The Zeppelin's Passenger by E. Phillips Oppenheim
Jimmy Dumble possessed a very red face and an extraordinary capacity for silence. He stood a yard or two inside the room, twirling his hat in his hand. Sir Henry, after the closing of the door, did not for a moment address his visitor. There was a subtle but unmistakable change in his appearance as he stood with his hands in his pockets, and a frown on his forehead, whistling softly to himself, his eyes fixed upon the door through which his wife had vanished. He swung round at last towards the telephone.
"Stand by for a moment, Jimmy, will you?" he directed.
"Aye, aye, sir!"
Sir Henry took up the receiver. He dropped his voice a little, although it was none the less distinct.
"Number one - police-station, please. - Hullo there! The inspector about? - That you, Inspector? - Sir Henry Cranston speaking. Could you just step round? - Good! Tell them to show you straight into the library. You might just drop a hint to Mills about the lights, eh? Thank von."
He laid down the receiver and turned towards the fisherman.
"Well, Jimmy," he enquired, "all serene down in the village, eh?"
"So far as I've seen or heard, sir, there ain't been a word spoke as shouldn't be."
"A lazy lot they are," Sir Henry observed.
"They don't look far beyond the end of their noses."
"Maybe it's as well for us, sir, as they don't," was the cautious reply.
Sir Henry strolled to the further end of the room.
"Perhaps you are right, Jimmy," he admitted.
"That fellow Ben Oates seems to be the only one with ideas."
"He don't keep sober long enough to give us any trouble," Dumble declared. "He began asking me questions a few days ago, and I know he put Grice's lad on to find out which way we went last Saturday week, but that don't amount to anything. He was dead drunk for three days afterwards."
Sir Henry nodded.
"I'm not very frightened of Ben Oates, Jimmy," he confided, as he threw open the door of a large cabinet which stood against the further wall. "No strangers about, eh?"
"Not a sign of one, sir."
Sir Henry glanced towards the door and listened.
"Shall I just give the key a turn, sir?" his visitor asked.
"I don't think it is necessary," Sir Henry replied. "They've all gone up to change. Now listen to me, Jimmy."
He leaned forward and touched a spring. The false back of the cabinet, with its little array of flies, spinners, fishing hooks and tackle, slowly rolled back. Before them stood a huge chart, wonderfully executed in red, white and yellow.
"That's a marvellous piece of work, sir," the fisherman observed admiringly.
"Best thing I ever did in my life," Sir Henry agreed. "Now see here, Jimmy. We'll sail out tomorrow, or take the motor boat, according to the wind. We'll enter Langley Shallows there and pass Dead Man's Rock on the left side of the waterway, and keep straight on until we get Budden Wood on the church tower. You follow me?"
"Aye, aye, sir!"
"We make for the headland from there. You see, we shall be outside the Gidney Shallows, and number twelve will pick us up. Put all the fishing tackle in the boat, and don't forget the bait. We must never lose sight of the fact, Jimmy, that the main object of our lives is to catch fish."
"That's right, sir," was the hearty assent.
"We'll be off at seven o'clock sharp, then," Sir Henry decided.
"The tide'll be on the flow by that time," Jimmy observed, "and we'll get off from the staith breakwater. That do be a fine piece of work and no mistake," he added, as the false back of the cabinet glided slowly to its place.
Sir Henry chuckled.
"It's nothing to the one I've got on number twelve, Jimmy," he said. "I've got the seaweed on that, pretty well. You'll take a drop of whisky on your way out?" he added. "Mills will look after you."
"I thank you kindly, sir."
Mills answered the bell with some concern in his face.
"The inspector is here to see you, sir," he announced. "He did mention something about the lights. I'm sure we've all been most careful. Even her ladyship has only used a candle in her bedroom."
"Show the inspector in," Sir Henry directed," and I'll hear what he has to say. And give Dumble some whisky as he goes out, and a cigar."
"Wishing you good night, sir," the latter said, as he followed Mills. "I'll be punctual in the morning. Looks to me as though we might have good sport."
"We'll hope for it, anyway, Jimmy," his employer replied cheerfully. "Come in, Inspector."
The inspector, a tall, broad-shouldered man, saluted and stood at attention. Sir Henry nodded affably and glanced towards the door. He remained silent until Mills and Dumble had disappeared.
"Glad I happened to catch you, Inspector," he observed, sitting on the edge of the table and helping himself to another cigarette. "Any fresh arrivals?"
"None, sir," the man reported, "of any consequence that I can see. There are two more young officers for the Depot, and the young lady for the Grange, and Mr. and Mrs. Silvester returned home last night. There was a commercial traveller came in the first train this morning, but he went on during the afternoon."
"Hm! What about a Mr. Lessingham - a Mr. Hamar Lessingham?"
"I haven't heard of him, sir."
"Have you had the registration papers down from the hotel yet?"
"Not this evening, sir. I met the Midland and Great Northern train in myself. Her ladyship was the only passenger to alight here."
"And I came the other way myself," Sir Henry reflected.
"Now you come to mention the matter, sir," the inspector continued, "I was up at the hotel this afternoon, and I saw some luggage about addressed to a name somewhat similar to that."
"Probably sent on in advance, eh?"
"There could be no other way, sir," the inspector replied, "unless the registration paper has been mislaid. I'll step up to the hotel this evening and make sure."
"You'll oblige me very much, if you will. By Jove," Sir Henry added, looking towards the door, "I'd no idea it was so late!"
Philippa, who had changed her travelling dress for a plain black net gown, was standing in the doorway. She looked at the inspector, and for a moment the little colour which she had seemed to disappear.
"Is anything the matter?" she asked breathlessly.
"Nothing in the world, my dear," her husband assured her. "I am frightfully sorry I'm so late. Jimmy stayed some time, and then the inspector here looked in about our lights. Just a little more care in this room at night, he thinks. We'll see to it, Inspector."
"I am very much obliged, sir," the man replied. "Sorry to be under the necessity of mentioning it."
Sir Henry opened the door.
"You'll find your own way out, won't you?" he begged. "I'm a little late."
The inspector saluted and withdrew. Sir Henry glanced round.
"I won't be ten minutes, Philippa," he promised. "I had no idea it was so late."
"Come here one moment, please," she insisted.
He came back into the room and stood on the other side of the small table near which she had paused.
"What is it, dear? "he enquired. "We are going to leave our talk till after dinner, aren't we?"
She looked him in the face. There was an anxious light in her eyes, and she was certainly not herself. "Of course! I only wanted to know - it seemed to me that you broke off in what you were saying to the inspector, as I came into the room. Are you sure that it was the lights he came around about? There isn't anything else wrong, is there?"
"What else could there be?" he asked wonderingly.
"I have no idea," she replied, with well-simulated indifference. "I was only asking you whether there was anything else?"
He shook his head.
She threw herself into an easy-chair and picked up a magazine.
"Thank you," she said. "Do hurry, please. I have a new cook and she asked particularly whether we were punctual people."
"Six minutes will see me through it," Sir Henry promised, making for the door. "Come to think of it, I missed my lunch. I think I'll manage it in five."