Part 6 out of 7
yesterday; you can begin sending them out to-morrow."
"Read it for yourself," said Mascarin, handing a printed paper to him.
"Read, and then, perhaps, you will be convinced."
Croisenois, in a dazed sort of manner, accepted the paper and read it
COPPER MINES OF TAFILA, ALGERIA.
Chairman: THE MARQUIS HENRI DE CROISENOIS.
Capital: Four Million Francs.
This company does not appeal to that rash class of speculators who
are willing to incur great risks for the sake of obtaining for a
time heavy dividends.
The shareholders in the Tafila Copper Mining Company, Limited,
must not look for a dividend of more than six, or at the utmost
seven, per cent.
"Well," interrupted Mascarin, "what do you think of this for a
"It seems fair enough," answered De Croisenois, "but suppose others
than those whose names you have in your black list take shares, what
do you say we are to do then?"
"We should simply decline to allot shares to them, that is all. See
the Article XX. in the Articles of Association. 'The Board of
Directors may decline to allot shares to applicants without giving any
reason for so doing.' "
"And suppose," continued the Marquis, "that one of our own people
dispose of his share, may we not find our new shareholder a thorn in
"Article XXI. 'No transfer of stock is valid, unless passed by the
Board of Directors, and recorded in the books of the Company,' " read
"And how will the game be brought to a conclusion?"
"Easily enough. You will advertise one morning that two-thirds of the
capital having been unsuccessfully sunk in the enterprise, you are
compelled to apply for a winding-up of the Company under Article XVII.
Six months afterwards you will announce that the liquidation of the
Company has, after all expenses have been paid, left no balance
whatsoever. Then you wash your hands of the whole thing, and the
matter is at an end."
Croisenois felt that he had no ground to stand upon, but he ventured
on one more objection.
"It seems rather a strange thing to launch this enterprise at the
present moment. May it not interfere with my marriage prospects? and
may not the Count de Mussidan decline to give me his daughter and risk
her dowry in this manner? One moment, I--"
The agent sneered and cut short the tergiversations of the Marquis.
"You mean, I suppose," said he, "that when once you are safely married
and have received Mademoiselle Sabine's dowry, you will take leave of
us. Not so, my dear young friend; and if this is your idea, put it
aside, for it is utter nonsense. I should hold you then as I do now."
The Marquis saw that any further struggle would be of no avail, and
* * * * *
That evening, when M. Martin Rigal emerged from his private office,
his daughter Flavia was more than usually demonstrative in her tokens
of affection. "How fondly I love you, my dearest father!" said she, as
she rained kisses on his cheeks. "How good you are to me!" but on this
occasion the banker was too much preoccupied to ask his daughter the
reason for this extreme tenderness on her part.
THE VEILED PORTRAIT.
The danger with which Andre was menaced was most terrible, and the
importance of the game he was playing made him feel that he had
everything to fear from the boldness and audacity of his enemies. He
knew this, and he also knew that spies dogged all his movements. What
could be wanted but a favorable opportunity to assassinate him. But
even this knowledge did not make him hesitate for an instant, and all
his caution was fully exercised, for he felt that should he perish,
Sabine would be inevitably lost. On her account he acted with a
prudence which was certainly not one of his general characteristics.
He was quite aware that he might put himself under the protection of
the police, but this he knew would be to imperil the honor of the
Mussidan family. He was sure that with time and patience he should be
able to unravel the plots of the villains who were at work. But he had
not time to do so by degrees. No, he must make a bold dash at once.
The hideous sacrifice of which Sabine was to be the victim was being
hurried on, and it seemed to him as if his very existence was being
carried away by the hours as they flitted by. He went over recent
events carefully one by one, and he strove to piece them together as a
child does the portions of a dissected map. He wanted to find out the
one common interest that bound all these plotters together--Verminet,
Van Klopen, Mascarin, Hortebise, and Martin Rigal. As he submitted all
this strange combination of persons to the test, the thought of Gaston
de Gandelu came across his mind.
"Is it not curious," thought he, "that this unhappy boy should be the
victim of the cruel band of miscreants who are trying to destroy us?
It is strange, very strange."
Suddenly he started to his feet, for a fresh idea had flashed across
his brain--a thought that was as yet but crude and undefined, but
which seemed to bear the promise of hope and deliverance. It seemed to
him that the affair of young Gandelu was closely connected with his
own, that they were part and parcel of the same dark plot, and that
these bills with their forged acceptance had more to do with him than
he had ever imagined. How it was that he and Gaston could be connected
he could not for a moment guess; yet now he would have cheerfully
sworn that such was the case. Who was it that had informed the father
of the son's conduct? Why, Catenac. Who had advised that proceedings
should be taken against Rose, /alias/ Zora? Why, Catenac again; and
this same man, in addition to acting for Gandelu, it seems, was also
the confidential solicitor of the Marquis de Croisenois and Verminet.
Perhaps he had only obeyed their instructions. All this was very vague
and unsatisfactory, but it might be something to go upon, and who
could say what conclusion careful inquiry might not lead him to? and
Andre determined to carry on his investigations, and endeavor to find
the hidden links that connected this chain of rascality together. He
had taken up a pencil with the view of making a few notes, when he
heard a knock at his door. He glanced at the clock; it was not yet
"Come in," cried he as he rose.
The door was thrown open, and the young artist started as he
recognized in his early visitor the father of Sabine. It was after a
sleepless night that the Count had decided to take the present step.
He was terribly agitated, but had had time to prepare himself for this
"You will, I trust, pardon me, sir," said he, "for making such an
early call upon you, but I thought that I should be sure to find you
at this hour, and much wanted to see you."
In the space of one brief instant a thousand suppositions, each one
more unlikely than the other, coursed through his brain. Why had the
Count called? Who could have given him his address? And was the visit
friendly or hostile?
"I am a great admirer of paintings," began the Count, "and one of my
friends upon whose taste I can rely has spoken to me in the warmest
terms of your talent. This I trust will explain the liberty I have
taken. Curiosity drove me to----"
He paused for a moment, and then added,--
"My name is the Marquis de Bevron."
The concealment of the Count's real name showed Andre that the visit
was not entirely a friendly one, and Andre replied,--
"I am only too pleased to receive your visit. Unfortunately just now I
have nothing ready, only a few rough sketches in short. Would you like
to see them?"
The Count replied eagerly in the affirmative. He was terribly
embarrassed under his fictitious name, and shrank before the honest,
open gaze of the young artist, and his mental disturbance was
completed by seeing in one corner of the room the picture covered with
a green cloth, which Tantaine had alluded to. It was evident that the
old villain had told the truth, and that his daughter's portrait was
concealed behind this wrapper. She had evidently been here--had spent
hours here, and whose fault was it? She had but listened to the voice
of her heart, and had sought that affection abroad which she was
unable to obtain at home. As the Count gazed upon the young man before
him, he was forced to admit that Mademoiselle Sabine had not fixed her
affections on an unworthy object, for at the very first glance he had
been struck with the manly beauty of the young artist, and the clear
intelligence of his face.
"Ah," thought Andre, "you come to me under a name that is not your
own, and I will respect your wish to remain unknown, but I will take
advantage of it by letting you know things which I should not dare say
to your face."
Great as was Andre's preoccupation, he could not fail to notice that
his visitor's eyes sought the veiled picture with strange persistency.
While M. de Mussidan was looking at the various sketches on the walls,
Andre had time to recover all his self-command.
"Let me congratulate you, sir," remarked the Count, as he returned to
the spot where the painter was standing. "My friend's admiration was
well founded. I am sorry, however, that you have nothing finished to
show me. You say that you have nothing, I believe?"
"Not even that picture whose frame I can distinguish through the serge
curtain that covers it?"
Andre blushed, though he had been expecting the question from the
"Excuse me," answered he; "that picture is certainly finished, but it
is not on view."
The Count was now sure that Tantaine's statement was correct.
"I suppose that it is some woman's portrait," remarked the false
"You are quite correct."
Both men were much agitated at this moment, and avoided meeting each
The Count, however, had made up his mind that he would go on to the
"Ah, you are in love, I see!" remarked he with a forced laugh. "All
great artists have depicted the charms of their mistresses on canvas."
"Stop," cried Andre with an angry glance in his eyes. "The picture you
refer to is the portrait of the purest and most innocent girl in the
world. I shall love her all my life; but, if possible, my respect for
her is greater than my love. I should consider myself a most degraded
wretch, had I ever whispered in her ear a word that her mother might
not have listened to."
A feeling of the most instantaneous relief thrilled through M. de
"You will pardon me," suggested he blandly, "but when one sees a
portrait in a studio, the inference is that a sitting or two has taken
"You are right. She came here secretly, and without the knowledge of
her family, at the risk of her honor and reputation, thus affording me
the strongest proof of her love. It was cruel of me," continued the
young artist, "to accept this proof of her entire devotion, and yet
not only did I accept it, but I pleaded for it on my bended knee, for
how else was I to hear the music of her voice, or gladden my eyes with
her beauty? We love each other, but a gulf wider than the stormy sea
divides us. She is an heiress, come of a proud and haughty line of
nobles, while I----"
Andre paused, waiting for some words wither of encouragement or
censure; but the Count remained silent, and the young man continued,--
"Do you know who I am? A poor foundling, placed in the Hospital of
Vendome, the illicit offspring of some poor betrayed girl. I started
in the world with twenty francs in my pocket, and found my way to
Paris; since then I have earned my bread by my daily work. You only
see here the more brilliant side of my life; for an artist here--I am
a common work-man elsewhere."
