The Yellow Claw
Part 4 out of 7
where the trap was situated.
A very dim light was dawning there; he could just detect the
outline of an opening--a half-light breaking the otherwise
He felt that his capacity for fear was strained to its utmost; that
he could support nothing more, yet a new horror was in store for
him; for, as he watched that gray patch, in it, as in a frame, a
black silhouette appeared--the silhouette of a human head . . . a
Soames convulsively clenched his jaws, for his teeth were beginning
A whistle, an eerie, minor whistle, subscribed the ultimate touch
of terror to the night. The silhouette disappeared, and, shortly
afterwards, the gray luminance. A faint click told of some shutter
being fastened; complete silence reigned.
Soames groped his way to the bed and fell weakly upon it, half
lying down and burying his face in the pillow. For how long, he
had no idea, but for some considerable time, he remained so,
fighting to regain sufficient self-possession to lie to Ho-Pin, who
sooner or later must learn of his return.
At last he managed to sit up. He was not trembling quite so
wildly, but he still suffered from a deathly sickness. A faint
streak of light from the corridor outside shone under his door. As
he noted it, it was joined by a second streak, forming a triangle.
There was a very soft rasping of metal. Someone was opening the
Soames lay back upon the bed. This time he was past further panic
and come to a stage of sickly apathy. He lay, now, because he
could not sit upright, because stark horror had robbed him of
physical strength, and had drained the well of his emotions dry.
Gradually--so that the operation seemed to occupy an interminable
time, the door opened, and in the opening a figure appeared.
The switch clicked, and the room was flooded with electric light.
Ho-Pin stood watching him.
Soames--in his eyes that indescribable expression seen in the eyes
of a bird placed in a cobra's den--met the Chinaman's gaze. This
gaze was no different from that which habitually he directed upon
the people of the catacombs. His yellow face was set in the same
mirthless smile, and his eyebrows were raised interrogatively. For
the space of ten seconds, he stood watching the man on the bed.
"You wreturn vewry soon, Mr. Soames?" he said, softly.
Soames groaned like a dying man, whispering:
"I was . . . taken ill--very ill." . . .
"So you wreturn befowre the time awranged for you?"
His metallic voice was sunk in a soothing hiss. He smiled
steadily: he betrayed no emotion.
"Yes . . . sir," whispered Soames, his hair clammily adhering to his
brow and beads of perspiration trickling slowly down his nose.
"And when you wreturn, you see and you hear--stwrange things, Mr.
Soames, who was in imminent danger of becoming physically ill,
"No, sir," he whispered,--tremulously, "I've been--in here all the
Ho-Pin nodded, slowly and sympathetically, but never removed the
glittering eyes from the face of the man on the bed.
"So you hear nothing, and see nothing?"
The words were spoken even more softly than he had spoken hitherto.
"Nothing," protested Soames. He suddenly began to tremble anew,
and his trembling rattled the bed. "I have been--very ill indeed,
Ho-Pin nodded again slowly, and with deep sympathy.
"Some medicine shall be sent to you, Mr. Soames," he said.
He turned and went out slowly, closing the door behind him.
ABRAHAM LEVINSKY BUTTS IN
At about the time that this conversation was taking place in Ho-
Pin's catacombs, Detective-Inspector Dunbar and Detective-Sergeant
Sowerby were joined by a third representative of New Scotland Yard
at the appointed spot by the dock gates. This was Stringer, the
detective to whom was assigned the tracing of the missing Soames;
and he loomed up through the rain-mist, a glistening but dejected
"Any luck?" inquired Sowerby, sepulchrally.
Stringer, a dark and morose looking man, shook his head.
"I've beaten up every 'Chink' in Wapping and Limehouse, I should
reckon," he said, plaintively. "They're all as innocent as babes
unborn. You can take it from me: Chinatown hasn't got a murder on
its conscience at present. BRR! it's a beastly night. Suppose we
Dunbar nodded, and the three wet investigators walked back for some
little distance in silence, presently emerging via a narrow, dark,
uninviting alleyway into West India Dock Road. A brilliantly
lighted hostelry proved to be their objective, and there, in a
quiet corner of the deserted billiard room, over their glasses,
they discussed this mysterious case, which at first had looked so
simple of solution if only because it offered so many unusual
features, but which, the deeper they probed, merely revealed fresh
"The business of those Fry people, in Scotland, was a rotten
disappointment," said Dunbar, suddenly. "They were merely paid by
the late Mrs. Vernon to re-address letters to a little newspaper
shop in Knightsbridge, where an untraceable boy used to call for
them! Martin has just reported this evening. Perth wires for
instructions, but it's a dead-end, I'm afraid."
"You know," said Sowerby, fishing a piece of cork from the brown
froth of a fine example by Guinness, "to my mind our hope's in
Soames; and if we want to find Soames, to my mind we want to look,
not east, but west."
"Hear, hear!" concorded Stringer, gloomily sipping hot rum.
"It seems to me," continued Sowerby, "that Limehouse is about the
last place in the world a man like Soames would think of hiding
"It isn't where he'll be THINKING of hiding," snapped Dunbar,
turning his fierce eyes upon the last speaker. "You can't seem to
get the idea out of your head, Sowerby, that Soames is an
independent agent. He ISN'T an independent agent. He's only the
servant; and through the servant we hope to find the master."
"But why in the east-end?" came the plaintive voice of Stringer;
"for only one reason, that I can see--because Max says that there's
a Chinaman in the case."
"There's opium in the case, isn't there?" said Dunbar, adding more
water to his whisky, "and where there's opium there is pretty
frequently a Chinaman."
"But to my mind," persisted Sowerby, his eyebrows drawn together in
a frown of concentration, "the place where Mrs. Vernon used to get
the opium was the place we raided in Gillingham Street."
"Nurse Proctor's!" cried Stringer, banging his fist on the table.
"Exactly my idea! There may have been a Chinaman concerned in the
management of the Gillingham Street stunt, or there may not, but
I'll swear that was where the opium was supplied. In fact I don't
think that there's any doubt about it. Medical evidence (opinions
differed a bit, certainly) went to show that she had been addicted
to opium for some years. Other evidence--you got it yourself,
Inspector--went to show that she came from Gillingham Street on the
night of the murder. Gillingham Street crowd vanished like a
beautiful dream before we had time to nab them! What more do you
want? What are we up to, messing about in Limehouse and Wapping?"
Sowerby partook of a long drink and turned his eyes upon Dunbar,
awaiting the inspector's reply.
"You both have the wrong idea!" said Dunbar, deliberately; "you are
all wrong! You seem to be under the impression that if we could
lay our hands upon the missing staff of the so-called Nursing Home,
we should find the assassin to be one of the crowd. It doesn't
follow at all. For a long time, you, Sowerby,"--he turned his
tawny eyes upon the sergeant--"had the idea that Soames was the
murderer, and I'm not sure that you have got rid of it yet! You,
Stringer, appear to think that Nurse Proctor is responsible. Upon
my word, you are a hopeless pair! Suppose Soames had nothing
whatever to do with the matter, but merely realized that he could
not prove an alibi? Wouldn't YOU bolt? I put it to you."
Sowerby stared hard, and Stringer scratched his chin, reflectively.
"The same reasoning applies to the Gillingham Street people,"
continued Dunbar. "We haven't the slightest idea of THEIR
whereabouts because we don't even know who they were; but we do
know something about Soames, and we're looking for him, not because
we think he did the murder, but because we think he can tell us who
"Which brings us back to the old point," interrupted Stringer,
softly beating his fist upon the table at every word; "why are we
looking for Soames in the east-end?"
"Because," replied Dunbar, "we're working on the theory that
Soames, though actually not accessory to the crime, was in the pay
of those who were" . . .
"Well?"--Stringer spoke the word eagerly, his eyes upon the
"And those who WERE accessory,"--continued Dunbar, "were servants
of Mr. King."
"Ah!" Stringer brought his fist down with a bang--"Mr. King!
That's where I am in the dark, and where Sowerby, here, is in the
dark." He bent forward over the table. "Who the devil is Mr.
Dunbar twirled his whisky glass between his fingers.
"We don't know," he replied quietly, "but Soames does, in all
probability; and that's why we're looking for Soames."
"Is it why we're looking in Limehouse?" persisted Stringer, the
"It is," snapped Dunbar. "We have only got one Chinatown worthy of
the name, in London, and that's not ten minutes' walk from here."
"Chinatown--yes," said Sowerby, his red face glistening with
excitement; "but why look for Mr. King in Chinatown?"
"Because," replied Dunbar, lowering his voice, "Mr. King in all
probability is a Chinaman."
"Who says so?" demanded Stringer.
"Max says so . . ."
"MAX!"--again Stringer beat his fist upon the table. "Now we have
got to it! We're working, then, not on our own theories, but on
those of Max?"
Dunbar's sallow face flushed slightly, and his eyes seemed to grow
"Mr. Gaston Max obtained information in Paris," he said, "which he
placed, unreservedly, at my disposal. We went into the matter
thoroughly, with the result that our conclusions were identical. A
certain Mr. King is at the bottom of this mystery, and, in all
probability, Mr. King is a Chinaman. Do I make myself clear?"
Sowerby and Stringer looked at one another, perplexedly. Each man
finished his drink in silence. Then:
"What took place in Paris?" began Sowerby.
There was an interruption. A stooping figure in a shabby, black
frock-coat, the figure of a man who wore a dilapidated bowler
pressed down upon his ears, who had a greasy, Semitic countenance,
with a scrubby, curling, sandy colored beard, sparse as the
vegetation of a desert, appeared at Sowerby's elbow.
