“No,” said the Frenchman. “You do not understand the habits of the spy. He receives personally his reward, and he delivers personally his intelligence. We in France know something of the breed. There is still a chance, mes amis. These men must cross the sea, and there are ships to be searched and ports to be watched. Believe me, the need is desperate for both France and Britain.”
Royer’s grave good sense seemed to pull us together. He was the man of action among fumblers. But I saw no hope in any face, and I felt none. Where among the fifty millions of these islands and within a dozen hours were we to lay hands on the three cleverest rogues in Europe?
Then suddenly I had an inspiration.
“Where is Scudder’s book?” I cried to Sir Walter. “Quick, man. I remember something in it.”
He unlocked the door of a bureau and gave it to me.
I found the place. “Thirty-nine steps,” I read, and again, “Thirty-nine steps – I counted them – High tide, 10.17 pm.”
The Admiralty man was looking at me as if he thought I had gone mad.
“Don’t you see it’s a clue,” I shouted. “Scudder knew where these fellows laired – he knew where they were going to leave the country, though he kept the name to himself. Tomorrow was the day, and it was some place where high tide was at ten-seventeen.”