“Well, here’s luck and long life to the man that did it—whoever he is.”
Fred offered no objection to this sentiment and they drained glasses.
“And so you’ve had no luck, Rolfe?”
Inspector Chippenfield, glancing up from his official desk in Scotland Yard, put this question in a tone of voice which suggested that the speaker had expected nothing better.
“I’ve seen the heads of at least half a dozen likely West End shops,” Rolfe replied, “and they tell me there is nothing to indicate where the handkerchief was bought. The scrap of lace merely shows that it was torn off a good handkerchief, but there is nothing about it to show that the handkerchief was different in any marked way from the average filmy scrap of muslin and lace which every smart woman carries as a handkerchief. I thought so myself, before I started to make inquiries.”
“Well, Rolfe, we must come at it another way,” said the inspector. “Undoubtedly there is a woman in the case, and it ought not to be impossible to locate her. Your theory, Rolfe, is that the murder was committed by some one who broke into the place while Sir Horace was entertaining a lady friend or waiting for the arrival of a lady he expected. Either the lady had not arrived or had left the room temporarily when the burglar broke into the house. He had spotted the place some days before and ascertained that it was empty, and when he found that Sir Horace had returned alone he decided to break in, and, covering Sir Horace with a revolver, try to extort money from him. A riskier but more profitable game than burgling an empty house—if it came off. With his revolver in his hand he made his way up to the library. Sir Horace parleyed with him until he could reach his own revolver, and then got in the first shot but missed his man. The burglar shot him and then bolted. The lady heard the shots, and, rushing in, found Sir Horace in his death agony. She was stooping over him with her handkerchief in her hand, and in his convulsive moments he caught hold of a corner of it and the handkerchief was torn. The lady left the place and on arrival home concocted that letter which was sent here telling us that Sir Horace had been murdered. Is that it?”
“Yes,” assented Rolfe. “Of course, I don’t lay it down that everything happened just as you’ve said. But that’s my idea of the crime. It accounts for all the clues we’ve picked up, and that is something.”
“It is an ingenious theory and it does you credit,” said the inspector, who had not forgotten that he had proposed to Rolfe that they should help one another to the extent of taking one another fully into each other’s confidence, for the purpose of getting ahead of Crewe. “But you have overlooked the fact that it is possible to account in another way for all the clues we have picked up. Suppose Sir Horace’s return from Scotland was due to