“He will have no reason to do so, if he is convinced that your information is correct. He will have other sources of information besides yourself, and if he finds your statements confirmed, he will have complete confidence in you.”
These words did not allay Maaning Brandelaar’s uneasiness.
“Yes, but—you don’t mean to give me correct information?”
“Certainly I do. Everything I write for you will be perfectly correct.”
This reply was clearly too much for the skipper to understand. He stared in speechless amazement at Heideck, who proceeded quietly—
“The Admiral wants to know the strength of the German army at Antwerp, and I will tell you the condition of affairs. We have 120,000 men in Holland and the small portion of Belgian territory which we have occupied round Antwerp. In the fortress itself there are 30,000 men; on the island of Walcheren only 5,000, in occupation of Flushing and other important points. These are entirely trustworthy facts.”
The Captain shook his head.
“If it were not disrespectful, I should think you were making a fool of me.”
“No, my friend, I have no reason to do so; you can go bail for everything I write, and your fee will be honourably earned. It would be somewhat different with the news you might take over to the Admiral on your own responsibility.”
“I understand, Herr major, and I will act accordingly. But I must certainly get a fresh crew; these men know too much; that is bad, and they might make it unpleasant for me.”
“No, no, that would be quite a mistake. Keep your men and make no fuss. When I get to Ternenzen, I will have you and the crew arrested. You will be examined by me and in a few days set at liberty.”
The skipper did not seem to relish this prospect.
“But suppose you should change your mind in the meantime, and take me before the court-martial?”
“You may confidently trust my word. It will only be a sham examination to prevent your men getting unprofitable ideas into their heads and betraying anything which might arouse suspicion across the water. On the contrary, it will look as if you had had to endure all kinds of dangers and disappointments; and if my estimate of you is correct, my worthy Brandelaar, you will not lose the opportunity of extracting an extra fee from the Admiral to make up for the anxiety you have suffered.”
When Heideck and his prisoner, Penurot, reached the Gefion he found the Commander on deck, notwithstanding the lateness of the hour. He reported himself, and asked him to treat Penurot as a guest.
“I was getting anxious about you,” said the Captain, “and was on the point of sending the steam pinnace after you. Have you found out anything important?”
“I believe I have. The two rascals whom I caught there don’t seem to belong to the ordinary class of spies. They are the skipper Brandelaar and the man I have brought with me.”