THE UNKNOWN CUSTOMER

So there had been no need for Audrey to plot for the removal of Madame
Coralie’s yashmak. With the trifling aid of a tack, which had caught
the veil when the woman rose suddenly from the divan, the truth
immediately became known to the horrified and astonished girl. But was
it the truth? At the first glance Audrey recognised the side face
turned towards her as that of her mother. But when Madame Coralie
looked round fairly, and the light, filtering through the curtains of
the shop window, fell on her full countenance, then Audrey became
doubtful. The wine-dark birthmark which disfigured mouth and chin and
cheek had been absent from Lady Branwin’s face.

“But–but you are my mother!” gasped the girl, still struck by the
marvellous resemblance to the supposed dead.

“I am not your mother,” replied the other, coldly, and evading the
outstretched arms of her visitor. “But since you have seen my face, I
had better confess the truth. I am your aunt, Flora.”

“Oh!” Audrey recollected what her father had said about the two
sisters of Bleakleigh. “Flora Arkwright?”

“Yes. I see your mother told you about me.”

“No, she did not.”

Madame Coralie raised her hand imperatively. “This alcove is too
public a place in which to discuss family matters. We must go
upstairs. Indeed, I fancy your exclamation of ‘Mother!’ must have
aroused Badoura’s suspicions.”

Apparently this was true, for when Madame Coralie drew her visitor
through the pink silk curtains into the deserted shop, Badoura was
standing before them with an astonished look on her face. Her employer
at once sent her off on a false scent.

“Miss Branwin has called to see me about her mother’s death,” said
Madame Coralie, quietly. “She is slightly hysterical, and you have, no
doubt, heard what she cried out. I trust”–the speaker looked
anxiously round the shop–“that no one else heard?”

“I am alone here,” replied Badoura, evidently accepting this
explanation as a reasonable one. “Can I get Miss Branwin a glass of
water?”

“No, my dear,” said the owner of the shop, who had replaced her
yashmak. “I am taking up Miss Branwin to the still-room for a little
quiet conversation. See that we are not disturbed.”

“Peri Banou, Zobeide and Parizade are there, Madame.”

“I shall send them down. Give them something to do here. Come, Miss
Branwin, if you don’t mind climbing the stairs.”

Although Audrey felt considerably annoyed at being described as
hysterical, she nevertheless saw the necessity of some such
explanation to satisfy the curiosity of the forewoman. Therefore she
wisely said nothing, and followed Madame into the narrow back passage
and up the stairs. On arriving in the still-room, the elder woman
dismissed her assistants, and having looked behind the curtain to see
that no one was hidden there likely to overhear the conversation, she
closed the door. Audrey watched her as she sat down with her back to
the window, and tried to steady her nerves, which naturally had
sustained a shock.

“Now, Miss Branwin,” said Madame Coralie, in a quiet voice, “we can
talk. But first, so that you may be certain of my identity, I shall
lay this aside,” and she flung the long veil of the yashmak over her
shoulder.

The girl examined that face carefully. Madame Coralie was certainly
extremely like Lady Branwin. She had the same muddy complexion and
large black eyes, and the same stout, shapeless figure. But the
aggressive birthmark made all the difference, and after a single
glimpse of it, much less this cautious and lengthy survey, there could
be no question that the woman before her was not Lady Branwin.

“But my mistake was natural,” said Audrey, with a sigh.

“Very natural,” answered Madame Coralie, who had evidently followed
her train of thought–no very difficult thing to do–“especially as
you first saw my side face. The mark does not show when I look thus.”
She adapted her position to her words, and the resemblance became even
more apparent. “Dora and I were twins,” ended Madame, with a nod.

“My father did not tell me that.”

“Oh! so your father told you about me, my dear. I thought he had long
ago forgotten the existence of poor Flora Arkwright.”

“Far from forgetting you,” Audrey assured her aunt, “he said that he
wished he had married you instead of mother.”

