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The Kingdom of the Blind
by E. Phillips Oppenheim
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"There are a good many things which will make strange reading after the war is over," the Admiral said grimly. "I fancy that my late department will provide a few sensations. Still, our very mistakes are our justification. We were about as ready for war as Lady Conyers there is to play Rugby football for Oxford."

"It has taken us the best part of a year to realise what war means," Thomson assented. "Even now there are people whom one meets every day who seem to be living in abstractions."

"Last night's raid ought to wake a few of them up," the Admiral grunted. "I should like to have shown those devils where to have dropped a few of their little toys. There are one or two men who were making laws not so long ago, who'd have had a hole in their roofs."

Geraldine laughed softly.

"I really think that dad feels more bloodthirsty when he talks about some of our politicians than he does about the Germans," she declared.

"Some of our worst enemies are at home, any way," Sir Seymour insisted, "and we shall never get on with the war till we've weeded them out."

"Where did the nearest bomb to you drop?" Thomson inquired.

"The corner of St. James's Street," Sir Seymour replied. "There were two houses in Berkeley Street alight, and a hole in the roof of a house in Hay Hill. The bomb there didn't explode, though. Sad thing about young Granet, wasn't it? He seems to be the only service man who suffered at all."

Lady Conyers shivered sympathetically.

"It was perfectly ghastly," she murmured.

"A very promising young officer, I should think," the Admiral continued, "and a very sad death. Brings things home to you when you remember that it was only yesterday he was here, poor fellow!"

Geraldine and her mother rose from their places, a few minutes later. The latter looked up at Thomson as he held open the door.

"You won't be long, will you?" she begged.

"You can take him with you, if you like," the Admiral declared, also rising to his feet. "He doesn't drink port and the cigarettes are in your room. I have to take the Chair at a recruiting meeting at Holborn in a quarter of an hour. The car's waiting now. You'll excuse me, won't you, Thomson?"

"Of course," the latter assented. "I must leave early myself. I have to go back to the War Office."

Geraldine took his arm and led him into the little morning-room.

"You see, I am carrying you off in the most bare-faced fashion," she began, motioning him to a seat by her side, "but really you are such an elusive person, and only this morning, in the midst of that awful thunder of bombs, when we stood on the roof and looked at London breaking out into flames, I couldn't help thinking—remembering, I mean—how short a time it is since you and I were face to face with the other horror and you saved my life. Do you know, I don't think that I have ever said 'thank you'—not properly?"

"I think the words may go," he answered, smiling. "It was a horrible time while it lasted but it was soon over. The worst part of it was seeing those others, whom we could not help, drifting by."

"I should have been with them but for you," she said quietly. "Don't think that I don't know it. Don't think that I don't regret sometimes, Hugh, that I didn't trust you a little more completely. You are right about so many things. But, Hugh, will you tell me something?"

"Of course!"

"Why were you so almost obstinately silent when father spoke of poor Captain Granet's death?"

"Because I couldn't agree with what he said," Thomson replied. "I think that Granet's death in exactly that fashion was the best thing that could possibly have happened for him and for all of us."

She shivered as she looked at him.

"Aren't you a little cruel?" she murmured.

"I am not cruel at all," he assured her firmly. "Let me quote the words of a greater man—'I have no enemies but the enemies of my country, and for them I have no mercy.'"

"You still believe that Captain Granet—"

"There is no longer any doubt as to his complete guilt. As you know yourself, the cipher letter warning certain people in London of the coming raid, passed through his hands. He even came here to warn you. There were other charges against him which could have been proved up to the hilt. While we are upon this subject, Geraldine, let me finish with it absolutely. Only a short time ago I confronted him with his guilt, I gave him ten days during which it was my hope that he would embrace the only honourable course left to him. I took a risk leaving him free, but during the latter part of the time he was watched day and night. If he had lived until this morning, there isn't any power on earth could have kept him from the Tower, or any judge, however merciful, who could have saved him from being shot."

"It is too awful," she faltered, "and yet—it makes me so ashamed, Hugh, to think that I could not have trusted you more absolutely."

He opened his pocket-book and a little flush of colour came suddenly into her cheeks. He drew out the ring silently.

"Will you trust yourself now and finally, Geraldine?" he asked.

She held out her finger.

"I shall be so proud and so happy to have it again," she whispered. "I do really feel as though I had behaved like a foolish child, and I don't like the feeling at all, because in these days one should be more than ordinarily serious, shouldn't one? Shall I be able to make it up to you, Hugh, do you think?"

He stooped to meet her lips.

"There is an atonement you might make, dear," he ventured. "Do you remember a suggestion of mine at one of those historic luncheons of Lady Anselman's?"

She laughed into his eyes for a moment and then looked away.

"I was wondering whether you had forgotten that," she confessed.

THE END

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