“My name is Crewe,” he said, ignoring the compliment. “What do you wish to see me for?”
The visitor did not immediately reply. She nervously unfastened a bag she carried, and taking out a singularly unfeminine-looking handkerchief—a large cambric square almost masculine in its proportions, and guiltless of lace or perfume—held it to her face for a moment. But Crewe noticed that her eyes were dry when she removed it to remark:
“What I say to you, monsieur, is in strictest confidence—as sacred as the confession.”
“Anything you say to me will be in strict confidence,” said Crewe a little grimly.
“And the boy? Can he not hear through the keyhole?” Crewe’s visitor glanced expressively at the door by which she had entered.
“You are quite safe here, madame—mademoiselle, I should say,” he added, with a quick glance at her left hand, from which she slowly removed the glove as she spoke.
“Mademoiselle Chiron, monsieur,” said Gabrielle, flashing another smile at him. “I am Madame Holymead’s relative—her cousin. I come to see you about the dreadful murder of the judge, Madame’s friend.”
“You come from Mrs. Holymead?” said Crewe quickly. “Then, Mademoiselle Chiron, before—”
“No, no, monsieur, no!” Her agitation was unmistakably genuine. “I do not come from Madame Holymead. I am her relative, it is true, but I come—how shall I say it?—from myself. I mean she does not know of my visit to you, monsieur.”
“I quite understand,” replied Crewe.
“Monsieur Crewe,” said Gabrielle hurriedly, “although I have not come from Madame Holymead, it is for her sake that I come to see you—to save her from the persecution of one of your police agents who wants to ask her questions about this so sordid—so terrible a crime! He has come once, this agent—last night he came—and he told me he wanted to question Madame Holymead about the murder of her dear friend the judge. I do not want Madame worried with these questions, so I told him Madame was away in the motor in the country; but he says he will come again and again till he sees her. Madame is distracted when she learns of his visit; it opens up her bleeding heart afresh, for she and her husband were intime with the dead judge, and deeply, terribly, they deplore his so dreadful end. I see Madame cry, and I say to myself I will not let this little police agent spoil her beauty and give her the migraine: his visits must be, shall be, prevented. I have heard of the so great and good Monsieur Crewe, and I will go and see him. We will—as you say in your English way—put our heads together, this famous detective and I, and we will find some way of—how do you call it?—circumventing this police agent so that my dear Madame shall cry no more. Monsieur Crewe, I am here, and I beg of you to help me.”