The information did not seem to please Madame Coralie, for her thin
lips tightened, and she gave vent to a short laugh. Then Audrey noted,
as a further difference between the sisters, that the woman before her
spoke in a hoarse and loud, domineering voice. Lady Branwin, on the
other hand, had always talked softly, and possessed a musical
utterance, which was one of the few poor charms she owned.

“So Joseph remembers me in that way, does he, my dear?” said Madame
Coralie, clasping her hands. “Ha! if I hadn’t been a fool I should
have married him.”

“Why didn’t you?” asked Audrey, bluntly.

“I have stated the reason,” said Madame Coralie, drily. “I was a fool.
But I am bound to say in my own defence that I never believed Joseph
would become so wealthy. He never struck me as particularly clever.”

“Yet he must be, to have so much money.”

“There I disagree with you, my dear–I can call you my dear in
private, as you are my niece–but Joseph was always hard and grasping,
and ever had an eye to the main chance. Well, he is rich, and has now
got rid of his wife, so he can marry into the Peerage if he likes. I
expect Dora is glad she is dead, now that she is on the other side of
the grave. Joseph killed her.”

“Killed her?” Audrey, with a sudden fear, turned deadly white.

“Oh, I don’t mean to say that he strangled her,” said Madame Coralie,
hastily, “for he is too careful of his skin to risk hanging; but his
neglect killed her. She was always a good and faithful wife to him,
and he broke her heart.”

“Papa was rather unkind,” said Audrey, nervously, but relieved by this
explanation.

Madame again laughed shortly. “Unkind–rather unkind!” she repeated.
“Why, he treated her like a brute. She told me all about it. Fancy the
poor soul coming to me to be made young again, in the hope that she
could regain Joseph’s affections. I told her that she was a fool; but
she _would_ waste her money. And perhaps she wanted to help me also,”
added Madame Coralie, in a softer tone. “Dora was always fond of me.”

“She knew that you kept this shop?”

“Yes. In fact, she helped me to set up the shop some years ago. I made
her promise that she would never tell Joseph of my existence, and she
kept her word. Yet Joseph remembered me. Strange.”

“Papa said that you had the brains.”

Madame Coralie looked round the room disdainfully. “And to what have
my brains brought me? I am simply a renovator of faded women, and had
to borrow money from Dora to set up the establishment. Flora Arkwright
is lost in Madame Coralie.”

“Mrs. Edward Vail, you mean,” said Audrey, quietly.

“Oh!”–the woman shrugged her heavy shoulders–“I married Eddy so as
to have a companion. He’s a handsome fool, and goes about making love
to younger women, while he lives on my money. However, he is always
good-tempered, and suits me well enough. But in Bleakleigh I believed
that my destiny would have been a better one. Dreams, my dear dreams.”

“You were born at Bleakleigh?”

Madame Coralie nodded and folded her stout arms. Then, rocking to and
fro, she related her story and the story of her sister. It was strange
to Audrey, this history of her mother’s early life. Lady Branwin had
always been too much afraid of her husband to tell about her early
struggles.

“Dora and I were the daughters of a labourer,” said Madame Coralie.
“She was very pretty, and I–well, my dear, who could be pretty with
this?” and she touched the birthmark. “Although it was lighter when I
was a girl, I have tried so hard to remove it that I expect I made it
worse. If my customers saw it they would never believe that I could
remove blemishes from their silly faces. For that reason I always wear
the yashmak. My keeping what is called a Turkish shop gives me a
chance of doing so.”

“I quite understand,” said Audrey, gently. “But tell me about my
mother.”

Madame Coralie looked at her swiftly. “You were fond of her?”

“Of course. Was she not my mother? Besides, she was all that was good
and kind to me. And,” added Audrey, clenching her fist so tightly that
her glove split, “if no one else will revenge her by finding out who
killed her, I shall do so.”

“I fear you have undertaken a search which will never be ended,” said
her aunt, in a pitying tone; “but the feeling does you credit. I shall
assist you by all the means in my power, my dear; for not only was
poor Dora my sister, but her death has harmed my business.”

