Mr. Fentolin nodded. He had the air of a man who wishes to be reasonable.
“You are very young, my boy,” he said, “very young indeed. Perhaps that is my fault for not having let you see more of the world. You have got some very queer ideas into your head. A little too much novel reading lately, eh? I might treat you differently. I might laugh at you and send you out of the room. I won’t. I’ll tell you what you ask. I’ll explain what you find so mysterious. The person to whom I have been speaking is my stockbroker.”
“Your stockbroker!” Gerald exclaimed.
Mr. Fentolin nodded.
“Mr. Bayliss,” he continued, “of the firm of Bayliss, Hundercombe & Dunn, Throgmorton Court. Mr. Bayliss is a man of keen perceptions. He understands exactly the effect of certain classes of news upon the market. The message which I have just sent to him is practically common property. It will be in the Daily Mail to-morrow morning. The only thing is that I have sent it to him just a few minutes sooner than any one else can get it. There is a good deal of value in that, Gerald. I do not mind telling you that I have made a large fortune through studying the political situation and securing advance information upon matters of this sort. That fortune some day will probably be yours. It will be you who will benefit. Meanwhile, I am enriching myself and doing no one any harm.”
“But how do you know,” Gerald persisted, “that this message would ever have found its way to the Press? It was simply a message from one battleship to another. It was not intended to be picked up on land. There is no other installation but ours that could have picked it up. Besides, it was in code. I know that you have the code, but the others haven’t.”
Mr. Fentolin yawned slightly.
“Ingenious, my dear Gerald, but inaccurate. You do not know that the message was in code, and in any case it was liable to be picked up by any steamer within the circle. You really do treat me, my boy, rather as though I were a weird, mischief-making person with a talent for intrigue and crime of every sort. Look at your suspicions last night. I believe that you and Mr. Hamel had quite made up your minds that I meant evil things for Mr. John P. Dunster. Well, I had my chance. You saw him depart.”
“What about his papers?”
“I will admit,” Mr. Fentolin replied, “that I read his papers. They were of no great consequence, however, and he has taken them away with him. Mr. Dunster, as a matter of fact, turned out to be rather a mare’s-nest. Now, come, since you are here, finish everything you have to say to me. I am not angry. I am willing to listen quite reasonably.”
Gerald shook his head.
“Oh, I can’t!” he declared bitterly. “You always get the best of it. I’ll only ask you one more question. Are you having the wireless hauled down?”