“Mr. Coulson,” he said, “will you allow me the privilege of offering you some refreshment?”
“I thank you, sir,” Mr. Coulson answered. “I am in want of nothing but a smoke.”
Sir Edward turned to the bell, but his visitor promptly stopped him.
“If you will allow me, sir,” he said, “I will smoke one of my own. Home-made article, five dollars a hundred, but I can’t stand these strong Havanas. Try one.”
Sir Edward waved them away.
“If you will excuse me,” he said, “I will smoke a cigarette. Since you are here, Mr. Coulson, I may say that I am very glad to meet you. I am very glad, also, of this opportunity for a few minutes’ conversation upon another matter.”
Mr. Coulson showed some signs of surprise.
“How’s that?” he asked.
“There is another subject,” Sir Edward said, “which I should like to discuss with you while we are waiting for Mr. Smith.”
Mr. Coulson moved his cigar into a corner of his mouth, as though to obtain a clear view of his questioner’s face. His expression was one of bland interest.
“Well, I guess you’ve got me puzzled, Sir Edward,” he said. “You aren’t thinking of doing anything in woollen machinery, are you?”
Sir Edward smiled.
“I think not, Mr. Coulson,” he answered. “At any rate, my question had nothing to do with your other very interesting avocation. What I wanted to ask you was whether you could tell me anything about a compatriot of yours—a Mr. Hamilton Fynes?”
“Hamilton Fynes!” Mr. Coulson repeated thoughtfully. “Why, that’s the man who got murdered on the cars, going from Liverpool to London.”
“That is so,” Sir Edward admitted.
Mr. Coulson shook his head.
“I told that reporter fellow all I knew about him,” he said. “He was an unsociable sort of chap, you know, Sir Edward, and he wasn’t in any line of business.”
“H’m! I thought he might have been,” the Minister answered, glancing keenly for a moment at his visitor. “To tell you the truth, Mr. Coulson, we have been a great deal bothered about that unfortunate incident, and by the subsequent murder of the young man who was attached to your Embassy here. Scotland Yard has strained every nerve to bring the guilty people to justice, but so far unsuccessfully. It seems to me that your friends on the other side scarcely seem to give us credit for our exertions. They do not help us in the least. They assure us that they had no knowledge of Mr. Fynes other than has appeared in the papers. They recognize him only as an American citizen going about his legitimate business. A little more confidence on their part would, I think, render our task easier.”
Mr. Coulson scratched his chin for a moment thoughtfully.
“Well,” he said, “I can understand their feeling a bit sore about it. I’m not exactly given to brag when I’m away from my own country—one hears too much of that all the time—but between you and me, I shouldn’t say that it was possible for two crimes like that to be committed in New York City and for the murderer to get off scot free in either case.”