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三十九级台阶
The Thirty-Nine Steps


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    1 The man who died
    
    I returned to my flat at about three o'clock on that May afternoon very unhappy with life. I has been back in Britain for three months and I was already bored. The weather was bad,the people were dull,and the amusements of London seemed as exciting as a glass of cold water.'Richard Hannay,'I told myself,'you have made a mistake,and you had better do something about it.'
    It made me angry when I thought of the years I had spent in Africa. I had spent those years working very hard and making money. Not a lot of money,but enough for me. I had left Scotland when I was six years old,and I had never been home since. For years I had dreamt of coming home to Britain and spending the rest of my life there,but I was disappointed with the place after the first week. And so here I was,thirty-seven years old,healthy,with enough money to have a good time,and bored to death.
    That evening I went out to dinner and sat reading the newspapers afterwards. They were full of the troubles in south-east Europe,and there was a long report about Karolides,the Greek Prime Minister. He seemed to be an honest man,but some people in Europe hated him. However,many people in Britain liked him,and one newspaper said that he was the only man who could prevent a war starting. I remember wondering if I could get a job in south-east Europe;it might be a lot less boring than life in London.
    As I walked home that night,I decided to give Britain one more day. If nothing interesting happened,I would take the next boat back to Africa.
    My flat was in a big new building in Langham Place. There was a doorman at the entrance to the building,but each flat was separate,with its own front door. I was just putting the key into my door when a man appeared next to me. He was thin,with a short brown beard and small,very bright eyes. I recognized him as the man who lived in a flat on the top floor of the building. We had spoken once or twice on the stairs.
    'Can I speak to you?'he asked. 'May I come in for a minute?'His voice was shaking a little.
    I opened the door and we went in.
    'Is the door locked?'he asked,and quickly locked it himself.
    'I'm very sorry,'he said to me. 'It's very rude of me. But I'm in a dangerous corner and you looked like the kind of man who would understand. If I explain,will you help me?'
    'I'll listen to you,'I said. 'That's all I promise. 'I was getting worried by this strange man's behaviour.
    There was a table with drinks on it next to him,and he took a large whisky for himself. He drank it quickly,and then put the glass down so violently that it broke.
    'I'm sorry,'he said. 'I'm a little nervous tonight. You see,at this moment I'm dead. '
    I sat down in an armchair and lit my pipe.
    'How does it feel?'I asked. I was now almost sure that the man was mad.
    He smiled. 'I'm not mad-yet. Listen,I've been watching you,and I guess that you're not easily frightened. I'm going to tell you my story. I need help very badly,and I want to know if you're the right man to ask. '
    'Tell me your story,'I said,'and I'll tell you if I can help you. '
    It was an extraordinary story. I didn't understand all of it,and I had to ask a lot of questions,but here it is:
    His name was Franklin P. Scudder and he was an American,but he had been in south-east Europe for several years. By accident,he had discovered a group of people who were working secretly to push Europe towards a war. These people were clever,and dangerous. Some of them wanted to change the world through war;others simply wanted to make a lot of money,and there is always money to be made from a war. Their plan was to get Russia and Germany at war with each other.
    'I want to stop them,'Scudder told me,'and if I can stay alive for another month,I think I can. '
    'I thought you were already dead,'I said.
    'I'll tell you about that in a minute,'he answered. 'But first,do you know who Constantine Karolides is?'
    'The Greek Prime Minister. I've just been reading about him in today's newspapers. '
    'Right. He's the only man who can stop the war. He's intelligent,he's honest,and he knows what's going on-and so his enemies plan to kill him. I have discovered how. That was very dangerous for me,so I had to disappear. They can't kill Karolides in Greece because he has too many guards. But on the 15th of June he's coming to London for a big meeting,and his enemies plan to kill him here. '
    'You can warn him,'I said. 'He'll stay at home. '
    'That's what his enemies want. If he doesn't come,they'll win,because he's the only man who understands the whole problem and who can stop the war happening. '
