“This thought led to an inspection of the tenants. They proved of all sorts and kinds; the place was a beehive; hundreds of people entered and left every day. At this time I happened on an item in a periodical about some remarkable work in a certain line by a high-class medical specialist. Here is the paragraph.”
Lord Ronsdale took the slip of paper the other handed him and briefly looked at it. “You visited this person?”
“Yes, as his office address was mentioned as being in the large building we were interested in. But at the moment I had no suspicion that John Steele’s pilgrimage to Paris could have been for the purpose of consulting,—”
“An eminent specialist in the line of removing birth-marks,” glancing at the slip of paper, “or other disfigurements—”
“Such as I described to your lordship from the book that day in the office,” murmured the police agent.
For some moments both were again silent; only the sounds of the wind and the rain, mingled with monotonous creakings, broke the stillness.
“You say this shipwrecked man was like a Greek statue, half clothed in rags. Perhaps then,” slowly, “since he was only half-clothed the rescuers might have noticed—”
“I sought them at once,” with sudden eagerness, “to verify what your lordship suggests, and I have their full corroboration; what the evidence of their eyes told them, that the rescued man bore on his arm the exact markings described in my book.”
“A coincidence not easily accounted for.” The speaker’s tones had a rasping sound. “And now—”
“One question, my Lord. He is discerning—knows that you—”
“Knows? Yes; he found that out one day in Hyde Park, never mind how; about the same time I, too, learned something.”
“And yet he deliberately comes down here, dares to leave London where at least his chances are better for—but why? It is unreasonable; I don’t understand.”
“Why?” Lord Ronsdale’s smile was not agreeable. “When does a man become illogical, stray from the path good reasoning should keep him in? When does he accept chances, however desperate?”
“When?” The police agent’s tones expressed vague wonder. “Why, when—there is a woman in the case!” suddenly.
“A woman, or a girl.”
“Your lordship means—”
“One who is beautiful enough to enmesh any man’s fancy,” he spoke as to himself, “whose golden hair is a web to draw lovers like the fleece of old; whose eyes like the sunny heavens tempt them to bask in their light.”
The words were mocking yet seemed to force themselves from his lips. “When you add that she has high position; is as opulent in the world’s goods as she is rich in personal—” abruptly he paused. “But this is irrelevant,” he added almost angrily. “Is there anything else you have to tell me?”
“Only one thing, and it may have no bearing on the case; some one who has not been seen in these parts in years, the red-headed son of the landlady where the Gerard murder occurred has been back in London, and—Steele’s been looking for him. For what purpose, I don’t know.” The nobleman moved quickly. “But he hasn’t found him—yet; apparently the fellow took alarm, knowing the police agent might want him, and vanished again.”