribing to me; it was a travesty of the truth.

‘I’m not blaming you in the least for defending yourself,’ he went on. ‘The man was worthless, and got in your way. What other result could there have been? I should be disappointed —really, I mean it — to find a lot of sloppy scruples in such an anarchical aristocrat as you.’

‘That’s your morality rather than mine,’ I answered.

‘ My dear fellow!’ he protested. ‘There’s all the difference in the world! It’s the mass that we are out to discipline and educate. If an individual interferes, certainly we crush him; but for the sake of the mass — of the state, shall I say? You, you don’t give a damn for the state. You obey your own taste and your own laws.*

‘That’s true enough,’ I admitted. ‘But I have respect for the rights of other individuals.’

‘Of course. But none at all for the nation. Admit it now, my dear fellow — you could get along perfectly well without any state!’

‘Yes, damn you!’ I answered angrily — I hated his pseudo-Socratic cross-examination. ‘Without the shameless politicians who run this country or the incompetent idiots who would like to, or your blasted spotlight Caesars.’

‘There’s no point in being rude,’ he laughed. ‘Limelight has just the same effect on the emotional public as Westminster Abbey and a sovereign’s escort

— and it’s a lot cheaper. But I’m glad you have grown out of these rather childish allegiances, because we shan’t have any difficulty in coming to terms.’

I asked him what his terms were. He pushed a paper down the ventilator with a stick. I collected it, also with a stick.

‘Just sign that, and you are free,’ he said. ‘There is only one serious restriction. You must undertake not to leave England. We leave you at complete liberty in your own country. But if you attempt to reach the Continent, this will begin all over again and we shall show no mercy. I think you’ll admit that, after what you did, it’s a reasonable condition.’

I asked him for a light. I wasn’t going to use up candles and oxygen. He poked his torch down the hole without hesitation. He knew by this time that he could force me to give it back.

The form they wished me to sign was lengthy but simple. It was a confession that on the-th August I had attempted to assassinate the great man, that I had undertaken this with the knowledge (they didn’t quite dare to write ‘approval’) of the British Government, and that I had been released without any punishment on condition that I remained in England. The document was signed by their chief of police, by witnesses, and by a London notary public attesting my signature, although it did not then exist. He was, to judge by his address, quite a reputable notary, too.

It was a good torch, and I employed it for the next quarter of an hour in getting order into my excavations. Then I gave it back to him, together with his paper. There was no object in showing indignation.

‘I wouldn’t try to persuade you,’ he said, ‘if you had the usual bourgeois nationalism. A man of your type would rather be a martyr. But since you don’t believe in anything but yourself, why not sign?’

I told him that I cared for public opinion.

‘Public opinion? Well, we shouldn’t publish this document unless there was imminent danger of war, and your government was acting its usual morality play. And from what I know of the English public’s temper in time of crisis, they would probably make you a popular hero.’

‘They possibly would,’ I answered. ‘But I don’t sign lies.’

‘Now, now, no heroics!’ he begged me in his blasted patronizing manner. ‘You’re a good Englishman, and you know very well that truth is always relative. Sincerity is what matters.’

I lay no stress on the great physical weariness and discomfort to which I was subject. They gave him an enormous advantage over me in intellectual power, but he had that in any case. He drove me gently from one untenable position to another. He might have been a kindly doctor investigating a moral delinquent.

‘I think,’ he said at last, ‘that it would make it a lot easier for both of us if you told me why you attempted assassination.’

‘ I told your people long ago,’ I retorted impatiently. ‘I wanted to see whether it was possible, and his death would be no great loss to the world.’

‘You did, then, intend to shoot,’ he said, accepting my statement quite naturally. ‘I couldn’t really help you, you see, till you had admitted that.’

I perceived that I had given myself away to him and to myself. Of course I had intended to shoot.

Their methods of interrogation are devastating to the muddle-minded — 90 per cent of us, whatever class we belong to. It’s easy to make a man confess the lies he tells to himself; it’s far harder to make him confess the truth. And when by their technique the truth has been dragged from him, he is so plastic and demoralized that he will accept any interpretation the questioner chooses to put upon it. The process is equally immoral and effective whether used by psychoanalysts or secret police. They make us see our own motives, and in the horror of that exposure we are ready to confess to any enormity.

I had been through all this before, of course, but at the hands of much coarser and less intelligent examiners than Quive-Smith. Physical torture merely increased my obstinacy. I was so occupied in proving to myself that my spirit was superior to my body that the problem of whether my intelligence had not been hopelessly overshadowed by my emotions did not arise.

‘Yes,’ I admitted. ‘I intended to shoot.’

‘But why?’ he asked. ‘Surely political assassination setties nothing?’

‘It has settled a good deal in history,’ I said.

‘I see. A matter of high policy, then?’

‘If you wish.’

‘Then you must have talked it over with someone? ‘

‘No. I went alone, on my own responsibility.’

‘For the sake of your country?’

‘Mine and others.’

‘Then, even though your government knew nothing about you, you were acting in a sense on their behalf?’

‘I don’t admit that,’ I said, seeing where he was heading.

‘My dear fellow!’ he sighed. ‘Nowr, you say you don’t sign lies. Let me make your mind a little clearer, and you will see that I don’t want you to. You have a number of friends in the Foreign Office, haven’t you?’


‘ You sometimes give them an informal report on your return from trips abroad. I don’t mean that you are an agent. But if you had any interesting impressions, you would pass them to the right man over the lunch table?’

‘I have done so,’ I admitted.

‘Then suppose you had succeeded and we had hushed the assassination up, would you have informed your friends that he was dead?’

‘Yes, I expect so.’

‘You do, you see, consider yourself a servant of the state,’ he said.

‘Not in this matter.’

‘Oh dear, oh dear!’ complained QuiveSmith patiently. ‘A man with your experience of foreign society shouldn’t have this English dislike of reasonable conversation. It is precisely and only in a matter of such importance that you consider yourself a servant of the state. In your daily routine you do not. You are an individualist obeying his own laws. Yet you admit that in this matter you acted for reasons of state and that you intended to inform the state.’

I see now that he was destroying a great deal of nonsense in my mind. It was possibly that, more than anything else, which gave me the sense of wriggling at the end of a hook.

‘But I did not act at the orders of the state,’ I said.

‘I haven’t asked you to sign your name to that. “With the knowledge of the government” is the phrase. That wouldn’t be a lie at all. We needn’t even stick to those words. “With the knowledge of my friends” — how would that be?’

‘It isn’t true.’

‘I’m not suggesting you were paid. No, I think you undertook this, as you say, more or less in a sporting spirit.’

‘I told you so,’ I said.

‘Ah, yes. But a sporting assassination! Now, really, you wouldn’t believe it yourself, you know.’

‘Why not?’ I asked furiously.

‘Because it is incredible. I want to know why you hate us to such a degree that you were ready to murder the head of the state. What, were your motives?’


‘But you have admitted that you care nothing for politics, and I believe you implicitly. Perhaps wre mean the same thing. Shall we say that your motives were patriotic?’

‘They were not,’ I answered.

‘My dear fellow!’ he protested. ‘But they were certainly not personal!’

Not personal! But what else could they be? He had made me see myself. No man would do what I did unless he were cold-drawn by grief and rage, consecrated by his own anger to do justice where no other hand could reach.


I left the ventilator, and lay down with my head at the entrance to the inner chamber; it was the most privacy I could attain. His voice murmured on, grew angry. I didn’t care. I was fighting against the self-knowledge he had forced upon me. At last he was silent, and I surrendered to misery.

