Mr. Coulson moved his cigar
into a corner of his mouth, as
though to obtain a clear view
of his questioner's face. His
was one of bland interest.
"Well, I guess you've got me
puzzled, Sir Edward," he said. "You
aren't thinking of doing anything
in woollen machinery, are you?"
Sir Edward smiled.
"I think not, Mr. Coulson," he
answered. "At any rate, my question
had nothing to do with your other
very interesting avocation. What
I wanted to ask you was whether
you could tell me anything about
a compatriot of yours--a Mr.
"Hamilton Fynes!" Mr. Coulson
repeated thoughtfully. "Why,
that's the man who got murdered
on the cars, going from Liverpool
"That is so," Sir
Mr. Coulson shook his head.
"I told that reporter fellow
all I knew about him," he said. "He
was an unsociable sort of chap,
you know, Sir Edward, and he
wasn't in any line of business."
"H'm! I thought he might have
been," the Minister answered,
glancing keenly for a moment
at his visitor. "To tell you
the truth, Mr. Coulson, we have
been a great deal bothered about
that unfortunate incident, and
by the subsequent murder of the
young man who was attached to
your Embassy here. Scotland Yard
has strained every nerve to bring
the guilty people to justice,
but so far unsuccessfully. It
seems to me that your friends
on the other side scarcely seem
to give us credit for our exertions.
They do not help us in the least.
They assure us that they had
no knowledge of Mr. Fynes other
than has appeared in the papers.
They recognize him only as an
American citizen going about
his legitimate business. A little
more confidence on their part
would, I think, render our task
Mr. Coulson scratched his chin
for a moment thoughtfully.
"Well," he said, "I
can understand their feeling
a bit sore about
it. I'm not exactly given to
brag when I'm away from my own
country--one hears too much of
that all the time--but between
you and me, I shouldn't say that
it was possible for two crimes
like that to be committed in
New York City and for the murderer
to get off scot free in either
"The matter," Sir Edward declared, "has
given us a great deal of anxiety,
and I can assure you that the
Home Secretary himself has taken
a strong personal interest in
it, but at the same time, as
I have just pointed out to you,
our investigations are rendered
the more difficult from the fact
that we cannot learn anything
definite concerning this Mr.
Hamilton Fynes or his visit to
this country. Now, if we knew,
for instance," Sir Edward continued, "that
he was carrying documents, or
even a letter, similar to the
one you have just handed to me,
we might at once discover a motive
to the crime, and work backwards
until we reached the perpetrator."
Mr. Coulson knocked the ash
from his cigar.
"I see what you are driving
at," he said. "I am sorry I can
be of no assistance to you, Sir
"Neither in the case of Mr.
Hamilton Fynes or in the case
of Mr. Richard Vanderpole?" Sir
Mr. Coulson shook his head.
"Quite out of my line," he
"Notwithstanding the fact," Sir
Edward reminded him quietly, "that
you were probably the last person
to see Vanderpole alive? He came
to the Savoy to call upon you
before he got into the taxicab
where he was murdered. That is
so, isn't it?"
"Sure!" Mr. Coulson answered. "A
nice young fellow he was, too.
Well set up, and real American
manners,--Hail, fellow, well
met!' with you right away."
"I suppose, Mr. Coulson," the
Minister suggested smoothly, "it
wouldn't answer your purpose
to put aside that bluff about
patents for the development of
the woollen trade for a few moments,
and tell me exactly what passed
between you and Mr. Vanderpole
at the Savoy Hotel, and the object
of his calling upon you? Whether,
for instance, he took away with
him documents or papers intended
for the Embassy and which you
yourself had brought from America?"
"You do think of things!" Mr.
Coulson remarked admiringly. "You're
on the wrong track this time,
though, sure. Still, supposing
I were able to tell you that
Mr. Vanderpole was carrying papers
of importance to my country,
and that Mr. Hamilton Fynes was
also in possession of the same
class of document, how would
it help you? In what fresh direction
should you look then for the
murderers of these two men?"
"Mr. Coulson," Sir Edward said, "we
should consider the nature of
those documents, and we should
see to whose advantage it was
that they were suppressed."
Mr. Coulson's face seemed suddenly
old and lined. He spoke with
a new vigor, and his eyes were
very keen and bright under his
"And supposing it was your
country's?" he asked. "Supposing
they contained instructions to
our Ambassador which you might
consider inimical to your interests?
Do you mean that you would look
at home for the murderer? You
mean that you have men so devoted
to their native land that they
were willing to run the risk
of death by the hangman to aid
her? You mean that your Secret
Service is perfected to that
extent, and that the scales of
justice are held blindfolded?
Or do you mean that Scotland
Yard would have its orders, and
that these men would go free?"
"I was not thinking of my own
country," Sir Edward admitted. "I
must confess that my thoughts
had turned elsewhere."
"Let me tell you this, sir," Mr.