If M. de Mussidan remained silent, it was from extreme admiration of
the noble character, which was so unexpectedly revealed to him, and he
was endeavoring to conceal it.
"She knows all this," pursued Andre, "and yet she loves me. It was
here, in this very room, that she vowed that she could never be the
wife of another. Not a month ago, a gentleman, well born, wealthy, and
fascinating, with every characteristic that a woman could love, was a
suitor for her hand. She went boldly to him, told him the story of our
love, and, like a noble-hearted gentleman, he withdrew at once, and
to-day is my best and kindest friend. Now, Marquis, would you like to
see this young girl's picture?"
"Yes," answered the Count, "and I shall feel deeply grateful to you
for such a mark of confidence."
Andre went to the picture, but as he touched the curtain he turned
quickly towards his visitor.
"No," said he, "I can no longer continue this farce; it is unworthy of
M. de Mussidan turned pale.
"I am about to see Sabine de Mussidan's portrait. Draw the curtain."
Andre obeyed, and for a moment the Count stood entranced before the
work of genius that met his eyes.
"It is she!" said the father. "Her very smile; the same soft light in
her eyes. It is exquisite!"
Misfortune is a harsh teacher; some weeks ago he would have smiled
superciliously at the mere idea of granting his daughter's hand to a
struggling artist, for then he thought only of M. de Breulh, but now
he would have esteemed it a precious boon had he been allowed to
choose Andre as Sabine's husband. But Henri de Croisenois stood in the
way, and as this idea flashed across the Count's mind he gave a
perceptible start. He was sure from the excessive calmness of the
young man that he must be well acquainted with all recent events. He
asked the question, and Andre, in the most open manner, told him all
he knew. The generosity of M. de Breulh, the kindness of Madame Bois
Arden, his suspicions, his inquiries, his projects, and his hopes. M.
de Mussidan gazed once more upon his daughter's portrait, and then
taking the hand of the young painter, said,--
"M. Andre, if ever we can free ourselves from those miscreants, whose
daggers are pointed at our hearts, Sabine shall be your wife."
Yes, Sabine might yet be his, but between the lovers stood the forms
of Croisenois and his associates. But now he felt strong enough to
contend with them all.
"To work!" said he, "to work!"
Just then, however, he heard a sound of ringing laughter outside his
door. He could distinguish a woman's voice, and also a man's, speaking
in high, shrill tones. All at once his door burst open, and a
hurricane of silks, velvets, feathers, and lace whirled in. With
extreme surprise, the young artist recognized the beautiful features
of Rose, /alias/ Zora de Chantemille. Gaston de Gandelu followed her,
and at once began,--
"Here we are," said he, "all right again. Did you expect to see us?"
"Not in the least."
"Ah! well, it is a little surprise of the governor's. On my word, I
really will be a dutiful son for the future. To-day, the good old boy
came into my room, and said, 'This morning I took the necessary steps
to release the person in whom you are interested. Go and meet her.'
What do you think of that? So off I ran to find Zora, and here we
Andre did not pay much attention to Gaston, but was engaged in
watching Zora, who was looking round the studio. She went up to
Sabine's portrait, and was about to draw the curtain, when Andre
"Excuse me," said he; "I must put this picture to dry." And as the
portrait stood on a moveable easel, he wheeled it into the adjoining
"And now," said Gaston, "I want you to come and breakfast with us to
celebrate Zora's happy release."
"I am much obliged to you, but it is impossible. I must get on with my
"Yes, yes; work is an excellent thing, but just now you must go and
"I assure you that it is quite out of the question. I cannot leave the
Gaston paused for a moment in deep thought.
"I have it," said he triumphantly. "You will not come to breakfast;
then breakfast shall come to you. I am off to order it."
Andre ran after him, but Gaston was too quick, and he returned to the
studio in anything but an amiable temper. Zora noticed his evident
"He always goes on in this absurd way," said she, with a shrug of her
pretty shoulders, "and thinks himself so clever and witty, bah!"
Her tone disclosed such contempt for Gaston that Andre looked at her
in perplexed surprise.
"What do you look so astonished at? It is easy to see you do not know
much of him. All his friends are just like him; if you listen to them
for half an hour at a stretch, you get regularly sick. When I think of
the terrible evenings that I have spent in their company, I feel ready
to die with yawning;" and as she spoke, she suited the action to the
word. "Ah! if he really loved me!" added she.
"Love you! Why, he adores you."
Zora made a little gesture of contempt which Toto Chupin might have
"Do you think so?" said she. "Do you know what it is he loves in me?
When people pass me they cry out, 'Isn't she good style?' and then the
idiot is as pleased as Punch; but if I had on a cotton gown, he would
think nothing of me."
Rose had evidently learned a good ideal, as her beauty had never been
so radiant. She was one glow of health and strength.
"Then my name was not good enough for him," she went on. "His
aristocratic lips could not bring themselves to utter such a common
name as Rose, so he christened me Zora, a regular puppy dog's name. He
has plenty of money, but money is not everything after all. Paul had
no money, and yet I loved him a thousand times better. On my word, I
have almost forgotten how to laugh, and yet I used to be as merry as
the day was long."
"Why did you leave Paul then?"
"Well, you see, I wanted to experience what a woman feels when she has
a Cashmere shawl on, so one fine morning I took wing. But there, who
knows? Paul would very likely have left me one day. There was some one
who was doing his best to separate us, an old blackguard called
Tantaine, who lived in the same house."
"Ah!" answered he cautiously. "What interest could he have had in
"I don't know," answered the girl, assuming a serious air; "but I am
sure he was trying it on. A fellow doesn't hand over banknotes for
nothing, and I saw him give one for five hundred francs to Paul; and
more than that, he promised him that he should make a great fortune
through a friend of his called Mascarin."
Andre started. He remembered the visit that Paul had made him, on the
pretext of restoring the twenty francs he had borrowed, and at which
he had boasted that he had an income of a thousand francs a month, and
might make more, though he had not said how this was to be done. "I
think that Paul has forgotten me. I saw him once at Van Klopen's, and
he never attempted to say a word to me. He was certainly with that
Mascarin at the time."
Andre could only draw one conclusion from this, either that Paul was
protected by the band of conspirators, or else that he formed one of
it. In that case he was useful to them; while Rose, who was in their
way, was persecuted by them. Andre's mind came to this conclusion in
an instant. It seemed to him that if Catenac had been desirous of
imprisoning Rose, it was because she was in the way, and her presence
disturbed certain combinations. Before, however, he could work out his
line of deduction, Gaston's shrill voice was heard upon the stairs,
and in another moment he made his appearance.
"Place for the banquet," said he; "make way for the lordly feast."
Two waiters followed him, bearing a number of covered dishes on trays.
At another time Andre would have been very angry at this invasion, and
at the prospect of a breakfast that would last two or three hours and
utterly change everything; but now he was inclined to bless Gaston for
his happy idea, and, with the assistance of Rose, he speedily cleared
a large table for the reception of the viands.
Gaston did nothing, but talked continually.
"And now I must tell you the joke of the day. Henri de Croisenois, one
of my dearest friends, has absolutely launched a Company."
Andre nearly let fall a bottle, which he was about to place upon the
"Who told you this?" asked he quickly.
"Who told me? Why, a great big flaming poster. Tafila Copper Mines;
capital, four millions. And my esteemed friend, Henri, has not a five-
franc piece to keep the devil out of his pocket."
The face of the young artist expressed such blank surprise that Gaston
burst into a loud laugh.
"You look just as I did when I read it. Henri de Croisenois, the
chairman of a Company! Why, if you had been elected Pope, I should not
have been more surprised. Tafila Copper Mines! What a joke! The shares
are five hundred francs."
The waiters had now retired, and Gaston urged his friends to take
their places at the table, and all seemed merry as a marriage bell;
but many a gay commencement has a stormy ending.
Gaston, whose shallow brain could not stand the copious draughts of
wine with which he washed down his repast, began all at once to
overwhelm Zora with bitter reproaches at her not being able to
comprehend how a man like him, who was destined to play a serious part
in society, could have been led away, as he had been, by a person like
Gaston had a tongue which was never at a loss either to praise or
blame, and Zora was equally ready to retort, and defended herself with
such acrimony that the lad, knowing himself to be in fault, entirely
lost the small remnant of temper which he still possessed, and dashed
out of the room, declaring that he never wished to set eyes upon Zora
again, and that she might keep all the presents that he had lavished
upon her for all he cared.
His departure was hailed with delight by Andre, who, now that he was
left alone with Zora, hoped to derive some further information from
her, and especially a distinct description of Paul, whom he felt that
he must now reckon among his adversaries. But his hopes were destined
to be frustrated, for Zora was so filled with anger and excitement
that she refused to listen to another word; and putting on her hat and
mantle, with scarcely a glance at the mirror, rushed out of the studio
with the utmost speed, declaring that she would seek out Paul, and
make him revenge the insults that Gaston had put on her.
All this passed so rapidly that the young painter felt as if a tornado
had passed through his humble dwelling; but as peace and calm
returned, he began to see that Providence had directly interposed in
his favor, and had sent Rose and Gaston to his place to furnish him
with fresh and important facts. All that Rose had said, incomplete as
her statement was, had thrown a ray of light upon an intrigue which,
up till now, had been shaded in the thickest gloom. The relations of
Paul with Mascarin explained why Catenac had been so anxious to have
Rose imprisoned, and also seemed to hint vaguely at the reason for the
extraction of the forged signatures from the simple Gaston. What could
be the meaning of the Company started by De Croisenois at the very
moment when he was about to celebrate his union with Sabine?
