Part 3 out of 6
"For you, sir."
What should he do? Since he had lost, he could not take this, money that
was given to him by mistake.
In placing his stake on the table, he had leaned over the shoulder of a
gentleman whose hair and beard were of a most extraordinary black, who,
without playing, pricked a card with a pin. This gentleman turned toward
him, and with an amiable smile, and in a most gracious tone said:
"It is yours, sir."
Decidedly, he was mistaken in thinking he had lost; and he must take this
heap of louis, which he did, but neglecting to take, also, his first
The game continued.
"Thirty-two," called the croupier.
Saniel perceived that his five louis had remained on the thirty-two; he
believed that he had won, since this number was called, and his ignorance
was such that he did not know that in roulette a number is paid thirty-
six times the stake: the croupier would, therefore, push toward him one
hundred and eighty Louis.
But, to his great surprise, he pushed him no more money than at first.
This was incomprehensible. When he lost, money was paid to him, and when
he won, he was paid only half his due.
His face betrayed his astonishment so plainly that he saw a mocking smile
in the eyes of the black-haired man, who had again turned toward him.
As he played merely for the sake of playing, and not to win or lose, he
pocketed all that was pushed toward him and his stake.
"Since you are not going to play any more," said the amiable gentleman,
leaving his chair, "will you permit me to say a word to you?"
Saniel bowed, and together they left the table. When they were far
enough away to converse without disturbing the players, the gentleman
"Permit me to present myself-Prince Mazzazoli."
Saniel replied by giving his name and position.
"Well, doctor," the prince said with a strong Italian accent, "you will
pardon me, I hope, for making the simple observation that my age
authorizes: you play like a child."
"Like an ignoramus," Saniel replied, without being angry. For, however
unusual this observation might be, he had already decided that it might
be a good thing in the future to call upon the testimony of a prince.
"I am sure you are still asking yourself why you received eighteen times
the sum of your stake at the first play, and why you did not receive
thirty-six times the sum at the second."
"That is true."
"Well, I will tell you." And he proceeded to explain.
Saniel did not wait for the conclusion to learn the fact that this very-
much-dyed Italian prince was a liar.
"I do not intend to play again," he said.
"With your luck that would be more than a fault."
"I wanted a certain sum; I have won it, and that satisfies me."
"You will not be so foolish as to refuse the hand that Fortune holds
"Are you sure she holds it out to me?" Saniel asked, finding that it was
"Do not doubt it. I will show you--"
"Thank you; but I never break a resolution."
In another moment Saniel would have turned his back on the man, but he
was a witness whom it would be well to treat with caution.
"I have nothing more to do here," he said, politely. "Permit me to
retire, after having thanked you for your offer, whose kindness I
"Well," cried the prince, "since you will not risk your fate, let me do
it for you. This money may be a fetich. Take off five louis, only five
louis, and confide them to me. I will play them according to my
combinations, which are certain, and this evening I will give you your
part of the proceeds. Where are you staying? I live at the Villa des
"Nowhere; I have just arrived."
"Then let us meet here this evening at ten o'clock, in this room, and we
will liquidate our association."
His first impulse was to refuse. Of what use to give alms to this old
monkey? But, after all, it did not cost much to pay his witness five
louis, and he gave them to him.
"A thousand thanks! This evening, at ten o'clock."
As Saniel left the room he found himself face to face with his old
comrade Duphot, who was accompanied by a woman, the same whom he had
"What! you here?" both the lover and his mistress exclaimed.
Saniel related why he was at Monaco, and what he had done since his
"With my money! Ah! She is very well," Duphot cried.
"And you will play no more?" the woman asked.
"I have all I want."
"Then you will play for me."
He wished to decline, but they drew him to the roulette table, and each
put a louis in his hand.
"As inspiration counsels you. You have the luck."
But his luck had died. The two louis were lost.
They gave him two others, which won eight.
"You see, dear friend."
He went on, with varying luck, winning and losing.
At the end of a quarter of an hour they permitted him to go.
"And what are you going to do now?" Duphot asked.
"To send what I owe to my creditors by telegraph."
"Do you know where the telegraph is?"
"I will go with you."
This was a second witness that Saniel was too wise to shake off.
When he had sent his telegram to Jardine, he had nothing more to do at
Monte Carlo, and as he could not leave before eleven o'clock in the
evening, he was idle, not knowing how to employ his time. So he bought a
Nice newspaper and seated himself in the garden, under a gaslight, facing
the dark and tranquil sea. Perhaps he could find in it some telegraph
despatch which would tell him what had occurred in the Rue Sainte-Anne
since his departure.
At the end of the paper, under "Latest News," he read:
"The crime of the Rue Sainte-Anne seems to take a new turn; the
investigations made with more care have led to the discovery of a
trousers' button, to which is attached a piece of cloth. It shows,
therefore, that before the crime there was a struggle between the victim
and the assassin. As this button has certain letters and marks, it is a
valuable clew for the police."
This proof of a struggle between the victim and the assassin made Saniel
smile. Who could tell how long this button had been there?
Suddenly he left his seat, and entering a copse he examined his clothing.
Was it he who had lost it?
But soon he was ashamed of this unconscious movement. The button which
the police were so proud to discover, did not belong to him. This new
track on which they were about to enter did not lead to him.
On Tuesday, a little before five o'clock, as she had promised, Phillis
rang at Saniel's door, and he left his laboratory where he was at work,
to let her in.
She threw herself on his neck.
"Well?" she asked, in a trembling voice.
He told her how he had played and won, without stating the exact sum;
also the propositions of the Prince Mazzazoli, the meeting with Duphot,
and the telegram to Jardine.
"Oh! What happiness!" she said, pressing him in her arms. "You are
"No more creditors! I am my own master. You see it was a good
inspiration. Justice willed it."
Then interrupting him:
"Apropos of justice, you did not speak of Caffie the morning of your
"I was so preoccupied I had no time to think of Caffie."
"Is it not curious, the coincidence of his death with the condemnation
that we pronounced against him? Does it not prove exactly the justice of
"If you choose."
"As the money you won at Monaco proves to you that what is just will
happen. Caffie is punished for all his rascalities and crimes, and you
are rewarded for your sufferings."
"Would it not have been just if Caffie had been punished sooner, and if I
had suffered less?"
She remained silent.
"You see," he said smiling, "that your philosophy is weak."
"It is not of my philosophy that I am thinking, but of Caffie and
"And how can Caffie be associated with you or yours?"
"He is, or rather he may be, if this justice in which I believe in spite
of your joking permits him to be."
"You are talking in enigmas."
"What have you heard about Caffie since you went away?"
"Nothing, or almost nothing."
"You know it is thought that the crime was committed by a butcher."
"The commissioner picked up the knife before me, and it is certainly a
butcher's knife. And more than that, the stroke that cut Caffie's throat
was given by a hand accustomed to butchery. I have indicated this in my
"Since then, more careful investigations have discovered a trousers'
"Which might have been torn off in a struggle between Caffie and his
assassin, I read in a newspaper. But as for me, I do not believe in this
struggle. Caffie's position in his chair, where he was assaulted and
where he died, indicates that the old scamp was surprised. Otherwise, if
he had not been, if he had struggled, he could have cried out, and,
without doubt, he would have been heard."
"If you knew how happy I am to hear you say that!" she cried.
"Happy! What difference can it make to you?" and he looked at her in
surprise. "Of what importance is it to you whether Caffie was killed
with or without a struggle? You condemned him; he is dead. That should
"I was very wrong to pronounce this condemnation, which I did without
attaching any importance to it."
"Do you think that hastened its execution?"
"I am not so foolish as that, but I should be better pleased if I had not
"Do you regret it?"
"I regret that he is dead."
"Decidedly, the enigma continues; but you know I do not understand it,
and, if you wish, we will stop there. We have something better to do
than to talk of Caffie."
