“Gentlemen both,” he said, “that’s what I call plain speaking. I suppose it’s up to us to read between the lines. I can assure you that my friend Mr. Jones will appreciate it. It isn’t my place to say a word outside the letter which I have handed to you. I am a plain business man, and these things don’t come in my way. That is why I feel I can criticize,—I am unprejudiced. You are Britishers, and you’ve got one eternal fault. You seem to think the whole world must see a matter as you see it. If Japan has convinced you that she doesn’t seek a war with us, it doesn’t follow that she’s convinced us. As to the rights of our dispute, don’t rely so much upon hearing one side only. Don’t be dogmatic about it, and say this thing is and that thing isn’t. You may bet your last dollar that America isn’t going to war about trifles. We are the same flesh and blood, you know. We have the same traditions to uphold. What we do is what we should expect you to do if you were in our place. That’s all, gentlemen. Now I wish you both good night! Mr. Smith, I am proud to shake hands with you. Sir Edward, I say the same to you.”
Bransome touched the bell and summoned his secretary.
“Sidney, will you see this gentleman out?” he said. “You are quite sure there is nothing further we can do for you, Mr. Coulson?”
“Nothing at all, I thank you, sir,” that gentleman answered. “I have only got to thank you once more for the pleasure of this brief interview. Good night!”
“Good night, and bon voyage!” Sir Edward answered.
The door was closed. The two men looked at one another for a moment. Mr. Smith shrugged his shoulders and helped himself to a cigarette.
“I wonder,” he remarked thoughtfully, “how our friends in Japan convinced themselves so thoroughly that Mr. Jones was only playing ships!”
Sir Edward shook his head.
“It makes one wonder,” he said.
CHAPTER XXI. A CLUE
By midday on the following morning London was placarded with notices, the heading of which was sensational enough to attract observation from every passer-by, young or old, rich or poor. One thousand pounds’ reward for the apprehension of the murderer of either Hamilton Fynes or Richard Vanderpole! Inspector Jacks, who was amongst the first to hear the news, after a brief interview with his chief put on his hat and walked round to the Home Office. He sought out one of the underlings with whom he had some acquaintance, and whom he found ready enough, even eager, to discuss the matter.
“There wasn’t a word about any reward,” Inspector Jacks was told, “until this morning. We had a telephone message from the chief’s bedroom and phoned you up at once. It’s a pretty stiff amount, isn’t it?”
“It is,” the Inspector admitted. “Our chief seems to be taking quite a personal interest in the matter all at once.”