Andre desired to see the advertisement of the Company for himself; and
without stopping to change his blouse, ran downstairs to the corner of
the street, where Gaston had told him that the announcement of the
Company was placarded up. He found it there, in a most conspicuous
position, with all its advantages most temptingly set forth. Nothing
was wanting; and there was even a woodcut of Tafila, in Algiers, which
represented the copper mines in full working operation; while at the
top, the name of the chairman, the Marquis de Croisenois, stood out in
letters some six inches in height.
Andre stood gazing at this wonderful production for fully five
minutes, when all at once a gleam of prudence flashed across his mind.
"I am a fool," said he to himself. "How do I know how many watchful
eyes are now fixed on me, reading on my countenance my designs
regarding this matter and its leading spirit?"
Upon his return to his room, he sat for more than an hour, turning
over the whole affair in his mind, and at length he flattered himself
that he had hit upon an expedient. Behind the house in which he lodged
was a large garden, belonging to some public institution, the front of
which was in the Rue Laval. A wall of about seven feet in height
divided these grounds from the premises in the Rue de la Tour
d'Auvergne. Why should he not go out by the way of these ornamental
grounds and so elude the vigilance of the spies who might be in
waiting at the front of the house?
"I can," thought he, "alter my appearance so much that I shall not be
recognized. I need not return here to sleep. I can ask a bed from
Vignol, who will help me in every possible way."
This Vignol was the friend to whom, at Andre's request, M. Gandelu had
given the superintendence of the works at his new house in the Champs
"I shall," continued he, "by this means escape entirely from De
Croisenois and his emissaries, and can watch their game without their
having any suspicion of my doing so. For the time being, of course, I
must give up seeing those who have been helping me,--De Breulh,
Gandelu, Madame de Bois Arden, and M. de Mussidan; that, however,
cannot be avoided. I can use the post, and by it will inform them all
of the step that I have taken."
It was dark before he had finished his letters, and, of course, it was
too late to try anything that day; consequently he went out, posted
his letters, and dined at the nearest restaurant.
On his return home, he proceeded to arrange his disguise. He had it
ready, among his clothes: a blue blouse, a pair of check trousers,
well-worn shoes, and a shabby cap, were all that he required, and he
then applied himself to the task of altering his face. He first shaved
off his beard. Then he twisted down two locks of hair, which he
managed to make rest on his forehead. Then he commenced applying some
coloring to his face with a paint-brush; but this he found to be an
extremely difficult business, and it was not for a long while that he
was satisfied with the results that he had produced. He then knotted
an old handkerchief round his neck, and clapped his cap on one side,
with the peak slanting over one eye. Then he took a last glance in the
glass, and felt that he had rendered himself absolutely
unrecognizable. He was about to impart a few finishing touches, when a
knock came at his door. He was not expecting any one at such an hour,
nine o'clock; for the waiters from the restaurant had already removed
the remains of the feast.
"Who is there?" cried he.
"It is I," replied a weak voice; "I, Gaston de Gandelu."
Andre decided that he had no cause to distrust the lad, and so he
opened his door.
"Has M. Andre gone out?" asked the poor boy faintly. "I though I heard
Gaston had not penetrated his disguise, and this was Andre's first
triumph; but he saw now that he must alter his voice, as well as his
"Don't you know me?" asked he.
It was evident that young Gaston had received some terrible shock; for
it could not have been the quarrel in the morning that had reduced him
to this abject state of prostration.
"What has gone wrong with you?" asked Andre kindly.
"I have come to bid you farewell; I am going to shoot myself in half
"Have you gone mad?"
"Not in the least," answered Gaston, passing his hand across his
forehead in a distracted manner; "but those infernal bills have turned
up. I was just leaving the dining-room, after having treated the
governor to my company, when the butler whispered in my ear that there
was a man outside who wanted to see me. I went out and found a dirty-
looking old scamp, with his coat collar turned up round the nape of
"Did he say that his name was Tantaine?" exclaimed Andre.
"Ah! was that his name? Well, it doesn't matter. He told me in the
most friendly manner that the holder of my bills had determined to
place them in the hands of the police to-morrow at twelve o'clock, but
that there was still a way for me to escape."
"And this was to take Rose out of France with you," said Andre
Gaston was overwhelmed with surprise.
"Who the deuce told you that?" asked he.
"No one; I guessed it; for it was only the conclusion of the plan
which they had initiated when you were induced to forge Martin Rigal's
signature. Well, what did you say?"
"That the idea was a ridiculous one, and that I would not stir a yard.
They shall find out that I can be obstinate, too; besides, I can see
their little game. As soon as I am out of the way they will go to the
governor and bleed him."
But Andre was not listening to him. What was best to be done? To
advise Gaston to go and take Rose with him was to deprive himself of a
great element of success; and to permit him to kill himself was, of
course, out of the question.
"Just attend to me," said he at last; "I have an idea which I will
tell you as soon as we are out of this house; but for reasons which
are too long to go into at present it is necessary for me to get into
the street without going through the door. You will, therefore, go
away, and as the clock strikes twelve you will ring at the gateway of
29, Rue de Laval. When it is opened, ask some trivial question of the
porter; and when you leave, take care that you do not close the gate.
I shall be in the garden of the house and will slip out and join you."
The plan succeeded admirably, and in ten minutes Gaston and Andre were
walking along the boulevards.
The Marquis de Croisenois lived in a fine new house on the Boulevard
Malesherbes near the church of St. Augustine, and in a suite of rooms
the rental of which was four thousand francs per annum. He had
collected together sufficient relics of his former splendor to dazzle
the eyes of the superficial observer. The apartment and the furniture
stood in the name of his body-servant, while his horse and brougham
were by the same fiction supposed to be the property of his coachman,
for even in the midst of his ruin the Marquis de Croisenois could not
go on foot like common people.
The Marquis had two servants only in his modest establishment--a
coachman, who did a certain amount of indoor work, and a valet, who
knew enough of cookery to prepare a bachelor breakfast. This valet
Mascarin had seen once, and the man had then produced so unpleasant an
impression on the astute proprietor of the Servants' Registry Office
that he had set every means at work to discover who he was and from
whence he came. Croisenois said that he had taken him into his service
on the recommendation of an English baronet of his acquaintance, a
certain Sir Richard Wakefield. The man was a Frenchman, but he had
resided for some time in England, for he spoke that language with
tolerable fluency. Andre knew nothing of these details, but he had
heard of the existence of the valet from M. de Breulh, when he had
asked where the Marquis lived.
At eight o'clock on the morning after he had surreptitiously left his
home in the manner described, Andre took up his position in a small
wine-shop not far from the abode of the Marquis de Croisenois. He had
done this designedly, for he knew enough of the manner and customs of
Parisian society to know that this was the hour usually selected by
domestics in fashionable quarters to come out for a gossip while their
masters were still in bed. Andre had more confidence in himself than
heretofore, for he had succeeded in saving Gaston; and these were the
means he had employed. After much trouble, and even by the use of
threats, he had persuaded the boy to return to his father's house. He
had gone with him; and though it was two in the morning, he had not
hesitated to arouse M. Gandelu, senior, and tell him how his son had
been led on to commit the forgery, and how he threatened to commit
The poor old man was much moved.
"Tell him to come to me at once," said he, "and let him know that we
two will save him."
Andre had not far to go, for Gaston was waiting in the next room in an
agony of suspense.
As soon as he came into the old man's presence he fell upon his knees,
with many promises of amendment for the future.
"I do not believe," remarked old Gandelu, "that these miscreants will
venture to carry their threats into execution and place the matter in
the hands of the police; but for all that, my son must not remain in a
state of suspense. I will file a complaint against the Mutual Loan
Society before twelve to-day, and we will see how an association will
be dealt with that lends money to minors and urges them to forge
signatures as security. It will, however, be as well for my son to
leave for Belgium by the first train this morning; but, as you will
see, he will not remain very many days."
Andre remained for the rest of the hours of darkness at the kind old
man's house, and it was in Gaston's room that he renewed his "make-up"
before leaving. The future looked very bright to him as he walked
gayly up the Boulevard Malesherbes. The wine-shop in which he had
taken up his position was admirably adapted for keeping watch on De
Croisenois, for he could not avoid seeing all who came in and went out
of the house; and as there was no other wine-shop in the neighborhood,
Andre felt sure that all the servants in the vicinity, and those of
the Marquis, of course, among the number, would come there in the
course of the morning; so that here he could get into conversation
with them, offer them a glass of wine, and, perhaps, get some
information from them. The room was large and airy, and was full of
customers, most of whom were servants. Andre was racking his brain for
a means of getting into conversation with the proprietor, when two
new-comers entered the room. These men were in full livery, while all
the other servants had on morning jackets. As soon as they entered, an
old man, with a calm expression of face, who was struggling
perseveringly with a tough beefsteak at the same table as that by
which Andre was seated, observed,--
"Ah! here comes the De Croisenois' lot."
"If they would only sit here," thought Andre, "by the side of this
fellow, who evidently knows them, I could hear all they said."
By good luck they did so, begging that they might be served at once,
as they were in a tremendous hurry.
"What is the haste this morning?" asked the old man who had recognized
"I have to drive the master to his office, for he has one now. He is
chairman of a Copper Mining Company, and a fine thing it is, too. If
you have any money laid by, M. Benoit, this is a grand chance for
Benoit shook his head gravely.