"On the contrary, let me talk to you of him, because we want your
Again he looked at her, trying to read her face and to divine why she
insisted on speaking of Caffie, when he had just expressed a wish not to
speak of him. What was there beneath this insistence?
"I will listen," he said; "and, since you wish to ask my advice on the
subject, you must tell me immediately what you mean."
"You are right; and I should have told you before, but embarrassment and
shame restrained me. And I reproach myself, for with you I should feel
neither embarrassment nor reproach."
"But before everything else, I must tell you--you must know--that my
brother Florentin is a good and honest boy; you must believe it, you must
be convinced of it."
"I am, since you tell me so. Besides, he produced the best impression on
me during the short time I saw him the other day at your house."
"Would not one see immediately that he has a good nature?"
"Frank and upright; weak, it is true, and a little effeminate also, that
is, lacking energy, letting himself be carried away by goodness and
tenderness. This weakness made him commit a fault before his departure
for America. I have kept it from you until this moment, but you must
know it now. Loving a woman who controlled him and made him do what she
wished, he let himself be persuaded to-take a sum of forty-five francs
that she demanded, that she insisted on having that evening, hoping to be
able to replace it three days later, without his employer discovering
"His employer was Caffie?"
"No; it was three months after he left Caffie, and he was with another
man of business of whom I have never spoken to you, and now you
understand why. The money he expected failed him; his fault was
discovered, and his employer lodged a complaint against him."
"We made him withdraw his complaint, never mind how, and Florentin went to
America to seek his fortune. And since you have seen him, you admit that
he might be capable of the fault that he committed, without being
capable-of becoming an assassin."
He was about to reply, but she closed his lips with a quick gesture.
"You will see why I speak of this, and you will understand why I do not
drop the subject of Caffie, and of this button, on which the police count
to find the criminal. This button belonged to Florentin."
"To your brother?"
"Yes, to Florentin, who, the day of the crime, had been to see Caffie."
"That is true; the concierge told the commissioner of police that he
called about three o'clock."
Phillis gave a cry of despair.
"They know he was there? Then it is more serious than we imagined or
"In answering a question as to whom Caffie had received that day, the
concierge named your brother. But as this visit took place between three
and half-past, and the crime was certainly committed between five and
half-past, no one can accuse your brother of being the assassin, since he
left before Caffie lighted his lamp. As this lamp could not light
itself, it proves that he could not have butchered a man who was living
an hour after the concierge saw your brother and talked with him."
"What you say is a great relief; if you could know how alarmed we have
"You were too hasty to alarm yourself."
"Too hasty? But when Florentin read the account to us and came to the
button, he exclaimed, 'This button is mine!' and we experienced a shock
that made us lose our heads. We saw the police falling on us,
questioning Florentin, reproaching him with the past, which would be
retailed in all the newspapers, and you must understand how we felt."
"But cannot your brother explain how he lost this button at Caffie's?"
"Certainly, and in the most natural way. He went to see Caffie, to ask
him for a letter of recommendation, saying that he had been his clerk for
several years. Caffie gave it to him, and then, in the course of
conversation, Caffie spoke of a bundle of papers that he could not find.
Florentin had had charge of these papers, and had placed them on a high
shelf in the closet. As Caffie could not find them, and wanted them,
Florentin brought a small ladder, and, mounting it, found them. He was
about to descend the ladder, when he made a misstep, and in trying to
save himself, one of the buttons of his trousers was pulled off."
"And he did not pick it up?"
"He did not even notice it at first. But later, in the street, seeing
one leg of his trousers longer than the other, he thought of the ladder,
and found that he had lost a button. He would not return to Caffie's to
look for it, of course."
"How could he foresee that Caffie would be assassinated? That the crime
would be so skilfully planned and executed that the criminal would
escape? That two days later the police would find a button on which they
would build a story that would make him the criminal? Florentin had not
thought of all that."
"That is understood."
"The same evening he replaced the button by another, and it was only on
reading the newspaper that he felt there might be something serious in
this apparently insignificant fact. And we shared his alarm."
"Have you spoken to any one of this button?"
"Certainly not; we know too much. I tell you of it because I tell you
everything; and if we are menaced, we have no help to expect, except from
you. Florentin is a good boy, but he is weak and foolish. Mamma is like
him in more than one respect, and as for me, although I am more
resistant, I confess that, in the face of the law and the police, I
should easily lose my head, like children who begin to scream when they
are left in the dark. Is not the law, when you know nothing of it, a
night of trouble, full of horrors, and peopled with phantoms?"
"I do not believe there is the danger that you imagined in the first
moment of alarm."
"It was natural."
"Very natural, I admit, but reflection must show how little foundation
there is for it. The button has not the name of the tailor who furnished
"No, but it has the initials and the mark of the manufacturer; an A and a
P, with a crown and a cock."
"Well! Among two or three thousand tailors in Paris, how is it possible
for the police to find those who use these buttons? And when the tailors
are found, how could they designate the owner of this button, this one
exactly, and not another? It is looking for a needle in a bundle of hay.
Where did your brother have these trousers made? Did he bring them from
"The poor boy brought nothing from America but wretchedly shabby clothes,
and we had to clothe him from head to foot. We were obliged to
economize, and a little tailor in the Avenue de Clichy, called Valerius,
made this suit."
"It seems to me scarcely probable that the police will find this little
tailor. But if they do, would he recognize the button as coming from his
stock? And, if they get as far as your brother, they must prove that
there was a struggle; that the button was torn off in this struggle; that
your brother was in the Rue Sainte-Anne between five and six o'clock; in
which case, without doubt, he will find it easy to prove where he was at
"He was with us--with mamma."
"You see, then, you need not feel alarmed."
A GRAVE DISCUSSION
Phillis hurried to return to the Rue des Moines, to share with her mother
and brother the confidence that Saniel caused her to feel.
She pulled the bell with a trembling hand, for the time was past when in
this quiet house, where all the lodgers knew each other, the key was left
in the door, and one had only to knock before entering. Since the
newspapers had spoken of the button, all was changed; the feeling of
liberty and security had disappeared; the door was always closed, and
when the bell rang they looked at each other in fear and with trembling.
When Florentin opened the door, the table was set for dinner.
"I was afraid something had happened to you," Madame Cormier said.
"I was detained."
She took off her hat and cloak hastily.
"You have learned nothing?" the mother asked, bringing in the soup.
"They spoke to you of nothing?" Florentin continued in a low voice.
"They spoke to me of nothing else; or I heard only that when I was not
"What was said?"
"No one believes that the investigations of the police bear on the
"You see, Florentin," Madame Cormier interrupted, smiling at her son.
But he shook his head.
"However, the opinion of all has a value," Phillis cried.
"Speak lower," Florentin said.
"It is thought that it is impossible for the police to find, among the
two or three thousand tailors in Paris, all those who use the buttons
marked A. P. And if they did find them, they could not designate all
their customers to whom they have furnished these buttons. It is really
looking for a needle in a bundle of hay."
"When one takes plenty of time, one finds a needle in a bundle of hay,"
"You ask me what I heard, and I tell you. But I do not depend entirely
on that. As I passed near the Rue Louis-le-Grand, I went to Doctor
Saniel's; it being his office hour I hoped to find him."
"You told him the situation?" Florentin exclaimed.
In any other circumstances she would have replied frankly, explaining
that she had perfect confidence in Saniel; but when she saw her brother's
agitation, she could not exasperate him by this avowal, above all,
because she could not at the same time give her reasons for her faith in
him. She must reassure him before everything.
"No," she said, "but I spoke of Caffie to Doctor Saniel without his being
surprised. As he made the first deposition, was it not natural that my
curiosity should wish to learn a little more than the newspapers tell?"
"Never mind, the act must appear strange."
"I think not. But, anyhow, the interest that we have to learn all made
me overlook this; and I think, when I have told you the doctor's opinion,
you will not regret my visit."
"And this opinion?" Madame Cormier asked.
