The Zeppelin's Passenger HTML version

Chapter 16
Mr. William Hayter, in the solitude of his chambers at the Milan Court, was a very
altered personage. He extended no welcoming salutation to his midnight visitor but
simply motioned him to a chair.
"Well," he began, "is your task finished that you are in London?"
"My task," Lessingham replied, "might just as well never have been entered upon. The
man you sent me to watch is nothing but an ordinary sport-loving Englishman."
"Really! You have lived as his neighbour for nearly a month, and that is your impression
of him?"
"It is," Lessingham assented. "He has been away sea-fishing, half the time, but I have
searched his house thoroughly."
"Searched his papers, eh?"
"Every one I could find, and hated the job. There are a good many charts of the coast, but
they are all for the use of the fishermen."
"Wonderful!" Hayter scoffed. "My young friend, you may yet find distinction in some
other walk of life. Our secret service, I fancy, will very soon be able to dispense with
your energies."
"And I with your secret service," Lessingham agreed heartily. "I dare say there may be
some branches of it in which existence is tolerable. That, however, does not apply to the
task upon which I have been engaged."
"You have been completely duped," Hayter told him calmly, "and the information you
have sent us is valueless. Sir Henry Cranston, instead of being the type of man whom you
have described, is one of the greatest experts upon coast defense and mine-laying, in the
English Admiralty."
Lessingham laughed shortly.
"That," he declared, "is perfectly absurd."
"It is," Hayter repeated, with emphasis, "the precise truth. Sir Henry Cranton's fishing
excursions are myths. He is simply transferred from his fishing boat on to one of a little
fleet of so-called mine sweepers, from which he conducts his operations. Nearly every
one of the most important towns on the east coast are protected by minefields of his
Lessingham was dumbfounded. His companion's manner was singularly convincing.