The Vanished Messenger
Mr. Fentolin sat for a moment in his chair with immovable face. Then he pointed to the
door, which Gerald had left open behind him.
"Close that door, Gerald."
The boy obeyed. Mr. Fentolin waited until he had turned around again.
"Come and stand over here by the side of the table," he directed.
Gerald came without hesitation. He stood before his uncle with folded arms. There was
something else besides sullenness in his face this morning, something which Mr. Fentolin
was quick to recognise.
"I do not quite understand the nature of your question, Gerald," Mr. Fentolin began. "It is
unlike you. You do not seem yourself. Is there anything in particular the matter?"
"Only this," Gerald answered firmly. "I don't understand why this naval fellow should
come here and ask you to close up your wireless because secrets have been leaking out,
and a few moments afterwards you should be picking up a message and telephoning to
London information which was surely meant to be private. That's all. I've come to ask
you about it."
"You heard the message, then?"
"You listened - at the keyhole?"
"I listened outside," Gerald assented doggedly. "I am glad I listened. Do you mind
answering my question?
"Do I mind!" Mr. Fentolin repeated softly. "Really, Gerald, your politeness, your
consideration, your good manners, astound me. I am positively deprived of the power of
"I'll wait here till it comes to you again, then," the boy declared bluntly. "I've waited on
you hand and foot, done dirty work for you, put up with your ill-humours and your
tyranny, and never grumbled. But there is a limit! You've made a poor sort of creature of
me, but even the worm turns, you know. When it comes to giving away secrets about the
movements of our navy at a time when we are almost at war, I strike."
"Melodramatic, almost dramatic, but, alas! so inaccurate," Mr. Fentolin sighed. "Is this a
fit of the heroics, boy, or what has come over you? Have you by any chance - forgotten?"
Mr. Fentolin's voice seemed suddenly to have grown in volume. His eyes dilated, he
himself seemed to have grown in size. Gerald stepped a little back. He was trembling, but
his expression had not changed.
"No, I haven't forgotten. There's a great debt we are doing our best to pay, but there's
such a thing as asking top much, there's such a thing as drawing the cords to snapping
point. I'm speaking for Esther and mother as well as myself. We have been your slaves;