Part 2 out of 11
she had laid there, then continued:
"What! M. Bertomy at the most trying moment, when he is about to be
arrested, stops to point out your line of conduct; and you would
render vain this wise precaution! What does he say to you? Let us read
over this note, which is like the testament of his liberty. He says,
'If you love me, I entreat you, obey.' And you hesitate to obey. Then
you do not love him. Can you not understand, unhappy child, that M.
Bertomy has his reasons, terrible, imperious reasons, for your
remaining in obscurity for the present?"
Fanferlot understood these reasons the moment he put his foot in the
sumptuous apartment of the Rue Chaptal; and, if he did not expose them
now, it was because he kept them as a good general keeps his reserve,
for the purpose of deciding the victory.
Mme. Gypsy was intelligent enough to divine these reasons.
"Reasons for my hiding! Prosper wishes, then, to keep everyone in
ignorance of our intimacy."
She remained thoughtful for a moment; then a ray of light seemed to
cross her mind, and she cried:
"Oh, I understand now! Fool that I was for not seeing it before! My
presence here, where I have been for a year, would be an overwhelming
charge against him. An inventory of my possessions would be taken--of
my dresses, my laces, my jewels--and my luxury would be brought
against him as a crime. He would be asked to tell where he obtained so
much money to lavish all these elegancies on me."
The detective bowed, and said:
"That is true, madame."
"Then I must fly, monsieur, at once. Who knows that the police are not
already warned, and may appear at any moment?"
"Oh," said Fanferlot with easy assurance, "you have plenty of time;
the police are not so very prompt."
And, leaving the detective alone in the parlor, Mme. Nina hastily ran
into her bedroom, and calling her maid, her cook, and her little
footman, ordered them to empty her bureau and chests of their
contents, and assisted them to stuff her best clothing and jewels into
Suddenly she rushed back to Fanferlot and said:
"Everything will be ready to start in a few minutes, but where am I to
"Did not M. Bertomy say, my dear lady, to the other end of Paris? To a
hotel, or furnished apartments."
"But I don't know where to find any."
Fanferlot seemed to be reflecting; but he had great difficulty in
concealing his delight at a sudden idea that flashed upon him; his
little black eyes fairly danced with joy.
"I know of a hotel," he said at last, "but it might not suit you. It
is not elegantly furnished like this room."
"Would I be comfortable there?"
"Upon my recommendation you would be treated like a queen, and, above
"Where is it?"
"On the other side of the river, Quai Saint Michel, the Archangel,
kept by Mme. Alexandre."
Mme. Nina was never long making up her mind.
"Here are pen and paper; write your recommendation."
He rapidly wrote, and handed her the letter.
"With these three lines, madame, you can make Mme. Alexandre do
anything you wish."
"Very good. Now, how am I to let Cavaillon know my address? It was he
who should have brought me Prosper's letter."
"He was unable to come, madame," interrupted the detective, "but I
will give him your address."
Mme. Gypsy was about to send for a carriage, but Fanferlot said he was
in a hurry, and would send her one. He seemed to be in luck that day;
for a cab was passing the door, and he hailed it.
"Wait here," he said to the driver, after telling him that he was a
detective, "for a little brunette who is coming down with some trunks.
If she tells you to drive her to Quai Saint Michel, crack your whip;
if she gives you any other address, get down from your seat, and
arrange your harness. I will keep in sight."
He stepped across the street, and stood in the door of a wine-store.
He had not long to wait. In a few minutes the loud cracking of a whip
apprised him that Mme. Nina had started for the Archangel.
"Aha," said he, gayly, "I told /her/, at any rate."
At the same hour that Mme. Nina Gypsy was seeking refuge at the
Archangel, so highly recommended by Fanferlot the Squirrel, Prosper
Bertomy was being entered on the jailer's book at the police office.
Since the moment when he had resumed his habitual composure, he had
Vainly did the people around him watch for a suspicious expression, or
any sign of giving way under the danger of his situation.
His face was like marble.
One would have supposed him insensible to the horrors of his
condition, had not his heavy breathing, and the beads of perspiration
standing on his brow, betrayed the intense agony he was suffering.
At the police office, where he had to wait two hours while the
commissary went to receive orders from higher authorities, he entered
into conversation with the two bailiffs who had charge of him.
At twelve o'clock he said he was hungry, and sent to a restaurant near
by for his breakfast, which he ate with a good appetite; he also drank
nearly a bottle of wine.
While he was thus occupied, several clerks from the prefecture, who
have to transact business daily with the commissary of police,
curiously watched him. They all formed the same opinion, and
admiringly said to each other:
"Well, he is made of strong material, he is!"
"Yes, my dandy looks too lamb-like to be left to his own devices. He
ought to have a strong escort."
When he was told that a coach was waiting for him at the door, he at
once got up; but, before going out, he requested permission to light a
cigar, which was granted.
A flower-girl stood just by the door, with her stand filled with all
varieties of flowers. He stopped and bought a bunch of violets. The
girl, seeing that he was arrested, said, by way of thanks:
"Good luck to you, my poor gentleman!"
He appeared touched by this mark of interest, and replied:
"Thanks, my good woman, but 'tis a long time since I have had any."
It was magnificent weather, a bright spring morning. As the coach went
along Rue Montmartre, Prosper kept his head out of the window, at the
same time smilingly complaining at being imprisoned on such a lovely
day, when everything outside was so sunny and pleasant.
"It is singular," he said, "I never felt so great a desire to take a
One of the bailiffs, a large, jovial, red-faced man, received this
remark with a hearty burst of laughter, and said:
To the court clerk, while he was going through the formalities of the
commitment, Prosper replied with haughty brevity to the indispensable
questions asked him.
But when he was ordered to empty his pockets on the table, and they
began to search him, his eyes flashed with indignation, and a single
tear dropped upon his flushed cheek. In an instant he had recovered
his stony calmness, and stood up motionless, with his arms raised in
the air so that the rough creatures about him could more conveniently
ransack him from head to foot, to assure themselves that he had no
suspicious object hid under his clothes.
The search would have, perhaps, been carried to the most ignominious
lengths, but for the intervention of a middle-aged man of rather
distinguished appearance, who wore a white cravat and gold spectacles,
and was sitting quite at home by the fire.
He started with surprise, and seemed much agitated, when he saw
Prosper brought in by the bailiffs; he stepped forward, and seemed
about to speak to him, then suddenly changed his mind, and sat down
In spite of his own troubles, Prosper could not help seeing that this
man kept his eyes fastened upon him. Did he know him? Vainly did he
try to recollect having met him before.
This man, treated with all the deference due to a chief, was no less a
personage than M. Lecoq, a celebrated member of the detective corps.
When the men who were searching Prosper were about to take off his
boots, saying that a knife might be concealed in them. M. Lecoq waved
them aside with an air of authority, and said:
"You have done enough."
He was obeyed. All the formalities being ended, the unfortunate
cashier was taken to a narrow cell; the heavily barred door was swung
to and locked upon him; he breathed freely; at last he was alone.
Yes, he believed himself to be alone. He was ignorant that a prison is
made of glass, that the accused is like a miserable insect under the
microscope of an entomologist. He knew not that the walls have
stretched ears and watchful eyes.
He was so sure of being alone that he at once gave vent to his
suppressed feelings, and, dropping his mask of impassibility, burst
into a flood of tears. His long-restrained anger now flashed out like
a smouldering fire.
In a paroxysm of rage he uttered imprecations and curses. He dashed
himself against the prison-walls like a wild beast in a cage.
Prosper Bertomy was not the man he appeared to be.
This haughty, correct gentleman had ardent passions and a fiery
One day, when he was about twenty-four years of age, he had become
suddenly fired by ambition. While all of his desires were repressed,
imprisoned in his low estate, like an athlete in a strait-jacket,
seeing around him all these rich people with whom money assumed the
place of the wand in the fairy-tale, he envied their lot.
He studied the beginnings of these financial princes, and found that
at the starting-point they possessed far less than himself.
How, then, had they succeeded? By force of energy, industry, and
He determined to imitate and excel them.
