I Eighth instahnent of a novel hy
Col. 'Remy. sp.s.o.
(Adapted from the translation by Viola Gerrard Garvin) Girard, a priest in the hands of die Communists, is being interrogated by a police chief who secretly reveals to Gerard that he himself is a priest working against the Communists. He offers to help Gerard get a light sentence by letting him sign a statement to the effect that he Is only smuggler. Now read on.
"FROM now on your name is A Jean Martin. You were born in Paris, let's say the first of December—how old are you?"
"Twenty five — good. You answer, now, to the name of Jean Martin. You were born in Paris on the first of December, nineteen twenty-five. You are engaged in smuggling, buying gold against counterfeit dollars. The reason why you should clutch this box so closely to you is simple : it's full of gold pieces. We shall confiscate it, of course, as well as its contents."
"But how . . ."
The man with the grey hair stopped him with a gesture, and smiled : "I can guess what objections you are going to make. Cheer up. When this box, which they think contains a walkie-talkie, is delivered to the authorities, supported by your pretended confession, the gold pieces and the counterfeit dollars will be inside it, don't fear, And the precious articles of which you are the trustee will be safely hidden."
He pressed the bell, and the door opened. A trolley came rolling along the corridor, pushed by a cook in a white cap. A young woman followed him, accompanied by two militia men, one of whom was carrying her typewriter and the other a small table.
As the cook entered the room, a howling reverberated through the walls, coming, apparently, from the cellars. The priest shivered and could not help turning his eyes towards the man with grey hair. The latter, set in his cold and severe hearing, seemed to have heard nothing.
"Come, eat with good appetite!" he said to the young priest. "You see that I keep my promises ; as you have faithfully replied to my questions, a good lunch is now waiting for you. When you are refreshed, they'll conduct you to the hairdresser, then you can take a good bath and they'll give you suitable clothes. I am going to dictate your statement in Roumanian : we are agreed on all the points, I take it?"
Girard watched the secretary insert a large sheet of paper under the platen of her typewriter. It bore a printed heading, .and there were several other sheets with their carbons underneath. She raised her eyes towards the chief of police. who crossed his hands over his waistcoat. and waited for him to begin his dictation.
" TEAN MARTIN," the young J priest heard, but he could understand no more of what the man was saying as he walked up and down the room. The stew of piping-hot meat on hit plate smelt good. He began to eat, and the comforting food warmed and nourished his body and gave him hack the wish to live. He almost smiled when he thought be caught the word "dollars" among those which the man with grey hair was dictating to his secretary. But he remembered the warnings he had been given and kept up his air of indiffer
THE prisoners were shut up in the large basement of the building where the police had set up their offices and interrogation rooms.
They had been there more than 12 hours, more than a hundred of them with their hacks against the wall : men, women and children, they had all been surprised in the streets by the militia patrol hands while they were attempting to get back to their homes The prisoners were shut up more than 12 hours . . . more than 100 of them with their backs against the wall, men, women and children after Mathias had made them leave the cellar where Mass had been celebrated.
They had been ordered to stand upright. Any who, exhausted by fatigue, by hunger, by thirst or despair, let themselves slip down on to the cement floor were sharply got up again by blows of a rifle-butt across their backs.
An officer of the militia was seated at a table near a big stove. The detained were led up to him one by one. To all of them he put the same questions : The name of the priest who had said Mass? Where did be come from? How and by whom had they been advised that Mass would be celebrated? Who had chosen the meeting place? But not one of these stupid-looking brutes knew anything. If one were to believe them, the news had circulated in the air, just like that.. . . The priest? They'd never seen him before. And, anyhow, there wasn't much light in the cellar. The militia man standing beside the officer lifted his riding-whip. Then they passed on to the next one, questioning him on his identity and confiscating his papers. All they had been able to establish was that this priest did not speak Roumanian. Forms piled up on the table. A woman, with her child in her arms, collapsed. The soldier who was standing near her wasn't a bad fellow : after making sure that none of his comrades were watching him on the sly, he hent down to help her get up. Perhaps the woman thought he wanted to seize the child which she was holding, asleep against her breast? It was she who uttered the terrible cry that the priest heard at the moment when the conk appeared, pushing his trolley. The soldier thought there was only one way of avoiding trouble with his officer, and he ceased to show kindness. Now order reigned again in the corner under his charge. A trickle of blood ran down from the woman's head, under her hair, there where the rifle-butt had struck her.
Soon they would have to clean the cement floor. . . . The child began to cry suddenly, in the arms that continned to hold it against a breast that had become lifeless. "Shush . . . Shush . ." muttered the soldier, nervous and uneasy. "One's never clone," he grumbled, between his teeth.
THE cook had been back to fetch his trolley, while the secretary, in company with the militia men who were carrying her machine and her table, had gone away. Gerard had signed his statement. The large typewritten sheet was spread out, along with its copies, on the whitelacquered table.
"Well! my young friend," sighed he man with grey hair. "you're in a tine pickle now, as they say in your France!"
The young priest smiled at him trustingly. He did not understand. "Would you like me to translate .vhat you have signed? You ought to know why you are going to sleep in prison tonight." He took the sheet of paper which was in front of him, came round the table and sat on the edge of it. "1 im reading." he began : I, Jean Marlin, horn . . . etc., do formally declare that of nay own will, rind of my own accord, not being constrained by any act of violence nor compelled in any other fashion. did put myself, acting in my function of Catholic priest, at the disposition of the signatory powers to the Atlantic Pact. . . .
He raised his eyes towards the young priest, who sat as though turned to stone and stammered out at last : "But . . . that's false. isn't it? Why ,ire you trying to frighten me?"
THE man switched on a lamp with a curved reflector which stood on the table. and directed the powerful beam straight on to Gerard's face. Then he switched oil the ceiling light. He was now protected by the shadow, while the blinding white light was .iready burning the priest's eyelids.
He took up the sheet of paper gain and went on reading :
. . . Under the false pretext of a n'ssion designed so come to the -erode of the Christian Faith. which I 'rereby expressly acknowledge is !flowed full liberty of practice hroughout the peoples' republics. 1 riulertonk in obtain information for 'tic enemies of the U.S.S.R. and their Whys relating to military and indus,rial establishments, to troop movenom,. to strategic ltwri,s and arrnanent factories.
"You are vile!" cried out his trisoner. The other, whose features Gerard could not distinguish. continued without apparent emotion :
. . . To this end I followed a course of instruction as wireless operator and I had entrusted to me a walkie-talkie and a code. A sum of ten thousand dollars was awarded to me by way of salary and has been placed in my name in a bank in Rome. I add that toy mission was fully approved in every detail by the Vatican and to this end I received the blessing of my superiors. Signed : read and approved—Jean Martin.
The man with grey hair pressed the bell twice. At a sign from him, two militia men entered the room immediately and, seizing the prisoner's arms, tied them by the wrist to the hack of the chair.
. (To be continued) "God's Secret Agent" will be published in June by Arthur Barker Ltd., under the title of "The Messenger."