“We can talk of what we will do later,” said Audrey, quickly.
“Meanwhile, go on with your story.”

“A very dull story, I fear, my dear,” said Madame Coralie, with a
sigh. “Joseph, like Dora and myself, was the child of a labourer. We
lived next door to one another. Then Joseph fell in love with Dora,
because she was pretty, and went away to make his fortune. The papers
will tell you how he did, so there is no need for me to talk about
that. But I will say that Joseph behaved well to Dora, for he returned
to marry her. Then the ways of my sister and myself parted, and she
went on a golden road, while I”–Madame Coralie glanced round the room
again with great scorn–“while I made for this goal.”

“Did you not see my mother occasionally?”

“Not for many years, my dear. I got married to a gamekeeper–the
gamekeeper of Squire Shawe, of Bleakleigh. He was killed by poachers
within a year of marriage, and left me with a few hundred pounds in
hand. There was no child, and there was nothing to keep me in
Bleakleigh, since my parents were dead, so I came to London.
Then–” Madame Coralie shivered.

“What happened then?” asked Audrey, sympathetically.

“Trouble. I was born to trouble, my dear. Everything that could go
wrong with me went wrong. I tried the stage, and failed. I became a
lecturer, and lost my voice–you hear how hoarse it is still. I went
to America as a lady’s-maid, and was stranded there in San Francisco.
I worked as a typist; I laboured in a laundry; I took to reporting; I
edited a woman’s paper, and did all I could to keep myself above
water. As a reporter I was sent to Paris in the interests of the
paper. It failed, and I went in for massaging people. Then–well, to
make a long story short, I learnt from a friend of mine in Paris all
kinds of secrets about the art of making women beautiful. It struck me
that I might start in London. I came back and wrote to Dora. There was
no difficulty in finding her, as she was by this time Lady Branwin,
the wife of a millionaire. I am bound to say that Dora behaved very
well. She said nothing to her brute of a husband, but managed in some
way to get enough to start me in this business. Then–” Madame Coralie
stopped abruptly, with a gesture. “That’s all, my dear.”

“And does the business pay?” asked Audrey, mindful of what Ralph had
said regarding the difficulties of the woman before her.

“Yes. That is, it would pay if I could only get in the money. But all
my clients, being women of fashion, are such bad payers–they ask for
years of credit. Then there’s Eddy, who is extravagant. I was a fool
to marry him; but I did so for companionship. I bought him, so to
speak, so we understand one another perfectly. Of course, poor Dora’s
death has done a lot of harm to me; but now that I have money to fall
back on, I hope to pull round. It is weary work, though,” said Madame
Coralie, looking very old–“weary work.”

“I am glad that you have saved money,” said Audrey, who could not but
acknowledge that her aunt was marvellously candid.

“Saved money! My dear, have you not been listening to what I have been
saying? How could I save money with Eddy’s extravagance and these
customers who never will pay their bills. It was Dora who came to my
rescue. She gave me her diamonds, poor dear.”

Audrey jumped up amazed. “Gave you her diamonds?” she echoed. “But you
said at the inquest–”

“I know perfectly well what I said at the inquest and what I am saying
to you,” interrupted Madame Coralie, sharply. “I denied that I knew
anything of the diamonds. For obvious reasons I did so. If I had
admitted possession of the diamonds, I would have been suspected as
the person who strangled your mother. No one knew that Dora and I were
sisters.”

“You could have explained at–”

“No,” said Madame Coralie, positively, “I could not have explained,
for my story would have appeared to be merely a made-up one to account
for the possession of the jewels. Of course, the resemblance–for Dora
and I were wonderfully alike, save for this birthmark–would have
hinted that I was speaking the truth. But in that case I should have
had to remove my yashmak, and then all the world would have known of
this disfigurement. It would have ruined my business, my dear.”

Audrey looked bewildered. “But if my mother was not strangled for the
sake of the diamonds, why was she killed?”