    'Why don't you go to the British police?'I said.
    'No good. They could bring in five hundred policemen,but they wouldn't stop the murder. The murderer will be caught,and he'll talk and put the blame on the governments in Vienna and Berlin. It will all be lies,of course,but everybody will be ready to believe it. But none of this will happen if Franklin P. Scudder is here in London on the 15th of June. '
    I was beginning to like this strange little man. I gave him another whisky and asked him why he thought that he was now in danger himself.
    He took a large mouthful of whisky. 'I came to London by a strange route-through Paris,Hamburg,Norway,and Scotland. I changed my name in every country,and when I got to London,I thought I was safe. But yesterday I realized that they're still following me. There's a man watching this building and last night somebody put a card under my door. On it was the name of the man I fear most in the world.
    'So I decided I had to die. Then they would stop looking for me. I got a dead body-it's easy to get one in London,if you know how-and I had the body brought to my flat in a large suitcase. The body was the right age,but the face was different from mine. I dressed it in my clothes and shot it in the face with my own gun. My servant will find me when he arrives in the morning and he'll call the police. I've left a lot of empty whisky bottles in my room. The police will think I drank too much and then killed myself. 'He paused. 'I watched from the window until I saw you come home,and then came down the stairs to meet you. '
    It was the strangest of stories. However,in my experience,the most extraordinary stories are often the true ones. And if the man just wanted to get into my flat and murder me,why didn't he tell a simpler story?
    'Right,'I said. 'I'll trust you for tonight. I'll lock you in this room and keep the key. Just one word,Mr Scudder. I believe you're honest,but if you're not,I should warn you that I know how to use a gun. '
    'Certainly,'he answered,jumping up. 'I'm afraid I don't know your name,sir,but I would like to thank you. And could I use your bathroom?'
    When I next saw him,half an hour later,I didn't recognize him at first. Only the bright eyes were the same. His beard was gone,and his hair was completely different. He walked like a soldier,and he was wearing glasses. And he no longer spoke like an American.
    'Mr Scudder—'I cried.
    'Not Mr Scudder,'he answered. 'Captain Theophilus Digby of the British Army. Please remember that. '
    I made him a bed in my study,and then went to bed myself,happier than I had been for the past month. Interesting things did happen sometimes,even in London.
    The next morning when my servant Paddock arrived,I introduced him to Captain Digby. I explained that the Captain was an important man in the army,but he had been working too hard and needed rest and quiet. Then I went out,leaving them both in the flat. When I returned at about lunchtime,the doorman told me that the gentleman in flat 15 had killed himself. I went up to the top floor,had a few words with the police,and was able to report to Scudder that his plan had been successful. The police believed that the dead man was Scudder,and that he had killed himself. Scudder was very pleased.
    For the first two days in my flat,he was very calm,and spent all his time reading and smoking,and writing in a little black notebook. But after that he became more restless and nervous. It was not his own danger that he worried about,but the success of his plan to prevent the murder of Karolides. One night he was very serious.
    'Listen,Hannay,'he said. 'I think I must tell you some more about this business. I would hate to get killed without leaving someone else to carry on with my plan. '
    I didn't listen very carefully. I was interested in Scudder's adventures,but I wasn't very interested in politics. I remember that he said Karolides was only in danger in London. He also mentioned a woman called Julia Czechenyi. He talked about a Black Stone and a man who lisped when he spoke. And he described another man,perhaps the most dangerous of them all-an old man with a young voice who could hood his eyes like a hawk.
    The next evening I had to go out. I was meeting a man I had known in Africa for dinner. When I returned to the flat,I was surprised to see that the light in the study was out. I wondered if Scudder had gone to bed early. I turned on the light,but there was nobody there. Then I saw something in the corner that made my blood turn cold.
    Scudder was lying on his back. There was a long knife through his heart,pinning him to the floor.
    

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