MR. GAVIN SMEATON
I walked into a room right at the top of the building, wherein a young man of thirty or thereabouts was sitting at a desk, putting together a quantity of letters which a lad, standing at his side, was evidently about to carry to the post. He was a good-looking, alert, businesslike sort of young man this, of a superior type of countenance, very well dressed, and altogether a noticeable person. What first struck me about him was, that though he gave me a quick glance when, having first tapped at his door and walked inside his office, I stood there confronting him, he finished his immediate concern before giving me any further attention. It was not until he had given all the letters to the lad and bade him hurry off to the post, that he turned to me with another sharp look and one word of interrogation.
“Yes?” he said.
“Mr. Gavin Smeaton?” asked I.
“That’s my name,” he answered. “What can I do for you?”
Up to that moment I had not the least idea as to the exact reasons which had led me to climb those stairs. The truth was I had acted on impulse. And now that I was actually in the presence of a man who was obviously a very businesslike and matter-of-fact sort of person, I felt awkward and tongue-tied. He was looking me over all the time as if there was a wonder in his mind about me, and when I was slow in answering he stirred a bit impatiently in his chair.
“My business hours are over for the day,” he said. “If it’s business—”
“It’s not business in the ordinary sense, Mr. Smeaton,” I made shift to get out. “But it is business for all that. The fact is—you’ll remember that the Berwick police sent you a telegram some days ago asking did you know anything about a man named John Phillips?”
He showed a sudden interest at that, and he regarded me with a slight smile.
“You aren’t a detective?” he inquired.
“No—I’m a solicitor’s clerk,” I replied. “From Berwick—my principal, Mr. Lindsey, has to do with that case.”
He nodded at a pile of newspapers, which stood, with a heavy book on top of it, on a side table near his desk.
“So I see from these papers,” he remarked. “I’ve read all I could about the affairs of both Phillips and Crone, ever since I heard that my name and address had been found on Phillips. Has any further light been thrown on that? Of course, there was nothing much in my name and address being found on the man, nor would there be if they were found on any man. As you see, I’m a general agent for various sorts of foreign merchandise, and this man had likely been recommended to me—especially if he was from America.”
“There’s been no further light on that matter, Mr. Smeaton,” I answered. He had pointed me to a chair at his desk side by that time, and we were mutually inspecting each other. “Nothing more has been heard on that point.”