I will try to write of this calmly. I think that now I can. I am a man who has only loved once, and did not know it till she was dead. Perhaps that is not quite correct. I loved with all my heart, but had little self-consciousness about it — not, at any rate, compared to the ecstasy and glory which love meant to her. I was too disciplined, too civilized. I loved her as a Chinese mandarin might love a flower, beautiful in itself, unquestionably beautiful to live with.

When I heard of her death, I did not weep. I told myself immediately that love was an illusion. I grieved that so exquisite a work of nature had been destroyed. I grieved, in my conscious mind, with that same sorrow which I would have felt had my house, in which fifteen generations have lived, been burned — an irreparable, terrible sense of loss, transcending any injury, but no hot, human grief.

That, I say, is what I thought I felt. He who has learned not to intrude his emotions upon his fellows has also learned not to intrude them upon himself.

When I went to Poland I considered that I was taking quite a conventional course: to go out and kill something in rough country in order to forget my troubles. I had not admitted what I meant to kill. I did not admit it till Quive-Smith destroyed all possible selfdeception.

She was so swift and sensitive. She could do no other than make a generous cause her own. Impulsive, spiritual, intelligent, all at such energy that she seemed to glow. A boy who saw such things told me that, sometimes there was a visible halo of light around her. To that I am insensible. But, as I remember her, life extended beyond her body; neither touch nor sight could quite surely say, Here she begins and here she ends. Her skin was not a surface; it was an indefinite glory of the palest rose and orange that chose to mould itself to those tense limbs.

She knew, I suppose, that in our mixture of impulse and intelligence we were alike. Her emotions governed her brain ; though she would support her side with devastating logic, logic had nothing to do with her devotion. I should never have suspected that of myself, yet it is true. I have never taken sides, never leaped wholeheartedly into one scale or the other; nor do I realize disappointments, provided they are severe, until the occasion is long past. Yet I am ruled by my emotions, though I murder them at birth.

They caught her and shot her. Shot her. Reasons of state. Yes, I know, but surely the preservation of such an individual is why we suffer, why we fight, why we endure this fife. Causes? Politics? Religion? But the object, of them is to produce such a woman — or man, if you will. To put her, her, against a wall — there is no cause that justifies an act so satanic. It is the life of such a creature which justifies any cause she chooses to adopt. What other standard have we? In all history has any man become a Christian because he was convinced by the Athanasian Creed? But how many millions have been convinced by the life of a single saint!

I declared war upon the men who could commit such sacrilege, and above all upon the man who has given them their creed. How ridiculous that one person should declare war upon a nation! That was another reason why I hid from myself what I was doing. My war was a futile cause to me, to be smiled at sympathetically just as I used to smile at her enthusiasms. Yet in fact my war is anything but futile. Its cost in lives and human suffering is low. Seek out and destroy the main body of the enemy — and I should have destroyed it, but for a change of wind.

I realized that since the day I was caught I had been defeated only by the loneliness and uncertainty. How could I admit to myself that I, the mandarin, was declaring war; that I, the unfeeling lover, had been so moved by the death of my beloved? That I, the civilized, scrupulous sportsman was behaving like an ice-cream merchant with a knife?

Well, all that, as I lay in the silence of my temporary grave, was at last admitted. And so I passed to a spiritual offensive.

I do not know how long I lay there. I passed in thought over great distances of geographical space, over all the movement of my attack and retreat, but there was no activity in myself or the outer world by which time could be measured. At last I was roused by the perceptible rising of the water.

I thought at first that there must be heavy rain outside, and thrust a stick down my two drains to clear them. It met hard obstructions. Of course they had found and plugged the holes. That added to my discomfort — if anything could — but put me in no danger. The water would leak out under the door as soon as it rose to the height of the sill.

I spoke through the ventilator almost with gayety. I was buoyed up by a feeling of light-heartedness, much the same, I suppose, as that of a penitent after confession. I knew why I was in my burrow. I felt that what I had done had been worth-while.

‘Anyone there?’ I asked.

Quive-Smith answered me. The night had passed, and the other man had come and gone.

‘You will merely succeed in giving me pneumonia, my dear fellow,’ I said.

‘Delirium,’ he replied, ‘won’t change your handwriting.’

It was the first time that I had annoyed him; he let me hear the cruelty in his voice.

I started to burrow again, hoping with my new courage to get to the surface sometime after nightfall. But it was not courage that needed multiplying; it was oxygen. I had to leave the work at shorter and shorter intervals, and to allow a greater margin of safety than before. If I fainted with my head in the sea of mud on wrhich my sleeping bag was floating, it would be all over.

When I could do no more, I rolled up the useless bag and spread a layer of tins on top of the bundle. On them I sat, crouched forward with the nape of my neck against the roof and my elbows on my knees. It was uncomfortable, but. the only alternative was to lie full length in the water. That would have made me no wetter than I was, but a lot colder. I shivered continuously. Nevertheless the temperature in the den must have been well above that of the outside air. The poets are wrong when they describe the grave as cold.

In the evening, the third since my imprisonment, Quive-Smith tried to make me talk, but I would not. At last I heard his colleague take over from him. The major wished me good-night., and regretted that I should force him to increase my discomfort. I didn’t understand what he meant. After that there was silence — a silence more complete than any I had experienced. Even at night and buried, my ears caught faint noises of bird and beast.

The night dragged on and on. I began to suffer from hallucinations. I remember wondering how she had got in, and begging her to be careful. I was afraid that when she left they might think she was I, and shoot. Even while I was off my head I could not conceive that anyone would hurt her for being herself.

They passed, those dreams. It was the growing effort of breathing which drove them away. I was desperate for air. I couldn’t make the man hear me when I spoke, so I hammered lightly on the door. A shaft of light showed at the angle of the ventilator. Quive-Smith had blocked it before he left.

‘Stop that!’ ordered a low voice.

‘I thought it was still night,’ I answered idiotically.

I meant that I wouldn’t have hammered on the door if I had known it was already morning. I didn’t want some innocent person involved in the reckoning.

‘I have orders to break in and shoot if you make a noise,’ he said stolidly.

lie had t he flat voice of a policeman in the witness box. From that, and from the major’s description of him, I was pretty sure of his type. He wasn’t in this service from ambition and love of the game itself, both of which undoubtedly counted with Quive-Smith; he was a paid hand.

I told him that I was a wealthy man and that if I escaped I could make him independent for life.

‘Stop that!’ he answered again.

I thought of pushing a fat bank note up the ventilator, but it was too dangerous to let him know I had money; he would have been in a position to force unlimited sums from me and give nothing in return.

‘All right,’ I said, ‘I won’t talk any more. But I want you to know that when they let me out I won’t forget any little favors you can show me.’

He made no answer, but he didn’t put back the obstruction.

I hunched my rolled bag towards the ventilator, and sat down with my face pressed to it. The sun was shining outside. I could not see it, but in the curve of that imitation rabbit hole the deep orange crystals of the sandstone were glowing with light. There was an illusion of warmth and space. The twenty-four inches of sand, being so close to and directly under my eyes, lost perspective. The minute irregularities became sandhills, and the tunnel a desert with the sun still bathing the horizon and the dark clouds of the khamsin gathering overhead.


My watch had stopped, but I think it must have been nearly midday before Quive-Smith came on duty. The first I heard of him was a shot — so close that I was sure he had potted something in the lane — and then the laughter of both men.

When dusk fell, he began to examine me for the fourth time. His approach was cordial and ingenious. He gave me a precis of the news in the morning paper, then talked of football, and so came round to his boyhood; he had, he said, been educated in England.

