Part 2 out of 6
and should accept with a heart less sore the life to which I shall never
resign myself. You know very well that I am a rebel, and do not submit
She rose, and taking his hand, pressed it closely in her own.
"You must stay in Paris," she said. "Pardon me for having insisted that
you could live in the country. I thought more of myself than of you, of
our love and our marriage. It was an egotistic thought, a bad thought.
A way must be found, no matter what it costs, to enable you to continue
"But how to find it? Do you think I have not tried everything?"
He related his visits to Jardine, his solicitations, prayers, and also
his request of a loan from Glady, and his visit to Caffie.
"Caffie!" she cried. "What made you think of going to Caffie?"
"I went partly because you had often spoken of him."
"But I spoke of him to you as the most wicked of men, capable of anything
and everything that is bad."
"And partly, also, because I knew from one of my patients that he lends
to those of whom he can make use."
"What did he say to you?"
"That it was probable he would not be able to find any one who would lend
what I wished, but he would try to find some one, and would give me an
answer tomorrow evening. He also promised to protect me from Jardine."
"You have put yourself in his hands?"
"Well, what do you expect? In my position, I am not at liberty to go to
whom I wish and to those who inspire me with confidence in their honor.
If I should go to a notary or a banker they would not listen to me, for I
should be obliged to tell them, the first thing, that I have no security
to offer. That is how the unfortunate fall into the hands of rascals; at
least, these listen to them, and lend them something, small though it may
"What did he give you?"
"And you took it?"
"There is time gained. To-morrow, perhaps, I shall be turned into the
street. Caffie will obtain a respite."
"And what price will he ask for this service?"
"It is only those who own something who worry about the price."
"You have your name, dignity, and honor, and once you are in Caffies
hands, who knows what he may exact from you, what he may make you do,
without your being able to resist him?."
"Then you wish me to leave Paris?"
"Certainly not; but I wish you to be on your guard against Caffie, whom
you do not know, but I do, through what Florentin told us when he was
with him. However secret a man may be, he cannot hide himself from his
clerk. He is not only guilty of rascalities, but also of real crimes.
I assure you that he deserves ten deaths. To gain a hundred francs he
will do anything; he makes money only for the pleasure of making it, for
he has neither child nor relative."
"Well, I promise to be on my guard as you advise. But, wicked as Caffie
may be, I believe that I shall accept the concours that he offered me.
Who knows what may happen in the short time that he gains for me?
Because I need not tell you that I know beforehand what his reply will be
to my request for a loan--he could find no one."
"I shall come, all the same, to-morrow evening to learn his answer."
Although Saniel did not build any false hopes on Caffie's reply, he went
to see him the next afternoon at the same hour.
As before, he waited some time after ringing the bell. At last he heard
a slow step within.
"Who is there?" Caffie asked.
As soon as Saniel answered, the door was opened.
"As I do not like to be disturbed in the evening by troublesome people, I
do not always open the door," Caffie said. "But I have a signal for my
clients so that I may know them. After ringing, knock three times on the
During this explanation they entered Caffie's office.
"Have you done anything about my affair?" Saniel asked, after a moment,
as Caffie seemed disinclined to open the conversation.
"Yes, my dear sir. I have been running about all the morning for you.
I never neglect my clients; their affairs are mine."
"Well?" Saniel said.
Caffie put on an expression of despair.
"What did I tell you, my dear sir? Do you remember? Do me the honor to
believe that a man of my experience does not speak lightly. What I
foresaw has come to pass. Everywhere I received the same reply. The
risk is too great; no one would take it."
"Not even for a large interest?"
"Not even for a large interest; there is so much competition in your
profession. As for me, I believe in your future, and I have proved it by
my proposition; but, unfortunately, I am only an intermediary, and not
the lender of money."
Caffie emphasized the words, "my proposition," and underlined them with a
glance; but Saniel did not appear to understand.
"And the upholsterer's summons?" he asked.
"You may be easy on that point. I have attended to it. Your landlord,
to whom he owes rent, will interfere, and your creditor must indemnify
him before going farther. Will he submit? We shall see. If he does, we
shall defend ourselves on some other ground. I do not say victoriously,
but in a way to gain time."
"How much time?"
"That, my dear sir, I do not know; the whole thing depends upon our
adversary. But what do you mean by 'how much time?'--eternity?"
"I mean until April."
"That is eternity. Do you believe that you will be able to free yourself
in April? If you have expectations founded on something substantial, you
should tell me what they are, my dear sir."
This question was put with such an air of benevolence, that Saniel was
taken in by it.
"I have no guarantee," he said. "But, on the other hand, it is of the
utmost importance to me that I should have this length of time. As I
have explained to you, I am about to pass two examinations; they will
last three months, and in March, or, at the latest, in April, I shall be
a physician of the hospitals, and fellow of the Faculty. In that case I
should then offer a surface to the lenders, that would permit you,
without doubt, to find the sum necessary to pay Jardine, whatever
expenses there may be, and your fee."
As he spoke, Saniel saw that he was wrong in thus committing himself, but
he continued to the end.
"I should be unworthy of your confidence, my dear sir," Caffie replied,
"if I encouraged you with the idea that we could gain so much time.
Whatever it costs me--and it costs me much, I assure you--I must tell you
that it is impossible, radically impossible; a few days, yes, or a few
weeks, but that is all."
"Well, obtain a few weeks," Saniel said, rising, "that will be
"We shall see."
"My dear sir, do not go. You would not believe how much I am touched by
your position; I think only of you. When I learned that I could not find
the sum you desire, I paid a friendly visit to my young client of whom I
spoke to you--"
"The one who received a superior education in a fashionable convent?"
"Exactly; and I asked her what she would think of a young doctor, full of
talent, future professor of the Faculty, actually considered already a
savant of the first order, handsome--because you are handsome, my dear
sir, and it is no flattery to say this--in good health, a peasant by
birth, who presented himself as a husband. She appeared flattered, I
tell you frankly. But immediately afterward she said, 'And the child?'
To which I replied that you were too good, too noble, too generous, not
to have the indulgence of superior men, who accept an involuntary fault
with serenity. Did I go too far?"
He did not wait for an answer.
"No?" he went on. "Exactly. The child was present, for the mother
watches over it with a solicitude that promises much for the future, and
I examined it leisurely. It is very delicate, my dear sir, and like its
father. The poor baby! I doubt if you, with all your skill, can make it
live. If it should die, as it is to be feared it will, it would not
injure your reputation. You can give it care, but not life."
"Speaking of health," interrupted Saniel, who did not wish to reply, "did
you do what I advised about yourself?"
"Not yet. The chemists of this quarter are only licensed cutthroats; but
I am going this evening to see one of my clients who is a chemist, and he
will deal honestly with me."
"I will see you again, then."
"When you wish, my dear sir; when you have reflected. You have the
Before leaving home Saniel gave his key to the concierge, so that on her
arrival Phillis might go immediately to his rooms. On his return the
concierge told him that "madame" was up-stairs, and when he rang the
bell, Phillis opened the door.
"Well?" she asked in a trembling voice, before he had time to enter.
"It is as I told you yesterday; he has found no one."
She clasped him in a long, passionate embrace.
"And the upholsterer?"
"Caffie has promised to gain some time for me."
While speaking, they entered the office. A fire burned on the hearth,
and an inviting dinner was on the table. Saniel looked at it in
"I have set the table, you see; I am going to dine with you."
And throwing herself in his arms:
"Knowing Caffie better than you do, I knew what his answer would be, and
I did not wish you to be alone on your return. I made an excuse for not
dining with mamma."
"But this chicken?"
"We must have a piece de resistance."
"This fire, and these candles?"
"There, that is the end of my economies. I should have been so happy if
they had been less miserable and more useful."
As on the previous evening, they sat before the fire, and she began to
talk of various things in order to distract him. But what their lips did
not say, their eyes, on meeting, expressed with more intensity than words
It was Saniel who suddenly betrayed his preoccupation.
"Your brother studied Caffie well," he said, as if speaking to himself.
"He did, indeed!"
"He is certainly the most thorough rascal that I have ever met."
"He proposed something infamous, I am sure."
"He proposed that I should marry."
"I suspected that."
