Chapter 16

I decided to go back to Llywarch’s house through one of the quietest parts of the city. Not that there was much noise even in the busiest streets; the radio cars, public and private, sailed past quietly, and the loudest noise tended to be the cheerful conversations of the citizens as they traipsed along in twos and threes. But, I was keen to take a quiet walk by myself where there wasn’t a lot of walking or driving going on. I wanted to get my thoughts into some sort of order. And I wanted to think about Mair.

I turned off the wide main street into the Embassy Boulevard, and from that into an even quieter street. It was so fine, and the young plane trees on either side of the road were swaying softly in the low breeze. This Cardiff, though it was still strange to me, was cheerful and kind and intriguingly Welsh. It was casting its spell on me.

Suddenly I heard a car coming up behind me, and stopping. I saw that it was a radio car, looking pretty much the same as every other one. Its door opened, and two men leapt out and stood either side of me.

“Step in, Mr. Powell,” said one, in English.

“But…” I began, also in English.

“No questions please.”

As he waved his arm at the car, his light raincoat – something unnecessary, I felt, on such a fine day – fell open, and I saw that he was wearing a purple shirt. I felt a little frightened, but I sensed that the wisest thing to do would be to obey.

I went into the car. The door closed. The two men sat either side of me, and the car started moving. I looked around and saw that there were two others in it. One was obviously a driver, though the car was driving itself at the time. The other was a middle-aged man, with a handsome and intelligent face and a neat moustache under his nose. He was the only one who spoke to me from that point onwards.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Powell” he said in Welsh. “I’m sorry we had to pick you up without warning you first.”

“Not at all,” I said, with a hint of sarcasm.

“We thought it would be a shame for you to spend all your time in Free Wales without actually seeing Wales. For some reason Dr. Llywarch has kept you in Cardiff until now, perhaps because he thinks you’ll change your mind about Free Wales if you were to see the whole of it.”

“Dr. Llywarch is too honest for that.”

“Possible, possible. Cigarette, Mr. Powell?”

“Thank you, Mr…”

“Steele. Captain Steele.”

He lit my cigarette carefully, and then lit one for himself. Then I noticed that there was a gold tip on my cigarette, but not on his.

“Do you think,” I said, “that I will change my mind about this new Wales once I’ve seen more of it?”

The Captain smiled through a ring of smoke.

“We’ll make sure that you do,” he said.

“You’re the U.B.L, aren’t you?”

“The Welsh Military Society, to be precise.”

“Are you going to shoot me like you shot that man by Llyn y Fan?”

The Captain shook his head.

“I’m afraid you’ve been misled, Mr. Powell,” he said. “The Military Society do not shoot people…”

“Gwilym Quennell was the name of the gunman in the paper, and he wore a purple shirt…”

“You remember well. But Quennell has been given his cards. The Society can’t afford fools.”

“I see.”

The Captain’s Welsh was good, but with an obvious accent.

“Where are you taking me?” I asked.

“To somewhere far enough away from the unhealthy influence of Dr. Llywarch.”

“But… the Doctor and I are going to supper tonight with the Home Secretary…”

“They’ll have to eat without you, Mr. Powell.”

“The Home Secretary will have something to say about that.”

“A great deal, no doubt. But saying is one thing, doing is quite another.”

“The Home… The Home Secretary will…”

I simply couldn’t get my words out. Something was affecting my tongue. My brain felt as if it were seizing up, and I had a huge urge to sleep. I fought to keep my eyes open and stared at Captain Steele, while his face seemed to grow large and then small before my eyes. Then my eyes fell upon the cigarette. Of course… the cigarette… My head rolled onto my shoulder and I passed out.

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