His personal reminiscences were frank, though he implied a lot more than he said. His mother had been an English governess. She felt socially inferior and morally superior to his father — a horrid combination — and had tried to make her son a good little Briton by waving the Union Jack and driving in patriotism with the back of a hairbrush — with the natural result that his affection for his mother’s country never rose higher than the point of contact. He gave away nothing about his father; I gathered that he was some obscure baron. When, later, I came to know Quive-Smith’s real name I remembered that his restless family had a habit of marrying odd foreign women, and had consequently been cold-shouldered by their peers. He had a Syrian for his grandmother. That accounted for the almost feminine delicacy of his bone structure.

He led me on to talk of my own boyhood, but as soon as I felt myself affected by the confidential atmosphere that he was creating I dried up. I knew his methods by now. There was never a chance that he could make me sign that paper of his, but he could — and it shows amazing technique — still make me wonder whether I wasn’t being absurdly quixotic in refusing.

He threatened to block the ventilator again if I did not talk to him. I retorted that if he stuffed up that hole I should die; and, in case that should encourage him, I added that asphyxiation appeared to be a pleasanter death than any I could give myself.

I had not, in fact, the least thought of committing suicide now that I knew the object of my existence. Even during the first lost and hopeless days suicide had only been a possibility to which I gave as much consideration as to each of a dozen other plans. One does not, I think, kill oneself without a definite desire to do so. It is hardly ever an act to which a man must key himself up; it is a temptation which he must struggle against. I have more than my fair share of mental diseases, but the black suicidal depression doesn’t happen to be one of them.

He laughed and said he would give me all the air I wanted, all the air I wanted through the sort of filter that was fit for me. He dropped his English manner completely. It cheered me enormously to know that I was getting on his nerves.

I heard him push some bulky object into the hole and ram it well down towards the curve. I didn’t much care. I knew from experience that there was enough air stored in the burrow and leaking under the door to keep me going for many hours.

I remained quiet, considering whether or not to pull the obstruction down into the burrow. I could get at it. The tunnel was the shape of my arm bent at the elbow, and half as long again. But the risk was serious. If he caught and fixed my left arm as it groped upwards, he would not thereafter be so dainty in his methods of cross-examination.

I poked with a stick, and found the thing to be soft and stiff. I advanced my fingers inch by inch until they brushed against it and I snatched back my hand. I had touched, as I thought, an arrangement of wires and teeth, but before my arm was fairly out of the tunnel I realized what it really was. The simultaneous mixture of terror and relief and anger made me violently sick.

Taking Asmodeus’s head in my hand, 1 drew his remains into the den. Poor old boy, he had been shot at close quarters full in the chest. It was my fault. People who sat quietly in the lane were, in his only experience, friendly and had bully beef. He had been shot as he confidently sat up to watch them.

Quive-Smith cackled with laughter and told me that, really, I had only myself to blame; that he hoped I wouldn’t be too proud to talk to him on the following evening. He couldn’t, of course, have known that Asmodeus was my cat, but he had quite correctly calculated that I should draw his obstruction into the den and that I could never push it back. By God, if he had known the atmosphere I lived in he would never have thought that a dead cat could make it any worse!

When the other man had come on duty, I set about disentangling my stiffened body. While moving my roll of bedding I felt that I could not have stood up even if there had been headroom. I knelt in the mud with my hands on the doorsill and tried to straighten my legs. My impression had been right — I had set with my knees two feet from my chin.

I had no need of sleep, for I had passed some hours of every twenty-four half dozing, half unconscious. During the night I worked on my body, and when at last it consented to open up I supported myself on toes and hands and practised those exercises which, I believe, business men are ordered to perform before breakfast. I stopped shivering and ate a solid meal of oatmeal moistened with whiskey. I wished that I had thought of limited exercise before, but I had been demoralized by the filth of my condition. And there was no object for physical strength.

It seems ridiculous to say that, by shooting Asmodeus, Quive-Smith condemned himself to death; it was in a sense so slight a crime. Patachon would have shot the old poacher without hesitation. I should have grieved for him no less, but admitted Patachon’s right. In the same way I admitted Quive-Smith’s right to shoot me by the stream. I can neither defend nor explain the effect that the shooting of this cat had upon me. It released me. I had intended to escape by the chimney without bloodshed. From then on all my plans were directed towards a swift and deadly break-through into the lane. I was at last able to admit that all my schemes for escaping without violence were impossible. The only practical method was to kill the man on duty before, not after, I started digging.

The ventilator was my only means of physical contact with them. I meditated a number of ingenious decoys to persuade the major to thrust his arm down the hole. This idea of a trap had not, apparently, occurred to him, and it might work. But it would do me no good, I decided, even if I caught QuiveSmith. You can’t kill a man quickly with only his arm to work on. He would yell for help.

To kill him through the ventilator? Well, there was only one way, and that was to straighten the curve so that I could shoot a missile up the tunnel. It was useless to poke at him with some improvised spear; to give instantaneous death I had to deliver a heavy weapon at a high initial velocity.

An iron spit at once suggested itself as the weapon. It would fly true for the short range of some three and a half feet between the point and his head; but it could not be fired from my catapult or from any rearrangement of its rubber. I had to have something in the nature of a bow.

None of my bits of wood served. There was no room to handle an ash pole of such length that its bending would have the necessary force. A bow proper, or any method of propulsion by the resiliency of wood, was excluded. Bent steel or twisted rope might have done, but I had neither.

I looked over my full and empty tins in the hope of finding another source of power. Some were on my rolled sleeping bag; some under Asmodeus. I had laid his carcass on a platform of tins. A last tribute of sentimentality. He could never have endured the mud. When I laid my hand on him I realized that in his body was power. He could take his own revenge.

I skinned Asmodeus and cut his hide into strips. I have always been interested in the mechanics of obsolete weapons, and guilty of boring my friends by maintaining the supremacy of the Roman artillery over any other up to the Napoleonic Wars. The engine that I now contrived was an extremely crude model of a hand-drawn ballista. I remember considering something of the sort for use on rabbits, but, since I felt more sympathy for them alive than dead, I never constructed it.

I made a square frame of which the uprights were two bricks and the horizontal bars two stout billets of ash fitting into roughly scraped grooves at the tops and bottoms of the bricks. Parallel to the bricks and on the inner side of them I twisted two columns of rawhide. Through the centre of each column was driven a long peg, which projected three or four inches beyond the brick. A wide thong was attached to the tips of the two pegs as a bowstring joins the ends of a bow. The twisting and shrinkage of the strips of hide held the whole frame rigid and forced the pegs hard back against the bricks.

On the farther side of the bricks and lashed to them by square lashings was a strip of wood from a packing case, in the centre of which I cut a semi-circular aperture. The method of firing the ballista was to lie on my back with my feet on the outer edges of this wooden strip. The point of the spit passed through, and was supported by, the aperture; the ring of the spit was gripped in the centre of the thong by the thumb and forefinger of the right hand. Thus, by the pull between hand and feet the pegs were drawn towards my chest against the torsion of the columns of hide. When the spit was discharged, the pegs thudded back on the bricks, which were padded with cloth at the point of contact.


By the time I had made the machine it was morning, or later, and Quive-Smith was on duty again. I dared not practise for fear of noise, so I slept as best I could and waited for the evening examination. I intended to be polite, for I wanted information about the major’s assistant. I hadn’t the faintest idea what to do with him, — I was in no position to take prisoners, — but I had a feeling that he might be more useful to me alive than dead.

At the hour when Pat, Patachon, and their laborers had all retired to their respective firesides, Quive-Smith opened the conversation. After we had exchanged a few guarded commonplaces, he said: —

‘You’re unreasonable, really unreasonable. I’m surprised at a man of your sense enduring such conditions!'

