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Gideon and the Chestnut Seller




 

after John Creasy

 

Old Ben Fairley had sold roasted chestnuts for more winters than he could remember. As a matter of fact, he remembered very little of his seventy-odd years, for he had always lived almost entirely in the present, whether it was good or bad. Each summer he went out on the road, calling on those farms where he could find temporary work. Each winter he came 'home', to the rooming house near London's Covent Garden, where he stored his barrow and brazier, bought his chestnuts at wholesale, and roasted them.

Old Ben's pitch was near Leicester Square.

Many people knew him, passing his barrow with a smile or a nod, sometimes pausing to hand him a shilling, usually 'forgetting' to take their bag of chestnuts. Some, on the other hand, liked chestnuts, eating them just in the street.

Among these was George Gideon, Commander of the Criminal Investigation Department of New Scotland Yard. From time to time he strolled round the square mile which included all Soho as well as Picadilly Circus and Leicester Square. The sight of his massive figure, his square chin, his broad forehead, was familiar to newsdealers and taxi drivers, pavement artists and policemen. On cold nights he often stopped at old Ben's barrow, paid his shillings, took off a soft nut, and ate it hot and whole. Gideon stayed for a few moments talking to old Ben.

One night, only a half an hour he had left the chestnut seller, a taxi drew up close to old Ben's barrow. Ben watched first one then two, three, four youths scramble out, and he sensed some kind of trouble. Almost at once another taxi appeared at the far end of the street. This time Ben was too busy to count how many men got out; he grabbed the handles of his barrow and started to move off.

He did not get far.

Suddenly one of the youths pushed him aside, another began to take the chestnuts out of the basket. Angry now, as much as frightened, old Ben shouted a protest.

More youths rushed up, and the two groups began fighting. In the struggle someone tipped the brazier over. As Ben ran forward to save his chestnuts, red-hot coals stroke against his outstretched hands.

He screamed with pain.

A police whistle was heard.

In five minutes old Ben Fairley, groaning and half conscious, was being carried to the hospital. The two gangs had disappeared.

Gideon heard of this at about half-past ten the next morning. It was mentioned by Superintendent Lloyd who was in charge of the police attempt to curtail the activities of the teen-age gangs in Soho.

– I could understand if they had a purpose, Lloyd was saying. But they fight just for the sake of fighting.

– Did you catch any of them? Gideon asked.

– No. They were gone before our chaps arrived. An old chestnut seller was badly burned when they knocked over his brazier.

– Chestnut seller? Where was his pitch?

- Just past the National Gallery, near Leicester Square, Lloyd answered.

Gideon pressed a bell on his desk and when his assistant came in he said,

– A chestnut seller was burned last night near Leicester Square. Find out what his name was, where he is, and how he's doing.

– Do you know him? asked Lloyd.

- If it's the man I think it is, I've known him for thirty years. Have you put in your report yet?

– It's being typed out now.

– I want to get a copy, said Gideon.

Very soon he learned that it was indeed Ben Fairley, that old Ben was comfortable, but that for a man of his age the shock might have grave consequences.

Then Gideon studied the report and went to have a word with old Ben at the Charing Cross Hospital. He had never seen the man washed and shaved before. Both of Ben's hands were bandaged, and he looked tired and worn; but his eyes were bright in his lined face, and his frail voice held a note of anger.

– Just rushed at me, and I'd never done them any harm. Never even seen them before in my life!

– We'll get them, Ben, said Gideon. Tell me a little more.

– There's nothing more to tell. One gang came up in a taxi and the other gang came up in another.

– How did you burn your hands?

– Trying to save my chestnuts, of course. They were my capital, Mr. Gideon.

– Now, Ben, what happened after that? The report says there were no chestnuts left in the basket.

– They grabbed them.

– How many chestnuts did you have?

– About five pounds, I think. That would be including those the young lady gave me. But...

– Young lady? interrupted Gideon. What young lady? And when did she give you the chestnuts?

– Yesterday afternoon. She came out of one of those new apartment houses at the back of Oxford Street. I've seen her several times before.

– Now, Ben, think hard. Are you quite sure about all this?

