“Hello, Saunders!” Mark said heartily. “Who’d expect to see you here, with no one near to buy rare editions?”
Saunders looked at him with annoyance, but Mark was friendly. He slipped his arm out of the agent’s and slapped him on the shoulder.
“Look out at that sea, you old money-grabber. There’s a sight for your soul. Did you ever think of the beauty of it? Such a day!—no wonder you’re loafing. Oh! I beg your pardon, Madam. I am in your way.”
Keeping Saunders’ back to the lady, Mark stepped aside to let her pass. Saunders could not even look back, as she walked quickly behind them. The agent stammered a reply to Mark’s unwelcome greeting before he turned. But it was too late, for Mark heard the click that told him that the tree had closed. He looked for the constable, to see if he had been watching her and had discovered the secret door; but the constable was leisurely walking toward the village.
As the two men walked along, Mark Griffin, tall and of athletic build, offered a sharp contrast to the typical American beside him. With his gray tweeds, Mark, from his cap to shoes, seemed more English than Irish, and one instinctively looked for the monocle—but in vain, for the Irish-gray eyes, deep-set under the heavy straight brows, disdained artifice as they looked half-seriously, though also a bit roguishly, out upon the world. The brown hair clustered in curls above the tanned face with its clear-cut features, the mouth firm under the aquiline nose, the chin slightly squared—the face of one who would seek and find.
He looked at his companion, clad in a neat-fitting business suit of blue, his blond hair combed straight back under the carelessly-tilted Alpine, and felt that the smaller man was one not to be despised. “A man of brains,” thought Mark, as he noted the keen intelligent look from the blue eyes set in a face that, though somewhat irregular in feature, bespoke strong determination.
Mentally, the two men were matched. Should they ever be pitted against each other, it would be impossible for anyone to determine offhand which would be the victor.
The agent was disposed to be surly during the walk to the hotel, for he had become suspicious. Why had the fool Englishman done this thing? Did he know or suspect that the supposed book agent was really a detective? Did he know the woman? Was he in her confidence? How had she disappeared so quickly?
Saunders found it difficult to keep up even a semblance of interest in the conversation, for Mark gave him little time to think. He plied him with friendly questions until the detective wondered if his companion were a fool, or someone “on the inside.” He wished that Mark would stop his chattering long enough to let him do the questioning. But Mark went right on.