A fainting woman, if she is beautiful and fashionably dressed, will unnerve even a resourceful police official. Had she been one of the servants Inspector Chippenfield would have rung the bell for a glass of water to throw over her face, and meantime would have looked on calmly at such evidence of the weakness of sex. But in this case he dashed out of the room, ran downstairs, shouted for Hill, ordered him to find a glass, snatched the glass from him, filled it with water, and dashed upstairs again. His absence from the room totalled a little less than three minutes, and when he held the glass to the lady’s lips he was out of breath with his exertions.
Mrs. Holymead took a sip of water, shuddered, took another sip, then heaved a sigh, and opened to the full extent her large dark eyes on the man bending over her, who felt amply repaid by such a glance. She thanked him prettily for his great kindness and took her departure, being conducted downstairs, and to her waiting motor-car at the gate, by Inspector Chippenfield. That officer went back to the house with a pleased smile on his features. But he would not have been so pleased with himself if he had known that his brief absence from the room of the tragedy for the purpose of obtaining a glass of water had been more than sufficient to enable the lady to run to the open desk of the murdered man, touch a spring which opened a secret receptacle at the back of it, extract a small bundle of papers, close the spring, and return to her chair to await in a fainting attitude the return of the chivalrous police officer.
Mrs. Holymead’s return to her home in Princes Gate was awaited with feverish anxiety by one of the inmates. This was Mademoiselle Gabrielle Chiron, a French girl of about twenty-eight, who was a distant connection of Mrs. Holymead’s by marriage. A cousin of Mrs. Holymead’s had married Lucille Chiron, the younger sister of Gabrielle, two years ago. Mrs. Holymead on visiting the French provincial town where the marriage was celebrated, was attracted by Gabrielle. As the Chiron family were not wealthy they welcomed the friendship between Gabrielle and the beautiful American who had married one of the leading barristers in London, and finally Gabrielle went to live with Mrs. Holymead as a companion.
From the window of an upstairs room which commanded a view of the street, Gabrielle Chiron waited impatiently for the return of the motor-car in which Mrs. Holymead had driven to Riversbrook. When at length it turned the corner and came into view, she rushed downstairs to meet Mrs. Holymead. She opened the street door before the lady of the house could ring. Her gaze was fixed on a hand-bag which Mrs. Holymead carried—a comparatively big hand-bag which the lady had taken the precaution to purchase before driving out to Riversbrook.
The French girl’s face lighted up with a smile as she saw by the shape of the bag that it was not empty.