“And when will she return here?”
“That, monsieur, I do not know. To-night—to-morrow—next week—she does not tell me. If Monsieur will leave me a message I will see that she gets it, for it is always me she wants, and it is always me that talks to her. What shall I tell her when next she rings the telephone? If Monsieur will state his business I will tell Madame what he tells me. I am Madame’s cousin by marriage—in me she has confidence.”
She spoke in a tone which invited confidence, but Rolfe was not prepared to go to the length of trusting the young woman he saw before him, despite her assurance that she was in the confidence of Mrs. Holymead. He rose to his feet with a keen glance at Mademoiselle Chiron’s handkerchief, which she had rolled into a little ball in her hand.
“I cannot disclose my business to you, mademoiselle,” he said courteously. “I must see Mrs. Holymead personally, so I shall call again when she has returned.”
“But, monsieur, why will you not tell me?” she asked coaxingly. “You are a police agent? Have you therefore come to see Madame about the case?”
Rolfe showed that he was taken aback by the direct question.
“The case!” he stammered. “What case?”
“Why, monsieur, what case should it be but that of which I have so often heard Madame speak? Le judge—the good friend of Monsieur and Madame Holymead, who was killed by the base assassin! Madame is disconsolate about his terrible end!” Mademoiselle Chiron here applied the handkerchief to her eyes on her own account. “Have you come to tell her that you have caught the wicked man who did assassinate him? Madame will be overjoyed!”
“Why, hardly that,” replied Rolfe, completely off his guard. “But we’re on the track, mademoiselle—we’re on the track.”
“And is it that you wanted me to tell Madame?” persisted Mademoiselle Chiron.
“I wanted to ask her a question or two about several things,” said Rolfe, who had determined to disclose his hand sufficiently to bring Mrs. Holymead back to London if she had anything to do with the crime. “I want to ask her about some letters that were stolen—no, I won’t say stolen—letters that were removed from Riversbrook. I have been informed that even if these letters are no longer in existence she can give the police a good idea of what was in them.”
The telephone bell in the corner of the room rang suddenly. Mademoiselle Chiron ran to answer it, and accidentally dropped her handkerchief on the floor in picking up the receiver.