Part 3 out of 5
Lady Anselman stood once more in the foyer of the Ritz Hotel and counted her
guests. It was a smaller party this time, and in its way a less distinguished
one. There were a couple of officers, friends of Granet's, back from the
Front on leave; Lady Conyers, with Geraldine and Olive; Granet himself; and a
tall, dark girl with pallid complexion and brilliant eyes, who had come with
Lady Anselman and who was standing now by her side.
"I suppose you know everybody, my dear?" Lady Anselman asked her genially.
The girl shook her head a little disconsolately.
"We are so little in London, Lady Anselman," she murmured. "You know how
difficult father is, and just now he is worse than ever. In fact, if he
weren't so hard at work I don't believe he'd have let me come even now."
"These scientific men," Lady Anselman declared, "are great boons to the
country, but as parent I am afraid they are just a little thoughtless. Major
Harrison and Colonel Grey, let me present you to my young charge--for the day
only, unfortunately--Miss Worth. Now, Ronnie, if you can be persuaded to let
Miss Conyers have a moment's peace perhaps you will show us the way in to
Granet promptly abandoned his whispered conversation with Geraldine. The
little company moved in and took their places at the round table which was
usually reserved for Lady Anselman on Tuesdays.
"Some people," the latter remarked, as she seated herself, "find fault with me
for going on with my luncheons this season. Even Alfred won't come except now
and then. Personally, I have very strong views about it. I think we all
ought to keep on doing just the same as usual--to a certain extent, of course.
There is no reason why we should bring the hotel proprietors and shopkeepers
to the brink of ruin because we are all feeling more or less miserable."
"Quite right," her neighbour, Colonel Grey, assented. "I am sure it wouldn't
do us any good out there to feel that you were all sitting in sackcloth and
ashes. Besides, think how pleasant this is to come home to," he added,
looking around the little table. "Jove! What a good-looking girl Miss
Lady Anselman nodded and lowered her voice a little.
"She has just broken her engagement to Surgeon-Major Thomson. I wonder
whether you know him?"
"Inspector of Field Hospitals or something, isn't he?" the other remarked
carelessly. "I came across him once at Boulogne. Rather a dull sort of
fellow he seemed.
Lady Anselman sighed.
"I am afraid Geraldine found him so," she agreed. "Her mother is very
disappointed. I can't help thinking myself, though, that a girl with her
appearance ought to do better."
The Colonel reflected for a moment.
"Seems to me I've heard something about Thomson somewhere," he said, half to
himself. "By-the-bye, who is the pale girl with the wonderful eyes, to whom
your nephew is making himself so agreeable?"
"That is Isabel Worth," Lady Anselman replied. "She is the daughter of Sir
Meyville Worth, the great scientist. I am afraid she has rather a dull time,
poor girl. Her father lives in an out-of-the-way village of Norfolk, spends
all his time trying to discover things, and forgets that he has a daughter at
all. She has been in London for a few days with an aunt, but I don't believe
that the old lady is able to do much for her."
"Ronnie seems to be making the running all right," her neighbour observed.
"I asked him specially to look after her," Lady Anselman confided, "and Ronnie
is always such a dear at doing what he is told."
Major Harrison leaned across the table towards them.
"Didn't I hear you mention Thomson's name just now?" he inquired. "I saw him
the other day in Boulogne. Awful swell he was about something, too. A
destroyer brought him across, and a Government motor-car was waiting at the
quay to rush him up to the Front. We all thought at Boulogne that royalty was
coming, at least."
There was a slight frown on Granet's forehead. He glanced half unconsciously
"Mysterious sort of fellow, Thomson," Major Harrison continued, in blissful
ignorance of the peculiar significance of his words. "You see him in Paris
one day, you hear of him at the furthermost point of the French lines
immediately afterwards, he reports at headquarters within a few hours, and you
meet him slipping out of a back door of the War Office, a day or two later."
"Inspector of Field Hospitals is a post which I think must have been created
for him," Colonel Grey remarked. "He's an impenetrable sort of chap."
"Was Major Thomson going or returning from France when you saw him last?"
Geraldine asked, looking across the table.
"Coming back. When we left Boulogne, the destroyer which brought him over was
waiting in the harbour. It passed us in mid-Channel, doing about thirty knots
to our eighteen. Prince Cyril was rather sick. He was bringing dispatches
but no one seemed to have thought of providing a destroyer for him."
"After all," Lady Anselman murmured, "there is nothing very much more
important than our hospitals."
The conversation drifted away from Thomson. Granet was making himself very
agreeable indeed to Isabel Worth. There was a little more colour in her
cheeks than at the commencement of luncheon, and her manner had become more
"Tell me about the village where you live?" he inquired--"Market Burnham,
"When we first went there," she replied, "I thought that it was simply
Paradise. That was four years ago, though, and I scarcely counted upon
spending the winters there."
"You find it lovely, then"
She shivered a little, half closing her eyes as though to shut out some
"The house," she explained, "is on a sort of tongue of land, with a tidal
river on either side and the sea not fifty yards away from our drawing-room
window. When there are high tides, we are simply cut off from the mainland
altogether unless we go across on a farm cart."
"You mustn't draw too gloomy a picture of your home," Lady Anselman said. "I
have seen it when it was simply heavenly."
"And I have seen it," the girl retorted, with a note of grimness in her tone,
"when it was a great deal more like the other place--stillness that seems
almost to stifle you, grey mists that choke your breath and blot out
everything; nothing but the gurgling of a little water, and the sighing--the
most melancholy sighing you ever heard--of the wind in our ragged elms. I am
talking about the autumn and winter now, you must remember."
"It doesn't sound attractive," Granet admitted. "By-the-bye, which side of
Norfolk are you? You are nowhere near Brancaster, I suppose?"
"We are within four miles of it," the girl replied quickly. "You don't ever
come there, do you?"
Granet looked at her with uplifted eyebrows.
"This is really rather a coincidence!" he exclaimed. "I've never been to
Brancaster in my life but I've promised one or two fellows to go down to the
Dormy House there, to-morrow or the next day, and have a week's golf. Geoff
Anselman is going, for one."
The girl was for a moment almost good-looking. Her eyes glowed, her tone was
"You'll come by and see us, won't you?" she begged.
"If I may, I'd be delighted," Granet promised heartily. "When are you going
"To-morrow. You're quite sure that you'll come?"
"I shall come all right," Granet assured her. "I'm not so keen on golf as
some of the fellows, and my arm's still a little dicky, but I'm fed up with
London, and I'm not allowed even to come before the Board again for a
fortnight, so I rather welcome the chance of getting right away. The links
are good, I suppose?"
"Wonderful," Miss Worth agreed eagerly, "and I think the club-house is very
comfortable. There are often some quite nice men staying there. If only
father weren't so awfully peculiar, the place would be almost tolerable in the
season. That reminds me," she went on, with a little sigh, "I must warn you
about father. He's the most unsociable person that ever lived."
"I'm not shy," Granet laughed. "By-the-bye, pardon me, but isn't your father
the Sir Meyville Worth who invents things? I'm not quite sure what sort of
things," he added. "Perhaps you'd better post me up before I come?"
"I sha'n't tell you a thing." Isabel Worth declared. "Just now it's very much
better for you to know nothing whatever about him. He has what I call the
inventors' fidgets, for some reason or other. If a strange person comes near
the place he simply loses his head."
"Perhaps I sha'n't be welcome, then?" Granet remarked disconsolately.
There was a flash in the girl's eyes as she answered him.
"I can assure you that you will, Captain Granet," she said. "If father
chooses to behave like a bear, well, I'll try and make up for him."
She glanced at him impressively and Granet bowed. A few minutes later in
obedience to Lady Anselman's signal, they all made their way into the lounge,
where coffee was being served. Granet made his way to Geraldine's side but
she received him a little coldly.
"I have been doing my aunt's behests," he explained. "My strict orders were
to make myself agreeable to a young woman who lives in a sort of bluebeard's
house, where no visitors are allowed and smiling is prohibited."
Geraldine looked across at Isabel Worth.
"I never met Miss Worth before," she said. "I believe her father is
wonderfully clever. Did I hear you say that you were going out of town?"
"I am going away for a few days. I am going away," he added, dropping his
voice, "ostensibly for a change of air. I have another reason for going."
He looked at her steadfastly and she forgot her vague misgivings of a few
minutes ago. After all, his perceptions were right. It was better for him to
leave London for a time.
"I hope the change will do you good," she said quietly. "I think, perhaps,
you are right to go."
Granet, a few days later, brought his car to a standstill in front of an
ordinary five-barred gate upon which was painted in white letters "Market
Burnham Hall." A slight grey mist was falling and the country inland was
almost blotted from sight. On the other side of the gate a sandy driver
disappeared into an avenue of ragged and stunted elm trees, which effectually
concealed any view of the house.
"Seems as though the girl were right," Granet muttered to himself. "However,
He backed his car close to the side of the hedge, and laying his hand upon the
latch of the gate, prepared to swing it open. Almost immediately a figure
stepped out from the shrubs.
Granet looked with surprise at the khaki-clad figure.
"Your name and destination?" the man demanded.
"Captain Granet of the Royal Fusiliers, home from the Front on leave," Granet
replied. "I was going up to the Hall to call on Miss Worth."
"Stay where you are, if you please, sir," the man replied.
He stepped back into the sentry box and spoke through a telephone. In a
moment or two he reappeared.
