her mind. Probably she knew it would be pointless now, of all times. He did not suspect her of duplicity ever-she had not the heart for it, nor the temper-but possibly she was learning a little tact.

He answered the unspoken question. “I have to,” he said gently. “The alternative is intolerable.”

She did not say anything, but held his hand more tightly, and sat still beside him for a long time.

In the morning Matthew slept late and Charlotte and Pitt were already at breakfast when he came into the dining room. Jemima and Daniel were already dressed and had walked to school with Gracie. This was a new task in which she took great satisfaction, stretching up to every fraction of her four feet eleven inches and smiling graciously to people she either knew or considered she would like to know. Charlotte suspected she also had a brief word with the butcher’s assistant on the corner on her return, but that was neither here nor there. He seemed quite a respectable youth. Charlotte had made a point of going in on one or two occasions herself, in order to have a good look at him and estimate his character.

Matthew looked rested, but there were still dark circles of shock under his eyes, and his thick brown hair with its fair streak across the brow looked tousled and ill cut, although it was probably only the result of having combed it with haste and inattention.

The usual courtesies were exchanged and Charlotte offered him bacon, eggs, kidneys, and toast and marmalade. Automatically she poured tea for him and he drank it while it was still too hot, burning his mouth.

After several minutes of companionable silence, Charlotte excused herself and withdrew to the kitchen about some domestic chore, and Matthew looked up at Pitt.

“There’s something else I really ought to speak to you about,” he said with his mouth full.


“This is in your official capacity.” He took another sip of the tea, this time more carefully. “And mine too.”

“The Foreign Office?” Pitt was startled.

“Yes. It’s Africa again.” He frowned in concentration. “I don’t know if you know anything about our treaties … no? Well it doesn’t matter a lot for what I’m going to say. But we did make an agreement with Germany four years ago in 1886, and we are looking towards another this summer. Of course it’s all been altered by Bismarck’s losing power and the young Kaiser taking over everything. He’s got this wretched fellow Carl Peters, who is as sharp as a knife and tricky as a load of monkeys. And Salisbury not making up his mind what he really wants doesn’t make anything easier. Half of us suppose he is still looking for British domination of a corridor from the Cape to Cairo. The other half think he prefers to let that go as too costly and too difficult.”

“Difficult?” Pitt questioned with puzzlement.

“Yes,” Matthew said, taking another slice of toast. “For a start it’s over three thousand miles between British South Africa and British-controlled Egypt. That means taking Sudan, Equatoria-currently held by a slippery customer called Emin Pasha-a corridor west of German East Africa: not so easy in the present climate.” He regarded Pitt seriously to make sure he was following. Then to explain more clearly he started drawing on the kitchen table with his forefinger. “The whole area north of Transvaal, and that includes Zambezia and the territories between Angola and Mozambique, is still held by native chiefs.”

“I see,” Pitt said vaguely. “And the alternative you mentioned?”

“Cairo to Old Calabar,” Matthew replied, biting into his toast. “Or Niger to the Nile, if you like. That’s through Lake Chad, then westwards nearly to Senegal, taking Dahomey and the Ivory Coast from the French….”

“War?” Pitt was incredulous, and appalled.

“No, no, of course not,” Matthew said hastily. “In exchange for the Gambia.”

“Oh, I see.”

“No you don’t, not yet. There’s also the question of German East Africa, where there’s been a lot of trouble, uprisings and several killings, and Heligoland….”

“I beg your pardon?” Now Pitt was totally confused.

“Heligoland,” Matthew repeated with his mouth full.

“I thought Heligoland was in the North Sea. I can remember Mr. Tarbet saying it was. I’d no idea it was anywhere near Africa.”

“It is in the North Sea, just as Tarbet said.” Mr. Tarbet had been Matthew’s tutor as a child, and thus also Pitt’s. “Ideally placed for a naval base to blockade all the principal German ports on the Rhine,” Matthew explained. “We could trade Heligoland to the Germans for some of their lands in Africa. And believe me, they would be glad enough to do that, if we managed it really well.”

Pitt smiled wryly. “I can see that you have an extraordinary number of highly complex problems. But what exactly do you wish to consult the police over? We have no writ in Africa, or even in Heligoland.”

“But you do in London. And London is where the Colonial Office is, and the German Embassy….”

“Oh.” In spite of himself, Pitt was beginning to see, or to fear that he did.

“And the British Imperial South Africa Company,” Matthew went on. “And the various banks who fund explorers and missionaries, not to mention the adventurers, both literal and financial.”

“Unarguable,” Pitt conceded. “Why is that relevant?”

The faint flicker of amusement died out of Matthew’s eyes and he became serious.

“Because there is information disappearing from the Colonial Office, Thomas, and turning up in the German Embassy. We know that because of the bargaining issues the Germans are aware of, and they shouldn’t be. Sometimes they know things almost before we do in the Foreign Office. It hasn’t done any great damage yet, as far as we know, but it could very seriously jeopardize our chances of a successful treaty if it goes on.”

“So someone in the Colonial Office is passing information to the German Embassy?”

“I cannot see any alternative explanation.”

“What sort of information? Could it not have come from some other source? Surely they have men in East Africa too?”

“If you knew a little more about African affairs you wouldn’t ask that.” Matthew shrugged. “Every report one gets is different from the last, and most accounts are open to a dozen interpretations, especially where the native chiefs and princes are concerned, It is our Colonial Office version the Germans are getting.”

“Information about what sort of thing?”

Matthew drank the rest of his tea.

“So far as we know, at the moment it is mostly about mineral deposits and trading negotiations between various factions and the native chiefs. In particular one in Zambezia called Lobengula. We were very much hoping the Germans were unaware of the stage of negotiations we had reached in that matter.”

“But they are not?”

“Difficult to say, but I fear not.”

Pitt finished his own tea and poured more, helping himself to another slice of toast out of the rack. He had a deep liking for homemade marmalade. Charlotte had a way of doing it that was so pungent the flavor seemed to fill his whole head. He had observed that Matthew liked it as well.

“You have a traitor in the Colonial Office,” he said slowly. “Who else is aware of what you have told me?”

“My immediate superior, and the Foreign Secretary, Lord Salisbury.”

“That’s all?”

Matthew’s eyes widened. “Good heavens, yes. We don’t want people all over the place to know we have a spy in the Colonial Office. Nor do we want the spy himself to know we are aware of him. We need to clear up the whole matter before it does any real damage, and then keep quiet about it.”

“I can’t work without authority,” Pitt began.

Matthew frowned. “I will write you a letter of authority if you like. But I thought you were a superintendent now. What more authority do you need?”

“My assistant commissioner’s, if I am to start questioning people in the Colonial Office,” Pitt replied.

“Oh, well, him of course.”

“You don’t believe this has any connection with the other matter, do you?”

Matthew frowned for a moment, then his face cleared as he understood.

“Good God, I hope not! The Inner Circle is pretty low, but I had not imagined it was involved in treason, which is what this amounts to. No. So far as I know, and from everything Father said, the Inner Circle interests are bes served by Britain remaining as powerful and as rich as possible. Britain’s loss in Africa would be theirs as well.

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