"All is not gold that glitters," said he sententiously; "nor, on the
other hand, are things as bad as they are painted."
Benoit was evidently a prudent man, and was not likely to commit
"But if your master is going out, you, M. Mouret, will be free, and we
can have a game at cards together."
"No, sir," answered the valet.
"What! are you engaged too?"
"Yes; I have to carry a bouquet of flowers to the young lady my master
is engaged to. I have seen the young lady; she seems to be rather
The man, who wore an enormously high and stiff collar, was absolutely
speaking of Sabine, and Andre could have twisted his neck with
"Let us hope," remarked the coachman, as he hastily swallowed his
breakfast, "that the Marquis does not intend to invest his wife's
dowry in this new venture of his."
The men then ceased to speak of their master, and began to busy
themselves with their own affairs, and went out again without alluding
to him any further, leaving Andre to reflect what a difficult business
the detective line was.
The customers looked upon him with distrustful eyes, for it must be
confessed that his appearance was decidedly against him, and he had
not yet acquired the necessary art of seeing and hearing while
affecting to be doing neither; and it was easy for the dullest
observer to be certain that it was not for the sake of obtaining a
breakfast that he had entered the establishment. Andre had penetration
enough to see the effect he had produced, and he became more and more
embarrassed. He had finished his meal now and had lighted a cigar, and
had ordered a small glass of brandy. Nearly all the customers had
withdrawn, leaving only five or six, who were playing cards at a table
near the door. Andre was anxious to see Croisenois enter his carriage,
and so he lingered, ordering another glass of brandy as an excuse.
He had just been served, when a man, whose dress very much resembled
his own, lounged into the wine-shop. He was a tall, clumsily built
fellow, with an insolent expression upon his beardless face. His coat
and cap were in an equally dilapidated condition; and in the squeaky
voice of the rough, he ordered a plate of beef and half a bottle of
wine, and, as he brushed past Andre, upset his glass of brandy. The
artist made no remark, though he felt quite sure that this act was
intentional, as the fellow laughed impudently when he saw the damage
that he had done. When his breakfast was served, he carelessly spit
upon Andre's boots. The insult was so apparent that Andre began to
"Had he not succeeded in eluding his spies, as he thought that he had
done? And was it not quite possible that this man had been sent to
pick a quarrel with him, and deal him a disabling, or even a fatal
Prudence counselled him to leave the place at once, but he felt that
he could not go until he had found out the real truth. There seemed to
be but little doubt on the matter, however; for as the fellow cut up
his meat, he jerked every bit of skin and gristle into his neighbor's
lap; then, after finishing up his wine, he managed to upset the few
drops remaining on to Andre's arm and shoulder. This was the finishing
"Please, remember," remarked Andre calmly, "that there is some one at
the table besides yourself."
"Do you think I'm blind, mate?" returned the fellow brutally. "Mind
your own business, or----" And to conclude the sentence, he shook his
fist threateningly in the young man's face.
Andre started to his feet, and, with a well-directed blow in the
chest, sent the fellow rolling under the table.
At the sound of the scuffle, the card-players turned round, and saw
Andre standing erect, with quivering lips and eyes flashing with rage,
while his antagonist was lying on the floor among the overturned
"Come, come! No squabbling here!" remarked one of the players.
The fellow scrambled to his feet, and made a savage rush at the young
man, who, using his right foot skilfully, tripped his antagonist up,
and sent him again rolling on the ground. It was most adroitly done,
and secured the applause of the lookers-on, who now complained no
longer, and were evidently interested in the scene.
Again the rough came up, but Andre contented himself with standing on
the defensive. Some tables, a stool, and a glass were injured, and at
last the proprietor came upon the scene of action.
"Get out of this," cried he, "and take care that I don't see your
faces here again."
At these words, the rough burst out into a torrent of foul language.
"Don't put up with his cheek," said one of the customers; "give him in
charge at once."
Hardly, however, had the manager started to summon the police, than,
as if by magic, a body of them appeared; and Andre found himself
walking down the boulevard between a couple, while his late antagonist
followed in the safe custody of two more. To have attempted any
resistance would have been utter folly, and the young man resigned
himself to what he felt he could not help. But as he went on, he
reflected on the strange scene through which he had just passed. All
had gone on so rapidly that he could hardly recall the events to his
memory. He was, however, quite sure that this unprovoked assault
concealed some motive with which at present he was unacquainted.
The police led their prisoners through the doorway of a dingy-looking
old house, and then Andre saw that he was not at the regular police-
station. The whole party entered an office, where a superintendent and
two clerks were at work. The ruffian who had assaulted Andre changed
his manner directly he entered the office; he threw his tattered cap
upon a bench, passed his fingers through his hair, and shook hands
with the superintendent; he then turned to Andre.
"Permit me, sir," said he, "to compliment you on being so handy with
your fists. You precious nearly did for me, I can tell you."
At that moment a door opened at the other end of the room, and a voice
was heard to say, "Send them in."
Andre and his late antagonist soon found themselves in an office
evidently sacred to some one high up in the police. At a desk near the
window was seated a man, with a rather distinguished air, wearing a
white necktie and a pair of gold glasses.
"Have the goodness to take a seat," said this gentleman, addressing
Andre with the most perfect urbanity.
He took a chair, half stupefied by the strangeness of the whole
affair, and waited. Could he be awake, or was he dreaming? He could
"Before I say anything," remarked the gentleman in the gold
spectacles, "I ought to apologize for a proceeding which is--well,
what shall I call it?--a little rough, perhaps; but it was necessary
to make use of it to obtain this interview with you. Really, however,
I had no choice. You are closely watched, and I did not wish the
persons who had set spies on you to have any knowledge of this
"Do you say I am watched?" stammered Andre.
"Yes, by a certain La Candele, as sharp a fellow at that kind of work
as you could find in Paris. Are you surprised at this?"
"Yes, for I had thought----"
The gentleman's features softened into a benevolent smile.
"You thought," he said, "that you had succeeded in throwing them off
the scent. So I had imagined this morning, when I saw you in your
present disguise. But permit me, my dear M. Andre, to assure you that
there is great room for improvement in it. I admit that a first
attempt is always to be looked on leniently; but it did not deceive La
Candele, and even at this distance I can plainly see your whole
makeup; and what I can see, of course, is patent to others."
He rose from his seat, and came closer to Andre.
"Why on earth," asked he, "should you daub all this color on your
face, which makes you look like an Indian warrior in his war-paint?
Only two colors are necessary to change the whole face--red and black
--at the eyebrows, the nostrils, and the corners of the mouth. Look
here"; and taking from his pocket a gold pencil-case, he corrected the
faults in the young artist's work.
As soon as he had finished, Andre went up to the mirror over the
chimney-piece, and was surprised at the result.
"Now," said the strange gentleman, "you see the futility of your
attempts. La Candele knew you at once. I wished to speak to you; so I
sent for Palot, one of my men, and instructed him to pick a quarrel
with you. The policemen arrested you, and we have met without any one
being at all the wiser. Be kind enough to efface my little
corrections, as they will be noticed in the street."
Andre obeyed, and as he rubbed away with the corner of his
handkerchief, he vainly sought for some elucidation of this mystery.
The man with the gold spectacles had resumed his seat, and was
refreshing himself with a pinch of snuff.
"And now," resumed he, "we will, if you please, have a little talk
together. As you see, I know you. Doctor Loulleux tells me that he
knows no one so high-minded and amiable as yourself. He declares that
your honor is without a stain, and your courage undoubted."
"Ah! my dear sir!" interposed the painter, with a deep blush.
"Pray let me go on. M. Gandelu says that he would trust you with all
he possessed, while all your comrades, with Vignol at their head, have
the greatest respect and regard for you. So much for the present. As
for your future, two of the greatest ornaments of the artistic world
say that you will one day occupy a very high place in the profession.
You gain now about fifteen francs a day. Am I correct?"
"Certainly," answered Andre, more bewildered than ever.
The gentleman smiled.
"Unfortunately," he went on, "my information ends here, for the means
of inquiry possessed by the police are, of course, very limited. They
can only act upon facts, not on intentions, and so long as these are
not displayed in open acts, the hands of the police are tied. It is
only forty-eight hours since I heard of you for the first time, and I
have already your biography in my pocket. I hear that the day before
yesterday you were dining with M. de Breulh-Faverlay, and that this
morning you were walking with young Gandelu, and that La Candele was
following you like a shadow. These are all facts, but----"
He paused, and cast a keen glance upon Andre, then, in a slow and
measured voice, he continued,--
"But no one has been able to tell me why you dogged Verminet's
footsteps, or why you went to Mascarin's house, or why, finally, you
disguised yourself to keep a watch on the movements of the most
honorable the Marquis de Croisenois. It is the motive that we cannot
arrive at, for the facts are perfectly clear."
Andre fidgeted uneasily in his chair beneath the spell of those
magnetic glasses, which seemed to draw the truth from him.
"I cannot tell you, sir," faltered he at last, "for the secret is not
mine to divulge."
"You will not trust me? Well, then, I must speak. Remember, all that I
have told you was the account of what I knew positively; but, in
addition to this, I have drawn my own inferences. You are watching De
Croisenois because he is going to marry a wealthy heiress."
Andre blushed crimson.
