Part 11 out of 11
should consider ourselves fortunate. He has kept fifty thousand
francs, but that is all the better for you. This sum will enable him
to leave France, and we shall never see him again."
Like everyone else, M. Fauvel yielded to the ascendancy of M.
Gradually he had awakened to the true state of affairs; prospective
happiness no longer seemed impossible, and he felt that he was
indebted to the man before him for more than life. But for M.
Verduret, where would have been his honor and domestic peace?
With earnest gratitude he seized M. Verduret's hand as if to carry it
to his lips, and said, in broken tones:
"Oh, monsieur! how can I ever find words to express how deeply I
appreciate your kindness? How can I ever repay the great service you
have rendered me?"
M. Verduret reflected a moment, and then said:
"If you feel under any significant obligations to me, monsieur, you
have it in your power to return them. I have a favor to ask of you."
"A favor? you ask of me? Speak, monsieur, you have but to name it. My
fortune and life are at your disposal."
"I will not hesitate, then, to explain myself. I am Prosper's friend,
and deeply interested in his future. You can exonerate him from this
infamous charge of robbery; you can restore him to his honorable
position. You can do more than this, monsieur. He loves Mlle.
"Madeleine shall be his wife, monsieur," interrupted the banker: "I
give you my word of honor. And I will so publicly exonerate him, that
not a shadow of suspicion will rest upon his name. I will place him in
a position which will prevent slander from reproaching him with the
painful remembrance of my fatal error."
The fat man quietly took up his hat and cane, as if he had been paying
an ordinary morning call, and turned to leave the room, after saying,
"Good-morning." But, seeing the weeping woman raise her clasped hands
appealingly toward him, he said hesitatingly:
"Monsieur, excuse my intruding any advice; but Mme. Fauvel--"
"Andre!" murmured the wretched wife, "Andre!"
The banker hesitated a moment; then, following the impulse of his
heart, ran to his wife, and, clasping her in his arms, said tenderly:
"No, I will not be foolish enough to struggle against my deep-rooted
love. I do not pardon, Valentine: I forget; I forget all!"
M. Verduret had nothing more to do at Vesinet.
Without taking leave of the banker, he quietly left the room, and,
jumping into his cab, ordered the driver to return to Paris, and drive
to the Hotel du Louvre as rapidly as possible.
His mind was filled with anxiety about Clameran. He knew that Raoul
would give him no more trouble; the young rogue was probably taking
his passage for some foreign land at that very moment. But Clameran
should not escape unpunished; and how this punishment could be brought
about without compromising Mme. Fauvel, was the problem to be solved.
M. Verduret thought over the various cases similar to this, but not
one of his former expedients could be applied to the present
circumstances. He could not deliver the villain over to justice
without involving Mme. Fauvel.
After long thought, he decided that an accusation of poisoning must
come from Oloron. He would go there and work upon "public opinion," so
that, to satisfy the townspeople, the authorities would order a post-
mortem examination of Gaston. But this mode of proceeding required
time; and Clameran would certainly escape before another day passed
over his head. He was too experienced a knave to remain on slippery
ground, now that his eyes were open to the danger which menaced him.
It was almost dark when the carriage stopped in front of the Hotel du
Louvre; M. Verduret noticed a crowd of people collected together in
groups, eagerly discussing some exciting event which seemed to have
just taken place. Although the policeman attempted to disperse the
crowd by authoritatively ordering them to "Move on! Move on!" they
would merely separate in one spot to join a more clamorous group a few
"What has happened?" demanded M. Verduret of a lounger near by.
"The strangest thing you ever heard of," replied the man; "yes, I saw
him with my own eyes. He first appeared at that seventh-story window;
he was only half-dressed. Some men tried to seize him; but, bast! with
the agility of a squirrel, he jumped out upon the roof, shrieking,
'Murder! murder!' The recklessness of his conduct led me to suppose--"
The gossip stopped short in his narrative, very much surprised and
vexed; his questioner had vanished.
"If it should be Clameran!" thought M. Verduret; "if terror has
deranged that brain, so capable of working out great crimes! Fate must
While thus talking to himself, he elbowed his way through the crowded
court-yard of the hotel.
At the foot of the staircase he found M. Fanferlot and three peculiar-
looking individuals standing together, as if waiting for someone.
"Well," cried M. Verduret, "what is the matter?"
With laudable emulation, the four men rushed forward to report to
their superior officer.
"Patron," they all began at once.
"Silence!" said the fat man with an oath; "one at a time. Quick! what
is the matter?"
"The matter is this, patron," said Fanferlot dejectedly. "I am doomed
to ill luck. You see how it is; this is the only chance I ever had of
working out a beautiful case, and, paf! my criminal must go and
fizzle! A regular case of bankruptcy!"
"Then it is Clameran who--"
"Of course it is. When the rascal saw me this morning, he scampered
off like a hare. You should have seen him run; I thought he would
never stop this side of Ivry: but not at all. On reaching the
Boulevard des Ecoles, a sudden idea seemed to strike him, and he made
a bee-line for his hotel; I suppose, to get his pile of money.