From this day, with a force of will much less rare than we think, he
imposed silence upon his instincts. He reformed not his morals, but
his manners; and so strictly did he conform to the rules of decorum,
that he was regarded as a model of propriety by those who knew him,
and had faith in his character; and his capabilities and ambition
inspired the prophecy that he would be successful in attaining
eminence and wealth.
And the end of all was this: imprisoned for robbery; that is, ruined!
For he did not attempt to deceive himself. He knew that, guilty or
innocent, a man once suspected is as ineffaceably branded as the
shoulder of a galley-slave.
Therefore what was the use of struggling? What benefit was a triumph
which could not wash out the stain?
When the jailer brought him his supper, he found him lying on his
pallet, with his face buried in the pillow, weeping bitterly.
Ah, he was not hungry now! Now that he was alone, he fed upon his own
bitter thoughts. He sank from a state of frenzy into one of stupefying
despair, and vainly did he endeavor to clear his confused mind, and
account for the dark cloud gathering about him; no loop-hole for
escape did he discover.
The night was long and terrible, and for the first time he had nothing
to count the hours by, as they slowly dragged on, but the measured
tread of the patrol who came to relieve the sentinels. He was
At dawn he dropped into a sleep, a heavy, oppressive sleep, which was
more wearisome than refreshing; from which he was startled by the
rough voice of the jailer.
"Come, monsieur," he said, "it is time for you to appear before the
judge of instruction."
He jumped up at once, and, without stopping to repair his disordered
"Come on, quick!"
The constable remarked, as they walked along:
"You are very fortunate in having your case brought before an honest
He was right.
Endowed with remarkable penetration, firm, unbiased, equally free from
false pity and excessive severity, M. Patrigent possessed in an
eminent degree all the qualities necessary for the delicate and
difficult office of judge of instruction.
Perhaps he was wanting in the feverish activity which is sometimes
necessary for coming to a quick and just decision; but he possessed
unwearying patience, which nothing could discourage. He would
cheerfully devote years to the examination of a case; he was even now
engaged on a case of Belgian bank-notes, of which he did not collect
all the threads, and solve the mystery, until after four years'
Thus it was always to his office that they brought the endless
lawsuits, half-finished inquests, and tangled cases.
This was the man before whom they were taking Prosper; and they were
taking him by a difficult road.
He was escorted along a corridor, through a room full of policemen,
down a narrow flight of steps, across a kind of cellar, and then up a
steep staircase which seemed to have no terminus.
Finally he reached a long narrow galley, upon which opened many doors,
bearing different numbers.
The custodian of the unhappy cashier stopped before one of these
doors, and said:
"Here we are; here your fate will be decided."
At this remark, uttered in a tone of deep commiseration, Prosper could
not refrain from shuddering.
It was only too true, that on the other side of this door was a man
upon whose decision his freedom depended.
Summoning all his courage, he turned the door-knob, and was about to
enter when the constable stopped him.
"Don't be in such haste," he said; "you must sit down here, and wait
till your turn comes; then you will be called."
The wretched man obeyed, and his keeper took a seat beside him.
Nothing is more terrible and lugubrious than this gallery of the
judges of instruction.
Stretching the whole length of the wall is a wooden bench blackened by
constant use. This bench has for the last ten years been daily
occupied by all the murderers, thieves, and suspicious characters of
the Department of the Seine.
Sooner or later, fatally, as filth rushes to a sewer, does crime reach
this gallery, this dreadful gallery with one door opening on the
galleys, the other on the scaffold. This place was vulgarly and
pithily denominated by a certain magistrate as the great public wash-
house of all the dirty linen in Paris.
When Prosper reached the gallery it was full of people. The bench was
almost entirely occupied. Beside him, so close as to touch his
shoulder, sat a man with a sinister countenance, dressed in rags.
Before each door, which belonged to a judge of instruction, stood
groups of witnesses talking in an undertone.
Policemen were constantly coming and going with prisoners. Sometimes,
above the noise of their heavy boots, tramping along the flagstones,
could be heard a woman's stifled sobs, and looking around you would
see some poor mother or wife with her face buried in her handkerchief,
At short intervals a door would open and shut, and a bailiff call out
a name or number.
This stifling atmosphere, and the sight of so much misery, made the
cashier ill and faint; he was feeling as if another five minutes' stay
among these wretched creatures would make him deathly sick, when a
little old man dressed in black, wearing the insignia of his office, a
steel chain, cried out:
The unhappy man arose, and, without knowing how, found himself in the
office of the judge of instruction.
For a moment he was blinded. He had come out of a dark room; and the
one in which he now found himself had a window directly opposite the
door, so that a flood of light fell suddenly upon him.
This office, like all those on the gallery, was of a very ordinary
appearance, small and dingy.
The wall was covered with cheap dark green paper, and on the floor was
a hideous brown carpet, very much worn.
Opposite the door was a large desk, filled with bundles of law-papers,
behind which was seated the judge, facing those who entered, so that
his face remained in the shade, while that of the prisoner or witness
whom he questioned was in a glare of light.
At the right, before a little table, sat a clerk writing, the
indispensable auxiliary of the judge.
But Prosper observed none of these details: his whole attention was
concentrated upon the arbiter of his fate, and as he closely examined
his face he was convinced that the jailer was right in calling him an
M. Patrigent's homely face, with its irregular outline and short red
whiskers, lit up by a pair of bright, intelligent eyes, and a kindly
expression, was calculated to impress one favorably at first sight.
"Take a seat," he said to Prosper.
This little attention was gratefully welcomed by the prisoner, for he
had expected to be treated with harsh contempt. He looked upon it as a
good sign, and his mind felt a slight relief.
M. Patrigent turned toward the clerk, and said:
"We will begin now, Sigault; pay attention."
"What is your name?" he then asked, looking at Prosper.
"Auguste Prosper Bertomy."
"How old are you?"
"I shall be thirty the 5th of next May."
"What is your profession?"
"I am--that is, I was--cashier in M. Andre Fauvel's bank."
The judge stopped to consult a little memorandum lying on his desk.
Prosper, who followed attentively his every movement, began to be
hopeful, saying to himself that never would a man so unprejudiced have
the cruelty to send him to prison again.
After finding what he looked for, M. Patrigent resumed the
"Where do you live?"
"At No. 39, Rue Chaptal, for the last four years. Before that time I
lived at No. 7, Boulevard des Batignolles."
"Where were you born?"
"At Beaucaire in the Department of the Gard."
"Are your parents living?"
"My mother died two years ago; my father is still living."
"Does he live in Paris?"
"No, monsieur: he lives at Beaucaire with my sister, who married one
of the engineers of the Southern Canal."
It was in broken tones that Prosper answered these last questions.
There are moments in the life of a man when home memories encourage
and console him; there are also moments when he would be thankful to
be without a single tie, and bitterly regrets that he is not alone in
M. Patrigent observed the prisoner's emotion, when he spoke of his
"What is your father's calling?" he continued.
"He was formerly superintendent of the bridges and canals; then he was
employed on the Southern Canal, with my brother-in-law; now he has
retired from business."
There was a moment's silence. The judge had turned his chair around,
so that, although his head was apparently averted, he had a good view
of the workings of Prosper's face.
"Well," he said, abruptly, "you are accused of having robbed M. Fauvel
of three hundred and fifty thousand francs."
During the last twenty-four hours the wretched young man had had time
to familiarize himself with the terrible idea of this accusation; and
yet, uttered as it was in this formal, brief tone, it seemed to strike
him with a horror which rendered him incapable of opening his lips.
"What have you to answer?" asked the judge.
"That I am innocent, monsieur; I swear that I am innocent!"
"I hope you are," said M. Patrigent, "and you may count upon me to
assist you to the extent of my ability in proving your innocence. You
must have defence, some facts to state; have you not?"
"Ah, monsieur, what can I say, when I cannot understand this dreadful
business myself? I can only refer you to my past life."
The judge interrupted him:
"Let us be specific; the robbery was committed under circumstances
that prevent suspicion from falling upon anyone but M. Fauvel and
yourself. Do you suspect anyone else?"
"You declare yourself to be innocent, therefore the guilty party must
be M. Fauvel."
Prosper remained silent.
"Have you," persisted the judge, "any cause for believing that M.
Fauvel robbed himself?"
The prisoner preserved a rigid silence.