"This is the reason why he refuses to lend me the money. I was foolish
enough to tell him frankly just how I am situated, and how important it
is for me to be free until April. He hopes that I shall be so pushed
that I will accept one of the women whom he has proposed to me. With the
knife at my throat, I should have to yield."
"And these women?" she asked, not daring to look at him.
"Do not be alarmed, you have nothing to fear. One is the drunken widow
of a butcher, and the other is a young girl who has a baby."
"He dares to propose such women to a man like you!"
And Saniel repeated all that Caffie had said to him about these two
"What a monster he is!" Phillis said.
"While he was telling me these things I thought of what you said--that if
some one killed him, it would be no more than he deserved."
"That is perfectly true."
"Nothing would have been easier than for me to have made away with him.
He had the toothache, and when he showed me his teeth I could easily have
strangled him. We were alone, and a miserable diabetic, such as he is,
who has not more than six months to live, I am sure, could not have
resisted a grasp like this. I could take his keys from his pocket, open
his safe, and take the thirty, forty, sixty thousand francs that I saw
heaped up there. The devil take me if it were ever discovered. A doctor
does not strangle his patients, he poisons them. He kills them
scientifically, not brutally."
"People who have no conscience can do such things; but for us they are
"I assure you it is not conscience that would have restrained me."
"The fear of remorse, if I may use an ugly word."
"But intelligent persons have no remorse, my dear child, because they
reason before the deed, and not after. Before acting they weigh the pros
and cons, and know what the consequences of their actions will be to
others as well as to themselves. If this previous examination proves to
them that for some reason or other they may act, they will always be
calm, assured that they will feel no remorse, which is only the reproach
"Without doubt what you say is to the point, but it is impossible for me
to accept it. If I have never committed crimes, I have often been
foolish and have committed faults, many of them deliberately, after the
examination of which you speak. I should have been, according to you,
perfectly placid and free from the reproach of conscience; however, the
next morning I woke unhappy, tormented, often overwhelmed, and unable to
stifle the mysterious voice that accused me."
"And in whose name did it speak, this voice, more vague than mysterious?"
"In the name of my conscience, evidently."
"'Evidently' is too much, and you would be puzzled if called upon to
demonstrate this evidence; whereas, nothing is more uncertain and elusive
than the thing that is called conscience, which is in reality only an
affair of environment and of education."
"I do not understand."
"Does your conscience tell you it is a crime to love me?"
"You see, then, that you have a personal way of understanding what is
good and bad, which is not that of our country, where it is admitted,
from the religious and from the social point of view, that a young girl
is guilty when she has a lover. Of course, you see, also, that
conscience is a bad weighing-machine, since each one, in order to make it
work, uses a weight that he has himself manufactured."
"However it is, you did right not to strangle Cafflie."
"Whom you, yourself, have condemned to death."
"By the hand of justice, whether human or divine; but not by yours, any
more than by Florentin's or mine, although we know better than any one
that he does not deserve any mercy."
"And you see I foresaw your objections, as I did not tighten his cravat."
"Is it necessary to say 'happily'?"
SANIEL MAKES A RESOLUTION
This evening Phillis was obliged to be at home early, but she cleared off
the table, and put everything in order before leaving.
"You can breakfast on the remains of the chicken," she said, as she put
it in the pantry.
And as Saniel accompanied her with a candle in his hand, he saw that she
had thought not only of his breakfast for the following day, but for many
days, besides carrots for the rabbits.
"What a good heart you have!" he said.
"Because I think of the rabbits?"
"Because of your tenderness and thoughtfulness."
"I wish I could do something for you!"
As soon as she was gone he seated himself at his desk and began to work,
anxious to make up for the time that he had given to sentiment. The fact
that his work might not be of use to him, and that his experiments might
be rudely interrupted the next morning or in a few days, was not a
sufficient reason for being idle. He had work to do, and he worked as if
with the certitude that he would pass his examinations, and that his
experiments of four years past would have a good ending, without
interference from any one.
This was his strong point, this power to work, that was never disturbed
or weakened by anything; not by pleasure or pain, by preoccupation or by
misery. In the street he could think of Phillis, be he hungry or sleepy;
at his desk he had no thought of Phillis, neither of hunger nor of sleep,
no cares, no memories; his work occupied him entirely.
It was his strength, and also his pride, the only superiority of which he
boasted; for although he knew that he had others, he never spoke of them,
while he often said to his comrades:
"I work when I will and as much as I wish. My will never weakens when I
am at work."
This evening he worked for about an hour, in his usual condition of mind;
neither sheriffs, nor Jardine, nor Caffie troubled him. But having to
draw upon his memory for certain facts, he found that it did not obey him
as usual; there were a hesitation, a fogginess, above all, extraordinary
wanderings. He wrestled with it and it obeyed, but only for a short
time, and soon again it betrayed him a second time, then a third and
Decidedly he was not in a normal state, and his will obeyed in place of
There were a name and a phrase that recurred to him mechanically from
time to time. The name was Caffie, and the phrase was, "Nothing easier."
Why should this hypothesis to strangle Caffie, of which he had lightly
spoken, and to which he had attached no importance at the moment when he
uttered it, return to him in this way as a sort of obsession?
Was it not strange?
Never, until this day, had he had an idea that he could strangle a man,
even as wicked as this one, and yet, in talking of it, he found very
natural and legitimate reasons for the murder of this scamp.
Had not Phillis herself condemned him?
To tell the truth, she had added that Providence or justice should be his
executor, but this was the scruple of a simple conscience, formed in a
narrow environment, to which influence he would not submit.
Had he these scruples, this old man who coldly, and merely for the
interest of so much a hundred on a dot, advised him to hasten the death
of a woman by drunkenness, and that of an infant in any way he pleased?
When he reached this conclusion he stopped, and asked himself whether he
were mad to pursue this idea; then immediately, to get rid of it, he set
to work, which absorbed him for a certain time, but not so long a time as
Then, finding that he could not control his will, he turned his thoughts
It was only too evident that if he had carried out the idea of strangling
Caffie, all the difficulties against which he had struggled, and which
would overwhelm him, if not the following day, at least in a few days,
would have disappeared immediately.
No more sheriffs, no more creditors. What a deliverance!
Repose, the possibility of passing examinations with a calm spirit that
the fever of material troubles would not disturb--in this condition he
felt his success was assured.
And his experiments! He would run no danger of seeing them rudely
interrupted. His preparations were not cast out-of-doors; his precious
culture-tubes were not broken; his vases, his balloons, were not at the
second-hand dealer's. He continued this train of thought to the results
that he desired for him, glory; for humanity, the cure of one, and
perhaps two, of the most terrible maladies with which it was afflicted.
The question was simple:
On one side, Caffie;
On the other side, humanity and science;
An old rascal who deserved twenty deaths, and who would, anyhow, die
naturally in a short time;
And humanity, science, which would profit by a discovery of which he
would be the author.
He saw that the perspiration stood out on his hands, and he felt it run
down his neck.
Why this weakness? From horror of the crime, the possibility of which he
admitted? Or from fear of seeing his experiments destroyed?
He would reflect, think about it, be upon his guard.
He had told Phillis that intelligent men, before engaging in an action,
weigh the pro and con.
Against Caffie's death he saw nothing.
For, on the contrary, everything combined.
If he had had Phillis's scruples, or Brigard's beliefs, he would have
But, not having them, would he not be silly to draw back?
Before what should he shrink? Why should he stop?
Remorse? But he was convinced that intelligent men had no remorse when
they came to a decision on good grounds. It was before that they felt
remorse, not after; and he was exactly in this period of before.
Fear of being arrested? But intelligent men do not let themselves be
arrested. Those who are lost are brutes who go straight ahead, or the
half-intelligent, who use their skill and cunning to combine a
complicated or romantic act, in which their hand is plainly seen. As for
him, he was a man of science and precision, and he would not compromise
himself by act or sentiment; there would be nothing to fear during the
action, and nothing afterward. Caffie strangled, suspicion would not
fall upon a doctor, but on a brute. When doctors wish to kill any one,
they do it learnedly, by poison or by some scientific method. Brutal men
kill brutally; murder, called the assassin's profession.
