All at once it came to Jane what it must mean. The arrangement of the handkerchiefs must be some sort of a code. She studied the way they were placed, committing the order to memory. "Red--two large--one small--one large--one small." Of course it was a code, a signal to some one aboard one of the ships.
The line of handkerchiefs completed old Lena once more took up her glasses, first looking around as before to see if any one were on the roof. How Jane wished that she, too, could see the ships from where she stood. Was some traitor in the navy wigwagging to the old woman? She was tempted to spring forward and seize her and stop this dastardly signalling, but she remembered her duty. She was there to see that Dean was not surprised by old Lena's return. So long as the woman kept signalling he was safe.
Once more the laundress dropped her glasses and began frantically rearranging the handkerchiefs. Again Jane noted their order--red--two small--one large--three small--two large. Again the laundress resorted to the glasses, and at last, apparently satisfied, began taking down the rest of the laundry and making ready to leave the roof. Trying to act as if she had just arrived, Jane stepped boldly forward.
"I wonder," she said approaching the woman, "if you can tell me where I can find a good laundress."
"_Nicht versteh_" said old Lena, eyeing her suspiciously and hostilely, and at the same time attempting to pass her with the basket of clothes.
Deliberately blocking the way, Jane repeated her question, this time in German, feeling thankful that her language studies at school were not wholly forgotten and that they had included such practical phrases as those required to hire and discharge maids and complain about the quality of their work.
"I know no one," the old woman answered her, this time in English.
Jane breathed fast with excitement. The laundress' slip of the tongue, after denying that she understood, was evidence in itself of her deliberate duplicity. Realizing her mistake, the old woman now sullenly refused to answer any questions, merely shaking her head and trying to dodge past and escape.
To prolong the questioning, Jane felt, would be only to arouse suspicion, and reluctantly she allowed old Lena to precede her to the elevator, anticipating her, however, in ringing the bell, pressing the button four times as Dean had directed. As they descended together she was almost in a panic. How long had she kept the laundress on the roof?
She really had no idea. She had been so absorbed in her new discovery she had given no thought to the time. For all she knew she might have been there only five minutes. Had Dean had time to finish his work?