"We assume, therefore, that you wish to prevent this marriage; and
why, pray? I have heard that Mademoiselle de Mussidan was formerly
engaged to M. de Breulh-Faverlay. How comes it that the Count and
Countess de Mussidan prefer a ruined spendthrift to a wealthy and
strictly honorable man? It is for you to answer this question. It is
perfectly plain to me that they hand over their daughter to De
Croisenois under pressure of some kind, and that means that a terrible
secret exists with which Croisenois threatens them."
"Your deduction is wrong, sir," exclaimed Andre eagerly, "and you are
"Very good," was the calm reply. "Your emphatic denial shows that I am
in the right. I want no further proofs. M. de Mussidan paid you a
visit yesterday, and one of my agents reported that his face was much
happier on leaving you than when he was on his way to your house. I
therefore infer that you promised to release him from Croisenois'
persecutions, and in return he promised you his daughter's hand in
marriage. This, of course, explains your present disguise, and now
tell me again that I am wrong, if you dare."
Andre would not lie, and therefore kept silence.
"And now," continued the gentleman, "how about the secret? Did not the
Count tell it you? I do not know it; and yet I think that if I were to
search for it, I could find it. I can call to my mind certain crimes
which three generations of detective have striven to find out. Did you
ever hear that De Croisenois had an elder brother named George, who
disappeared in a most wonderful manner? What became of him? This very
George, twenty-three years back, was a friend of Madame de Mussidan's.
Might not his disappearance have something to do with this marriage?"
"Are you the fiend himself?" cried the young man.
"I am M. Lecoq."
Andre started back in absolute dread at the name of this celebrated
"M. Lecoq!" repeated he.
The vanity of the great detective was much flattered when he saw the
impression that his name had produced.
"And now, my dear M. Andre," said he blandly, "now that you know who I
am, may I not hope that you will be more communicative?"
M. de Mussidan had not told his secret to the young artist, but he had
said enough for him to feel that the detective was correct in his
"Surely," continued Lecoq, "we ought to be able to come to a more
definite understanding, and I think that my openness should elicit
some frankness on your side. I saw that you were watched by the very
person that I was watching. For three days my men have followed you,
and to-day I made up my mind that you could furnish me with the clue I
"For many years," continued Lecoq, "I have been certain that an
organized association of blackmailers exists in Paris; family
differences, sin, shame, and sorrow are worked by these wretches like
veritable gold mines, and bring them in enormous annual revenues."
"Ah," returned Andre, "I expected something of this kind."
"Of course, when I was quite sure of these facts," continued Lecoq, "I
said to myself, "I will break up this gang"; but it was easier said
than done. There is one very peculiar thing about blackmailing. Those
who carry it on are almost certain of doing so with impunity, for the
victims will pay and not complain. Yes, I tell you that I have often
found out these unhappy pigeons, but never could get one to speak."
The detective was so indignant and acrimonious withal in his
indignation, that Andre could not repress a smile.
"Very soon," continued Lecoq, "I recognized the futility of my
attempts, and the impossibility of reaching these scoundrels through
their victims, and then I determined to strike at the plunderers
themselves, but this was a scheme that took patience and time. I have
waited my chance for three years, and for eighteen months one of my
men has been in the service of the Marquis de Croisenois, and up to
now this band of villains has cost the government over ten thousand
francs. That superlative scoundrel, Mascarin, has put several white
threads in my hair. I believe him to be Tantaine; yes, and Martin
Rigal too. The idea of there being a means of communication between
the banker's house in the Rue Montmartre and the Servants' Registry
Office in the Rue Montorgueil only came into my head this morning. But
this time they have gone too far, and I have them. I know them all,
from the chief, Mascarin-Tantaine-Rigal, down to their lowest agent,
Toto Chupin, and Paul Violaine, the docile puppet of their will. We
will get hold of the whole gang, and neither Van Klopen nor Catenac
will escape. Just now the latter is travelling about with the Duke de
Champdoce and a fellow named Perpignan, and two of my sweet lads are
close upon them, and send in almost hourly reports of what is going
on. My trap has a tempting bait, the spring is strong, and we shall
catch every one of them. And now do you still hesitate to confide all
you know to me? I swear on my honor that I will respect as sacred what
you tell me, no matter what may occur."
Andre yielded, as did every person who came under the influence of
this remarkable man and his strange and inexplicable fascination. If
he hid anything from him to-day, would not Lecoq be acquainted with it
to-morrow? And so, with the most perfect frankness, he told his story
and everything that he knew.
"Now," cried Lecoq, "I see it all clearly. Aha, they want to force
young Gandelu to disappear with Rose, do they?"
Beneath his gold-rimmed spectacles his eyes flashed fiercely. He
seemed to be occupied in drawing out his plan of campaign.
"From this moment," said he, "be at ease. In another month
Mademoiselle de Mussidan shall be your wife; this I promise you, and
the promises of Lecoq are never broken."
He paused for an instant, as though to collect his thoughts, and then
"I can answer for all, except for your life. So many are interested in
your disappearance from this world, that every effort will be made to
get rid of you. Do not cease your caution for an instant. Never eat
twice running at the same restaurant, throw away food that has the
slightest strange taste. Avoid crowds in the street; do not get into a
cab; never lean from a window before ascertaining that its supports
are solid; in a word, fear and suspect everything."
For a moment longer Lecoq detained the young artist.
"Tell me," said he, "have you the mark of a wound on your shoulder or
"I have, sir; the scar of a very severe scald."
"I thought so; yes, I was almost certain of it," said Lecoq
thoughtfully; and as he conducted the young man to the door, he took
leave of him with the same words that Mascarin had often used to
"Farewell for the present, Duke de Champdoce."
THROUGH THE AIR.
At these last words Andre turned round, but the door closed, and he
heard the key grate in the lock. He passed through the outer office,
where the superintendent, his two clerks, and his late adversary all
seemed to gaze upon him with a glance of admiration and esteem.
He gained the open street.
What did those last words of Lecoq mean? He was a foundling, it is
true; but what foundling has not had lofty aspirations, and felt that,
for all he knew, he might be the scion of some noble house.
As soon as Lecoq thought that the coast was clear, he opened the door,
and called the agent, Palot.
"My lad," said the great man, "you saw that young man who went out
just now? He is a noble fellow, full of good feeling and honor. I look
upon him as my friend."
Palot made a gesture signifying that henceforth his late antagonist
was as something sacred in his eyes.
"You will be his shadow," pursued Lecoq, "and keep near enough to him
to rush to his aid at a moment of danger. That gang, of which Mascarin
is the head, want his life. You are my right-hand man, and I trust him
to you. I have warned him, but youth is rash; and you will scent
danger where he would never dream that it lurked. If there is any
peril, dash boldly forward, but endeavor to let no one find out who
you are. If you must speak to him--but only do so at the last
extremity--whisper my name in his ear, and he will know you have come
from me. Remember, you are answerable for him; but change your face.
La Candele and the others must not recognize in you the wine-shop
bully; that would spoil all. What have you on under that blouse, a
"That will do; now change the face."
Palot pulled out a small parcel from his pocket, from which he
extracted a red beard and wig, and, going to the mirror, adjusted them
with dexterous activity; and, in a few minutes, went up to his master,
who was waiting, saying,--
"How will this do?"
"Not bad, not bad," returned Lecoq; "and now to your work."
"Where shall I find him?" asked Palot.
"Somewhere near Mascarin's den, for I advised him not to give up
playing the spy too suddenly."
Palot was off like the wind, and when he reached the Rue Montmartre,
he caught sight of the person who had been intrusted to his care.
Andre was walking slowly along, thinking of Lecoq's cautions, when a
young man, with his arm in a sling, overtook him, going in the same
direction as he was. Andre was sure that it was Paul, and as he knew
that he could not be recognized, he passed him in his turn, and saw
that it was indeed the Paul so much regretted by Zora.
"I will find out where he goes to," thought Andre.
He followed, and saw him enter the house of M. Rigal. Two women were
gossiping near the door, and Andre heard one of them say,--
"That is the young fellow who is going to marry Flavia, the banker's
Paul, therefore, was to marry the daughter of the chief of the gang.
Should he tell Lecoq this? But, of course, the detective knew it.
Time was passing, and Andre felt that he had but little space to gain
the house that Gandelu was building in the Champs Elysees, if he
wished to ask hospitality from his friend Vignol.
He found all the workmen there, and not one of them recognized him
when he asked for Vignol.
"He is engaged up there," said one. "Take the staircase to the left."
The chief part of the ornamental work was in front, and it was there
that the little hut which Tantaine had pointed out to Toto Chupin was
erected. Vignol was in it, and was utterly surprised when Andre made
himself known, for he did not recognize him under his strange
"It is nothing," returned the young man cautiously, as Vignol paused
for an explanation; "only a little love affair."
"Do you expect to win a girl's heart by making such a guy of
yourself?" asked his friend with a laugh.
"Hush! I will explain matters later on. Can you give me shelter for a
night or two?"
He stopped himself, turned terribly pale, and listened intently. He
fancied he had heard a woman's scream, and his own name uttered.
"Andre, it is I--your Sabine; help!"
Quick as lightning Andre rushed to the window, opened it, and leaned
out to discover from whence those sounds came.
The young miscreant, Toto Chupin, had too fatally earned the note with
which Tantaine had bribed him. The whole of the front of the window
gave way with a loud crash, and Andre was hurled into space.