"Pass on, please, sir," he said.
Granet walked slowly up the avenue, his hands behind him, a frown upon his
forehead. Perhaps, after all, things were not to be so easy for him. On
either side he could see the stretches of sand, and here and there the long
creeks of salt water. As he came nearer to the house, the smell of the sea
grew stronger, the tops of the trees were more bowed than ever, sand was blown
everywhere across the hopeless flower-beds. The house itself, suddenly
revealed, was a grim weather-beaten structure, built on the very edge of a
queer, barrow-like tongue of land which ended with the house itself. The sea
was breaking on the few yards of beach sheer below the windows. To his right
was a walled garden, some lawns and greenhouses; to the left, stables, a
garage, and two or three labourer's cottages. At the front door another
soldier was stationed doing sentry duty. He stood on one side, however, and
allowed Granet to ring the bell.
"Officers quartered here?" Granet inquired.
"Only one, sir," the man replied.
The door was opened almost immediately by a woman-servant. She did not wait
for Granet to announce himself but motioned him to follow her into a large,
circular, stone hall, across which she led him quickly and threw open the door
of the drawing-room. Isabel Worth was standing just inside the room, as
though listening. She held out her hand and there was no doubt about her
"Captain Granet," she said almost in a whisper, "of course you'll think we are
all mad, but would you mind coming upstairs into my little sitting-room?"
"Of course not," Granet acquiesced. "I'll come anywhere, with pleasure. What
a view you have from here!"
He glanced through the high windows at the other end of the room. She laid
her fingers upon his arm and led him towards the door.
"Quietly, please," she whispered. "Try and imagine that you are in a house of
She led him up the quaint stone staircase, spiral-shaped, to the first floor.
Arrived there, she paused to listen for a moment, then breathed a little more
freely and led him to a small sitting-room at the end of a long passage. It
was a pleasant little apartment and looked sheer out over the sea. She threw
herself down upon a sofa with a sigh of relief, and pointed to a chair.
"Do sit down, Captain Granet," she begged. "I am really not in the least
insane but father is. You know, I got back on Wednesday night and was met at
once with stern orders that no visitors of any sort were to be received, that
the tradespeople were to be interviewed at the front gates--in fact that the
house was to be in a state of siege."
Granet appeared puzzled.
"Simply because dad has gone out of his senses," she replied wearily. "Look
She led him cautiously to the window and pointed downwards. About fifty yards
out at sea was a queer wooden structure, set up on strong supports. From
where they were, nothing was to be seen but a windowless wall of framework and
a rope ladder. Underneath, a boat was tethered to one of the supports. About
thirty yards away, a man was rowing leisurely around in another small boat.
"That's where father spends about twelve hours a day," she said. "What he is
doing no one knows. He won't even allow me to speak of it. When we meet at
meals, I am not supposed to allude to the fact that he has been out in that
crazy place. If ever he happens to speak of it, he calls it his workshop."
"But he is not alone there?" Granet asked.
"Oh, no! There are two or three men from London, and an American, working
with him. Then do you see the corner of the garden there?"
She pointed to a long barn or boathouse almost upon the beach. Before the
door two sentries were standing. Even from where they sat they could hear the
faint whirr of a dynamo.
"There are twenty men at work in there," she said. "They all sleep in the
barn or the potting sheds. They are not allowed even to go down to the
village. Now, perhaps, you can begin to understand, Captain Granet, what it
is like to be here."
"Well, it all sounds very interesting," he remarked, "but I should think it
must be deadly for you. Your father invents no end of wonderful things,
"If he does, he never speaks about it," the girl answered a little bitterly.
"All that he wants from me is my absence or my silence. When I came back the
other night, he was furious. If he'd thought about it, I'm sure he'd have had
me stay in London. Now that I am here, though, I am simply a prisoner."
Granet resumed his seat and lit the cigarette which she insisted upon his
"Well," he observed, "it does seem hard upon you, Miss Worth. On the other
hand, it really is rather interesting, isn't it, to think that your father is
such a man of mysteries?"
The girl sighed.
"I suppose so," she admitted, "but then, you see, father is almost brutal
about taking any one into his confidence. He never tells even me a thing, or
encourages me to ask a question. I think for that reason I have grown rather
to resent his work and the ridiculous restriction he places upon my freedom
because of it."
A parlourmaid entered with tea, a few minutes later, and Granet moved to his
hostess' side upon the sofa. He showed no more interest in outside
happenings. He was an adept at light conversation and he made himself
thoroughly agreeable for the next hour. Then he rose quickly to his feet.
"I must go," he declared.
"It has been so nice to have you here," she said, "but if you only knew how
difficult it was to arrange, it, you'd understand why I hesitate to ask you to
"Why shouldn't you come and lunch with me to-morrow at the Golf Club?" he
She hesitated. It was obvious that the suggestion appealed to her.
"I believe I could," she assented. "Captain Chalmers has a small motor-car
he'd lend me, and if I go out with my golf clubs it would be all right. Very
likely father will sleep out there and we sha'n't see anything of him until
Granet stepped once more to the window. The mists had rolled up more thickly
than ever and the queer little structure was almost invisible. A bright
light, however, fell upon the water a little distance away.
"Your father has electric light out there," he remarked.
"Yes, they have a wire from the shed," she told him. "Whatever he's trying to
do, he needs a very intense and concentrated light at times."
Granet drew a little sigh.
"Well, I hope it's something that'll do us a bit of good," he said. "We need
it. The Germans are miles ahead of us with regard to all new-fangled ideas."
She opened her lips and closed them again. Granet, who had suddenly stiffened
into rigid attention, felt a quick impulse of disappointment.
"I have rung the bell for my own maid," she said. "She will show you out of
the place. Don't let any one see you, if you can help it."
"And to-morrow?" he asked. "You will lunch with me?"
"I will be at the Golf Club," she promised, "at one o'clock."
Granet was conducted almost stealthily down the stairs and into the avenue.
Half-way to the gate he paused to listen. He was hidden from sight now by the
gathering twilight and the rolling mists. From behind the house came the
softly muffled roar of the tide sweeping in, and, with sharper insistence, the
whirr of machinery from the boathouse. Granet lit a cigarette and walked
thoughtfully away. Just as he climbed into the car, a peculiar light through
the trees startled him. He stood up and watched. From the top of the house a
slowly revolving searchlight played upon the waters.
It was a very cheerful little party dining that night at the Dormy House Club.
There was Granet; Geoffrey Anselman, his cousin, who played for Cambridge and
rowed two; Major Harrison, whose leave had been extended another three weeks;
and the secretary of the club, who made up the quartette.
"By-the-bye, where were you this afternoon, Captain Granet?" the latter asked.
"You left Anselman to play our best ball. Jolly good hiding he gave us, too."
"Went out for a spin," Granet explained, "and afterwards fell fast asleep in
my room. Wonderful air, yours, you know," he went on.
"I slept like a top last night," Major Harrison declared. "The first three
nights I was home I never closed my eyes."
Granet leaned across the table to the secretary.
"Dickens," he remarked, "that's a queer-looking fellow at the further end of
the room. Who is he?"
The secretary glanced around and smiled.
"You mean that little fellow with the glasses and the stoop? He arrived last
night and asked for a match this morning. You see what a miserable wizened-up
looking creature he is? I found him a twelve man and he wiped the floor with
me. Guess what his handicap is?"
"No idea," Granet replied. "Forty, I should think."
"Scratch at St. Andrews," Dickens told them. "His name's Collins. I don't'
know anything else about him. He's paid for a week and we're jolly glad to
get visitors at all these times."
"Bridge or billiards?" young Anselman asked, rising.
"Let's play billiards," Granet suggested. "The stretching across the table
does me good."
"We'll have a snooker, then," Major Harrison decided.
They played for some time. The wizened-looking little man came and watched
them benevolently, peering every now and then through his spectacles, and
applauding mildly any particularly good stroke. At eleven o'clock they turned
out the lights and made their way to their rooms. Shortly before midnight,
Granet, in his dressing-gown, stole softly across the passage and opened,
without knocking, the door of a room opposite to him. The wizened-looking
little man was seated upon the edge of the bed, half-dressed. Granet turned
the key in the lock, stood for a moment listening and swung slowly around.
"Well?" he exclaimed softly.
The tenant of the room nodded. He had taken off his glasses and their absence
revealed a face of strong individuality. He spoke quietly but distinctly.
"You have explored the house?"
"As far as I could," Granet replied. "The place is almost in a state of
"Proves that we are on the right track, any way. What's that building that
seems to stand out in the water?"
"How do you know about it?" Granet demanded.
"I sailed out this evening, hired a boat at Brancaster Staithe. The fellow
wouldn't go anywhere near Market Burnham, though, and I'm rather sorry I tried
to make him. They've got the scares here, right enough, Granet. I asked him
to let me the boat for a week and he wasn't even civil about it. Didn't want
no strangers around these shores, he told me. When I paid him for the
afternoon he was surly about it and kept looking at my field-glasses."
Granet frowned heavily.
"It isn't going to be an easy matter," he confessed. "I hear the Admiralty
are going to take over the whole thing within the next few days, and are
sending Marines down. How's the time?"
They glanced at their watches. It was five minutes before midnight. As
though by common consent, they both crossed to the window and stood looking
out into the darkness. A slight wind was moving amongst the treetops, the
night was clear but moonless. About half a mile away they could just discern
a corner of the club-house. They stood watching it in silence. At five
minutes past twelve, Granet shut his watch with a click.
