Granet glanced eagerly back at the original message. It consisted of a few perfectly harmless sentences concerning various rates of exchange. He gave it to his uncle with a smile.
“I shouldn’t worry about that, sir,” he advised.
“It isn’t the thing itself I worry about,” Sir Alfred said thoughtfully,—“they’ll never decode that message. It’s the something that lies behind it. It’s the pointing finger, Ronnie. I thought we’d last it out, at any rate. Things look different now. You’re serious, I suppose? You don’t want to go to America?”
“I don’t,” Granet replied grimly. “That’s all finished, for the present. You know very well what it is I do want.”
Sir Alfred frowned.
“There are plenty of wild enterprises afoot,” he admitted, “but I don’t know, after all, that I wish you particularly to be mixed up in them.”
“I can’t hang about here much longer,” his nephew grumbled. “I get the fever in my blood to be doing something. I had a try this morning.”
His uncle looked at him for a moment.
“This morning,” he repeated. “Well?”
Granet thrust his hands into his trousers pockets. There was a frown upon his fine forehead.
“It’s that man I told you about,” he said bitterly,—“the man I hate. He’s nobody of any account but he always seems to be mixed up in any little trouble I find myself in. I got out of that affair down at Market Burnham without the least trouble, and then, as you know, the War Office sent him down, of all the people on earth, to hold an inquiry. Sometimes I think that he suspects me. I met him at a critical moment on the battlefield near Niemen. I always believed that he heard me speaking German—it was just after I had come back across the lines. The other day—well, I told you about that. Isabel Worth saved me or I don’t know where I should have been. I think I shall kill that man!”
“What did you say his name was?” Sir Alfred asked, with sudden eagerness.
There was a moment’s silence. Sir Alfred’s expression was curiously tense. He leaned across the table towards his nephew.
“Thomson?” he repeated. “My God! I knew there was something I meant to tell you. Don’t you know, Ronnie?—but of course you don’t. You’re sure it’s Thomson—Surgeon-Major Thomson?”
“That’s the man.”
“He is the man with the new post,” Sir Alfred declared hoarsely. “He is the head of the whole Military Intelligence Department! They’ve set him up at the War Office. They’ve practically given him unlimited powers.”
“Why, I thought he was inspector of Field Hospitals!” Granet gasped.
“A blind!” his uncle groaned. “He is nothing of the sort. He’s Kitchener’s own man, and this,” he added, looking at the letter, “must be his work!”
Surgeon-Major Thomson looked up almost eagerly as Ambrose entered his room the next morning. The young man’s manner was dejected and there were black lines under his eyes. He answered his chief’s unspoken question by a little shake of the head.