Coulson continued. "I should
imagine that the trouble with
Washington, if there is any,
is simply that they will not
believe that your police have
a free hand. They will not believe
that you are honestly and genuinely
anxious for the discovery of
the perpetrator of these crimes.
I speak without authority, you
understand? I am no more in a
position to discuss this affair
than any other tourist from my
country who might happen to come
Sir Edward shrugged his shoulders.
"Can you suggest any method," he
asked a little dryly, "by means
of which we might remove this
Mr. Coulson flicked the ash
once more from the end of his
cigar and looked at it thoughtfully.
"This isn't my show," he said, "and,
you understand, I am giving the
views of Mr. James B. Coulson,
and nobody but Mr. James B. Coulson,
but if I were in your position,
and knew that a friendly country
was feeling a little bit sore
at having two of her citizens
disposed of so unceremoniously,
I'd do my best to prove, by the
only possible means, that I was
taking the matter seriously."
"The only possible means being?" Sir
"I guess I'd offer a reward," Mr.
Sir Edward did not hesitate
for a moment.
"Your idea is an excellent
one, Mr. Coulson," he said. "It
has already been mooted, but
we will give it a little emphasis.
Tomorrow we will offer a reward
of one thousand pounds for any
information leading to the apprehension
of either murderer."
"That sounds bully," Mr.
that it will have a good effect
upon your friends
"Me?" Mr. Coulson asked. "I
know nothing about it. I've given
you my personal opinion only.
Seems to me, though, it's the
best way of showing that you're
"Before we quit this subject
finally, Mr. Coulson," Sir Edward
said, "I am going to ask you
a question which you have been
"Referring to Hamilton Fynes?" Mr.
"Get your young man to lay
his hand on that copy of the
Comet," Mr. Coulson begged earnestly. "I
told that pushing young journalist
all I knew and a bit more. I
assure you, my information isn't
"Was it meant to be worth anything?" Sir
Mr. Coulson remained imperturbable.
"If you don't mind, Sir Edward," he
said, "I guess we'll drop the
subject of Mr. Hamilton Fynes.
We can't get any forwarder. Let
it go at that."
There was a knock at the door.
Sir Edward's secretary ushered
in a tall, plainly dressed gentleman,
who had the slightly aggrieved
air of a man who has been kept
out of his bed beyond the usual
"My dear Bransome," he said,
shaking hands, "isn't this a
little unreasonable of you? Business
at this hour of the night! I
was in the midst of a most amusing
conversation with a delightful
acquaintance of your wife's,
a young lady who turned up her
nose at Hegel and had developed
a philosophy of her own. I was
just beginning to grasp its first
principles. Nothing else, I am
quite sure, would have kept me
Sir Edward leaned across the
table towards Mr. Coulson. Mr.
Coulson had risen to his feet.
"This gentleman," he said, "is
The newcomer opened his lips
to protest, but Sir Edward held
out his hand.
"One moment," he begged. "Our
friend here--Mr. J. B. Coulson
from New York--has brought a
letter from America. He is sailing
tomorrow,--leaving London somewhere
about eight o'clock in the morning,
I imagine. He wishes to take
back a verbal reply. The letter,
you will understand, comes from
a Mr. Jones, and the reply is
delivered in the presence of--Mr.
Smith. Our friend here is not
personally concerned in these
affairs. As a matter of fact,
I believe he has been on the
Continent exploiting some patents
of his own invention."
The newcomer accepted the burden
of his altered nomenclature and
took up the letter. He glanced
at the signature, and his manner
became at once more interested.
He accepted the chair which Sir
Edward had placed by his side,
and, drawing the electric light
a little nearer, read the document
through, word by word. Then he
folded it up, and glanced first
at his colleague and afterwards
at Mr. Coulson.
"I understand," he said, "that
this is a private inquiry from
a private gentleman, who is entitled,
however, to as much courtesy
as it is possible for us to show
"That is exactly the position,
sir," Mr. Coulson replied. "Negotiations
of a more formal character are
naturally conducted between your
Foreign Office and the Foreign
Office of my country. These few
lines come from man to man. I
think that it occurred to my
friend that it might save a great
deal of trouble, a great deal
of specious diplomacy, and a
great many hundred pages of labored
despatches, if, at the bottom
of it all, he knew your true
feelings concerning this question.
It is, after all, a simple matter," Mr.
Coulson continued, "and yet it
is a matter with so many ramifications
that after much discussion it
might become a veritable chaos."
Mr. Smith inclined his head
"I appreciate the situation," he
said. "My friend here--Sir Edward
Bransome--and I have already
discussed the matter at great
length. We have also had the
benefit of the advice and help
of a greater Foreign Minister
than either of us could ever
hope to become. I see no objection
to giving you the verbal reply
you ask for. Do you, Bransome?"