He carried a brimming pewter pot. This he set down upon a corner
of the table, depositing himself in a convenient chair and pulling
out a very dirty looking letter from an inside pocket. He smoothed
it carefully. He peered, little-eyed, from the frowning face of
Dunbar to the surprised countenance of Sowerby, and smiled with
native amiability at the dangerous-looking Stringer.
"Excuthe me," he said, and his propitiatory smile was expansive and
dazzling, "excuthe me buttin' in like thith. It theemth rude, I
know--it doth theem rude; but the fact of the matter ith I'm a
tailor--thath's my pithneth, a tailor. When I thay a tailor, I
really mean a breecheth-maker--tha'th what I mean, a breecheth-
maker. Now thethe timeth ith very hard timeth for breecheth-
makerth." . . .
Dunbar finished his whisky, and quietly replaced the glass upon the
table, looking from Sowerby to Stringer with unmistakable
significance. Stringer emptied his glass of rum, and Sowerby
disposed of his stout.
"I got thith letter lath night," continued the breeches-maker,
bending forward confidentially over the table. (The document
looked at least twelve months old.) "I got thith letter latht
night with thethe three fiverth in it; and not havin' no friendth
in London--I'm an American thitithen, by birth,--Levinthky, my name
ith--Abraham Levinthky--I'm a Noo Englander. Well, not havin' no
friendth in London, and theein' you three gentlemen thittin' here,
I took the liberty" . . .
Dunbar stood up, glared at Levinsky, and stalked out of the
billiard-room, followed by his equally indignant satellites.
Having gained the outer door:
"Of all the blasted impudence!" he said, turning to Sowerby and
Stringer; but there was a glint of merriment in the fierce eyes.
"Can you beat that? Did you tumble to his game?"
Sowerby stared at Stringer, and Stringer stared at Sowerby.
"Except," began the latter in a voice hushed with amazement, "that
he's got the coolest cheek of any mortal being I ever met." . . .
Dunbar's grim face relaxed, and he laughed boyishly, his square
"He was leading up to the confidence trick!" he said, between
laughs. "Damn it all, man, it was the old confidence trick! The
idea of a confidence-merchant spreading out his wares before three
C. I. D. men!"
He was choking with laughter again; and now, Sowerby and Stringer
having looked at one another for a moment, the surprised pair
joined him in his merriment. They turned up their collars and went
out into the rain, still laughing.
"That man," said Sowerby, as they walked across to the stopping
place of the electric trains, "is capable of calling on the
Commissioner and asking him to 'find the lady'!"
THE STUDIO IN SOHO
Certainly, such impudence as that of Mr. Levinsky is rare even in
east-end London, and it may be worth while to return to the corner
of the billiard-room and to study more closely this remarkable man.
He was sitting where the detectives had left him, and although
their departure might have been supposed to have depressed him,
actually it had had a contrary effect; he was chuckling with
amusement, and, between his chuckles, addressing himself to the
contents of the pewter with every mark of appreciation. Three
gleaming golden teeth on the lower row, and one glittering canine,
made a dazzling show every time that he smiled; he was a very
greasy and a very mirthful Hebrew.
Finishing his tankard of ale, he shuffled out into the street, the
line of his bent shoulders running parallel with that of his hat-
brim. His hat appeared to be several sizes too large for his head,
and his skull was only prevented from disappearing into the
capacious crown by the intervention of his ears, which, acting as
brackets, supported the whole weight of the rain-sodden structure.
He mounted a tram proceeding in the same direction as that which
had borne off the Scotland Yard men. Quitting this at Bow Road, he
shuffled into the railway station, and from Bow Road proceeded to
Liverpool Street. Emerging from the station at Liverpool Street,
he entered a motor-'bus bound westward.
His neighbors, inside, readily afforded him ample elbow room; and,
smiling agreeably at every one, including the conductor (who
resented his good-humor) and a pretty girl in the corner seat (who
found it embarrassing) he proceeded to Charing Cross. Descending
from the 'bus, he passed out into Leicester Square and plunged into
the network of streets which complicates the map of Soho. It will
be of interest to follow him.
In a narrow turning off Greek Street, and within hail of the
popular Bohemian restaurants, he paused before a doorway sandwiched
between a Continental newsagent's and a tiny French cafe; and,
having fumbled in his greasy raiment he presently produced a key,
opened the door, carefully closed it behind him, and mounted the
On the top floor he entered a studio, boasting a skylight upon
which the rain was drumming steadily and drearily. Lighting a gas
burner in one corner of the place which bore no evidence of being
used for its legitimate purpose--he entered a little adjoining
dressing-room. Hot and cold water were laid on there, and a large
zinc bath stood upon the floor. With the aid of an enamel bucket,
Mr. Abraham Levinsky filled the bath.
Leaving him to his ablutions, let us glance around the dressing-
room. Although there was no easel in the studio, and no indication
of artistic activity, the dressing-room was well stocked with
costumes. Two huge dress-baskets were piled in one corner, and
their contents hung upon hooks around the three available walls. A
dressing table, with a triplicate mirror and a suitably shaded
light, presented a spectacle reminiscent less of a model's
dressing-room than of an actor's.
At the expiration of some twenty-five minutes, the door of this
dressing-room opened; and although Abraham Levinsky had gone in,
Abraham Levinsky did not come out!
Carefully flicking a particle of ash from a fold of his elegant,
silk-lined cloak, a most distinguished looking gentleman stepped
out onto the bleak and dirty studio. He wore, in addition to a
graceful cloak, which was lined with silk of cardinal red, a soft
black hat, rather wide brimmed and dented in a highly artistic
manner, and irreproachable evening clothes; his linen was
immaculate; and no valet in London could have surpassed the perfect
knotting of his tie. His pearl studs were elegant and valuable;
and a single eyeglass was swung about his neck by a thin, gold
chain. The white gloves, which fitted perfectly, were new; and if
the glossy boots were rather long in the toe-cap from an English
point of view, the gold-headed malacca cane which the newcomer
carried was quite de rigeur.
The strong clean-shaven face calls for no description here; it was
the face of M. Gaston Max.
M. Max, having locked the study door, and carefully tried it to
make certain of its security, descended the stairs. He peeped out
cautiously into the street ere setting foot upon the pavement; but
no one was in sight at the moment, and he emerged quickly, closing
the door behind him, and taking shelter under the newsagent's
awning. The rain continued its steady downpour, but M. Max stood
there softly humming a little French melody until a taxi-cab
crawled into view around the Greek Street corner.
He whistled shrilly through his teeth--the whistle of a gamin; and
the cabman, glancing up and perceiving him, pulled around into the
turning, and drew up by the awning.
M. Max entered the cab.
"To Frascati's," he directed.
The cabman backed out into Greek Street and drove off. This was
the hour when the theaters were beginning to eject their throngs,
and outside one of them, where a popular comedy had celebrated its
three-hundred-and-fiftieth performance, the press of cabs and
private cars was so great that M. Max found himself delayed within
sight of the theater foyer.
Those patrons of the comedy who had omitted to order vehicles or
who did not possess private conveyances, found themselves in a
quandary tonight, and amongst those thus unfortunately situated, M.
Max, watching the scene with interest, detected a lady whom he
knew--none other than the delightful American whose conversation
had enlivened his recent journey from Paris--Miss Denise Ryland.
She was accompanied by a charming companion, who, although she was
wrapped up in a warm theater cloak, seemed to be shivering
disconsolately as she and her friend watched the interminable
stream of vehicles filing up before the theater, and cutting them
off from any chance of obtaining a cab for themselves.
M. Max acted promptly.
"Drive into that side turning!" he directed the cabman, leaning out
of the window. The cabman followed his directions, and M. Max,
heedless of the inclement weather, descended from the cab, dodged
actively between the head lamps of a big Mercedes and the tail-
light of a taxi, and stood bowing before the two ladies, his hat
pressed to his bosom with one gloved hand, the other, ungloved,
resting upon the gold knob of the malacca.
"Why!" cried Miss Ryland, "if it isn't . . . M. Gaston! My dear
. . . M. Gaston! Come under the awning, or"--her head was wagging
furiously--"you will be . . . simply drowned."
M. Max smilingly complied.
"This is M. Gaston," said Denise Ryland, turning to her companion,
"the French gentleman . . . whom I met . . . in the train from . . .
Paris. This is Miss Helen Cumberly, and I know you two will get
on . . . famously."
M. Max acknowledged the presentation with a few simple words which
served to place the oddly met trio upon a mutually easy footing.
He was, par excellence, the polished cosmopolitan man of the world.
"Fortunately I saw your dilemma," he explained. "I have a cab on
the corner yonder, and it is entirely at your service."
"Now that . . . is real good of you," declared Denise Ryland. "I
think you're . . . a brick." . . .
"But, my dear Miss Ryland!" cried Helen, "we cannot possibly
deprive M. Gaston of his cab on a night like this!"
"I had hoped," said the Frenchman, bowing gallantly, "that this
most happy reunion might not be allowed to pass uncelebrated. Tell
me if I intrude upon other plans, because I am speaking selfishly;
but I was on my way to a lonely supper, and apart from the great
pleasure which your company would afford me, you would be such very
good Samaritans if you would join me."
Helen Cumberly, although she was succumbing rapidly to the singular
fascination of M. Max, exhibited a certain hesitancy. She was no
stranger to Bohemian customs, and if the distinguished Frenchman
had been an old friend of her companion's, she should have accepted
without demur; but she knew that the acquaintance had commenced in
a Continental railway train, and her natural prudence instinctively
took up a brief for the prosecution. But Denise Ryland had other
"My dear girl," she said, "you are not going to be so . . . crack-
brained . . . as to stand here . . . arguing and contracting . . .
rheumatism, lumbago . . . and other absurd complaints . . . when
you know PERFECTLY well that we had already arranged to go . . . to
supper!" She turned to the smiling Max. "This girl needs . . .