– Of course, I'm sure! cried Ben. She has long blond hair hanging down her back. Funny thing, life, ain't it, Mr. Gideon? In the afternoon someone gives me chestnuts -in the evening someone pinches them, and my own with them.

Gideon got to his feet.

– Yes, it's a funny life, Ben. But take it easy. When you're well, you'll get all you need to start up in business again.

Leaving the hospital Gideon hurried back to New Scotland Yard, and as soon as he reached his office he sent for Superintendent Lloyd.

– Any lead on those lads in the fight last night? Gideon asked.

– No, Commander. Two of our chaps saw them, but they weren't the usual Soho troublemakers.

– Find out if Dicey Gamble still lives in one of the new apartment houses behind Oxford Street, said Gideon. And find out what colour his wife's hair is.

– Dicey? I saw him only last week, and he's still living in that flat. His wife's a blonde. What's on your mind about Dicey?

Dicey Gamble was the leader of a small group of raiders who specialized in robbing jewellery shops.

- Find out if any of his fellows bought any chestnuts recently. If necessary, check every grocer in the district, said Gideon. Get a move on, there's no time to lose.

Lloyd hurried out and within an hour he was on the telephone to Gideon.

– You were right, sir! One of Dicey's boys bought two pounds of chestnuts yesterday morning.

- Good! Get all the help you need and raid Dicey's apartment now. Phone me and let me know what happens.

At seven o'clock that evening the police arrived at Dicey Gamble's apartment. Panic showed in Dicey's eyes when the policemen appeared at his door, but the panic was quickly veiled.

– I've got nothing here, Super, he said. You can search the place, but you won't find anything.

- Lloyd walked through the apartment to the kitchen. The table was covered with a sheet of newspaper, and on the newspaper was a pile of chestnuts. Dicey had obviously been in the process of cutting each nut in two – several had already been halved.

In eight of the halves, buried inside the hard nuts, were diamonds.

– There's nothing new in this game, Gideon explained to Lloyd. I once knew a thief who split a hazelnut in two, put a diamond inside, and stuck the shell together. The gangs that attacked old Ben weren't in it for the sheer fun – so they were in it for the chestnuts. Add to that the fact that old Ben was given chestnuts by a woman who lived in the same house as one of our cleverest jewel thieves, and it all started to make sense.



– I'll say it made sense, agreed Lloyd. Dicey and his gang had these hot diamonds and hid them in the chestnuts. One of the boys brought them at Dicey's flat on instructions. But Dicey was out, and as neither he nor his wife eat chestnuts, his wife gave them to old Ben.

Later that day, as he sat with old Ben at the Charing Cross Hospital, Gideon finished the story.

– As soon as Dicey discovered what his wife had done, he got his gang together for a raid for your barrow to get back the chestnuts – but another gang learned what had happened and reached you first. Dicey's gang caught up with them. Simple, Ben, wasn't it?

Old Ben gave a pleased smile. Perhaps when he next roasted chestnuts he would dream of a fortune in diamonds.

 

Note :   начальник Управления уголовных расследований уличный художник закричать в знак протеста закричать от боли в полубессознательном состоянии который возглавлял работу полиции по пресечению деятельности банд тинейджеров они дерутся просто ради того, чтобы драться тяжкие последствия в его слабом голосе слышалось негодование    
the Commander of the Criminal Investigation Department pavement artist to shout a protest to scream with pain half conscious who was in charge of the police attempt to curtail the activities of the teen-age gangs they fight just for the sake of fighting grave consequences his frail voice had a note of anger      
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
  to pinch lead What 's on your mind about Dicey? красть зацепка Какие у вас соображения по поводу Дайси?  
  Get a move on. they weren't in it for the sheer fun     to make sense to catch up with   Поторопитесь. они сделали это не просто забавы ради     приобретать смысл догонять    
           

§ Suggested activities

 

a Choose the correct answers:

 

Who was old Ben? He was a newsdealer.
    He was a farmer.
    He was a chestnut seller.
How did old Ben happen to be badly burned? He was burned trying to light a fire. He was burned when the brazier was tipped over.
    He was burned roasting his chestnuts.
How did Ben happen to get the bag of chestnuts? He found the bag near the place he lived. A grocer gave it to him.
    A young lady gave it to him.
Who was the young woman with long blond hair? She was also a chestnut seller. She was Dicey's sister.
    She was Dicey's wife.
  Why did the youths rush at old Ben?   They wanted to grab his money. They wanted to grab the chestnuts. They did it for the sheer fun.
What did Dicey hide in the chestnuts? He hid drugs in them. He hid diamonds in them.
    He hid gold coins in them.