Directly he gets here, what does he see? these three friends of mine.
The sight of these gentlemen had the effect of a sunstroke upon him;
he went raving mad on the spot. The idea of serving me such a low
trick at the very moment I was sure of success!"
"Where is he now?"
"At the prefecture, I suppose. Some policemen handcuffed him, and
drove off with him in a cab."
"Come with me."
M. Verduret and Fanferlot found Clameran in one of the private cells
reserved for dangerous prisoners.
He had on a strait-jacket, and was struggling violently against three
men, who were striving to hold him, while a physician tried to force
him to swallow a potion.
"Help!" he shrieked; "help, for God's sake! Do you not see my brother
coming after me? Look! he wants to poison me!"
M. Verduret took the physician aside, and questioned him about the
"The wretched man is in a hopeless state," replied the doctor; "this
species of insanity is incurable. He thinks someone is trying to
poison him, and nothing will persuade him to eat or drink anything;
and, as it is impossible to force anything down his throat, he will
die of starvation, after having suffered all the tortures of poison."
M. Verduret, with a shudder, turned to leave the prefecture, saying to
"Mme. Fauvel is saved, and by the interposition of God, who has
himself punished Clameran!"
"That don't help me in the least," grumbled Fanferlot. "The idea of
all my trouble and labor ending in this flat, quiet way! I seem to be
born for ill-luck!"
"Don't take your blighted hopes of glory so much to heart," replied M.
Verduret. "It is a melancholy fact for you that /File No. 113/ will
never leave the record-office; but you must bear your disappointment
gracefully and heroically. I will console you by sending you as bearer
of despatches to a friend of mine, and what you have lost in fame will
be gained in gold."
Four days had passed since the events just narrated, when one morning
M. Lecoq--the official Lecoq, who resembled the dignified head of a
bureau--was walking up and down his private office, at each turn
nervously looking at the clock, which slowly ticked on the mantel, as
if it had no intention of striking any sooner than usual, to gratify
the man so anxiously watching its placid face.
At last, however, the clock did strike; and just then the faithful
Janouille opened the door, and ushered in Mme. Nina and Prosper
"Ah," said M. Lecoq, "you are punctual; lovers are generally so."
"We are not lovers, monsieur," replied Mme. Gypsy. "M. Verduret gave
us express orders to meet here in your office this morning, and we
"Very good," said the celebrated detective: "then be kind enough to
wait a few minutes; I will tell him you are here."
During the quarter of an hour that Nina and Prosper remained alone
together, they did not exchange a word. Finally a door opened, and M.
Nina and Prosper eagerly started toward him; but he checked them by
one of those peculiar looks which no one ever dared resist.
"You have come," he said severely, "to hear the secret of my conduct.
I have promised, and will keep my word, however painful it may be to
my feelings. Listen, then. My best friend is a loyal, honest man,
named Caldas. Eighteen months ago this friend was the happiest of men.
Infatuated by a woman, he lived for her alone, and, fool that he was,
imagined that she felt the same love for him."
"She did!" cried Gypsy, "yes, she always loved him."
"She showed her love in a peculiar way. She loved him so much, that
one fine day she left him, and ran off with another man. In his first
moments of despair, Caldas wished to kill himself. Then he reflected
that it would be wiser to live, and avenge himself."
"And then," faltered Prosper.
"Then Caldas avenged himself in his own way. He made the woman who
deserted him recognize his immense superiority over his rival. Weak,
timid, and helpless, the rival was disgraced, and falling over the
verge of a precipice, when the powerful hand of Caldas reached forth
and saved him. You understand all now, do you not? The woman is Nina;
the rival is yourself; and Caldas is--"
With a quick, dexterous movement, he threw off his wig and whiskers,
and stood before them the real, intelligent, proud Lecoq.
"Caldas!" cried Nina.
"No, not Caldas, not Verduret any longer: but Lecoq, the detective!"
M. Lecoq broke the stupefied silence of his listeners by saying to
"It is not to me alone that you owe your salvation. A noble girl
confided to me the difficult task of clearing your reputation. I
promised her that M. Fauvel should never know the shameful secrets
concerning his domestic happiness. Your letter thwarted all my plans,
and made it impossible for me to keep my promise. I have nothing more
He turned to leave the room, but Nina barred his exit.
"Caldas," she murmured, "I implore you to have pity on me! I am /so/
miserable! Ah, if you only knew! Be forgiving to one who has always
loved you, Caldas! Listen."
Prosper departed from M. Lecoq's office alone.
On the 15th of last month, was celebrated, at the church of Notre Dame
de Lorette, the marriage of M. Prosper Bertomy and Mlle. Madeleine
The banking-house is still on the Rue de Provence; but as M. Fauvel
has decided to retire from business, and live in the country, the name
of the firm has been changed, and is now--
"Prosper Bertomy & Co."