DRAGGING out of . . . her morbid self . . . M. Gaston! We'll
accept . . . your cab, on the distinct . . . understanding that YOU
are to accept OUR invitation . . . to supper."
M. Max bowed agreeably.
"By all means let MY cab take us to YOUR supper," he said,
M. MAX MOUNTS CAGLIOSTRO'S STAIRCASE
At a few minutes before midnight, Helen Cumberly and Denise Ryland,
escorted by the attentive Frenchman, arrived at Palace Mansions.
Any distrust which Helen had experienced at first was replaced now
by the esteem which every one of discrimination (criminals
excluded) formed of M. Max. She perceived in him a very exquisite
gentleman, and although the acquaintance was but one hour old,
counted him a friend. Denise Ryland was already quite at home in
the Cumberly household, and she insisted that Dr. Cumberly would be
deeply mortified should M. Gaston take his departure without making
his acquaintance. Thus it came about that M. Gaston Max was
presented (as "M. Gaston") to Dr. Cumberly.
Cumberly, who had learned to accept men and women upon his
daughter's estimate, welcomed the resplendent Parisian hospitably;
the warm, shaded lights made convivial play in the amber deeps of
the decanters, and the cigars had a fire-side fragrance which M.
Max found wholly irresistible.
The ladies being momentarily out of ear-shot, M. Gaston glancing
rapidly about him, said: "May I beg a favor, Dr. Cumberly?"
"Certainly, M. Gaston," replied the physician--he was officiating
at the syphon. "Say when."
"When!" said Max. "I should like to see you in Harley Street to-
Cumberly glanced up oddly. "Nothing wrong, I hope?"
"Oh, not professionally," smiled Max; "or perhaps I should say only
semi-professionally. Can you spare me ten minutes?"
"My book is rather full in the morning, I believe," said Cumberly,
frowning thoughtfully, "and without consulting it--which, since it
is in Harley Street, is impossible--I scarcely know when I shall be
at liberty. Could we not lunch together?"
Max blew a ring of smoke from his lips and watched it slowly
"For certain reasons," he replied, and his odd American accent
became momentarily more perceptible, "I should prefer that my visit
had the appearance of being a professional one."
Cumberly was unable to conceal his surprise, but assuming that his
visitor had good reason for the request, he replied after a
"I should propose, then, that you come to Harley Street at, shall
we say, 9.30? My earliest professional appointment is at 10. Will
that inconvenience you?"
"Not at all," Max assured him; "it will suit me admirably."
With that the matter dropped for the time, since Helen and her new
friend now reentered; and although Helen's manner was markedly
depressed, Miss Ryland energetically turned the conversation upon
the subject of the play which they had witnessed that evening.
M. Max, when he took his departure, found that the rain had ceased,
and accordingly he walked up Whitehall, interesting himself in
those details of midnight London life so absorbing to the visitor,
though usually overlooked by the resident.
Punctually at half-past nine, a claret-colored figure appeared in
sedate Harley Street. M. Gaston Max pressed the bell above which
DR. BRUCE CUMBERLY.
He was admitted by Garnham, who attended there daily during the
hours when Dr. Cumberly was visible to patients, and presently
found himself in the consulting room of the physician.
"Good morning, M. Gaston!" said Cumberly, rising and shaking his
visitor by the hand. "Pray sit down, and let us get to business.
I can give you a clear half-hour."
Max, by way of reply, selected a card from one of the several
divisions of his card-case, and placed it on the table. Cumberly
glanced at it and started slightly, turning and surveying his
visitor with a new interest.
"You are M. Gaston Max!" he said, fixing his gray eyes upon the
face of the man before him. "I understood my daughter to say" . . .
Max waved his hands, deprecatingly.
"It is in the first place to apologize," he explained, "that I am
here. I was presented to your daughter in the name of Gaston--
which is at least part of my own name--and because other interests
were involved I found myself in the painful position of being
presented to you under the same false colors" . . .
"Oh, dear, dear!" began Cumberly. "But--"
"Ah! I protest, it is true," continued Max with an inimitable
movement of the shoulder; "and I regret it; but in my profession" . . .
"Which you adorn, monsieur," injected Cumberly.
"Many thanks--but in my profession these little annoyances
sometimes occur. At the earliest suitable occasion, I shall reveal
myself to Miss Cumberly and Miss Ryland, but at present,"--he
spread his palms eloquently, and raised his eyebrows--"morbleu! it
"Certainly; I quite understand that. Your visit to London is a
professional one? I am more than delighted to have met you, M.
Max; your work on criminal anthroposcopy has an honored place on my
Again M. Max delivered himself of the deprecatory wave.
"You cover me with confusion," he protested; "for I fear in that
book I have intruded upon sciences of which I know nothing, and of
which you know much."
"On the contrary, you have contributed to those sciences, M. max,"
declared the physician; "and now, do I understand that the object
of your call this morning?" . . .
"In the first place it was to excuse myself--but in the second
place, I come to ask your help."
He seated himself in a deep armchair--bending forward, and fixing
his dark, penetrating eyes upon the physician. Cumberly, turning
his own chair slightly, evinced the greatest interest in M. Max's
"If you have been in Paris lately," continued the detective, "you
will possibly have availed yourself of the opportunity--since
another may not occur--of visiting the house of the famous
magician, Cagliostro, on the corner of Rue St. Claude, and
Boulevard Beaumarchais" . . .
"I have not been in Paris for over two years," said Cumberly, "nor
was I aware that a house of that celebrated charlatan remained
"Ah! Dr. Cumberly, your judgment of Cagliostro is a harsh one. We
have no time for such discussion now, but I should like to debate
with you this question: was Cagliostro a charlatan? However, the
point is this: Owing to alterations taking place in the Boulevard
Beaumarchais, some of the end houses in Rue St. Claude are being
pulled down, among them Number 1, formerly occupied by the Comte de
Cagliostro. At the time that the work commenced, I availed myself
of a little leisure to visit that house, once so famous. I was
very much interested, and found it fascinating to walk up the
Grande Staircase where so many historical personages once walked to
consult the seer. But great as was my interest in the apartments
of Cagliostro, I was even more interested in one of the apartments
in a neighboring house, into which--quite accidentally, you
understand--I found myself looking."
RAID IN THE RUE ST. CLAUDE
"I perceived," said M. Gaston Max, "that owing to the progress of
the work of demolition, and owing to the carelessness of the people
in charge--nom d'un nom! they were careless, those!--I was able,
from a certain point, to look into a small room fitted up in a way
very curious. There was a sort of bunk somewhat similar to that in
a steamer berth, and the walls were covered with paper of a Chinese
pattern most bizarre. No one was in the room when I first
perceived it, but I had not been looking in for many moments before
a Chinaman entered and closed the shutters. He was hasty, this
"Eh bien! I had seen enough. I perceived that my visit to the
house of Cagliostro had been dictated by a good little angel. It
happened that for many months I had been in quest of the
headquarters of a certain group which I knew, beyond any tiny
doubt, to have its claws deep in Parisian society. I refer to an
opium syndicate" . . .
Dr. Cumberly started and seemed about to speak; but he restrained
himself, bending forward and awaiting the detective's next words
with even keener interest than hitherto.
"I had been trying--all vainly--to trace the source from which the
opium was obtained, and the place where it was used. I have
devoted much attention to the subject, and have spent some twelve
months in the opium provinces of China, you understand. I know how
insidious a thing it is, this opium, and how dreadful a curse it
may become when it gets a hold upon a community. I was formerly
engaged upon a most sensational case in San Francisco; and the
horrors of the discoveries which we made there--the American police
and myself--have remained with me ever since. Pardieu! I cannot
forget them! Therefore when I learnt that an organized attempt was
being made to establish elaborate opium dens upon a most up-to-date
plan, in Paris, I exerted myself to the utmost to break up this
scheme in its infancy" . . .
Dr. Cumberly was hanging upon every word.
"Apart from the physical and moral ruin attendant upon the vice,"
continued Max, "the methods of this particular organization have
brought financial ruin to many." He shook his finger at Dr.
Cumberly as if to emphasize his certainty upon this point. "I will
not go into particulars now, but there is a system of wholesale
robbery--sapristi! of most ingenious brigandage--being practised by
this group. Therefore I congratulated myself upon the inspiration
which had led me to mount Cagliostro's staircase. The way in which
these people had conducted their sinister trade from so public a
spot as this was really wonderful, but I had already learned to
respect the ingenuity of the group, or of the man at the head of
it. I wasted no time; not I! We raided the house that evening" . . .
"And what did you find?" asked Dr. Cumberly, eagerly.
"We found this establishment elaborately fitted, and the whole of
the fittings were American. Eh bien! This confirmed me in my
belief that the establishment was a branch of the wealthy concern I
have mentioned in San Francisco. There was also a branch in New
York, apparently. We found six or eight people in the place in
various stages of coma; and I cannot tell you their names because--
among them, were some well-known in the best society" . . .
"Good Heavens, M. Max, you surprise and shock me!"
"What I tell you is but the truth. We apprehended two low fellows
who acted as servants sometimes in the place. We had records of
both of them at the Bureau. And there was also a woman belonging
to the same class. None of these seemed to me very important, but
we were fortunate enough to capture, in addition, a Chinaman--Sen--
and a certain Madame Jean--the latter the principal of the
"What! a woman?"
