“You are very mysterious,” Mr. Fentolin murmured.
“I will leave nothing to chance,” Mr. Dunster continued. “Send this man who seems to have constituted himself my jailer out of earshot, and I will tell you even more.”
Mr. Fentolin turned to Meekins.
“You can leave the room for a moment,” he ordered. “Wait upon the threshold.”
Meekins very unwillingly turned to obey.
“You will excuse me, sir,” he objected doubtfully, “but I am not at all sure that he is safe.”
Mr. Fentolin smiled faintly.
“You need have no fear, Meekins,” he declared. “I am quite sure that you are mistaken. I think that Mr. Dunster is incapable of any act of violence towards a person in my unfortunate position. I am willing to trust myself with him—perfectly willing, Meekins.”
Meekins, with ponderous footsteps, left the room and closed the door behind him. Mr. Fentolin leaned a little forward in his chair. It seemed as though he were on springs. The fingers of his right hand had disappeared in the pocket of his black velvet dinner-coat. He was certainly prepared for all emergencies.
“Now, Mr. Dunster,” he said softly, “you can speak to me without reserve.”
Mr. Dunster dropped his voice. His tone became one of fierce eagerness.
“Look here,” he exclaimed, “I don’t think you ought to force me to give myself away like this, but, after all, you are an Englishman, with a stake in your country, and I presume you don’t want her to take a back seat for the next few generations. Listen here. It’s to save your country that I want to get to The Hague without a second’s delay. I tell you that if I don’t get there, if the message I convey doesn’t reach its destination, you may find an agreement signed between certain Powers which will mean the greatest diplomatic humiliation which Great Britain has ever known. Aye, and more than that!” Mr. Dunster continued. “It may be that the bogey you’ve been setting before yourself for all these years may trot out into life, and you may find St. David’s Hall a barrack for German soldiers before many months have passed.”
Mr. Fentolin shook his head in gentle disbelief.
“You are speaking to one,” he declared, “who knows more of the political situation than you imagine. In my younger days I was in the Foreign Office. Since my unfortunate accident I have preserved the keenest interest in politics. I tell you frankly that I do not believe you. As the Powers are grouped at present, I do not believe in the possibility of a successful invasion of this country.”
“Perhaps not,” Mr. Dunster replied eagerly, “but the grouping of the Powers as it has existed during the last few years is on the eve of a great change. I cannot take you wholly into my confidence. I can only give you my word of honour as a friend to your country that the message I carry is her only salvation. Having told you as much as that, I do not think I am asking too much if I ask you for my clothes and dressing-case, and for the fastest motor-car you can furnish me with. I guess I can get from here to Yarmouth, and from there I can charter something which will take me to the other side.”