 

b Say if you agree or disagree and support your point of view:

 

1 Old Ben picked chestnuts, roasted and sold them.

2 Though Gideon liked chestnuts he never ate them in the street.

3 Gideon's massive figure was familiar to newsdealers and taxi drivers, pavement artist and policemen.

4 Old Ben rushed to save his chestnuts but fell down and broke his arm.

5 When the police arrived the two opposing gangs had already disappeared.

6 The report said that there were only a few chestnuts left in the basket.

7 Old Ben told Gideon that an old lady with grey hair had given him the bag of chestnuts.

8 When Lloyd arrived at Dicey's apartment Dicey was reading a newspaper.

 

с Write down the names of London streets, squares, areas, theatres etc. mentioned in the text. Say what you know about each of them.

d Answer the following questions:

 

1 What kind of man was Old Ben Fairley?

2 What was your impression of the Commander of the Criminal Investigation Departmen?

3 Why do you think Dicey had not told his wife about the chestnuts?

4 Did this fact become fatal for Dicey?

 

e Translate the following sentences using these verbs: to hand, to sense, to shout, to scream, to put in, to check, to search, to reach:

 

Многие останавливались, чтобы дать ему шиллинг.

Бен почувствовал тревогу.

Бен закричал в знак протеста.

Он закричал от боли.

Вы уже составили отчет?

Проверьте каждого бакалейщика в районе.

Можете обыскать всю квартиру, но вы ничего не найдете.

Другая банда добралась до вас первой.

 

f Translate the following sentences using these adjectives and nouns: odd, wholesale, lined, funny, troublemaker, mind, move, sense.

 

Бен мало что помнил из своих семидесяти с лишним лет.

Старый Бен оптом покупал каштаны и жарил их.

Глаза ярко сияли на его изборожденном морщинами лице.

Жизнь – забавная штука.

Они – не обычные возмутители спокойствия.

Какие у вас соображения насчет Дайси?

Поторопитесь, нельзя терять времени.

Все это начало приобретать смысл.

g Think and answer:

 

1 Imagine that you are old Ben. One day you find a diamond in one of the chestnuts. What would you do then?

2 Suppose that Gideon buys some chestnuts and finds a diamond in one of them. What would his actions be in this case?

3 Imagine that you are Dicey Gamble. Where in your flat would you hide the hot diamonds?

 

h Write down all the facts related to this crime, in chronological order. Here is an example:

 

Dicey and his gang steal some diamonds.

They hid them in the chestnuts

• ..................................................................

 

i Write down the facts which helped Gideon to reveal the crime.

 

j Write down the qualities a good detective should have.

 

k Work in pairs.

 

• Ask your group-mate what he/she thinks about detectivies, about their education and experience.

• Discuss with your group-mate what he/she knows about Scotland Yard.

 

The Case for the Defence

 

after Graham Greene

 

It was a very strange murder trial. I have never attended such a strange trial. They named it the Northwood murder in the headlines, because the house, where the old woman was found battered to death at two o'clock in the morning, was in Northwood Street. The murderer was found immediately: and now no one present at the trial believed that the man in the dock had any chance of being acquitted.

He was a stout man with bulging eyes. Yes, an ugly customer, one you wouldn't forget. The Crown counsel proposed to call four witnesses who had seen him hurrying away from the little house in Northwood Street soon after two that morning.

