Prologue

ThenightbeforehewenttoLondon,RichardMayhewwasnotenjoyinghimself.

Hehadbeguntheeveningbyenjoyinghimself:hehadenjoyedreadingthegood-byecards,andreceivingthehugsfromseveralnotentirelyunattractiveyoungladiesofhisacquaintance;hehadenjoyedthewarningsabouttheevilsanddangersofLondon,andthegiftofthewhiteumbrellawiththemapoftheLondonUndergroundonitthathisfriendshadchippedinmoneytobuy;hehadenjoyedthefirstfewpintsofale;butthen,witheachsuccessivepinthefoundthathewasenjoyinghimselfsignificantlyless;untilnowhewassittingandshiveringonthesidewalkoutsidethepubinasmallScottishtown,weighingtherelativemeritsofbeingsickandnotbeingsick,andnotenjoyinghimselfatall.

Insidethepub,Richard’sfriendscontinuedtocelebratehisforthcomingdeparturewithanenthusiasmthat,toRichard,wasbeginningtoborderonthesinister.Hesatonthesidewalkandheldontightlytotherolled-upumbrella,andwonderedwhethergoingsouthtoLondonwasreallyagoodidea.

“Youwanttokeepaeyeout,”saidacrackedoldvoice.“They’llbemovingyouonbeforeyoucansayJackRobinson.Ortakingyouin,Iwouldn’tbesurprised.”Twosharpeyesstaredoutfromabeaky,grimyface.“Youallright?”

“Yes,thankyou,”saidRichard.Hewasafresh-faced,boyishyoungman,withdark,slightlycurlyhairandlargehazeleyes;hehadarumpled,just-woken-uplooktohim,whichmadehimmoreattractivetotheoppositesexthanhewouldeverunderstandorbelieve.

Page 1 of 110