The Coming of the Black Stone
I came down to breakfast next morning, after eight hours of blessed dreamless sleep, to
find Sir Walter decoding a telegram in the midst of muffins and marmalade. His fresh
rosiness of yesterday seemed a thought tarnished.
'I had a busy hour on the telephone after you went to bed,' he said. 'I got my Chief to
speak to the First Lord and the Secretary for War, and they are bringing Royer over a day
sooner. This wire clinches it. He will be in London at five. Odd that the code word for a
SOUS-CHEF D/ETAT MAJOR-GENERAL should be "Porker".'
He directed me to the hot dishes and went on.
'Not that I think it will do much good. If your friends were clever enough to find out the
first arrangement they are clever enough to discover the change. I would give my head to
know where the leak is. We believed there were only five men in England who knew
about Royer's visit, and you may be certain there were fewer in France, for they manage
these things better there.'
While I ate he continued to talk, making me to my surprise a present of his full
'Can the dispositions not be changed?' I asked.
'They could,' he said. 'But we want to avoid that if possible. They are the result of
immense thought, and no alteration would be as good. Besides, on one or two points
change is simply impossible. Still, something could be done, I suppose, if it were
absolutely necessary. But you see the difficulty, Hannay. Our enemies are not going to be
such fools as to pick Royer's pocket or any childish game like that. They know that would
mean a row and put us on our guard. Their aim is to get the details without any one of us
knowing, so that Royer will go back to Paris in the belief that the whole business is still
deadly secret. If they can't do that they fail, for, once we suspect, they know that the
whole thing must be altered.'
'Then we must stick by the Frenchman's side till he is home again,' I said. 'If they thought
they could get the information in Paris they would try there. It means that they have some
deep scheme on foot in London which they reckon is going to win out.'
'Royer dines with my Chief, and then comes to my house where four people will see him-
-Whittaker from the Admiralty, myself, Sir Arthur Drew, and General Winstanley. The
First Lord is ill, and has gone to Sheringham. At my house he will get a certain document
from Whittaker, and after that he will be motored to Portsmouth where a destroyer will
take him to Havre. His journey is too important for the ordinary boat-train. He will never
be left unattended for a moment till he is safe on French soil. The same with Whittaker
till he meets Royer. That is the best we can do, and it's hard to see how there can be any