"I see, monsieur," said the judge, "that you need time for reflection.
Listen to the reading of your examination, and after signing it you
will return to prison."
The unhappy man was overcome. The last ray of hope was gone. He heard
nothing of what Sigault read, and he signed the paper without looking
He tottered as he left the judge's office, so that the keeper was
forced to support him.
"I fear your case looks dark, monsieur," said the man, "but don't be
disheartened; keep up your courage."
Courage! Prosper had not a spark of it when he returned to his cell;
but his heart was filled with anger and resentment.
He had determined that he would defend himself before the judge, that
he would prove his innocence; and he had not had time to do so. He
reproached himself bitterly for having trusted to the judge's
"What a farce," he angrily exclaimed, "to call that an examination!"
It was not really an examination, but a mere formality.
In summoning Prosper, M. Patrigent obeyed Article 93 of the Criminal
Code, which says, "Every suspected person under arrest must be
examined within twenty-four hours."
But it is not in twenty-four hours, especially in a case like this,
with no evidence or material proof, that a judge can collect the
materials for an examination.
To triumph over the obstinate defence of a prisoner who shuts himself
up in absolute denial as if in a fortress, valid proofs are needed.
These weapons M. Patrigent was busily preparing. If Prosper had
remained a little longer in the gallery, he would have seen the same
bailiff who had called him come out to the judge's office, and cry
The witness, who was awaiting his turn, and answered the call for
number three, was M. Fauvel.
The banker was no longer the same man. Yesterday he was kind and
affable in his manner: now, as he entered the judge's room, he seemed
irritated. Reflection, which usually brings calmness and a desire to
pardon, brought him anger and a thirst for vengeance.
The inevitable questions which commence every examination had scarcely
been addressed to him before his impetuous temper gained the mastery,
and he burst forth in invectives against Prosper.
M. Patrigent was obliged to impose silence upon him, reminding him of
what was due to himself, no matter what wrongs he had suffered at the
hands of his clerk.
Although he had very slightly examined Prosper, the judge was now
scrupulously attentive and particular in having every question
answered. Prosper's examination had been a mere formality, the stating
and proving a fact. Now it related to collecting the attendant
circumstances and the most trifling particulars, so as to group them
together, and reach a just conclusion.
"Let us proceed in order," said the judge, "and pray confine yourself
to answering my questions. Did you ever suspect your cashier of being
"Certainly not. Yet there were reasons which should have made me
hesitate to trust him with my funds."
"M. Bertomy played cards. I have known of his spending whole nights at
the gaming table, and losing immense sums of money. He was intimate
with an unprincipled set. Once he was mixed up with one of my clients,
M. de Clameran, in a scandalous gambling affair which took place at
the house of some disreputable woman, and wound up by being tried
before the police court."
For some minutes the banker continued to revile Prosper.
"You must confess, monsieur," interrupted the judge, "that you were
very imprudent, if not culpable, to have intrusted your safe to such a
"Ah, monsieur, Prosper was not always thus. Until the past year he was
a model of goodness. He lived in my house as one of my family; he
spent all of his evenings with us, and was the bosom friend of my
eldest son Lucien. One day, he suddenly left us, and never came to the
house again. Yet I had every reason to believe him attached to my
M. Patrigent had a peculiar manner of contracting his brows when he
thought he had discovered some new proof. He now did this, and said:
"Might not this admiration for the young lady have been the cause of
M. Bertomy's estrangement?"
"How so?" said the banker with surprise. "I was willing to bestow
Madeleine upon him, and, to be frank, was astonished that he did not
ask for her hand. My niece would be a good match for any man, and he
should have considered himself fortunate to obtain her. She is
beautiful, and her dowry will be half a million."
"Then you can see no motive for your cashier's conduct?"
"It is impossible for me to account for it. I have, however, always
supposed that Prosper was led astray by a young man whom he met at my
house about this time, M. Raoul de Lagors."
"Ah! and who is this young man?"
"A relative of my wife; a very attractive, intelligent young man,
somewhat wild, but rich enough to pay for his follies."
The judge wrote the name Lagors at the bottom of an already long list
on his memorandum.
"Now," he said, "we are coming to the point. You are sure that the
theft was not committed by anyone in your house?"
"Quite sure, monsieur."
"You always kept your key?"
"I generally carried it about on my person; and, whenever I left it at
home, I put it in the secretary drawer in my chamber."
"Where was it the evening of the robbery?"
"In my secretary."
"Excuse me for interrupting you," said M. Fauvel, "and to permit me to
tell you that, to a safe like mine, the key is of no importance. In
the first place, one is obliged to know the word upon which the five
movable buttons turn. With the word one can open it without the key;
but without the word--"
"And you never told this word to anyone?"
"To no one, monsieur, and sometimes I would have been puzzled to know
myself with what word the safe had been closed. Prosper would change
it when he chose, and, if he had not informed me of the change, would
have to come and open it for me."
"Had you forgotten it on the day of the theft?"
"No: the word had been changed the day before; and its peculiarity
"What was it?"
"Gypsy, g, y, p, s, y," said the banker, spelling the name.
M. Patrigent wrote down this name.
"One more question, monsieur: were you at home the evening before the
"No; I dined and spent the evening with a friend; when I returned
home, about one o'clock, my wife had retired, and I went to bed
"And you were ignorant of the amount of money in the safe?"
"Absolutely. In conformity with my positive orders, I could only
suppose that a small sum had been left there over-night; I stated this
fact to the commissary in M. Bertomy's presence, and he acknowledged
it to be the case."
"Perfectly correct, monsieur: the commissary's report proves it." M.
Patrigent was for a time silent. To him everything depended upon this
one fact, that the banker was unaware of the three hundred and fifty
thousand francs being in the safe, and Prosper had disobeyed orders by
placing them there over-night; hence the conclusion was very easily
Seeing that his examination was over, the banker thought that he would
relieve his mind of what was weighing upon it.
"I believe myself above suspicion, monsieur," he began, "and yet I can
never rest easy until Bertomy's guilt has been clearly proved. Calumny
prefers attacking a successful man: I may be calumniated: three
hundred and fifty thousand francs is a fortune capable of tempting
even a rich man. I would be obliged if you would have the condition of
my banking-house examined. This examination will prove that I could
have no interest in robbing my own safe. The prosperous condition of
"That is sufficient, monsieur."
M. Patrigent was well informed of the high standing of the banker, and
knew almost as much of his affairs as did M. Fauvel himself.
He asked him to sign his testimony, and then escorted him to the door
of his office, a rare favor on his part.
When M. Fauvel had left the room, Sigault indulged in a remark.
"This seems to be a very cloudy case," he said; "if the cashier is
shrewd and firm, it will be difficult to convict him."
"Perhaps it will," said the judge, "but let us hear the other
witnesses before deciding."
The person who answered to the call for number four was Lucien, M.
Fauvel's eldest son.
He was a tall, handsome young man of twenty-two. To the judge's
questions he replied that he was very fond of Prosper, was once very
intimate with him, and had always regarded him as a strictly honorable
man, incapable of doing anything unbecoming a gentleman.
He declared that he could not imagine what fatal circumstances could
have induced Prosper to commit a theft. He knew he played cards, but
not to the extent that was reported. He had never known him to indulge
in expenses beyond his means.
In regard to his cousin Madeleine, he replied:
"I always thought that Prosper was in love with Madeleine, and, until
yesterday, I was certain he would marry her, knowing that my father
would not oppose their marriage. I have always attributed the
discontinuance of Prosper's visits to a quarrel with my cousin, but
supposed they would end by becoming reconciled."
This information, more than that of M. Fauvel, threw light upon
Prosper's past life, but did not apparently reveal any evidence which
could be used in the present state of affairs.
Lucien signed his deposition, and withdrew.
Cavaillon's turn for examination came next. The poor fellow was in a
pitiable state of mind when he appeared before the judge.
Having, as a great secret, confided to a friend his adventure with the
detective, and being jeered at for his cowardice in giving up the
note, he felt great remorse, and passed the night in reproaching
himself for having ruined Prosper.
He endeavored to repair, as well as he could, what he called his
He did not exactly accuse M. Fauvel, but he courageously declared that
he was the cashier's friend, and that he was as sure of his innocence
as he was of his own.