The hut was at least sixty feet from the pavement, and the fall was
the more appalling because the body of Andre struck some of the
intervening scaffolding first, and thence bounced off, until the
unhappy young man fell with a dull thud, bleeding and senseless in the
Nearly three hundred persons in the Champs Elysees witnessed this
hideous sight; for, at Vignol's cry, every one had stopped, and,
frozen with horror, had not missed one detail of the grim tragedy.
In an instant a crowd was collected round the poor, inert mass of
humanity which lay motionless in a pool of blood. But two workmen,
roused by Vignol's shrieks, were soon on the spot, and pushed their
way through the crowd of persons who were gazing with a morbid
curiosity on the man who had fallen from a height of sixty feet.
Andre gave no sign of life. His face was dreadfully bruised, his eyes
were closed, and a stream of blood poured from his mouth, as Vignol
raised his friend's head upon his knee.
"He is dead!" cried the lookers on. "No one could survive such a
"Let us take him to the Hospital Beaujon!" exclaimed Vignol. "We are
close by there."
An ambulance was speedily procured, and the workmen, placing their
insensible friend carefully in it, asked permission to carry him to
One curious event had excited the attention of some of the lookers on.
Just as Andre fell, a /commissaire/ had rushed forward and seized a
woman. She was one of the class of unfortunates who frequent the
Champs Elysees, and she it was who had uttered the cry that had lured
Andre to destruction. The woman made an effort to escape, but Palot,
for it was he, caught her arm.
"Not a word," said he sternly. The wretched creature seemed in abject
terror, and obeyed him.
"Why did you cry out?" asked he.
"I do not know."
"It is a lie!"
"No, it is true; a gentleman came up to me, and said, 'Madame, if you
will cry out now, Andre, it is I--your Sabine; help! I will give you
two louis.' Of course I agreed. He gave me the fifty francs, and I did
as he asked me."
"What was this man like?"
"He was tall, old, and very shabby and dirty, with glasses on. I never
set eyes on him before."
"Do you know," returned the /commissaire/ sternly, "that the words you
have uttered have caused the death of the poor fellow who has just
fallen from the house?"
"Why did he not take more care?" asked she indifferently.
Palot, with an angry gesture, handed her over to a police-constable.
"Take her to the station-house," said he, "and do not lose sight of
her, for she will be a most important witness at a trial that must
soon come on."
"What the woman says is true," muttered Palot. "She did not know what
she was doing, and it was Tantaine that gave her the two coins. He
shall pay for this; but certainly, if the whole gang are collared, it
won't bring the poor young fellow to life."
He had, however, not much time for reflection, for he had to gather up
every link of evidence. How was it that this accident had occurred?
The frame of the window had fallen out with Andre, and lay in
fragments on the pavement. He picked up one of the pieces, and at once
saw what had been done; the woodwork had been sawed almost in two, and
the putty with which the marks of the cuts had been concealed still
clung to the wood. Palot called one of the workmen, who appeared to be
more intelligent than his fellows, pointed out the marks to him, and
bade him gather up the fragments and put them in some place of
security. This duty being accomplished, Palot joined the crowd; but he
was too late, for Andre had been taken away to the hospital. He looked
around to see if there was any one from whom he could gain
information, and suddenly perceived on a bench some one whom he had
often followed. It was Toto Chupin, no longer clad in the squalid rags
of a day or two back. He was dressed in gorgeous array, but his face
was livid, his eyes wild, and his lips kept moving convulsively, for
he was a victim to a novel sensation--the pangs of remorse--and was
meditating whether he should not go to the nearest police-station and
give himself up, so that he might revenge himself on Tantaine, who had
made him a murderer. For a moment the idea of arresting Toto passed
through Palot's mind, but he, after a moment's thought, muttered,--
"No; that would never do. We should risk losing the whole gang.
Besides, he can't get away. I may even have committed an error in
arresting that woman. My master will say that I am not to be trusted.
He placed one of his friends in my charge, and this is what has
happened. I knew that the young man's life was in deadly peril, and
yet I let him enter a house in the course of erection; why, I might as
well have cut his throat myself."
In a terrible state of anxiety, Palot presented himself at the
hospital, and asked for the young man who had just been brought in.
"You mean Number 17?" returned one of the assistant-surgeons. "He is
in a most critical state; we fear internal injuries, fracture of the
skull, and--in fact, we fear everything."
It was two days before Andre recovered consciousness. It was midnight
when he first woke again to the realities of life. At a glance he
guessed where he was. He felt pain when he endeavored to turn over,
but he could move his legs and one arm.
"How long have I been here, I wonder?" he thought.
He tried to think, but he was weak, and thoughts would not come at his
command, and in a few seconds he dropped off to sleep again; and when
he awoke, it was broad day; the ward was full of life and motion, for
it was the hour of the house surgeon's visit. He was a young man
still, with a cheerful face, followed by the band of students. He went
from bed to bed, explaining cases, and cheering up the sufferers. When
Andre's turn came, the surgeon told him that his shoulder was put out,
his arm broken in two places, a bad cut on his head, while his body
was one mass of bruises; but, for all that, he was in luck to have got
off so easily. Andre listened to him with but a vague understanding of
his meaning, for, with the return of reason, the remembrance of Sabine
had come, and he asked himself what would become of her while he was
confined to his bed in the hospital. As this thought passed through
his mind, he uttered a faint groan. One of the students, a stout
person, with red whiskers, a white tie, and a rather shabby hat, who
looked as if he had just arrived from the country, stepped up to his
bed, and leaning over the patient, murmured, "Lecoq." Andre opened his
eyes wide at the name.
"M. Lecoq," gasped he, wondering at the excellence of the disguise.
"Hush, who knows who is watching us? I come to give your mind ease,
which will do you more good than all the doctor's stuff. Without in
any way committing you, I have seen M. de Mussidan, and have furnished
him with a valid excuse for postponing his daughter's marriage for
another month. You must remain here; you could not be in a place of
greater security; but even here you cannot be too cautious. Eat
nothing that is no given you by some one who utters the word 'Lecoq.'
M. Gandelu will certainly call to see you. If you want to see or write
to me, the patient on your right will manage that; he is one of my
men. You shall have news every day; but be patient and prudent."
"I can wait now," answered the young man, "because I have hope."
"Ah," murmured Lecoq, as he moved softly away, "is not hope the true
secret of life and happiness?"
THE DAY OF RECKONING.
M. Lecoq enjoined prudence and caution on Andre, and the utmost care
on the part of his agents, because he was fully aware of the skill and
cunning of the adversary with whom he had to cope.
"You should not talk or make a noise," he would say, "when you are
He could now prove that the head of this association, the man who
concealed his identity under a threefold personality, was the
instigator of a murder. But he did not intend to make use of this
discovery at once, for he had sworn that he would take the whole gang,
and his proceedings had been so carefully conducted that his victims
did not for a moment suspect the net that was closing around them. The
day after the accident to Andre, Mascarin sent an anonymous
communication to the head of the police, giving up Toto as the author
of the crime, and saying where he could be found.
"Of course," thought this wily plotter, "Toto will denounce Tantaine,
but that worthy man is dead and buried, and I think that even the
sharpest agents of the police will be unable to effect his
Mascarin had carefully consumed in a large fire every particle of the
tattered garments that Tantaine had been in the habit of wearing, and
laughed merrily as he watched the columns of sombre smoke roll
"Look for him as much as you please," laughed he. "Old Daddy Tantaine
has flown up the chimney."
The next business was to suppress Mascarin; this was a more difficult
operation. Few would care to inquire about Tantaine, but Mascarin was
well known as the head of a prosperous business; his disappearance
would create a sensation, and the police would take up the matter. His
best course would be to conduct matters openly, and sell his business
on the plea of family affairs causing him to retire. He easily found a
purchaser, and in twenty-four hours the matter had been arranged.
The night before handing over the business to his successor Mascarin
had much to do. Assisted by Beaumarchef, he carried into Martin
Rigal's private office the papers with which the Registry Office was
crammed. This removal was effected by means of a door marked by a
panel between Mascarin's office and the banker's private room; and
when the last scrap of paper had been removed, Mascarin pointed out a
heap of bricks and a supply of mortar to his faithful adherent.
"Wall up this door," said he.
It was a long and wearisome task, but it was at length completed, and
by rubbing soot and dust over the new work it lost its appearance of
freshness. The evening before Beaumarchef had received twelve thousand
francs on the express condition that he would start at once for
America, and the leave-taking between him and the master he had so
faithfully served was a most affecting one. He knew hardly anything of
the diabolical plots going on around him, and was the only innocent
person in that house of crime.
Mascarin was in haste to depart; he had annihilated Tantaine in order
to free himself from Toto. Mascarin was about to disappear, and he
contemplated retaining his third personality, and in it to pass away
the remainder of his life honored and respected; but he must first
induct his successor into his business; and he went through the books
with him, and explained all the practical working of the machinery.
This took him nearly all day, and it was getting late when his luggage
was put on a cab which he had in waiting. A new plate had already been
placed on the door: "J. Robinet, late B. Mascarin."
Knowing that he must carry out the deception completely, Mascarin
drove to the western railway station, and took a ticket for Rouen. He
felt rather uncomfortable, for he feared that he was being watched,
and he made up his mind not to leave a single trace behind him. At
Rouen he abandoned his luggage, which he had taken care should afford
no clue as to ownership, he also relinquished his beard and
spectacles, and returned to Paris as the well-known banker, Martin
Rigal, the pretty Flavia's father, having, as he thought, obliterated
Mascarin as completely as he had done Tantaine; but he had not noticed
in the train with him a very dark young man with piercing eyes, who
looked like the traveller of some respectable commercial firm. As soon
as he reached his home, and had tenderly embraced his daughter, he
went to the private room of Martin Rigal, and opened it with the key
that never left his person, and then gazed at a large rough mass of
brickwork which disfigured one side of the room, and which was the
remains of the wall that erewhile had been so hastily erected in the
Office of the Servants' Registry.
