“Aye?” asked Mr. Lindsey, quietly. “How, now?”
“Well,” replied Mr. Smeaton, “there may be something in it, and there may be nothing—just nothing at all. But it’s the fact that my father hailed from Tweedside—and from some place not so far from Berwick.”
I was watching Mr. Lindsey pretty closely, being desirous of seeing how he took to Mr. Gavin Smeaton, and what he made of him, and I saw him prick his ears at this announcement; clearly, it seemed to suggest something of interest to him.
“Aye?” he exclaimed. “Your father hailed from Berwick, or thereabouts? You don’t know exactly from where, Mr. Smeaton?”
“No, I don’t,” replied Smeaton, promptly. “The truth is, strange as it may seem, Mr. Lindsey, I know precious little about my father, and what I do know is mostly from hearsay. I’ve no recollection of having ever seen him. And—more wondrous still, you’ll say—I don’t know whether he’s alive or dead!”
Here, indeed, was something that bordered on the mysterious; and Mr. Lindsey and myself, who had been dealing in that commodity to some considerable degree of late, exchanged glances. And Smeaton saw us look at each other, and he smiled and went on.
“I was thinking all this out last night,” he said, “and it came to me—I wonder if that man, John Phillips, who had, as I hear, my name and address in his pocket, could have been some man who was coming to see me on my father’s behalf, or—it’s an odd thing to fancy, and, considering what’s happened him, not a pleasant one!—could have been my father himself?”
There was silence amongst us for a moment. This was a new vista down which we were looking, and it was full of thick shadow. As for me, I began to recollect things. According to the evidence which Chisholm had got from the British Linen Bank at Peebles, John Phillips had certainly come from Panama. Just as certainly he had made for Tweedside. And—with equal certainty—nobody at all had come forward to claim him, to assert kinship with him, though there had been the widest publicity given to the circumstances of his murder. In Gilverthwaite’s instance, his sister had quickly turned up—to see what there was for her. Phillips had been just as freely mentioned in the newspapers as Gilverthwaite; but no one had made inquiries after him, though there was a tidy sum of money of his in the Peebles bank for his next-of-kin to claim. Who was he, then?
Mr. Lindsey was evidently deep in thought, or, I should perhaps say, in surmise. And he seemed to arrive where I did—at a question; which was, of course, just that which Smeaton had suggested.
“I might answer that better if I knew what you could tell me about your father, Mr. Smeaton,” he said. “And—about yourself.”
“I’ll tell you all I can, with pleasure,” answered Smeaton. “To tell you the truth, I never attached much importance to this matter, in spite of my name and address being found on Phillips, until Mr. Moneylaws there came in last night—and then, after what he told me, I did begin to think pretty deeply over it, and I’m coming to the opinion that there’s a lot more in all this than appears on the surface.”