– MR. JONES –
During the winter of 1945, I lived for several months in a rooming house in Brooklyn. It was not a shabby place, but a pleasantly furnished, elderly brownstone and always kept tidy by its owners, two sisters who never got married. Mr. Jones lived in the room next to mine.
My room was the smallest in the house, his the largest, a nice big sunshiny room, which was just as well, because Mr. Jones never left it: all his needs, meals, shopping, laundry, were dealt with by the two middle-aged landladies. Also, he was not without visitors; on the average, a half-dozen various persons, men and women, young, old, in-between, visited his room each day, from early morning until late in the evening.
He was not a drug dealer or a fortune-teller; no, they just came to talk to him and apparently they gave him small gifts of money for his conversation and advice. If not, he had no obvious means of support. I never had a conversation with Mr. Jones myself, a circumstance I’ve often since regretted.
He was a handsome man, about forty. Thin, black-haired, and with a distinctive face which you can always remember, a long face, high cheekbones, and with a birthmark on his left cheek, a small red mark shaped like a star. He wore gold-rimmed glasses with pitch-black lenses; he was blind, and crippled, too – according to the sisters, he had been unable to use his legs since a childhood accident, and he could not move without crutches. He was always dressed in a neatly pressed dark grey or blue suit and a dark-coloured tie – as though about to set off for a Wall Street office.
However, as I’ve said, he never left the house. I had no idea why they came to see him, these rather ordinary-looking people, or what they talked about, and I was too busy with my own affairs to think about it. When I did, I imagined that his friends had found in him an intelligent, kindly man, a good listener they could confide in and talk with over their troubles: someone between a priest and a therapist. Mr. Jones had a telephone.
He was the only tenant with a private line. I moved to Manhattan. While the landladies offered me tea and cakes in their lace-curtained sitting room, I asked them about Mr. Jones. The women lowered their eyes. Clearing her throat, one said: “It’s in the hands of the police.” The other offered: “We’ve reported him as a missing person.”
The first added: “Last month, twenty-six days ago, my sister carried up Mr. Jones’s breakfast, as usual. He wasn’t there. All his belongings were there.” “It’s strange—” “— how a man totally blind, a helpless cripple…”
Ten years pass. Now it is a zero-cold December afternoon, and I am in Moscow. I am riding in a subway car. There are only a few other passengers. One of them is a man sitting opposite me, a man wearing boots, a thick long coat and a Russian-style fur cap. He has bright eyes, blue as a peacock’s. After a doubtful moment, I simply stared, for even without the black glasses, there was no mistaking that long distinctive face, those high cheekbones with the single red star-shaped birthmark. I was just about to cross the aisle and speak to him when the train pulled into a station, and Mr. Jones, on a pair of fine strong legs, stood up and hurried out of the car. Rapidly the train door closed behind him.
A. Mark the statements as True (T) or False (F).
1. Mr. Jones had two sisters who looked after him.
2. Mr. Jones had visitors who gave him money.
3. The writer received some advice from Mr. Jones.
4. Mr. Jones did not work in a Wall Street office.
5. Mr. Jones was a therapist.
6. There was a telephone in each room in the house.
7. When Mr. Jones left Brooklyn, he didn’t take his personal things with him.
8. Mr. Jones was caught by the police. 9. Mr. Jones was actually a blind and crippled man.
1. Why did the two ladies go shopping for Mr. Jones?
2. What was special about Mr. Jones’ face?
3. Where did the writer last see Mr. Jones?