Her aunt shrugged her shoulders. “I have asked that again and again;
and yet I think that I can see a way. Dora brought me the diamonds,
pretending that she wished them to be reset. When we were in the
bedroom together she took them out of the bag and gave them to me.
Then she placed the empty bag under her pillow. I came upstairs, after
tucking her in for the night, in order to put away the jewels. All I
can think of is that someone got into the court by means of that
skeleton key, and, thinking that the jewels were still in the bag,
strangled poor Dora, and then escaped. If you remember, the label was
found near the court door.”

All this explanation was very frank, and from the mere fact that
Madame Coralie admitted having the jewels Audrey was certain that she
was not the guilty person, nor had she employed anyone else to commit
the crime. Besides, as the two women were twin sisters–and the
likeness proved this beyond all doubt–the idea of one murdering the
other was out of the question. “I suppose,” said Audrey, after a
pause, “that you know some people suspect you?”

“Oh, yes,” said her aunt, indifferently; “and if they knew about the
diamonds they would be certain of my guilt. However, I got Eddy to
unset the stones and sell them separately. He has been over to
Antwerp selling them, so I am quite safe; that is”–she looked at
Audrey–“unless you tell the police what I have told you.”

“I should not think of doing so,” said the girl, anxiously, for she
really believed her aunt to be innocent, “and, more than that, I will
try and disabuse Ralph of your guilt.”

“Ralph? Oh, yes. Squire Shawe’s younger son. Poor Dora told me he was
engaged to you. Well, is there anything else you want to know?”

“No; but you must help me to find out who murdered my mother.”

“Certainly. I shall do that for my own sake. Come and see me again,
and I may be able to give you a clue. Between us we may trace the
assassin.”

“Oh! aunt, will you do this?” cried Audrey, with shining eyes.

Madame Coralie kissed her. “Yes, even if I ruin myself. You love your
poor mother’s memory–I would do anything for Dora’s daughter.”

Before leaving her newly-discovered aunt Audrey extracted permission
from her to reveal what she had been told to Ralph. At first Madame
Coralie had made some objection, but on being assured that Shawe could
and would keep his own counsel she consented that he should be told
about the diamonds. “If he’s hunting for the assassin, and thinking
that I am the one,” said Madame Coralie, “he will learn beforehand
that I have the jewels, and will not be ready to credit me with
disposing of stolen gems. Eddy is sometimes so careless that I fear
lest the police should know.”

“I think it would be best to tell the police,” said Audrey, wisely.

“No; the interest in the case has died away,” said her aunt, “and not
even Joseph’s reward of one thousand pounds can revive it. Tell Mr.
Shawe, by all means, but warn him to keep his own counsel!”

Audrey left Madame Coralie with the strange feeling–so close was the
resemblance between the sisters, dead and alive–that she had been
conversing with her mother. She returned home in a dream, and then
thought disconsolately that she was no nearer learning what she wished
to know than she had been before. But it was necessary to disabuse
Perry Toat of the idea that the proprietress of the Pink Shop was
guilty, and Audrey determined to call at the appointed hour the next
day. Afterwards she could see Ralph and detail what she had learnt.
But to interview both her lover and the detective was not an easy
task, owing to the watch that was kept on her every action.

However, Providence stood her friend unexpectedly. Sir Joseph wished
to drive some people down to Richmond for afternoon tea at the Star
and Garter. He invited Mrs. Mellop to join the party, but to punish
Audrey for the way in which she had behaved to Lord Anvers he ordered
her to remain at home. His daughter disguised her satisfaction with
difficulty, and sent a wire to Ralph asking him to meet her at Perry
Toat’s at half-past three o’clock. By that hour she would have put the
detective off the scent, and then could take Ralph aside and tell him
all that she did not wish Miss Toat to learn. Having arranged this,
she accompanied Mrs. Mellop to the door, where Sir Joseph, in a
magnificent motor-car, was waiting.



