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.As David had once observed, most of the best Civil Servants were unsuitable for their jobs, but Neville Macready was beyond anything he had yet encountered.Yet Sir Frederick was equanimity itself; if anything he seemed pleased with the tirade, as though it reassured him that no one else would be tempted to steal Macready’s formidable brains from him.“Eugenio Narva, Neville,” he said equably.“What?”“Tell us about Eugenio Narva.”Macready rubbed the end of his nose, frowning.Then he abruptly dumped a file he had been carrying tucked under his arm on Sir Frederick’s desk.“There’s the Narva file.Mrs.—what’s-it—Harlin had it, so I took it.It’s all in there.And he’s a case in point, too.”“A case in point?”“Yes.I don’t mind him being part of the Italian economic miracle, but I’m damned if I see why he should also be part of the British one.”“Indeed?”“Not that he’s the worst of ‘em.Narva’s an honest man as well as a smart one, which is rare—apart from his Norwegian interests he’s got himself well spread in British firms now, so we’ll get some of his gravy.”“What firms?”“Well, he’s got a rig of his own now, but he’s also on the board of Singer and Bailey.And he provided the capital for the Enfield Alloys expansion.Last time I read the reports he was dickering with the French consortium ETPM, which has a connection with Laing in Britain, and I shouldn’t be surprised to see him turn up on Wimpey’s one of these days.He’s built a platform yard of his own at Hartlepool, and of course he’s got a big chunk of Xenophon now— he bought in low and now it must be worth a packet.But that’s in the oil business itself.Most of his money’s in equipment and subcontracting.But he’ll be in the bidding when the next allocation of licences comes up in March, mark my words.” Macready nodded wisely.“But I suppose you know all that by now.”“Why should I know it?”“Well, I’ve already told all this to David Audley.I thought he—“Macready stopped with embarrassing suddenness and began to rub his nose again.“I haven’t been able to see David yet,” said Sir Frederick smoothly.“He’s on leave and I don’t want to disturb him.Just tell me what you told him.For a start.”Macready stared around him vaguely, quickly looking away when he met Richardson’s eyes.“This was a day or two ago, you spoke to David, wasn’t it?” Sir Frederick prodded gently.“On the phone?”“No.I mean yes, it was two or three days ago,” said Macready guardedly.“I was down in the Reading Room—they’d just got in the American Economic Quarterly.David was down there.”The Reading Room was next to the Dead Files Section, Richardson remembered.In fact you had to go through the Reading Room to get to the section, a claustrophobic, windowless box, with a table and chair which nobody used, partly because those in the Reading Room were much more comfortable and partly because the weight of the decaying past contained in the surrounding metal cabinets was oppressive.It would be easy to check up on whether David had used it, however, because although the dead files had a low classification they still rated as secret and could only be consulted after signing for the Archivist’s key.“Yes?” said Sir Frederick patiently.“Eh?” Macready looked at his watch nervously, as though trying to remember some more pressing and congenial engagement.“Oh— well, he just wanted the rundown on Narva.Actually, he seemed to know most of it already—“ he gestured towards the desk “—it’s in the file, and he’d read it.”“Yes, but of course David wanted to know about the very beginning, didn’t he?”Smooth.Very smooth.“So he did.But that was before my time here.And it’s all conjectural, anyway—even though David had got one of his bees in the bonnet about it.”“Conjectural—yes.But it’s interesting all the same, the way Narva moved into the North Sea so early, don’t you think?”Macready looked up at the high ceiling above him morosely without replying.It was almost as though he was no longer interested himself in the possibilities of further conversation.“What do you think put him on to it in the first place, Neville?”Richardson looked from one to the other with intense curiosity.By any normal standard Macready’s silence was at the least rude, bordering on offensive; and Sir Frederick’s restraint was remarkable, bordering on surprising, since there was no indication that the screwball was inclined to save himself by his exertions, like William Pitt’s England.Yet instead of annihilating him Sir Frederick was damn near pleading with him.If this was how screwballs were treated there was obviously a percentage in the role.Macready sighed.“Frankly, Fred, I haven’t the faintest idea.And that’s what I told David.It’s not merely inexplicable … it’s irrational.”There was an undercurrent of irritation in Macready’s tone, as though Narva had been needling him personally.And that, thought Richardson with a sudden flash of insight, might very well be close to the truth after all.He had assumed initially that Macready had been unwilling to shop David, but it now seemed more likely that David had merely asked a question—the very question that Sir Frederick was now remorselessly pursuing—which had been bugging Macready for a long time without any satisfactory answer.“Yes, that’s very much the way we felt about it,” said Sir Frederick.“The—ah—the timing of it.”“That’s exactly it!” Macready swung his arms and started to pace away from the desk towards the window in an oddly disjointed fashion.“He ducked out of the Italian miracle—but everyone knew that was going to slow down sooner or later, apart from the political mess … and Libya …“But the North Sea—“ he swung round towards Sir Frederick “—you know what it’s like? It’s a sod of a sea, the weather and the waves.And until three years ago they really didn’t know how to drill in water deeper than 300 feet anyway.“And they didn’t know enough about the geological structures either.I wouldn’t have put any of my money in looking for hydrocarbons in the younger Tertiary sequences, maybe not even after Phillips found that gas condensate field.”Young Tertiary—? Richardson didn’t dare look at Sir Frederick.But Macready was fairly launched now on a submarine voyage far below those treacherous winds and waves.“Even now no one knows for sure whether the block next to where someone’s struck it rich is going to show anything.The salt dome structures—“He paused momentarily and Sir Frederick moved into the hiatus quickly.“Narva took a big risk, certainly.”“That’s what David suggested—“ Macready shook his head vehemently “—but it’s just not on at all.Narva didn’t make his stake by taking risks, and men like Narva don’t change overnight.”Richardson gave up trying to place younger Tertiary sequences and salt domes and grabbed at what sounded like much more relevant information.“What sort of chap is this Narva, then?”Macready missed his step, glancing up at Richardson as though taken aback by the dumb half of his audience suddenly exhibiting the power of speech.“What sort?” He raised his eyes to a point above Richardson’s head [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]