"This won't do," muttered he; "it must be plastered, and then
He picked up the bits of brick and plaster that lay on the floor, and
threw them into the fire, and then pushed a large screen in front of
the rough brickwork. He had just finished his work when Hortebise
entered the room, with his perpetually smiling face.
"Now, you unbeliever," cried Mascarin gaily, "is not fortune within
our grasp? Tantaine and Mascarin are dead, or rather, they never
existed. Beaumarchef is on his way to America, La Candele will be in
London in a week, and now we may enjoy our millions."
"Heaven grant it," said the doctor piously.
"Pooh, pooh! we have nothing more to fear, as you would have known had
you gone into the case as thoroughly as I have done. Who was the enemy
whom we had most need to dread? Why, Andre. He certainly is not dead,
but he is laid up for some weeks, and that is enough. Besides, he has
given up the game, for one of my men who managed to get into the
hospital says that he has not received a visitor or dispatched a
letter for the last fifteen days."
"But he had friends."
"Pshaw! friends always forget you! Why, where was M. de Breulh-
"It is the racing season, and he is a fixture in his stables."
"Madame de Bois Arden?"
"The new fashions are sufficient for her giddy head."
"He has his son's affairs to look after and there is no one else of
"And how about young Gandelu?"
"Oh! he has yielded to Tantaine's winning power, and has made it up
with Rose, and the turtle doves have taken wing for Florence."
But the doctor was still dissatisfied. "I am uneasy about the
Mussidans," said he.
"And pray why? De Croisenois has been very well received. I don't say
that Mademoiselle Sabine has exactly jumped into his arms, but she
thanks him every evening for the flowers he sends in the morning, and
you can't expect more than that."
"I wish the Count had not put off the marriage. Why did he do so?"
"It annoys me, too; but we can't have everything; set your mind at
By this time the banker had contrived to reassure the doctor.
"Besides," he added, "everything is going on well, even our Tafila
mines. I have taxed our people, according to their means, from one to
twenty thousand francs, and we are certain of a million."
The doctor rubbed his hands, and a delicious prospect of enjoyments
stretched out before him.
"I have seen Catenac," continued Martin Rigal. "He has returned from
Vendome, and the Duke de Champdoce is wild with hope and expectation,
and is on the path which he thinks will take him to his son."
"And how about Perpignan?"
"Perpignan is just as much a dupe as the Duke is; he thinks absolutely
that he has discovered all the clues that I myself placed on his road.
Before, however, they have quite concluded their investigations, Paul
will be my daughter's husband and Flavia the future Duchess of
Champdoce, with an income that a monarch might envy."
He paused, for there was a light tap on the door, and Flavia entered.
She bowed to the doctor, and, with the graceful movement of a bird,
perched herself upon her father's knee, and, throwing her arms round
his neck, kissed him again and again.
"This is a very nice little preface," said the banker with a forced
smile. "The favor is granted in advance, for, of course, this means
that you have come to ask one."
The girl shook her head, and returned in the tone of one addressing a
"Oh, you bad papa! Am I in the habit of selling my kisses? I am sure
that I have only to ask and to have."
"Of course not, only----"
"I came to tell you that dinner was ready, and that Paul and I are
both very hungry; and I only kissed you because I loved you; and if I
had to choose a father again, out of the whole it would be you."
He smiled fondly.
"But for the last six weeks," said he, "you have not loved me so
"No," returned she with charming simplicity, "not for so long--nearly
for fifteen days perhaps."
"And yet it is more than a month since the good doctor brought a
certain young man to dinner."
Flavia uttered a frank, girlish laugh.
"I love you dearly," said she, "but especially for one thing."
"And what is that, pray?"
"Ah! that is the secret; but I will tell it you for all that. It is
only within the last fortnight that I have found out how really good
you have been, and how much trouble you took in bringing Paul to me;
but to think that you should have to put on those ugly old clothes,
that nasty beard and those spectacles."
At these words the banker started so abruptly to his feet that Flavia
nearly fell to the ground.
"What do you mean by this?" said he.
"Do you suppose a daughter does not know her father? You might deceive
others, but I--"
"Flavia, I do not comprehend your meaning."
"Do you mean to tell me," asked she, "that you did not come to Paul's
rooms the day I was there?"
"Are you crazy? Listen to me."
"No, I will not; you must not tell me fibs. I am not a fool; and when
you went out with the doctor, I listened at the door, and I heard a
few words you said; and that isn't all, for when I got here, I hid
myself and I saw you come into this room."
"But you said nothing to any one, Flavia?"
"No, certainly not."
Rigal breathed a sigh of relief.
"Of course I do not count Paul," continued the girl, "for he is the
same as myself."
"Unhappy child!" exclaimed the banker in so furious a voice, and with
such a threatening gesture of the hand, that for the first time in her
life Flavia was afraid of her father.
"What have I done?" asked she, the tears springing to her eyes. "I
only said to Paul that we should be terribly ungrateful if we did not
worship him; for you don't know what he does for us. Why, he even
dresses up in rags, and goes to see you."
Hortebise, who up to this time had not said a word, now interfered.
"And what did Paul say?" asked he.
"Paul? Oh, nothing for a moment. Then he cried out, 'I see it all
now,' and laughed as if he would have gone into a fit."
"Did you not understand, my poor child, what this laugh means? Paul
thinks that you have been my accomplice, and believes that it was in
obedience to your orders that I went to look for him."
"Well, and suppose he does?"
"A man like Paul never loves a woman who has run after him; and no
matter how great her beauty may be, will always consider that she has
thrown herself in his path. He will accept all her devotion, and make
no more return than a stone or a wooden idol would do. You cannot see
this, and God grant that it may be long before the bandage is removed
from your eyes. Can you not read the quality of this foolish boy, who
has not a manly instinct in him?"
"Enough!" she cried, "enough! I am not such a coward as to allow you
to insult my husband."
He shuddered at the thought that his words might cost him his
daughter's love, but Hortebise interposed by putting his arm round
Flavia's waist and leading her from the room. When he returned, he
"I cannot understand your anger. It seems to me that all recrimination
is most indiscreet, for you can at any moment break off this
"Do you think it is nothing for me to be at the mercy of that cowardly
"Not more so than you are by the foolish weakness of your daughter. Is
not Paul our accomplice? And are we any more compromised because he
has discovered the secret of your triple personality?"
"Ah! you have not a father's feelings. Up till now Paul did not know
that I was Mascarin, and believed me to be the victim of blackmailers.
As a dupe he respected me, as an accomplice he will scorn me. This
disastrous marriage must be hastened."
Paul and Flavia's marriage took place at the end of the next week, and
Paul left his simple bachelor abode to take possession of the
magnificent suite of rooms prepared for him by the banker in his house
in the Rue Montmartre. The change was great, but Paul was no longer
surprised at anything. He did not feel the faintest tinge of remorse;
he only feared one thing, and that was that by some blunder he might
compromise his future, when the eventful day arrived which would give
him the social position and standing of heir to a dukedom.
When, however, the Duke de Champdoce came, accompanied by Perpignan,
the young imposter rose to the level of his masters, and played his
part with most consummate skill. The Duke, whose life had been one
long scene of misery, and who had so cruelly expiated the sins of his
youth, seemed to have become suddenly lenient; and had Paul obeyed
him, he would at once have established himself with his young wife at
the Hotel de Champdoce, but Martin Rigal put a veto upon this, for he
was not quite satisfied that his son-in-law was really the heir to the
Champdoce dukedom; and finally it was agreed that the Duke should come
to breakfast the next morning and take away Paul. Eleven was the hour
fixed, but the Duke appeared at the banker's house at ten, where he,
Catenac, Hortebise, and Paul were assembled together in solemn
"Now, papa," said Flavia, who kept her father on thorns by her gay and
frolicsome criticisms, "you will no longer blame me for falling in
love with a poor Bohemian, for you see that he is a Champdoce, and
that his father possesses millions."
The Duke was now seated on the sofa, holding the hand of the young man
whom he believed to be his son tightly in his. The Duchess, to whom he
had given a hint of what was going on, had been taken seriously ill
from over-excitement, but had recovered herself a little, and the Duke
was describing this when he was suddenly interrupted by a series of
full and heavy blows struck upon the other side of the wall of the
room. A pickaxe was evidently at work. The whole house was shaken by
the violence of the attack, and a screen, which stood near the spot,
was thrown down.
The plotters gazed upon each other with pale and terror-stricken
faces, for it was evident that the fresh brick wall, the work of
Mascarin and Beaumarchef, was being destroyed. The Duke sat in perfect
amazement, for the alarm of his host and his friends was plainly
evident. He could feel Paul's hand tremble in his, but could not
understand why work evidently going on in the next house could cause
such feelings of alarm. Flavia was the only one who had no suspicion,
and she remarked, "Dear me! I should like to know the meaning of this
"I will send and inquire," said her father; but scarcely had he opened
the door than he retreated with a wild expression of terror in his
face, and his arms stretched out in front of him, as though to bar the
approach of some terrible spectre. In the doorway stood an eminently
respectable-looking gentleman, wearing a pair of gold-rimmed
spectacles, and behind him a commissary of police, girt with his
official scarf, while farther back still were half a dozen police
"M. Lecoq," cried the three confederates in one breath, while through
their minds flashed the same terrible idea--"We are lost."