"Morbleu! a woman--exactly! You are surprised? Yes; and I was
surprised, but full inquiry convinced me that Madame Jean was the
chief of staff. We had conducted the raid at night, of course, and
because of the big names, we hushed it up. We can do these things
in Paris so much more easily than is possible here in London." He
illustrated, delivering a kick upon the person of an imaginary
malefactor. "Cochon! Va!" he shrugged. "It is finished!
"The place was arranged with Oriental magnificence. The reception-
room--if I can so term that apartment--was like the scene of Rimsky
Korsakov's Sheherezade; I could see that very heavy charges were
made at this establishment. I will not bore you with further
particulars, but I will tell you of my disappointment."
"Yes, I was disappointed. True, I had brought about the closing of
that house, but of the huge sums of money fraudulently obtained
from victims, I could find no trace in the accounts of Madame Jean.
She defied me with silence, simply declining to give any account of
herself beyond admitting that she conducted an hotel at which opium
might be smoked if desired. Blagueur! Sen, the Chinaman, who
professed to speak nothing but Chinese--ah! cochon!--was equally a
difficult case, Nom d'un nom! I was in despair, for apart from
frauds connected with the concern, I had more than small suspicions
that at least one death--that of a wealthy banker--could be laid at
the doors of the establishment in Rue St. Claude." . . .
Dr. Cumberly bent yet lower, watching the speaker's face.
"A murder!" he whispered.
"I do not say so," replied Max, "but it certainly might have been.
The case then must, indeed, have ended miserably, as far as I was
concerned, if I had not chanced upon a letter which the otherwise
prudent Madame Jean had forgotten to destroy. Triomphe! It was a
letter of instruction, and definitely it proved that she was no
more than a kind of glorified concierge, and that the chief of the
opium group was in London."
"Undoubtedly in London. There was no address on the letter, and no
date, and it was curiously signed: Mr. King."
Dr. Cumberly rose slowly from his chair, and took a step toward M.
"You are interested?" said the detective, and shrugged his
shoulders, whilst his mobile mouth shaped itself in a grim smile.
"Pardieu! I knew you would be! Acting upon another clue which the
letter--priceless letter--contained, I visited the Credit Lyonnais.
I discovered that an account had been opened there by Mr. Henry
Leroux of London on behalf of his wife, Mira Leroux, to the amount
of a thousand pounds."
"A thousand pounds--really!" cried Dr. Cumberly, drawing his heavy
brows together--"as much as that?"
"Certainly. It was for a thousand pounds," repeated Max, "and the
whole of that amount had been drawn out."
"The whole thousand?"
"The whole thousand; nom d'un p'tit bonhomme! The whole thousand!
Acting, as I have said, upon the information in this always
priceless letter, I confronted Madame Jean and the manager of the
bank with each other. Morbleu! 'This,' he said, 'is Mira Leroux
of London!'" . . .
"What!" cried Cumberly, seemingly quite stupefied by this last
Max spread wide his palms, and the flexible lips expressed sympathy
with the doctor's stupefaction.
"It is as I tell you," he continued. "This Madame Jean had been
posing as Mrs. Leroux, and in some way, which I was unable to
understand, her signature had been accepted by the Credit Lyonnais.
I examined the specimen signature which had been forwarded to them
by the London County and Suburban Bank, and I perceived, at once,
that it was not a case of common forgery. The signatures were
identical" . . .
"Therefore," said Cumberly, and he was thinking of Henry Leroux,
whom Fate delighted in buffeting--"therefore, the Credit Lyonnais
is not responsible?"
"Most decidedly not responsible," agreed Max. "So you see I now
have two reasons for coming to London: one, to visit the London
County and Suburban Bank, and the other to find . . . Mr. King.
The first part of my mission I have performed successfully; but the
second" . . . again he shrugged, and the lines of his mouth were
Dr. Cumberly began to walk up and down the carpet.
"Poor Leroux!" he muttered--"poor Leroux."
"Ah! poor Leroux, indeed," said Max. "He is so typical a victim of
this most infernal group!"
"What!" Dr. Cumberly turned in his promenade and stared at the
detective--"he's not the only one?"
"My dear sir," said Max, gently, "the victims of Mr. King are truly
as the sands of Arabia."
"Good heavens!" muttered Dr. Cumberly; "good heavens!"
"I came immediately to London," continued Max, "and presented
myself at New Scotland Yard. There I discovered that my inquiry
was complicated by a ghastly crime which had been committed in the
flat of Mr. Leroux; but I learned, also, that Mr. King was
concerned in this crime--his name had been found upon a scrap of
paper clenched in the murdered woman's hand!"
"I was present when it was found," said Dr. Cumberly.
"I know you were," replied Max. "In short, I discovered that the
Palace Mansions murder case was my case, and that my case was the
Palace Mansions case. Eh bien! the mystery of the Paris draft did
not detain me long. A call upon the manager of the London County
and Suburban Bank at Charing Cross revealed to me the whole plot.
The real Mrs. Leroux had never visited that bank; it was Madame
Jean, posing as Mrs. Leroux, who went there and wrote the specimen
signature, accompanied by a certain Soames, a butler" . . .
"I know him!" said Dr. Cumberly, grimly, "the blackguard!"
"Truly a blackguard, truly a big, dirty blackguard! But it is such
canaille as this that Mr. King discovers and uses for his own ends.
Paris society, I know for a fact; has many such a cankerworm in its
heart. Oh! it is a big case, a very big case. Poor Mr. Leroux
being confined to his bed--ah! I pity him--I took the opportunity
to visit his flat in Palace Mansions with Inspector Dunbar, and I
obtained further evidence showing how the conspiracy had been
conducted; yes. For instance, Dunbar's notebook showed me that Mr.
Leroux was accustomed to receive letters from Mrs. Leroux whilst
she was supposed to be in Paris. I actually discovered some of
those letters, and they bore no dates. This, if they came from a
woman, was not remarkable, but, upon one of them I found something
that WAS remarkable. It was still in its envelope, you must
understand, this letter, its envelope bearing the Paris post-mark.
But impressed upon the paper I discovered a second post-mark,
which, by means of a simple process, and the use of a magnifying
glass, I made out to be Bow, East!"
"Do you understand? This letter, and others doubtless, had been
enclosed in an envelope and despatched to Paris from Bow, East? In
short, Mrs. Leroux wrote those letters before she left London;
Soames never posted them, but handed them over to some
representative of Mr. King; this other, in turn, posted them to
Madame Jean in Paris! Morbleu! these are clever rogues! This
which I was fortunate enough to discover had been on top, you
understand, this billet, and the outer envelope being very heavily
stamped, that below retained the impress of the post-mark."
"Poor Leroux!" said Cumberly again, with suppressed emotion. "That
unsuspecting, kindly soul has been drawn into the meshes of this
conspiracy. How they have been wound around him, until." . . .
"He knows the truth about his wife?" asked Max, suddenly glancing
up at the physician, "that she is not in Paris?"
"I, myself, broke the painful news to him," replied Cumberly--
"after a consultation with Miss Ryland and my daughter. I
considered it my duty to tell him, but I cannot disguise from
myself that it hastened, if it did not directly occasion, his
"Yes, yes," said Max; "we have been very fortunate however in
diverting the attention of the press from the absence of Mrs.
Leroux throughout this time. Nom d'un nom! Had they got to know
about the scrap of paper found in the dead woman's hand, I fear
that this would have been impossible."
"I do not doubt that it would have been impossible, knowing the
London press," replied Dr. Cumberly, "but I, too, am glad that it
has been achieved; for in the light of your Paris discoveries, I
begin at last to understand."
"You were not Mrs. Leroux's medical adviser?"
"I was not," replied Cumberly, glancing sharply at Max. "Good
heavens, to think that I had never realized the truth!"
"It is not so wonderful at all. Of course, as I have seen from the
evidence which you gave to the police, you knew that Mrs. Vernon
was addicted to the use of opium?"
"It was perfectly evident," replied Cumberly; "painfully evident.
I will not go into particulars, but her entire constitution was
undermined by the habit. I may add, however, that I did not
associate the vice with her violent end, except" . . .
"Ah!" interrupted Max, shaking his finger at the physician, "you
are coming to the point upon which you disagreed with the
divisional surgeon! Now, it is an important point. You are of
opinion that the injection in Mrs. Vernon's shoulder--which could
not have been self-administered" . . .
"She was not addicted to the use of the needle," interrupted
Cumberly; "she was an opium SMOKER."
"Quite so, quite so," said Max: "it makes the point all the more
clear. You are of opinion that this injection was made at least
eight hours before the woman's death?"
"At least eight hours--yes."
"Eh bien!" said Max; "and have you had extensive experience of such
Dr. Cumberly stared at him in some surprise.
"In a general way," he said, "a fair number of such cases have come
under my notice; but it chances that one of my patients, a regular
patient--is addicted to the vice."
"Only as a makeshift. He has periodical bouts of opium smoking--
what I may term deliberate debauches."
"Ah!" Max was keenly interested. "This patient is a member of
"He's a member of Parliament," replied Cumberly, a faint, humorous
glint creeping into his gray eyes; "but, of course, that is not an
answer to your question! Yes, he is of an old family, and is
engaged to the daughter of a peer."
"Dr. Cumberly," said Max, "in a case like the present--apart from
the fact that the happiness--pardieu! the life--of one of your own
friends is involved . . . should you count it a breach of
professional etiquette to divulge the name of that patient?"
It was a disturbing question; a momentous question for a
fashionable physician to be called upon to answer thus suddenly.
