“It’s up to you to pay,” he said, “so you shall choose the supper. Personally, I’m for a few oysters, a hot bird, and a cold bottle.”
Mr. Gaynsforth, who was still somewhat subdued, commanded the best supper procurable on these lines. Mr. Coulson, having waved his hand to a few acquaintances and chaffed the Spanish dancing girls in their own language,—not a little to his companion’s astonishment,—at last turned to business.
“Come,” he said, “you and I ought to understand one another. You are over here from London either to pump me or to rob me. You are either a detective or a political spy or a secret service agent of some sort, or you are on a lay of your own. Now, put it in a business form, what can I do for you? Make your offer, and let’s see where we are.”
Mr. Gaynsforth began to recover himself. It did not follow, because he had made one mistake, that he was to lose the game.
“I am neither a detective, Mr. Coulson,” he said, “nor a secret service agent,—in fact, I am nothing of that sort at all. I have a friend, however, who for certain reasons does not care to approach you himself, but who is nevertheless very much interested in a particular event, or rather incident, in which you are concerned.”
“Good!” Mr. Coulson declared. “Get right on.”
“That friend,” Mr. Gaynsforth continued calmly, “is prepared to pay a thousand pounds for full information and proof as to the nature of those papers which were stolen from Mr. Hamilton Fynes on the night of March 22nd.”
“A thousand pounds,” Mr. Coulson repeated. “Gee whiz!”
“He is also,” the Englishman continued, “prepared to pay another thousand for a satisfactory explanation of the murder of Mr. Richard Vanderpole on the following day.”
“Say, your friend’s got the stuff!” Mr. Coulson remarked admiringly.
“My friend is not a poor man,” Mr. Gaynsforth admitted. “You see, there’s a sort of feeling abroad that these two things are connected. I am not working on behalf of the police. I am not working on behalf of any one who desires the least publicity. But I am working for some one who wants to know and is prepared to pay.”
“That’s a very interesting job you’re on, and no mistake,” Mr. Coulson declared. “I wonder you waste time coming over here on the spree when you’ve got a piece of business like that to look after.”
“I came over here,” Mr. Gaynsforth replied, “entirely on the matter I have mentioned to you.”
“What, over here to Paris?” Mr. Coulson exclaimed.
“Not only to Paris,” the other replied dryly, “but to discover one Mr. James B. Coulson, whose health I now have the pleasure of drinking.”
Mr. Coulson drained the glass which the waiter had just filled.
“Well, this licks me!” he exclaimed. “How any one in their senses could believe that there was any connection between me and Hamilton Fynes or that other young swell, I can’t imagine.”