"Not to-night, then," he whispered. "Collins!"
"What is going on in that wooden shanty?"
The little man dropped his voice.
"Germany lost two submarines in one day," he murmured. "The device which got
them came from that little workshop of Worth's. The plans are probably there
or on the premises somewhere."
"AS a matter of fact I have been within a few yards of the thing," he said.
"It was all fenced around with match-boarding."
"Do you mean that you have been allowed on board the Scorpion?"
"I had the rottenest luck," he declared. "I took Miss Conyers and her friend
down to see her brother, Commander Conyers. We were invited to lunch on
board. At the last moment we were turned off. Through some glasses from the
roof of the Ship I saw some workmen pull down the match-boarding, but I
couldn't make out what the structure was."
"I can give you an idea," Collins remarked. "This fellow Worth has got hold
of some system of concentric lenses, with extraordinary reflectors which
enable him to see distinctly at least thirty feet under water. Then they have
a recording instrument, according to which they alter the gradient of a new
gun, with shells that explode under water. Von Lowitz was on the track of
something of this sort last year, but he gave it up chiefly because Krupps
wouldn't guarantee him a shell."
"Krupps gave it up a little too soon, then," Granet muttered. "Collins, if we
can't smash up this little establishment there'll be a dozen destroyers before
long rigged up with this infernal contrivance."
The little man stood before the window and gazed steadfastly out seawards.
"They'll be here this week," he said confidently. "You'd better go now,
Granet. It's all over for to-night."
Granet nodded and left the room quietly. Every one in the Dormy House was
sound asleep. He made his way back to his own apartment without difficulty.
Only the little man remained seated at the window, with his eyes fixed upon
the bank of murky clouds which lowered over the sea.
Isabel Worth leaned back in the comfortable seat by Granet's side and breathed
a little sigh of content. She had enjoyed her luncheon party a deux, their
stroll along the sands afterwards, and she was fully prepared to enjoy this
short drive homewards.
"What a wonderful car yours is!" she murmured. "But do tell me--what on earth
have you got in behind?"
"It's just a little experimental invention of a friend of mine," he explained.
"Some day we are going to try it on one of these creeks. It's a collapsible
"Don't try it anywhere near us," she laughed. "Two of the fishermen from
Wells sailed in a little too close to the shed yesterday and the soldiers
fired a volley at them."
Garnet made a grimace.
"Do you know I am becoming most frightfully curious about your father's work?"
"Are you really?" she replied carelessly. "For my part, I wouldn't even take
the trouble to climb up the ladder into the workshop."
"But you must know something about what is going on there?" Granet persisted.
"I really don't," she assured him. "It's some wonderful invention, I believe,
but I can't help resenting anything that makes us live like hermits, suspect
even the tradespeople, give up entertaining altogether, give up even seeing
our friends. I hope you are not going to hurry away, Captain Granet. I
haven't had a soul to speak to down here for months."
"I don't think I shall go just yet," he answered. "I want first to accomplish
what I came here for."
She turned her head very slowly and looked at him. There was quite a becoming
flush upon her cheeks.
"What did you come for?" she asked softly.
He was silent for a moment. Already his foot was on the brake of the car;
they were drawing near the plain, five-barred gates.
"Perhaps I am not quite sure about that myself," he whispered.
They had come to a standstill. She descended reluctantly.
"I hate to send you away," she sighed, "it seems so inhospitable. Will you
come in for a little time? The worst that can happen, if we meet dad, is that
he might be rather rude."
"I'll risk it with pleasure," Granet replied.
"Can I see your collapsible boat?" she asked, peering in behind.
He shook his head.
"It isn't my secret," he said, "and besides, I don't think my friend has the
patent for it yet."
The sentry stood by and allowed them to pass, although he looked searchingly
at Granet. They walked slowly up the scrubby avenue to the house. Once
Granet paused to look down at the long arm of the sea on his left.
"You have quite a river there," he remarked.
"That used to be the principal waterway from Burnham village. Quite a large
boat can get down now at high tide."
They entered the house and Isabel gave a little gesture of dismay. She
clutched for a moment at Granet's arm. An elderly man, dressed in somber
black clothes disgracefully dusty, collarless, with a mass of white hair blown
all over his face, was walking up and down the hall with a great pair of
horn-rimmed spectacles clutched in his hand. He stopped short at the sound of
the opening door and hurried towards them. There was nothing about his
appearance in the least terrifying. He seemed, in fact, bubbling over with
"Isabel, my dear," he exclaimed, "it is wonderful! I have succeeded! I have
changed the principles of a lifetime, made the most brilliant optical
experiment which any man of science has ever ventured to essay, with the
result--well, you shall see. I have wired to the Admiralty, wired for more
work-people. Captain Chalmers, is it not?" he went on. "You must tell your
men to double and redouble their energies. This place is worth watching now.
Come, I will show you something amazing."
He turned and led them hastily towards the back door. Isabel gripped Granet's
"He thinks you are the officer in command of the platoon here," she whispered.
"Better let him go on thinking so."
"Is he going to take us to the workshop?"
"I believe so," she assented.
They had hard work to keep up with Sir Meyville as he led them hastily down
the little stretch of shingle to where a man was sitting in a boat. They all
jumped in. The man with the oars looked doubtfully for a moment at Granet,
but pulled off at once when ordered to do so. They rowed round to the front
of the queer little structure. A man from inside held out his hand and helped
them up. Another young man, with books piled on the floor by his side, was
making some calculations at a table. Almost the whole of the opening of the
place was taken up by what seemed to be a queer medley of telescopes and
lenses pointing different ways. Sir Meyville beamed upon them as he hastily
turned a handle.
"Now," he promised, "you shall see what no one has ever seen before. See, I
point that arrow at that spot, about fifty yards out. Now look through this
The girl stooped forward, was silent for a moment, then she gave a little cry
of wonder. She clutched Granet's arm and made him take her place. He, too,
called out softly. He saw the sandy bottom covered with shells, a rock with
tentacles of seaweed floating from it, several huge crabs, a multitude of
small fishes. Everything was clear and distinct. He looked away with a
"Wonderful!" he exclaimed.
Sir Meyville's smile was beatific.
"That is my share," he said. "Down in the other workshop my partners are hard
at it. They, too, have met with success. You must tell your men, Captain
Chalmers, never to relax their vigil. This place must be watched by night and
by day. My last invention was a great step forward, but this is absolute
success. For the next few months this is the most precious spot in Europe."
"It isn't Captain Chalmers, father," Isabel interrupted.
Sir Meyville seemed suddenly to become still. He looked fixedly at Granet.
"Who are you, then?" he demanded. "Who are you, sir?"
"I am Captain Granet of the Royal Fusiliers, back from the Front, wounded,"
Granet replied. "I can assure you that I am a perfectly trustworthy person."
"But I don't understand," Sir Meyville said sharply. "What are you doing
"I came to call upon your daughter," Granet explained. "I had the pleasure of
meeting her at lunch at Lady Anselman's the other day. We have been playing
golf together at Brancaster."
Sir Meyville began to mumble to himself as he pushed them into the boat.
"My fault," he muttered,--"my fault. Captain Granet, I thought that my
daughter knew my wishes. I am not at present in a position to receive guests
or visitors of any description. You will pardon my apparent inhospitality. I
shall ask you, sir, to kindly forget this visit and to keep away from here for
"I shall obey your wishes, of course, sir," Granet promised. "I can assure
you that I am quite a harmless person, though."
"I do not doubt it, sir," Sir Meyville replied, "but it is the harmless people
of the world who do the most mischief. An idle word here or there and great
secrets are given away. If you will allow me, I will show you a quicker way
down the avenue, without going to the house."
Granet shrugged his shoulders.
"Just as you will, sir," he assented.
"You can go in, Isabel," her father directed curtly. "I will see Captain
She obeyed and took leave of her guest with a little shrug of the shoulders.
Sir Meyville took Granet's arm and led him down the avenue.
"Captain Granet," he said gravely, "I am an indiscreet person and I have an
indiscreet daughter. Bearing in mind your profession, I may speak to you as
man to man. Keep what you have seen absolutely secret. Put a seal upon your
memory. Go back to Brancaster and don't even look again in this direction.
The soldiers round this place have orders not to stand on ceremony with any
one, and by to-night I believe we are to have an escort of Marines here as
well. What you have seen is for the good of the country."
"I congratulate you heartily, sir," Granet replied, shaking hands. "Of course
I'll keep away, if I must. I hope when this is all over, though, you will
allow me to come and renew my acquaintance with your daughter."
"When it is over, with pleasure," Sir Meyville assented.
Granet stepped into his car and drove off. The inventor stood looking after
him. Then he spoke to the sentry and made his way across the gardens towards
"I ought to have known it from the first," he muttered. "Reciprocal
refraction was the one thing to think about."
Granet, as he drove back to the Dormy House, was conscious of a curious change
in the weather. The wind, which had been blowing more or less during the last
few days, had suddenly dropped. There was a new heaviness in the atmosphere,
little banks of transparent mist were drifting in from seawards. More than
once he stopped the car and, standing up, looked steadily away seawards. The
long stretch of marshland, on which the golf links were situated, was empty.
A slight, drizzling rain was falling. He found, when he reached the Dormy
House, that nearly all the men were assembled in one of the large
sitting-rooms. A table of bridge had been made up. Mr. Collins was seated in
an easy-chair close to the window, reading a review. Granet accepted a cup of
tea and stood on the hearth-rug.
