“Do you know how long a minute is?” said Ranleigh, drawing out his watch.
“Not exactly!” she admitted.
“Do you mind if I test you?”
“Not in the least.”
“Then tell me when it is a minute....”
“Now?” said she.
“Fourteen seconds!” he smiled.
“Fourteen seconds!” she exclaimed incredulously “It’s not possible.”
“You’re considerably above the average, Mrs. Winton. However, it depends much on what you’re doing at the moment. Last night when you were watching, not estimating, you probably were nearer right as to the interval. When, may I ask, did the driver reappear?”
“He didn’t reappear—at least that I saw; he may have come out of the house while I dozed.”
“Might not the man that you saw last have been he?”
“I’m perfectly sure it wasn’t. The driver was medium-sized and stout, this man was tall and slender. I couldn’t have been mistaken.”
Ranleigh nodded. Her story was testing up very well on the known points.
“Now, Mrs. Winton, can you give some description of the woman in the case—her appearance—how she was dressed—anything to aid us in identifying her?”
“I’m afraid I can’t be of much help,” Mrs. Winton replied. “She was, I think, clad in a dark street gown. In the uncertain electric light, I could not distinguish the colour—and the men were so close to her I had little chance to see. About all I’m sure of is that it was a woman; slender and about the average height. I did not see her face.”
The Chief nodded again.
“What about the house, Mrs. Winton? Did you see anything unusual before tonight?”
“I saw no one but the servants—though I didn’t look quite all the time,” she added with a smile. “I’m not unduly curious, I think, Major Ranleigh, under the, to me, unusual circumstances; and in mitigation of my curiosity, I’ve told no one of the matter.”
“You’re a woman of rare discretion, Mrs. Winton,” the Superintendent replied.
“I fear I’m a busy-body,” she returned.
“I wish then there were more busy-bodies of your sort. Tell me, could you recognize the men?”
“Not with any assurance.—Neither could I recognize the occupants of the house,” she added. “The truth is, though you may doubt, that I scarcely notice them; but one can’t see a to-let-unfurnished sign on a house opposite for six months, without remarking its sudden disappearance from the landscape.”
“I should say that you wouldn’t be normal if you didn’t notice—and comment, too,” Ranleigh declared. “And the Department is much indebted to you for the information, and it appreciates the spirit that moves you in the matter.”
Mrs. Winton arose to go—the Superintendent accompanied her into the hall, rang the bell for the elevator, and bowed her into it.
“Don’t you wish to know the result?” he inquired with a quizzical smile, as he put her in the car.