Sir Alfred leaned back in his chair.
“In a way,” he admitted, “this is disappointing. You are right. I have never felt the call of those other things. When I was a young man, I was frivolous simply when I felt inclined to turn from the big things of life for purposes of relaxation. When an alliance was suggested to me, I was content to accept it, but thank heavens I have been Oriental enough to keep women in my life where they belong. I am disappointed in you, Ronnie.”
The young man shrugged his shoulders.
“I haven’t flinched,” he said.
“No, but the soft spot’s there,” was the grim reply. “However, let that go. Tell me why you came up? Wasn’t it better to have stayed down at Brancaster for a little longer?”
“Perhaps,” his nephew assented. “My arm came on a little rocky and I had to chuck golf. Apart from that, I wasn’t altogether comfortable about things at Market Burnham. I was obliged to tell Thomson that I saw nothing of Collins that night but they know at the Dormy House Club that he started with me in the car and has never been heard of since. Then there was the young woman.”
“Saved you by a lie, didn’t she?” the banker remarked. “That may be awkward later on.”
“I’m sick of my own affairs,” Granet declared gloomily. “Is there anything fresh up here at all?”
Sir Alfred frowned slightly.
“Nothing very much,” he said. “At the same time, there are distinct indications of a change which I don’t like. With certain statesmen here at the top of the tree, it was perfectly easy for me to carry out any schemes which I thought necessary. During the last few weeks, however, there has been a change. Nominally, things are the same. Actually, I seem to find another hand at work, another hand which works with the censorship, too. One of my very trusted agents in Harwich made the slightest slip the other day. A few weeks ago, he would either have been fined twenty pounds or interned. Do you know what happened to him on Wednesday? Of course you don’t he was arrested at one o’clock and shot in half an hour. Then you saw the papers this morning? All sailings between here and a certain little spot we know of have been stopped without a moment’s warning. I am compelled to pause in several most interesting schemes.”
“Nothing for me, I suppose?” Granet asked, a little nervously.
Sir Alfred looked at him.
“Not for the moment,” he replied, “but there will be very soon. Take hold of yourself Ronnie. Don’t look downwards so much. You and I are walking in the clouds. It is almost as bad to falter as to slip. Confess—you’ve been afraid.”
“I have,” Granet admitted, “not afraid of death but afraid of what might follow upon discovery. I am half inclined, if just one thing in the world came my way, to sail for New York to-morrow and start again.”
“When those fears come to you,” Sir Alfred continued slowly, “consider me. I run a greater risk than you. There are threads from this office stretching to many corners of England, to many corners of America, to most cities of Europe. If a man with brains should seize upon any one of them, he might follow it backwards—even here.”