"How did the golf go this afternoon?" he inquired.
"I was dead off it," Anselman replied gloomily.
"Our friend in the easy-chair there knocked spots off us."
Mr. Collins looked up and grunted and looked out of the window again.
"Either of you fellows going to cut in at bridge?" young Anselman continued.
Granet shook his head and walked to the window.
"I can't stick cards in the daytime."
Mr. Collins shut up his review.
"I agree with you, sir," he said. "I endeavoured to persuade one of these
gentlemen to play another nine holes--unsuccessfully, I regret to state."
Granet lit a cigarette.
"Well," he remarked, "it's too far to get down to the links again but I'll
play you a game of bowls, if you like."
The other glanced out upon the lawn and rose to his feet.
"It is an excellent suggestion," he declared. "If you will give me five
minutes to fetch my mackintosh and galoshes, it would interest me to see
whether I have profited by the lessons I took in Scotland."
They met, a few moments later, in the garden. Mr. Collins threw the jack with
great precision and they played an end during which his superiority was
apparent. They strolled together across the lawn, well away now from the
house. For the first time Granet dropped his careless tone.
"What do you make of this change in the weather?" he asked quickly.
"It's just what they were waiting for," the other replied. "What about this
"I am not scientist, worse luck," Granet replied impatiently, "but I saw
enough to convince me that they've got the right idea. Sir Meyville thought i
was the man commanding the escort they've given him,--actually rowed me out to
the workshop and showed me the whole thing. I tell you I saw it just as you
described it,--saw the bottom of the sea, even the colour of the seaweed, the
holes in the rocks."
"And they've got the shells, too," Collins muttered, "the shells that burst
Granet looked around. They were playing the other end now.
"Listen!" he said.
They paused in the middle of the lawn. Granet held up his handkerchief and
turned his cheek seaward. There was still little more than a floating breath
of air but his cheek was covered with moisture.
"I have everything ready," he said. "Just before we go to bed to-night I
shall swear that I hear and aeroplane. You're sure your watch is right to the
"I am as sure that it is right," the other replied grimly, "as I am that
to-night you and I my young friend, are going to play with our lives a little
more carelessly than with this china ball. A good throw, that I think," he
went on, measuring it with his eye carefully. "Come, my friend, you'll have
to improve. My Scotch practice is beginning to tell."
Geoffrey Anselman threw up the window and looked out.
"Pretty hot stuff, isn't he Ronnie?" he asked.
Granet glanced at his opponent, with his bent shoulders, his hard face, hooked
nose and thin gold spectacles.
"Yes," he admitted quietly, "he's too good for me."
At about half-past ten that evening, Granet suddenly threw down his cue in the
middle of a game of billiards, and stood, for a moment, in a listening
"Jove, I believe that's an airship!" he exclaimed, and hurried out of the
They all followed him. He was standing just outside the French-windows of the
sitting-room, upon the gravel walk, his head upturned, listening intently.
There was scarcely a breath of wind, no moon nor any stars. Little clouds of
grey mist hung about on the marshes, shutting out their view of the sea. The
stillness was more than usually intense.
"Can't hear a thing," young Anselman muttered at last.
"It may have been fancy," Granet admitted.
"A motor-cycle going along the Huntstanton Road," Major Harrison suggested.
"It's a magnificent night for a raid," Dickens remarked glancing around.
"No chance of Zepps over here, I should say," Collins declared, a little
didactically. "I was looking at your map at the golf club only this morning."
They all made their way back to the house. Granet, however, seemed still
"I'm going to see that my car's all right," he told them. "I left it in the
He was absent for about twenty minutes. When he returned, they had finished
the game of snooker pool without him and were all sitting on the lounge by the
side of the billiard table, talking of the war. Granet listened for a few
minutes and then said good-night a little abruptly. He lit his candle outside
and went slowly to his room. Arrived there, he glanced at his watch and
locked the door. It was half-past eleven. He changed his clothes quickly,
put on some rubber-soled shoes and slipped a brandy flask and a revolver into
his pocket. Then he sat down before his window with his watch in his hand.
He was conscious of a certain foreboding from which he had never been able to
escape since his arrival. In France and Belgium he had lived through fateful
hours, carrying more than once his life in his hands. His risk to-night was
an equal one but the exhilaration seemed lacking. This work in a country
apparently at peace seemed somehow on a different level. If it were less
dangerous, it was also less stimulating. In those few moments the soldier
blood in him called for the turmoil of war, the panorama of life and death,
the fierce, hot excitement of juggling with fate while the heavens themselves
seemed raining death on every side. Here there was nothing but silence, the
soft splash of the distant sea, the barking of a distant dog. The danger was
vivid and actual but without the stimulus of that blood-red background. He
glanced at his watch. It wanted still ten minutes to twelve. For a moment
then he suffered his thoughts to go back to the new thing which had crept into
his life. He was suddenly back in the Milan, he saw the backward turn of her
head, the almost wistful look in her eyes as she made her little
pronouncement. She had broken her engagement. Why? It was a battle, indeed,
he was fighting with that still, cold antagonist, whom he half despised and
half feared, the man concerning whose actual personality he had felt so many
doubts. What if things should go wrong to-night, if the whole dramatic story
should be handed over for the glory and wonder of the halfpenny press! He
could fancy their headlines, imagine even their trenchant paragraphs. It was
skating on the thinnest of ice--and for what? His fingers gripped the damp
window-sill. He raised himself a little higher. His eyes fell upon his
watch--still a minute or two to twelve. Slowly he stole to his door and
listened. The place was silent. He made his way on tiptoe across the landing
and entered Collins' room. The latter was seated before the wide-open window.
He had blown out his candle and the room was in darkness. He half turned his
head at Granet's entrance.
"Two minutes!" he exclaimed softly. "Granet, it will be to-night. Are you
They stood by the open window in silence. Nothing had changed. It was not
yet time for the singing of the earliest birds. The tiny village lay behind
them, silent and asleep; in front, nothing but the marshes, uninhabited,
lonely and quiet, the golf club-house empty and deserted. They stood and
watched, their faces turned steadfastly in a certain direction. Gradually
their eyes, growing accustomed to the dim and changing light, could pierce the
black line above the grey where the sea came stealing up the sandy places with
low murmurs, throwing with every wave longer arms into the land.
"Twelve o'clock!" Collins muttered.
Suddenly Granet's fingers dug into his shoulder. From out of that pall of
velvet darkness which hung below the clouds, came for a single moment a vision
of violet light. It rose apparently from nowhere, it passed away into space.
It was visible barely for five seconds, then it had gone. Granet spoke with a
"My God!" he murmured. "They're coming!"
Collins was already on his feet. He had straightened himself wonderfully, and
there was a new alertness in his manner. He, too, wore rubber shoes and his
movements were absolutely noiseless. He carried a little electric torch in
his hand, which he flashed around the room while he placed several small
articles in his pocket. Then he pushed open the door and listened. He turned
back, held up his finger and nodded. The two men passed down the stairs,
through the sitting-room, out on to the lawn by a door left unfastened, and
round the house to the shed. Together they pushed the car down the slight
incline of the drive. Granet mounted into the driving-seat and pressed the
self-starter. Collins took the place by his side.
"Remember," Granet whispered, "we heard something and I met you in the hall.
They sped with all the silence and smoothness of their six-cylinder up the
tree-hung road, through the sleeping village and along the narrow lane to
Market Burnham. When they were within about a hundred yards of the gate,
Granet brought the car to a standstill.
"There are at least two sentries that way," he said, "and if Sir Meyville told
me the truth, they may have a special guard of Marines out to-night. This is
where we take to the marshes. Listen. Can you hear anything?"
They both held their breath.
"Nothing yet," Collins muttered. "Let's get the things out quickly."
Granet hurried to the back of the car, ripping open the coverings. In a few
moments they had dragged over the side a small collapsible boat of canvas
stretched across some bamboo joints, with two tiny sculls. They clambered up
"The creek must be close here," Granet whispered. "Don't show a light.
This time they could hear the sound of an engine beating away in the
boat-house on the other side of the Hall. Through the closely-drawn curtains,
too, they could see faint fingers of light from the house on the sea.
"They are working still," Granet continued. "Look out, Collins, that's the
They pushed the boat into the middle of the black arm of water and stepped
cautiously into it. Taking one of the paddles, Granet, kneeling down,
propelled it slowly seaward. Once or twice they ran into the bank and had to
push off, but very soon their eyes grew accustomed to the darkness. By
degrees the creek broadened. They passed close to the walls of the garden,
and very soon they were perceptibly nearer the quaintly-situated workshop.
Granet paused for a moment from his labours.
"The Hall is dark enough," he muttered. "Listen!"
They heard the regular pacing of a sentinel in the drive. Nearer to them, on
the top of the wall, they fancied that they heard the clash of a bayonet.
Granet dropped his voice to the barest whisper.
"We are close there now. Stretch out your hand, Collins. Can you feel a
shelf of rock?"
"It's just in front of me," was the stifled answer.
"That's for the stuff. Down with it."
For a few moments Collins was busy. Then, with a little gasp, he gripped
Granet's arm. His voice, shaking with nervous repression, was still almost
"They're coming, Granet! My God, they're coming!"
