The Vanished Messenger HTML version
The two men who were supping together in the griliroom at the Cafe Milan were talking
with a seriousness which seemed a little out of keeping with the rose-shaded lamps and
the swaying music of the band from the distant restaurant. Their conversation had started
some hours before in the club smoking-room and had continued intermittently throughout
the evening. It had received a further stimulus when Richard Hamel, who had bought an
Evening Standard on their way from the theatre a few minutes ago, came across a certain
paragraph in it which he read aloud.
"Hanged if I understand things over here, nowadays, Reggie!" he declared, laying the
paper down. "Here's another Englishman imprisoned in Germany - this time at a place no
one ever heard of before. I won't try to pronounce it. What does it all mean? It's all very
well to shrug your shoulders, but when there are eighteen arrests within one week on a
charge of espionage, there must be something up."
For the first time Reginald Kinsley seemed inclined to discuss the subject seriously. He
drew the paper towards him and read the little paragraph, word by word. Then he gave
some further order to an attentive maitre d'hotel and glanced around to be sure that they
were not overheard.
"Look here, Dick, old chap," he said, "you are just back from abroad and you are not
quite in the hang of things yet. Let me ask you a plain question. What do you think of us
"Think of you?" Hamel repeated, a little doubtfully. "Do you mean personally?"
"Take it any way you like," Kinsley replied. Look at me. Nine years ago we played
cricket in the same eleven. I don't look much like cricket now, do I?"
Hamel looked at his companion thoughtfully. For a man who was doubtless still young,
Kinsley had certainly an aged appearance. The hair about his temples was grey; there
were lines about his mouth and forehead. He had the air of one who lived in an
atmosphere of anxiety.
"To me," Hamel declared frankly, "you look worried. If I hadn't heard so much of the
success of your political career and all the rest of it, I should have thought that things
were going badly with you."
"They've gone well enough with me personally," Kinsley admitted, "but I'm only one of
many. Politics isn't the game it was. The Foreign Office especially is ageing its men fast
these few years. We've been going through hell, Hamel, and we are up against it now,
hard up against it."
The slight smile passed from the lips of Hamel's sunburnt, good-natured face. He himself
seemed to become infected with something of his companion's anxiety.
"There's nothing seriously wrong, is there, Reggie?" he asked.
"Dick," said Kinsley, with a sigh, "I am afraid there is. It's very seldom I talk as plainly as
this to any, one but you are just the person one can unburden oneself to a little; and to tell
you the truth, it's rather a relief. As you say, these eighteen arrests in one week do mean
something. Half of the Englishmen who have been arrested are, to my certain knowledge,