"His opinion is, that there was no struggle between Caffie and the
assassin, whereas the position of Caffie in the chair where he was
attacked proves that he was surprised. Therefore, if there was no
struggle, there was no button torn off, and all the scaffolding of the
police falls to the ground."
Madame Cormier breathed a profound sigh of deliverance.
"You see," she said to her son.
"And the doctor's opinion is not the opinion of the first-comer, it is
not even that of an ordinary physician. It is that of the physician who
has certified to the death, and who, more than any one, has power, has
authority, to say how it was given--by surprise, without struggle,
without a button being pulled off."
"It is not Doctor Saniel who directs the search of the police, or who
inspires it," replied Florentin. "His opinion does not produce a
criminal, while the button can--at least for those who believe in the
struggle; and between the two the police will not hesitate.
Already the newspapers laugh at them for not having discovered the
assassin, who has rejoined all the others they have let escape. They
must follow the track they have started on, and this track--"
He lowered his voice:
"It will lead them here."
"To do that they must pass by the Avenue de Clichy, and that seems
"It is the possible that torments me, and not the unlikely, and you
cannot but recognize that what I fear is possible. I was at Caffies the
day of the crime. I lost there a button torn off by violence. This
button picked up by the police proves, according to them, the criminality
of the one who lost it. They will find that I am the one--"
"They will not find you."
"Let us admit that they do find me. How should I defend myself?"
"By proving that you were not in the Rue Sainte-Anne between five and six
o'clock, since you were here."
"And what witnesses will prove this alibi? I have only one--mamma.
What is the testimony of a mother worth in favor of her son in such
"You will have that of the doctor, affirming that there was no struggle,
and consequently no button torn off."
"Affirming, but carrying no proof to support his theory; the opinion of
one doctor, which the opinion of another doctor may refute and destroy.
And then, to prove that there was no struggle; Doctor Saniel will say
that Caffie was surprised. Who could surprise Caffie? To open Caffies
door when the clerk was away, it was necessary to ring first, and then to
knock three times in a peculiar way. No stranger could know that, and
who could know it better than I?"
Step by step Phillis defended the ground against her brother; but little
by little the confidence which at first sustained her weakened. With
Saniel she was brave. Between her brother and mother, in this room that
had witnessed their fears, not daring to speak loud, she was downcast,
and let herself be overcome by their anxieties.
"Truly," she said, "it seems as if we were guilty and not innocent."
"And while we are tormenting ourselves, the criminal, probably, in
perfect safety laughs at the police investigations; he had not thought of
this button; chance throws it in his way. Luck is for him, and against
This was the plaint that was often on Florentin's lips. Although he had
never been a gambler--and for sufficient reason--in his eyes everything
was decided by luck. There are those who are born under a lucky star,
others under an unlucky one. There are those who, in the battle of life,
receive knocks without being discouraged, because they expect something
the next day, as there are those who become discouraged because they
expect nothing, and know by experience that tomorrow will be for them
what today is, what yesterday was. And Florentin was one of these.
"Why did I not stay in America?" he said.
"Because you were too unhappy, my poor boy!" Madame Cormier said, whose
maternal heart was moved by this cry.
"Am I happier here, or shall I be to-morrow? What does this to-morrow,
full of uncertainty and dangers, hold for us?"
"Why do you insist that it has only dangers?" Phillis asked, in a
conciliating and caressing tone.
"You always expect the good."
"At least I hope for it, and do not admit deliberately that it is
impossible. I do not say that life is always rose-colored, but neither
is it always black. I believe it is like the seasons. After winter,
which is vile, I confess, come the spring, summer, and autumn."
"Well, if I had the money necessary for the voyage, I would go and pass
the end of the winter in a country where it would be less disagreeable
than here, and, above all, less dangerous for my constitution."
"You do not say that seriously, I hope?" cried Madame Cormier.
"On the contrary, very seriously."
"We are hardly reunited, and you think of a separation," she said, sadly.
"It is not of a separation that Florentin thinks," cried Phillis, "but of
"And why not?"
"Because only the guilty fly."
"It is exactly the contrary. The intelligent criminals stay, and, as
generally they are resolute men, they know beforehand that they are able
to face the danger; while the innocent, timid like myself, or the
unlucky, lose their heads and fly, because they know beforehand, also,
that if a danger threatens them, it will crush them. That is why I would
return to America if I could pay my passage; at least I should feel easy
There was a moment of silence, during which each one seemed to have no
thought but to finish dinner.
"Granting that this project is not likely," Florentin said, "I have
"Why do you have ideas?" Phillis asked.
"I wish you were in my place; we should see if you would not have them."
"I assure you that I am in your place, and that your trouble is mine,
only it does not betray itself in the same manner. But what is your
"It is to find Valerius and tell him all."
"And who will answer to us for Valerius's discretion?" asked Madame
Cormier. "Would it not be the greatest imprudence that you could commit?
One cannot play with a secret of this importance."
"Valerius is an honest man."
"It is because he cannot work when political, or rather patriotic,
affairs go wrong, that you say this."
"And why not? With a poor man who lives in a small way by his work, are
not this care and pride in his country marks of an honorable heart?"
"I grant the honorable heart, but it is another reason for being prudent
with him," Phillis said. "Precisely because he may be what you think,
reserve is necessary. You tell him what is passed. If he accepts it and
your innocence, it is well; he will not betray your secret voluntarily
nor by stupidity. But he will not accept it; he will look beyond. He
will suppose that you wish to deceive him, and he will suspect you. In
that case, would he not go and tell all to the police commissioner of our
quarter? As for me, I think it is a danger that it would be foolish to
"And, according to you, what is to be done?"
"Nothing; that is, wait, since there are a thousand chances against one
for our uneasiness, and we exaggerate those that may never be realized."
"Well, let us wait," he said. "Moreover, I like that; at the least, I
have no responsibilities. What can happen will happen."
THE KNOCK AT THE DOOR
In order to put the button found at Caffies on the track of the assassin,
it required that it should have come from a Parisian tailor, or, at
least, a French one, and that the trousers had not been sold by a ready-
made clothing-house, where the names of customers are not kept.
The task of the police was therefore difficult, as weak, also, were the
chances of success. As Saniel had said, it was like looking for a needle
in a bundle of hay, to go to each tailor in Paris.
But this was not their way of proceeding. In place of trying to find
those who used these buttons, they looked for those who made them or sold
them, and suddenly, without going farther than the directory, they found
this manufacturer: "A. Pelinotte, manufacturer of metal buttons for
trousers; trademark, A.P., crown and cock; Faubourg du Temple."
At first this manufacturer was not disposed to answer questions of the
agent who went to see him; but when he began to understand that he might
reap some advantage from the affair, like the good merchant that he was,
young and active, he put his books and clerks at his disposition. His
boast was, in effect, that his buttons, thanks to a brass bonnet around
which the thread was rolled instead of passing through the holes, never
cut the thread and could not be broken. When they came off it was with a
piece of the cloth. What better justification of his pretensions, what
better advertisement than his button torn off with a piece of the
trousers of the assassin? The affair would go before the assizes, and in
all the newspapers there would be mention of the "A. P. buttons."
He was asked for his customers' names, and after a few days the search
began, guided by a list so exact that useless steps were spared.
One morning a detective reached the Avenue de Clichy, and found the
tailor Valerius in his shop, reading a newspaper. For it was not only
when the country was in danger that Valerius had a passion for reading
papers, but every morning and evening.
Nothing that was published in the papers escaped him, and at the first
words of the agent he understood immediately about what he was to be
"It is concerning the affair in the Rue Sainte-Anne that you wish this
information?" he said.
"Well, frankly also, I do not know if the secrets of the profession
permit me to answer you."
The agent, who was by no means stupid, immediately understood the man's
character, and instead of yielding to the desire to laugh, caused by this
reply honestly made by this good-natured man, whose long, black, bushy
beard and bald head accentuated his gravity, he yielded to the necessity
of the occasion.
"That is a question to discuss."