Both men turned seaward. Far away in the clouds, it seemed, they could hear a
faint humming, some new sound, something mechanical in its regular beating,
yet with clamorous throatiness of some human force cleaving its way through
the resistless air. With every second it grew louder. The men stood
clutching one another.
"Have you got the fuse ready? They must hear it in a moment." Granet
Collins assented silently. The reverberations became louder and louder. Soon
the air was full of echoes. From far away inland dogs were barking, from a
farm somewhere the other side of the road they heard the shout of a single
"Now," Granet whispered.
Collins leaned forward. The fuse in his hand touched the dark substance which
he had spread out upon the rock. In a moment a strange, unearthly, green
light seemed to roll back the darkness. The house, the workshop, the trees,
the slowly flowing sea, their own ghastly faces--everything stood revealed in
a blaze of hideous, awful light. For a moment they forgot themselves, they
forgot the miracle they had brought to pass. Their eyes were rivetted
skyward. High above them, something blacker than the heavens themselves,
stupendous, huge, seemed suddenly to assume to itself shape. The roar of
machinery was clearly audible. From the house came the mingled shouting of
many voices. Something dropped into the sea a hundred yards away with a
screech and a hiss, and a geyser-like fountain leapt so high that the spray
reached them. Then there was a sharper sound as a rifle bullet whistled by.
"My God!" Granet exclaimed. "It's time we were out of this, Collins!"
He seized his scull. Even at that moment there was a terrific explosion. A
stream of lurid fire seemed to leap from the corner of the house, the wall
split and fell outwards. And then there came another sound, hideous, sickly,
a sound Granet had heard before, the sound of a rifle bullet cutting its way
through flesh, followed by an inhuman cry. For a moment Collins' arms whirled
around him. Then, with no other sound save that one cry, he fell forward and
disappeared. For a single second Granet leaned over the side of the boat as
though to drive after him. Then came another roar. The sand flew up in a
blinding storm, the whole of the creek was suddenly a raging torrent. The
boat was swung on a precipitous mountain of salt water and as quickly
capsized. Granet, breathless for a moment and half stunned, found his way
somehow to the side of the marshland, and from there stumbled his way towards
the road. The house behind him was on fire, the air seemed filled with hoarse
shoutings. He turned and ran for the spot where he had left the car. Once he
fell into a salt water pool and came out wet through to the waist. In the
end, however, he reached the bank, clambered over it and slipped down into the
road. Then a light was flashed into his eyes and a bayonet was rattled at his
feet. There were a couple of soldiers in charge of his car.
"Hands up!" was the hoarse order.
Granet calmly flashed his own electric torch. There were at least a dozen
soldiers standing around, and a little company were hurrying down from the
gates. He switched off his light almost immediately.
"Is any one hurt?" he asked.
There was a dead silence. He felt his arms seized on either side.
"The captain's coming down the road," one of the men said. "Lay on to him,
Granet sauntered in to breakfast a few minutes late on the following morning.
A little volley of questions and exclamations reached him as he stood by the
"Heard about the Zeppelin raid?"
"They say there's a bomb on the ninth green!"
"Market Burnham Hall is burnt to the ground!"
Granet sighed as he crossed the room and took his seat at the table.
"If you fellows hadn't slept like oxen last night," he remarked, "you'd have
known a lot more about it. I saw the whole show."
"Nonsense!" Major Harrison exclaimed.
"Tell us all about it?" young Anselman begged.
"I heard the thing just as I was beginning to undress," Granet explained. "I
rushed downstairs and found Collins out in the garden. . . . Where the devil
is Collins, by-the-bye?"
They glanced at his vacant place.
"Not down yet. Go on."
"Well, we could hear the vibration like anything, coming from over the marsh
there. I got the car out and we were no sooner on the road than I could see
it distinctly, right above us--a huge, cigar-shaped thing. We raced along
after it, along the road towards Market Burnham. Just before it reached the
Hall it seemed to turn inland and then come back again. We pulled up to watch
it and Collins jumped out. He said he'd go as far as the Hall and warn them.
I sat in the car, watching. She came right round and seemed to hover over
those queer sort of outbuildings there are at Market Burnham. All at once the
bombs began to drop."
"What are they like?" Geoffrey Anselman exclaimed.
Granet poured out his coffee carefully.
"I've seen 'em before--plenty of them, too," he remarked, "but they did rain
them down. Then all of a sudden there was a sort of glare--I don't know what
happened. It was just as though some one had lit one of those coloured
lights. The Hall was just as clearly visible as at noonday. I could see the
men running about, shouting, and the soldiers tumbling out of their quarters.
All the time the bombs were coming down like hail and a corner of the Hall was
in flames. Then the lighted stuff, whatever it was, burnt out and the
darkness seemed as black as pitch. I hung around for some time, looking for
Collins. Then I went up to the house to help them extinguish the fire. I
didn't get back till four o'clock."
"What about Collins?" young Anselman asked. "I was playing him at golf."
"Better send up and see," Granet proposed. "I waited till I couldn't stick it
They sent a servant up. The reply came back quickly--Mr. Collins bed had not
been slept in. Granet frowned a little.
"I suppose he'll think I let him down," he said. "I waited at least an hour
"Was any one hurt by the bombs?" Geoffrey Anselman inquired.
"No one seemed to be much the worse," Granet replied. "I didn't think of
anything of that sort in connection with Collins, though. Perhaps he might
have got hurt."
"We'll all go over and have a look for him this afternoon if he hasn't turned
up," Anselman suggested. "What about playing me a round of golf this
"Suit me all right," Granet agreed. "I'd meant to lay up because of my arm,
but it's better this morning. We'll start early and get back for the papers."
They motored down to the club-house and played their round. It was a
wonderful spring morning, with a soft west wind blowing from the land. Little
patches of sea lavender gave purple colour to the marshland. The creeks,
winding their way from the sea to the village, shone like quicksilver beneath
the vivid sunshine. It was a morning of utter and complete peace. Granet
notwithstanding a little trouble with his arm, played carefully and well.
When at last they reached the eighteenth green, he hold a wonderful curly putt
for the hole and the match.
"A great game," his cousin declared, as they left the green. "Who the devil
are these fellows?"
There were two soldiers standing at the gate, and a military motor-car drawn
up by the side of the road. An orderly stepped forward and addressed Granet.
"Captain Granet?" he asked, saluting.
Granet nodded and stretched out his hand for the note. The fingers which drew
it from the envelope were perfectly steady, he even lifted his head for a
moment to look at a lark just overhead. Yet the few hastily scrawled lines
were like a message of fate:--
The officer in command at Market Burnham Hall would be obliged if Captain
Granet would favour him with an immediate interview, with reference to the
events of last night.
"Do you mean that you want me to go at once, before luncheon?" he asked the
The man pointed to the car.
"My instructions were to take you back at once, sir."
"Come and have a drink first, at any rate," Geoffrey Anselman insisted.
The orderly shook his head, the two soldiers were barring the gateway.
"Some one from the War Office has arrived and is waiting to speak to Captain
Granet," he announced.
"We're all coming over after lunch," young Anselman protested. "Wouldn't that
The man made no answer. Granet, with a shrug of the shoulders, stepped into
the motor-car. The two soldiers mounted motor-cycles and the little cavalcade
turned away. Granet made a few efforts at conversation with his companion,
but, meeting with no response, soon relapsed into silence. In less than
twenty minutes the car was slowing down before the approach to the Hall. The
lane was crowded with villagers and people from the neighbouring farmhouses,
who were all kept back, however, by a little cordon of soldiers. Granet,
closely attended by his escort, made his way slowly into the avenue and up
towards the house. A corner of the left wing of the building was in ruins,
blackened and still smouldering, and there was a great hole in the sand-blown
lawn, where a bomb had apparently fallen. A soldier admitted them at the
front entrance and his guide led him across the hall and into a large room on
the other side of the house, an apartment which seemed to be half library,
half morning-room. Sir Meyville and a man in uniform were talking together
near the window. They turned around at Granet's entrance and he gave a little
start. For the first time a thrill of fear chilled him, his self-confidence
was suddenly dissipated. The man who stood watching him with cold scrutiny
was the one man on earth whom he feared--Surgeon Major Thomson.
It was a queer little gathering in the drawing-room of Market Burnham Hall,
queer and in a sense ominous. Two soldiers guarded the door. Another one
stood with his back to the wide-flung window, the sunlight flashing upon his
drawn bayonet. Granet, although he looked about him for a moment curiously,
carried himself with ease and confidence.
"How do you do, Sir Meyville?" he said. "How are you, Thomson?"
Sir Meyville, who was in a state of great excitement, took absolutely no
notice of the young man's greeting. Thomson pointed to a chair, in which
Granet at once seated himself.
"I have sent for you, Captain Granet," the former began, "to ask you certain
questions with reference to the events of last night."
"Delighted to tell you anything I can," Granet replied. "Isn't this a little
out of your line, though, Thomson?"
Sir Meyville suddenly leaned forward.
"That is the young man," he declared. "I took him to be the officer in
command here and I showed him over my workshop. Quite a mistake--absolutely a
"It was a mistake for which you could scarcely hold me responsible," Granet
protested, "and you must really excuse me if I fail to see the connection.
Perhaps you will tell me, Major Thomson, what I am here for?"
Major Thomson seated himself before the desk and leaned a little back in his
"We sent for you," he said, "because we are looking for two men who lit the
magnesium light which directed the Zeppelin last night to this locality. One
of them lies on the lawn there, with a bullet through his brain. We are still
looking for the other."
