“It’s all right, doctor,” said the inspector; “and we shan’t detain you a moment.” He glanced over his shoulder. “Mr. Hilton, M. R. C. S.” he said, indicating the dark man—“Dr. Cumberly and Miss Cumberly.”
The divisional surgeon bowed to Helen and eagerly grasped the hand of the celebrated physician.
“I am fortunate in being able to ask your opinion,” he began....
Dr. Cumberly nodded shortly, and with upraised hand, cut him short.
“I shall willingly give you any assistance in my power,” he said; “but my daughter has voluntarily committed herself to a rather painful ordeal, and I am anxious to get it over.”
He stooped and raised the fur from the ghastly face.
Helen, her hand resting upon her father’s shoulder, ventured one rapid glance and then looked away, shuddering slightly. Dr. Cumberly replaced the coat and gazed anxiously at his daughter. But Helen, with admirable courage, having closed her eyes for a moment, reopened them, and smiled at her father’s anxiety. She was pale, but perfectly composed.
“Well, Miss Cumberly?” inquired the inspector, eagerly; whilst all in the room watched this slim girl in her charming deshabille, this dainty figure so utterly out of place in that scene of morbid crime.
She raised her gray eyes to the detective.
“I still believe that I have seen the face, somewhere, before. But I shall have to reflect a while—I meet so many folks, you know, in a casual way—before I can commit myself to any statement.”
In the leonine eyes looking into hers gleamed the light of admiration and approval. The canny Scotsman admired this girl for her beauty, as a matter of course, for her courage, because courage was a quality standing high in his estimation, but, above all, for her admirable discretion.
“Very proper, Miss Cumberly,” he said; “very proper and wise on your part. I don’t wish to hurry you in any way, but”—he hesitated, glancing at the man in plain clothes, who had now resumed a careful perusal of a newspaper—“but her name doesn’t happen to be Vernon—”
“Vernon!” cried the girl, her eyes lighting up at sound of the name. “Mrs. Vernon! it is! it is! She was pointed out to me at the last Arts Ball—where she appeared in a most monstrous Chinese costume—”
“Chinese?” inquired Dunbar, producing the bulky notebook.
“Yes. Oh! poor, poor soul!”
“You know nothing further about her, Miss Cumberly?”
“Nothing, Inspector. She was merely pointed out to me as one of the strangest figures in the hall. Her husband, I understand, is an art expert—”
“He was!” said Dunbar, closing the book sharply. “He died this afternoon; and a paragraph announcing his death appears in the newspaper which we found in the victim’s fur coat!”
“It was the only paragraph on the half-page folded outwards which was in any sense personal. I am greatly indebted to you, Miss Cumberly; every hour wasted on a case like this means a fresh plait in the rope around the neck of the wrong man!”