I noticed a touch of impatience in his voice. He had begun to realize that watching badgers in a damp lane on November evenings was not an amusement that anyone would want to carry on for long. He must have wished that he had never thought of that invaluable confession.

‘I can endure them,’ I answered. ‘You’re the man who is suffering for nothing. I’ve come to the conclusion that if I sign that document of yours you’ll never have occasion to publish it. There isn’t going to be any war. So it doesn’t matter whether I sign or not.’

I thought that would appeal to him as a piece of British casuistry: to deny that I was uncomfortable, but to produce a hypocritical justification for getting more comfort. It was a textbook illustration good enough to take in the foreigner.

As a matter of fact no Englishman that I know would have signed his bloody paper — refusing partly from honor but chiefly from sheer obstinacy. He’s a neurotic creature, the modern John Bull, when compared to the beef-and-ale yeoman of a hundred years ago; but he has lost none of great-grandfather’s pigheadedness.

‘You’re perfectly right, my dear fellow,’ said Quive-Smith. ’Your signature is a mere necessary formality. The thing will probably stay at the bottom of the archives till the end of time.’

‘Yes, but look here!’ I answered. ‘I trust you not to talk. I don’t know who you are, but you must be pretty high up in your service and have a sense of responsibility. But what about this other fellow? I may lay myself open to blackmail, or he may change sides.’

‘ He doesn’t know who you are,’ replied Quive-Smith.

‘How can I be sure of that?’

‘Oh, use your head, man!’ he answered contemptuously — I was pleased that his voice no longer had its usual note of ironical but genuine respect. ‘Is it likely? He doesn’t even know who I am, let alone you. This morning he did his best to find out. I expect you tried to bribe him.’

‘Is he English?’ I asked.

‘No, Swiss. A people, my dear fellow, of quite extraordinary stupidity and immorality. A very rare combination which only a long experience of democratic government could have produced. A Swiss agent is the perfect type of Shakespeare’s Second Murderer.’

I refrained from the obvious gibe. Nobody could cast Quive-Smith as a First Murderer. He was definitely in the employing class.

I wanted to keep him talking, so that he wouldn’t insist on my signing his document immediately. I asked him what was the matter with democracy.

He read me a long lecture, which degenerated into a philippic against the British Empire. I slipped in a provocative word here and there to encourage him. He hated us like hell, considered us (he said it himself) as the Goths must have considered the Roman Empire, a corrupt bunch of moralizing luxury lovers who could only hold their frontiers by exploiting — and that inefficiently— the enormous wealth and the suffering millions behind them. In fact it was a speech that would have gone equally well in the mouth of his boss’s opposite number on the other side of Poland.

He even had the effrontery to invite me to join the winning side. He said that they needed in all countries natural leaders like myself; I had only to sign, and bygones would be bygones, and I should be given every chance to satisfy my will to power. I didn’t tell him that natural leaders don’t have any will to power. He wouldn’t have understood what I meant.

I dare say he was sincere. I should have been a very useful tool, completely in their power. When you find an agitator who hasn’t suffered poverty, it’s sound to ask whether he has ever been in my position and what he has done that our police don’t know and a foreign police do.

‘ I’ll sign in the morning,’ I said.

‘Why not now?’ he answered. ‘Why suffer another night?’

I asked him where on earth I could go. I told him that before I could be let loose on the public he would have to bring me clothes, and, when I was decently dressed, take me to his farm to wash. All that couldn’t be done at a moment’s notice without arousing a lot of curiosity.

‘I see your point,’ he said. ‘Yes, I’ll bring you clothes in the morning.’

‘And get that Swiss of yours away before we talk! That’s what worries me most. I don’t trust him a yard.’

‘My dear fellow,’ he protested, ‘I wish you would give me credit for some discretion.'

When the Second Murderer had come on duty and settled down for the night, I started to practise with the ballista, stuffing a coat into my end of the ventilator so that the thud of the pegs could not be heard. The strips of hide had shrunk into even tighter coils. It was a more powerful weapon than I needed, and the devil to pull; I had to use both hands, my left on the shaft of the spit, my right gripping the ring, held horizontally so that it did not catch as it flew through the aperture. At a range of four feet the spit drilled clean through two tins of tomatoes and buried itself six inches in the earth. I shot it off less than a dozen times, for the construction was none too strong.

I unstopped the ventilator and fanned for an hour to change the air. Heaven knows whether it really made any difference, but it was worth trying since my next task was to persuade the Swiss to shut up his end of the ventilator, and keep it shut while I straightened the tunnel.

I began moaning and mumbling to shake his nerves a bit. When he ordered me to stop it, I said I would if he told me the time.

‘Half-past two,’ he answered sulkily.

I stayed quiet for another hour, and then went off my head again — sobs and maniac laughter and appeals to him to let me out. He endured my noises with annoying patience (hoping perhaps for that hypothetical reward) and compelled me to such a show of hysteria before he plugged the hole that I managed to get on my own nerves into the bargain. My acting was good enough to be a genuine release for my feelings.

The straightening of the tunnel was easy and quite silent. I dug with my knife and gathered the earth handful by handful. At intervals I let off some moans to discourage him from removing the plug. The curve vanished, and in its place was an empty hollow, like a rabbit’s nest, with two mouths. His plug was a piece of sacking. I opened out its folds on my side without disturbing its position. I could breathe without difficulty and hear every sound.

I arranged my rolled sleeping bag under my shoulder blades, and lay on my back in the mud with the engine presented and the spit fitted to the thong. I had to be ready to fire the moment that a man’s head appeared at the hole. The removal of the sacking would give me time to draw, and if anyone looked into the hole and noticed that its shape had been altered, that would be the last thing he ever noticed.

The light of morning gleamed through the folds. I waited. I waited, it seemed to me, till long after midday before Quive-Smith arrived. As a matter of fact, he was early — if, that is, he usually came at 10 A.M.

For the first time I could hear all their conversation. At that hour in the morning they spoke in low voices and as little as possible.

‘He has gone mad, sir,’ reported the Swiss stolidly.

‘Oh, I don’t expect so,’ answered Quive-Smith. ‘He’s just avoiding the crisis. He’ll soon be calm.’

‘Usual time to-night, sir?’

‘If not., I will let you know. Your woman has been warned that you may be leaving?’

‘ Yes, sir.’

I heard his heavy steps sploshing off through the mud. All this time I was lying on my back and staring at the hole.


I cannot, remember the slightest effort in drawing the ballista. There was a flash of light as Quive-Smith withdrew the plug. I started, and that slight jerk of my muscles seemed to pull the thong. Immediately afterwards his head appeared. I noticed the surprise in his eyes, but by that time I think he was dead. The spit, took him square above the nose. He looked, when he vanished, as if someone had screwed a ring into his forehead.

I hacked at my end of the ventilator until it was large enough to receive my body, then crawled inside and burst through into the lane wit ha drive of head and shoulders. Quive-Smith was lying on his back watching me. I had my thumbs on his windpipe before I realized what, had happened. The foot of spit that projected behind his skull was holding up his head in a most lifelike manner. He hadn’t brought any spare clothes. Perhaps he didn’t intend me to live after he had my signature; perhaps he didn’t believe that I would sign. The latter is the more charitable thought, lie had a loaded revolver in his pocket, but that is no proof one way or the other.

