“Mon Dieu! the judge was alone there, dying. Pierre had shot him. He lay along the floor, gasping, groaning, and the blood dripping from his breast. When I saw this I ran forward and took his poor head on my knee, and tried to stop the blood with my handkerchief. But as I did this the judge groaned once more. He knew me not, though I called him by name. In terrible agony he writhed his head off my breast. His hand clutched at the hole in his breast, closing on my handkerchief. And so he died.
“Monsieur, strange it may seem, but I do assure you that I became calm again when he was dead. I rose to my feet and looked round me in the room. On the floor near him I saw a revolver. I picked it up and hid it in my bag. The tube of it was warm. Then I sat down in a chair and thought what I must do. The police must not know I was there. They must not know he was my lover. I thought of my letters that I wrote to him. He had them hidden in a little drawer at the back of his desk—a secret drawer. Often had he showed me my letters there, and once he had showed me where to find the spring that opened the drawer. So I searched for the spring and I found it. The drawer opened and there were my letters tied together. I took them all and hid them in my bag, and then I closed the hiding place. There remained but the handkerchief which my lover held in his hand. I tried to get it out, but I could not. In my hurry I dragged it out—it came away then, but left a little bit in his hand. It did not show. I dared not wait longer. I turned out the light, and hurried out of the room and downstairs. Again I turned out the light, and closed the door, and hurried away.
“That, monsieur, is my story.”
As Gabrielle finished her story, she cast a quick glance at Crewe’s face as though seeking to divine his decision. But apparently she could read nothing there, and with an imperious gesture she exclaimed:
“You will do what I ask now that I have exposed my secret—my shame to you—and told everything? You will save Madame Holymead from being persecuted by these police agents?”
“I must ask you a few questions first.”
The contrast between the detective’s quiet English tones and the Frenchwoman’s impetuous appeal was accentuated by the methodical way in which Crewe slowly jotted down an entry in his open notebook. Her dark eyes sparkled in an agony of impatience as she watched him.
“Ask them quick, monsieur, for I burn in the suspense.”
“In the first place, then, have you any—”
“Hold, monsieur! I know what you would ask! You would say if I have any proofs? Stupid that I am to forget things so important. I have brought you the proofs.”
She fumbled at the clasp of her hand-bag, as she spoke, and before she had finished speaking she had torn it open and emptied its contents on the table in front of Crewe—a dainty handkerchief and a revolver.