Mademoiselle Chiron began speaking on the telephone, but she stopped suddenly, staring with frightened eyes into the mirror at the other side of the room. The glass reflected the actions of Rolfe at the table. Seated with his back towards her, he had taken advantage of her being called to the telephone to examine her handkerchief, which he had picked up from the floor. He had produced from his pocketbook the scrap of lace and muslin which he had found in the murdered man’s hand. He had the two on the table side by side comparing them, and Mademoiselle Chiron noticed a smile of satisfaction flit across his face as he did so. While she looked he restored the scrap to his pocket-book, and the pocket-book to his pocket. Hastily she turned to the telephone again and continued, in a voice which a quick ear would have detected was slightly hysterical.
Then she hung up the receiver and turned to Rolfe.
“But, monsieur, you were saying—”
Rolfe handed the handkerchief to its owner with a courtly bow which he flattered himself was equal to the best French school.
“I picked this up off the floor, mademoiselle. It is yours, I think?”
“This?” Mademoiselle Chiron touched the handkerchief with a dainty forefinger. “It is my handkerchief. I dropped it.”
“It is very pretty,” said Rolfe, with simulated indifference. “I suppose you bought that in Paris. It does not look English,’’
“But no, monsieur, it is quite Engleesh. I bought it in the shop.”
“Indeed! A London shop?” inquired Rolfe, with equal indifference.
“The lingerie shop in Oxford Street—what do you call it—Hobson’s?”
“I’m sure I don’t know—these ladies’ things are a bit out of my line,” said Rolfe, rising as he spoke with a smile, in which there was more than a trace of self-satisfaction.
He felt that he had acquitted himself with an adroitness which Crewe himself might have envied. He had made an important discovery and extracted the name of the shop where the handkerchief had been bought without—so he flattered himself—arousing any suspicions on the part of the lady. Rolfe knew from his inquiries in West End shops that handkerchiefs of that pattern and quality were stocked by many of the good shops, but the fact that he had found a handkerchief of this kind in the house of a lady who had abstracted secret letters from the murdered man’s desk, and had, moreover, discovered the name of the shop where she bought her handkerchiefs, convinced him that he had struck a path which must lead to an important discovery.
Mademoiselle Chiron followed Rolfe into the hall and watched his departure from a front window. When she saw his retreating figure turn the corner of the street she left the window, ran upstairs quickly, and knocked lightly at the closed door.
The door was opened by Mrs. Holymead, who appeared to be in a state of nervous agitation. Her large brown eyes were swollen and dim with weeping, her hair had become partly unloosened, her face was white and her dress disordered. She caught the Frenchwoman by the wrist and drew her into the bedroom, closing the door after her.