Dr. Cumberly, who had resumed his promenade of the carpet, stopped
with his back to M. Max, and stared out of the window into Harley
M. Max, a man of refined susceptibilities, came to his aid,
"It is perhaps overmuch to ask you," he said. "I can settle the
problem in a more simple manner. Inspector Dunbar will ask you for
this gentleman's name, and you, as witness in the case, cannot
refuse to give it."
"I can refuse until I stand in the witness-box!" replied Cumberly,
turning, a wry smile upon his face.
"With the result," interposed Max, "that the ends of justice might
be defeated, and the wrong man hanged!"
"True," said Cumberly; "I am splitting hairs. It is distinctly a
breach of professional etiquette, nevertheless, and I cannot
disguise the fact from myself. However, since the knowledge will
never go any further, and since tremendous issues are at stake, I
will give you the name of my opium patient. It is Sir Brian
"I am much indebted to you, Dr. Cumberly," said Max; "a thousand
thanks;" but in his eyes there was a far-away look. "Malpas--
Malpas! Where in this case have I met with the name of Malpas?"
"Inspector Dunbar may possibly have mentioned it to you in
reference to the evidence of Mr. John Exel, M. P. Mr. Exel, you
may remember" . . .
"I have it!" cried Max; "Nom d'un nom! I have it! It was from Sir
Brian Malpas that he had parted at the corner of Victoria Street on
the night of the murder, is it not so?"
"Your memory is very good, M. Max!"
"Then Mr. Exel is a personal friend of Sir Brian Malpas?
"Excellent! Kismet aids me still! I come to you hoping that you
may be acquainted with the constitution of Mrs. Leroux, but no!
behold me disappointed in this. Then--morbleu! among your patients
I find a possible client of the opium syndicate!"
"What! Malpas? Good God! I had not thought of that! Of course,
he must retire somewhere from the ken of society to indulge in
these opium orgies" . . .
"Quite so. I have hopes. Since it would never do for Sir Brian
Malpas to know who I am and what I seek, a roundabout introduction
is provided by kindly Providence--Ah! that good little angel of
mine!--in the person of Mr. John Exel, M. P."
"I will introduce you to Mr. Exel with pleasure."
"Eh bien! Let it be arranged as soon as possible," said M. Max.
"To Mr. John Exel I will be, as to Miss Ryland (morbleu! I hate
me!) and Miss Cumberly (pardieu! I loathe myself!), M. Gaston! It
is ten o'clock, and already I hear your first patient ringing at
the front-door bell. Good morning, Dr. Cumberly."
Dr. Cumberly grasped his hand cordially.
"Good morning, M. Max!"
The famous detective was indeed retiring, when:
He turned--and looked into the troubled gray eyes of Dr. Cumberly.
"You would ask me where is she--Mrs. Leroux?" he said. "My friend--
I may call you my friend, may I not?--I cannot say if she is
living or is dead. Some little I know of the Chinese, quite a
little; nom de dieu! . . . I hope she is dead!" . . .
Denise Ryland was lunching that day with Dr. Cumberly and his
daughter at Palace Mansions; and as was usually the case when this
trio met, the conversation turned upon the mystery.
"I have just seen Leroux," said the physician, as he took his seat,
"and I have told him that he must go for a drive to-morrow. I have
released him from his room, and given him the run of the place
again, but until he can get right away, complete recovery is
impossible. A little cheerful company might be useful, though.
You might look in and see him for a while, Helen?"
Helen met her father's eyes, gravely, and replied, with perfect
composure, "I will do so with pleasure. Miss Ryland will come with
"Suppose," said Denise Ryland, assuming her most truculent air,
"you leave off . . . talking in that . . . frigid manner . . . my
dear. Considering that Mira . . . Leroux and I were . . . old
friends, and that you . . . are old friends of hers, too, and
considering that I spend . . . my life amongst . . . people who
very sensibly call . . . one another . . . by their Christian
names, forget that my name is Ryland, and call me . . . Denise!"
"I should love to!" cried Helen Cumberly; "in fact, I wanted to do
so the very first time I saw you; perhaps because Mira Leroux
always referred to you as Denise" . . .
"May I also avail myself of the privilege?" inquired Dr. Cumberly
with gravity, "and may I hope that you will return the compliment?"
"I cannot . . . do it!" declared Denise Ryland, firmly. "A doctor
. . . should never be known by any other name than . . . Doctor.
If I heard any one refer to my own . . . physician as Jack or . . .
Bill, or Dick . . . I should lose ALL faith in him at once!"
As the lunch proceeded, Dr. Cumberly gradually grew more silent,
seeming to be employed with his own thoughts; and although his
daughter and Denise Ryland were discussing the very matter that
engaged his own attention, he took no part in the conversation for
some time. Then:
"I agree with you!" he said, suddenly, interrupting Helen; "the
greatest blow of all to Leroux was the knowledge that his wife had
been deceiving him."
"He invited . . . deceit!" proclaimed Denise Ryland, "by his . . .
"Oh! how can you say so!" cried Helen, turning her gray eyes upon
the speaker reproachfully; "he deserves--"
"He certainly deserves to know the real truth," concluded Dr.
Cumberly; "but would it relieve his mind or otherwise?"
Denise Ryland and Helen looked at him in silent surprise.
"The truth?" began the latter--"Do you mean that you know--where
she is" . . .
"If I knew that," replied Dr. Cumberly, "I should know everything;
the mystery of the Palace Mansions murder would be a mystery no
longer. But I know one thing: Mrs. Leroux's absence has nothing to
do with any love affair."
"What!" exclaimed Denise Ryland. "There isn't another man . . . in
the case? You can't tell me" . . .
"But I DO tell you!" said Dr. Cumberly; "I ASSURE you."
"And you have not told--Mr. Leroux?" said Helen incredulously.
"You have NOT told him--although you know that the thought--of THAT
is?" . . .
"Is practically killing him? No, I have not told him yet. For--
would my news act as a palliative or as an irritant?"
"That depends," pronounced Denise Ryland, "on the nature of . . .
"I suppose I have no right to conceal it from him. Therefore, we
will tell him to-day. But although, beyond doubt, his mind will be
relieved upon one point, the real facts are almost, if not quite,
"I learnt, this morning," he continued, lighting a cigarette,
"certain facts which, had I been half as clever as I supposed
myself, I should have deduced from the data already in my
possession. I was aware, of course, that the unhappy victim--Mrs.
Vernon--was addicted to the use of opium, and if a tangible link
were necessary, it existed in the form of the written fragment
which I myself took from the dead woman's hand." . . .
"A link!" said Denise Ryland.
"A link between Mrs. Vernon and Mrs. Leroux," explained the
physician. "You see, it had never occurred to me that they knew
one another." . . .
"And did they?" questioned his daughter, eagerly.
"It is almost certain that they were acquainted, at any rate; and
in view of certain symptoms, which, without giving them much
consideration, I nevertheless had detected in Mrs. Leroux, I am
disposed to think that the bond of sympathy which existed between
them was" . . .
He seemed to hesitate, looking at his daughter, whose gray eyes
were fixed upon him intently, and then at Denise Ryland, who, with
her chin resting upon her hands, and her elbows propped upon the
table, was literally glaring at him.
"Opium!" he said.
A look of horror began slowly to steal over Helen Cumberly's face;
Denise Ryland's head commenced to sway from side to side. But
neither women spoke.
"By the courtesy of Inspector Dunbar," continued Dr. Cumberly, "I
have been enabled to keep in touch with the developments of the
case, as you know; and he had noted as a significant fact that the
late Mrs. Vernon's periodical visits to Scotland corresponded,
curiously, with those of Mrs. Leroux to Paris. I don't mean in
regard to date; although in one or two instances (notably Mrs.
Vernon's last journey to Scotland, and that of Mrs. Leroux to
Paris), there was similarity even in this particular. A certain
Mr. Debnam--the late Horace Vernon's solicitor--placed an absurd
construction upon this" . . .
"Do you mean," interrupted Helen in a strained voice, "that he
insinuated that Mrs. Vernon" . . .
"He had an idea that she visited Leroux--yes," replied her father
hastily. "It was one of those absurd and irritating theories,
which, instinctively, we know to be wrong, but which, if asked for
evidence, we cannot hope to PROVE to be wrong."
"It is outrageous!" cried Helen, her eyes flashing indignantly;
"Mr. Debnam should be ashamed of himself!"
Dr. Cumberly smiled rather sadly.
"In this world," he said, "we have to count with the Debnams.
One's own private knowledge of a man's character is not worth a
brass farthing as legal evidence. But I am happy to say that
Dunbar completely pooh-poohed the idea."
"I like Inspector Dunbar!" declared Helen; "he is so strong--a
Denise Ryland stared at her cynically, but made no remark.
"The inspector and myself," continued Dr. Cumberly, "attached
altogether a different significance to the circumstances. I am
pleased to tell you that Debnam's unpleasant theories are already
proved fallacious; the case goes deeper, far deeper, than a mere
intrigue of that kind. In short, I am now assured--I cannot,
unfortunately, name the source of my new information--but I am
assured, that Mrs. Leroux, as well as Mrs. Vernon, was addicted to
the opium vice." . . .
"Oh, my God! how horrible!" whispered Helen.
"A certain notorious character," resumed Dr. Cumberly . . .
"Soames!" snapped Denise Ryland. "Since I heard . . . that man's
name I knew him for . . . a villain . . . of the worst possible . . .
description . . . imaginable."
"Soames," replied Dr. Cumberly, smiling slightly, "was one of the
group, beyond doubt--for I may as well explain that we are dealing
with an elaborate organization; but the chief member, to whom I
have referred, is a greater one than Soames. He is a certain
shadowy being, known as Mr. King."