A few minutes before, he was inundated by perspiration; this word froze
He rose nervously, and walked up and down the room with long, unsteady
steps. The fire had long since gone out; out-of-doors the street noises
had ceased, and in his brain resounded the one word that he pronounced in
a low tone, "Assassin!"
Was be the man to be influenced and stopped by a word? Where are the
rich, the self-made men, the successful men, who have not left some
corpses on the road behind them? Success carries them safely, and they
achieved success only because they had force.
Certainly, violence was not recreation, and it would be more agreeable to
go in his way peacefully, by the power of intelligence and work, than to
make a way by blows; but he had not chosen this road, he was thrown into
it by circumstances, by fate, and whoever wishes to reach the end cannot
choose the means. If one must walk in the mud, what matters it, when one
knows that one will not get muddy?
If Caffie had had heirs, poor people who expected to be saved from
misery by inheriting his fortune, he would have been touched by this
consideration, undoubtedly. Robber! The word was yet more vile than
that of assassin. But who would miss the few banknotes that he would
take from the safe? To steal is to injure some one. Whom would he
injure? He could see no one. But he saw distinctly an army of afflicted
persons whom he would benefit.
A timid ring of the bell made him start violently, and he was angry with
himself for being so nervous, he who was always master of his mind as of
He opened the door, and a man dressed like a laborer bowed humbly.
"I beg your pardon for disturbing you, sir."
"What do you want?"
"I called on account of my wife, if you will be so good as to come to see
"What is the matter with her?"
"She is about to be confined. The nurse does not know what to do, and
sent me for a doctor."
"Did the nurse tell you to come for me?"
"No, sir; she sent me to Doctor Legrand."
"His wife told me he could not get up on account of his bronchitis. And
the chemist gave me your address."
"That is right."
"I must tell you, sir, I am an honest man, but we are not rich; we could
not pay you--immediately."
"I understand. Wait a few minutes."
Saniel took his instruments and followed the laborer, who, on the way,
explained his wife's condition.
"Where are we going?" Saniel asked, interrupting these explanations.
"Rue de la Corderie."
It was behind the Saint Honore' market, on the sixth floor, under the
roof, in a room that was perfectly clean, in spite of its poverty. As
soon as Saniel entered the nurse came forward, and in a few words told
him the woman's trouble.
"Is the child living?"
"That is well; let us see."
He approached the bed and made a careful examination of the patient, who
"I am going to die. Save me, doctor!"
"Certainly, we shall save you," he said, very softly. "I promise you."
He turned away from the bed and said to the nurse:
"The only way to save the mother is to kill the child."
The operation was long, difficult, and painful, and after it was over
Saniel remained a long time with the patient. When he reached the street
a neighboring clock struck five, and the market-place had already begun
to show signs of life.
But in the streets was still the silence and solitude of night, and
Saniel began to reflect on what had occurred during the last few hours.
Thus, he had not hesitated to kill this child, who had, perhaps, sixty or
seventy years of happy life before it, and he hesitated at the death of
Caffie, to whom remained only a miserable existence of a few weeks. The
interests of a poor, weak, stunted woman had decided him; his, those of
humanity, left him perplexed, irresolute, weak, and cowardly. What a
He walked with his eyes lowered, and at this moment, before him on the
pavement, he saw an object that glittered in the glare of the gas. He
approached it, and found that it was a butcher's knife, that must have
been lost, either on going to the market or the slaughterhouse.
He hesitated a moment whether he should pick it up or leave it there;
then looking all about him, and seeing no one in the deserted street,
and hearing no sound of footsteps in the silence, he bent quickly and
Caffie's fate was decided.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
As free from prejudices as one may be, one always retains a few
As ignorant as a schoolmaster
Confidence in one's self is strength, but it is also weakness
Conscience is a bad weighing-machine
Conscience is only an affair of environment and of education
Find it more easy to make myself feared than loved
Force, which is the last word of the philosophy of life
I believed in the virtue of work, and look at me!
Intelligent persons have no remorse
It is only those who own something who worry about the price
Leant--and when I did not lose my friends I lost my money
Leisure must be had for light reading, and even more for love
People whose principle was never to pay a doctor
Power to work, that was never disturbed or weakened by anything
Reason before the deed, and not after
Will not admit that conscience is the proper guide of our action
By HECTOR MALOT
THE INSTRUMENT OF DEATH
When, after two hours' sleep, Saniel woke, he did not at first think of
this knife; he was tired and dull. Mechanically he walked about his room
without paying attention to what he was doing, as if he were in a state
of somnambulism, and it astonished him, because he never felt weariness
of mind any more than of body, no matter how little he had slept, nor how
hard he had worked.
But suddenly, catching a glimpse of the knife that he had placed on the
mantel, he received a shock that annihilated his torpor and his fatigue.
It dazzled him like a flash of lightning.
He took it, and, going to the window, he examined it by the pale light of
early morning. It was a strong instrument that, in a firm hand, would be
a terrible arm; newly sharpened, it had the edge of a razor.
Then the idea, the vision that had come to him two hours before, came
back to him, clear and complete at nightfall, that is, at the moment when
the concierge was in the second wing of the building, he mounted to
Caffie's apartment without being seen, and with this knife he cut his
throat. It was as simple as it was easy, and this knife left beside the
corpse, and the nature of the wound, would lead the police to look for
a butcher, or at least a man who was in thehabit of using a knife of this
The evening before, when he had discussed Caffie's death, the how and the
when still remained vague and uncertain. But now the day and the means
were definitely settled: it should be with this knife, and this evening.
This shook him out of his torpor and made him shudder.
He was angry with himself for this weakness. Did he know or did he not
know what he wished? Was he irresolute or cowardly?
Then, going from one idea to another, he thought of an observation that
he had made, which appeared to prove that with many subjects there is
less firmness in the morning than in the evening. Was this the result of
dualism of the nervous centres, and was the human personality double like
the brain? Were there hours when the right hemisphere is master of our
will, and were there other hours when the left is master? Did one of
these hemispheres possess what the other lacked, and is it according to
the activity of this or that one, that one has such a character or such a
temperament? This would be curious, and would amount to saying that, a
lamb in the morning, one might be a tiger at evening. With him it was a
lamb that woke in the morning to be devoured by a tiger during the day.
To which hemisphere belonged the one and the other of these
He was angry with himself for yielding to these reflections; it was a
time, truly, to study this psychological question! It was of Caffie that
he should think, and of the plan which in an instant flashed through his
mind in the street, before he decided to pick up this knife.
Evidently things were neither so simple nor so easy as they at first
appeared, and to insure the success of his plan a combination of
circumstances was necessary, which might be difficult to bring about.
Would not the concierge see him pass? Would no one go up or down the
stairs? Would Caffie be alone? Would he open the door? Might not some
one ring after he had entered?
Here was a series of questions that he had not thought of before, but
which now presented itself.
He must examine them, weigh them, and not throw himself giddily into an
adventure that presented such risks.
He was alone all day, fortunately, and, as in the state of agitation in
which he found himself he could not think of work, he gave himself up to
this examination. The stakes were worth the trouble--his honor and his
As soon as he was dressed he went out, and walked straight before him
through the streets that were already filled with people.
It was only when he had left the heart of Paris that he could reflect as
he wished, without being disturbed each instant by people in a hurry, for
whom he must make way, or by others who, reading the newspapers, did not
look before them, and so jostled against him.
Evidently the risks were more serious than he had imagined; and, as they
loomed up before him, he asked himself whether he should go on. To
suppress Caffie, yes; to give himself up, no.
"If it is impossible--"
He was not the man to set himself wildly against the impossible: he
should have had a dream, a bad dream, and that would be all.
He stopped, and, after a moment of hesitation, turning on his heel, he
retraced his steps. Of what use was it to go farther? He had no need to
reflect nor to weigh the pro and con; he must give up this plan;
decidedly it was too dangerous.
He had gone but a short distance when he asked himself whether these
dangers were such as he saw them, and whether he were face to face with a
radically demonstrated impossibility.
Without doubt, the concierge might observe him when he passed her lodge,
either on going up-stairs or coming down; and, also, she might not
observe him. This, in reality, depended much upon himself, and on his
method of proceeding.