"Do you imagine that I can be of any assistance to you?" Granet asked.
"That is our impression," Major Thomson admitted. "Perhaps you will be so
good as to tell us what you were doing here last night?"
"Certainly," Granet replied. "About half-past ten last night I thought I
heard the engine of an airship. We all went out on the lawn but could see
nothing. However, I took that opportunity to get my car ready in case there
was any excitement going. Later on, as I was on my way upstairs, I distinctly
heard the sound once more. I went out, started my car, and drove down the
lane. It seemed to be coming in this direction so I followed along, pulled up
short of the house, climbed on the top of the bank and saw that extraordinary
illumination from the marshland on the other side. I saw a man in a small
boat fall back as though he were shot. A moment or two later I returned to my
car and was accosted by two soldiers, to whom I gave my name and address.
That is really all I know about the matter."
Major Thomson nodded.
"You had only just arrived, then, when the bombs were dropped?"
"I pulled up just before the illumination," Granet asserted.
Thomson looked at him thoughtfully.
"I am going to make a remark, Captain Granet," he said, "upon which you can
comment or not, as you choose. Was not your costume last night rather a
singular one for the evening? You say that you were on your way upstairs to
undress when you heard the Zeppelin. Do you wear rubber shoes and a Norfolk
jacket for dinner?"
Granet for a moment bit his lip.
"I laid out those things in case there was anything doing," he said. "As I
told you, I felt sure that I had heard an airship earlier in the evening, and
I meant to try and follow it if I heard it again.
There was a brief silence. Granet lounged a little back in his chair, but
though his air of indifference was prefect, a sickening foreboding was
creeping in upon him. He was conscious of failure, of blind, idiotic folly.
Never before had he been guilty of such miserable short-sightedness. He
fought desperately against the toils which he felt were gradually closing in
upon him. There must be some way out!
"Captain Granet," he questioner continued, in his calm, emotionless tone,
"according to your story you changed your clothes and reached here at the same
time as the Zeppelin, after having heard its approach. It is four miles and a
half to the Dormy House Club, and that Zeppelin must have been travelling at
the rate of at least sixty miles an hour. Is your car capable of miracles?"
"It is capable of sixty miles an hour," Granet declared.
"Perhaps I may spare you the trouble," Thomson proceeded drily, "of further
explanations, Captain Granet, when I tell you that your car was observed by
one of the sentries quite a quarter of an hour before the arrival of the
Zeppelins and the lighting of that flare. Your statements, to put it mildly,
are irreconcilable with the facts of the case. I must ask you once more if
you have any other explanation to give as to your movements last night?"
"What other explanation can I give?" Granet asked, his brain working fiercely.
"I have told you the truth. What more can I say?"
"You have told me," Major Thomson went on, and his voice seemed like the voice
of fate, "that you arrived here in hot haste simultaneously with the lighting
of that flare and the dropping of the bombs. Not only one of the sentries on
guard here, but two other people have given evidence that your car was out
there in the lane for at least a quarter of an hour previous to the happenings
of which I have just spoken. For the last time, Captain Granet, I must ask
you whether you wish to amend your explanation?"
There was a little movement at the further end of the room. A curtain was
drawn back and Isabel Worth came slowly towards them. She stood there, the
curtains on either side of her, ghastly pale, her hands clasped in front of
her, twitching nervously.
"I am very sorry," she said. "This is all my fault."
They stared at her in amazement. Only Granet, with an effort, kept his face
expressionless. Sir Meyville began to mutter to himself.
"God bless my soul!" he mumbled. "Isabel, what do you want, girl? Can't you
see that we are engaged?"
She took no notice of him. She turned appealingly towards Major Thomson.
"Can you send the soldiers away for a moment?" she begged. "I don't think
that they will be needed."
Major Thomson gave a brief order and the men left the room. Isabel came a
little nearer to the table. She avoided looking at Granet.
"I am very sorry indeed," she went on, "if anything I have done has caused all
this trouble. Captain Granet came down here partly to play golf, partly at my
invitation. He was here yesterday afternoon, as my father knows. Before he
left--I asked him to come over last night."
There was a breathless silence. Isabel was standing at the end of the table,
her fingers still clasped nervously together, a spot of intense colour in her
cheeks. She kept her eyes turned sedulously away from Granet. Sir Meyville
gripped her by the shoulder.
"What do you mean, girl?" he demanded harshly. "What do you mean by all this
rubbish? Speak out."
Granet looked up for a moment.
"Don't," he begged. "I can clear myself, Miss Worth, if any one is mad enough
to have suspicions about me. I should never--"
"The truth may just as well be told," she interrupted. "There is nothing to
be ashamed of. It is hideously dull down here, and the life my father has
asked me to lead for the last few months has been intolerable. I never sleep,
and I invited Captain Granet to come over here at twelve o'clock last night
and take me for a motor ride. I was dressed, meaning to go, and Captain
Granet came to fetch me. It turned out to be impossible because of all the
new sentries about the place, but that is why Captain Granet was here, and
that," she concluded, turning to Major Thomson, "is why, I suppose, he felt
obliged to tell you what was not the truth. It has been done before."
There was a silence which seemed composed of many elements. Sir Meyville
Worth stood with his eyes fixed upon his daughter and an expression of blank,
uncomprehending dismay in his features. Granet, a frown upon his forehead,
was looking towards the floor. Thomson, with the air of seeing nobody, was
studying them all in turn. It was he who spoke first.
"As you justly remark, Miss Worth," he observed, "this sort of thing has been
done before. We will leave it there for the present. Will you come this way
with me, if you please, Captain Granet? I won't trouble you, Miss Worth, or
you, Sir Meyville. You might not like what we are going to see."
Granet rose at once to his feet.
"Of course, I will come wherever you like," he assented.
The two men passed together side by side, in momentous silence, across the
stone hall, out of the house, and round the back of the garden to a wooden
shed, before which was posted a sentry. The man stood on one side to let them
pass. On the bare stone floor inside was stretched the dead body of Collins.
The salt water was still oozing from his clothes and limbs, running away in
little streams. There was a small blue hole in the middle of his forehead.
"This, apparently," Thomson said, "is the man who lit the magnesium light
which showed the Zeppelin where to throw her bombs. The thing was obviously
prearranged. Can you identify him?"
"Identify him?" Granet exclaimed. "Why, I was playing bowls with him
yesterday afternoon. He is a Glasgow merchant named Collins, and a very fine
golf player. He is staying at the Dormy House Club."
"He has also another claim to distinction," Major Thomson remarked drily, "for
he is the man who fired those lights. The sergeant who shot him fancied that
he heard voices on the creek, and crept up to the wall just before the flare
came. The sergeant, I may add, is under the impression that there were two
men in the boat."
Granet shook his head dubiously.
"I know nothing whatever of the man or his movements," he declared, "beyond
what I have told you. I have scarcely spoken a dozen words to him in my life,
and never before our chance meeting at the Dormy House."
"You do not, for instance, happen to know how he came here from the Dormy
"If you mean did he come in my car," Granet answered easily, "please let me
assure you that he did not. My errand here last night was indiscreet enough,
but I certainly shouldn't have brought another man, especially a stranger,
"Thank you," Major Thomson concluded, "that is all I have to say to you for
"Has there been much damage done?" Granet inquired.
They had reached the corner of the avenue. Granet glanced down towards the
"I presume," he remarked, "that I am at liberty to depart?"
Thomson gave a brief order to the soldier who had been attending them.
"You will find the car in which you came waiting to take you back, Captain
Granet, he announced.
The two men had paused. Granet was on the point of departure. With the
passing of his sudden apprehension of danger, his curiosity was awakened.
"Do you mind telling me, Major Thomson," he asked, "how it is that you,
holding, I presume, a medical appointment, were selected to conduct an inquiry
like this? I have voluntarily submitted myself to your questioning, but if I
had had anything to conceal I might have been inclined to dispute your
Thomson's face was immovable. He simply pointed to the gate at the end of the
"If it had been necessary, Captain Granet," he said coldly, "I should have
been able to convince you that I was acting under authority. As it is, I wish
Granet hesitated, but only for a moment. Then he shrugged his shoulders and
He made his way down to the lane, which was still crowded with villagers and
loungers. He was received with a shower of questions as he climbed into the
"Not much damage done that I can hear," he told them all. "The corner of the
house caught fire and the lawn looks like a sand-pit."
He was driven in silence back to the Dormy House. When he arrived there the
place was deserted. The other men were lunching at the golf club. He made
his way slowly to the impromptu shed which served for a garage. His own car
was standing there. He looked all around to make sure that he was absolutely
alone. Then he lifted up the cushion by the driving-seat. Carefully folded
and arranged in the corner were the horn-rimmed spectacles and the silk
handkerchief of the man who was lying at Market Burnham with a bullet through
Mr. Gordon Jones rose to his feet. It had been an interesting, in some
respects a momentous interview. He glanced around the plain but handsomely
furnished office, a room which betrayed so few evidences of the world-flung
power of its owner.
"After all, Sir Alfred," he remarked, smiling, "I am not sure that it is
Downing Street which rules. We can touch our buttons and move armies and
battleships across the face of the earth. You pull down your ledger, sign
your name, and you can strike a blow as deadly as any we can conceive."
The banker smiled.
"Let us be thankful, then," he said, "that the powers we wield are linked
together in the great cause."
Mr. Gordon Jones hesitated.