I burned that scandalous document, then stretched myself and peered through the hedge over the once-familiar fields. Pat was nowhere in sight, and his cows were grazing peacefully, Patachon was talking to his shepherd on the down. It was a damp November day, windless, sunless, of so soft a neutrality that, coming to it straight from disinterment, I couldn’t tell whether the temperature was ten or thirty degrees above freezing point. By Quive-Smith’s watch it was only eleven. I ate his lunch. Behold, Sisera lay dead and the nail was in his temples.

I destroyed his screen of bushes and his camera (thorough though I knew him to be, I was surprised that he had really set the scene for his badger watching) and folded up the heavy motor rug which kept him warm. Then I shifted the log that was jammed between both banks of the lane, and opened the door of the burrow. The stench was appalling. I had been out only half an hour, but that was enough for me to notice, as if it had been created by another person, the atmosphere in which I had been living.

Boiling some muddy water on the Primus, I sponged my body — a gesture rather than a wash. It was heaven to feel dry and warm when I had changed into his clothes. I It’ had heavy whipcord riding breeches, a short fur-lined shooting coat—Central European rather than English, but the ideal garment for his job — over his tweeds, and a fleecelined trench coat over the lot.

When I was dressed I went through his papers. He had the party and identity documents of his own nation, with his real name on them. He also had a British passport. It was not in the name of Quive-Smith. He had put on that name and character for this particular job. His occupation was given as Company Director, almost as noncommittal as Author. Anybody can qualify for either description, as every police-court magistrate knows; but they look impressive.

In a belt round his waist I found £200 in gold and a second passport. It had twice been extended by obscure consulates, but had neither stamps nor visas on it, showing that it had never yet been used for travel. That this passport was his own private affair was a fair assumption. The photograph showed his face and hair darkened with stain, and without a moustache. If I were in QuiveSmith’s game, I should take care to have a similar passport; should he have a difference of opinion with his employers, he could disappear completely and find a home in a very pleasant little Latin country.

I held up any definite plans until after I should have interviewed the Swiss, but when I cut my hair and shaved I left myself a moustache exactly like the major’s and brushed my hair, as his, straight back from the forehead. The name and identity of the Company Director might suit me very well.

I removed what was left of Asmodeus and buried him in the lane where he had lived and hunted, with a tin of beef to carry him through I till he learned the movements of game over his new ground. I plugged the ragged hole made by my escape with my old clothes, my bedding, and earth, and took from the den my money and the exercise book that contained the first two parts of this journal. Then I replaced the original door, and laid the iron plate against the bank of the lane, covering it with earth and debris. When the nettles and bracken grow up in the spring — and thick they will grow on that turned earth — there will be no trace of any of us.

The tracks in the mud told me that the Swiss always entered and left by the top of the lane. There was no mistaking the prints left by Quive-Smith’s abnormally small feet. I had been compelled to keep my own shoes, and the heels of his stockings were lumps under my soles.

I squatted against the bank in the darkest section of the lane and waited. I heard the fellow a quarter of a mile away. He was moving reasonably quietly where the lanes were dry, but had no pat ience with mud.

When he was a few paces from me I flashed Quive-Smith’s torch on his face and ordered him to put his hands up. I have never seen such a badly frightened man. From his point of view he had been held up in the middle of nowhere by a maniac with a considerable grudge against him.

I made him keep his face to the hedge while I removed his documents, his pistol, and his trouser buttons. I had read of that trick, but never seen it done. It’s effective. A man with his trousers round his ankles is not only hindered; his morale is destroyed.

He carried a passport on him. I suppose those chaps always do. A glance at the first page showed me that his name was Müller, that he was naturalized English, and that he was a hotel porter. He was a big man, fair-haired, with a fair moustache waxed to points. He looked as if he had modeled himself upon some ex-N.C.O. of the Corps of Commissionaires.

‘Is he dead?’ the man stammered.

I told him to turn round and look, keeping him covered while I flashed the light on Quive-Smith’s naked body. Then I put him back with his face to the hedge. He was shaking with fear and cold. His legs pulsated. I had thrown his imagination out of control.

He kept on saying: ‘What . . . what . . . what . . .’

He meant, I think, to ask what l was going to do to him.

‘Who am I?' I asked.

‘I don’t know.’

‘Think again, Muller!’

I placed the cold flat of my knife against his naked thighs. God knows what he thought it was, or what he imagined I meant to do! He collapsed on the ground, whimpering. I wanted him to keep his clothes reasonably clean, so I picked him up by one ear, and propped him against the hawthorn alongside Quive-Smith.

‘Who am I?’ I asked again.

‘The Aldwych . . . the . . . the police wanted you.’

‘Who is the man whose clothes I am wearing? ‘

‘Number 43. I never met him before this job. I know him as Major QuiveSmith.’

‘Why didn’t Major Quive-Smith hand me over to the police?’

‘He said you were one of his agents, and you knew too much.’

That sounded a true piece of QuiveSmit h ingenuity; it explained to a simple intelligence why it was necessary to put me out of the way, and why they were working independently of the police; it also ensured the Second Murderer’s zealous coöperalion.

‘What were you going to do with my body that night?’

‘ I don’t know,’ he sobbed. ‘I swear I don’t know. I had orders to stay in the car every night until I heard a shot and then to join him.’

‘Where did you get the iron plate?’

‘I had it cut in Bridport on the morning when he first discovered you were here. I used to meet him outside the farm for orders.’

‘ How many years have you worked in hotels? ‘

‘Ten years. Two as night porter.’

‘Any dependents? ‘

‘A wife and two tiny tots, sir,’ he said.

1 suspected he was lying; there was a whine in his voice. And I felt that, considering the varied human material at their disposal, his employers wouldn’t have chosen a family man for a job of indefinite duration.

‘Where does your wife think you are?’

‘Relieving at — at Torquay.’

‘Does she believe that?’


‘She doesn’t mind getting no letters from you?’

‘ No.’

‘Doesn’t it ever occur to her that you might be with another woman?'


‘Careful, Muller!’ I said.

I merely raised the revolver to the level of his eyes. He shrieked that he had been lying. He pawed the air with his right hand as if he could catch the bullet in its flight. The wretched fellow feared death as he would a ghost. I admit that death is a horrid visitor, but surely distinguished? Even a man going to the gallows feels that he should receive the guest with some attempt at dignity.

‘From whom do you take your orders?’ I asked.

‘The hotel manager.’

‘No one else?’

‘Nobody else, I swear!’

‘What hotel?’

He gave me the name of the hotel and its manager. I won’t repeat it here. It ought to be above suspicion, but for that reason, if no other, I have little doubt that our people suspect it. If they don’t, they have only to check which of them in the last week of October lost a night porter who never returned.

‘What crime did you commit?’ I asked.

It was obvious that they had some hold on him in order to make of him so obedient and unquestioning a tool. Night porters, in my experience, are remarkable for their brusque independence.

‘Assault,’ he muttered, evidently ashamed of himself.


‘She invited me to her room— at least I thought she did. I shouldn’t have done it. I know that. But I was going off duty. And then — then I went for her a bit rough-like. I thought she’d been leading me on, you see. And she screamed and the manager and her father came in. She looked a child. I thought I’d taken leave of my senses. She had just been laughing at me friendly, sir, when she came in of an evening, and I’d thought . . . I could have sworn that . . .’

‘I know what you thought,’ I said. ‘Why didn’t they charge you?’

‘For the sake of the hotel, sir. The manager hushed it up.”

‘And they didn’t sack you?’

‘No. The manager made me sign a confession and they all witnessed it.’

‘So you have done what you were told ever since?’


‘Why didn’t you get another job?’

‘They wouldn’t give me any references, sir, and I don’t blame them.’

