The War in the Air – Day 41 of 115

He resumed his scrutiny of Bert’s face.

“That’s all right, of course,” said Bert, a little short of breath, but otherwise resolute and calm; and it seemed to him that now was the time to bring his nocturnal scheming to the issue.

The secretary contemplated Bert’s collar with sustained attention. Only for one moment did his gaze move to the sandals and back.

“Jes’ lemme think a bit,” said Bert, finding the stare debilitating. “Look ’ere!” he said at last, with an air of great explicitness, “I got the secret.”


“But I don’t want the name of Butteridge to appear–see? I been thinking that over.”

“A little delicacy?”

“Exactly. You buy the secret–leastways, I give it you–from Bearer–see?”

His voice failed him a little, and the stare continued. “I want to do the thing Enonymously. See?”

Still staring. Bert drifted on like a swimmer caught by a current. “Fact is, I’m going to edop’ the name of Smallways. I don’t want no title of Baron; I’ve altered my mind. And I want the money quiet-like. I want the hundred thousand pounds paid into benks–thirty thousand into the London and County Benk Branch at Bun Hill in Kent directly I ’and over the plans; twenty thousand into the Benk of England; ’arf the rest into a good French bank, the other ’arf the German National Bank, see? I want it put there, right away. I don’t want it put in the name of Butteridge. I want it put in the name of Albert Peter Smallways; that’s the name I’m going to edop’. That’s condition one.”

“Go on!” said the secretary.

“The nex condition,” said Bert, “is that you don’t make any inquiries as to title. I mean what English gentlemen do when they sell or let you land. You don’t arst ’ow I got it. See? ’Ere I am–I deliver you the goods–that’s all right. Some people ’ave the cheek to say this isn’t my invention, see? It is, you know–that’s all right; but I don’t want that gone into. I want a fair and square agreement saying that’s all right. See?”

His “See?” faded into a profound silence.

The secretary sighed at last, leant back in his chair and produced a tooth-pick, and used it, to assist his meditation on Bert’s case. “What was that name?” he asked at last, putting away the tooth-pick; “I must write it down.”

“Albert Peter Smallways,” said Bert, in a mild tone.

The secretary wrote it down, after a little difficulty about the spelling because of the different names of the letters of the alphabet in the two languages.

“And now, Mr. Schmallvays,” he said at last, leaning back and resuming the stare, “tell me: how did you ket hold of Mister Pooterage’s balloon?”

When at last the Graf von Winterfold left Bert Smallways, he left him in an extremely deflated condition, with all his little story told.

He had, as people say, made a clean breast of it. He had been pursued into details. He had had to explain the blue suit, the sandals, the Desert Dervishes–everything. For a time scientific zeal consumed the secretary, and the question of the plans remained in suspense. He even went into speculation about the previous occupants of the balloon. “I suppose,” he said, “the laty was the laty. Bot that is not our affair.

“It is fery curious and amusing, yes: but I am afraid the Prince may be annoyt. He acted wiz his usual decision–always he acts wiz wonterful decision. Like Napoleon. Directly he was tolt of your descent into the camp at Dornhof, he said, ‘Pring him!–pring him! It is my schtar!’ His schtar of Destiny! You see? He will be dthwarted. He directed you to come as Herr Pooterage, and you haf not done so. You haf triet, of course; but it has peen a poor try. His chugments of men are fery just and right, and it is better for men to act up to them–gompletely. Especially now. Particularly now.”

He resumed that attitude of his, with his underlip pinched between his forefingers. He spoke almost confidentially. “It will be awkward. I triet to suggest some doubt, but I was over-ruled. The Prince does not listen. He is impatient in the high air. Perhaps he will think his schtar has been making a fool of him. Perhaps he will think I haf been making a fool of him.”

He wrinkled his forehead, and drew in the corners of his mouth.

“I got the plans,” said Bert.

“Yes. There is that! Yes. But you see the Prince was interested in Herr Pooterage because of his romantic seit. Herr Pooterage was so much more–ah!–in the picture. I am afraid you are not equal to controlling the flying machine department of our aerial park as he wished you to do. He hadt promised himself that….

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. (To tell the truth I don't even really care if you give me your email or not.)