“You see, Inspector,” interrupted Dr. Cumberly, “they are a Bohemian pair, and Bohemians, inevitably, bore one another at times! This little arrangement was intended as a safety-valve. Whenever ennui attacked Mrs. Leroux, she was at liberty to depart for a week to her own friends in Paris, leaving Leroux to the bachelor’s existence which is really his proper state; to go unshaven and unshorn, to dine upon bread and cheese and onions, to work until all hours of the morning, and generally to enjoy himself!”
“Does she usually stay long?” inquired Dunbar.
“Not more than a week, as a rule,” answered Leroux.
“You must excuse me,” continued the detective, “if I seem to pry into intimate matters; but on these occasions, how does Mrs. Leroux get on for money?”
“I have opened a credit for her,” explained the novelist, wearily, “at the Credit Lyonnais, in Paris.”
Dunbar scribbled busily in his notebook.
“Does she take her maid with her?” he jerked, suddenly.
“She has no maid at the moment,” replied Leroux; “she has been without one for twelve months or more, now.”
“When did you last hear from her?”
“Three days ago.”
“Did you answer the letter?”
“Yes; my answer was amongst the mail which Soames took to the post, to-night.”
“You said, though, if I remember rightly, that he was out without permission?”
Leroux ran his fingers through his hair.
“I meant that he should only have been absent five minutes or so; whilst he remained out for more than an hour.”
Inspector Dunbar nodded, comprehendingly, tapping his teeth with the head of the fountain-pen.
“And the other servants?”
“There are only two: a cook and a maid. I released them for the evening—glad to get rid of them—wanted to work.”
“They are late?”
“They take liberties, damnable liberties, because I am easy-going.”
“I see,” said Dunbar. “So that you were quite alone this evening, when”—he nodded in the direction of the writing-table—“your visitor came?”
“Was her arrival the first interruption?”
“No—er—not exactly. Miss Cumberly...”
“My daughter,” explained Dr. Cumberly, “knowing that Mr. Leroux, at these times, was very neglectful in regard to meals, prepared him an omelette, and brought it down in a chafing-dish.”
“How long did she remain?” asked the inspector of Leroux.
“I—er—did not exactly open the door. We chatted, through—er—through the letter-box, and she left the omelette outside on the landing.”
“What time would that be?”
“It was a quarter to twelve,” declared Cumberly. “I had been supping with some friends, and returned to find Helen, my daughter, engaged in preparing the omelette. I congratulated her upon the happy thought, knowing that Leroux was probably starving himself.”