"Then let us discuss it. A customer, confiding in my honesty and
discretion, gives me an order to make a pair of trousers; he pays me as
he agreed, without beating me down, and on the day he promised. We are
loyal to each other. I give him a pair of good trousers, honestly made,
and he pays me with good money. We are even. Have I the right
afterward, by imprudent words, or otherwise, to furnish clews against
him? The case is a delicate one."
"Do you place the interest of the individual above that of society?"
"When it is a question of a professional secret, yes. Where should we be
if the lawyer, the notary, the doctor, the confessor, the tailor, could
accept compromises on this point of doctrine? It would be anarchy,
simply, and in the end it would be the interest of society that would
The agent, who had no time to lose, began to be impatient.
"I will tell you," he said, "that the tailor, however important his
profession may be, is not placed exactly as the doctor or confessor.
Have you not a book in which you write your customers' orders?"
"So that if you persevere in a theory, pushing it to an extreme, I need
only to go to the commissioner of your quarter, who, in virtue of the
power of the law conferred upon him, will seize your books."
"That would be by violence, and my responsibility would be at an end."
"And in these books the judge would see to whom you have furnished
trousers of this stuff. It would only remain then to discover in whose
interest you have wished to escape the investigations of the law."
Saying this, he took from his pocket a small box, and taking out a piece
of paper, he took from it a button to which adhered a piece of navy blue
Valerius, who was not in the least moved by the threat of the
commissioner, for he was a man to brave martyrdom, looked at the box
curiously. When the agent displayed the button, a movement of great
surprise escaped him.
"You see," the agent exclaimed, "that you know this cloth!"
"Will you permit me to look at it?" Valerius asked.
"Willingly, but on condition that you do not touch it; it is precious."
Valerius took the box, and approaching the front of the shop, looked at
the button and the piece of cloth.
"It is a button marked 'A.P.,' as you see, and we know that you use these
"I do not deny it; they are good buttons, and I give only good things to
Returning the box to the agent, he took a large book and began to turn
over the leaves; pieces of cloth were pasted on the pages, and at the
side were several lines of large handwriting. Arriving at a page where
was a piece of blue cloth, he took the box and compared this piece with
that of the button, examining it by daylight.
"Sir," he said, "I am going to tell you some very serious things."
"I am listening."
"We hold the assassin of the Rue Sainte-Anne, and it is I who will give
you the means of discovering him."
"You have made trousers of this cloth?"
"I have made three pairs; but there is only one pair that can interest
you, that of the assassin. I have just told you that the secrets of the
profession prevented me from replying to your questions, but what I have
just seen frees my conscience. As I explained to you, when I make a pair
of good trousers for a customer who pays me in good money, I do not think
I have the right to reveal the affairs of my client to any one in the
world, even to the law."
"I understand," interrupted the agent, whose impatience increased.
"But this reserve on my part rests on reciprocity: to a good customer, a
good tailor. If the customer is not good the reciprocity ceases, or,
rather, it continues on another footing--that of war; if any one treats
me badly, I return the same. The trousers to which this stuff belongs"--
he showed the button--"I made for an individual whom I do not know, and
who presented himself to me as an Alsacian, which I believed so much more
easily, because he spoke with a strong foreign accent. These trousers--
I need not tell you how careful I was with them. I am a patriot, sir.
He agreed to pay for them on delivery. When they were delivered, the
young apprentice who took them had the weakness to not insist upon the
money. I went to him, but could obtain nothing; he would pay me the next
day, and so on. Finally he disappeared, leaving no address."
"And this customer?"
"I will give you his name without the slightest hesitation. Fritzner,
not an Alsacian as I believed, but a Prussian to a certainty, who surely
struck the blow; his disappearance the day after the crime is the proof
"You say that you were not able to procure his address?"
"But you, who have other means at your disposal, can find him. He is
twenty-seven or thirty years old, of middle height, blue eyes, a blond
beard, and a complete blue suit of this cloth."
The agent wrote this description in his note-book as the tailor gave it
"If he has not left Paris with these stolen thirty-five thousand francs,
we shall find him, and the thanks will be yours," he said.
"I am happy to be able to do anything for you."
The agent was going, but he thought better of it.
"You said that you had made three suits of this cloth?"
"Yes, but there is only this Fritzner who counts. The two others are
honest men, well known in the quarter, and they paid me honestly."
"Since they have no cause for alarm, you need have no scruples in naming
them. It is not in the name of justice that I ask their names, but for
myself. --They will look well in my report and will prove that I pushed
my investigations thoroughly."
"One is a merchant in the Rue Truffant, and is called Monsieur Blanchet;
the other is a young man just arrived from America, and his name is
Monsieur Florentin Cormier."
"You say Florentin Cormier?" the agent asked, who remembered this name
was that of one who had seen Caffie on the day of the crime. "Do you
"Not exactly; it is the first time that I have made clothes for him. But
I know his mother and sister, who have lived in the Rue des Moines five
or six years at least; good, honest people, who work hard and have no
The next morning about ten o'clock, a short time after Phillis's
departure, Florentin, who was reading the newspaper in the dining-room,
while his mother prepared the breakfast, heard stealthy steps that
stopped on the landing before their door. His ear was too familiar with
the ordinary sounds in the house to be deceived; there was in these steps
a hesitation or a precaution which evidently betrayed a stranger, and
with the few connections they had, a stranger was surely an enemy--the
one whom he expected.
A ring of the doorbell, given by a firm hand, made him jump from his
chair. He did not hesitate; slowly, and with an air of indifference, he
opened the door.
He saw before him a man of about forty years, with a polite and shrewd
face, dressed in a short coat, and wearing a flat hat.
"Monsieur Florentin Cormier?"
"I am he."
And he asked him to come in.
"The judge desires to see you at his office."
Madame Cormier came from the kitchen in time to hear these few words, and
if Florentin had not motioned to her to be silent, she would have
betrayed herself. The words on her lips were:
"You came to arrest my son!" They would have escaped her, but she
crushed them back.
"And can you tell me for what affair the judge summons me?" Florentin
asked, steadying his voice.
"For the Caffie affair."
"And at what hour should I present myself before the judge?"
"But my son has not breakfasted!" Madame Cormier exclaimed. "At least,
take something before going, my dear child."
"It is not worth while."
He made a sign to her that she should not insist. His throat was too
tight to swallow a piece of bread, and it was important that he should
not betray his emotion before this agent.
"I am ready," he said.
Going to his mother he embraced her, but lightly, without effusion, as if
he were only to be absent a short time.
She was distracted; but, understanding that she would compromise her son
if she yielded to her feelings, she controlled herself.
A TIGHTENING CHAIN
As it was a part that he played, Florentin said to himself that he would
play it to the best of his ability in entering the skin of the person he
wished to be, and this part was that of a witness.
He had been Caffie's clerk; the justice would interrogate him about his
old employer, and nothing would be more natural. It was that only, and
nothing but that, which he could admit; consequently, he should interest
himself in the police investigations, and have the curiosity to learn how
"Have you advanced far in the Caffie affair?" he asked the agent as they
"I do not know," the agent answered, who thought it prudent to be
reserved. "I know nothing more than the newspapers tell."
On leaving his mother's house, Florentin observed on the other side of
the street a man who appeared to be stationed there; at the end of
several minutes, on turning a corner, he saw that this man followed them
at a certain distance. Then it was not a simple appearance before the
judge, for such precautions are not taken with a witness.
When they reached the Place Clichy, the agent asked him if he would take
a carriage, but he declined. What good was it? It was a useless
Then he saw the agent raise his hat, as if bowing to some one, but this
bow was certainly not made to any one; and immediately, the man who had
followed them approached. The raising of the hat was a signal. As from
the deserted quarters of the Batignolles they entered the crowd, they
feared he might try to escape. The character of the arrest became
After the presentiments and fears that had tormented him during the last
few days this did not astonish him, but since they took these precautions
with him, all was not yet decided. He must, then, defend himself to the
utmost. Distracted before the danger came, he felt less weak now that he
was in it.
