“I sailed out this evening, hired a boat at Brancaster Staithe. The fellow wouldn’t go anywhere near Market Burnham, though, and I’m rather sorry I tried to make him. They’ve got the scares here, right enough, Granet. I asked him to let me the boat for a week and he wasn’t even civil about it. Didn’t want no strangers around these shores, he told me. When I paid him for the afternoon he was surly about it and kept looking at my field-glasses.”
Granet frowned heavily.
“It isn’t going to be an easy matter,” he confessed. “I hear the Admiralty are going to take over the whole thing within the next few days, and are sending Marines down. How’s the time?”
They glanced at their watches. It was five minutes before midnight. As though by common consent, they both crossed to the window and stood looking out into the darkness. A slight wind was moving amongst the treetops, the night was clear but moonless. About half a mile away they could just discern a corner of the club-house. They stood watching it in silence. At five minutes past twelve, Granet shut his watch with a click.
“Not to-night, then,” he whispered. “Collins!”
“What is going on in that wooden shanty?”
The little man dropped his voice.
“Germany lost two submarines in one day,” he murmured. “The device which got them came from that little workshop of Worth’s. The plans are probably there or on the premises somewhere.”
“As a matter of fact I have been within a few yards of the thing,” he said. “It was all fenced around with match-boarding.”
“Do you mean that you have been allowed on board the Scorpion?”
“I had the rottenest luck,” he declared. “I took Miss Conyers and her friend down to see her brother, Commander Conyers. We were invited to lunch on board. At the last moment we were turned off. Through some glasses from the roof of the ‘Ship’ I saw some workmen pull down the match-boarding, but I couldn’t make out what the structure was.”
“I can give you an idea,” Collins remarked. “This fellow Worth has got hold of some system of concentric lenses, with extraordinary reflectors which enable him to see distinctly at least thirty feet under water. Then they have a recording instrument, according to which they alter the gradient of a new gun, with shells that explode under water. Von Lowitz was on the track of something of this sort last year, but he gave it up chiefly because Krupps wouldn’t guarantee him a shell.”
“Krupps gave it up a little too soon, then,” Granet muttered. “Collins, if we can’t smash up this little establishment there’ll be a dozen destroyers before long rigged up with this infernal contrivance.”
The little man stood before the window and gazed steadfastly out seawards.
“They’ll be here this week,” he said confidently. “You’d better go now, Granet. It’s all over for to-night.”