From where Hamel stood a queer object came strangely into sight. Below the terrace of St. David’s Hall—from a spot, in fact, at the base of the solid wall—it seemed as though a gate had been opened, and there came towards him what he at first took to be a tricycle. As it came nearer, it presented even a weirder appearance. Mr. Fentolin, in a black cape and black skull cap, sat a little forward in his electric carriage, with his hand upon the guiding lever. His head came scarcely above the back of the little vehicle, his hands and body were motionless. He seemed to be progressing without the slightest effort, personal or mechanical, as though he rode, in deed, in some ghostly vehicle. From the same place in the wall had issued, a moment or two later, a man upon a bicycle, who was also coming towards him. Hamel was scarcely conscious of this secondary figure. His eyes were fixed upon the strange personage now rapidly approaching him. There was something which seemed scarcely human in that shrunken fragment of body, the pale face with its waving white hair, the strange expression with which he was being regarded. The little vehicle came to a standstill only a few feet away. Mr. Fentolin leaned forward. His features had lost their delicately benevolent aspect; his words were minatory.
“I am under the impression, sir,” he said, “that I saw you with my glasses from the window attempting to force an entrance into that building.”
“I not only tried but I succeeded,” he remarked. “I got in through the window.”
Mr. Fentolin’s eyes glittered for a moment. Hamel, who had resumed his place upon the rock close at hand, had been mixed up during his lifetime in many wild escapades. Yet at that moment he had a sudden feeling that there were dangers in life which as yet he had not faced.
“May I ask for your explanation or your excuse?”
“You can call it an explanation or an excuse, whichever you like,” Hamel replied steadily, “but the fact is that this little building, which some one else seems to have appropriated, is mine. If I had not been a good-natured person, I should be engaged, at the present moment, in turning out its furniture on to the beach.”
“What is your name?” Mr. Fentolin asked suddenly.
“My name is Hamel—Richard Hamel.”
For several moments there was silence. Mr. Fentolin was still leaning forward in his strange little vehicle. The colour seemed to have left even his lips. The hard glitter in his eyes had given place to an expression almost like fear. He looked at Richard Hamel as though he were some strange sea-monster come up from underneath the sands.
“Richard Hamel,” he repeated. “Do you mean that you are the son of Hamel, the R.A., who used to be in these parts so often? He was my brother’s friend.”