On arriving at the Palais de justice he was introduced immediately into
the judge's office. But he did not attend to him at once; he was
questioning a woman, and Florentin examined him by stealth. He saw a man
of elegant and easy figure, still young, with nothing solemn or imposing
about him, having more the air of a boulevardier or of a sportsman than
of a magistrate.
While continuing his questioning, he also examined Florentin, but with a
rapid glance, without persistence, carelessly, and simply because his
eyes fell upon him. Before a table a clerk was writing, and near the
door two policemen waited, with the weary, empty faces of men whose minds
Soon the judge turned his head toward them.
"You may take away the accused."
Then, immediately addressing Florentin, he asked him his name, his
Christian names, and his residence.
"You have been the clerk of the agent of affairs, Caffie. Why did you
"Because my work was too heavy."
"You are afraid of work?"
"No, when it is not too hard; it was at his office, and left me no time
to work for myself. I was obliged to reach his office at eight o'clock
in the morning, breakfast there, and did not leave until seven to dine
with my mother at the Batignolles. I had an hour and a half for that;
at half-past eight I had to return, and stay until ten or half-past.
In accepting this position I believed that I should be able to finish my
education, interrupted by the death of my father, and to study law and
become something better than a miserable clerk of a business man. It was
impossible with Monsieur Caffie, so I left him, and this was the only
reason why we separated."
"Where have you been since?"
This was a delicate question, and one that Florentin dreaded, for it
might raise prejudices that nothing would destroy. However, he must
reply, for what he would not tell himself others would reveal; an
investigation on this point was too easy.
"With another business man, Monsieur Savoureux, Rue de la Victoire, where
I was not obliged to work in the evening. I stayed there about three
months, and then went to America."
"Because, when I began to study seriously, I found that my studies had
been neglected too long to make it possible for me to take them up again.
I had forgotten nearly all I had learned. I should, without doubt, fail
in my examination, and I should only begin the law too late. I left
France for America, where I hoped to find a good situation."
"How long since your return?"
"And you went to see Caffie?"
"To ask him for a recommendation to replace the one he gave me, which I
"It was the day of the crime?"
"At what time?"
"I reached his house about a quarter to three, and I left about half-past
"Did he give you the certificate for which you asked?"
"Yes; here it is."
And, taking it from his pocket, he presented it to the judge. It was a
paper saying that, during the time that M. Florentin Cormier was his
clerk, Caffie was entirely satisfied with him; with his work, as with his
accuracy and probity.
"And you did not return to him during the evening?" the judge asked.
"Why should I return? I had obtained what I desired."
"Well, did you or did you not return?"
"I did not return to him."
"Do you remember what you did on leaving Caffie's house?"
If Florentin had indulged in the smallest illusion about his appearance
before the judge, the manner of conducting the interview would have
destroyed it. It was not a witness who was being questioned, it was a
culprit. He had not to enlighten the justice, he had to defend himself.
"Perfectly," he said. "It is not so long ago. On leaving the Rue
Sainte-Anne, as I had nothing to do, I went down to the quays, and looked
at the old books from the Pont Royale to the Institute; but at this
moment a heavy shower came on, and I returned to the Batignolles, where I
remained with my mother."
"What time was it when you reached your mother's house?"
"A few minutes after five."
"Can you not say exactly?"
"About a quarter past five, a few minutes more or less."
"And you did not go out again?"
"Did any one call at your mother's after you arrived there?"
"No one. My sister came in at seven o'clock, as usual, when she returned
from her lesson."
"Before you went up to your rooms did you speak with any of the other
There was a pause, and Florentin felt the judge's eyes fixed on him with
an aggravating persistency. It seemed as if this look, which enveloped
him from head to foot, wished to penetrate his inmost thoughts.
"Another thing," said the judge. "You did not lose a trousers' button
while you were with Caffie?"
Florentin expected this question, and for some time he had considered
what answer he should make to it. To deny was impossible. It would be
easy to convict him of a fib, for the fact of the question being asked
was sufficient to say there was proof that the button was his. He must,
then, confess the truth, grave as it might be.
"Yes," he said, "and this is how--"
He related in detail the story of the bundle of papers placed on the
highest shelf of the cases, his slipping on the ladder, and the loss of
the button, which he did not discover until he was in the street.
The judge opened a drawer and took from it a small box, from which he
took a button that he handed to Florentin.
"Is that it?" he asked.
Florentin looked at it.
"It is difficult for me to answer," he said, finally; "one button
"In that case, it would be necessary for me to have observed the form of
the one I lost, and I gave no attention to it. It seems to me that no
one knows exactly how, or of what, the buttons are made that they wear."
The judge examined him anew.
"But are not the trousers that you wear to-day the same from which this
button was torn?"
"It is the pair I wore the day I called on Monsieur Caffie."
"Then it is quite easy to compare the button that I show you with those
on your trousers, and your answer becomes easy."
It was impossible to escape this verification.
"Unbutton your vest," said the judge, "and make your comparison with
care--with all the care that you think wise. The question has some
Florentin felt it only too much, the importance of this question, but as
it was set before him, he could not but answer frankly.
He unbuttoned his waistcoat, and compared the button with his.
"I believe that it is really the button that I lost," he said.
Although he endeavored not to betray his anguish, he felt that his voice
trembled, and that it had a hoarse sound. Then he wished to explain this
"This is a truly terrible position for me," he said.
The judge did not reply.
"But because I lost a button at Monsieur Caffie's, it does not follow
that it was torn off in a struggle."
"You have your theory, and you will make the most of it, but this is not
the place. I have only one more question to ask: By what button have you
replaced the one you lost?"
"By the first one I came across."
"Who sewed it on?"
"Are you in the habit of sewing on your buttons yourself?"
Although the judge did not press this question by his tone, nor by the
form in which he made it, Florentin saw the strength of the accusation
that his reply would make against him.
"Sometimes," he said.
"And yet, on returning home, you found your mother, you told me. Was
there any reason why she could not sew this button on for you?"
"I did not ask her to do it."
"But when she saw you sewing it, did she not take the needle from your
"She did not see me."
"She was occupied preparing our dinner."
"That is sufficient."
"I was in the entry of our apartment, where I have slept since my return;
my mother was in the kitchen."
"Is there no communication between the kitchen and the entry?"
"The door was closed."
A flood of words rushed to his lips, to protest against the conclusions
which seemed to follow these answers, but he kept them back. He saw
himself caught in a net, and all his efforts to free himself only bound
him more strongly.
As he was asked no more questions it seemed to him best to say nothing,
and he was silent a long time, of the duration of which he was only
The judge talked in a low tone, the recorder wrote rapidly, and he heard
only a monotonous murmur that interrupted the scratching of a pen on the
"Your testimony will now be read to you," the judge said.
He wished to give all his attention to this reading, but he soon lost the
thread of it. The impression it made upon him, however, was that it
faithfully reproduced all that he had said, and he signed it.
"Now," said the judge, "my duty obliges me, in presence of the charges
which emanate from your testimony, to deliver against you a 'manda
Florentin received this blow without flinching.
"I know," he said, "that all the protestations I might make would have no
effect at this moment; I therefore spare you them. But I have a favor to
ask of you; it is to permit me to write to my mother and sister the news
of my arrest--they love me tenderly. Oh, you shall read my letter!"
"You may, sir."
"REGARDING THE CAFFIE AFFAIR"
After the departure of her son and the detective, Madame Cormier was
prostrated. Her son! Her Florentin! The poor child! And she was sunk
Had they not suffered enough? Was this new proof necessary? Why had
their life been so unmercifully cruel? Why had not Dr. Saniel let her
die? At least she would not have seen this last catastrophe, this
disgrace; her son accused of assassination, in prison, at the assizes!
