“Of course. She was looking directly at me.”
“You remember it? Could identify it if you saw it again?”
“Yes; that is—”
“That’s all, good-by.”
The circuit was cut off.
Another intolerable wait. Then there came a knock on the door and Gerridge entered. He held a photograph in his hand which he had evidently taken from his pocket on his way up.
“Look at this,” said he. “Do you recognize the face?”
“Just so; the one who said she had seen no one come into No. 3 on the first floor.”
Mr. Ransom’s expression of surprised inquiry was sufficient answer.
“Well, it’s a pity you didn’t look at her gloves instead of at her face. You might have had some dim idea of having seen them before. It was she who rode to the hotel with you; not your wife. The veil was wound around her face for a far deeper purpose than to ward off rice.”
Mr. Ransom staggered back against the table before which he had been standing. The blow was an overwhelming one.
“Who is this woman?” he demanded. “She came from Mr. Fulton’s house. More than that, from my wife’s room. What is her name and what did she mean by such an outrage?”
“Her name is Bella Burton, and she is your wife’s confidential maid. As for the meaning of this outrage, it will take more than two hours to ferret out that. I can only give you the single fact I’ve mentioned.”
“And Mrs. Ransom?”
“She left the house at the same moment you did; you and Miss Burton. Only she went by the basement door.”
“Dressed in her maid’s clothes. Oh, you’ll have to hear worse things than that before we’re out of this muddle. If you won’t mind a bit of advice from a man of experience, I would suggest that you take things easy. It’s the only way.”
Shocked into silence by this cold-blooded philosophy, Mr. Ransom controlled both his anger and his humiliation; but he could not control his surprise.
“What does it mean?” he murmured to himself. “What does it all mean?”
“He knows the word”
The next moment the doubt natural to the occasion asserted itself.
“How do you know all this? You state the impossible. Explain yourself.”
Gerridge was only too willing to do so.
“I have just come from Mr. Fulton’s house,” said he. “Inquiries there elicited the facts which have so startled you. Neither Mr. Fulton nor his wife meant to deceive you. They knew nothing, suspected nothing of what took place, and you have no cause to blame them. It was all a plot between the two women.”