“I didn’t think of that,” she murmured.
Granet laughed easily.
“Perhaps you are right,” he admitted. “All the same, we are a little exceptionally placed, aren’t we?—his sister, his fiancee, and—”
He broke off suddenly. A hand had been laid upon his shoulder. A small, dark man, who had come round the corner of the chimney unperceived, was standing immediately behind him.
“I must trouble you all for your names and addresses, if you please,” he announced quietly.
The two girls stared at him, dumbfounded. Granet, however, remained perfectly at his ease. He laid down the telescope and scrutinised the newcomer.
“I really don’t altogether see,” he remarked good humouredly, “why I should give my name and address to a perfect stranger just because he asks for it.”
The man opened his coat and displayed a badge.
“I am on Government service, sir.”
“Well, I am Captain Granet, back from the Front with dispatches a few days ago,” Granet told him. “This is Miss Conyers, sister of Commander Conyers of the Scorpion, and Miss Olive Moreton, his fiancee. We are waiting for Commander Conyers at the present moment, and we were just looking to see if the pinnace had started. Is it against the law to use a telescope in Portsmouth?”
The man made a few notes in his pocket-book. Then he opened the trapdoor and stood on one side.
“No one is allowed out here, sir,” he said. “The hotel people are to blame for not having the door locked. I shall have to make a report but I have no doubt that your explanation will be accepted. Will you be so good as to descend, please?”
Granet struggled to his feet and turned towards his companions.
“The fellow’s quite right,” he decided. “I am only glad that the Government are looking after things so. The Admiralty are much more go-ahead in this way than we are. I vote we have out the car and go down the front to Southsea—unless we are under arrest?” he added pleasantly, turning towards the man who had accosted them.
“You are at liberty to do whatever you please, sir,” was the polite reply. “In any case, I think it would be quite useless of you to wait for Commander Conyers.”
“Why?” Olive asked quickly.
“The Scorpion has just received orders to leave on this evening’s tide, madam,” the man announced. “You can see that she is moving even now.”
They looked out across the harbour. The smoke was pouring from the funnels of the destroyer. Already she had swung around and was steaming slowly towards the Channel.
“She’s off, right enough!” Granet exclaimed. “Nothing left for us, then, but London.”
Geraldine, a few hours later, set down the telephone receiver with a little sigh of resignation. Lady Conyers glanced up inquiringly from her book.