The General frowned.
“Who’s been talking?” he demanded.
“No one who is to be blamed,” Thomson replied. “Can’t you realise the position? Here’s a fellow Service man, a soldier, a D. S. O., who has been specially mentioned for bravery and who very nearly got the Victoria Cross, comes here with the halo of a brilliant escape from the Germans, wounded, a young man of good family and connections, and apparently as keen as mustard to get back again in the fighting line. Good Heavens! The most careful sailor in the world might just drop a hint to that sort of man. What nearly happened last night may happen a dozen times within the next week. Even our great secret, General,” Thomson continued, dropping his voice a little, “even that might come to his ears.”
The General was undoubtedly disturbed. He searched amongst the papers on his desk and brought out at last a flimsy half-sheet of notepaper which he studied carefully.
“Just read this, Thomson.”
Thomson rose and looked over his shoulder. The letter was an autograph one of a few lines only, and dated from a village in the North of France—
My dear Brice,
This is a special request to you. Arrange it any way you please but don’t send me Captain Granet out again in any capacity. Keep him at home. Mind, I am not saying word against him as a soldier. He has done some splendid work on more than one occasion, but notwithstanding this I do not wish to see him again with any of the forces under my command.
“Did you show this to our friend?” Thomson inquired.
“I gave him a digest of its contents,” the General replied. “He smiled in a supercilious manner and said I had better do as I was asked.”
Thomson said nothing for a moment. His face was very set and he had the air of a man desperately but quietly angry.
“As a matter of fact,” General Brice continued, glancing at the clock on his desk, “Granet is in my anteroom at the present moment, I expect. He asked for an interview this afternoon.”
“Have him in, if you don’t mind,” the other suggested. “I can sit at the empty desk over there. I can be making some calculations with reference to the number of hospital beds for each transport. I want to hear him talk to you.”
The General nodded and touched a bell.
“You can show Captain Granet in,” he told the boy scout who answered it.
Thomson took his place in the far corner of the room and bent over a sheaf of papers. Presently Granet was ushered in. He was leaning a little less heavily upon his stick and he had taken his arm from the sling for a moment. He saluted the General respectfully and glanced across the room towards where Thomson was at work. If he recognised him, however, he made no sign.
“Well, Granet,” the General inquired, “how are you getting on?”
“Wonderfully, sir,” was the brisk reply. “I have seen my own doctor this morning and he thinks I might come up before the Board on Saturday.”