“Well, one thing was clear. Mrs. Markham didn’t want her to git as much as a sight of that book. Why? It was about the funniest little thing I’d seen in that house. Better believe I found business in the front parlor where I could keep my eyes on ’em. After a minute or two, Annette walked out, listless as ever. Soon as her back was turned, Mrs. Markham went to the desk an’ locked the book in the top drawer.
“It was an hour before the coast was clear for me to git into the parlor and open that lock with a skeleton key an’ a hairpin. An’ when I seen the title of that book—well it got as clear—”
Blake saw, through the veil above his sight, that Rosalie’s face had broken out dimples and sparkles as a yacht breaks out flags. It irritated him remotely.
“What has that to do with the case?” he asked; and then, weakly, “I don’t want to hear about it.”
“If I was to tell you,” persisted Rosalie rolling the sweets of revelation under her tongue, “that jest the name of the book in the secretary showed your girl was all right and you and I was fools, what would you say?”
The veil lifted from Blake. It was he himself who had risen from his chair, was leaning over the table, was asking:
“What do you mean? Tell me—what do you mean?”
Rosalie herself rose, leaned over to meet him, and whispered four words in his ear.
“See!” she added aloud. “See!”
Blake fell back into his chair with a thump.
“I, a doctor and a man of science and I never thought once of that! What a damned fool I was!”
“We was,” amended Rosalie Le Grange.
ANNETTE TELLS THE TRUTH
It seemed to Blake, waiting in Rosalie’s sitting-room for a quarter of nine, that this silent house of mystery vibrated suppressed excitement. He sat with his hands clenched, his body leaning forward, in the attitude of one waiting the signal to strike. Rosalie, sitting opposite him, sent over a smile of reassurance now and then, but neither spoke.
There was no need of words. They had talked out the smallest detail of Rosalie’s plot, even to mapping the location of the furniture. Inch by inch, objection after objection, she had conquered his cautions and scruples; had persuaded him that the dramatic method was the best method. When Blake entered the house, nothing was left to chance except the question whether Norcross would miss his engagement to “sit” with Mrs. Markham. Rosalie settled that. From the front windows, she had observed the green limousine automobile waiting by the curbing outside; through her open registers she had caught the murmur of conversation.
So even Rosalie, whose tongue ran by custom in greased grooves, found nothing to say until the little mantel clock tapped three times to announce a quarter to the hour. It brought Blake to his feet with such a jerk that Rosalie shook both her hands at him by way of caution. At the door she stopped a second, put her lips to his ear.