Unfortunately, besides his having no proofs to strengthen his
assertions, these were deprived of any value by his violent
professions of friendship for the accused.
After Cavaillon, six or eight clerks of the Fauvel bank successively
defiled in the judge's office; but their depositions were nearly all
One of them, however, stated a fact which the judge carefully noted.
He said he knew that Prosper had speculated on the Bourse through the
medium of M. Raoul de Lagors, and had gained immense sums.
Five o'clock struck before the list of witnesses summoned for the day
was exhausted. But the task of M. Patrigent was not yet finished. He
rang for his bailiff, who instantly appeared, and said to him:
"Go at once, and bring Fanferlot here."
It was some time before the detective answered the summons. Having met
a colleague on the gallery, he thought it his duty to treat him to a
drink; and the bailiff had found it necessary to bring him from the
little inn at the corner.
"How is it that you keep people waiting?" said the judge, when he
entered bowing and scraping. Fanferlot bowed more profoundly still.
Despite his smiling face, he was very uneasy. To prosecute the Bertomy
case alone, it required a double play that might be discovered at any
moment; to manage at once the cause of justice and his own ambition,
he ran great risks, the least of which was the losing of his place.
"I have a great deal to do," he said, to excuse himself, "and have not
wasted any time."
And he began to give a detailed account of his movements. He was
embarrassed, for he spoke with all sorts of restrictions, picking out
what was to be said, and avoiding what was to be left unsaid. Thus he
gave the history of Cavaillon's letter, which he handed to the judge;
but he did not breathe a word of Madeleine. On the other hand, he gave
biographical details, very minute indeed, of Prosper and Mme. Gypsy,
which he had collected from various quarters during the day.
As he progressed the conviction of M. Patrigent was strengthened.
"This young man is evidently guilty," he said. Fanferlot did not
reply; his opinion was different, but he was delighted that the judge
was on the wrong track, thinking that his own glory would thereby be
the greater when he discovered the real culprit. True, this grand
discovery was as far off as it had ever been; but Fanferlot was
After hearing all he had to tell, the judge dismissed Fanferlot,
telling him to return the next day.
"Above all," he said, as Fanferlot left the room, "do not lose sight
of the girl Gypsy; she must know where the money is, and can put us on
Fanferlot smiled cunningly.
"You may rest easy about that, monsieur; the lady is in good hands."
Left to himself, although the evening was far advanced, M. Patrigent
continued to busy himself with the case, and to arrange that the rest
of the depositions should be made.
This case had actually taken possession of his mind; it was, at the
same time, puzzling and attractive. It seemed to be surrounded by a
cloud of mystery, and he determined to penetrate and dispel it.
The next morning he was in his office much earlier than usual. On this
day he examined Mme. Gypsy, recalled Cavaillon, and sent again for M.
Fauvel. For several days he displayed the same activity.
Of all the witnesses summoned, only two failed to appear.
One was the office-boy sent by Prosper to bring the money from the
city bank; he was ill from a fall.
The other was M. Raoul de Lagors.
But their absence did not prevent the file of papers relating to
Prosper's case from daily increasing; and on the ensuing Monday, five
days after the robbery, M. Patrigent thought he held in his hands
enough moral proof to crush the accused.
While his whole past was the object of the most minute investigations,
Prosper was in prison, in a secret cell.
The two first days had not appeared very long.
He had requested, and been granted, some sheets of paper, numbered,
which he was obliged to account for; and he wrote, with a sort of
rage, plans of defence and a narrative of justification.
The third day he began to be uneasy at not seeing anyone except the
condemned prisoners who were employed to serve those confined in
secret cells, and the jailer who brought him his food.
"Am I not to be examined again?" he would ask.
"Your turn is coming," the jailer invariably answered.
Time passed; and the wretched man, tortured by the sufferings of
solitary confinement which quickly breaks the spirit, sank into the
depths of despair.
"Am I to stay here forever?" he moaned.
No, he was not forgotten; for on Monday morning, at one o'clock, an
hour when the jailer never came, he heard the heavy bolt of his cell
He ran toward the door.
But the sight of a gray-headed man standing on the sill rooted him to
"Father," he gasped, "father!"
"Your father, yes!"
Prosper's astonishment at seeing his father was instantly succeeded by
a feeling of great joy.
A father is one friend upon whom we can always rely. In the hour of
need, when all else fails, we remember this man upon whose knees we
sat when children, and who soothed our sorrows; and although he can in
no way assist us, his presence alone comforts and strengthens.
Without reflecting, Prosper, impelled by tender feeling, was about to
throw himself on his father's bosom.
M. Bertomy harshly repulsed him.
"Do not approach me!" he exclaimed.
He then advanced into the cell, and closed the door. The father and
son were alone together, Prosper heart-broken, crushed; M. Bertomy
angry, almost threatening.
Cast off by this last friend, by his father, the miserable young man
seemed to be stupefied with pain and disappointment.
"You too!" he bitterly cried. "You, you believe me guilty? Oh,
"Spare yourself this shameful comedy," interrupted M. Bertomy: "I know
"But I am innocent, father; I swear it by the sacred memory of my
"Unhappy wretch," cried M. Bertomy, "do not blaspheme!"
He seemed overcome by tender thoughts of the past, and in a weak,
broken voice, he added:
"Your mother is dead, Prosper, and little did I think that the day
would come when I could thank God for having taken her from me. Your
crime would have killed her, would have broken her heart!"
After a painful silence, Prosper said:
"You overwhelm me, father, and at the moment when I need all my
courage; when I am the victim of an odious plot."
"Victim!" cried M. Bertomy, "victim! Dare you utter your insinuations
against the honorable man who has taken care of you, loaded you with
benefits, and had insured you a brilliant future! It is enough for you
to have robbed him; do not calumniate him."
"For pity's sake, father, let me speak!"
"I suppose you would deny your benefactor's kindness. Yet you were at
one time so sure of his affection, that you wrote me to hold myself in
readiness to come to Paris and ask M. Fauvel for the hand of his
niece. Was that a lie too?"
"No," said Prosper in a choked voice, "no."
"That was a year ago; you then loved Mlle. Madeleine; at least you
wrote to me that you--"
"Father, I love her now, more than ever; I have never ceased to love
M. Bertomy made a gesture of contemptuous pity.
"Indeed!" he cried, "and the thought of the pure, innocent girl whom
you loved did not prevent your entering upon a path of sin. You loved
her: how dared you, then, without blushing, approach her presence
after associating with the shameless creatures with whom you were so
"For Heaven's sake, let me explain by what fatality Madeleine--"
"Enough, monsieur, enough. I told you that I know everything. I saw M.
Fauvel yesterday; this morning I saw the judge, and 'tis to his
kindness that I am indebted for this interview. Do you know what
mortification I suffered before being allowed to see you? I was
searched and made to empty all of my pockets, on suspicion of bringing
Prosper ceased to justify himself, but in a helpless, hopeless way,
dropped down upon a seat.
"I have seen your apartments, and at once recognized the proofs of
your crime. I saw silk curtains hanging before every window and door,
and the walls covered with pictures. In my father's house the walls
were whitewashed; and there was but one arm-chair in the whole house,
and that was my mother's. Our luxury was our honesty. You are the
first member of our family who has possessed Aubusson carpets; though,
to be sure, you are the first thief of our blood."
At this last insult Prosper's face flushed crimson, but he remained
silent and immovable.
"But luxury is necessary now," continued M. Bertomy, becoming more
excited and angry as he went on, "luxury must be had at any price. You
must have the insolent opulence and display of an upstart, without
being an upstart. You must support worthless women who wear satin
slippers lined with swan's-down, like those I saw in your rooms, and
keep servants in livery--and you steal! And bankers no longer trust
their safe-keys with anybody; and every day honest families are
disgraced by the discovery of some new piece of villainy."
M. Bertomy suddenly stopped. He saw that his son was not in a
condition to hear any more reproaches.
"But I will say no more," he said. "I came here not to reproach, but
to, if possible, save the honor of our name, to prevent it from being
published in the papers bearing the names of thieves and murderers.
Stand up and listen to me!"
At the imperious tone of his father, Prosper arose. So many successive
blows had reduced him to a state of torpor.