"The name on the paper!" said Helen, quickly. "But of course the
police have been looking for Mr. King all along?"
"In a general way--yes; but as we have thousands of Kings in London
alone, the task is a stupendous one. The information which I
received this morning narrows down the search immensely; for it
points to Mr. King being the chief, or president, of a sort of
opium syndicate, and, furthermore, it points to his being a
"A Chinaman!" cried Denise and Helen together.
"It is not absolutely certain, but it is more than probable. The
point is that Mrs. Leroux has not eloped with some unknown lover;
she is in one of the opium establishments of Mr. King."
"Do you mean that she is detained there?" asked Helen.
"It appears to me, now, to be certain that she is. My hypothesis
is that she was an habitue of this place, as also was Mrs. Vernon.
These unhappy women, by means of elaborate plans, made on their
behalf by the syndicate, indulged in periodical opium orgies. It
was a game well worth the candle, as the saying goes, from the
syndicates standpoint; for Mrs. Leroux, alone, has paid no less
than a thousand pounds to the opium group!"
"A thousand pounds!" cried Denise Ryland. "You don't mean to tell
me that that . . . silly fool . . . of a man, Harry Leroux . . .
has allowed himself to be swindled of . . . all that money?"
"There is not the slightest doubt about it," Dr. Cumberly assured
her; "he opened a credit to that amount in Paris, and the entire
sum has been absorbed by Mr. King!"
"It's almost incredible! " said Helen.
"I quite agree with you," replied her father. "Of course, most
people know that there are opium dens in London, as in almost every
other big city, but the existence of these palatial establishments,
conducted by Mr. King, although undoubtedly a fact, is a fact
difficult to accept. It doesn't seem possible that such a place
can be conducted secretly; whereas I am assured that all the
efforts of Scotland Yard thus far have failed to locate the site of
the London branch."
"But surely," cried Denise Ryland, nostrils dilated indignantly,
"some of the . . . customers of this . . . disgusting place . . .
can be followed?" . . .
"The difficulty is to identify them," explained Cumberly. "Opium
smoking is essentially a secret vice; a man does not visit an opium
den openly as he would visit his club; and the elaborate
precautions adopted by the women are illustrated in the case of
Mrs. Vernon, and in the case of Mrs. Leroux. It is a pathetic fact
almost daily brought home to me, that women who acquire a drug
habit become more rapidly and more entirely enslaved by it than
does a man. It becomes the center of the woman's existence; it
becomes her god: all other claims, social and domestic, are
disregarded. Upon this knowledge, Mr. King has established his
undoubtedly extensive enterprise." . . .
Dr. Cumberly stood up.
"I will go down and see Leroux," he announced quietly. "His sorrow
hitherto has been secondary to his indignation. Possibly ignorance
in this case is preferable to the truth, but nevertheless I am
determined to tell him what I know. Give me ten minutes or so, and
then join me. Are you agreeable?"
"Quite," said Helen.
Dr. Cumberly departed upon his self-imposed mission.
Some ten minutes later, Helen Cumberly and Denise Ryland were in
turn admitted to Henry Leroux's flat. They found him seated on a
couch in his dining-room, wearing the inevitable dressing-gown.
Dr. Cumberly, his hands clasped behind him, stood looking out of
Leroux's pallor now was most remarkable; his complexion had assumed
an ivory whiteness which lent his face a sort of statuesque beauty.
He was cleanly shaven (somewhat of a novelty), and his hair was
brushed back from his brow. But the dark blue eyes were very
He rose at sight of his new visitors, and a faint color momentarily
tinged his cheeks. Helen Cumberly grasped his outstretched hand,
then looked away quickly to where her father was standing.
"I almost thought," said Leroux, "that you had deserted me."
"No," said Helen, seeming to speak with an effort--"we--my father,
thought--that you needed quiet."
Denise Ryland nodded grimly.
"But now," she said, in her most truculent manner, "we are going to
. . . drag you out of . . . your morbid . . . self . . . for a
change . . . which you need . . . if ever a man . . . needed it."
"I have just prescribed a drive," said Dr. Cumberly, turning to
them, "for to-morrow morning; with lunch at Richmond and a walk
across the park, rejoining the car at the Bushey Gate, and so home
Henry Leroux looked eagerly at Helen in silent appeal. He seemed
to fear that she would refuse.
"Do you mean that you have included us in the prescription,
father?" she asked.
"Certainly; you are an essential part of it."
"It will be fine," said the girl quietly; "I shall enjoy it."
"Ah!" said Leroux, with a faint note of contentment in his voice;
and he reseated himself.
There was an interval of somewhat awkward silence, to be broken by
"Dr. Cumberly has told you the news?" she asked, dropping for the
moment her syncopated and pugnacious manner.
Leroux closed his eyes and leant back upon the couch.
"Yes," he replied. "And to think that I am a useless wreck--a poor
parody of a man--whilst--Mira is . . . Oh, God! help me!--God help
He was visibly contending with his emotions; and Helen Cumberly
found herself forced to turn her head aside.
"I have been blind," continued Leroux, in a forced, monotonous
voice. "That Mira has not--deceived me, in the worst sense of the
word, is in no way due to my care of her. I recognize that, and I
accept my punishment; for I deserved it. But what now overwhelms
me is the knowledge, the frightful knowledge, that in a sense I
have misjudged her, that I have remained here inert, making no
effort, thinking her absence voluntary, whilst--God help her!--she
has been" . . .
"Once again, Leroux," interrupted Dr. Cumberly, "I must ask you not
to take too black a view. I blame myself more than I blame you,
for having failed to perceive what as an intimate friend I had
every opportunity to perceive; that your wife was acquiring the
opium habit. You have told me that you count her as dead"--he
stood beside Leroux, resting both hands upon the bowed shoulders--
"I have not encouraged you to change that view. One who has
cultivated--the--vice, to a point where protracted absences become
necessary--you understand me?--is, so far as my experience goes" . . .
"Incurable! I quite understand," jerked Leroux. "A thousand times
better dead, indeed."
"The facts as I see them," resumed the physician, "as I see them,
are these: by some fatality, at present inexplicable, a victim of
the opium syndicate met her death in this flat. Realizing that the
inquiries brought to bear would inevitably lead to the cross-
examination of Mrs. Leroux, the opium syndicate has detained her;
was forced to detain her."
"Where is the place," began Leroux, in a voice rising higher with
every syllable--"where is the infamous den to which--to which" . . .
Dr. Cumberly pressed his hands firmly upon the speaker's shoulders.
"It is only a question of time, Leroux," he said, "and you will
have the satisfaction of knowing that--though at a great cost to
yourself--this dreadful evil has been stamped out, that this yellow
peril has been torn from the heart of society. Now, I must leave
you for the present; but rest assured that everything possible is
being done to close the nets about Mr. King."
"Ah!" whispered Leroux, "MR. KING!"
"The circle is narrowing," continued the physician. "I may not
divulge confidences; but a very clever man--the greatest practical
criminologist in Europe--is devoting the whole of his time, night
and day, to this object."
Helen Cumberly and Denise Ryland exhibited a keen interest in the
words, but Leroux, with closed eyes, merely nodded in a dull way.
Shortly, Dr. Cumberly took his departure, and, Helen looking at her
"I think," said Denise Ryland, addressing Leroux, "that you should
not over-tax your strength at present." She walked across to where
he sat, and examined some proofslips lying upon the little table
beside the couch. "'Martin Zeda,'" she said, with a certain high
disdain. "Leave 'Martin Zeda' alone for once, and read a really
Leroux forced a smile to his lips.
"The correction of these proofs," he said diffidently, "exacts no
great mental strain, but is sufficient to--distract my mind. Work,
after all, is nature's own sedative."
"I rather agree with Mr. Leroux, Denise," said Helen;--"and really
you must allow him to know best."
"Thank you," said Leroux, meeting her eyes momentarily. "I feared
that I was about to be sent to bed like a naughty boy!"
"I hope it's fine to-morrow," said Helen rapidly. "A drive to
Richmond will be quite delightful."
"I think, myself," agreed Leroux, "that it will hasten my recovery
to breathe the fresh air once again."
Knowing how eagerly he longed for health and strength, and to what
purpose, the girl found something very pathetic in the words.
"I wish you were well enough to come out this afternoon," she said;
"I am going to a private view at Olaf van Noord's studio. It is
sure to be an extraordinary afternoon. He is the god of the Soho
futurists, you know. And his pictures are the weirdest nightmares
imaginable. One always meets such singular people there, too, and
I am honored in receiving an invitation to represent the Planet!"
"I consider," said Denise Ryland, head wagging furiously again,
"that the man is . . . mad. He had an exhibition . . . in Paris
. . . and everybody . . . laughed at him . . . simply LAUGHED at
"But financially, he is very successful," added Helen.
"Financially!" exclaimed Denise Ryland, "FINANCIALLY! To criticize
a man's work . . . financially, is about as . . . sensible as . . .
to judge the Venus . . . de Milo . . . by weight!--or to sell the
works . . . of Leonardo . . . da Vinci by the . . . yard! Olaf van
Noord is nothing but . . . a fool . . . of the worst possible . . .
description . . . imaginable."
"He is at least an entertaining fool!" protested Helen, laughingly.
"A mountebank!" cried Denise Ryland; "a clown . . . a pantaloon . . .
a whole family of . . . idiots . . . rolled into one!"
"It seems unkind to run away and leave you here--in your
loneliness," said Helen to Leroux; "but really I must be off to the
wilds of Soho." . . .
"To-morrow," said Leroux, standing up and fixing his eyes upon her
lingeringly, "will be a red-letter day. I have no right to
complain, whilst such good friends remain to me--such true
friends." . . .
