“I will tell you my impressions, sir,” the latter continued. “The ignorance displayed in the German newspapers about England is entirely a matter of censorship. Their actual information as regards every detail of our military condition is simply amazing. They know exactly what munitions are reaching our shores from abroad, they know how we are paying for them, they know exactly our financial condition, they know all about our new guns, they know just how many men we could send over to France to-morrow and how many we could get through in three months’ time. They know the private views of every one of the Cabinet Ministers. They knew in Berlin yesterday what took place at the Cabinet Council the day before. You must realise yourself that some of this is true. How does the information get through?”
“There are spies, of course,” the Chief admitted.
“The ordinary spy could make no such reports as the Germans are getting hour by hour. If I am to make a success of my job, I want the letters of Sir Alfred Anselman.”
The Chief considered for several moments. Then he wrote a few lines on a sheet of paper.
“There’ll be the perfect devil to pay,” he said simply. “We shall have Cabinet Ministers running about the place like black beetles. What’s the matter with your head?”
“I was shot at in the Park,” Thomson explained. “A man had a flying go at me from a motor-car.”
“Was he caught?”
Thomson shook his head.
“I didn’t try,” he replied. “I want him at liberty. His time will come when I break up this conspiracy, if I do it at all.”
The Chief looked a little aggrieved.
“No one’s even let off a pop-gun at me,” he grumbled. “They must think you’re the more dangerous of the two, Thomson. You’d better do what you can with that order as soon as possible. No telling how soon I may have to rescind it.”
Thomson took the hint and departed. He walked quickly back to his room, thrust the order he had received into an envelope, and sent it round to the Censor’s Department.
Mr. Gordon Jones, who had moved his chair a little closer to his host’s side, looked reflectively around the dining-room as he sipped his port. The butler remained on sufferance because of his grey hairs, but the footmen, who had been rather a feature of the Anselman establishment, had departed, and their places had been filled by half a dozen of the smartest of parlourmaids, one or two of whom were still in evidence.
“Yours is certainly one of the most patriotic households, Sir Alfred, which I have entered,” he declared. “Tell me again, how many servants have you sent to the war?”
Sir Alfred smiled with the air of one a little proud of his record.
“Four footmen and two chauffeurs from here, eleven gardeners and three indoor servants from the country,” he replied. “That is to say nothing about the farms, where I have left matters in the hands of my agents. I am paying the full wages to every one of them.”