He was genuinely ashamed. He had come out of the realms of a panicstricken imagination as soon as he was reminded of the real trouble of his everyday life. They had a double grip on the poor devil. They had not only ensured his obedience, but shattered his self-respect.

‘Don’t you see that they framed you?’ I asked.

I was sure of it. Any really competent little bitch of seventeen could have managed those enigmatic smiles and performed that disconcerting change from temptress to horrified child.

‘I’d like to believe it, sir,’ he said, shaking his head.

No wonder Quive-Smith was exasperated by him!


I myself became a human being again. Muller might, for all I knew, have been a gangster of the most savage, and therefore cowardly, type. I had to break him down. It wasn’t only acting; I should have killed him without hesitation if he hadn’t proved useful. But I was almost as relieved as he when I could lay brutality aside. I told him to pull up his pants, and gave him a bit of string to hold them, and a cigarette. I kept the revolver in sight, of course.

‘They know you at the farm?’ I asked.

‘Yes. I drove the major over there.’

‘In what capacity? His servant?’

‘Yes. He told them I was taking my own holiday on the coast.’

‘Have you been at the farm since?’

‘Once. I had lunch there the day that . . . that . . .’

‘That you buried me alive.’

‘Oh, sir! If only I had known!’ he cried. ‘I thought you were one of them

—honest, I did! I didn’t care if they murdered each other. It was a case of the more the merrier, if you see what I mean.’

‘You seem to be pretty sure now that I’m not one of them,’ I said.

I know you’re not. A gentleman like you wouldn’t be against his own country.’

Wouldn’t he? I don’t know. I distrust patriotism; the reasonable man can find little in these days that is worth dying for. But dying against — there’s enough iniquity in Europe to carry the most urbane or decadent into battle.

However, I saw what use Müller had been to his employers. A night porter must be able to sum up his customers on mighty little evidence, especially when they arrive without any baggage.

I explained to him that he might consider himself out of danger so long as his nerve did not fail; he was going down to the farm to tell Patachon that Quive-Smith had been called back to London, to pack up his things, and to take them away in the ear.

Quive-Smith had almost certainly warned his hosts that he might be off any day, so the plan was not outrageously daring. Muller had the right air of authority; with the rug over his arm, he looked trained and respectable in spite of being somewhat muddy. He was dressed in such a way that he could pass for a night watchman in Chideock or a manservant on a holiday: a stout tweed suit, an old pull-over of suede, and a stiff white collar.

The chief risk was that Muller, when he found himself at the farm, would decide that his late employers were more to be feared than I. That point I put to him with the utmost frankness. I told him that if he wasn’t out of the house in a quarter of an hour I should come and fetch him and claim to be the major’s brother. I also told him that he was useful to me just so long as nobody knew the major was dead, and that the moment when his usefulness ceased, whet her in ten minutes or two weeks, would be his last.

’But if you are loyal to me for the next few days,’ I added, ‘you can forget that matter of criminal assault. I’ll give you money to go abroad and never see your late employers again. They’ll leave you in peace. You’re no further use to them, and you don’t know enough to be worth following. So there you are! Give me away, and I’ll kill you! Play straight with me, and there’s a new life open to you wherever you want to lead it!’

There were a good many holes in the argument, but he was in no state for analytical thinking. He was deeply impressed and became maudlin with relief. Quive-Smith was quite right about him; he was the perfect Second Murderer. He attached himself with doglike simplicity and asked only to be allowed to obey.

He took the major’s head while I took his heels, and we moved cautiously down into the road that ran along the foot of the hill. There, thankfully and immediately, we dropped our white burden in the ditch. I saw the sweat burst out on the back of Muller’s thick neck as soon as he was convinced that we had not been seen.

At the five-bar gate where Patachon’s private track swung across the home paddock to the farm, we stopped. I told Midler that I should wait for him there, and should enter the car when he got out to open the gate. I gave him Quive-Smith’s keys and I gave him a story to tell. The major was dining with friends in Bridport. He had learned that he had to go abroad at once. His address for forwarding letters was Barclay’s Bank, Cairo. I knew from a letter in his pocket that he kept an account with a branch of Barclay’s — and Cairo is a complicated town through which to trace a man’s passage.

‘ But what will I do if they don’t believe me?’ he asked.

‘Of course they’ll believe you,’ I answered. ‘Why the devil shouldn’t they?’

I was none too sure of that, but his best chance of success was to show the utmost confidence.

I gave him a pound to tip the girl who had made the major’s bed — if there were such a girl and another which he was to hand to Mrs. Patachon for her daughter’s savings bank.

’You know the little daughter?’ I asked.

‘Yes — Marjorie.’

‘Give Marjorie a message from Major Quive-Smith: that she must remember not to bring her queen out too soon.’

‘I don’t understand,’ he said.

‘All the better. Explain to her that you don’t understand what it means. But she will, and she’ll laugh. Tell her not to bring her queen out too soon.’

It was perfectly safe advice to give a beginner at chess, and it would establish Muller’s bona fides.

I let him cross the paddock and go round the corner of the barns into the yard; then I followed to watch, so far as possible, over my fate. This time there was no need to take extreme pains to hide myself—the dogs had an excuse to bark. I squatted behind a tree whence I could see the front door.

Mrs. Patachon received the caller with surprise but no hesitation. She shut the door and there was no movement for five minutes—which I spent wishing 1 had cut the telephone wires. Then an oil lamp was lit in an upper room, and I saw Muller pass back and forth across the window. He came out with a suitcase in his hand, followed by Patachon with a gun case, Marjorie with the rug, and Mrs. Patachon with a packet of sandwiches. The whole party were chattering gavly — except Müller, who was far too glum — and sending messages to the major. They entered the stable to watch Muller load and start the car, and I ran back to the gate.

‘Where to, sir?’ asked Muller.

In spite of his grip on the wheel his elbows were quivering like the gills of a fish — partly from reaction and partly from fear that his usefulness had come to an end. I was sorry to appear again as a ruthless killer, but there was a risk that he might try to rush the gate.

I told him to drive to Liverpool and to go easy with the traffic laws. Southampton was too close, and London too full of eyes. We picked up Quive-Smith and put him in the back of the car under a rug.

My plans were straightening out. I was sure that nobody would call at the farm until letters and telegrams had remained a week or more without reply; anxiety would have to be very strong before any of the major’s subordinates or superiors—if he had any superiors—ventured to intrude upon his discreet movements. When they did, and visited the lane, they could take their choice of three theories: that I had got away with Quive-Smith and Müller hard on my heels; that I had bribed the pair of them to let me go; or that they had killed me and in some way aroused the curiosity of the police.

We stopped for petrol at Bristol and Shrewsbury. On the way I wired an assortment of ironmongery to QuiveSmith, and dropped him into the Severn. I have no regrets. Reluctantly, belatedly, but finally I have taken on the mentality of war; and I risk for myself a death as violent, and unpleasant as any he could wish for me.


We reached Liverpool in time for an early breakfast. The town was in its vilest mood, and I was glad that the major had dressed himself for exposure to the elements. A northeast wind gathered the soot, dust, and paper from the empty streets, iced them, and flung them into the Mersey. The sullen yellow water gave a more bitter impression of cold than the blue of the Arctic. I felt greater confidence in the wretched Müller. On such a morning it was inconceivable that anyone would betray a person who intended to have him out of England before nightfall.

Putting up at a hotel, we breakfasted in our room. While Müller dropped off to sleep in front of the fire, I spent a couple of hours practising the signature on Quive-Smith’s passport. For convenience I still write of him and think of him as Quive-Smith, though there is possibly no one but myself, Saul, Müller, and a handful of people in a corner of Dorset who ever knew him by that name. The signature I practised and the identity I had taken were those of his normal British self—the nondescript company director.