Every evening this lame old concierge lighted the gas in the two wings of
the building, one on the street and one on the court. She began by
lighting that on the street, and, with the difficulty that she found in
walking, it should take her some time to climb the five stories and to
descend. If one watched from the street when, at dusk, she left her
lodge with a wax taper in her hand, and mounted the stairs behind her, at
a little distance, in such a way as to be on the landing of the first
story when she should reach the second, there would be time, the deed
done, to regain the street before she returned to her lodge, after having
lighted the gas on the two staircases. It was important to proceed
methodically, without hurry, but, also, without loitering.
Was this impossible?
Here, exactly, was the delicate point which he must examine with
composure, without permitting himself to be influenced by any other
consideration than that which sprang from the deed itself.
He was wrong, then, not to continue his route, and it was better,
assuredly, to get out of Paris. In the country, in the fields or woods,
he could find the calm that was indispensable to his over-excited brain,
in which ideas clashed like the waves of a disturbed sea.
He was at this moment in the middle of the Faubourg Saint Honore; he
followed a street that would bring him to the Champs Elysees, a desert at
this early hour.
It took him some time to examine all the hypotheses that might present
themselves, and he reached the conclusion that what had appeared
impossible to him was not so. If he preserved his calmness, and did not
lose perception of the passing time, he could very well escape the
concierge, which was the main point.
To tell the truth, the danger of the concierge removed, all was not easy.
There was the possibility of meeting one of the lodgers on the stairs;
there was a chance of not finding Caffie at home, or, at least, not
alone; or the bell might ring at the decisive moment. But, as everything
depended upon chance, these circumstances could not be decided
beforehand. It was a risk. If one of them happened, he would wait until
the next day; it would be one more day of agitation to live through.
But one question that should be decided in advance, because, surely, it
presented serious dangers, was how he should justify the coming into his
hands of a sum of money which, providentially and in the nick of time,
relieved him from the embarrassments against which he struggled.
He had reached the Bois de Boulogne and still continued his walk. In
passing a fountain the rippling of the water attracted his attention, and
he stopped. Although the weather was damp and cold under the influence
of a strong west wind charged with rain, his tongue was dry; he drank two
goblets of water, and then pursued his way, indifferent where he went.
Then he built up an arrangement which appeared ingenious to him, when it
occurred to him to remember that he had gone to Caffie to borrow three
thousand francs. Why would he not lend it to him, if not the first day,
at least the second? With this loan he paid his debts, if he were
questioned on this point. To prove this loan he need only to sign a
receipt which he could place in the safe, and which would be found there.
Would not the first thought of those who had signed a paper of this kind
be to take it when an occasion presented itself? As he would not seize
this occasion to carry off his note, it would be the proof that he had
not opened the safe.
Among other advantages, this arrangement did away with robbery; it was
only a loan. Later he would return these three thousand francs to
Caffies heirs. So much the worse for him if it were a forced loan.
On returning to Paris he would buy a sheet of stamped paper, and as he
had asked the price the previous evening, he knew that he could afford
When he reached Saint Cloud he entered a tavern and ordered some bread
and cheese and wine. But if he drank little, he ate less, his parched
throat refusing to swallow bread.
He took up his march in the clayey streets on the slope of Mont Valerian,
but he was insensible to the unpleasantness of slipping on the soft soil,
and walked hither and thither, his only care being not to get too far
away from the Seine, so that he might enter Paris before night.
He was delighted since he had made up his mind to make out and sign a
receipt for the money. But on giving it further consideration, he
perceived that it was not so ingenious as he had at first supposed. Do
not the dealers of stamped paper often number their paper? With this
number it would be easy to find the dealer and him who had bought it.
And then, was it not likely that a scrupulous business man like Caffie
would keep a record of the loans he made, and would not the absence of
this one and the note be sufficient to awaken suspicion and to direct it
Decidedly, he only escaped one danger to fall into another.
For a moment he was discouraged, but it did not go so far as weakness.
His error had been in imagining that the execution of the idea that had
come to him while picking up the knife was as plain as it was easy. But
complicated and perilous as it was, it was not impossible.
The question which finally stood before him was, to know whether he
possessed the force needed to cope with these dangers, and on this ground
hesitation was not possible; to wish to foresee everything was folly;
that which he would not have expected, would come to pass.
He returned toward Paris, and by the Pont de Suresnes reentered the Bois
de Boulogne. As it was not yet three o'clock, he had plenty of time to
reach the Rue Sainte-Anne before night; but, on the way, a heavy shower
forced him to take shelter, and he watched the falling rain, asking
himself if this accident, which he had not foreseen, would not upset his
plan. A man who had received the force of this shower could not appear
in the street before Caffie's door without attracting the attention of
the passers-by, and it was important for him that he should not attract
the attention of any one.
At length the rain ceased, and at twenty minutes of five he reached his
home. There remained fifteen or twenty minutes of daylight, which was
more than he needed.
He stuck the point of the knife in a cork, and, after having placed it
between the folded leaves of a newspaper, in the inside left-hand pocket
of his overcoat, he went out.
THE CRUCIAL MOMENT
When he reached Caffies door the night had scarcely fallen, and the
streets were not yet lighted.
The better and the surest plan for him had been to wait in the 'porte-
cochere' across the street; from there he could watch the 'concierge',
who would not be able to go out without being seen by him. But though
the passers were few at this moment, they might have observed him.
Next to this 'porte-cochere' was a small 'cafe', whose brilliant lights
would cause him to be seen quite plainly. He, therefore, walked on,
but soon returned.
All irresolution, all hesitation, had disappeared, and the only point on
which he still questioned himself bore upon the state in which he found
himself at this moment. He felt himself firm, and his pulse, he was
certain, beat regularly. He was as he had imagined he would be;
experience confirmed his foresight; his hand would tremble no more than
As he passed before the house he saw the concierge come slowly out of her
lodge and close her door carefully, putting the key in her pocket. In
her left hand she held something white that he could not see distinctly
in the twilight, but it was probably the wax-taper which, doubtless, she
had not lighted for fear the wind would blow it out.
This was a favorable circumstance, that gave him one or two minutes more
than he had counted on, for she would be obliged to strike a match on the
stairs to light her taper; and, in the execution of his plan, two
minutes, a single minute even, might be of great importance.
With dragging steps and bent back she disappeared through the vestibule
of the stairway. Then Saniel continued his walk like an ordinary passer-
by until she had time to reach the first story; then, turning, he
returned to the porte-cochere and entered quietly. By the gaslight in
the vestibule he saw by his watch, which he held in his hand, that it was
fourteen minutes after five o'clock. Then, if his calculation was right,
at twenty-four or twenty-five minutes after five he must pass before the
lodge, which should still be empty at that moment.
On the staircase above him he heard the heavy step of the concierge; she
had lighted the gas on the first story, and continued on her way slowly.
With rapid but light steps he mounted behind her, and, on reaching
Caffie's door, he rang the bell, taking care not to ring too loudly or
too timidly; then he knocked three times, as Caffie had instructed him.
Was Caffie alone?
Up to this time all had gone as he wished; no one in the vestibule, no
one on the stairs; fate was in his favor; would it accompany him to the
While he waited at the door, asking himself this question, an idea
flashed into his mind. He would make a last attempt. If Caffie
consented to make the loan he would save himself; if he refused, he
After several seconds, that appeared like hours, his listening ears
perceived a sound which announced that Caffie was at home. A scratching
of wood on the tiled floor denoted that a chair had been pushed aside;
heavy, dragging steps approached, then the bolt creaked, and the door was
"Ah! It is you, my dear sir!" Caffie said, in surprise.
Saniel entered briskly and closed the door himself, pressing it firmly.
"Is there anything new?" Caffie asked, as he led the way to his office.
"No," Saniel replied.
"Well, then?" Caffie asked, as he seated himself in an armchair before
his desk, on which stood a lighted lamp. "I suppose you have come to
hear more about my young friend. This hurry augurs well."
"No, it is not of the young person that I wish to talk to you."
"I am sorry."
On seating himself opposite to Caffie, Saniel had taken out his watch.
Two minutes had passed since he left the vestibule; he must hurry. In
order to keep himself informed of the passing of time, he retained his
watch in his hand.