Heretofore when she had yielded to her feelings and bewailed their sad
lot, Phillis was at hand to cheer and caress her; but now she was alone
in her deserted apartment, no one to hear her, see her, nor scold. Why
should she not abandon herself to tears? She wept and trembled, but the
moment arrived when, after having reached the extreme of despair, which
showed her her son condemned as an assassin, and executed, she stopped
and asked herself if she had not gone too far.
He would return; certainly she might expect him. And she waited for him
without breakfasting; he would not like to sit down to the table all
alone, the poor child.
Besides, she was too profoundly overcome to eat. She arranged the fire
with care, so that the haricot of mutton would keep warm, for it was his
Minutes and hours passed and he did not return. Her anguish came back; a
witness would not be retained so long by the judge. Had they arrested
him? Then what would become of him?
She fell into a state of tears and despair, and longed for Phillis.
Fortunately she would not be late to-day. Finally a quick, light step
was heard on the landing, and as soon as she could, Madame Cormier went
to open the door, and was stunned on seeing the agitated face of her
daughter. Evidently Phillis was surprised by the sudden opening of the
"You know all, then?" Madame Cormier cried.
Phillis put her arms about her, and drew her into the dining-room, where
she made her sit down.
"Becalm," she said. "They will not keep him."
"You know some way?"
"We will find a way. I promise you that they will not keep him."
"You are sure?"
"I promise you."
"You give me life. But how did you know?"
"He wrote to me. The concierge gave me his letter, which had just come."
"What does he say?"
Madame Cormier took the letter that Phillis handed her, but the paper
shook so violently in her trembling hand that she could not read.
"Read it to me."
Phillis took it and read
"DEAR LITTLE SISTER: After listening to my story, the judge retains
me. Soften for mamma the pain of this blow. Make her understand
that they will soon acknowledge the falseness of this accusation;
and, on your part, try to make this falseness evident, while on
mine, I will work to prove my innocence.
"Embrace poor mamma for me, and find in your tenderness, strength,
and love, some consolation for her; mine will be to think that you
are near her, dear little beloved sister.
"And it is this honest boy that they accuse of assassination!" cried
Madame Cormier, beginning to weep.
It required several minutes for Phillis to quiet her a little.
"We must think of him, mamma; we must not give up."
"You are going to do something, are you not, my little Phillis?"
"I am going to find Doctor Saniel."
"He is a doctor, not a lawyer."
"It is exactly as a doctor that he can save Florentin. He knows that
Caffie was killed without a struggle between him and the assassin;
consequently without the wrenching off of a button. He will say it and
prove it to the judge, and Florentin's innocence is evident. I am going
to see him."
"I beg of you, do not leave me alone too long."
"I will come back immediately."
Phillis ran from the Batignolles to the Rue Louis-le-Grand. In answer to
her ring, Joseph, who had returned to his place in the anteroom, opened
the door, and as Saniel was alone, she went immediately to his office.
"What is the matter?" he asked, on seeing her agitation.
"My brother is arrested."
"Ah! The poor boy!"
What he had said to her on explaining that this arrest could not take
place was sincere; he believed it, and he more than believed it, he
wished it. When he decided to kill Caffie he had not thought that the
law would ever discover a criminal; it would be a crime that would remain
unpunished, as so many were, and no one would be disturbed. But now the
law had found and arrested one who was the brother of the woman he loved.
"How was he arrested?" he asked, as much for the sake of knowing as to
She told what she knew, and read Florentin's letter.
"He is a good boy, your brother," he said, as if talking to himself.
"You will save him?"
"How can I?"
This cry escaped him without her understanding its weight; without her
divining the expression of anxious curiosity in his glance.
"To whom shall I address myself, if not to you? Are you not everything
to me? My support, my guide, my counsel, my God!"
She explained what she wished him to do. Once more an exclamation
"You wish me to go to the judge--me?"
"Who, better than you, can explain how things happened?"
Saniel, who had recovered from his first feeling of surprise, did not
flinch. Evidently she spoke with entire honesty, suspecting nothing, and
it would be folly to look for more than she said.
"But I cannot present myself before a judge in such away," he said.
"It is he who sends for those he wants to see."
"Why can you not go to his court, since you know things which will throw
light upon it?"
"Is it truly easy to go before this court? In going before it, I make
myself the defender of your brother."
"That is exactly what I ask of you."
"And in presenting myself as his defender, I take away the weight of my
deposition, which would have more authority if it were that of a simple
"But when will you be asked for this deposition? Think of Florentin's
sufferings during this time, of mamma's, and of mine. He may lose his
head; he may kill himself. His spirit is not strong, nor is mamma's.
How will they bear all that the newspapers will publish?"
Saniel hesitated a moment.
"Well, I will go," he said. "Not this evening, it is too late, but
"Oh, dear Victor!" she exclaimed, pressing him in her arms, "I knew that
you would save him. We will owe you his life, as we owe you mamma's, as
I owe you happiness. Am I not right to say you are my God?"
After she was gone he had a moment of repentance in which he regretted
this weakness; for it was a weakness, a stupid sentimentalism, unworthy
of a sensible man, who should not permit himself to be thus touched and
involved. Why should he go and invite danger when he could be quiet,
without any one giving him a thought? Was it not folly? The law wanted
a criminal. Public curiosity demanded one. Why take away the one that
they had? If he succeeded, would they not look for another? It was
imprudence, and, to use the true word, madness. Now that he was no
longer under the influence of Phillis's beautiful, tearful eyes, he would
not commit this imprudence. All the evening this idea strengthened, and
when he went to bed his resolution was taken. He would not go to the
But on awakening, he was surprised to find that this resolution of the
evening was not that of the morning, and that this dual personality,
which had already struck him, asserted itself anew. It was at night that
he resolved to kill Caffie, and he committed the deed in the evening. It
was in the morning that he had abandoned the idea, as it was in the
morning that he revoked the decision made the previous evening not to go
to the rescue of this poor boy. Of what then, was the will of man made,
undulating like the sea, and variable as the wind, that he had the folly
to believe his was firm?
At noon he went to the Palais de justice and sent in his card to the
judge, on which he wrote these words: "Regarding the Caffie affair."
He was received almost immediately, and briefly explained how, according
to his opinion, Caffie was killed quickly and suddenly by a firm and
skilful hand, that of a killer by profession.
"That is the conclusion of your report," the judge said.
"What I could not point out in my report, as I did not know of the
finding of the button and the opinion it has led to, is that there was no
struggle between the assassin and the victim, as is generally supposed."
And medically he demonstrated how this struggle was impossible.
The judge listened attentively, without a word, without interruption.
"Do you know this young man?" he asked.
"I have seen him only once; but I know his mother, who was my patient,
and it is at her instigation that I decided to make this explanation to
"Without doubt, it has its value, but I must tell you that it tends in no
way to destroy our hypothesis."
"But if it has no foundation?"
"I must tell you that you are negative, doctor, and not suggestive. We
have a criminal and you have not. Do you see one?"
Saniel thought that the judge looked at him with a disagreeable
"No," he said, sharply.
Then rising, he said, more calmly:
"That is not in my line."
He had nothing to do but to retire, which he did; and on passing through
the vestibule he said to himself that the magistrate was right. He
believed that he held a criminal. Why should he let him go?
As for him, he had done what he could.
Saniel passed the first proofs of his two 'concours' so brilliantly that
the results of either were not doubtful. In delivering his thesis for
the 'agregation', he commanded the admiration of his audience; by turns
aggressive, severe, ironical, eloquent, he reduced his adversary to such
an extremity that, overwhelmed, he was not able to reply. In his lecture
at the hospital, his eloquence and his clear demonstration convinced the
judges who were opposed to him that he was in the right.
What could Caffie's death weigh, placed in the balance with these
results? So little that it counted for nothing, and would have held no
place in his thoughts if it had not been mixed in his mind with the
accusation that would send Florentin to the assizes.
Cleared of this fact, the death of the old man rarely crossed his mind.