This English name of his was signed in a spidery, flowing script which, with a fine nib, was not at all difficult to imitate. My forgery wouldn’t have taken in a bank manager, but it was good enough for an embarkation form or a customs declaration — especially since it would be written on cheap paper with an office pen.

The passport photograph was not very like me, but near enough. No shipping clerk would question it. The common type of Quive-Smith and myself is manifestly respectable and responsible.

I woke up Müller and offered him a drink. He turned out to be a teetotaler — another advantage, I suppose, to his employers. I took him with me to the bathroom, and while I washed off the accumulated filth of weeks (keeping the revolver handy on the soap dish) I made him sit on the lavatory seat and read me the shipping news.

We had ships sailing that afternoon for New York; for the West Indies; for Gibraltar and Mediterranean ports; for Madeira and South America; for Tangier and the East. All countries for which I needed a visa were excluded, and all voyages longer than a week. Gibraltar, Madeira, and Tangier remained — and Madeira was a dead end, to be avoided if possible.

I wondered what Quive-Smith would have done had he found himself saddled with Müller as the only witness to murder or bribery. The answer was not far to seek. He would have pushed Müller overboard on the night before reaching port, and concealed his absence. That seemed an admirable solution. It would convince them that I really was QuiveSmith—in case they doubted it — and would put an end to all search for the hotel porter.

This, then, was my plan; but instead of pushing him overboard wherever was convenient, I had to push him overboard within reach of land and with the means of landing. There were two places where that could be done —the point near the mouth of the Tagus where the Cintra Hills come down to the sea, and Cape St. Vincent.

I sent for a barber to give me a decent haircut, and, as soon as we left the hotel, bought a monocle which disguised, or rather emphasized and accounted for, the glassy stare of my left eye. Then I led Müller round the shipping offices — an eccentric holiday-maker and his secretary-valet. I asked as many silly questions as a Cook’s tourist; I hoped, I said, to be able to wave to an old friend who lived in Portugal. The shipping clerks explained to me patiently that it depended on where my friend lived, that Portugal had a long seaboard, and that in any case the largest of handkerchiefs could not be seen at a couple of miles. They were surprisingly polite; they must, after all, spend much more time instructing prospective customers in elementary geography than in selling them tickets.

I found out what I wanted to know. The Gibraltar ship wouldn’t do; it passed the Tagus in the morning, and Cape St. Vincent shortly after sunset. The Tangier ship, a slow old tub with one class only, was more suitable. It passed the Tagus between 9 P.M. and midnight.

I had a look at the plans. The steering gear was aft on the main deck, and between its housing and the stern was the usual small and private space where lovers park their chairs, provided they can endure the exaggerated motion of the ship. There would be no room for lovers on this trip. The company director and his companion were going to spread themselves and their deck chairs over that space, and be rude to anyone who disturbed their privacy.

We booked two adjoining staterooms with a bath between, and then did our shopping. I provided Miiller and myself with bags and necessaries for the’ voyage. I bought a collapsible rubber boat with a bicycle pump to inflate it, a pair of strong paddles in two pieces, and a hundred feet of light rope, all packed in a large suitcase. Müller, naturally, thought the boat was for my own escape; I didn’t disillusion him. Then I put the car into storage for a year, and we went on board.

Down St. George’s Channel and across the Bay I had no need to trouble myself about Müller’s whereabouts. He had never made an ocean voyage. The ship was a mere 8000 tons. The sea was very rough. I occupied the vile heaving rail at. the stern, just to establish a squatter’s rights over it, and after a painful morning acquired my sea legs. It was a blessing to have none of my usual biliousness. I was free to spend my time eating, drinking, and washing; I needed as much of the three pleasures as the ship provided.

On the third night out from Liverpool we passed Finistierra, and awoke to a pale blue world with a rapidly falling swell; the gray-green hills of Portugal lay along the eastern horizon. I routed my secretary-valet out of bed, and fed him breakfast. Then we occupied the two deck chairs at the stern. I spread out my rugs and legs as awkwardly as possible, and through my monocle stared offensively at anyone who dared to pick his way over them. None of the passengers showed the slightest desire to join us.

In the late afternoon I gave Muller a couple of lemonades to brace his courage, and asked him what he wanted to do. Would he rather return to London and report himself, or vanish off the face of the earth? He was very nervous at the thought of not going back to tell what he knew of Quive-Smith’s death.

’You’ll have to explain why you told so many lies at the farm,’ I reminded him. ‘The family can bear witness to the fact that you were alone. Nothing prevented you from telephoning to London.’

He promptly begged me to take him with me wherever I was going. The man was quite incapable of standing by himself. As soon as he was detached from one support, he began waving frantic tentacles in the hope of gripping another.

I replied that I couldn’t take him; he would have to disappear by his own individual route.

‘They would follow me!' he cried. ‘I would never have any peace, sir.’

‘They won’t follow you if they think you are dead,’ I said.

I explained to him the plan: that he and the rubber boat were to be thrown overboard when we were a couple of miles from shore, and that I would give him £500 with which to start a new life. He brightened up a bit at the thought of money, but then was appalled by tho difficulties facing him when he reached the shore.

Well, there was one thing Muller could be trusted to do: to follow orders. So I gave them.

‘Your clothes will be in the boat,’ I said. ‘When you land, put them on. Rip the boat to bits, and hide them under a rock. Walk to Cascaes and take the electric train to Lisbon. Don’t go to a hotel. Spend the night where you do not have to register. If you drink a coffee at any of the bars in the centre of the town, I expect some way of passing a discreet and pleasant night will occur to you. In the morning go to the docks to meet an imaginary friend who is arriving by ship. Pass back again through the customs as if you came off the boat and get your passport stamped. Then buy yourself a visa and a ticket for any country you want to visit, and leave at once by another ship.’

‘But suppose they look for me in Lisbon,’he said. ‘They will see that I entered and left.’

I explained to him that I should make it clear he was dead; once they were sure he had never landed in Tangier, they wouldn’t look for him in Lisbon or anywhere else.

He seemed to think that he was a person of importance, and that they would ransack the world to find him. I repeated that so long as they thought Quive-Smith alive they would not spend an hour or a fiver hunting for a useless agent whom they believed to be dead.

‘I know too much,’ he protested.

‘You don’t know a damn thing,’ I answered. ’I doubt if you even know what country you were working for.’

‘I do, sir,’ he said, and mentioned it.

By God, it was the wrong one! I suppose it’s a commonplace that the underlings of a secret service should not even know the nationality of their employers, but it seemed to me remarkably clever.

I told him he was wrong, and proved it by the major’s papers. After that. I had no more trouble except his natural funk of the sea.


We were a little ahead of schedule, and the Cintra Hills were in sight at sunset. That suited me well enough; we could get the job over while the passengers were at dinner. So that no one should be sent in search of us, I told the chief steward that I wasn’t feeling well, and that my secretary would be looking after me.

Müller undressed in the cabin, and I tied the money round his neck in a fold of oilskin. As soon as the alleyways were clear we took the suitcase on deck, and unpacked and inflated the boat in the shelter of the deckhouse. We could see lights on shore, so he knew in which direction to row. I made Muller repeat his orders. He had them pat, and he put them crudely. Then I lashed his clothes and the paddles to the bottom of the boat, and looped the other end of the long line around his wrist.

The wash of a ship isn’t inviting. The poor devil sat on the rail shivering with cold and panic. I didn’t give him time to think, but hurled the boat over and snapped at him that he would drown if he let the line tauten. I saw the boat, a dark patch bobbing on the white wash, and I saw him come to the surface. A second later, the only sign that he had ever existed was a dressing gown lying on the deck. Good luck to him! With the right job and a positive boss, his qualities of Second Murderer should ensure for him a secure and happy life.