"Are you in a hurry?"
"Yes; I will come immediately to business. It concerns myself, my
position, and I make a last appeal to you. Let us be honest with each
other. Undoubtedly you think that, pushed by my distress, and seeing
that I shall be lost forever, I shall decide to accept this marriage to
"Can you suppose such a thing, my dear sir?" Caffie cried.
But Saniel stopped him....
"The calculation is too natural for you not to have made it. Well, I
must tell you that it is false. Never will I lend myself to such a
bargain. Renounce your project, and let us discuss my demand. I am in
absolute want of three thousand francs, and I will pay the interest that
you fix upon."
"I have not found a money-lender, my dear sir. I have taken a great deal
of trouble, I assure you, but I did not succeed."
"Make an effort yourself."
"Me? My dear sir!"
"I address myself to you."
"But I have no ready money."
"It is a desperate appeal that I make. I understand that your long
experience in business makes you insensible to the misery that you see
"Insensible! Say that it breaks my heart, my dear sir."
"But will you not permit yourself to be touched by the misery of a man
who is young, intelligent, courageous, who will drown if a hand is not
held out to help him? For you, the assistance that I ask so earnestly is
"Three thousand francs! Nothing! Bless me! How you talk!"
"For me, if you refuse me, it is death."
Saniel began to speak with his eyes fixed on the hands of his watch, but
presently, carried away by the fever of the situation, he raised them to
look at Caffie, and to see the effect that he produced on him. In this
movement he made a discovery that destroyed all his calculations.
Caffie's office was a small room with a high window looking into the
court; never having been in this office except in the evening, he had not
observed that this window had neither shutters nor curtains of muslin or
of heavier stuff; there was nothing but the glass. To tell the truth,
two heavy curtains of woollen damask hung on either side of the window,
but they were not drawn. Talking to Caffie, who was placed between him
and this window, Saniel suddenly perceived that on the other side of the
court, in the second wing of the building, on the second story, were two
lighted windows directly opposite to the office, and that from there any
one could see everything that occurred in the office.
How should he execute his plan under the eyes of these people whom he saw
coming and going in this room? He would be lost. In any case, it was
risking an adventure so hazardous that he would be a fool to attempt it,
and he was not that; never had he felt himself so much the master of his
mind and nerves.
Also, it was not only to save Caffie's life that he argued, it was to save
himself in grasping this loan.
"I can only, to my great regret, repeat to you what I have already said,
my dear sir. I have no ready money."
And he held his jaw, groaning, as if this refusal aroused his toothache.
Saniel rose; evidently there was nothing for him to do but to go. It was
finished, and instead of being in despair he felt it as a relief.
But, as he was about to leave the room, an idea flashed through his mind.
He looked at his watch, which he had not consulted for some time; it was
twenty minutes after five; there yet remained four minutes, five at the
"Why do you not draw these curtains?" he said. "I am sure your
sufferings are partly caused by the wind that comes in this window."
"Do you think so?"
"I am sure of it; you should be warm about the head, and avoid currents
Passing behind Caffie, he went to the window to draw the curtains, but
the cords would not move.
"It is years since they were drawn," Caffie said. "Doubtless the cords
are entangled. I will bring the light."
And, taking the lamp, he went to the window, holding it high in order to
throw light on the cords.
With a turn of the hand Saniel disentangled the cords, and the curtains
slid on the rods, almost covering the window.
"It is true a good deal of air did come in the window," Caffie said.
"I thank you, my dear doctor."
All this was done with a feverish rapidity that astonished Caffie.
"Decidedly, you are in a hurry," he said.
"Yes, in a great hurry."
He looked at his watch.
"However, I have still time to give you a consultation if you desire it."
"I would not trouble you--"
"You do not trouble me."
"Sit down in your armchair, and show me your mouth."
While Caffie seated himself, Saniel continued in a vibrating voice:
"You see I give good for evil."
"How is that, my dear sir?"
"You refuse me a service that would save me, and I give you a
consultation. It is true, it is the last."
"And why the last, my dear sir?"
"Because death is between us."
"Do you not see it?"
"I see it."
"You must not think of such a thing, my dear sir. One does not die
because one cannot pay three thousand francs."
The chair in which Caffie seated himself was an old Voltaire, with an
inclined back, and he half reclined in it. As his shirtcollar was too
large for him since he had become thin, and his narrow cravat was
scarcely tied, he displayed as much throat as jaw.
Saniel, behind the chair, had taken the knife in his right hand, while he
pressed the left heavily on Caffies forehead, and with a powerful stroke,
as quick as lightning, he cut the larynx under the glottis, as well as
the two carotid arteries, with the jugular veins. From this terrible
wound sprang a large jet of blood, which, crossing the room, struck
against the door. Cut clean, not a cry could be formed in the windpipe,
and in his armchair Caffie shook with convulsions from head to foot.
Leaving his position behind the chair, Saniel, who had thrown the knife
on the floor, looked at his watch and counted the ticking of the second-
hand in a low voice.
"One, two, three-"
At the end of ninety seconds the convulsions ceased.
It was twenty-three minutes after five. Now it was important that he
should hurry and not lose a second.
The blood, after having gushed out, had run down the body and wet the
vest pocket in which was the key of the safe. But blood does not produce
the same effect upon a doctor as upon those who are not accustomed to its
sight and odor, and to its touch. In spite of the lukewarm sea in which
it lay, Saniel took the key, and after wiping his hand on one of the
tails of Caffie's coat, he placed it in the lock.
Would it turn freely, or was it closed with a combination? The question
was poignant. The key turned and the door opened. On a shelf and in a
wooden bowl were packages of bank-notes and rolls of gold that he had
seen the evening when the bank-clerk came. Roughly, without counting; he
thrust them into his pocket, and without closing the safe, he ran to the
front door, taking care not to step in the streams of blood, which, on
the sloping tiled floor, ran toward this door. The time was short.
And now was the greatest danger, that of meeting some one behind this
door, or on the stairs. He listened, and heard no noise. He went out,
and no one was to be seen. Without running, but hastily, he descended
the stairs. Should he look in the lodge, or should he turn his head
away? He looked, but the concierge was not there.
A second later he was in the street mingling with the passersby, and he
drew a long breath.
There was no longer any need to be cautious, to listen, to stretch his
nerves, to restrain his heart; he could walk freely and reflect.
His first thought was to endeavor to explain to himself how he felt, and
he found that it was an immense relief; something, doubtless, analogous
to the returning to life after being in a state of asphyxiation.
Physically, he was calm; morally, he felt no remorse. He was right,
therefore, in his theory when he told Phillis that in the intelligent man
remorse precedes the action, instead of following it.
But where he was mistaken was in imagining that during the act he should
maintain his coolness and force, which, in reality, had failed him
Going from one idea to another, tossed by irresolution, he was by no
means the strong man that he had believed himself: one to go to the end
unmoved, ready to face every attack; master of his nerves as of his will,
in full possession of all his powers. On the contrary, he had been the
plaything of agitation and weakness. If a serious danger had risen.
before him, he would not have known on which side to attack it; fear
would have paralyzed him, and he would have been lost.
To tell the truth, his hand had been firm, but his head had been
There was something humiliating in this, he was obliged to acknowledge;
and, what was more serious, it was alarming. Because, although
everything had gone as he wished, up to the present time, all was not
finished, nor even begun.
If the investigations of the law should reach him, how should he defend
He felt sure that he had not been seen in Caffies house at the moment
when the crime was committed; but does one ever know whether one has been
seen or not?
And there was the production of money that he should use to pay his
debts, which might become an accusation against which it would be
difficult to defend himself. In any case, he must be ready to explain
his position. And what might complicate the matter was, that Caffie, a
careful man, had probably taken care to write the numbers of his bank-
notes in a book, which would be found.