"First of all," began M. Bertomy, "how much have you remaining of the
stolen three hundred and fifty thousand francs?"
"Once more, father," replied the unfortunate man in a tone of hopeless
resignation, "once more I swear I am innocent."
"So I supposed you would say. Then our family will have to repair the
injury you have done M. Fauvel."
"What do you mean?"
"The day he heard of your crime, your brother-in-law brought me your
sister's dowry, seventy thousand francs. I succeeded in collecting a
hundred and forty thousand francs more. This makes two hundred and ten
thousand francs which I have brought with me to give to M. Fauvel."
This threat aroused Prosper from his torpor.
"You shall do nothing of the kind!" he cried with unrestrained
"I will do so before the sun goes down this day. M. Fauvel will grant
me time to pay the rest. My pension is fifteen hundred francs. I can
live upon five hundred, and am strong enough to go to work again; and
M. Bertomy stopped short, frightened at the expression of his son's
face. His features were contracted with such furious rage that he was
scarcely recognizable, and his eyes glared like a maniac's.
"You dare not disgrace me thus!" he cried; "you have no right to do
it. You are free to disbelieve me yourself, but you have no right for
taking a step that would be a confession of guilt, and ruin me
forever. Who and what convinces you of my guilt? When cold justice
hesitates, you, my father, hesitate not, but, more pitiless than the
law, condemn me unheard!"
"I only do my duty."
"Which means that I stand on the edge of a precipice, and you push me
over. Do you call that your duty? What! between strangers who accuse
me, and myself who swear that I am innocent, you do not hesitate? Why?
Is it because I am your son? Our honor is at stake, it is true; but
that is only the more reason why you should sustain me, and assist me
to defend myself."
Prosper's earnest, truthful manner was enough to unsettle the firmest
convictions, and make doubt penetrate the most stubborn mind.
"Yet," said M. Bertomy in a hesitating tone, "everything seems to
"Ah, father, you do not know that I was suddenly banished from
Madeleine's presence; that I was compelled to avoid her. I became
desperate, and tried to forget my sorrow in dissipation. I sought
oblivion, and found shame and disgust. Oh, Madeleine, Madeleine!"
He was overcome with emotion; but in a few minutes he started up with
renewed violence in his voice and manner.
"Everything is against me!" he exclaimed, "but no matter. I will
justify myself or perish in the attempt. Human justice is liable to
error; although innocent, I may be convicted: so be it. I will undergo
my penalty; but people are not kept galley-slaves forever."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, father, that I am now another man. My life, henceforth, has
an object, vengeance! I am the victim of a vile plot. As long as I
have a drop of blood in my veins, I will seek its author. And I will
certainly find him; and then bitterly shall he expiate all of my cruel
suffering. The blow came from the house of Fauvel, and I will live to
"Take care: your anger makes you say things that you will repent
"Yes, I see, you are going to descant upon the probity of M. Andre
Fauvel. You will tell me that all the virtues have taken refuge in the
bosom of this patriarchal family. What do you know about it? Would
this be the first instance in which the most shameful secrets are
concealed beneath the fairest appearances? Why did Madeleine suddenly
forbid me to think of her? Why has she exiled me, when she suffers as
much from our separation as I myself, when she still loves me? For she
does love me. I am sure of it. I have proofs of it."
The jailer came to say that the time allotted to M. Bertomy had
expired, and that he must leave the cell.
A thousand conflicting emotions seemed to rend the old man's heart.
Suppose Prosper were telling the truth: how great would be his
remorse, if he had added to his already great weight of sorrow and
trouble! And who could prove that he was not sincere?
The voice of this son, of whom he had always been so proud, had
aroused all his paternal affection, so violently repressed. Ah, were
he guilty, and guilty of a worse crime, still he was his son, his only
His countenance lost its severity, and his eyes filled with tears.
He had resolved to leave, as he had entered, stern and angry: he had
not the cruel courage. His heart was breaking. He opened his arms, and
pressed Prosper to his heart.
"Oh, my son!" he murmured. "God grant you have spoken the truth!"
Prosper was triumphant: he had almost convinced his father of his
innocence. But he had not time to rejoice over this victory.
The cell-door again opened, and the jailer's gruff voice once more
"It is time for you to appear before the court."
He instantly obeyed the order.
But his step was no longer unsteady, as a few days previous: a
complete change had taken place within him. He walked with a firm
step, head erect, and the fire of resolution in his eye.
He knew the way now, and he walked a little ahead of the constable who
As he was passing through the room full of policemen, he met the man
with gold spectacles, who had watched him so intently the day he was
"Courage, M. Prosper Bertomy," he said: "if you are innocent, there
are those who will help you."
Prosper started with surprise, and was about to reply, when the man
"Who is that gentleman?" he asked of the policeman.
"Is it possible that you don't know him?" replied the policeman with
surprise. "Why, it is M. Lecoq, of the police service."
"You say his name is Lecoq?"
"You might as well say 'monsieur,'" said the offended policeman; "it
would not burn your mouth. M. Lecoq is a man who knows everything that
he wants to know, without its ever being told to him. If you had had
him, instead of that smooth-tongued imbecile Fanferlot, your case
would have been settled long ago. Nobody is allowed to waste time when
he has command. But he seems to be a friend of yours."
"I never saw him until the first day I came here."
"You can't swear to that, because no one can boast of knowing the real
face of M. Lecoq. It is one thing to-day, and another to-morrow;
sometimes he is a dark man, sometimes a fair one, sometimes quite
young, and then an octogenarian: why, not seldom he even deceives me.
I begin to talk to a stranger, paf! the first thing I know, it is M.
Lecoq! Anybody on the face of the earth might be he. If I were told
that you were he, I should say, 'It is very likely.' Ah! he can
convert himself into any shape and form he chooses. He is a wonderful
The constable would have continued forever his praises of M. Lecoq,
had not the sight of the judge's door put an end to them.
This time, Prosper was not kept waiting on the wooden bench: the
judge, on the contrary, was waiting for him.
M. Patrigent, who was a profound observer of human nature, had
contrived the interview between M. Bertomy and his son.
He was sure that between the father, a man of such stubborn honor, and
the son, accused of theft, an affecting scene would take place, and
this scene would completely unman Prosper, and make him confess.
He determined to send for him as soon as the interview was over, while
all his nerves were vibrating with terrible emotions: he would tell
the truth, to relieve his troubled, despairing mind.
His surprise was great to see the cashier's bearing; resolute without
obstinacy, firm and assured without defiance.
"Well," he said, "have you reflected?"
"Not being guilty, monsieur, I had nothing to reflect upon."
"Ah, I see the prison has not been a good counsellor; you forget that
sincerity and repentance are the first things necessary to obtain the
indulgence of the law."
"I crave no indulgence, monsieur."
M. Patrigent looked vexed, and said:
"What would you say if I told you what had become of the three hundred
and fifty thousand francs?"
Prosper shook his head sadly.
"If it were known, monsieur, I would not be here, but at liberty."
This device had often been used by the judge, and generally succeeded;
but, with a man so thoroughly master of himself, there was small
chance of success. It had been used at a venture, and failed.
"Then you persist in accusing M. Fauvel?"
"Him, or someone else."
"Excuse me: no one else, since he alone knew the word. Had he any
interest in robbing himself?"
"I can think of none."
"Well, now I will tell you what interest you had in robbing him."
M. Patrigent spoke as a man who was convinced of the facts he was
about to state; but his assurance was all assumed.
He had relied upon crushing, at a blow, a despairing wretched man, and
was nonplussed by seeing him appear as determined upon resistance.
"Will you be good enough to tell me," he said, in a vexed tone, "how
much you have spent during the last year?"
Prosper did not find it necessary to stop to reflect and calculate.
"Yes, monsieur," he answered, unhesitatingly: "circumstances made it
necessary for me to preserve the greatest order in my wild career; I
spent about fifty thousand francs."
"Where did you obtain them?"
"In the first place, twelve thousand francs were left to me by my
mother. I received from M. Fauvel fourteen thousand francs, as my
salary, and share of the profits. By speculating in stocks, I gained
eight thousand francs. The rest I borrowed, and intend repaying out of
the fifteen thousand francs which I have deposited in M. Fauvel's
The account was clear, exact, and could be easily proved; it must be a
"Who lent you the money?"
