“It is very probable indeed,” admitted Mark. Then his generous nature prompted him to praise the elder.
“You’re a big man, Peter Ganns, and you’ve said things to-day that no doubt were elementary to you, but mean a lot to me. You’ve made me feel mighty small—which I wouldn’t own to anybody else; but you know that much without my telling you. I only differ from you on one point and that is the sequel. If this thing is ever cleared, you’ll be responsible for clearing it, and I shall see you get the credit.”
The other laughed and flung snuff into his purple nostrils.
“Nonsense, nonsense! I’m a back number—almost out of the game now—virtually retired to take my ease and follow my hobbies. This is nothing to do with me. I’m only going to watch you.”
“A detective’s hobby is generally his old business,” said Mark, and Mr. Ganns admitted it. “Literature and crime, nice things to eat and drink, snuff and acrostics—these serve to fill my leisure and represent my vices and virtues,” he confessed.
“Each has its appointed place in my life; and now I’m adding travel. I’ve wanted to see Europe once again before I went into my shell for good; and to enjoy the society of my dear friend, Albert Redmayne, visit his home, and hear his bland and childlike wisdom once more.
“The only shadow thrown by a devoted friendship, Brendon, is the knowledge that it must some day come to an end. And when I say ‘good-bye’ to the old bookworm I shall know that we are little likely to meet again. Yet who would deny himself the glory of friendship, before the menace that it must sooner or later finish? A close amity and understanding, a discovery of kindred spirits, is among the most precious experiences within the reach of mankind. Love, no doubt, proves a more glorious adventure still; but lightning lurks near the rosy chariot of love, my lad, and we who win the ineffable gift must not whine if the full price has to be paid. For me, cool friendship!”
He chattered amiably and Mark guessed that on the simple and human side Mr. Ganns found himself much at one with his friend, Albert Redmayne. Peter’s philosophy seemed to Brendon of a very mild quality, and he wondered how a man who looked at human nature in a spirit so hopeful, if not credulous, should yet own those extraordinary gifts the American possessed. Upon these, surely, and not his genial and elemental faith, was his fame founded.
PETER TAKES THE HELM
As the detectives travelled through night-hidden Kent and presently boarded the packet for Boulogne, Mark Brendon told his story with every detail for the benefit of Mr. Ganns. Before doing so he reread his own notes and was able to set each incident of the case very clearly and copiously before the older man. Peter never once interrupted him, and, at the conclusion of the narrative, complimented Mark on the recital.