West, still attired in khaki uniform, but wearing the red chevron of honourable discharge on his left sleeve, sat in the Club writing room, his feet comfortably elevated, endeavouring to extract some entertainment from the evening paper. The news was not particularly interesting, however, and finally, obsessed with the feeling that it would soon be time for him to seriously contemplate the procuring of suitable employment, the young man turned the sheet about rather idly, and ran his eyes down the columns devoted to classified advertising.
Half way down the first column, under the head of “miscellaneous,” he paused and read a paragraph with some interest; then read it over again, emitting a soft whistle between his teeth.
“Well, by Jove!” he said to himself slowly, “That doesn’t sound so bad either; out of the ordinary, at least. Say, Thompson,” and he turned to a tall young fellow busily writing at the adjoining desk, and shoved the paper under his eyes, pointing at the paragraph which had attracted attention, with one finger, “What do you make out of that, old man?”
The other, rather sober-faced, and slow of speech, read the advertisement word by word, with no change of expression.
“Rot,” he said solemnly. “Either a joke, or some scheme on. Why? interested in it?”
“In a measure, yes. Sounds rather business-like to me. I’ve got a good mind to answer, and take a chance.”
“You’re a fool if you do, Matt,” decisively, and turning back to his writing. “That is some game being pulled off, and the first thing you know, you’ll be in bad. Likely as not it means blackmail. Besides there is no address.”
“That’s one thing I like about it,” retorted the other. “They are in earnest, and taking no chances of having their purpose guessed at. There is a way to reach them, if the one answering is sufficiently in earnest. By Jove, I don’t see how any one can get in bad, merely by finding out what it all means.”
“Well, do as you please; you would anyhow. Only you have my advice.”
West read the item again. He had been eighteen months in France, and his discharge from the army had left him bored and dissatisfied with the dull routine of civil life. He dreaded to get back into the harness of a prosaic existence; even his profession as a civil engineer had someway lost its charm. He had tasted the joy of adventure, the thrill of danger, and it was still alluring. This advertisement promised a mystery which strangely attracted his imagination.
"Wanted: Young man of education and daring for service involving some personal peril. Good pay, and unusual reward if successful. May have to leave city. Purpose disclosed only in personal interview."
As Thompson had pointed out, this was not signed, nor any address given.
West crossed over to an unoccupied desk, and wrote a reply, changing the wording several times, and finally making a clean copy. Thompson glanced across at him, but said nothing. The answer read: