Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Mystery Of The Boule Cabinet by Burton Egbert Stevenson

Part 4 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

They were gone perhaps five minutes, from which I argued that they
were carrying it upstairs; then they reappeared, with Armand
accompanying them. He tipped them and went out also to tip the driver
of the van. Then the porters climbed aboard and it rattled away out
of sight. Armand stood for a moment on the step, looking up and down
the Avenue, then disappeared indoors.

An instant later, I saw Godfrey and another man whom I recognised as
Simmonds, come out of a shop across the street and dash over to the
house into which the cabinet had been taken. They were standing on
the door-step when I joined them.

It was a dingy building, entirely typical of the dingy neighbourhood.
The ground floor was occupied by a laundry which the sign on the
front window declared to be French; and the room which the window
lighted extended the whole width of the building except for a door
which opened presumably on the stairway leading to the upper stories.

Godfrey's face was flaming with excitement as he turned the knob of
this door gently--gently. The door was locked. He stooped and applied
an eye to the key-hole.

"The key is in the lock," he whispered.

Simmonds took from his pocket a pair of slender pliers and passed
them over.

Godfrey looked up and down the street, saw that for the moment there
was no one near, inserted the pliers in the key-hole, grasped the end
of the key, and turned it slowly.

"Now!" he said, softly opened the door and slipped inside. I
followed, and Simmonds came after me like a shadow, closing the door
carefully behind him.

Then we all stopped, and my heart, at least, was in my mouth, for,
from somewhere overhead, came the sound of a man's voice talking

Even in the semi-darkness, I could see the look of astonishment and
alarm on Godfrey's face, as he stood for a moment motionless,
listening to that voice, I also stood with ears a-strain, but I could
make nothing of what it was saying; then suddenly I realised that it
was speaking in French. And yet it was not Armand's voice--of that I
was certain.

Fronting us was a narrow stair mounting steeply to the story
overhead, and, after that moment's amazed hesitation, Godfrey sat
down on the bottom step and removed his shoes, motioning us to do the
same. Simmonds obeyed phlegmatically, but my hands were trembling so
with excitement that I was in mortal terror lest I drop one of my
shoes; but I managed to get them both off without mishap, and to set
them softly on the floor at the stair-foot.

When at last I looked up with a sigh of relief, Godfrey and Simmonds
were stealing slowly up the stair, revolver in hand. I followed them,
but I confess my knees were knocking together, for there was
something weird and chilling in that voice going on and on. It
sounded like the voice of a madman; there was something about it at
once ferocious and triumphant....

Godfrey paused an instant at the stairhead, listening intently; then
he moved cautiously forward toward an open door from which the voice
seemed to come, motioning us at the same time to stay where we were.
And as I knelt, bathed in perspiration, I caught one word, repeated
over and over:


Then the voice fell to a sort of low growling, as of a dog which
worries its prey, and I caught a sound as of ripping cloth.

Godfrey, on hands and knees, was peering into the room. Then he drew
back and motioned us forward.

I shall never forget the sight which met my eyes as I peeped
cautiously around the corner of the door.

The room into which I was looking was lighted only by the rays which
filtered between the slats of a closed shutter. In the middle of the
floor stood the Boule cabinet, and before it, with his back to the
door, stood a man ripping savagely away the strips of burlap in which
it had been wrapped, talking to himself the while in a sort of savage
sing-song, and pausing from moment to moment to glance at a huddled
bundle lying on the floor against the opposite wall. For a time, I
could not make out what this bundle was, then, straining my eyes, I
saw that it was the body of a man, wrapped round and round in some
web-like fabric.

And as I stared at him, I caught the glitter of his eyes as he
watched the man working at the cabinet--a glitter not to be mistaken
--the same glitter which had so frightened me once before....

Godfrey drew me back with a firm hand and took my place. As for me, I
retreated to the stair, and sat there feverishly mopping my face and
trying to understand. Who was this man? What was he doing there
against the wall? What was the meaning of this ferocious scene....

Then my heart leaped into my throat, for Godfrey, with a sharp cry of
"_Halte-la_!" sprang to his feet and dashed into the room, Simmonds
at his heels.

I suppose two seconds elapsed before I reached the threshold, and I
stopped there, staring, clutching at the wall to steady myself.

That scene is so photographed upon my brain that I have only to close
my eyes to see it again in every detail.

There was the cabinet with its wrappings torn away; but the figure on
the floor had disappeared, and before an open doorway into another
room stood a man, a giant of a man, his hands above his head, his
face working with fear and rage, while Godfrey, his lips curling into
a mocking smile, pressed a pistol against his breast.

Then, as I stood there staring, it seemed to me that there was a sort
of flicker in the air above the man's head, and he screamed shrilly.

"_La mort!_" he shrieked. "_La mort!_"

For one dreadful instant longer he stood there motionless, his hands
still held aloft, his eyes staring horribly; then, with a strangled
cry, he pitched forward heavily at Godfrey's feet.



I have a confused remembrance of Godfrey stooping for an instant
above the body, staring at it, and then, with a sharp cry, hurling
himself through that open doorway. A door slammed somewhere, there
was a sound of running feet, and before either Simmonds or myself
understood what was happening, Godfrey was back in the room, crossed
it at a bound, and dashed to the door opening into the hall, just as
it was slammed in his face.

I saw him tear desperately at the knob, then retreat two steps and
hurl himself against it. But it held firm, and from the hall outside
came a burst of mocking laughter that fairly froze my blood.

"Come here, you fools!" cried Godfrey between clenched teeth. "Don't
you see he's getting away!"

Simmonds was quicker than I, and together they threw themselves at
the door. It cracked ominously, but still held; again they tried, and
this time it split from top to bottom. Godfrey kicked the pieces to
either side and slipped between them, Simmonds after him.

Then, in a sort of trance, I staggered to it, and after a moment's
aimless fumbling, was out in the hall again. I reached the stairhead
in time to see Godfrey try the front door, and then turn along the
lower hall leading to the back of the house. An instant later, a
chorus of frenzied women's shrieks made my hair stand on end.

How I got down the stair I do not know; but I, too, turned back along
the lower hall, expecting any instant to come upon I knew not what
horror; I reached an open door, passed through it, and found myself
in the laundry, in the midst of a group of excited and indignant
women, who greeted my appearance with a fresh series of screams.

Unable to go farther, I sat limply down upon a box and looked at

I dare say the figure I made was ridiculous enough, for the screams
gave place to subdued giggles; but I was far from thinking of my
appearance, or of caring what impression I produced. And I was still
sitting there when Godfrey came back, breathing heavily, chagrin and
anger in his eyes. The employes of the laundry, conscious that
something extraordinary was occurring, crowded about him, but he
elbowed his way through them to the desk where the manager sat.

"A crime has been committed upstairs," he said. "This gentleman with
me is Mr. Simmonds, of the detective bureau," and at the words
Simmonds showed his shield. "We shall have to notify headquarters,"
Godfrey went on, "and I would advise that you keep your girls at
their work. I don't suppose you want to be mixed up in it."

"Sure not," agreed the manager promptly, and while Simmonds went to
the 'phone and called up police headquarters, the manager dismounted
from his throne, went down among the girls, and had them back at
their work in short order.

Godfrey came over to me and laid his hand on my shoulder.

"Why, Lester," he said, "you look as though you were at your last

"I am," I said. "I'm going to have nervous prostration if this thing
keeps up. You're not looking particularly happy yourself."

"I'm not happy. I've let that fellow kill a man right under my nose
--literally, under my nose!--and then get away!"

"Kill a man?" I repeated. "Do you mean...."

"Go upstairs and look at the right hand of the man lying there," said
Godfrey, curtly, "and you'll see what I mean!"

I sat staring at him, unable to believe that I had heard aright;
unable to believe that Godfrey had really uttered those words ... the
right hand of the man lying there ... that could mean only one

Simmonds joined us with a twisted smile on his lips, and I saw that
even he was considerably shaken.

"I got Grady," he said, "and told him what had happened. He says he's
too busy to come up, and that I'm to take charge of things."

Godfrey laughed a little mocking laugh.

"Grady foresees his Waterloo!" he said. "Well, it's not far distant.
But I'm glad for your sake, Simmonds--you're going to get some glory
out of this thing, yet!"

"I hope so," and Simmonds's eyes gleamed an instant. "The ambulance
will be around at once," he added. "We'd better get our shoes on, and
go back upstairs, and see if anything can be done for that fellow."

"There can't anything be done for him," said Godfrey wearily; "but
we'd better have a look at him, I guess," and he led the way out into
the hall.

Not until Simmonds spoke did I remember that I was shoeless. Now I
sat down beside Godfrey, got fumblingly into my shoes again, and then
followed him and Simmonds slowly up the stair.

I thought I knew what was passing in Godfrey's mind: he was blaming
himself for this latest tragedy; he was telling himself that he
should have foreseen and prevented it; he always blamed himself in
that way when things went wrong--and then, to have the murderer slip
through his very fingers! I could guess what a mighty shock that had
been to his self-confidence!

The latest victim was lying where he had fallen, just inside the
doorway leading into the inner room. Simmonds stepped to the window,
threw open the shutters, and let a flood of afternoon sunshine into
the room. Then he knelt beside the body, and held up the limp right
hand for us to see.