"Such things, I know, are little to you, Sir Alfred," he continued, "but at
the same time I want you to believe that his Majesty's Government will not be
unmindful of your help at this juncture. To speak of rewards at such a time
is perhaps premature. I know that ordinary honours do not appeal to you, yet
it has been suggested to me by a certain person that I should assure you of
the country's gratitude. In plain words, there is nothing you may ask for
which it would not be our pleasure and privilege to give you."
Sir Alfred bowed slightly.
"You are very kind," he said. "Later on, perhaps, one may reflect. At
present there seems to be only one stern duty before us, and for that one
needs no reward."
The two men parted. Sir Alfred rose from the chair in front of his desk and
threw himself into the easy-chair which his guest had been occupying. A ray
of city sunshine found its way through the tangle of tall buildings on the
other side of the street, lay in a zigzag path across his carpet, and touched
the firm lines of his thoughtful face. He sat there, slowly tapping the sides
of the chair with his pudgy fingers. So a great soldier might have sat,
following out the progress of his armies in different countries, listening to
the roar of their guns, watching their advance, their faltering, their success
and their failures. Sir Alfred's vision was in a sense more sordid in many
ways more complicated, yet it too, had its dramatic side. He looked at the
money-markets of the world, he saw exchanges rise and fall. He saw in the dim
vista no khaki-clad army with flashing bayonets, but a long, thin line of
black-coated men with sallow faces, clutching their money-bags.
There was a knock at the door and his secretary entered.
"Captain Granet has been here for some time, sir," he announced softly.
The banker came back to the present. He woke up, indeed, with a little start.
"Show my nephew in at once," he directed. "I shall be engaged with him for at
least a quarter of an hour. Kindly go round to the Bank of England and
arrange for an interview with Mr. Williams for three o'clock this afternoon."
The clerk silently withdrew. Granet entered, a few minutes later. The banker
greeted him pleasantly.
"Well, Ronnie," he exclaimed, "I thought that you were going to be down in
Norfolk for a week! Come in. Bring your chair up to my side, so. This is
one of my deaf mornings."
Granet silently obeyed. Sir Alfred glanced around the room. There was no
possible hiding-place, not the slightest chance of being overheard.
"What about it, Ronnie?"
"We did our share," Granet answered. "Collins was there at the Dormy House
Club. We got the signal and we lit the flare. They came down to within two
or three hundred feet, and they must have thrown twenty bombs, at least. They
damaged the shed but missed the workshop. The house caught fire, but they
managed to put that out."
"You escaped all right, I'm glad to see?"
"They got Collins," Granet said, dropping his voice almost to a whisper. "He
was shot by my side. They caught me, too. I've been in a few tight corners
but nothing tighter than that. Who do you think was sent down from the War
Office to hold an inquiry? Thomson--that fellow Thomson!"
The banker frowned.
"Do you mean the man who is the head of the hospitals?"
"Supposed to be," Granet answered grimly. "I am beginning to wonder--Tell me,
you haven't heard anything more about him, have you?"
"Not a word," Sir Alfred replied. "Why should I?"
"Nothing except that I have an uncomfortable feeling about him," Granet went
on. "I wish I felt sure that he was just what he professes to be. He is the
one man who seems to suspect me. If it hadn't been for Isabel Worth, I was
done for--finished--down at that wretched hole! He had me where I couldn't
move. The girl lied and got me out of it."
Sir Alfred drummed for a moment with his fingers upon the table.
"I am not sure that these risks are worth while for you, Ronnie," he said.
The young man shrugged his shoulders. His face certainly seemed to have grown
thinner during the last few days.
"I don't mind it so much abroad," he declared. "It seems a different thing
there, somehow. But over here it's all wrong; it's the atmosphere, I suppose.
And that fellow Thomson means mischief--I'm sure of it."
"Is there any reason for ill-feeling between you two?" the banker inquired.
"You've hit it, sir."
"Miss Conyers, eh?"
The young man's face underwent a sudden change.
"Yes," he confessed. "If I hadn't begun this, if I hadn't gone so far into it
that no other course was possible, I think that I should have been content to
be just what I seem to be--because of her."
Sir Alfred leaned back in his chair. He was looking at his nephew as a man of
science might have looked at some interesting specimen.
"Well," he said, "I suppose you simply confirm the experience of the ages,
but, frankly, you amaze me. You are moving amongst the big places of life,
you are with those who are making history, and you would be content to give
the whole thing up. For what? You would become a commonplace, easy-going
young animal of a British soldier, for the sake of the affection of a
good-looking, well-bred, commonplace British young woman. I don't understand
you, Ronald. You have the blood of empire-makers in your veins. Your
education and environment have developed an outward resemblance to the thing
you profess to be, but behind--don't you fell the grip of the other things?"
"I feel them, right enough," Granet replied. "I have felt them for the last
seven or eight years. But I am feeling something else, too, something which I
dare say you never felt, something which I have never quite believed in."
Sir Alfred leaned back in his chair.
"In a way," he admitted, "this is disappointing. You are right. I have never
felt the call of those other things. When I was a young man, I was frivolous
simply when I felt inclined to turn from the big things of life for purposes
of relaxation. When an alliance was suggested to me, I was content to accept
it, but thank heavens I have been Oriental enough to keep women in my life
where they belong. I am disappointed in you, Ronnie."
The young man shrugged his shoulders.
"I haven't flinched," he said.
"No, but the soft spot's there," was the grim reply. "However, let that go.
Tell me why you came up? Wasn't it better to have stayed down at Brancaster
for a little longer?"
"Perhaps," his nephew assented. "My arm came on a little rocky and I had to
chuck golf. Apart from that, I wasn't altogether comfortable about things at
Market Burnham. I was obliged to tell Thomson that I saw nothing of Collins
that night but they know at the Dormy House Club that he started with me in
the car and has never been heard of since. Then there was the young woman."
"Saved you by a lie, didn't she?" the banker remarked. "That may be awkward
"I'm sick of my own affairs," Granet declared gloomily. "Is there anything
fresh up here at all?"
Sir Alfred frowned slightly.
"Nothing very much," he said. "At the same time, there are distinct
indications of a change which I don't like. With certain statesmen here at
the top of the tree, it was perfectly easy for me to carry out any schemes
which I thought necessary. During the last few weeks, however, there has been
a change. Nominally, things are the same. Actually, I seem to find another
hand at work, another hand which works with the censorship, too. One of my
very trusted agents in Harwich made the slightest slip the other day. A few
weeks ago, he would either have been fined twenty pounds or interned. Do you
know what happened to him on Wednesday? Of course you don't he was arrested
at one o'clock and shot in half an hour. Then you saw the papers this
morning? All sailings between here and a certain little spot we know of have
been stopped without a moment's warning. I am compelled to pause in several
most interesting schemes."
"Nothing for me, I suppose?" Granet asked, a little nervously.
Sir Alfred looked at him.
"Not for the moment," he replied, "but there will be very soon. Take hold of
yourself Ronnie. Don't look downwards so much. You and I are walking in the
clouds. It is almost as bad to falter as to slip. Confess--you've been
"I have," Granet admitted, "not afraid of death but afraid of what might
follow upon discovery. I am half inclined, if just one thing in the world
came my way, to sail for New York to-morrow and start again."
"When those fears come to you," Sir Alfred continued slowly, "consider me. I
run a greater risk than you. There are threads from this office stretching to
many corners of England, to many corners of America, to most cities of Europe.
If a man with brains should seize upon any one of them, he might follow it
Sir Alfred touched his chest for a moment. Then his hand dropped to his side
and he proceeded.
"For twenty-eight years I have ruled the money-markets of the world. No
Cabinet Council is held in this country at which my influence is not
represented. The Ministers come to me one by one for help and advice. I
represent the third great force of war, and there isn't a single member of the
present Government who doesn't look upon me as the most important person in
the country. Yet I, too, have enemies, Ronnie. There is the halfpenny Press.
They'd give a million for the chance that may come at any day. They'd print
my downfall in blacker lines than the declaration of war. They'd shriek over
my ruin with a more brazen-throated triumph even than they would greet the
heralds of peace. And the threads are there, Ronald. Sometimes I feel one
shiver a little. Sometimes I have to stretch out my arm and brush too curious
an inquirer into the place where curiosity ends. I sit and watch and I am
well served. There are men this morning at Buckingham Palace with a V.C. to
be pinned upon their breast, who faced dangers for ten minutes, less than I
face day and night."
Granet rose to his feet.
"For a moment," he exclaimed, "I had forgotten!. . . Tell me," he added, with
sudden vigour, "what have we don't it for? You made your great name in
England, you were Eton and Oxford. Why is it that when the giant struggle
comes it should be Germany who governs your hear, it should be Germany who
calls even to me?"
Sir Alfred held out his hand. His eye had caught the clock.
"Ronnie," he said, "have you ever wondered why in a flock of sheep every lamb
knows its mother? Germany was the mother of our stock. Birth, life and
education count for nothing when the great days come, when the mother voice
speaks. It isn't that we are false to England, it is that we are true to our
own. You must go now, Ronnie! I have an appointment."
Granet walked out to the street a little dazed, and called for a taxi.
"I suppose that must be it," he muttered to himself.
Geraldine welcomed her unexpected visitor that afternoon cordially enough but
a little shyly.
"I thought that you were going to stay at Brancaster for a week," she
remarked, as they shook hands.