Mrs. Mellop was rather doleful, as she now knew that the millionaire
had made up his mind, on the authority of Audrey, to marry Rosy Pearl.
But the widow did not intend to lose the prize without a struggle, as
it was much too valuable. Besides, having seen Miss Pearl on the
music-hall stage, she did not think her a particularly formidable
rival. She determined, on this day, to be as fascinating as possible
in order to carry off Sir Joseph from under the very nose of Rosy
Pearl. And, as Mrs. Mellop had a very good opinion of herself, she
thought that she would succeed. So happy was she in the hope of
success that she kissed Audrey in the hall.

“You poor dear, I wish you were coming,” she said affectionately.

“Oh, don’t trouble yourself about me,” said Audrey, who quite
understood what the kiss meant. “Give all your attention to capturing
my father.”

“Wouldn’t you like me for a stepmother?” asked Mrs. Mellop, coaxingly.

“I would like you better than Rosy Pearl,” said Audrey, drily. “You
will have my undying gratitude if you can save him from that woman.”

“Darling!” Mrs. Mellop pecked again at Audrey’s cheek with great
delight at having enlisted her sympathy so far. “I shall do my best.”

When the car glided away Audrey laughed. She felt sure that Mrs.
Mellop would do her best. She was also very certain that she would
fail, as Sir Joseph never changed his mind. He had declared, with
indecent haste, that he intended to marry the music-hall artist, and
he would do so, whatever obstacles were placed in the way. Moreover,
Rosy Pearl was just the kind of fine woman whom the millionaire
admired. Mrs. Mellop was a mere shrimp beside Miss Pearl’s massive
proportions, and Sir Joseph did not care for diaphanous creatures of
the widow’s type. However, Mrs. Mellop had intense faith in her own
cleverness and in man’s stupidity, and went forth to conquer. No
wonder that Audrey–knowing her father’s adamantine nature–laughed as
the would-be Lady Branwin fluttered out, all smiles and chiffons. “If
she’s going out for wool, she will come home shorn,” thought Audrey,
and went away to put on her quietest frock.

When she arrived at Buckingham Street, Strand, Miss Toat was duly
waiting to hear what she had learnt. Audrey had already arranged in
her own mind what to say, and sat down feeling quite cool and
composed. So calm did she seem that Miss Toat laughed in a vexed way.

“So you have been unsuccessful–you have learnt nothing,” she said
promptly.

“How do you know?” asked Audrey, quickly.

“You would be more excited if you had found a clue. Well, Miss
Branwin”–she leant her elbows on the table–“perhaps I am wrong. If
you have learnt anything likely to be of value, let me hear it.”

“I have learnt nothing,” said Audrey, cautiously; “nothing of any
value.”

“You got Madame Coralie to remove her yashmak?”

“Accident did that for me. It was ripped off by a tack as she rose.”

“Well?” asked Perry Toat, eagerly.

“Well,” replied Miss Branwin, coolly, “that’s all.”

“But you had some conversation with her?”

“Yes. But she could tell me nothing. She merely repeated what she had
said at the inquest–that she left my mother in bed and came up the
stairs to the still-room.”

“Did you mention anything about the discrepancy in time?”

“Oh!”–Audrey was really dismayed–“I quite forgot to.”

“Ah, my dear young lady”–Perry Toat looked vexed again–“that is the
most important question of the lot. Although, I daresay,” she added
consolingly, “you would not have had a true reply. I must look into
the matter myself.”

“There is nothing to be learnt, Miss Toat. I am quite sure that Madame
Coralie is innocent.”

“What makes you think so?”

“I observed her face, and she did not change colour. She told me all
that I have told you with the greatest frankness.”

“Naturally,” said Miss Toat, doubtfully, “she would be on her guard
with you.”

“I don’t think she was,” replied Audrey, with studied simplicity;
“besides, she has promised to help me to find the criminal. She is
most anxious to do so, because of her business.”

“I don’t see how discovering the real criminal will improve the
business.”

“Well”–Audrey looked pensive–“Madame Coralie is rather revengeful.”

