“No luck, sir,” he announced. “I spent the whole of last night at it, too—never went to bed at all. I’ve tried it with thirty-one codes. Then I’ve taken the first line or two and tried every possible change.”
“I couldn’t make anything of it myself,” Thomson confessed, looking at the sheet of paper which even at that moment was spread out before him. “All the same, Ambrose, I don’t believe in it.”
“Neither do I, sir.” The other assented eagerly. “I am going to have another try this afternoon. Perhaps there’ll be some more letters in then and we can tell whether there’s any similarity.”
“I’ve a sort of feeling, Ambrose,” he said, “that we sha’n’t have many of these letters.”
“Why not, sir?”
“I heard by telephone, just before you came,” Thomson announced, “that a certain very distinguished person was on his way to see me. Cabinet Ministers don’t come here for nothing, and this one happens to be a friend of Sir Alfred’s.”
“More interference, sir,” he groaned. “I don’t see how they can expect us to run our department with the civilians butting in wherever they like. They want us to save the country and they’re to have the credit for it.”
There was a knock at the door. A boy scout entered. His eyes were a little protuberant, his manner betokened awe.
“Mr. Gordon Jones, sir!”
Mr. Gordon Jones entered without waiting for any further announcement. Thomson rose to his feet and received a genial handshake, after which the newcomer glanced at Ambrose. Thomson signed to his assistant to leave the room.
“Major Thomson,” the Cabinet Minister began impressively, as he settled down in his chair, “I have come here to confer with you, to throw myself, to a certain extent, upon your understanding and your common sense,” he added, speaking with the pleased air of a man sure of his ground and himself.
“You have come to protest, I suppose,” Thomson said slowly, “against our having—”
“To protest against nothing, my dear sir,” the other interrupted. “Simply to explain to you, as I have just explained to your Chief, that while we possess every sympathy with, and desire to give every latitude in the world to the military point of view, there are just one or two very small matters in which we must claim to have a voice. We have, as you know, a free censorship list. We have put no one upon it who is not far and away above all suspicion. I am given to understand that a letter addressed to Sir Alfred Anselman was opened yesterday. I went to see your Chief about it this morning. He has referred me to you.”
“The letter,” Thomson remarked, “was opened by my orders.”
“I happened,” Mr. Gordon Jones went on, “to be dining at Sir Alfred’s house when the letter was presented. Sir Alfred, I must say, took it exceedingly well. At the same time, I have made it my business to see that this does not occur again.”