Captain Stephen Drake steps ashore in Plymouth and is immediately confronted by a reporter wanting his comments on an attack made on him by the editor of the ‘Evening Meteor’. Of course, the African expedition had been a disaster, but Drake was ready to take responsibility. He telegraphed a survivor so as to set up a meeting, and bought a copy of ‘A Man of Influence’. Did he recognise himself in those pages? The battle with ‘The Meteor’ continues and only intensifies when Drake is elected to Parliament, but intrigue and some smart manoeuvring by others may just win the day.
Five Englishmen were watching a camp fire in the centre of a forest clearing in mid-Africa. They did not speak, but sat propped against logs, smoking. One of the five knocked out the ashes of his pipe upon the ground; a second, roused by the movement, picked up a fresh billet of wood with a shiver and threw it on to the fire, and the light for a moment flung a steady glow upon faces which were set with anxiety. The man who had picked up the billet looked from one to the other of the faces, then he turned and gazed behind him into the darkness. The floor of the clearing was dotted with the embers of dying fires, but now and again he would hear the crackle of a branch and see a little flame spirt up and shine upon the barrels of rifles and the black bodies of the sleeping troops. Round the edge of the clearing the trees rose massed and dark like a cliff's face. He turned his head upwards. 'Look, Drake!' he cried suddenly, and pointed an arm eastwards. The man opposite to him took his pipe from his mouth and looked in that direction. The purple was fading out of the sky, leaving it livid. 'I see, ' said Drake shortly, and, replacing his pipe, he rose to his feet. His four companions looked quickly at each other and the eldest of them spoke. 'Look here, Drake, ' said he, 'I have been thinking about this business all night, and the more I think of it the less I like it. Of course, we only did what we were bound to do. We couldn't get behind that evidence; there was no choice for us; but you're the captain, and there is a choice for you.' 'No, ' replied Drake quietly. 'I too have been thinking about it all night, and there is no choice for me.