"We meant to stay longer," Granet admitted, "but things went a little wrong.
First of all there was this Zeppelin raid. Then my arm didn't go very well.
Altogether our little excursion fizzled out and I came back last night."
"Did you see anything of the raid?" Geraldine inquired eagerly.
"Rather more than I wanted," he answered grimly. "I was motoring along the
road at the time, and I had to attend a perfect court martial next day, with
your friend Thomson in the chair. Can you tell me, Miss Conyers," he
continued, watching her closely, "how it is that a medical major who is
inspector of hospitals, should be sent down from the War Office to hold an
inquiry upon that raid?"
"Was Hugh really there?" she asked in a puzzled manner.
"He was, and very officially," Granet replied. "If it weren't that I had
conclusive evidence to prove what I was doing there, he seemed rather set on
getting me into trouble."
"Hugh is always very fair," she said a little coldly.
"You can't solve my puzzle for me, then?" he persisted.
"Why an inspector of hospitals should hold an inquiry upon a Zeppelin raid?"
"I'm afraid I cannot," she admitted. "Hugh certainly seems to have become a
most mysterious person, but then, as you know, I haven't seen quite so much of
him lately. Your change, Captain Granet, doesn't seem to have done you much
good. Has your wound been troubling you?"
He rose abruptly and stood before her.
"Do you care whether my wound is troubling me or not?" he asked. "Do you care
anything at all about me?"
There was a moment's silence.
"I care very much," she confessed.
He seemed suddenly a changed person. The lines which had certainly appeared
in his face during the last few days, become more noticeable. He leaned
towards her eagerly.
"Miss Conyers," he went on, "Geraldine, I want you to care--enough for the big
things. Don't interrupt me, please. Listen to what I have to say. Somehow
or other, the world has gone amiss with me lately. They won't have me back,
my place has been filled up, I can't get any fighting. They've shelved me at
the War Office; they talk about a home adjutancy. I can't stick it, I have
lived amongst the big things too long. I'm sick of waiting about, doing
nothing--sick to death. I want to get away. There's some work I could do in
America. You understand?"
"Not in the least," Geraldine told him frankly.
"It's my fault," he declared. "The words all seem to be tumbling out anyhow
and I don't know how to put them in the right order. Can't you see that I
love you, Geraldine? I want you to be my wife, and I want to get right away
as quickly as ever I can. Why not America? Why couldn't we be married this
week and get away from everybody?"
She looked at him in sheer amazement, amazement tempered just a little with a
sort of tremulous uncertainty.
"But, Captain Granet," she exclaimed, "you can't be serious! You couldn't
possibly think of leaving England now."
"Why not?" he protested. "They won't let me fight again. I couldn't stand
the miserable routine of home soldiering. I'd like to get away and forget it
"I am sure you are not in earnest," she said quietly. "No Englishman could
feel like that."
"He could if he cared for you," Granet insisted. "I'm afraid of everything
here, afraid that Thomson will come back and take you away, afraid of all
sorts of hideous things happening during the next few months."
"You mustn't talk like this, please," she begged. "You know as well as I do
that neither you nor I could turn our backs on England just now and be happy."
He opened his lips to speak but stopped short. It was obvious that she was
deeply in earnest.
"And as for the other thing you spoke of," she continued, "please won't you do
as I beg you and not refer to it again for the present? Perhaps," she added,
"when the war is over we may speak of it, but just now everything is so
confused. I, too, seem to have lost my bearings. . . .You know that I am
going out to Boulogne in a few days with Lady Headley's hospital? Don't look
so frightened. I am not an amateur nurse, I can assure you. I have all my
"To Boulogne?" he muttered. "You are going to leave London?"
"Major Thomson arranged it for me, a few days ago. We may meet there at any
time," she added, smiling. "I am perfectly certain that the War Office will
find you something abroad very soon."
For a moment that queer look of boyish strength which had first attracted her,
reasserted itself. His teeth came together.
"Yes," he agreed, "there's work for me somewhere. I'll find it. Only--"
She checked him hurriedly.
"And I am quite sure," she interrupted, "that when you are yourself again you
will agree with me. These are not the times for us to have any selfish
thoughts, are they?"
"Until a few weeks ago," he told her, "I thought of nothing but the war and my
work in it--until you came, that is."
She held out her hands to check him. Her eyes were eloquent.
"Please remember," she begged, "that it is too soon. I can't bear to have you
talk to me like that. Afterwards--"
"There will be no afterwards for me!" he exclaimed bitterly.
A shade of surprise became mingled with her agitation.
"You mustn't talk like that," she protested, "you with your splendid courage
and opportunities! Think what you have done already. England wants the best
of her sons to-day. Can't you be content to give that and to wait? We have
so much gratitude in our hearts, we weak women, for those who are fighting our
Her words failed to inspire him. He took her hand and lifted her fingers
deliberately to his lips.
"I was foolish," he groaned, "to think that you could feel as I do.
Geraldine was alone when her mother came into the room a few minutes later.
Lady Conyers was looking a little fluttered and anxious.
"Was that Captain Granet?" she asked.
Geraldine nodded. Lady Conyers anxiety deepened.
"I have sent him away," Geraldine said quietly, "until the end of the war."
Granet brought his car to a standstill outside the portals of that very august
club in Pall Mall. The hall-porter took in his name and a few minutes his
uncle joined him in the strangers' room.
"Back again so soon, Ronnie?"
"America's off," he announced shortly. "I thought I'd better let you know.
It must be the whole thing now."
Sir Alfred was silent for a moment.
"Very well," he said at last, "only remember this, my boy--there must be no
more risks. You've been sailing quite close enough to the wind."
"Did you call at the War Office?" Granet asked quickly.
His uncle assented.
"I did and I saw General Brice. He admitted in confidence that they weren't
very keen about your rejoining. Nothing personal," he went on quickly,
"nothing serious, that is to say. There is a sort of impression out there
that you've brought them bad luck."
Granet shrugged his shoulders.
"Well," he said, "they know their own business best. What I am afraid of is
being saddled with some rotten home duty."
"You need not be afraid of that any more, Ronnie," his uncle told him calmly.
Granet turned quickly around.
"Do you mean that they don't want to give me anything at all?" he demanded
Sir Alfred shook his head.
"You are too impetuous, Ronnie. They're willing enough to give you a home
command, but I have asked that it should be left over for a little time, so as
to leave you free."
"You have something in your mind, then--something definite?"
Sir Alfred looked out of the window for a moment. Then he laid his hand upon
his nephew's shoulder.
"I think I can promise you, Ronnie," he said seriously, "that before many days
have passed you shall have all the occupation you want."
Surgeon-Major Thomson reeled for a moment and caught at the paling by his
side. Then he recovered himself almost as quickly, and, leaning forward,
gazed eagerly at the long, grey racing-car which was already passing
Buckingham Palace and almost out of sight in the slight morning fog. There
was a very small cloud of white smoke drifting away into space, and a faint
smell of gunpowder in the air. He felt his cheek and, withdrawing his
fingers, gazed at them with a little nervous laugh--they were wet with blood.
He looked up and down the broad pathway. For nine o'clock in the morning the
Birdcage Walk was marvellously deserted. A girl, however, who had been
driving a small car very slowly on the other side of the road, suddenly swung
across, drew up by the kerb and leaned towards him.
"Hugh--Major Thomson, what is the matter with you?"
He dabbed his cheek with his pocket handkerchief.
"Nothing," he answered simply.
"Don't be silly!" she exclaimed. "I felt certain that I heard a shot just
now, and I saw you reel and spin round for a moment. And your cheek,
too--it's all over blood!"
"A bullet did come my way and just graze my cheek," he admitted. "Most
extraordinary thing. I wonder whether one of those fellows in the Park had an
accident with his rifle."
He glanced thoughtfully across towards where a number of khaki-clad figures
were dimly visible behind the railings. Geraldine looked at him severely.
"Of course," she began, "if you really think that I don't know the difference
between the report of a pistol and a rifle shot--"
He interrupted her.
"I was wrong," he confessed. "Forgive me. You see, my head was a little
turned. Some one did deliberately fire at me, and I believe it was from a
grey racing-car. I couldn't see who was driving it and it was out of sight
almost at once."
"But I never heard of such a thing!" she exclaimed. "Why on earth should they
fire at you? You haven't any enemies, have you?"
"Not that I know of," he assured her.
She stepped from the car and came lightly over to his side.
"Take your handkerchief away," she ordered. "Don't be foolish. You forget
that I am a certificated nurse."
He raised his handkerchief and she looked for a moment at the long scar. Her
face grew serious.
"Another half-inch," she murmured,--"Hugh, what an abominable thing! A
deliberate attempt at murder here, at nine o'clock in the morning, in the
Park! I can't understand it."
"Well, I've been under fire before," he remarked, smiling.
"Get into my car at once," she directed. "I'll drive you to a chemist's and
put something on that. You can't go about as you are, and it will have healed
up then in a day or two."
He obeyed at once and she drove off.
"Of course, I'm a little bewildered about it still," she went on. "I suppose
you ought to go to the police-station. It was really a deliberate attempt at
assassination, wasn't it? If you had been--"
She paused and he completed her sentence with a humorous twinkle in his eyes.
"If I had been a person of importance, eh? Well, you see, even I must have
been in somebody's way."
She drove in silence for some little distance.
"Hugh," she asked abruptly, "why did the War Office send you down to Market
Burnham after that Zeppelin raid?"