The Yellow Claw HTML version
M. Max Mounts Cagliostro's Staircase
At a few minutes before midnight, Helen Cumberly and Denise Ryland, escorted by the
attentive Frenchman, arrived at Palace Mansions. Any distrust which Helen had
experienced at first was replaced now by the esteem which every one of discrimination
(criminals excluded) formed of M. Max. She perceived in him a very exquisite
gentleman, and although the acquaintance was but one hour old, counted him a friend.
Denise Ryland was already quite at home in the Cumberly household, and she insisted
that Dr. Cumberly would be deeply mortified should M. Gaston take his departure
without making his acquaintance. Thus it came about that M. Gaston Max was presented
(as "M. Gaston") to Dr. Cumberly.
Cumberly, who had learned to accept men and women upon his daughter's estimate,
welcomed the resplendent Parisian hospitably; the warm, shaded lights made convivial
play in the amber deeps of the decanters, and the cigars had a fire-side fragrance which
M. Max found wholly irresistible.
The ladies being momentarily out of ear-shot, M. Gaston glancing rapidly about him,
said: "May I beg a favor, Dr. Cumberly?"
"Certainly, M. Gaston," replied the physician--he was officiating at the syphon. "Say
"When!" said Max. "I should like to see you in Harley Street to- morrow morning."
Cumberly glanced up oddly. "Nothing wrong, I hope?"
"Oh, not professionally," smiled Max; "or perhaps I should say only semi-professionally.
Can you spare me ten minutes?"
"My book is rather full in the morning, I believe," said Cumberly, frowning thoughtfully,
"and without consulting it--which, since it is in Harley Street, is impossible--I scarcely
know when I shall be at liberty. Could we not lunch together?"
Max blew a ring of smoke from his lips and watched it slowly dispersing.
"For certain reasons," he replied, and his odd American accent became momentarily more
perceptible, "I should prefer that my visit had the appearance of being a professional
Cumberly was unable to conceal his surprise, but assuming that his visitor had good
reason for the request, he replied after a moment's reflection:
"I should propose, then, that you come to Harley Street at, shall we say, 9.30? My earliest
professional appointment is at 10. Will that inconvenience you?"
"Not at all," Max assured him; "it will suit me admirably."