"M. Raoul de Lagors."
This witness had left Paris the day of the robbery, and could not be
found; so, for the time being, M. Patrigent was compelled to rely upon
"Well," he said, "I will not press this point; but tell me why, in
spite of the formal order of M. Fauvel, you drew the money from the
Bank of France the night before, instead of waiting till the morning
of the payment?"
"Because M. de Clameran had informed me that it would be agreeable,
necessary even, for him to have his money early in the morning. He
will testify to that fact, if you summon him; and I knew that I should
reach my office late."
"Then M. de Clameran is a friend of yours?"
"By no means. I have always felt repelled by him; but he is the
intimate friend of M. Lagors."
While Sigault was writing down these answers, M. Patrigent was racking
his brain to imagine what could have occurred between M. Bertomy and
his son, to cause this transformation in Prosper.
"One more thing," said the judge: "how did you spend the evening, the
night before the crime?"
"When I left my office, at five o'clock, I took the St.-Germain train,
and went to Vesinet, M. de Lagors's country seat, to carry him fifteen
hundred francs which he had asked for; and, finding him not at home, I
left it with his servant."
"Did he tell you that M. de Lagors was going away?"
"No, monsieur. I did not know that he had left Paris."
"Where did you go when you left Vesinet?"
"I returned to Paris, and dined at a restaurant with a friend."
"You are silent," said M. Patrigent; "then I shall tell you how you
employed your time. You returned to your rooms in the Rue Chaptal,
dressed yourself, and attended a /soiree/ given by one of those women
who style themselves dramatic artistes, and who are a disgrace to the
stage; who receive a hundred crowns a year, and yet keep their
carriages, at Mlle. Wilson's."
"You are right, monsieur."
"There is heavy playing at Wilson's?"
"You are in the habit of visiting places of this sort. Were you not
connected in some way with a scandalous adventure which took place at
the house of a woman named Crescenzi?"
"I was summoned to testify, having witnessed a theft."
"Gambling generally leads to stealing. And did you not play baccarat
at Wilson's, and lose eighteen hundred francs?"
"Excuse me, monsieur, only eleven hundred."
"Very well. In the morning you paid a note of a thousand francs."
"Moreover, there remained in your desk five hundred francs, and you
had four hundred in your purse when you were arrested. So that
altogether, in twenty-four hours, four thousand five hundred francs--"
Prosper was not discountenanced, but stupefied.
Not being aware of the powerful means of investigation possessed by
the law, he wondered how in so short a time the judge could have
obtained such accurate information.
"Your statement is correct, monsieur," he said finally.
"Where did all this money come from? The evening before you had so
little that you were obliged to defer the payment of a small bill."
"The day to which you allude, I sold through an agent some bonds I
had, about three thousand francs; besides, I took from the safe two
thousand francs in advance on my salary."
The prisoner had given clear answers to all the questions put to him,
and M. Patrigent thought he would attack him on a new point.
"You say you have no wish to conceal any of your actions; then why did
you write this note to one of your companions?" Here he held up the
This time the blow struck. Prosper's eyes dropped before the inquiring
look of the judge.
"I thought," he stammered, "I wished--"
"You wished to screen this woman?"
"Yes, monsieur; I did. I knew that a man in my condition, accused of a
robbery, has every fault, every weakness he has ever indulged in,
charged against him as a great crime."
"Which means that you knew that the presence of a woman at your house
would tell very much against you, and that justice would not excuse
this scandalous defiance of public morality. A man who respects
himself so little as to associate with a worthless woman, does not
elevate her to his standard, but he descends to her base level."
"I suppose you know who the woman is, whom you permit to bear the
honest name borne by your mother?"
"Mme. Gypsy was a governess when I first knew her. She was born at
Oporto, and came to France with a Portuguese family."
"Her name is not Gypsy; she has never been a governess, and she is not
Prosper began to protest against this statement; but M. Patrigent
shrugged his shoulders, and began looking over a large file of papers
on his desk.
"Ah, here it is," he said, "listen: Palmyre Chocareille, born at Paris
in 1840, daughter of James Chocareille, undertaker's assistant, and of
Caroline Piedlent, his wife."
Prosper looked vexed and impatient; he did not know that the judge was
reading him this report to convince him that nothing can escape the
"Palmyre Chocareille," he continued, "at twelve years of age was
apprenticed to a shoemaker, and remained with him until she was
sixteen. Traces of her for one year are lost. At the age of seventeen
she is hired as a servant by a grocer on the Rue St. Denis, named
Dombas, and remains there three months. She lives out during this same
year, 1857, at eight different places. In 1858 she entered the store
of a fan-merchant in Choiseul Alley."
As he read, the judge watched Prosper's face to observe the effect of
"Toward the close of 1858 she was employed as a servant by Madame
Munes, and accompanied her to Lisbon. How long she remained in Lisbon,
and what she did while she remained there, is not reported. But in
1861 she returned to Paris, and was sentenced to three months'
imprisonment for assault and battery. Ah, she returned from Portugal
with the name of Nina Gypsy."
"But I assure you, monsieur," Prosper began.
"Yes, I understand; this history is less romantic, doubtless, than the
one related to you; but then it has the merit of being true. We lose
sight of Palmyre Chocareille, called Gypsy, upon her release from
prison, but we meet her again six months later, having made the
acquaintance of a travelling agent named Caldas, who became infatuated
with her beauty, and furnished her a house near the Bastille. She
assumed his name for some time, then she deserted him to devote
herself to you. Did you ever hear of this Caldas?"
"This foolish man so deeply loved this creature that her desertion
drove him almost insane from grief. He was a very resolute man, and
publicly swore that he would kill his rival if he ever found him. The
current report afterward was, that he committed suicide. He certainly
sold the furniture of the House occupied by Chocareille, and suddenly
disappeared. All the efforts made to discover him proved fruitless."
The judge stopped a moment as if to give Prosper time for reflection,
and then slowly said:
"And this is the woman whom you made your companion, the woman for
whom you robbed the bank!"
Once more M. Patrigent was on the wrong track, owing to Fanferlot's
He had hoped that Prosper would betray himself by uttering some
passionate retort when thus wounded to the quick; but he remained
impassible. Of all the judge said to him his mind dwelt upon only one
word--Caldas, the name of the poor travelling agent who had killed
"At any rate," insisted M. Patrigent, "you will confess that this girl
has caused your ruin."
"I cannot confess that, monsieur, for it is not true."
"Yet she is the occasion of your extravagance. Listen." The judge here
drew a bill from the file of papers. "During December you paid her
dressmaker, Van Klopen, for two walking dresses, nine hundred francs;
one evening dress, seven hundred francs; one domino, trimmed with
lace, four hundred francs."
"I spent this money cheerfully, but nevertheless I was not especially
attached to her."
M. Patrigent shrugged his shoulders.
"You cannot deny the evidence," said he. "I suppose you will also say
that it was not for this girl's sake you ceased spending your evenings
at M. Fauvel's?"
"I swear that she was not the cause of my ceasing to visit M. Fauvel's
"Then why did you cease, suddenly, your attentions to a young lady
whom you confidently expected to marry, and whose hand you had written
to your father to demand for you?"
"I had reasons which I cannot reveal," answered Prosper with emotion.
The judge breathed freely; at last he had discovered a vulnerable
point in the prisoner's armor.
"Did Mlle. Madeleine banish you?"
Prosper was silent, and seemed agitated.
"Speak," said M. Patrigent; "I must tell you that this circumstance is
one of the most important in your case."
"Whatever the cost may be, on this subject I am compelled to keep
"Beware of what you do; justice will not be satisfied with scruples of
M. Patrigent waited for an answer. None came.
"You persist in your obstinacy, do you? Well, we will go on to the
next question. You have, during the last year, spent fifty thousand
francs. Your resources are at an end, and your credit is exhausted; to
continue your mode of life was impossible. What did you intend to do?"
"I had no settled plan. I thought it might last as long as it would,
and then I----"
"And then you would draw from the safe!"
"Ah, monsieur, if I were guilty, I should not be here! I should never
have been such a fool as to return to the bank; I should have fled."
