“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 injections?”
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 good society?”
“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 Street.
M. Max, a man of refined susceptibilities, came to his aid, diplomatically.
“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.”