“You knew Hamilton Fynes,” Mr. Gaynsforth remarked. “That fact came out at the inquest. You appeared to have known him better than most men. Mr. Vanderpole had just left you when he was murdered,—that also came out at the inquest.”
“Kind of queer, wasn’t it,” Mr. Coulson remarked meditatively, “how I seemed to get hung up with both of them? You may also remember that at the inquest Mr. Vanderpole’s business with me was testified to by the chief of his department.”
“Certainly,” Mr. Gaynsforth answered. “However, that’s neither here nor there. Everything was properly arranged, so far as you were concerned, of course. That doesn’t alter my friend’s convictions. This is a business matter with me, and if the two thousand pounds don’t sound attractive enough, well, the amount must be revised, that’s all. But I want you to understand this, Mr. Coulson, I represent a man or a syndicate, or call it what you will.”
“Call it a Government,” Mr. Coulson muttered under his breath.
“Call it what you will,” Mr. Gaynsforth continued, with an air of not having heard the interruption, “we have the money and we want the information. You can give it to us if you like. We don’t ask for too much. We don’t even ask for the name of the man who committed these crimes. But we do want to know the nature of those papers, exactly what position Mr. Hamilton Fynes occupied in the Stamp and Excise Duty department at Washington, and, finally, what the mischief you are doing over here in Paris.”
“Have you ordered the supper?” Mr. Coulson inquired anxiously.
“I have ordered everything you suggested,” Mr. Gaynsforth answered,—“some oysters, a chicken en casserole, lettuce salad, some cheese, and a magnum of Pommery.”
“It is understood that you are my host?” Mr. Coulson insisted.
“Absolutely,” his companion declared. “I consider it an honor.”
“Then,” Mr. Coulson said, pointing out his empty glass to the sommelier, “we may as well understand one another. To you I am Mr. James B. Coulson, travelling in patents for woollen machinery. If you put a quarter of a million of francs upon that table, I am still Mr. James B. Coulson, travelling in woollen machinery. And if you add a million to that, and pile up the notes so high that they touch the ceiling, I remain Mr. James B. Coulson, travelling in patents for woollen machinery. Now, if you’ll get that firmly into your head and stick to it and believe it, there’s no reason why you and I shouldn’t have a pleasant evening.”
Mr. Gaynsforth, although he was an Englishman and young, showed himself to be possessed of a sense of humor. He leaned back in his seat and roared with laughter.
“Mr. Coulson,” he said, “I congratulate you and your employers. To the lower regions with business! Help yourself to the oysters and pass the wine.”