M. Patrigent could not restrain a smile of satisfaction, and
"Exactly the argument I expected you to use. You showed your
shrewdness precisely by staying to face the storm, instead of flying
the country. Several recent suits have taught dishonest cashiers that
flight abroad is dangerous. Railways travel fast, but telegrams travel
faster. A French thief can be arrested in London within forty-eight
hours after his description has been telegraphed. Even America is no
longer a refuge. You remained prudently and wisely, saying to
yourself, 'I will manage to avoid suspicion; and, even if I am found
out, I shall be free again after three or five years' seclusion, with
a large fortune to enjoy.' Many people would sacrifice five years of
their lives for three hundred and fifty thousand francs."
"But monsieur, had I calculated in the manner you describe, I should
not have been content with three hundred and fifty thousand francs; I
should have waited for an opportunity to steal half a million. I often
have that sum in charge."
"Oh! it is not always convenient to wait."
Prosper was buried in deep thought for some minutes.
"Monsieur," he finally said, "there is one detail I forgot to mention
before, and it may be of importance."
"Explain, if you please."
"The office messenger whom I sent to the Bank of France for the money
must have seen me tie up the bundle, and put it away in the safe. At
any rate, he knows that I left the bank before he did."
"Very well; the man shall be examined. Now you can return to your
cell; and once more I advise you to consider the consequences of your
M. Patrigent thus abruptly dismissed Prosper because he wished to
immediately act upon this last piece of information.
"Sigault," said he as soon as Prosper had left the room, "is not this
Antonin the man who was excused from testifying because he sent a
doctor's certificate declaring him too ill to appear?"
"It is, monsieur."
"Where doe he live?"
"Fanferlot says he was so ill that he was taken to the hospital--the
"Very well. I am going to examine him to-day, this very hour. Take
your pen and paper, and send for a carriage."
It was some distance from the Palais de Justice to the Dubois
Hospital; but the cabman, urged by the promise of a large fee, made
his sorry jades fly as if they were blooded horses.
Would Antonin be able to answer any questions?
The physician in charge of the hospital said that, although the man
suffered horribly from a broken knee, his mind was perfectly clear.
"That being the case, monsieur," said the judge, "I wish to examine
him, and desire that no one be admitted while he makes his
"Oh! you will not be intruded upon, monsieur; his room contains four
beds, but they are just now unoccupied."
When Antonin saw the judge enter, followed by a little weazened man in
black, with a portfolio under his arm, he at once knew what he had
"Ah," he said, "monsieur comes to see me about M. Bertomy's case?"
M. Patrigent remained standing by the sick-bed while Sigault arranged
his papers on a little table.
In answer to the usual questions, the messenger swore that he was
named Antonin Poche, was forty years old, born at Cadaujac (Gironde),
and was unmarried.
"Now," said the judge, "are you well enough to clearly answer any
questions I may put?"
"Did you, on the 27th of February, go to the Bank of France for the
three hundred and fifty thousand francs that were stolen?"
"At what hour did you return with the money?"
"It must have been five o'clock when I got back."
"Do you remember what M. Bertomy did when you handed him the notes?
Now, do not be in a hurry; think before you answer."
"Let me see: first he counted the notes, and made them into four
packages; then he put them in the safe; and then--it seems to me--and
then he locked the safe; and, yes, I am not mistaken, he went out!"
He uttered these last words so quickly, that, forgetting his knee, he
half started up, but, with a cry of pain, sank back in bed.
"Are you sure of what you say?" asked the judge.
M. Patrigent's solemn tone seemed to frighten Antonin.
"Sure?" he replied with marked hesitation, "I would bet my head on it,
yet I am not sure!"
It was impossible for him to be more decided in his answers. He had
been frightened. He already imagined himself in difficulty, and for a
trifle would have retracted everything.
But the effect was already produced; and when they retired M.
Patrigent said to Sigault:
"This is a very important piece of evidence."
The Archangel Hotel, Mme. Gypsy's asylum, was the most elegant
building on the Quai St. Michel.
A person who pays her fortnight's board in advance is treated with
consideration at this hotel.
Mme. Alexandre, who had been a handsome woman, was now stout, laced
till she could scarcely breathe, always over-dressed, and fond of
wearing a number of flashy gold chains around her fat neck.
She had bright eyes and white teeth; but, alas, a red nose. Of all her
weaknesses, and Heaven knows she had indulged in every variety, only
one remained; she loved a good dinner, washed down with plenty of good
She also loved her husband; and, about the time M. Patrigent was
leaving the hospital, she began to be worried that her "little man"
had not returned to dinner. She was about to sit down without him,
when the hotel-boy cried out:
"Here is monsieur."
And Fanferlot appeared in person.
Three years before, Fanferlot had kept a little office of secret
intelligence; Mme. Alexandre was a trader without a license in
perfumery and toilet articles, and, finding it necessary to watch some
of her suspicious customers, engaged Fanferlot's services; this was
the origin of their acquaintance.
If they went through the marriage ceremony for the good of the
mayoralty and the church, it was because they imagined it would, like
a baptism, wash out the sins of the past.
Upon this momentous day, Fanferlot gave up his secret intelligence
office, and entered the police, where he had already been occasionally
employed, and Mme. Alexandre retired from trade.
Uniting their savings, they hired and furnished the "Archangel," which
they were now carrying on prosperously well, esteemed by their
neighbors, who were ignorant of Fanferlot's connection with the police
"Why, how late you are, my little man!" she exclaimed, as she dropped
her knife and fork, and rushed forward to embrace him.
He received her caresses with an air of abstraction.
"My back is broken," he said. "I have been the whole day playing
billiards with Evariste, M. Fauvel's valet, and allowed him to win as
often as he wished, a man who does not know what 'the pool' is! I
became acquainted with him yesterday, and now I am his best friend. If
I wish to enter M. Fauvel's service in Antonin's place, I can rely
upon M. Evariste's good word."
"What, you be an office messenger? you?"
"Of course I would. How else am I to get an opportunity of studying my
characters, if I am not on the spot to watch them all the time?"
"Then the valet gave you no news?"
"He gave me none that I could make use of, and yet I turned him inside
out, like a glove. This banker is a remarkable man; you don't often
meet with one of his sort nowadays. Evariste says he has not a single
vice, not even a little defect by which his valet could gain ten sous.
He neither smokes, drinks, nor plays; in fact, he is a saint. He is
worth millions, and lives as respectably and quietly as a grocer. He
is devoted to his wife, adores his children, is lavishly hospitable,
and seldom goes into society."
"Then his wife is young?"
"She must be about fifty."
Mme. Alexandre reflected a minute, then asked:
"Did you inquire about the other members of the family?"
"Certainly. The younger son is in the army. The elder son, Lucien,
lives with his parents, and is as proper as a young lady; so good,
indeed, that he is stupid."
"And what about the niece?"
"Evariste could tell me nothing about her."
Mme. Alexandre shrugged her fat shoulders.
"If you have discovered nothing, it is because there is nothing to be
discovered. Still, do you know what I would do, if I were you?"
"I would consult with M. Lecoq."
Fanferlot jumped up as if he had been shot.
"Now, that's pretty advice! Do you want me to lose my place? M. Lecoq
does not suspect that I have anything to do with the case, except to
obey his orders."
"Nobody told you to let him know you were investigating it on your own
account. You can consult him with an air of indifference, as if you
were not at all interested; and, after you have got his opinion, you
can take advantage of it."
The detective weighed his wife's words, and then said:
"Perhaps you are right; yet M. Lecoq is so devilishly shrewd, that he
might see through me."
"Shrewd!" echoed Mme. Alexandre, "shrewd! All of you at the police
office say that so often, that he has gained his reputation by it: you
are just as sharp as he is."
"Well, we will see. I will think the matter over; but, in the
meantime, what does the girl say?"
The "girl" was Mme. Nina Gypsy.
In taking up her abode at the Archangel, the poor girl thought she was
following good advice; and, as Fanferlot had never appeared in her
presence since, she was still under the impression that she had obeyed
a friend of Prosper's. When she received her summons from M.
Patrigent, she admired the wonderful skill of the police in
discovering her hiding-place; for she had established herself at the
hotel under a false, or rather her true name, Palmyre Chocareille.
