“Thank you,” said Mr. Grimm quietly. “I understand.”
“I may add that it is a matter of deep regret to me,” and the president brought one vigorous hand down on the young man’s shoulder, “that our government has so few men of your type in its service. Good day.”
Mr. Grimm turned from Pennsylvania Avenue into a cross street, walked along half a block or so, climbed a short flight of stairs and entered an office.
“Is Mr. Howard in?” he queried of a boy in attendance.
Mr. Grimm handed over a sealed envelope which bore the official imprint of the Department of War in the upper left hand corner; and the boy disappeared into a room beyond. A moment later he emerged and held open the door for Mr. Grimm. A gentleman—Mr. Howard—rose from his seat and stared at him as he entered.
“This note, Mr. Grimm, is surprising,” he remarked.
“It is only a request from the secretary of war that I be permitted to meet the inventor of the wireless percussion cap,” Mr. Grimm explained carelessly. “The negotiations have reached a point where the War Department must have one or two questions answered directly by the inventor. Simple enough, you see.”
“But it has been understood, and I have personally impressed it upon the secretary of war that such a meeting is impossible,” objected Mr. Howard. “All negotiations have been conducted through me, and I have, as attorney for the inventor, the right to answer any question that may properly be answered. This now is a request for a personal interview with the inventor.”
“The necessity for such an interview has risen unexpectedly, because of a pressing need of either closing the deal or allowing it to drop,” Mr. Grimm stated. “I may add that the success of the deal depends entirely on this interview.”
Mr. Howard was leaning forward in his chair with wrinkled brow intently studying the calm face of the young man. Innocent himself of all the intrigue and international chicanery back of the affair, representing only an individual in these secret negotiations, he saw in the statement, as Mr. Grimm intended that he should, the possible climax of a great business contract. His greed was aroused; it might mean hundreds of thousands of dollars to him.
“Do you think the deal can be made?” he asked at last.
“I have no doubt there will be some sort of a deal,” replied Mr. Grimm. “As I say, however, it is absolutely dependent on an interview between the inventor and myself at once—this afternoon.”
Mr. Howard thoughtfully drummed on his desk for a little while. From the first, save in so far as the patent rights were concerned, he had seen no reasons for the obligations of utter secrecy which had been enforced upon him. Perhaps, if he laid it before the inventor in this new light, with the deal practically closed, the interview would be possible!