“And very cunning. What is to be done now? You have failed.”

“I have not looked into everything yet, Miss Toat. I intend to call
again on Madame Coralie.”

“I shall do so also,” said Perry Toat, with determination; for she
recollected the large reward, and felt anxious to obtain it.

Her visitor did not wish to forbid her calling again at the Pink Shop,
as such a request might have awakened Miss Toat’s suspicions. So she
said nothing, feeling certain that Madame Coralie was perfectly well
able to look after herself. Meanwhile, Miss Toat, having gathered all
she wished to learn, and feeling a faint suspicion that Audrey had not
told her everything, made up her mind to look into things for herself.
Then she turned the conversation, so that Miss Branwin should not
gather her intentions.

“You made a conquest the other day,” said Miss Toat, while Audrey rose
to take her leave and smoothed her gloves.

“Really!” The girl blushed. “What do you mean?”

“Colonel Ilse fell in love with you.”

Audrey blushed again. “That nice military man who came as I went
yesterday, you mean, don’t you? He is really charming–such a nice
smile. If I wasn’t engaged to Mr. Shawe I might follow up my
conquest.”

Miss Toat shook her head. “You would be disappointed. Colonel Ilse has
buried his heart in the grave of the wife who died over twenty years
ago. If he can only find the daughter who was stolen from him he will
be quite content.”

“Then I must be the same with Ralph,” said Audrey, laughing. “Do you
know, Miss Toat, Colonel Ilse put me in mind of someone. I can’t think
who.”

The detective nodded. “Curious you should say that. I had an idea that
I had seen someone like him. But then, these military men are all cut
to one pattern. See one and you see the lot. Ah! Come in!” She raised
her voice as a knock came to the door.

Ralph entered, looking smart and lover-like. “Here I am, Audrey,” he
said.

“Oh!” laughed Perry Toat, rebukingly, “do you think that this is
Cupid’s Bureau? What an unromantic place to meet in.”

“We have to meet in all manner of places,” said Audrey, with a smile.
“My father doesn’t approve of our marriage, and will not let Mr. Shawe
come to the house. Good-day, Miss Toat. We must be off.”

When she went out, looking up into her lover’s face, Perry Toat
sighed. The little office seemed more dingy than ever now that rosy
love had flown away. The detective returned to her papers rather
discontentedly. She also wished to walk out with a lover; but there
was no chance of that unless she gained this one thousand pounds which
Sir Joseph Branwin offered for the detection of his wife’s assassin.
The episode of Ralph meeting Audrey at the office, and the sight of
their love, made the little woman more determined than ever to win the
reward. “They are the butterflies,” said Miss Toat, shuffling her
papers, “and I am only the grub as yet.”

So while the poor grub worked in the dull room the butterflies
fluttered in the sunshine. To be precise, they drove in a taxi-cab to
their favourite meeting-place near the Round Pond. Here Audrey related
how she had seen Madame Coralie, and what had taken place. Shawe was
not easily astonished, but on this occasion he confessed that he was.
It was surprising to learn that Madame Coralie was the sister of Lady
Branwin, and more surprising still to hear that she so easily
confessed to having possession of the long-lost diamonds.

“Oh, she must be innocent,” said the barrister, after an astonished
pause. “I can’t conceive she would admit so much if she were guilty.
The very possession of the jewels would make the police certain of her
guilt.”

“But the police must never know,” said Audrey, anxiously. “Remember, I
tell you all this under seal of secrecy.”

“Oh, I shall say nothing,” Ralph assured her seriously–“especially as
your aunt has been so candid as to dispel any suspicions that I may
have entertained regarding her complicity in the crime.”

“Then you don’t believe in Perry Toat’s theory?”

“No, I certainly do not. I have my own views.”

“What are they?”

Shawe hesitated. “I shall tell you what they are when I am more
certain of my suspicions.”

“Then you do suspect someone?” asked the girl, swiftly.

“Yes and no; that is, I have found a mare’s nest.”