I returned to my stateroom with the suitcase and dressing gown, and went to bed — his bed till midnight and my own till morning. When the cabin steward called us, he naturally assumed that my secretary was already up and about.

The day was abominably long. There was some doubt whether we should arrive at Tangier in time for passengers to land that night; if we didn’t, I had no hope of keeping Müller’s disappearance secret. I missed breakfast and passed the morning in concealment, acting on the general principle that nobody would think of us if neither was seen, but that, if one were seen, there might be inquiries about the other. At lunchtime I entered the saloon to tip my table steward, but refused to eat. I told him that both I and my secretary had been badly upset by our food, and that I bad prescribed for us a short period of starvat ion. There was nothing like starvation, I boomed pompously, for putting the stomach right; that had always been our experience in India.

While the cabin steward was off duty between two and four, I packed the bags and took them on deck. Cape Spar!el was in sight. The purser confirmed that we should certainly be able to leave the ship before the customs closed. I collected the two landing cards. Then again I went into hiding until we dropped anchor.

As soon as the tender arrived and the baggage had been carried off the ship, I visited and tipped the cabin steward in a great hurry. He was not exactly suspicious, but he felt it his duty to ask a question.

’Is Mr. Muller all right, sir?’

‘Good heavens, yes!’ I answered. ‘He packed up for me and took everything on deck. He’s on the tender now with the baggage.’

’I hadn’t seen him all day, sir,’ he explained, ‘so I thought I had better ask.’

' I haven’t seen much of him myself,’ I replied testily. ‘I understand he found an old friend in the engineers’ department.’

He let it go at that. Muller was my servant. I was eminently respectable. If I saw nothing wrong, nothing could be wrong;

The worst danger was on me now. Lest the tally should be wrong, I had to surrender two landing cards while appearing to surrender only one. I am no conjurer; the simplest card trick defeats me if it demands sleight of hand. This confounded business worried me far more than the job of throwing Müller overboard. I loitered near the head of the gangway, hoping there would be a rush of passengers descending to the tender. There never was. Most had already left the ship. The rest came one by one.

I dashed into the smoking room and stuck the two landing cards lightly together with the gum from a penny stamp; they were of thin cardboard, and I hoped that the Assistant Purser who was collecting them wouldn’t notice that I had shoved two into his hand. If he did notice, I proposed to say that Müller was already on the tender and that he must have gone down the gangway without surrendering his card. If someone then had a look at the tender and found he wasn’t there, I could only show amazement and pray that I didn’t find myself in the dock on a capital charge.

I went through the entire murder trial while I stuck those two cards together: the black and incontrovertible evidence that I had concealed Muller’s absence, the discovery of my identity, and so on. My fantasy had developed as far as shooting my way out of the magistrate’s court when I walked down the gangway and the Assistant Purser received my two cards without a glance. Ten minutes later I was on the Tangier mole, surrounded by a yelling mob of coffee-colored porters draped in burnooses of sacking.

Passing through customs, I had my entry carefully noted. I took pains to see that the French immigration official wrote down the company director’s name correctly spelled. From then on there could be no shadow of doubt that Major Quive-Smith had duly entered Tangier, and alone.

As for Müller, his late employers’ discreet inquiries at the offices of the line would be duly passed on to the ship. The stewards would remember that Müller had not been seen for twenty-four hours. The Assistant Purser would remember that when he checked the landing cards he found two suspiciously stuck together. The engineers’ department — if the steward remembered my remark — would say they had never heard of Müller. And it would be reported back to Liverpool that there was indeed grave reason to fear that something had happened to Mr. Muller. Whoever had put the inquiry on foot, having found out what he wanted to know, would then laugh at the serious faces of the directors, and explain that Mr. Müller was perfectly safe and sound, and that —well, any yarn would do! Mr. Müller, for example, had feared to be cited as corespondent and had taken steps to conceal his movements.

I drove to a hotel, deposited my baggage, and booked a room for a week, telling the proprietor that I had a little friend in Tangier, and that if I didn’t turn up for two or three nights he was not to be surprised. I had an enormous meal at his excellent restaurant. Then I put a razor, a bottle of hair dye, and another of stain into my pocket, and walked off into the deserted hills. Besides money, the only thing I carried out of my past life was this confession, for I began to see in what manner it. might be useful.


I do not think that in all my life I have known such relief and certainty as in a valley between those sun-dried hills, where the water trickled down the irrigation channels from one hand-dug, well-loved terrace to another, and no light showed but the blazing stars. My escape was over; my purpose decided; my conscience limpid. I was at war — and no one is so aware of the tranquillity of nature as a soldier resting between one action and the next.

I buried that company director’s passport and my own, with which I have probably finished forever. I shaved off my moustache, stained my face and body, and dyed my hair. Then I slept till dawn, my face in the short grass by the water’s edge, my body drawing strength from that warm and ancient earth.

In the morning I strolled to the upper town, where I had not been the night before, and completed my change of identity. I bought a thoroughly Latin suit, spats, and some beastly pointed shoes, posting my other clothes in a parcel addressed to the Public Assistance Committee, Rangoon. I trust there is such a committee. I went to a barber who duly doused me with Eau de Cologne and brushed my luscious black hair straight back from my forehead. When this was over, my resemblance to the photograph on Quive-Smith’s passport was a lot closer than my resemblance to the company director.

The regular packet was leaving that day for Marseille. I got a French visa on my passport (my new fatherland is as awkward as all other American countries — I can travel nowhere without a visa) and bought a ticket in my new name. Since I had no baggage, it was easy to bluff my way on to the ship without passing the control. Thus there was no record for inquisitive eyes that this courteous and scented gentleman had either entered or left Tangier, and no means of connecting him with QuiveSmith. I think they will be looking for their vanished agent between Atlas and the Niger.

Extract from the letter which accompanied this manuscript

I write this from a pleasant inn where I am accustoming myself to a new avatar. I must not, of course, give you any clue to it; nor would the trail of the gentleman I describe as Latin — even assuming it could be followed — lead to where or what I am.
I want these papers published. If necessary have them brushed up by some competent hack and marketed under his name. You won’t, of course, mention mine, nor the name of the country to which I went from Poland and to which I am about to return. Let the public take its choice!
My reason for publishing is twofold. First, I have committed two murders, and the facts must be placed on record in case the police ever got hold of the wrong man. Second, if I am caught, there can never again he any possible question of the complicity of H. M. Government. Every statement of mine can, at need, be checked, amplified, and documented. The three parts of the journal (two written accidentally and the last deliberately) form an absolute answer to any accusation from any quarter that I have involved my own nation.
Forgive me for never telling you of my engagement, nor of the happy weeks we lived in Dorset. I first met her in Spain a couple of years ago. We hadn’t reached the point of an announcement in The Times, and we didn’t give a damn about it anyway.
The ethics of revenge? The same as the ethics of war, old boy! Unless you are a conscientious objector, you cannot condemn me. Unsporting? Not at all. It is one of the two or three most difficult shots in the world.
I begin to see where I went wrong the first time. It was a mistake to make use of my skill over the sort of country I understood. One should always hunt an animal in its natural habitat; and the natural habitat of man is —in these days — a town. Chimney pots should be the cover, and the method, snap shots at two hundred yards. My plans are far advanced. I shall not get away alive, but I shall not miss; and that is really all that matters to me any longer.

(The End)

With each twelve months of the Atlaotic