"Did you attend the same university?" asked Jane. She felt that at last she was on the point of finding out something worth while.
"No," said Kramer, "unfortunately it was not the same university."
She caught her breath and blushed guiltily. If Mr. Kramer had attended a German university he could not be an Annapolis graduate. He must be a recent comer in the American navy. She knew that since the war began some civilians had been admitted. It had just dawned on her that if this was the case, since visiting on board ships was no longer permitted, it clearly was impossible for her to have met him at any function on a warship. He must have known all along that she knew she never had met him. He must have been aware, too, that her mother did not know him.
She felt that she was getting into perilous waters and fearful of making more blunders refrained from further questions. A vague alarm began to agitate her. If he had detected her ruse when she first had spoken to him, why had he not admitted it? What had been his purpose in accepting her invitation and in bringing into it his German friend, Mr. Hoff?
The ringing of the telephone bell came as a welcome interruption. A maid summoned her to answer a call, and excusing herself from the table she went to the 'phone desk in the foyer.
"Hello, is this you, Miss Strong?"
It was Carter's voice, but from the anxious stress in it she judged that he was in a state of great perturbation.
"Yes, it is Jane Strong speaking," she answered.
"You know who this is?"
"Of course. I recognize your voice. It's Mr. C--"
A warning "sst" over the 'phone checked her before she pronounced the name and starting guiltily she turned to look over her shoulder, feeling relieved to see the two men still chatting at the table, apparently paying no attention to her.
"I understand," she answered quickly. "What is it?"
"You know that book I told you I was going to buy?"
"It's not there."
"What's that? The book is gone!"
"The book is there all right, but it's not the book I want."
"Are you sure," she questioned, "that you looked at the right book?"
"I looked at the one you told me to."
"Are you certain--the fifth book on the second shelf."
She heard a movement behind her and turning quickly saw Frederic Hoff standing behind her, his hat and stick in hand. Panic-stricken, she hung up the receiver abruptly. Had he been standing there listening? How much had he heard? He would know, of course, what "the fifth book on the second shelf" signified. Had her carelessness betrayed to him the fact that he and his uncle were being closely watched? Anxiously she studied his face for some intimation of his thoughts. He was standing there smiling at her, and to her agitated brain it seemed that in his smile there was something sardonic, defying, challenging.