Audrey looked at him carefully. It struck her that his face was thin
and pale, and that his eyes looked remarkably dull. “You are worrying,
dear.”

“Yes, over this case. I really think”–Shawe passed his hand across
his forehead–“that it would be best to leave it alone. Audrey”–he
took her hands and looked entreatingly into her face–“why not let
sleeping dogs lie?”

She shook her head. “I must learn who killed my mother. Aunt
Flora–that is, Madame Coralie–will help me. Why do you wish things
to be left alone?”

“Because the wording of that anonymous letter haunts me,” said Shawe,
irritably. “If you search into this matter you will experience some
very great grief. Is it worth risking that?”

“For the sake of my mother’s memory it is,” said the girl, firmly.

“My darling, I assure you that your mother will rest no more quietly
in her grave because her assassin is hanged. Why not abandon the whole
business and marry me at once? I have not much money, it is true, but
what I have is enough for both of us to live quietly.”

“No, no, no!” said Audrey, insistently. “We discussed this matter
before, and I told you that I would not drag you down and hinder your
career by saddling you with a poor wife; and if I marry against my
father’s wishes I am bound to be poor. Besides, I have sworn to myself
never to rest until the murderer of my poor mother is brought to
justice. If you won’t help me–and you certainly do not seem anxious
to do so–I must work alone.”

“Of course I shall help you,” snapped the barrister, sharply. “I want
to get at the truth as speedily as possible, so that we may be
married. And to aid you in your search I now make a suggestion.”

Audrey looked at him with interest. “What is it?”

“You say that your father admired Madame Coralie when she was Flora
Arkwright of Bleakleigh. Very good! Flora Arkwright may have admired
your father, and may have grudged him marrying your mother. Now, why
not go to Madame Coralie straight away and rouse her jealousy?”

“Rouse her jealousy?”

“Yes. The Deceased Wife’s Sister Bill is law now, and there is no bar
against Madame Coralie marrying Sir Joseph.”

“Yes, there is. You forget Eddy Vail.”

“Oh, the deuce!” cried the barrister, in dismay, “so I do. Never mind,
it is as well to try the experiment. Tell Madame Coralie that Sir
Joseph is to marry Rosy Pearl, and see what she will say. For your
dead mother’s sake, if not for her own, she may resent the marriage.”

“Of course, the idea is absurd,” said Audrey, pettishly. “My aunt has
not a shadow of excuse to object to my father marrying anyone. What
ever feelings she may have entertained for him once, they have been
parted too long for such feelings to exist now.”

“Well, the experiment is worth trying,” insisted Ralph, anxiously.

Audrey thought for a moment, then rose and walked across the grass.
“To set your mind at rest I shall see my aunt at once and tell her.”

“Good! I shall wait at the door of the Pink Shop and hear your
report.”

With this understanding the two strolled across the Gardens to
Walpole Lane, and while Ralph lingered on the pavement Audrey passed
into the Turkish shop. She had chosen rather an awkward hour for an
interview, as Madame Coralie’s clients were rolling up in carriage and
motor-brougham. But the proprietress of the shop was upstairs in the
still-room, and sent down word that she would see Miss Branwin at
once. The girl soon found herself in the presence of her aunt, while
Badoura, who had introduced her, returned to look after the customers,
who were being served by the other three girls. “I can only give you
five minutes, my dear,” said Madame Coralie, who was again wearing her
yashmak. “Is there anything wrong?”

“Nothing particularly; but I thought that it was just as well you
should know that my father has made up his mind to marry again.”

“What!” Madame Coralie gave a roar like that of a wounded lioness.
“Who is the woman?”

“Miss Rosy Pearl, of the–”

“That music-hall creature–impossible!” Madame Coralie clenched her
hands, and her black eyes looked extremely angry. “Why, it was Rosy
Pearl who was my other customer who slept in this house on the night
of the crime!”

“Oh!” Audrey grew pale. In a flash she saw what Madame Coralie meant.