"OUR LADY OF THE POPPIES"
A number of visitors were sprinkled about Olaf van Noord's large
and dirty studio, these being made up for the most part of those
weird and nondescript enthusiasts who seek to erect an apocryphal
Montmartre in the plains of Soho. One or two ordinary mortals,
representing the Press, leavened the throng, but the entire
gathering--"advanced" and unenlightened alike--seemed to be drawn
to a common focus: a large canvas placed advantageously in the
southeast corner of the studio, where it enjoyed all the benefit of
a pure and equably suffused light.
Seated apart from his worshipers upon a little sketching stool, and
handling a remarkably long, amber cigarette-holder with much grace,
was Olaf van Noord. He had hair of so light a yellow as sometimes
to appear white, worn very long, brushed back from his brow and cut
squarely all around behind, lending him a medieval appearance. He
wore a slight mustache carefully pointed; and his scanty vandyke
beard could not entirely conceal the weakness of his chin. His
complexion had the color and general appearance of drawing-paper,
and in his large blue eyes was an eerie hint of sightlessness. He
was attired in a light tweed suit cut in an American pattern, and
out from his low collar flowed a black French knot.
Olaf van Noord rose to meet Helen Cumberly and Denise Ryland,
advancing across the floor with the measured gait of a tragic
actor. He greeted them aloofly, and a little negro boy proffered
tiny cups of China tea. Denise Ryland distended her nostrils as
her gaze swept the picture-covered walls; but she seemed to approve
of the tea.
The artist next extended to them an ivory box containing little
yellow-wrapped cigarettes. Helen Cumberly smilingly refused, but
Denise Ryland took one of the cigarettes, sniffed at it
superciliously--and then replaced it in the box.
"It has a most . . . egregiously horrible . . . odor," she
"They are a special brand," explained Olaf van Noord, distractedly,
"which I have imported for me from Smyrna. They contain a small
percentage of opium."
"Opium!" exclaimed Denise Ryland, glaring at the speaker and then
at Helen Cumberly, as though the latter were responsible in some
way for the vices of the painter.
"Yes," he said, reclosing the box, and pacing somberly to the door
to greet a new arrival.
"Did you ever in all your life," said Denise Ryland, glancing about
her, "see such an exhibition . . . of nightmares?"
Certainly, the criticism was not without justification; the dauby-
looking oil-paintings, incomprehensible water-colors, and riotous
charcoal sketches which formed the mural decoration of the studio
were distinctly "advanced." But, since the center of interest
seemed to be the large canvas on the easel, the two moved to the
edges of the group of spectators and began to examine this
masterpiece. A very puzzled newspaperman joined them, bending and
whispering to Helen Cumberly:
"Are you going to notice the thing seriously? Personally, I am
writing it up as a practical joke! We are giving him half a
column--Lord knows what for!--but I can't see how to handle it
except as funny stuff."
"But, for heaven's sake . . . what does he . . . CALL it?" muttered
Denise Ryland, holding a pair of gold rimmed pince-nez before her
eyes, and shifting them to and fro in an endeavor to focus the
"'Our Lady of the Poppies,'" replied the journalist. "Do you think
it's intended to mean anything in particular?"
The question was no light one; it embodied a problem not readily
solved. The scene depicted, and depicted with a skill, with a
technical mastery of the bizarre that had in it something horrible--
was a long narrow room--or, properly, cavern. The walls
apparently were hewn from black rock, and at regular intervals,
placed some three feet from these gleaming walls, uprose slender
golden pillars supporting a kind of fretwork arch which entirely
masked the ceiling. The point of sight adopted by the painter was
peculiar. One apparently looked down into this apartment from some
spot elevated fourteen feet or more above the floor level. The
floor, which was black and polished, was strewn with tiger skins;
and little, inlaid tables and garishly colored cushions were spread
about in confusion, whilst cushioned divans occupied the visible
corners of the place. The lighting was very "advanced": a lamp,
having a kaleidoscopic shade, swung from the center of the roof low
into the room and furnished all the illumination.
Three doors were visible; one, directly in line at the further end
of the place, apparently of carved ebony inlaid with ivory;
another, on the right, of lemon wood or something allied to it, and
inlaid with a design in some emerald hued material; with a third,
corresponding door, on the left, just barely visible to the
Two figures appeared. One was that of a Chinaman in a green robe
scarcely distinguishable from the cushions surrounding him, who
crouched upon the divan to the left of the central door, smoking a
long bamboo pipe. His face was the leering face of a yellow satyr.
But, dominating the composition, and so conceived in form, in
color, and in lighting, as to claim the attention centrally, so
that the other extravagant details became but a setting for it, was
Upon a slender ivory pedestal crouched a golden dragon, and before
the pedestal was placed a huge Chinese vase of the indeterminate
pink seen in the heart of a rose, and so skilfully colored as to
suggest an internal luminousness. The vase was loaded with a mass
of exotic poppies, a riotous splash of color; whilst beside this
vase, and slightly in front of the pedestal, stood the figure
presumably intended to represent the Lady of the Poppies who gave
title to the picture.
The figure was that of an Eastern girl, slight and supple, and
possessing a devilish and forbidding grace. Her short hair formed
a black smudge upon the canvas, and cast a dense shadow upon her
face. The composition was infinitely daring; for out of this
shadow shone the great black eyes, their diablerie most cunningly
insinuated; whilst with a brilliant exclusion of detail--by means
of two strokes of the brush steeped in brightest vermilion, and one
seemingly haphazard splash of dead white--an evil and abandoned
smile was made to greet the spectator.
To the waist, the figure was a study in satin nudity, whence, from
a jeweled girdle, light draperies swept downward, covering the feet
and swinging, a shimmering curve out into the foreground of the
canvas, the curve being cut off in its apogee by the gold frame.
Above her head, this girl of demoniacal beauty held a bunch of
poppies seemingly torn from the vase: this, with her left hand;
with her right she pointed, tauntingly, at her beholder.
In comparison with the effected futurism of the other pictures in
the studio, "Our Lady of the Poppies," beyond question was a great
painting. From a point where the entire composition might be taken
in by the eye, the uncanny scene glowed with highly colored detail;
but, exclude the scheme of the composition, and focus the eye upon
any one item--the golden dragon--the seated Chinaman--the ebony
door--the silk-shaded lamp; it had no detail whatever: one beheld a
meaningless mass of colors. Individually, no one section of the
canvas had life, had meaning; but, as a whole, it glowed, it lived--
it was genius. Above all, it was uncanny.
This, Denise Ryland fully realized, but critics had grown so used
to treating the work of Olaf van Noord as a joke, that "Our Lady of
the Poppies" in all probability would never be judged seriously.
"What does it mean, Mr. van Noord?" asked Helen Cumberly, leaving
the group of worshipers standing hushed in rapture before the
canvas and approaching the painter. "Is there some occult
significance in the title?"
"It is a priestess," replied the artist, in his dreamy fashion. . . .
"A priestess of the temple." . . .
Helen Cumberly glanced again at the astonishing picture.
"Do you mean," she began, "that there is a living original?"
Olaf van Noord bowed absently, and left her side to greet one who
at that moment entered the studio. Something magnetic in the
personality of the newcomer drew all eyes from the canvas to the
figure on the threshold. The artist was removing garish tiger skin
furs from the shoulders of the girl--for the new arrival was a
girl, a Eurasian girl.
She wore a tiger skin motor-coat, and a little, close-fitting,
turban-like cap of the same. The coat removed, she stood revealed
in a clinging gown of silk; and her feet were shod in little amber
colored slippers with green buckles. The bodice of her dress
opened in a surprising V, displaying the satin texture of her neck
and shoulders, and enhancing the barbaric character of her
appearance. Her jet black hair was confined by no band or comb,
but protruded Bishareen-like around the shapely head. Without
doubt, this was the Lady of the Poppies--the original of the
"Dear friends," said Olaf van Noord, taking the girl's hand, and
walking into the studio, "permit me to present my model!"
Following, came a slightly built man who carried himself with a
stoop; an olive faced man, who squinted frightfully, and who
"What a most . . . EXTRAORDINARY-looking creature!" whispered
Denise Ryland to Helen. "She has undoubted attractions of . . . a
hellish sort . . . if I may use . . . the term."
"She is the strangest looking girl I have ever seen in my life,"
replied Helen, who found herself unable to turn her eyes away from
Olaf van Noord's model. "Surely she is not a professional model!"
The chatty reporter (his name was Crockett) confided to Helen
"She is not exactly a professional model, I think, Miss Cumberly,
but she is one of the van Noord set, and is often to be seen in the
more exclusive restaurants, and sometimes in the Cafe Royal."
"She is possibly a member of the theatrical profession?"
"I think not. She is the only really strange figure (if we exclude
Olaf) in this group of poseurs. She is half Burmese, I believe,
and a native of Moulmein."
"Most EXTRAORDINARY creature!" muttered Denise Ryland, focussing
upon the Eurasian her gold rimmed glasses--"MOST extraordinary."
She glanced around at the company in general. "I really begin to
feel . . . more and more as though I were . . . in a private
lunatic . . . asylum. That picture . . . beyond doubt is the work
. . . of a madman . . . a perfect . . . madman!"
"I, also, begin to be conscious of an uncomfortable sensation,"
said Helen, glancing about her almost apprehensively. "Am I
dreaming, or did SOME ONE ELSE enter the studio, immediately behind
"A squinting man . . . yes!"
"But a THIRD person?"
"No, my dear . . . look for yourself. As you say . . . you are
. . . dreaming. It's not to be wondered . . . at!"
