I accepted it more to exhibit my own coolness than from any desire to smoke, but without other response. The man had sent for me for some specific purpose, and I desired to learn what that might be before unmasking my own batteries.
“A smoke generally leaves me in more genial humor,” he continued, ignoring my reticence. “Mere habit, of course, but we are all more or less in slavery to the weed. I trust you have been fairly comfortable since coming on board the Sea Gull.”
“As much so as a prisoner could naturally expect to be,” I replied indifferently. “This vessel then is the Sea Gull?”
He bowed, with an expressive gesticulation of the hand.
“At present—yes. In days gone by it has been found convenient to call her the Esmeralda, the Seven Sisters, and the Becky N. The name is immaterial, so long as it sounds well, and conforms to the manifest. However, just now the register reads Sea Gull, Henley, master, 850 tons, schooner-rigged yacht.”
“You are under steam?”
“Exactly; auxiliary steam power.”
“In what trade?”
“Operated for pleasure exclusively,” a slight tone of mockery in the soft voice. “A rather expensive luxury, of course, but available all the year around in this latitude.”
“I failed to catch the captain’s name—yours, I presume?”
He laughed, pausing to light another cigarette.
“Still it is one you seem fairly familiar with—Henley, Philip Henley.”
I CHANGE FRONT
This statement of his identity, spoken calmly, and smilingly, was such a surprise that I could but stare at the man, half convinced I had misunderstood his words.
“You see, Craig,” he continued quietly, apparently comprehending my state of mind, “your little game is up. Not a bad plan originally—something of a criminal genius that fellow Neale—but he failed to count on the fact that I was very much alive, and fully capable of attending to my own affairs. By the way, what part did the girl play in this little conspiracy? Merely a friend of yours, who came along for company?”
“Certainly not,” I replied indignantly. “Have you seen her?”
“Not yet; I preferred coming to an understanding with you first.”
“A condition you may not find as easy as you anticipate,” I retorted, angered at his cool insolence. “If you are Philip Henley, then the lady you are holding prisoner is your wife.”
He laughed, leaning back again in his chair.
“Well, hardly. I rather surmised that was the idea from a sentence or two, in these instructions,” and he touched a bundle of papers on the desk. “Careless way to carry such evidence around—shows the amateur. Thought it would add to the appeal to justice for Henley to have a wife, I presume. Why not a child also? Permit me to state, my dear sir, that I possess no such encumbrance.”