Captain Stewart glanced at his watch and rose with a little sigh.
“I must be off,” said he. “I have to dine out this evening, and I must get home to change. There is a cabstand near you?” He looked out of the window. “Ah, yes! Just at the corner of the Gardens.”
He turned about to Ste. Marie, and held out his hand with a smile. He said:
“You refuse to join forces with us, then? Well, I’m sorry. But, for all that, I wish you luck. Go your own way, and I hope you’ll succeed. I honestly hope that, even though your success may show me up for an incompetent bungler.”
He gave a little kindly laugh, and Ste. Marie tried to protest.
“Still,” said the elder man, “don’t throw me over altogether. If I can help you in any way, little or big, let me know. If I can give you any hints, any advice, anything at all, I want to do it. And if you happen upon what seems to be a promising clew come and talk it over with me. Oh, don’t be afraid! I’ll leave it to you to work out. I sha’n’t spoil your game.”
“Ah, now, that’s very good of you,” said Ste. Marie. “Only you make me seem more than ever an ungrateful fool. Thanks, I will come to you with my troubles if I may. I have a foolish idea that I want to follow out a little first, but doubtless I shall be running to you soon for information.”
The elder man’s eyes sharpened again with keen interest.
“An idea!” he said, quickly. “You have an idea? What—May I ask what sort of an idea?”
“Oh, it’s nothing,” declared Ste. Marie. “You have already laughed at it. I just want to find that man O’Hara, that’s all. I’ve a feeling that I should learn something from him.”
“Ah!” said Captain Stewart, slowly. “Yes, the man O’Hara. There’s nothing in that, I’m afraid. I’ve made inquiries about O’Hara. It seems he left Paris six months ago, saying he was off for America. An old friend of his told me that. So you must have been mistaken when you thought you saw him in the Champs-Elysees; and he couldn’t very well have had anything to do with poor Arthur. I’m afraid that idea is hardly worth following up.”
“Perhaps not,” said Ste. Marie. “I seem to start badly, don’t I? Ah, well, I’ll have to come to you all the sooner, then.”
“You’ll be welcome,” promised Captain Stewart. “Good-bye to you! Good-day, Hartley. Come and see me, both of you. You know where I live.”
He took his leave then, and Hartley, standing beside the window, watched him turn down the street, and at the corner get into one of the fiacres there and drive away.
Ste. Marie laughed aloud.
“There’s the second time,” said he, “that I’ve had him about O’Hara. If he is as careless as that about everything, I don’t wonder he hasn’t found Arthur Benham. O’Hara disappeared from Paris—publicly, that is—at about the time young Benham disappeared. As a matter of fact, he remains, or at least for a time remained, in the city without letting his friends know, because I made no mistake about seeing him in the Champs-Elysees. All that looks to me suspicious enough to be worth investigation. Of course,” he admitted, doubtfully—“of course, I’m no detective; but that’s how it looks to me.”