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The Yellow Claw

The Draft On Paris
For close upon a month Soames performed the duties imposed upon him in the household
of Henry Leroux. He was unable to discover, despite a careful course of inquiry from the
cook and the housemaid, that Mrs. Leroux frequently absented herself. But the servants
were newly engaged, for the flat in Palace Mansions had only recently been leased by the
Leroux. He gathered that they had formerly lived much abroad, and that their marriage
had taken place in Paris. Mrs. Leroux had been to visit a friend in the French capital once,
he understood, since the housemaid had been in her employ.
The mistress (said the housemaid) did not care twopence-ha'penny for her husband; she
had married him for his money, and for nothing else. She had had an earlier love
(declared the cook) and was pining away to a mere shadow because of her painful
memories. During the last six months (the period of the cook's service) Mrs. Leroux had
altered out of all recognition. The cook was of opinion that she drank secretly.
Of Mr. Leroux, Soames formed the poorest opinion. He counted him a spiritless being,
whose world was bounded by his book-shelves, and whose wife would be a fool if she
did not avail herself of the liberty which his neglect invited her to enjoy. Soames felt
himself, not a snake in the grass, but a benefactor--a friend in need--a champion come to
the defense of an unhappy and persecuted woman.
He wondered when an opportunity should arise which would enable him to commence
his chivalrous operations; almost daily he anticipated instructions to the effect that Mrs.
Leroux would be leaving for Paris immediately. But the days glided by and the weeks
glided by, without anything occurring to break the monotony of the Leroux household.
Mr. Soames sought an opportunity to express his respectful readiness to Mrs. Leroux; but
the lady was rarely visible outside her own apartments until late in the day, when she
would be engaged in preparing for the serious business of the evening: one night a dance,
another, a bridge-party; so it went. Mr. Leroux rarely joined her upon these festive
expeditions, but clung to his study like Diogenes to his tub.
Great was Mr. Soames' contempt; bitter were the reproaches of the cook; dark were the
predictions of the housemaid.
At last, however, Soames, feeling himself neglected, seized an opportunity which offered
to cement the secret bond (the TOO secret bond) existing between himself and the
mistress of the house.
Meeting her one afternoon in the lobby, which she was crossing on the way from her
bedroom to the drawing-room, he stood aside to let her pass, whispering:
"At your service, whenever you are ready, madam!"
It was a non-committal remark, which, if she chose to keep up the comedy, he could
explain away by claiming it to refer to the summoning of the car from the garage--for
Mrs. Leroux was driving out that afternoon.
 
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