His first act was to withdraw from under his pillow the turnip, his next to re-open the back of its silver case and then the inner lid—something which a deft thumbnail accomplished without a sound.
From the roomy interior of the case—whose bulky ancient works had been replaced by a wafer-thin modern movement, leaving much useful space back of the dial—sensitive fingers extracted a metal disk about the size and thickness of a silver dollar. One face of this disk was generously perforated, the other, solid, boasted a short blunt post round which several feet of extremely fine wire had been coiled.
Unwinding the wire and bending the free end into the form of a rude hook, the man attached this last to the cord of his bedside lamp at a point, located by sense of touch, where a minute section of electric light wire had been left naked by defective insulation.
Direct connection now being established with a microphone secreted in the base of the brass lamp on the study table, three floors below, and the perforated side of the microphone detector serving as an earpiece, one could hear every word uttered by the conspirators.
The man in bed contributed a broad smile to the kind darkness—sheer luxury to facial muscles cramped and constrained to the cast of Nogam for eighteen hours a day. He was now at last to reap the reward of three months of preparation and three weeks of ingenious, but necessarily spasmodic, and at all times desperately dangerous, tampering with the house wiring system.
He lay very still for a long time, listening ...
CONFERENCE OF THE DAMNED
An Irish voice was making the hush of the study musical with mellow cadences.
“This week-end sure, your Excellency—within the next three nights—the little Welshman will be after summoning the Cabinet to sit in secret in Downing Street, with His Most Gracious Majesty attending in person; the emergency extraordinary being thoughtfully provided by this shindig me amiable but spirited fellow-countrymen are kicking up across the Channel—God bless the work!”
The speaker laughed lightly, flashing white teeth at Prince Victor across the width of the paper-strewn table.
“In more Parliamentary language, by the Irish Question. But we’ll hear no more of that, I’m thinking, once we’ve proclaimed the Soviet Government of England.”
Victor bowed in grave assent.
“You have my word as to that,” he said; and after a moment of thoughtful consideration: “You speak, no doubt, from the facts?”
“I do that. It’s straight I’ve come from the House of Commons to bring you the news without an hour’s delay. There’s more than one advantage in being an Irish Member these days.”
“On the other hand, Eleven”—Victor stressed the numeral as if to remind the Irishman that even a Member of Parliament for Ireland held no higher standing in his esteem than any other underling in his association of anonymous conspirators—“even so, it appears you are uncertain as to the night.”