Eleanor saw that Bessie was troubled, even though Holmes was ignorant of the sensation he had caused, and, as soon as the car was moving at high speed again, she leaned over close.
“What is it, Bessie! What startled you so?”
“I’ll tell you later, Miss Eleanor,” whispered Bessie. “I’m not sure enough yet—really I’m not! But as soon as I am, I’ll tell you all I know.”
Mr. Holmes was as good as his word. He brought them into the central part of the town just at the time he had promised, and sprang out to open the door of the tonneau for them.
“Must you really go now?” he said, dejectedly. “You’ll be leaving me all alone, you know. Can’t you finish your shopping, and then let me run you out to Arkville for luncheon?”
“You speak as if it were just across the street,” laughed Eleanor. “And you know, Bessie, it’s really fifty miles or more away, and it’s actually over the state line. It’s in your old state—the same one Hedgeville is in. But it’s in a different direction, and it’s even further from Hedgeville than we are here, I guess. Isn’t it, Mr. Holmes?”
“I’d have to know just where Hedgeville is to answer that, Miss Mercer. And I’ve never been there nor even traveled through it, so far as I can remember. I’ll look it up on my road map, though, if you like—”
“Oh, no, please don’t bother to do that. It’s not of the slightest importance.”
“Then we shall have to put off Arkville to another day, you think, Miss Mercer?”
“I’m afraid so, really. We’ve a good deal to do today, and there are reasons that I won’t bother you with for our having to be in town. Thank you ever so much for the ride.”
“Yes, thank you ever so much,” echoed Bessie.
They were near Charlie Jamieson’s office, and, as the car turned and disappeared in the mass of traffic, Bessie clutched Eleanor’s arm.
“Oh, do come quickly, Miss Eleanor, please! Look at this. Don’t you think we ought to tell Mr. Jamieson about it right away?”
She held out a piece of ribbon, torn and stained. It was not large, but there was enough of it to identify it easily. And, as Eleanor looked at it, she remembered faintly having seen it before.
“What is that? Where did you find it?” she asked, puzzled.
“It’s the ribbon Zara wore in her hair, and I found it in the car. It fell on the floor when he opened the door for us to get out—it must have been caught there. And do you remember, we got in on the other side, so that that door wasn’t opened then?”
Eleanor looked more puzzled than ever.
“I don’t see how that can be Zara’s ribbon,” she protested. “What would she have been doing in Mr. Holmes’ car? It’s just an accident, Bessie. It’s just a coincidence that that ribbon should be there. It might have belonged to someone else—I’m sure it did, in fact.”
“Oh, please, please, I know!” said Bessie. “Won’t you let me tell Mr. Jamieson about it!”