“And Yvonne’s bag?”
“It was found where she had left it. In it were three thousand eight hundred francs, all in notes.”
“Yet Franklyn told me that he had heard how Yvonne won quite a large sum that night.”
“She might have done so—and have lost the greater part of it,” The Sparrow replied.
“On the other hand, what more feasible than that the old manservant, watching her place it there, abstracted the bulk of the money—a large sum, no doubt—and afterwards, in order to conceal his crime, shot his mistress in such circumstances as to place the onus of the crime upon her midnight visitor?”
“That the affair was very cleverly planned there is no doubt,” said The Sparrow. “There is a distinct intention to fasten the guilt upon young Henfrey, because he alone would have a motive for revenge for the death of his father. Of that fact the man or woman who fired the shot was most certainly aware. How could Cataldi have known of it?”
“I certainly believe the Italian robbed his mistress and afterwards attempted to murder her,” Howell insisted.
“He might rob his mistress, certainly. He might even have robbed her of considerable sums systematically,” The Sparrow assented. “The maids told the police that Mademoiselle’s habit was to leave her bag with her winnings upon the dressing-table while she went downstairs and took a glass of wine.”
“Exactly. She did so every evening. Her habits were regular. Yet she never knew the extent of her winnings at the tables before she counted them. And she never did so until the following morning. That is what Franklyn told me in Venice when we met a month afterwards.”
“He learnt that from me,” The Sparrow said with a smile. “No,” he went on; “though old Cataldi could well have robbed his mistress, just as the maids could have done, and Yvonne would have been none the wiser, yet I do not think he would attempt to conceal his crime by shooting her, because by so doing he cut off all future supplies. If he were a thief he would not be such a fool. Therefore you may rest assured, Howell, that the hand that fired the shot was that of some person who desired to close Yvonne’s mouth.”
“She might have held some secret concerning old Cataldi. Or, on his part, he might have cherished some grievance against her. Italians are usually very vindictive,” replied the visitor. “On the other hand, it would be to Benton’s advantage that the truth concerning old Henfrey’s death was suppressed. Yvonne was about to tell the young man something—perhaps confess the truth, who knows?—when the shot was fired.”
“Well, my dear Howell, you have your opinion and I have mine,” laughed The Sparrow. “The latter I shall keep to myself—until my theory is disproved.”
Thereupon Howell took a cigar that his host offered him, and while he slowly lit it, The Sparrow crossed to the telephone.