“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 companion interrogatively:—
“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 cheerful book!”
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 him.”
“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."...