Mrs Salmon, a neighbour and one of the witnesses, was unable to sleep that night: she heard the gate shut and thought it was her own gate. So she went to the window and saw Adams (that was his name) on the steps of Mrs Parker's house. He had just come out and he was wearing gloves. He had a hammer in his hand and she saw him drop it into the bushes by the front gate. But before he moved away, he had instinctively looked up – at her window. Mrs Salmon could see him clearly in the light of a street lamp.

Mr MacDougall, another witness, had been driving home late and nearly ran Adams down at the corner of Northwood Street. Adams was walking in the middle of the road looking dazed.

And old Mr Weeler, who lived next door to Mrs Parker, was wakened by a noise – like a chair falling – through the wall, thin as paper. He got up and looked out of the window, just as Mrs Salmon did, saw Adam's back and, as he turned, those bulging eyes.

In Laurel Avenue Adams had been seen by another witness – his luck was badly out.

– I understand, counsel said, – that the defence proposes to plead mistaken identity. Adams's wife will tell you that he was with her at two in the morning on February 14, but after you have heard the witnesses for the Crown and examined carefully the features of the prisoner, I do not think you will be prepared to admit the possibility of a mistake.

After the formal evidence had been given by-the policeman who had found the body and the surgeon who examined it, Mrs Salmon was called. She was the ideal witness, with her expression of honesty, care and kindness.

She spoke very firmly. There was no fear in her, and no sense of importance. She was standing calmly there in the Central Criminal Court. She was not afraid of the judge in scarlet who interrogated her. She was not afraid of the numerous reporters who impatiently wrote down every word of her evidence. Yes, she said, and then she had gone downstairs and rung up the police station.

– And do you see the man here in court?

She looked straight at the big man in the dock, who stared at her with his bulging eyes without emotion.

– Yes, she said. There he is. – Are you quite certain?

– I couldn't be mistaken, sir.

– Thank you, Mrs Salmon.

Counsel for the defence rose to cross examine.

– Now, Mrs Salmon, you must remember that a man's life may depend on your evidence.

– I do remember it, sir.

– Is your eyesight good?

– I do not have to wear spectacles, sir.

– You are a woman of fifty-five?

– Fifty-six, sir.

– And the man you saw was on the other side of the road?

– Yes, sir.

– And it was two o'clock in the morning. You must have remarkable eyes, Mrs Salmon?

– No, sir. There was moonlight, and when the man looked up, he had the lamplight on his face.

– And you have no doubt that the man you saw is the prisoner?

I couldn't make out what he was at.

– No doubt whatever, sir. It isn't a face one forgets.

Counsel took a look round the court for a moment. Then he said,

– Do you mind, Mrs Salmon, examining again the people in court? No, not the prisoner. Stand up, please, Mr Adams.

And there at the back of the court stood up the exact image of the man in the dock, with stout body, muscular legs and bulging eyes. He was dressed the same tight blue suit and striped tie.

– Now think very carefully, Mrs Salmon. Can you still swear that the man you saw drop the hammer in Mrs Parker's garden is the prisoner – and not this man, who is his twin brother?

Of course, she couldn't. She looked from one to the other and didn't say a word.

There the big man sat in the dock with his legs crossed, and there he stood too at the back of the court and they both stared at Mrs Salmon. She shook her head.

What we saw then was the end of the case. There wasn't a witness prepared to swear that it was the prisoner he had seen. And the brother? He had his alibi, too; he was with his wife.

And so the man was acquitted for lack of evidence. And nobody knew who did the murder.

That extraordinary day had an extraordinary end. I followed Mrs Salmon out of court and we got in the crowd who were waiting, of course, for the twins. The police tried to drive the crowd away. But all they could do was keep the road clear for traffic. I learned later that they tried to get the twins to leave by a back way, but the twins did not want to. One of them – no one knew which – said, «I've been acquitted, haven't I?» and they walked out of the front entrance. Then it happened. I don't know how, though 1 was only six feet away. The crowd moved and somehow one of the twins got pushed on to the road in front of a bus.

He gave a squeal like a rabbit and that was all; he was dead, his scull smashed just as Mrs Parker's had been. Divine vengeance? I wish I knew. There was the other Adams getting on his feet from beside the body and looking straight over at Mrs Salmon. He was crying, but whether he was the murderer or the innocent man nobody will ever be able to tell. But if you were Mrs Salmon, could you sleep that night?

