“So far as regards the wireless,” Hamel said, “I rather believe that it is temporarily dismantled. We had a sailor-man over, the morning before yesterday, to complain of his messages having been picked up. Mr. Fentolin promised at once to put his installation out of work for a time.”
“He has done plenty of mischief with it already,” Kinsley groaned. “However, it was Dunster I came down to make enquiries about. I couldn’t help hoping that you might have been able to put us on the right track.”
“I know nothing beyond what I have told you.”
“How did he look when he went away?”
“Very ill indeed,” Hamel declared. “I afterwards saw the nurse who had been attending him, and she admitted that he was not fit to travel. I should say the probabilities are that he is laid up again somewhere.”
“Did you actually speak to him?”
“Just a word or two.”
“And you saw him go off in the car?”
“Gerald Fentolin and I both saw him and wished him good-by.”
Kinsley glanced at the clock and rose to his feet. “Walk down to the station with me,” he suggested. “I needn’t tell you, I am sure,” he went on, as they left the hotel a few minutes later, “that if anything does turn up, or if you get the glimmering of an idea, you’ll let me know? We’ve a small army looking for the fellow, but it does seem as though he had disappeared off the face of the earth. If he doesn’t turn up before the end of the Conference, we are done.”
“Tell me,” Hamel asked, after they had walked for some distance in silence, “exactly why is our fleet demonstrating to such an extent?”
“That Conference I have spoken of,” Kinsley replied, “which is being held at The Hague, is being held, we know, purposely to discuss certain matters in which we are interested. It is meeting for their discussion without any invitation having been sent to this country. There is only one reply possible to such a course. It is there in the North Sea. But unfortunately—”
Kinsley paused. His tone and his expression had alike become gloomier.
“Go on,” Hamel begged.
“Our reply, after all, is a miserable affair,” Kinsley concluded. “You remember the outcry over the withdrawal of our Mediterranean Fleet? Now you see its sequel. We haven’t a ship worth a snap of the fingers from Gibraltar to Suez. If France deserts us, it’s good-by to Malta, good-by to Egypt, good-by to India. It’s the disruption of the British Empire. And all this,” he wound up, as he paused before taking his seat in the railway carriage, “all this might even now be avoided if only we could lay our hands upon the message which that man Dunster was bringing from New York!”