Ste. Marie smiled slightly and sat down. He said:
“I listen with pleasure—and anticipation. Pray go on!”
“I have information,” said the visitor, “of the whereabouts of M. Arthur Benham.”
Ste. Marie waved his hand.
“I feared as much,” said he. “I mean to say, I hoped so. Proceed, Monsieur!”
“And learning,” continued the other, “that M. Ste. Marie was conducting a search for that young gentleman, I hastened at once to place this information in his hands.”
“At a price,” suggested his host. “At a price, to be sure.”
The man with the beard spread out his hands in a beautiful and eloquent gesture which well accompanied his Marseillais accent.
“Ah, as to that!” he protested. “My circumstances—I am poor, Monsieur. One must gain the livelihood. What would you? A trifle. The merest trifle.”
“Where is Arthur Benham?” asked Ste. Marie.
“In Marseilles, Monsieur. I saw him a week ago—six days. And, so far as I could learn, he had no intention of leaving there immediately—though it is, to be sure, hot.”
Ste. Marie laughed a laugh of genuine amusement, and the man with the pointed beard stared at him with some wonder. Ste. Marie rose and crossed the room to a writing-desk which stood against the opposite wall. He fumbled in a drawer of this, and returned holding in his hand a pink-and-blue note of the Banque de France. He said:
“Monsieur—pardon! I have forgotten to ask the name—you have remarked quite truly that one must gain a livelihood. Therefore, I do not presume to criticise the way in which you gain yours. Sometimes one cannot choose. However, I should like to make a little bargain with you, Monsieur. I know, of course, being not altogether imbecile, who sent you here with this story and why you were sent—why, also, your friend who sits upon the bench in the garden across the street follows me about and spies upon me. I know all this, and I laugh at it a little. But, Monsieur, to amuse myself further, I have a desire to hear from your own lips the name of the gentleman who is your employer. Amusement is almost always expensive, and so I am prepared to pay for this. I have here a note of one hundred francs. It is yours in return for the name—the right name. Remember, I know it already.”
The man with the pointed beard sprang to his feet quivering with righteous indignation. All Southern Frenchmen, like all other Latins, are magnificent actors. He shook one clinched hand in the air, his face was pale, and his fine eyes glittered. Richard Hartley would have put himself promptly in an attitude of defence, but Ste. Marie nodded a smiling head in appreciation. He was half a Southern Frenchman himself.
“Monsieur!” cried his visitor, in a choked voice, “Monsieur, have a care! You insult me! Have a care, Monsieur! I am dangerous! My anger, when roused, is terrible!”