“I did not take it, sir.”
“You surely have it, Johnson?”
“No, sir, I was under the impression that you had taken it away with you.”
“And you, McCurdy?”
McCurdy shook his head.
“Then Kenton, as you were the last to rise, you certainly have it.”
“I was just a looker-on; I did not touch it,” said Harry, whose hand was still on the bolt of the partly opened door.
The general laughed.
“Another case of everybody expecting somebody else to do a thing, and nobody doing it,” he said. “Kenton, go back and take it from the table. In our absorption we’ve been singularly forgetful, and that plan must be destroyed at once.”
Harry reentered the room, and in their eagerness all of the officers followed. Then a simultaneous “Ah!” of dismay burst from them all. There was nothing on the table. The plan was gone. They looked at one another, and in the eyes of every one apprehension was growing.
“The window is partly open,” said the general, affecting a laugh, although it had an uneasy note, “and of course it has blown off the table. We’ll surely find it behind the sofa or a chair.”
They searched the room eagerly, going over every inch of space, every possible hiding place, but the plan was not there.
“Perhaps it’s in the court,” said the general. “It might have fluttered out there. Raise the sash higher, Kenton. Let nobody make any noise. We must be as quiet as possible about this. Luckily there’s enough moonlight now for us to find even a small scrap of paper in the court.”
They stole through the window silently, one by one, and searched every inch of the court’s space. But nothing was in it, save the grass and the flowers and the rosebushes that belonged there. They returned to the room, and once more looked at one another in dismay.
“Shut the window entirely and lock the door, Kenton,” said the general.
Harry did so. Then the general looked at them all, and his face was set and very firm.
“We must all be searched,” he said. “I know that every one of you is the soul of honor. I know that not one of you has concealed about his person this document which has suddenly become so valuable. I know that not one of you would smuggle through to the enemy such a plan at any price, no matter how large. Nevertheless we must know beyond the shadow of a doubt that none of us has the map. And I insist, too, that I be searched first. Bathurst, Colton, begin!”
They examined one another carefully in turn. Every pocket or possible place of concealment was searched. Harry was the last and when they were done with him the general heaved a huge sigh of relief.
“We know positively that we are not guilty,” he said. “We knew it before, but now we’ve proved it. That is off our minds, but the mystery of the missing map remains. What a strange combination of circumstances. I think, gentlemen, that we had best say nothing about it to outsiders. It’s certainly to the interest of every one of us not to do so. It’s also to the interest of all of us to watch the best we can for a solution. You’re young, Kenton, but from what I hear of you you’re able to keep your own counsel.”