Artfully questioned by her inquisitive landlady, she had, without any
mistrust, confided her history to her.
Thus Fanferlot was able to impress the judge with the idea of his
being a skilful detective, when he pretended to have discovered all
this information from a variety of sources.
"She is still upstairs," answered Mme. Alexandre. "She suspects
nothing; but to keep her in her present ignorance becomes daily more
difficult. I don't know what the judge told her, but she came home
quite beside herself with anger. She wanted to go and make a fuss at
M. Fauvel's; then she wrote a letter which she told Jean to post for
her; but I kept it to show you."
"What!" interrupted Fanferlot, "you have a letter, and did not tell me
before? Perhaps it contains the clew to the mystery. Give it to me,
Obeying her husband, Mme. Alexandre opened a little cupboard, and took
out a letter which she handed to him.
"Here, take it," she said, "and be satisfied."
Considering that she used to be a chambermaid, Palmyre Chocareille,
since become Mme. Gypsy, wrote a good letter.
It bore the following address, written in a free, flowing hand:
FOR M. L. DE CLAMERAN,
Forge-Master, Hotel du Louvre.
To be handed to M. Raoul de Lagors.
(In great haste.)
"Oh, ho!" said Fanferlot, accompanying his exclamation with a little
whistle, as was his habit when he thought he had made a grand
discovery. "Oh, ho!"
"Do you intend to open it?" questioned Mme. Alexandre.
"A little bit," said Fanferlot, as he dexterously opened the envelope.
Mme. Alexandre leaned over her husband's shoulder, and they both read
the following letter:
"MONSIEUR RAOUL--Prosper is in prison, accused of a robbery which
he never committed. I wrote to you three days ago."
"What!" interrupted Fanferlot, "this silly girl wrote, and I never saw
"But, little man, she must have posted it herself, the day she went to
the Palais de Justice."
"Very likely," said Fanferlot propitiated. He continued reading:
"I wrote to you three days ago, and have no reply. Who will help
Prosper if his best friends desert him? If you don't answer this
letter, I shall consider myself released from a certain promise,
and without scruple will tell Prosper of the conversation I
overheard between you and M. de Clameran. But I can count on you,
can I not? I shall expect you at the Archangel day after
to-morrow, between twelve and four.
The letter read, Fanferlot at once proceeded to copy it.
"Well!" said Mme. Alexandre, "what do you think?"
Fanferlot was delicately resealing the letter when the door of the
hotel office was abruptly opened, and the boy twice whispered, "Pst!
Fanferlot rapidly disappeared into a dark closet. He had barely time
to close the door before Mme. Gypsy entered the room.
The poor girl was sadly changed. She was pale and hollow-cheeked, and
her eyes were red with weeping.
On seeing her, Mme. Alexandre could not conceal her surprise.
"Why, my child, you are not going out?"
"I am obliged to do so, madame; and I come to ask you to tell anyone
that may call during my absence to wait until I return."
"But where in the world are you going at this hour, sick as you are?"
For a moment Mme. Gypsy hesitated.
"Oh," she said, "you are so kind that I am tempted to confide in you;
read this note which a messenger just now brought to me."
"What!" cried Mme. Alexandre perfectly aghast: "a messenger enter my
house, and go up to your room!"
"Is there anything surprising in that?"
"Oh, oh, no! nothing surprising."
And in a tone loud enough to be heard in the closet she read the note:
"A friend of Prosper who can neither receive you, nor present
himself at your house, is very anxious to speak to you. Be in the
stage-office opposite the Saint Jacques tower, to-night at nine
precisely, and the writer will approach, and tell you what he has
"I have appointed this public place for the rendezvous so as to
relieve your mind of all fear."
"And you are going to this rendezvous?"
"But it is imprudent, foolish; it is a snare to entrap you."
"It makes no difference," interrupted Gypsy. "I am so unfortunate
already that I have nothing more to dread. Any change would be a
And, without waiting to hear any more, she went out. The door had
scarcely closed upon Mme. Gypsy, before Fanferlot bounced out of the
The mild detective was white with rage, and swore violently.
"What is the meaning of this?" he cried. "Am I to stand by and have
people walking over the Archangel, as if it were a public street?"
Mme. Alexandre stood trembling, and dared not speak.
"Was ever such impudence heard of before!" he continued. "A messenger
comes into my house, and goes upstairs without being seen by anybody!
I will look into this. And the idea of you, Mme. Alexandre, you, a
sensible woman, being idiotic enough to persuade that little viper not
to keep the appointment!"
"But, my dear--"
"Had you not sense enough to know that I would follow her, and
discover what she is attempting to conceal? Come, make haste, and help
me, so that she won't recognize me."
In a few minutes Fanferlot was completely disguised by a thick beard,
a wig, and one of those long linen blouses worn by dishonest workmen,
who go about seeking labor, and, at the same time, hoping they may not
"Have you your handcuffs?" asked the solicitous Mme. Alexandre.
"Yes, yes: make haste and put that letter to M. de Clameran in the
post-office, and--and keep good watch."
And without waiting for his wife's reply, who cried out, "Good luck!"
Fanferlot darted into the street.
Mme. Gypsy had ten minutes' start of him; but he ran up the street he
knew she must have taken, and overtook her near the Change Bridge.
She was walking with the uncertain gait of a person who, impatient to
be at a rendezvous, has started too soon, and is obliged to occupy the
intervening time; she would walk very rapidly, then retrace her
footsteps, and proceed slowly.
On Chatelet Place she strolled up and down several times, read the
theatre-bills, and finally took a seat on a bench. One minute before a
quarter of nine, she entered the stage-office, and sat down.
A moment after, Fanferlot entered; but, as he feared that Mme. Gypsy
might recognize him in spite of his heavy beard, he took a seat at the
opposite end of the room, in a dark corner.
"Singular place for a conversation," he thought, as he watched the
young woman. "Who in the world could have made this appointment in a
stage-office? Judging from her evident curiosity and uneasiness, I
could swear she has not the faintest idea for whom she is waiting."
Meanwhile, the office was gradually filling with people. Every minute
a man would shriek out the destination of an omnibus which had just
arrived, and the bewildered passengers would rush in to get tickets,
and inquire when the omnibus would leave.
As each new-comer entered, Gypsy would tremble, and Fanferlot would
say, "This is he!"
Finally, as the Hotel-de-Ville clock was striking nine, a man entered,
and, without going to the ticket-window, walked directly up to Gypsy,
bowed, and took a seat beside her.
He was a medium-sized man, rather stout, with a crimson face, and
fiery-red whiskers. His dress was that of a well-to-do merchant, and
there was nothing in his manner or appearance to excite attention.
Fanferlot watched him eagerly.
"Well, my friend," he said to himself, "in future I shall recognize
you, no matter where we meet; and this very evening I will find out
who you are."
Despite his intent listening, he could not hear a word spoken by the
stranger or Gypsy. All he could do was to judge by their pantomime and
countenances, what the subject of their conversation might be.
When the stout man bowed and spoke to her, the girl looked so
surprised that it was evident she had never seen him before. When he
sat down by her, and said a few words, she jumped up with a frightened
look, as if seeking to escape. A single word and look made her resume
her seat. Then, as the stout man went on talking, Gypsy's attitude
betrayed great apprehension. She positively refused to do something;
then suddenly she seemed to consent, when he stated a good reason for
her so doing. At one moment she appeared ready to weep, and the next
her pretty face was illumined by a bright smile. Finally, she shook
hands with him, as if she was confirming a promise.
"What can all that mean?" said Fanferlot to himself, as he sat in his
dark corner, biting his nails. "What an idiot I am to have stationed
myself so far off!"
He was thinking how he could manage to approach nearer without
arousing their suspicions, when the fat man arose, offered his arm to
Mme. Gypsy, who accepted it without hesitation, and together they
walked toward the door.
They were so engrossed with each other, that Fanferlot thought he
could, without risk, follow them; and it was well he did; for the
crowd was dense outside, and he would soon have lost them.
Reaching the door, he saw the stout man and Gypsy cross the pavement,
approach a hackney-coach, and enter it.
"Very good," muttered Fanferlot, "I've got them now. There is no use
of hurrying any more."