He had other things in his head, truly, than this memory which brought
neither regret nor remorse; and it was not at this moment, when he
touched the end at which he aimed, that he would embarrass himself, or
sadden his triumph, with Caffie.
A little before the expiration of the two months, during which time the
poste restante retained the letters containing the thirty thousand
francs, he called for them, and readdressed and mailed them to other
What did he want of this money, which was, in reality, a nuisance? His
habits remained the same, except that he no longer struggled with his
creditors, and paid cash for everything. He had no desire to make any
change in his former mode of living; his ambition was otherwise and
higher than in the small satisfactions, very small for him, that money
Days passed without a thought of Caffie, except in connection with
Florentin. But Florentin, and above all, Phillis, reminded him that the
comfort he enjoyed he owed to Caffie's death, and he was troubled
He did not believe that the investigations of the law would reach him
now; everything conspired to confirm him in his scrutiny. That which he
arranged so laboriously had succeeded according to his wish, and the only
imprudence that he had committed, in a moment of aberration, seemed not
to have been observed; no one had noticed his presence in the cafe
opposite Caffie's house, and no one was astonished at his pertinacity in
remaining there at an hour so unusual.
But it was not enough that he was safe; he must prevent Florentin from
being unjustly condemned for a crime of which he was innocent. It was a
great deal that he should be imprisoned, that his sister should be in
despair, and his mother ill from chagrin; but if he should be sent to the
scaffold or to the galleys, it would be too much. In itself the death of
Caffie was a small thing; it became atrocious if it led to such an
He did not wish this to happen, and he would do everything not only to
prevent the condemnation, but to shorten the imprisonment.
It was this sentiment that he obeyed in going to see the judge; but the
manner in which he was received, showing him that the law was not
disposed to let its hypothesis be changed by a simple medical
demonstration, threw him into a state of uneasiness and perplexity.
Without doubt, any one else in his place would have let things take their
course, and since the law had a criminal with which it contented itself,
would have done nothing to release him. While it followed its hypothesis
to prove the criminality of the one it held, it would not look elsewhere;
when it had condemned him, all would be finished; the Caffie affair would
be buried, as Caffie himself was buried; silence and oblivion would give
him security. The crime punished, the conscience of the public
satisfied, it would ask for no more, not even to know if the debt was
paid by the one who really owed it; it was paid, and that was sufficient.
But he was not "any one else," and if he found the death of this old
scamp legitimate, it was on the condition that Florentin did not pay for
it, from whom he had not profited.
Florentin must be released as soon as possible, and it was his duty to
interest himself in his behalf--his imperative duty not only toward
Phillis, but toward himself.
He told Phillis that until Florentin came before the jury, he could do
nothing, or almost nothing. When the time came, he would assert his
authority, and speaking in the name of science, he would prove to the
jury that the story of the button was an invention of the police, who
were pushed to extremes, and would not bear examination; but until then
the poor boy remained at Mazas, and however assured one might be at this
moment of an acquittal, an immediate 'ordonnance de non-lieu' was of more
value, if it could be obtained.
For this the intervention and direction of a doctor were of little use;
it required that of an advocate.
Whom should he have? Phillis would have liked to apply to the most
illustrious, to him who, by his talent, authority, and success, would win
all his cases. But Saniel explained to her that workers of miracles were
probably as difficult to find at the bar as in the medical profession,
and that, if they did exist, they would expect a large fee. To tell the
truth, he would have willingly given the thirty thousand francs in the
'poste restante', or a large part of this sum, to give Florentin his
liberty; but it would be imprudent to take out the bills at this moment,
and he could not declare that he had thirty thousand francs, or even ten
thousand. He decided with Phillis to consult Brigard.
On a Wednesday he went to the parlor in the Rue Vaugirard, where he had
not been since his experiment with Glady. As usual, he was received
affectionately by Crozat, who scolded him for coming so rarely, and as
usual also, in order not to disturb the discussion that was going on, he
remained standing near the door.
This evening the theme of the discourse was a phrase of Chateaubriand's:
"The tiger kills and sleeps; man kills and is sleepless." On listening
to the discussion, Saniel said to himself that it was truly a pity not to
be able to reply to all this rhetoric by a simple fact of personal
experience. He had never slept so well, so tranquilly, as since Caffie's
death, which relieved him from all the cares that in these last months
had tormented and broken his sleep so much.
At the end, Brigard concluded the discussion on saying that nothing
better proved the power of the human conscience than this difference
between man and beast.
When they had all gone but Brigard, and Saniel was alone with him and
Crozat, he stated his desire.
"But is it the Caffie affair?"
And he explained in detail the interest he felt in Florentin, the son of
one of his patients, and also the situation of this patient.
Brigard strongly recommended Nougarede, and described his recent
successes before a jury. Crozat concurred with Brigard, and advised
Saniel to see Nougarede the day after to-morrow.
"In the morning, because after the Palais, Nougarede will be at his
wedding, which, as you know, prevents him from coming here this evening."
"What! Nougarede married?" exclaimed Saniel, surprised that the
favorite disciple gave this lie to the doctrine and examples of his
"My God, yes! We must not be too hard on him.
He submits to the fate of a special environment. Without our knowledge,
Nougarede, we may say it now, and ought to say it, was the happy lover of
a charming young person, the daughter of one of our most distinguished
actresses, who was brought up in a fashionable convent. You see the
situation. The result of this liaison was a child, a delicious little
boy. It seemed quite natural that they should live 'en union libre',
since they loved each other, and not weaken by legalities the strength
of those that attached them to this child. But the mother is an actress,
as I have told you, and wished her daughter to receive all the sacraments
that the law and the church can confer. She managed so well that poor
Nougarede yielded. He goes to the mayor, to the church; he legitimizes
the child, and he even accepts a dot of two hundred thousand francs. I
pity him, the unfortunate man! But I confess that I have the weakness to
not condemn him as he would deserve if he married in any other way."
Saniel was a little surprised at these points of resemblance with the
charming young person that Caffie had proposed to him. At the least, it
was curious; but if it were the same woman, he was not vexed to see that
Nougarede had been less difficult than himself.
On going to see Nougarede, Saniel vaguely fancied the lawyer would tell
him that an acquittal was certain if Florentin passed to the assizes, and
even that an 'ordonnance de non-lieu' was probable. But his hope was not
"The adventure of the button for you or me would not have the same
gravity as for this boy; we have no antecedents on which presumptions
might be established, but he has. The forty-five francs which constitute
an embezzlement for a salaried man will be, certainly, a starting-point
for the accusation; one commences by a weakness and finishes by a crime.
Do you not hear the advocate-general? He will begin by presenting the
portrait of the honest, laborious, exact, scrupulous clerk, content with
a little, and getting satisfaction from his duties accomplished; then, in
opposition, he will pass to the clerk of to-day, as irregular in his work
as in his conduct, full of desires, in a hurry to enjoy, discontented
with everything and everybody, with others as with himself. And he will
go on to speak of the embezzlement of the forty-five francs as the
beginning of the crimes that led to the assassination. You may be sure
if the affair goes to the assizes that you will hear these words and
more, and I assure you that it will be difficult for us to destroy the
impression that he will produce on the jury. But I hope we shall
He had to give up the idea of obtaining the 'ordonnance de non-lieu',
and to tell himself that the 'affaire' would come before the assizes;
but it does not follow that one is condemned for what one is accused of,
and Saniel persisted in believing that Florentin would not be.
Assuredly, the prison was hard for the poor boy, and the trial before the
jury, with all the ignominy that necessarily accompanies it, would be
harder yet. But, after all, it would all disappear in the joy of
acquittal; when that time came, there would be found, surely, some
ingenious idea, sympathy, effective support, to pay him for all that he
would have suffered. Certainly, things would come to pass thus, and the
acquittal would be carried with a high hand.
He said this to himself again and again, and from the day when he put the
affair in Nougarede's hands, he often went to see him, to hear him repeat
"He cannot be condemned; can he?"