Just above the knuckles were two tiny incisions, with a drop or two
of blood oozing away from them, and the flesh about them swollen and

"I knew what it was the instant he yelled '_La mort_!'" said Godfrey
quietly. "And _he_ knew what it was the instant he felt the stroke.
It is evident enough that he had seen it used before, or heard of it,
and knew that it meant instant death."

I sat down, staring at the dead man, and tried to collect my senses.
So this fiendish criminal, who slew with poison, had been lurking in
Vantine's house, and had struck down first Drouet and then the master
of the house himself! But why--why! It was incredible, astounding, my
brain reeled at the thought. And yet it must be true!

I looked again at the third victim, and saw a man roughly dressed,
with bushy black hair and tangled beard; a very giant of a man, whose
physical strength must have been enormous--and yet it had availed him
nothing against that tiny pin-prick on the hand!

And then a sudden thought brought me bolt upright.

"But Armand!" I cried. "Where is Armand?"

Godfrey looked at me with a half-pitying smile.

"What, Lester!" he said, "don't you understand, even yet? It was your
fascinating M. Armand who did that," and he pointed to the dead man.

I felt as though I had been struck a heavy blow upon the head; black
circles whirled before my eyes....

"Go over to the window," said Godfrey, peremptorily, "and get some
fresh air."

Mechanically I obeyed, and stood clinging to the window-sill, gazing
down at the busy street, where the tide of humanity was flowing up
and down, all unconscious of the tragedy which had been enacted so
close at hand. And, at last, the calmness of all these people, the
sight of the world going quietly on as usual, restored me a portion
of my self-control. But even yet I did not understand.

"Was it Armand," I asked, turning back into the room, "who lay there
in the corner?"

"Certainly it was," Godfrey answered. "Who else could it be?"

"Godfrey!" I cried, remembering suddenly. "Did you see his eyes as he
lay there watching the man at the cabinet?"

"Yes; I saw them."

"They were the same eyes...."

"The same eyes."

"And the laugh--did you hear that laugh?"

"Certainly I heard it."

"I heard it once before," I said, "and you thought it was a case of

I fell silent a moment, shivering a little at the remembrance.

"But why did Armand lie there so quietly?" I asked, at last. "Was he

Godfrey made a little gesture toward the corner.

"Go see for yourself," he said.

Something lay along the wall, on the spot where I had seen that
figure, and as I bent over it, I saw that it was a large net, finely
meshed but very strong.

"That was dropped over Armand's head as he came up the stairs," said
Godfrey, "or flung over him as he came into the room. Then the dead
man yonder jumped upon him and trussed him up with those ropes."

Pushing the net aside, I saw upon the floor a little pile of severed

"Yes," I agreed; "he would be able to do that. Have you noticed his
size, Godfrey? He was almost a giant!"

"He couldn't have done it if Armand hadn't been willing that he
should," retorted Godfrey, curtly. "You see he had no difficulty in
getting away," and he held up the net and pointed to the great rents
in it. "He cut his way out while he was lying there--I ought to have
known--I ought to have known he wasn't bound--that he was only
waiting--but it was all so sudden...."

He threw the net down upon the floor with a gesture of disgust and
despair. Then he stopped in front of the Boule cabinet and looked
down at it musingly; and, after a moment, his face brightened.

The burlap wrappings had been almost wholly torn away, and the
cabinet stood, more insolently beautiful than ever, it seemed to me,
under the rays of the sun, which sparkled and glittered and shimmered
as they fell upon it.

"But we'll get him, Simmonds," said Godfrey, and his lips broke into
a smile. "In fact, we've got him now. We have only to wait, and he'll
walk into our arms. Simmonds, I want you to lock this cabinet up in
the strongest cell around at your station; and carry the key

"Lock it up?" stammered Simmonds, staring at him.

"Yes," said Godfrey, "lock it up. That's our one salvation!" His face
was glowing; he was quite himself again, alert, confident of victory.
"You're in charge of this case, aren't you? Well, lock it up, and
give your reasons to nobody."

"That'll be easy," laughed Simmonds. "I haven't got any reasons."

"Oh, yes, you have," and Godfrey bent upon him a gaze that was
positively hypnotic. "You will do it because I want you to, and
because I tell you that, sooner or later, if you keep this cabinet
safe where no one can get at it, the man we want will walk into our
hands. And I'll tell you more than that, Simmonds; if we do get him,
I'll have the biggest story I ever had, and you will be world-famous.
France will make you a chevalier of the Legion of Honour, Simmonds,
mark my words. Don't you think the ribbon would look well in your

Simmonds was staring at the speaker as though he thought he had
suddenly gone mad. Indeed, the thought flashed through my own brain
that the disappointment, the chagrin of failure, had been too much
for Godfrey.

He burst into laughter as he saw our faces.

