“My wife!” mumbled Leroux, staring unseeingly at the fragment of paper. “My wife! Mr. King! Oh! God! I shall go mad!”
“Sit down!” snapped Dr. Cumberly, turning to him; “damn it, Leroux, you are worse than a woman!”
In a manner almost childlike, the novelist obeyed the will of the stronger man, throwing himself into an armchair, and burying his face in his hands.
“My wife!” he kept muttering—“my wife!"...
Exel and the doctor stood staring at one another; when suddenly, from outside the flat, came a metallic clattering, followed by a little suppressed cry. Helen Cumberly, in daintiest deshabille, appeared in the lobby, carrying, in one hand, a chafing-dish, and, in the other, the lid. As she advanced toward the study, from whence she had heard her father’s voice:—
“Why, Mr. Leroux!” she cried, “I shall certainly report you to Mira, now! You have not even touched the omelette!”
“Good God! Cumberly! stop her!” muttered Exel, uneasily. “The door was not latched!"...
But it was too late. Even as the physician turned to intercept his daughter, she crossed the threshold of the study. She stopped short at perceiving Exel; then, with a woman’s unerring intuition, divined a tragedy, and, in the instant of divination, sought for, and found, the hub of the tragic wheel.
One swift glance she cast at the fur-clad form, prostrate.
The chafing-dish fell from her hand, and the omelette rolled, a grotesque mass, upon the carpet. She swayed, dizzily, raising one hand to her brow, but had recovered herself even as Leroux sprang forward to support her.
“All right, Leroux!” cried Cumberly; “I will take her upstairs again. Wait for me, Exel.”
Exel nodded, lighted his cigar, and sat down in a chair, remote from the writing-table.
“Mira—my wife!” muttered Leroux, standing, looking after Dr. Cumberly and his daughter as they crossed the lobby. “She will report to—my wife."...
In the outer doorway, Helen Cumberly looked back over her shoulder, and her glance met that of Leroux. Hers was a healing glance and a strengthening glance; it braced him up as nothing else could have done. He turned to Exel.
“For Heaven’s sake, Exel!” he said, evenly, “give me your advice—give me your help; I am going to ’phone for the police.”
Exel looked up with an odd expression.
“I am entirely at your service, Leroux,” he said. “I can quite understand how this ghastly affair has shaken you up.”
“It was so sudden,” said the other, plaintively. “It is incredible that so much emotion can be crowded into so short a period of a man’s life."...
Big Ben chimed the quarter after midnight. Leroux, eyes averted, walked to the writing-table, and took up the telephone.