"One may always be condemned, even when one is innocent; as one may die
at any time, you know that, even with excellent health."
In one of these visits he met Madame Nougarede, who had then been several
days married, and on recognizing in her the young virgin with a child, of
whom Caffie showed him the portrait, he was strengthened in his idea that
conscience, such as it was understood, was decidedly a strange weighing-
machine, which might be made to say whatever one chose. Of what good
were these hypocrisies, and whom did they deceive?
Although he had told Phillis repeatedly that an acquittal was certain,
and that he had promised her he would do all he could for Florentin--
which he really did--she did not give entirely into his hands, or into
Nougarede's, the task of defending her brother, but worked with them in
Nougarede believed that the delay in bringing the affair before the
assizes was caused by the attempts to learn if, during his residence in
America, Florentin had not worked in some large meat-shop or sheepfold,
where he would have learned to use a butcher knife, which was the chief
point for the accusation. Phillis wrote to the various towns where
Florentin had lived, and to tell the truth, he had worked at La Plata for
six months as accountant in a large sheepfold, but never slaughtered the
When she received a letter, she carried it immediately to Saniel, and
then to Nougarede; and, at the same time, on all sides, in Paris, among
those who had held relations with her brother, she sought for testimony
that should prove to the jury that he could not be the man that his
accusers believed him. It was thus that, all alone, without other means
of action than those which she found in her sisterly tenderness and
bravery, she organized an investigation parallel to that of the law,
which, on the day of judgment, would carry a certain weight, it seemed,
with the conviction of the jury, showing them what had been the true life
of this irregular and debauched man, capable of anything to glut his
appetite and satisfy his desires.
Each time that she obtained a favorable deposition, she ran to Saniel to
tell him, and then together they repeated that a conviction was
"You are sure, are you not?"
"Have I not always told you so?"
He had also said that Florentin could not be arrested, basing the
accusation on the torn button, and he had said that certainly an
'ordonnance de non-lieu' would be given by the judge; but they wished
to remember neither the one nor the other.
Things had reached this state, when one Saturday evening Phillis arrived
at Saniel's, radiant.
As soon as the door opened she exclaimed:
"He is saved!"
"An ordonnance de non-lieu?"
"No; but now it is of little importance. We can go to the assizes."
She breathed a sigh which showed how great were her fears, in spite of
the confidence she expressed when she repeated that conviction was
He left his desk, and going toward her, took her in his arms, and made
her sit down beside him on the divan.
"You will see that I do not let myself be carried away by an illusion,
and that, as I tell you, he is saved, really saved. You know that an
illustrated paper has published his portrait?"
"I do not read illustrated papers."
"You could have seen them at the kiosks where they are displayed.
It is there that I saw them yesterday morning when I went out, and I was
petrified, red with shame, distracted, not knowing where to hide myself.
'Florentin Cormier, the assassin of the Rue Sainte-Anne.' Is it not
infamous that an innocent person should be thus dishonored? This was
what I said to myself. Where did the paper get the photograph? They
came to ask us for one, but you can imagine how I treated them, not
knowing how anything good for us would result from such a disgrace."
"And what is the result?"
"The proof that it is not Florentin who was with Caffie at the moment
when the assassination took place. All day yesterday and all this
morning I was filled with the feeling of disgrace that followed me, when
at three o'clock I received this little note from the concierge of the
She took from her pocket a piece of paper folded in the form of a letter,
which she handed to Saniel.
"MADEMOISELLE: If you will pass through the Rue Sainte-Anne, I have
something to tell you that will give you a great deal of pleasure, I
"I am your servant,
"WIDOW ANAIS BOUCHU."
"You know the lame old concierge has never been willing to admit that my
brother could be guilty. Florentin was polite and kind to her during his
stay with Caffie, and she is grateful. Very often she has said to me
that she is certain the guilty one would be found, and that when it was
announced I must tell her. Instead of my telling her the good news, she
has written to me. You may be sure I hurried to the Rue Sainte-Anne,
expecting to hear something favorable, but we have a proof. When I
arrived, the old woman took both of my hands, and told me that she would
conduct me immediately to a lady who saw Caffie's assassin."
"Saw him!" exclaimed Saniel, struck by a blow that shook him from head
"She saw him perfectly, as I tell you. She added that this lady was the
proprietor of the house, and that she lived in the second wing of the
building, on the second story on the court, just opposite to Caffie's
office. This lady, who is called Madame Dammauville, widow of a lawyer,
is afflicted with paralysis, and I believe has not left her room for a
year. The concierge explained this to me while crossing the court and
mounting the stairs, but would say no more."
If Phillis had been able to observe Saniel, she would have seen him pale
to such a degree that his lips were as white as his cheeks; but she was
completely absorbed in what she was saying.
"A servant conducted us to Madame Dammauville, whom I found in a small
bed near a window, and the concierge told her who I was. She received me
kindly, and after having made me sit down in front of her, she told me
that hearing from her concierge that I was exerting myself in my
brother's behalf, she had something to tell me which would demonstrate
that Caffie's assassin was not the man whom the law had arrested and
detained. The evening of the assassination she was in this same room,
lying on this same bed, before this same window, and after having read
all day, she reflected and dreamed about her book, while listlessly
watching the coming of twilight in the court, that already obscured
everything in its shadow. Mechanically she had fixed her eyes on the
window of Caffie's office opposite. Suddenly she saw a tall man, whom
she took for an upholsterer, approach the window, and try to draw the
curtains. Then Caffie rose, and taking the lamp, he came forward in such
a way that the light fell full on the face of this upholsterer. You
understand, do you not?"
"Yes," murmured Saniel.
"She saw him then plainly enough to remember him, and not to confound him
with another. Tall, with long hair, a curled blond beard, and dressed
like a gentleman, not like a poor man. The curtains were drawn. It was
fifteen or twenty minutes after five. And it was at this same moment
that Caffie was butchered by this false upholsterer, who evidently had
only drawn the curtains so that he might kill Caffie in security, and not
imagining that some one should see him doing a deed that denounced him as
the assassin as surely as if he had been surprised with the knife in his
hand. On reading the description of Florentin in the newspapers when he
was arrested, Madame Dammauville believed the criminal was found--a tall
man, with long hair and curled beard. There are some points of
resemblance, but in the portrait published in the illustrated paper that
she received, she did not recognize the man who drew the curtains, and
she is certain that the judge is deceived. You see that Florentin is
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As he did not reply to this cry of triumph, she looked at him in
surprise. saw his face, pale, agitated, under the shock evidently of a
violent emotion that she could not explain to herself.
"What is the matter?" she asked, with uneasiness.
"Nothing," he answered, almost brutally.
"You do not wish to weaken my hope?" she said, not imagining that he
could not think of this hope and of Florentin. This was a path to lead
him out of his confusion. In following it he would have time to recover
"It is true," he said.
"You do not think that what Madame Dammauville saw proves Florentin's
"Would what may be a proof for Madame Dammauville, for you, and for me,
be one in the eyes of the law?"
"I saw you so joyful that I did not dare to interrupt you."
"Then you believe that this testimony is without value," she murmured,
"I do not say that. We must reflect, weigh the pro and con, compass the
situation from divers points of view; that is what I try to do, which is
the cause of my preoccupation that astonishes you."
"Say that it crushes me; I let myself be carried away."
"You need not be crushed or carried away. Certainly, what this lady told
you forms a considerable piece of work."
"Does it not?"
"Without any doubt. But in order that the testimony she gives may be of
great consequence, the witness must be worthy of trust."
"Do you believe this lady could have invented such a story?"
"I do not say that; but before all, it is necessary to know who she is."
"The widow of an attorney."
"The widow of an attorney and landowner. Evidently this constitutes a
social status that merits consideration from the law; but the moral
state, what is it? You say that she is paralyzed?"
"She has been so a little more than a year."
"Of what paralysis? That is a vague word for us others. There are
paralyses that affect the sight; others that affect the mind. Is it one