On leaving the Rue Sainte-Anne he took the Rue Neuve-des-Petits-Champs to
his home, to leave the bank-notes and to wash off the stains of blood
that might have splashed on him and his hands, particularly the right
one, which was still red. But suddenly it occurred to him that he might
be followed, and it would be folly to show where he lived. He hastened
his steps, in order to make any one who might be following him run, and
took the streets that were not well lighted, those where there was little
chance of any one seeing the stains, if they were visible, on his
clothing or boots. He walked in this way for nearly half an hour,
turning and returning on his track, and after having crossed the Place
Vendome twice, where he was able to look behind him, he decided to go
home, not knowing whether he should be satisfied to have bewildered all
quest, or whether he should not be furious to have yielded to a sort of
As he passed by the lodge without stopping, his concierge called him,
and, running out, gave him a letter with unusual eagerness. Saniel, who
wished to escape observation, took it hastily, and stuffed it into his
"It is an important letter," the concierge said. "The servant who
brought it told me that it contained money."
It needed this recommendation at such a moment, or Saniel would not have
opened it, which he did as soon as he entered his rooms.
"I do not wish, my dear Doctor, to leave Paris for Monaco, where I
go to pass two or three months, without sending you our thanks.
"Yours very gratefully,
These thanks were represented by two bills of one hundred francs, a
payment more than sufficient for the care that Saniel had given some
months before to the mistress of this old comrade. Of what use now were
these two hundred francs, which a few days sooner would have been so much
to him? He threw them on his desk; and then, after having lighted two
candles, he inspected his clothing.
The precaution that he had taken to place himself behind the chair was
wise. The blood, in squirting in front and on each side, had not reached
him; only the hand that held the knife and the shirt-sleeve were
splashed, but this was of no consequence. A doctor has the right to have
some blood on his sleeves, and this shirt went to join the one he had
worn the previous night when attending the sick woman.
Free from this care, he still had the money in his pockets. He emptied
them on his desk and counted all: five rouleaux of gold, of a thousand
francs, and three packages of ten thousand francs each, of bank-notes.
How should he get rid of this sum all at once, and, later, how should he
justify its production when the moment came, if it came?
The question was complex, and, unfortunately for him, he was hardly in a
state to consider it calmly.
For the gold, he had only to burn the papers in which it was rolled.
Louis have neither numbers nor particular marks, but bills have. Where
should he conceal them while waiting to learn through the newspapers if
Caffie had or had not made a note of these numbers?
While burning these papers on which Caffie had written "2,000 francs,"
he tried to think of a place of concealment.
As he threw a glance around him, asking from things the inspiration that
his brain did not furnish, he caught sight of the letter he had just
received, and it suggested an idea. Duphot was at Monaco to play. Why
should he not go also, and play?
Having neither relatives nor friends from whom he could procure a certain
sum, his only resource was to make it at play; and in his desperate
position, known to every one, nothing was more natural than this
experiment. He had received two hundred francs, which would not save him
from his creditors. He would risk them at roulette at Monaco. Whether
he lost or won was of little consequence. He would have played that
would be sufficient. He would be seen playing. Who would know whether
he lost or won? From Monaco he would pay Jardine by telegraph, out of
the five thousand Louis, which would be more than sufficient for that;
and, when he returned to Paris, he would free himself from his other
creditors with what remained.
The money affair decided--and it seemed to him cleverly settled--did not
include the bank-notes, which, spread out before his eyes, disturbed him.
What should he do with them? One moment he thought of burning them, but
reflection held him back. Would it not be folly to destroy this fortune?
In any case, would it not be the work of a narrow mind, of one not
fertile in resources?
In trying to think of some safe place to hide the banknotes, one thought
continually absorbed him: What was happening in the Rue Sainte-Anne? Had
any one discovered the dead man?
He should be there to observe events, instead of timidly shutting himself
up in his office.
For several minutes he tried to resist this thought, but it was stronger
than his will or his reason. So much was he under its power that he
could do nothing.
Willing or unwilling, foolish or not, he must go to the Rue Sainte-Anne.
He washed his hands, changed his shirt, and throwing the notes and gold
into a drawer, he went out.
He knew very well that there was a certain danger in leaving these proofs
of the crime, which, found in an official search, would overwhelm him,
without his being able to defend himself. But he thought that an
immediate search was unlikely to occur, and if he could not make a
probable story, it would be better for him not to reason about it. It
was a risk that he ran, but how much he had on his side!
He hastened along the Rue Neuve-des-Petits-Champs, but on approaching the
Rue Sainte-Anne he slackened his steps, looking about him and listening.
Nothing unusual struck him. Even when he turned into the Rue Sainte-Anne
he found it bore its ordinary aspect. A few passers-by, not curious; no
groups on the sidewalk; no shopkeepers at their doors. Nothing was
different from usual.
Apparently, nothing had yet been discovered. Then he stopped, judging it
useless to go farther. Already he had passed too much time before
Caffie's door, and when one was of his build, above the medium height,
with a physiognomy and appearance unlike others, one should avoid
For several minutes he walked up and down slowly, from the Rue Neuve-des-
Petits-Champs to the Rue du Hasard; from there he could see Caffie's
house, and yet be so far away that no one would suspect him of watching
But this promenade, which was quite natural, and which he would have
continued for an hour in ordinary circumstances, without thinking
anything about it, soon alarmed him. It seemed as if people looked at
him, and two persons stopping to talk made him wonder if they spoke of
him. Why did they not continue their way? Why, from time to time, did
they turn their heads toward him?
He left the place, and neither wishing nor being able to decide to go far
away from "the house," he concluded to go to a small cafe which was close
On entering, he seated himself at a table near the door that appeared to
be an excellent observatory, from where he could easily survey the
street. A waiter asked him what he would have, and he ordered coffee.
He gave this order mechanically, without thinking what he was saying, and
not till afterward did he wonder if it were natural to take coffee at
this hour. The men seated at the other tables drank appetizers or beer.
Had he not made a blunder?
But everything seemed a blunder, as everything seemed dangerous. Could
he not regain his composure and his reason? He drank his coffee slowly;
then he asked for a newspaper. The street was quiet, and people left the
cafe one by one.
Behind his newspaper he reflected. It was his feverish curiosity that
made him admit that Caffie's death would be discovered during the
evening. In reality, it might easily remain undiscovered until the next
But he could not stay in the cafe until the next day, nor even until
midnight. Perhaps he had remained there too long already.
He did not wish to go yet, so he ordered writing materials, and paid the
waiter, in case he might wish to go hastily--if anything occurred.
What should he write? He wished to test himself, and found that he was
able to write clearly, and to select the proper words; but when he came
to read it over, his will failed him.
Time passed. Suddenly there was a movement under the porte-cochere of
"the house," and a man ran through the street. Two or three persons
stopped in a group.
Without hurrying too much, Saniel went out, and in a strong voice asked
what had happened.
"An agent of business has been assassinated in his office. Word has been
sent to the police bureau in the Rue du Hasard."
Saniel was there to observe, without having decided what he should do.
Instantly, with the decision that had "failed him so often during his
vigil," he resolved to go to Caffie's. Was he not a doctor, and the
physician of the dead-man? What could be more natural?
"A money-lender!" he exclaimed. "Is it Monsieur Caffie?"
"But I am his doctor."
"A doctor! Here is a doctor!" cried several voices.
The crowd parted, and Saniel passed under the porte-cochere, where the
concierge, half fainting, was seated on a chair, surrounded by all the
maids of the house and several neighbors, to whom she related the news.
By using his elbows he was able to approach her.
"Who has said Monsieur Caffie is dead?" he asked with authority.
"No one has said he is dead; at least, I have not."
"There is a stain of blood that has run from his office down to the
landing; and as he is at home, since the light of his lamp is seen in the
court, and he never leaves it burning when he goes to dinner, something
must have happened. And why are his curtains drawn? He always leaves
At this moment two policemen appeared, preceded by a locksmith armed with
a bunch of keys, and a little man with a shrewd, sharp appearance,
wearing spectacles, and a hat from under which fell blond curls. The
commissioner of police probably.
"On which story?" he asked the concierge.
"On the first."
"Come with us."
He started to go upstairs, accompanied by the concierge, the locksmith,
and one of the policemen; Saniel wished to follow them, but the other
policeman barred the way.
"Pardon, Monsieur Commissioner," Saniel said.
"What do you wish, sir?"
"I am Monsieur Caffie's physician."
"Let the doctor pass," the commissioner said, "but alone. Make every one
go out, and shut the porte-cochere."