Helen laughed, but very uneasily. Evidently it had been an
illusion, but an unpleasant illusion; for she should have been
prepared to swear that not two, but THREE people had entered!
Moreover, although she was unable to detect the presence of any
third stranger in the studio, the persuasion that this third person
actually was present remained with her, unaccountably, and
The lady of the tiger skins was surrounded by an admiring group of
unusuals, and Helen, who had turned again to the big canvas,
suddenly became aware that the little cross-eyed man was bowing and
beaming radiantly before her.
"May I be allowed," said Olaf van Noord who stood beside him, "to
present my friend Mr. Gianapolis, my dear Miss Cumberly?" . . .
Helen Cumberly found herself compelled to acknowledge the
introduction, although she formed an immediate, instinctive
distaste for Mr. Gianapolis. But he made such obvious attempts to
please, and was so really entertaining a talker, that she unbent
towards him a little. His admiration, too, was unconcealed; and no
pretty woman, however great her common sense, is entirely
"Do you not think 'Our Lady of the Poppies' remarkable?" said
"I think," replied Denise Ryland,--to whom, also, the Greek had
been presented by Olaf van Noord, "that it indicates . . . a
disordered . . . imagination on the part of . . . its creator."
"It is a technical masterpiece," replied the Greek, smiling, "but
hardly a work of imagination; for you have seen the original of the
principal figure, and"--he turned to Helen Cumberly--"one need not
go very far East for such an interior as that depicted."
"What!" Helen knitted her brows, prettily--"you do not suggest that
such an apartment actually exists either East or West?"
Gianapolis beamed radiantly.
"You would, perhaps, like to see such an apartment?" he suggested.
"I should, certainly," replied Helen Cumberly. "Not even in a
stage setting have I seen anything like it."
"You have never been to the East?"
"Never, unfortunately. I have desired to go for years, and hope to
go some day."
"In Smyrna you may see such rooms; possibly in Port Said--certainly
in Cairo. In Constantinople--yes! But perhaps in Paris; and--who
knows?--Sir Richard Burton explored Mecca, but who has explored
Helen Cumberly watched him curiously.
"You excite my curiosity," she said. "Don't you think"--turning to
Denise Ryland--"he is most tantalizing?"
Denise Ryland distended her nostrils scornfully.
"He is telling . . . fairy tales," she declared. "He thinks . . .
we are . . . silly!"
"On the contrary," declared Gianapolis; "I flatter myself that I am
too good a judge of character to make that mistake."
Helen Cumberly absorbed his entire attention; in everything he
sought to claim her interest; and when, ere taking their departure,
the girl and her friend walked around the studio to view the other
pictures, Gianapolis was the attendant cavalier, and so well as one
might judge, in his case, his glance rarely strayed from the
piquant beauty of Helen.
When they departed, it was Gianapolis, and not Olaf van Noord, who
escorted them to the door and downstairs to the street. The red
lips of the Eurasian smiled upon her circle of adulators, but her
eyes--her unfathomable eyes--followed every movement of the Greek.
GROVE OF A MILLION APES
Four men sauntered up the grand staircase and entered the huge
smoking-room of the Radical Club as Big Ben was chiming the hour of
eleven o'clock. Any curious observer who had cared to consult the
visitor's book in the hall, wherein the two lines last written were
not yet dry, would have found the following entries:
VISITOR RESIDENCE INTROD'ING
Dr. Bruce Cumberly London John Exel
M. Gaston Paris Brian Malpas
The smoking-room was fairly full, but a corner near the big open
grate had just been vacated, and here, about a round table, the
four disposed themselves. Our French acquaintance being in evening
dress had perforce confined himself in his sartorial eccentricities
to a flowing silk knot in place of the more conventional, neat bow.
He was already upon delightfully friendly terms with the frigid
Exel and the aristocratic Sir Brian Malpas. Few natures were proof
against the geniality of the brilliant Frenchman.
Conversation drifted, derelict, from one topic to another, now
seized by this current of thought, now by that; and M. Gaston Max
made no perceptible attempt to steer it in any given direction.
"I was reading a very entertaining article," said Exel, turning his
monocle upon the physician, "in the Planet to-day, from the pen of
Miss Cumberly; Ah! dealing with Olaf van Noord."
Sir Brian Malpas suddenly became keenly interested.
"You mean in reference to his new picture, 'Our Lady of the
Poppies'?" he said.
"Yes," replied Exel, "but I was unaware that you knew van Noord?"
"I do not know him," said Sir Brian, "I should very much like to
meet him. But directly the picture is on view to the public I
shall certainly subscribe my half-crown."
"My own idea," drawled Exel, "was that Miss Cumberly's article
probably was more interesting than the picture or the painter. Her
description of the canvas was certainly most vivid; and I, myself,
for a moment, experienced an inclination to see the thing. I feel
sure, however, that I should be disappointed."
"I think you are wrong," interposed Cumberly. "Helen is
enthusiastic about the picture, and even Miss Ryland, whom you have
met and who is a somewhat severe critic, admits that it is out of
Max, who covertly had been watching the face of Sir Brian Malpas,
said at this point:
"I would not miss it for anything, after reading Miss Cumberly's
account of it. When are you thinking of going to see it, Sir
Brian? I might arrange to join you."
"Directly the exhibition is opened," replied the baronet, lapsing
again into his dreamy manner. "Ring me up when you are going, and
I will join you."
"But you might be otherwise engaged?"
"I never permit business," said Sir Brian, "to interfere with
The words sounded absurd, but, singularly, the statement was true.
Sir Brian had won his political position by sheer brilliancy. He
was utterly unreliable and totally indifferent to that code of
social obligations which ordinarily binds his class. He held his
place by force of intellect, and it was said of him that had he
possessed the faintest conception of his duties toward his fellow
men, nothing could have prevented him from becoming Prime Minister.
He was a puzzle to all who knew him. Following a most brilliant
speech in the House, which would win admiration and applause from
end to end of the Empire, he would, perhaps on the following day,
exhibit something very like stupidity in debate. He would rise to
address the House and take his seat again without having uttered a
word. He was eccentric, said his admirers, but there were others
who looked deeper for an explanation, yet failed to find one, and
were thrown back upon theories.
M. Max, by strategy, masterful because it was simple, so arranged
matters that at about twelve o'clock he found himself strolling
with Sir Brian Malpas toward the latter's chambers in Piccadilly.
A man who wore a raincoat with the collar turned up and buttoned
tightly about his throat, and whose peculiar bowler hat seemed to
be so tightly pressed upon his head that it might have been glued
there, detached himself from the shadows of the neighboring cab
rank as M. Gaston Max and Sir Brian Malpas quitted the Club, and
followed them at a discreet distance.
It was a clear, fine night, and both gentlemen formed conspicuous
figures, Sir Brian because of his unusual height and upright
military bearing, and the Frenchman by reason of his picturesque
cloak and hat. Up Northumberland Avenue, across Trafalgar Square
and so on up to Piccadilly Circus went the two, deep in
conversation; with the tireless man in the raincoat always dogging
their footsteps. So the procession proceeded on, along Piccadilly.
Then Sir Brian and M. Max turned into the door of a block of
chambers, and a constable, who chanced to be passing at the moment,
touched his helmet to the baronet.
As the two were entering the lift, the follower came up level with
the doorway and abreast of the constable; the top portion of a very
red face showed between the collar of the raincoat and the brim of
the hat, together with a pair of inquiring blue eyes.
"Reeves!" said the follower, addressing the constable.
The latter turned and stared for a moment at the speaker; then
"Don't do that!" snapped the proprietor of the bowler; "you should
know better! Who was that gentleman?"
"Sir Brian Malpas, sir."
"Sir Brian Malpas?"
"And the other?"
"I don't know, sir. I have never seen him before."
"H'm!" grunted Detective-Sergeant Sowerby, walking across the road
toward the Park with his hands thrust deep in his pockets; "I have!
What the deuce is Max up to? I wonder if Dunbar knows about this
He propped himself up against the railings, scarcely knowing what
he expected to gain by remaining there, but finding the place as
well suited to reflection as any other. He shared with Dunbar a
dread that the famous Frenchman would bring the case to a
successful conclusion unaided by Scotland Yard, thus casting
professional discredit upon Dunbar and himself.
His presence at that spot was largely due to accident. He had
chanced to be passing the Club when Sir Brian and M. Max had come
out, and, fearful that the presence of the tall stranger portended
some new move on the Frenchman's part, Sowerby had followed, hoping
to glean something by persistency when clues were unobtainable by
other means. He had had no time to make inquiries of the porter of
the Club respecting the identity of M. Max's companion, and thus,
as has appeared, he did not obtain the desired information until
his arrival in Piccadilly.
Turning over these matters in his mind, Sowerby stood watching the
block of buildings across the road. He saw a light spring into
being in a room overlooking Piccadilly, a room boasting a handsome
balcony. This took place some two minutes after the departure of
the lift bearing Sir Brian and his guest upward; so that Sowerby
permitted himself to conclude that the room with the balcony
belonged to Sir Brian Malpas.
He watched the lighted window aimlessly and speculated upon the
nature of the conversation then taking place up there above him.
Had he possessed the attributes of a sparrow, he thought, he might
have flown up to that balcony and have "got level" with this
infernally clever Frenchman who was almost certainly going to pull
off the case under the very nose of Scotland Yard.
In short, his reflections were becoming somewhat bitter; and
persuaded that he had nothing to gain by remaining there any longer
he was about to walk off, when his really remarkable persistency
received a trivial reward.
One of the windows communicating with the balcony was suddenly
thrown open, so that Sowerby had a distant view of the corner of a
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