“And when should I be required to start, sir?” the Inspector asked.
“That, perhaps,” the Prince replied, “would seem the hardest part of all. You would be required to start tomorrow afternoon from Southampton at four o’clock.”
The Inspector started. Then a new light dawned suddenly in his face.
“Tomorrow afternoon,” he murmured.
The Prince assented.
“So far as regards your position at Scotland Yard,” he said, “I have influential friends in your Government who will put that right for you. You need not be afraid of any unpleasantness in that direction. Remember, Mr. Inspector, thirty thousand pounds, and a free hand while you are in my country. You are a man, I should judge, of fifty-two or fifty-three years of age. You can spend your fifty-sixth birthday in England, then, and be a man of means for the remainder of your days.”
“And this sum of money,” the detective said, “is for my services in building up the police force of Tokio?”
“Broadly speaking, yes!” the Prince answered.
“And incidentally,” the detective continued, glancing cautiously at his companion, “it is the price of my leaving unsuspected the murderer of two innocent men!”
The Prince walked on in silence. Every line in his face seemed slowly to have hardened. His brows had contracted. He was looking steadfastly forward at the great front of Buckingham Palace.
“I am disappointed in you, Mr. Jacks,” he said a little stiffly. “I do not understand your allusion. The money I have mentioned is to be paid to you for certain well-defined services. The other matter you speak of does not interest me. It is no concern of mine whether this man of whom you are in search is brought to justice or not. All that I wish to hear from you is whether or not you accept my offer.”
The Inspector shook his head.
“Prince,” he said, “there can be no question about that. I thank you very much for it, but I must decline.”
“Your mind is quite made up?” the Prince asked regretfully.
“Quite,” the Inspector said firmly.
“Japan,” the Prince said thoughtfully, “is a pleasant country.”
“London suits me moderately well,” Inspector Jacks declared.
“Under certain conditions,” the Prince continued, “I should have imagined that the climate here might prove most unhealthy for you. You must remember that I was a witness of your slight indisposition the other day.”
“In my profession, sir,” the detective said, “we must take our risks.”
The Prince came to a standstill. They were at the parting of the ways.
“I am very sorry,” he said simply. “It was a great post, and it was one which you would have filled well. It is not for me, however, to press the matter.”
“It would make no difference, sir,” the detective answered.
The Prince was on the point of moving away.