On reaching the landing the commissioner stopped to look at the brown
stain which, running under the door, spread over the tiling, as Caffie
never had had a mat.
"It is certainly a stain of blood," Saniel said, who stopped to examine
it and dipped his finger in it.
"Open the door," the commissioner said to the locksmith.
The latter examined the lock, looked among his keys, selected one, and
unlocked the door.
"Let no one enter," the commissioner said. "Doctor, have the goodness to
And, going ahead, he entered the first office, that of the clerk,
followed by Saniel. Two little rills of blood, already thickened,
starting from Caffie's chair, and running across the tiled floor, which
sloped a little toward the side of the staircase, joined in the stain
which caused the discovery of the crime. The commissioner and Saniel
took care not to step in it.
"The unfortunate man has had his throat cut," Saniel said. "Death must
have occurred two or three hours ago. There is nothing to do."
"Speak for yourself, doctor."
And, stooping, he picked up the knife.
"Is it not a butcher's knife?" asked Saniel, who could only use this
"It looks like it."
He had raised Caffie's head and examined the wound.
"You see," he said, "that the victim has been butchered. The stroke was
from left to right, by a firm hand which must be accustomed to handle
this knife. But it is not only a strong and practised hand that has done
this deed; it was guided by an intelligence that knew how to proceed to
insure a quick, almost instantaneous death, and at the same time a silent
"You think it was done by a butcher?"
"By a professional killer; the larynx has been cut above the glottis, and
with the same stroke the two carotid arteries, with the jugular veins.
As the assassin had to raise the head, the victim was not able to cry
out; considerable blood has flowed, and death must have ensued in one or
"The scene appears to me very well reconstructed."
"The blood should have burst out in this direction," Saniel continued,
pointing to the door. "But as this door was open, nothing is to be
While Saniel spoke, the commissioner threw a glance about the room--the
glance of the police, which takes in everything.
"The safe is open," he said. "The affair becomes clear; the
assassination was followed by theft."
There was a door opposite to the entrance, which the commissioner opened;
it was that of Caffie's bedroom.
"I will give you a man to help you carry the body into this room, where
you can continue your examination more easily, while I will continue my
investigations in this office."
Saniel would have liked to remain in the office to assist at these
investigations, but it was impossible to raise an objection. The chair
was rolled into the bedroom, where two candles had been lighted on the
mantel, and when the body was laid on the bed, the commissioner returned
to the office.
Saniel made his examination last as long a time as possible, to the end
that he need not leave the house; but he could not prolong it beyond
certain limits. When they were reached, he returned to the clerk's
office, where the commissioner had installed himself, and was hearing the
"And so," he said, "from five to seven o'clock no one asked for M.
"No one. But I left my lodge at a quarter past five to light the gas on
the stairs; that took me twenty minutes, because I am stiff in my joints,
and during this time some one might have gone up and down the stairs
without my seeing them."
"Well," the commissioner said, turning to Saniel, "have you found any
"No; there is only the wound on the neck."
"Will you draw up your medico-legal report while I continue my inquest?"
And, without waiting, he seated himself at the clerk's desk, facing the
commissioner's secretary, who had arrived a few minutes previous.
"I am going to make you take the oath," the commissioner said.
After this formality Saniel began his report:
"We, the undersigned, Victor Saniel, doctor of medicine of the Paris
Faculty, residing in Paris in the Rue Louis-le-Grand, after having
taken an oath to fulfil in all honor and conscience the mission confided
All the time that he was writing he paid attention to everything that was
said, and did not lose one word of the concierge's deposition.
"I am certain," she said, "that from half-past five until now no one has
gone up or down the stairs but the people who live in the house."
"But before half-past five?"
"I have told you that from a quarter past five until half-past I was not
in my lodge."
"And before a quarter past five o'clock?"
"Several persons passed whom I did not know."
"Did any one among them ask you for Monsieur Caffie?"
"No; that is to say, yes. There was one who asked me if Monsieur Caffie
was at home; but I know him well; that is why I answered No."
"And who is he?"
"One of Monsieur Caffies old clerks."
"Monsieur Florentin--Monsieur Florentin Cormier."
Saniel's hand was arrested at this name, but he did not raise his head.
"At what hour did he come?" asked the commissioner.
"Near three o'clock, before rather than after."
"Did you see him go away?"
"Certainly, he spoke to me."
"What time was it?"
"Do you think that death could have occurred at this moment?" the
commissioner asked, turning to Saniel.
"No; I think it must have been between five and six o'clock."
"It is wrong for the commissioner to suspect Monsieur Florentin," cried
the concierge. "He is a good young man, incapable of harming a fly. And
then, there is a good reason why death could not have taken place between
three o'clock and half-past; it is that Monsieur Caffie's lamp was
lighted, and you know the poor gentleman was not a man to light his lamp
in broad daylight, looking as he was--"
She stopped abruptly, striking her forehead with her hand.
"That is what I remember, and you will see that Monsieur Florentin has
nothing to do with this affair. As I went upstairs at a quarter past
five to light my gas, some one came behind me and rang Monsieur Caffie's
bell, and rapped three or four times at equal distances, which is the
signal to open the door."
Again Saniel's pen stopped, and he was obliged to lean his hand on the
table to prevent its trembling.
"Who was it?"
"Ah! That I do not know," she answered. "I did not see him, but I heard
him, the step of a man. It was this rascal who killed him, you may be
This seemed likely.
"He went out while I was on the stairs; he knew the customs of the
Saniel continued his report.
After having questioned and cross-questioned the concierge without being
able to make her say more, the commissioner dismissed her, and leaving
Saniel at his work, he passed into Caffie's office, where he remained a
When he returned he brought a small note-book that he consulted. Without
doubt it was the book of Caffie's safe, simple and primitive, like
everything relating to the old man's habits, governed by the narrowest
economy in his expenses, as well as in his work.
"According to this note-book," the commissioner said to his secretary, "
thirty-five or thirty-six thousand francs must have been taken from the
safe; but there are left deeds and papers for a large sum."
Saniel, who had finished his report, did not take his eyes from the note-
book, and what he could see reassured him. Evidently these accounts were
reduced to a minimum: a date, a name, a sum, and after this name a
capital P, which, without doubt, meant "paid." It was hardly possible
that with such a system Caffie had ever taken the trouble to enter the
number of the bills that had passed through his hands; in any case, if he
did, it was not in this note-book. Would another one be found?
"My report is finished," he said. "Here it is."
"Since you are here, perhaps you can give me some information concerning
the habits of the victim and the persons he received."
"Not at all. I have known him but a short time, and he was my patient,
as I was his client, by accident. He undertook an affair for me, and I
gave him advice; he was in the last stage of diabetes. The assassin
hastened his death only a short time-a few days."
"That is nothing; he hastened it."
"Oh, certainly! Otherwise, if he is skilful in cutting throats, perhaps
he is less so in making a diagnosis of their maladies."
"That is probable," responded the commissioner, smiling. "You think it
was a butcher?"
"It seems probable."
"He might have stolen it or found it."
"But the mode of operating?"
"That, it seems to me, is the point from where we should start."
Saniel could remain no longer, and he rose to leave.
"You have my address," he said; "but I must tell you, if you want me, I
leave to-morrow for Nice. But I shall be absent only just long enough to
go and return."
"If we want you, it will not be for several days. We shall not get on
very rapidly, we have so little to guide us."
A NEW PLAN
Saniel walked home briskly. If, more than once during this interview,
his emotion was poignant, he could not but be satisfied with the result.
The concierge had not seen him, that was henceforth unquestionable; the
hypothesis of the butcher's knife was put in a way to make his fortune;
and it seemed probable that Caffie had not kept the numbers of the bank-
But if they had been noted, and should the notebook containing them be
discovered later, the danger was not immediate. While writing his report
and listening to the concierge's deposition, by a sort of inspiration he
thought of a way of disposing of them. He would divide them into small
packages, place them in envelopes, and address them with different
initials to the poste restante, where they would remain until he could
call for them without compromising himself.
In the deposition of the concierge, in the track indicated by the knife,
in the poste restante, he had just motives for satisfaction, that made
him breathe freely. Decidedly, fate seemed to be with him, and he should
have been able to say that everything was going well, if he had not
committed the imprudence of entering the cafe. Why had he gone there
and remained long enough to attract attention? What might not be the
consequences of this stupidity?
