Hamel shook his head.
“I am not in the confidence of the different members of your family,” he answered. “So far as I, personally, am concerned—”
“It pleases me sometimes,” Mr. Fentolin interrupted, “to interfere to some extent in the affairs of the outside world. If I do so, that is my business. I do it for my own amusement. It is at no time a serious position which I take up. Have I by any chance, Mr. Hamel, become an object of suspicion to you?”
“There are matters in which you are concerned,” Hamel admitted, “which I do not understand, but I see no purpose in discussing them.”
Mr. Fentolin wheeled his chair round in a semicircle. He was now between the door and Hamel.
“Weaker mortals than I, Mr. Hamel,” he said calmly, “have wielded before now the powers of life and death. From my chair I can make the lightnings bite. Science has done away with the triumph of muscularity. Even as we are here together at this moment, Mr. Hamel, if we should disagree, it is I who am the preordained victor.”
Hamel saw the glitter in his hand. This was the end, then, of all doubt! He remained silent.
“Suspicions which are, in a sense, absurd,” Mr. Fentolin continued, “have grown until I find them obtrusive and obnoxious. What have I to do with Mr. John P. Dunster? I sent him out from my house. If he is lost or ill, the affair is not mine. Yet one by one those around me are falling away. I told you an hour ago that Gerald was at Brancaster. It is a lie. He has left this house, but no soul in it knows his destination.”
“You mean that he has run away?”
Mr. Fentolin nodded.
“All that I can surmise is that he has followed Dunster,” he proceeded. “He has an idea that in some way I robbed or injured the man. He has broken the bond of relationship between us. He has broken his solemn vow. He has run a grave and terrible risk.”
“What of Miss Esther?” Hamel asked quickly.
“I have sent her away,” Mr. Fentolin replied, “until we come to a clear understanding, you and I. You seem to be a harmless enough person, Mr. Hamel but appearances are sometimes deceptive. It has been suggested to me that you are a spy.”
“By whom?” Hamel demanded.
“By those in whom I trust,” Mr. Fentolin told him sternly. “You are a friend of Reginald Kinsley. You met him in Norwich the other day—secretly. Kinsley’s chief is a member of the Government. He is one of those who will find eternal obloquy if The Hague Conference comes to a successful termination. For some strange reason, I am supposed to have robbed or harmed the one man in the world whose message might bring to nought that Conference. Are you here to watch me, Mr. Hamel? Are you one of those who believe that I am either in the pay of a foreign country, or that my harmless efforts to interest myself in great things are efforts inimical to this country; that I am, in short, a traitor?”