"I leave it to you to put it
in your own words," Mr. Smith
continued. "The affair is within
your province, and the policy
of His Majesty's Ministers is
Sir Edward turned toward their
"Mr. Coulson," he said, "we
are asked by your friend, in
a few plain words, what the attitude
of Great Britain would be in
the event of a war between Japan
and America. My answer--our answer--to
you is this,--no war between
Japan and America is likely to
take place unless your Cabinet
should go to unreasonable and
uncalled-for extremes. We have
ascertained, beyond any measure
of doubt, the sincere feeling
of our ally in this matter. Japan
does not desire war, is not preparing
for it, is unwilling even to
entertain the possibility of
it. At the same time she feels
that her sons should receive
the same consideration from every
nation in the world as the sons
of other people. Personally it
is our profound conviction that
the good sense, the fairness,
and the generous instincts of
your great country will recognize
this and act accordingly. War
between your country and Japan
is an impossible thing. The thought
of it exists only in the frothy
vaporings of cheap newspapers,
and the sensational utterances
of the catch politician who must
find an audience and a hearing
by any methods. The sober possibility
of such a conflict does not exist."
Mr. Coulson listened attentively
to every word. When Sir Edward
had finished, he withdrew his
cigar from his mouth and knocked
the ash on to a corner of the
"That's all very interesting
indeed, Sir Edward," he declared. "I
am very pleased to have heard
what you have said, and I shall
repeat it to my friend on the
other side, who, I am sure, will
be exceedingly obliged to you
for such a frank exposition of
your views. And now," he continued, "I
don't want to keep you gentlemen
up too late, so perhaps you will
be coming to the answer of my
"The answer!" Sir Edward exclaimed. "Surely
I made myself clear?"
"All that you have said, " Mr.
Coulson admitted, "has been remarkably
clear, but the question I asked
you was this,--what is to be
the position of your country
in the event of war between Japan
"And I have told you," Sir
Edward declared, "that war between
Japan and America is not a subject
within the scope of practical
"We may consider ourselves--my
friend Mr. Jones would certainly
consider himself," Mr. Coulson
affirmed,--"as good a judge as
you, Sir Edward, so far as regards
that matter. I am not asking
you whether it is probable or
improbable. You may know the
feelings of your ally. You do
not know ours. We may look into
the future, and we may see that,
sooner or later, war between
our country and Japan is a necessity.
We may decide that it is better
for us to fight now than later.
These things are in the clouds.
They only enter into the present
discussion to this extent, but
it is not for you to sit here
and say whether war between the
United States and Japan is possible
or impossible. What Mr. Jones
asks you is--what would be your
position if it should take place?
The little diatribe with which
you have just favored me is exactly
the reply we should have expected
to receive formally from Downing
Street. It isn't that sort of
reply I want to take back to
Mr. Smith and his colleague
exchanged glances, and the latter
drew his chief on one side.
"You will excuse me for a moment,
I know, Mr. Coulson," he said.
"Why, by all means," Mr. Coulson
declared. "My time is my own,
and it is entirely at your service.
If you say the word, I'll go
outside and wait."
"It is not necessary," Sir
The room was a large one, and
the two men walked slowly up
and down, Mr. Smith leaning all
the time upon his colleague's
shoulder. They spoke in an undertone,
and what they said was inaudible
to Mr. Coulson. During his period
of waiting he drew another cigar
from his pocket, and lit it from
the stump of the old one. Then
he made himself a little more
comfortable in his chair, and
looked around at the walls of
the handsomely furnished but
rather sombre apartment with
an air of pleased curiosity.
It was scarcely, perhaps, what
he should have expected from
a man in a similar position in
his own country, but it was,
at any rate, impressive. Presently
they came back to him. This time
it was Mr. Smith who spoke.
"Mr. Coulson," he said, "we
need not beat about the bush.
You ask us a plain question and
you want a plain answer. Then
I must tell you this. The matter
is not one concerning which I
can give you any definite information.
I appreciate the position of
your friend Mr. Jones, and I
should like to have met him in
the same spirit as he has shown
in his inquiry, but I may tell
you that, being utterly convinced
that Japan does not seek war
with you, and that therefore
no war is likely, my Government
is not prepared to answer a question
which they consider based upon
an impossibility. If this war
should come, the position of
our country would depend entirely
upon the rights of the dispute.
As a corollary to that, I would
mention two things. You read
your newspapers, Mr. Coulson?"
"You are aware, then," Mr.
Smith continued, "of the present
position of your fleet. You know
how many months must pass before
it can reach Eastern waters.
It is not within the traditions
of this country to evade fulfillment
of its obligations, however severe
and unnatural they may seem,
but in three months' time, Mr.
Coulson, our treaty with Japan
will have expired."
"You are seeking to renew it!" Mr.
Coulson declared quickly.
Mr. Smith raised his eyebrows.
"The renewal of that treaty," he
said, "is on the knees of the
gods. One cannot tell. I go so
far only as to tell you that
in three months the present treaty
will have expired."
Mr. Coulson rose slowly to
his feet and took up his hat.
"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
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.
"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
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