As soon as he reached home and his door was closed, he carried out his
intentions regarding the bank-notes, dividing them into ten packages.
His first thought was to place them in the nearest letterbox, but
reflection showed him that this would be unwise, and he decided to mail
each one in a different quarter of the city.
After his long walk of the morning, and the emotions of the evening, he
felt a fatigue that he had never known before, but he comprehended that
he was not at liberty to yield to this weariness. A new situation was
made for him, and henceforth he no longer belonged to himself. For the
rest of his life he would be the prisoner of his crime. And it was this
crime which, from this evening, would command, and he must obey.
Why had he not foreseen this situation when, weighing the pro and con
like an intelligent man who can scrutinize the future under all its
phases, he had examined what must happen? But surprising as it was,
the discovery was no less certain, and the sad and troublesome proof was
that, however intelligent one may be, one can always learn by experience.
What was there yet to learn? He confessed that he found himself face to
face with the unknown, and all that he wished was, that this lesson he
had learned from experience might be the hardest. It would be folly to
imagine that it was the last. Time would show.
When he returned home, after posting his letters, it was long past one
o'clock. He went to bed immediately, and slept heavily, without waking
It was broad daylight when he opened his eyes the next morning.
Surprised at having slept so late, he jumped up and looked at his watch,
which said eight o'clock. But as he should not leave until a quarter
past eleven, he had plenty of time.
How should he employ it?
It was the first time in years that he had asked himself such a question;
he, who each day always found that he needed three or four hours more to
carry out his programme.
He dressed slowly, and then thought of writing to Phillis to tell her of
his trip to Nice. But suddenly he changed his mind, and decided to go to
The preceding year he attended Madame Cormier, who had been stricken with
paralysis, and he could occasionally present himself at her house without
appearing to call upon Phillis. It was easy to say that he was passing
by, and wished to learn news of the patient whom he had cured.
At nine o'clock he knocked at her door.
"Enter," a man's voice said.
He was surprised, for in his visits to Madame Cormier he had never seen a
man there. He crossed the hall and knocked at the dining-room door.
This time it was Phillis who bid him come in.
He opened the door and saw Phillis, in a gray blouse, seated before a
large table placed by the window. She was painting some cards.
Hearing steps, she turned her head and instantly rose, but she restrained
the cry-the name that was on her lips.
"Mamma," she said, "here is Doctor Saniel."
Madame Cormier entered, walking with difficulty; for, if Saniel had put
her on her feet, he had not given her the suppleness or the grace of
After a few words, Saniel explained that, having to pay a visit to the
Batignolles, he would not come so near his former patient without calling
to see her.
While Madame Cormier told at great length how she felt, and also how she
did not feel, Phillis looked at Saniel, uneasy to see his face so
convulsed. Surely, something very serious had happened; his visit said
this. But what? Her anguish was so much the greater, because he
certainly avoided looking at her. Why? She had done nothing, and could
find nothing with which to reproach herself.
At this moment the door opened, and a man still young, tall, with a
curled beard, entered the room.
"My son," Madame Cormier said.
"My brother Florentin, of whom we have spoken so often," Phillis said.
Florentin! Was he then becoming imbecile, that he had not thought the
voice of the man who bid him enter was that of Phillis's brother? Was he
so profoundly overwhelmed that such a simple reasoning was impossible to
him? Decidedly, it was important for him to go away as quickly as
possible; the journey would calm his nerves.
"They wrote to me," Florentin said, "and since my return they have told
me how good you were to my mother. Permit me to thank you from a touched
and grateful heart. I hope that before long this gratitude will be
something more than a vain word."
"Do not let us speak of that," Saniel said, looking at Phillis with a
frankness and an open countenance that reassured heron a certain point.
"It is I who am obliged to Madame Cormier. If the word were not
barbarous, I should say that her illness has been a good thing for me."
To turn the conversation, and because he wished to speak to Phillis
alone, he approached her table and talked with her about her work.
Saniel then gave Madame Cormier some advice, and rose to go.
Phillis followed him, and Florentin was about to accompany them, but
Phillis stopped him.
"I wish to ask Doctor Saniel a question," she said.
When they were on the landing she closed the door.
"What is the matter?" she asked in a hurried and trembling voice.
"I wished to tell you that I start for Monaco at eleven o'clock."
"You are going away?"
"I have received two hundred francs from a patient, and I am going to
risk them at play. Two hundred francs will not pay Jardine or the
others, but with them I may win several thousands of francs."
"Oh! Poor dear! How desperate you must be--you, such as you are, to
have such an idea!"
"Am I wrong?"
"Never wrong to my eyes, to my heart, to my love. O my beloved, may
fortune be with you!"
"Give me your hand."
She looked around, listening. There was no one, no noise.
Then, drawing him toward her, she put her lips on his:
"All yours, yours!"
"I will return Tuesday."
"Tuesday, at five o'clock, I shall be there."
THE SMILES OF FORTUNE
No one knew so little about play as Saniel. He knew that people played
at Monaco, and that was all. He bought his ticket for Monaco, and left
the train at that place.
On leaving the station he looked all about him, to see what kind of a
place it was. Seeing nothing that looked like a gambling-house as he
understood it, that is, like the Casino de Royal, the only establishment
of the kind that he had ever seen, he asked a passer-by:
"Where is the gambling-house?"
"There is none at Monaco."
"I thought there was."
"There is one at Monte Carlo."
"Is it far?"
With his hand the man indicated, on the slope of the mountain, a green
spot where, in the midst of the foliage, were seen roofs and facades of
Saniel thanked him and followed his directions, while the man, calling
another, related the question that had been addressed to him, and both
laughed, shrugging their shoulders. Could any one be so stupid as these
Parisians! Another one who was going to be plucked, and who came from
Paris expressly for that! Was he not funny, with his big legs and arms?
Without troubling himself about the laughter that he heard behind him,
Saniel continued his way. In spite of his night on the train, he felt no
fatigue; on the contrary, his mind and body were active. The journey had
calmed the agitation of his nerves, and it was with perfect tranquillity
he looked back upon all that had passed before his departure. In the
state of satisfaction that was his now, he had nothing more to fear from
stupidity or acts of folly; and, since he had recovered his will, all
would go well. No more backward glances, and fewer still before. The
present only should absorb him.
The present, at this moment, was play. What did they play? He knew
roulette, but he knew not if the game was roulette. He would do as
others did. If he were ridiculed, it was of little importance; and in
reality he should desire to be ridiculed. People remember with pleasure
those at whom they have laughed, and he had come here to find some one
who would remember him.
When he entered the salon where the playing was going on, he observed
that a religious silence reigned there. Round a large table covered with
a carpet of green cloth, which was divided by lines and figures, some men
were seated on high chairs, making them appear like officers; others, on
lower chairs, or simply standing about the table, pushed or picked up the
louis and bank bills on the green cloth, and a strong voice repeated, in
a monotonous tone:
"Messieurs, faites votre jeu! Le jeu est fait! Rien ne va plus!"
Then a little ivory ball was thrown into a cylinder, where it rolled with
a metallic noise. Although he had never seen roulette, it required no
effort to divine that this was the game.
And, before putting several louis on the table, he looked about him to
see how it was played. But after the tenth time he understood as little
as at first. With the rakes the croupiers collected the stakes of
certain players; with these same rakes they doubled, separated, or even
paid, in proportions of which he took no account, certain others, and
that was all.
But it mattered little. Having seen how the money was placed on the
table, that was sufficient.
He had five louis in his hand when the croupier said:
"Messieurs, faites votre jeu."
He placed them on the number thirty-two, or, at least, he believed that
he placed them on this number.
"Rien ne va plus!" The ball rolled in the cylinder.
"Thirty-one!" cried the croupier, adding some other words that Saniel
did not understand. So little did he understand roulette that he thought
he had lost. He had placed his stake on the thirty-two, and it was the
thirty-one that had appeared; the bank had won. He was surprised to see
the croupier push a heap of gold toward him, which amounted to nearly a
hundred louis, and accompany this movement with a glance which, without
any doubt, meant to say: