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CHAPTER XXVI


VON MOLL, though courteously invited, refused to dine with the Queen that night. Gorman, I think, was sorry for this. He was curious to see how a German naval officer behaves as a prisoner of war. The rest of the party felt that, for once, von Moll had shown good taste. His presence would have interfered with the general cheerfulness.

Donovan tried hard to induce Smith to sit at table, taking his proper position as Head of the Intelligence Department of the State. But the party was a large one. Besides Phillips, who sat next the Queen, the commanders of the three other trawlers dined in the palace. King Konrad Karl appeared decorated with all the stars, badges and ribbons which had fallen to him while he sat on the throne of Megalia. Madame Corinne wore the finest of the dresses she had acquired from the Queen, and was in high good humour, though a little vexed that her pearls were in the keeping of a banker in Paris. Smith felt that on such an occasion the dinner should be properly served, and he dared not leave it to the native servants. After dinner he consented to sit at the foot of the table with a glass of wine in front of him.

Konrad Karl, bubbling with excitement, proposed the Queen’s health in a speech full of mangled English idioms. Then he presented the Star of the Megalian Order of the Pink Vulture to Phillips. He took it from his own breast and pinned it on to Phillips’ coat with a perfect shower of complimentary phrases. It was not quite clear whether the decoration was meant as a reward for sinking the submarine or for winning the affection of the Queen. Donovan made a speech, a long speech, in which he explained exactly why it was impossible to remain a consistent pacifist in a world which contained Germans. Phillips was dragged to his feet by Gorman. Goaded by the derisive shouts of his three fellow officers he gave a short account of himself.

“There’s nothing much to tell,” he said. “The whole thing was rather a fluke. I was called up at the beginning of the war. R.N.R., you know. They gave me command of a trawler, a perfectly beastly kind of boat. Been hunting the submarines ever since. Infernal dull job. Heard this fellow was mouching around but couldn’t find him. Guessed he’d want supplies sooner or later. Remembered that cave and made a bee line for Salissa. Never so pleased in my life as when I caught sight of him. But there was such a sea running that we couldn’t shoot for nuts. Had to wait till we got inside. Sunk him then. That’s all there is to tell.”

*****

That, of course, is not all. There is a lot more to tell. What flag flies over Salissa now? Who governs the island? The Emperor knows. Bland-Potterton knows and often tells his friends in confidence. I know. Donovan knows. So does Smith. But we cannot make our knowledge public. Gorman tried, by means of a carefully worded question, to induce the Prime Minister to make a statement in the House of Commons about Salissa. He was told that it was contrary to the public interest that any information should be given. In the face of that it is, of course, impossible for me to write anything. What happened to King Konrad Karl and Madame? Again, I must not give an answer. The censors have decided, quite rightly, that the movements of royal personages are not to be published. Does Smith still act as Donovan’s valet, and if so where? It is plain that nothing should be said on this subject. Smith was and may still be the head of the Intelligence Department of Salissa. Information about his doings would be particularly valuable to the enemy.

But I may say that a marriage took place between Lieutenant-Commander Maurice Phillips, R.N.R., and a lady described as “Daisy, daughter of William Peter Donovan, Esq.” A bishop officiated. No mention was made in the announcement of the rank and title she held, and perhaps still holds.