A young man—presumably a business man, quietly-dressed—stood at attention and saluted. If he saw the bound man in the chair, his eyes never showed it.
“Ah, Whiteside,” Harleston remarked. “I’m glad it is you who was sent. Come in.... You will remain here and guard this man; you will prevent any attempt at escape or rescue, even though you are obliged to use the utmost force. I’m for down-town now; and I will communicate with you at the earliest moment. Meanwhile, the man is in your charge.”
“Yes, Mr. Harleston!” Whiteside answered.
“I want some breakfast!” snapped Crenshaw.
“The officer will order from the cafe whatever you wish,” Harleston replied; and picking up his stick he departed, the letter and the photograph in the sealed envelope in his inside pocket.
As he went out, he smiled pleasantly at Crenshaw.
Harleston walked down Sixteenth Street—the Avenue of the Presidents, if you have time either to say it or write it. The Secretary of State resided on it, and, as chance had it, he was descending the front steps as Harleston came along.
Now the Secretary was duly impressed with all the dignity of his official position, and he rarely failed to pull it on the ordinary individual—cockey would be about the proper term. In Harleston, however, he recognized an unusual personage; one to whom the Department was wont to turn when all others had failed in its diplomatic problems; who had some wealth and an absolutely secure social position; who accepted no pecuniary recompense for his service, doing it all for pure amusement, and because his government requested it.
“It’s too fine a day to ride to the Department,” said the Secretary. “It’s much too fine, really, to go anywhere except to the Rataplan and play golf.”
“I’ll take you on at four o’clock,” the Secretary suggested.
“If that is not a command,” said Harleston, “I should like first to consult you about a matter which arose last night, or rather early this morning. I was bound for your office now. I can, however, give you the main facts as we go along.”
“Proceed!” said the Secretary. “I’m all attention.”
“It may be of grave importance and it may be of very little—”
“What do you think it is?”
“I think it is of first importance, judging from known facts. If Carpenter can translate the cipher message, it will—”
“The Department has full faith in your diagnosis, Harleston. You’re the surgeon; you prescribe the treatment and I’ll see that it is followed. Now drive on with the story.”
“It begins with a letter, a photograph, a handkerchief, three American Beauty roses—all in the cab of the sleeping horse—”
“God bless my soul!” exclaimed the Secretary.