“Now, then, Hazelton,” continued the treasurer, “we’re anxious to hear more of your strange story.”
“I’ve told you all there is to it,” protested Harry.
“Surely, there must be some more to it.”
“Then, for the tale of an engineer who was all but murdered, and a case enveloped in mystery from end to end,” cried Mr. Prenter, “we have a most singular scarcity of details.”
“There are only two more details needed, as it appears to me,” Tom remarked quietly.
“Good! And what are they?” demanded the treasurer, wheeling around to look keenly at the young chief engineer.
“The two details we now need,” Reade continued, “are, first, who was the negro? Second, who was behind the negro in this rascally work?”
“Only two points to be solved,” suggested the treasurer mockingly, “but pretty big points. Of course, the first point is—–”
“To find that negro, and get him jailed,” Tom declared incisively.
“Good enough!” nodded Mr. Prenter. “The detectives will find the negro.”
“Will they?” Tom asked. “Then that will be something new, indeed. I’ve seen detectives employed a good deal, Mr. Prenter, and generally all they catch are severe colds and items to stick in on the expense account.”
“Oh, there are some real detectives in this country,” contended Mr. Prenter. “We’ll engage some of them, too.”
“The expense of hiring detectives will be very large,” murmured Mr. Bascomb uneasily.
“Yes, it will,” agreed the treasurer with a laugh. “But never mind. It’s always my task to find funds for the company, you know.”
“Harry,” Tom broke in, “just what did that negro look like?”
“About six-foot-three,” answered Hazelton, slowly and thoughtfully. “He was broad of shoulder and comparatively slim at the waist. He must weigh from two hundred and twenty-five to thirty pounds. As to age, I couldn’t tell you whether he was nearer thirty or forty years. From his agility I should place him in the thirty-year class.”
“I couldn’t see that much in the dark.”
“Color of his clothes?”
“Some darkish stuff—–that’s all I can say.”
“Could you pick him out of a crowd of negroes?”
“Not if they were all of the same height and weight,” Hazelton admitted.
“Do you think you ever saw him before?” Reade pressed.
“I’m sure that I never have,” Harry replied.
“Then he wasn’t one of our men in this camp at any time?” Mr. Prenter interjected.
“We have never had a man in the camp as large as this negro,” Harry rejoined.
“Such a very large black man ought not to be hard for the detectives to locate,” Prenter continued.
“Very good, sir. Then you can let the sleuths have a try at the matter,” Tom suggested.