 

Note :  
ugly customer Crown counsel неприятный тип государственный адвокат, обвинитель
his luck was badly out ему действительно не везло
the defence proposes to plead mistaken identity защита предлагает заявить об ошибочном опознании (принятии одного лица за другое)
witness for the Crown Central Criminal Court свидетель обвинения Центральный уголовный суд
scarlet пурпурная мантия
counsel for the defence to cross examine защитник проводить перекрестный допрос
I couldn't make out what he was at. Я не мог понять, куда он клонит.
exact image точная копия
for the lack of evidence за недостаточностью доказательств
to drive the crowd away рассеять толпу
squeal пронзительный крик
divine vengeance божья кара

 

Suggested activities

 

aChoose the correct answers:

 

  In what way was Mrs Parker murdered? She was killed with a knife.
      She was killed with a hammer.
      She was shot down.
  Who saw Adams soon after the murder? Only Mrs Salmon did.
      Mrs Salmon, Mr Weeler and one
      more witness did.
      Mrs Salmon, Mr MacDougall,
      Mr Weller and one more witness did.
  What did Adams drop in Mrs Parker's garden? He dropped a knife.
      He dropped a gun.
      He dropped a hammer.
4 What alibi did Adams have? His twin brother said that he was talking with him when Mrs Parker was murdered.  
  His wife said that he was with her at that moment.  
  His neighbour said that he saw Adams near his house at that moment.  
5 What was the end of the trial? Adams was found guilty.  
  Adams was acquitted for the lack of evidence.  
  The trial was postponed.  
6 What happened after the trial? One of the twin brothers died of a heart attack.  
  One of the twin brothers was killed in an accident.  
  One of the brothers committed suicide.  
           

 

b Say if you agree or disagree and support your point of view:

 

1 Many people present at the trial believed that Adams had a chance of being acquitted.

2 Mrs Salmon was sleeping when she heard the gate shut.

3 Adams had a hammer in his hand and Mrs Salmon saw him drop it into the bushes.

4 Adams was quite a pleasant person.

5 Mrs Salmon was afraid of the judge who interrogated her.

6 Mrs Salmon's eyesight was bad and she had to wear spectacles.

7 Nobody knew which of the twin brothers was the murderer.

 

с Complete the following plan of the story:

 

• Mrs. Parker is killed in her house.

• There are a few witnesses who ...

....................................................................

 

d Use the following words: chance, headlines, acquitted, found, dock, murder, dead, trial, attended, murderer.

 

It was a very strange murder .... I have never... such a strange trial. They named it the Northwood... in the..., because the house, where the old woman was found... at two o'clock in the morning, was in Northwood Street. The... was... immediately: no one present at the trial believed that the man in the... had any... of being....

 

e Paraphrase the following in English:

 

1 She was battered to death.

2 His luck was badly out.

3 There was no sense of importance in her.

4 Is your eyesight good?

5 I couldn't make out what he was at.

 

f Translate the following sentences using these nouns and adjectives: door, luck, certain, image, back.

 

Мистер Уилер жил по соседству от миссис Паркер.

Ему действительно не везло.

Вы вполне уверены?

Он был точной копией человека на скамье подсудимых.

Они могли выйти через черный ход.

g Translate the following sentences using these verbs: to make out, to depend, to dress, to wear.

Яне мог понять, куда он клонит.

От ваших показаний может зависеть жизнь человека.

Он был одет точно так же.

На нем были перчатки.

 

h Translate the following sentences into Russian paying attention to the verb to get:

 

1 Mr Weeler got up and looked out of the window.

2 I followed Mrs Salmon out of court and we got in the crowd who were waiting for the twins.

3 The police tried to get the twins to leave by a back way, but the twins did not want to.

4 The crowd moved and somehow one of the twins got pushed on to the road right in front of a bus.

5 There was the other Adams getting on his feet from beside the body and looking straight over at Mrs Salmon.

 

i Write all the words related to law and courts, out of the text. Compare your list with those of your group-mates.

 

j Think and answer:

 





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