The celebrated detective advanced slowly into the room, curiously
watching the group collected there. There was an air of entire
satisfaction visible on his countenance.
"Aha!" he said, "I was right, it seems. I was sure that I was making
no mistake in rapping at the other side of the wall. I knew that it
would be heard in here."
By this time, however, the banker had, to all outward appearance,
regained his self-command.
"What do you want here?" asked he insolently. "What is the meaning of
"This gentleman will explain," returned Lecoq, stepping aside to make
way for the commissary of police to come forward. "But, to shorten
matters, I may tell you that I have obtained a warrant for your
arrest, Martin Rigal, /alias/ Tantaine, /alias/ Mascarin."
"I don't understand you!"
"Indeed. Do you think that Tantaine has cleaned his hands so
completely that not a drop of Andre's blood clings to the fingers of
"On my word, you are speaking in riddles."
A bland smile passed over Lecoq's face as, drawing a folded letter
from his pocket, he answered,--
"Perhaps you are acquainted with the handwriting of your daughter.
Well, then, listen to what she wrote not so very long ago to the very
Paul who is sitting on the sofa there.
" 'MY DEAREST PAUL,--
" 'We should be guilty of the deepest ingratitude if----' "
"Enough! Enough!" cried the banker in a hoarse voice. "Lost, lost,
lost! My own child has been my ruin!"
The calmest of the conspirators was now the one who was generally the
first to take alarm, and this was the genial Doctor Hortebise. When he
recognized Lecoq, he had gently opened his locket and taken from it a
small pellet of grayish-colored paste, and, holding it between his
fingers, had waited until his leader should declare that all hope was
In the meantime Lecoq turned towards Catenac.
"And you too are included in this warrant," said he.
Catenac, perhaps owing to his legal training, made no reply to Lecoq,
but addressing the commissary, observed,--
"I am the victim of a most unpleasant mistake, but my position----"
"The warrant is quite regular," returned the commissary. "You can see
it if you desire."
"No, it is not necessary. I will only ask you to conduct me to the
magistrate who issued it, and in five minutes all will be explained."
"Do you think so?" asked Lecoq in a quiet tone of sarcasm. "You have
not heard, I can see, of what took place yesterday. A laborer, in the
course of his work, discovers the remains of a newly-born infant,
wrapped in a silk handkerchief and a shawl. The police soon set
inquiries on foot, and have found the mother--a girl named Clarisse."
Had not Lecoq suddenly grasped Catenac's arm, the lawyer would have
flown at Martin Rigal's throat.
"Villain, traitor!" panted he, "you have sold me!"
"My papers have been stolen," faltered the banker.
He now saw that the blows struck upon the other side of the wall were
merely a trick, for Lecoq had thought that a little preliminary fright
would render them more amenable to reason.
Hortebise still looked on calmly; he knew that the game was lost.
"I belong to a respectable family," thought he, "and I will not bring
dishonor upon it. I have no time to lose."
As he spoke he placed the contents of the locket between his lips and
"Ah," murmured he, as he did so, "with my constitution and digestion,
it is really hard to end thus."
No one had noticed the doctor's movements, for Lecoq had moved the
screen, and was showing the commissary a hole which had been made in
the wall large enough for the body of a man to pass through. But a
sudden sound cut these investigations short, for Hortebise had fallen
to the ground, and was struggling in a series of terrible convulsions.
"How stupid of me not to have foreseen this," exclaimed Lecoq. "He has
poisoned himself; let some one run for a doctor. Take him into another
room and lay him on a bed."
While these orders were being carried out, Catenac was removed to a
cab which was in waiting, and Martin Rigal seemed to have lapsed into
a state of moody imbecility. Suddenly he started to his feet,
"My daughter Flavia! yes, her name is Flavia, what is to become of
her? She has no fortune, and she is married to a man who can never
provide for her. My child will perhaps starve. Oh, horrible thought!"
The man's strong mind had evidently given way, and his love for his
child and the hideous future that lay before her had broken down the
barrier that divides reason from insanity. He was secured by the
officers, raving and struggling. When Lecoq was left alone with the
Duke, Paul and Flavia, he cast a glimpse of pity at the young girl,
who had crouched down in a corner, and evidently hardly understood the
terrible scene that had just passed.
"Your Grace," said he, turning to the Duke, "you have been the victim
of a foul conspiracy; this young man is not your son; he is Paul
Violaine, and is the son of a poor woman who kept a petty haberdashery
shop in the provinces."
The miserable young fool began to bluster, and attempted to deny this
statement; but Lecoq opened the door, and Rose appeared in a most
becoming costume. Paul now made no effort to continue his
protestations, but throwing himself on his knees, in whining accents
confessed the whole fraud and pleaded for mercy, promising to give
evidence against his accomplices.
"Do not despair, your Grace," said Lecoq, as he conducted the Duke to
his carriage; "this certainly is not your son; but /I/ have found him,
and to-morrow, if you like, you shall be introduced to him."
"EVERY MAN TO HIS OWN PLACE."
Obedient to the wishes of M. Lecoq, Andre resigned himself to a
lengthy sojourn at the Hospital de Beaujon, and had even the courage
to affect that state of profound indifference that had deceived
Mascarin. The pretended sick man in the next bed to his told him all
that had taken place, but the days seemed to be interminable, and he
was beginning to lose patience, when one morning he received a letter
which caused a gleam of joy to pass through his heart. "All is right,"
wrote Lecoq. "Danger is at an end. Ask the house surgeon for leave to
quit the hospital. Dress yourself smartly. You will find me waiting at
Andre was not quite convalescent, for he might have to wear his arm in
a sling for many weeks longer; but these considerations did not deter
him. He now dressed himself in a suit which he had sent for to his
rooms, and about nine o'clock he left the hospital.
He stood upon the steps inhaling deep draughts of the fresh air, and
then began to wonder where the strange personage was to whom he owed
his life. While he was deliberating what to do, an open carriage drew
up before the door of the hospital.
"You have come at last," exclaimed Andre, rushing up to the gentleman
who alighted from it. "I was getting quite anxious."
"I am about five minutes late," returned Lecoq; "but I was detained,"
and then, as Andre began to pour out his thanks, he added, "Get into
the carriage; I have a great deal to say to you."
Andre obeyed, and as he did so, he detected something strange in the
expression of his companion's face.
"What!" remarked Lecoq, "do you see by my face that I have something
to tell you? You are getting quite a keen observer. Well, I have,
indeed, for I have passed the night going through Mascarin's papers,
and I have just gone through a painful scene--I may say, one of the
most painful that I have ever witnessed. The intellect of Mascarin,"
said he, "has given way under the tremendous pressure put upon it. The
ruling passion of the villain's life was his love for his daughter. He
imagines that Flavia and Paul are without a franc and in want of
bread; he thinks that he continually hears his daughter crying to him
for help. Then, on his knees, he entreats the warder to let him out,
if only for a day, swearing that he will return as soon as he has
succored his child. Then, when his prayer is refused, he bursts into a
frenzied rage and tears at his door, howling like an infuriated
animal; and this state may last to the end of his life, and every
minute in it be a space of intolerable torture. Doctor Hortebise is
dead; but the poison upon which he relied betrayed him, and he
suffered agonies for twenty-four hours. Catenac will fight to the
bitter end, but the proofs are against him, and he will be convicted
of infanticide. In Rigal's papers I have found evidence against
Perpignan, Verminet and Van Klopen, who will all certainly hear
something about penal servitude. Nothing has been settled yet about
Toto Chupin, for it must be remembered that he came and gave himself
"And what about Croisenois?"
"His Company will be treated like any other attempt to extort money by
swindling, and the Marquis will be sent to prison for two months, and
the money paid for shares returned to the dupes, and that, I think, is
all that I have to tell you, except that by to-morrow M. Gandelu will
receive back the bills to which his son affixed a forged signature.
And now," continued Lecoq, after a short pause, "the time has come for
me to tell you why, at our first interview, I saluted you as the heir
of the Duke de Champdoce. I had guessed your history, but it was only
last night I heard all the details."
Then the detective gave a brief but concise account of the manuscript
that Paul had read aloud. He did not tell much, however, but passed
lightly over the acts of the Duke de Champdoce and Madame de Mussidan,
for he did not wish Andre to cease to respect either his father or the
mother of Sabine. The story was just concluded as the carriage drew up
at the corner of the Rue de Matignon.
"Get down here," said Lecoq, "and mind and don't hurt your arm."
Andre obeyed mechanically.
"And now," went on Lecoq, "listen to me. The Count and Countess de
Mussidan expect you to breakfast and here is the note they handed to
me for you. Come back to your studio by four o'clock, and I will then
introduce you to your father; but till then, remember, absolute
Andre was completely bewildered with his unexpected happiness. He
walked instinctively to the Hotel de Mussidan and rang the bell. The
intense civility of the footmen removed any misgivings that he might
have left, and, as he entered the dining-room, he darted back, for
face to face with him was the portrait of Sabine which he had himself
painted. At that moment the Count came forward to meet him with
"Diana," said he to his wife, "this is our daughter's future husband."
He then took Sabine's hand, which he laid in Andre's.
The young artist hardly dared raise his eyes to Sabine's face; when he
did so, his heart grew very sad, for the poor girl was but a shadow of
her former self.