"No, I'm not mad," he said, more soberly; "and I'm not joking. I'm
speaking in deadly earnest, Simmonds, when I say that this fellow is
the biggest catch we could make. He's the greatest criminal of modern
times--I repeat it, Lester, this time without qualification. And now,
perhaps, you'll agree with me."

And with Armand, so finished, so self-poised, so distinguished, in my
mind, and the body of his latest victim before my eyes, I nodded

"But who is he?" I asked. "Do you know who he is, Godfrey?"

"There's the ambulance," broke in Simmonds, as a knock came at the
street door, and he hurried down to open it.

"Come on, Lester," and Godfrey hooked his arm through mine. "There's
nothing more we can do here. We'll go down the back way. I've had
enough excitement for the time being--haven't you?"

"I certainly have," I agreed, and he led the way back along the hall
to another stair, down it and so out through the laundry.

"But, Godfrey, who is this man?" I repeated. "Why did he kill that
poor fellow up there? Why did he kill Drouet and Vantine? How did he
get into the Vantine house? What is it all about?"

"Ah!" he said, looking at me with a smile. "That is the important
question--what is it all about! But we can't discuss it here in the
street. Besides, I want to think it over, Lester; and I want you to
think it over. If I can, I'll drop in to-night to see you, and we can
thresh it out! Will that suit you?"

"Yes," I said; "and for heaven's sake, don't fail to come!"



I had begun to fear that Godfrey was going to disappoint me, so late
it was before his welcome knock came at my door that night. I
hastened to let him in, and I could tell by the sigh of relief with
which he sank into a chair that he was thoroughly weary.

"It does me good to come in here occasionally and have a talk with
you, Lester," he said, accepting the cigar I offered him. "I find it
restful after a hard day," and he smiled across at me good-humouredly.

"How you keep it up I don't see," I said. "This one case has nearly
given me nervous prostration."

"Well, I don't often strike one as strenuous as this," and he settled
back comfortably. "As a matter of fact, I haven't had one for a long
time that even touches it. There is nothing really mysterious about
most crimes."

"This one is certainly mysterious enough," I remarked.

"What makes it mysterious," Godfrey explained, "is the apparent lack
of motive. As soon as one learns the motive for a crime, one learns
also who committed it. But where the motive can't be discovered, it
is mighty hard to make any progress."

"It isn't only lack of motive which makes it mysterious," I
commented; "it's everything about it. I can't understand either why
it was done or how it was done. When I get to thinking about it, I
feel as though I were wandering around and around in a maze, from
which I can never escape."

"Oh, yes, you'll escape, Lester," said Godfrey, quietly, "and that
before very long."

"If you have an explanation, Godfrey," I protested, "for heaven's
sake tell me! Don't keep me in the maze an instant longer than is
necessary. I've been thinking about it till my brain feels like a
snarl of tangled thread. Do you mean to say you know what it is all

"'Know' is perhaps a little strong. There isn't much in this world
that we really know. Suppose we say that I strongly suspect." He
paused a moment, his eyes on the ceiling. "You know you've accused me
of romancing sometimes, Lester--the other evening, for instance; yet
that romance has come true."

"I take it all back," I said, meekly.

"There's another thing these talks do," continued Godfrey, going off
rather at a tangent, "and that is to clarify my ideas. You don't know
how it helps me to state my case to you and to try to answer your
objections. Your being a lawyer makes you unusually quick to see
objections, and a lawyer is always harder to convince of a thing than
the ordinary man. You are accustomed to weighing evidence; and so I
never allow myself to be convinced of a theory until I have convinced
you. Not always, even then," he added, with a smile.

"Well, I'm glad I'm of some use," I said, "if it is only as a sort of
file for you to sharpen your wits on. So please go ahead and romance
some more. Tell me first how you and Simmonds came to be following

"Simply because I had found out he wasn't Armand. Felix Armand is in
Paris at this moment. You were too credulous, Lester."

"Why, I never had any doubt of his being Armand," I stammered. "He
knew about my cablegram--he knew about the firm's answer...."

"Of course he did, because your cable was never received by the
Armands, but by a confederate in this fellow's employ; and it was
that confederate who answered it. Our friend, the unknown, foresaw,
of course, that a cable would be sent the Armands as soon as the
mistake was discovered, and he took his precautions accordingly."

"Then you still believe that the cabinet was sent to Vantine by
design and not by accident?"

"Absolutely. It was sent by the Armands in good faith, because they
believed that it had been purchased by Vantine--all of which had been
arranged very carefully by the Great Unknown."

"Tell me how you know all this, Godfrey," I said.

"Why, it was easy enough. When you told me yesterday of Armand, I
knew, or thought I knew, that it was a plant of some kind. But, in
order to be sure, I cabled our man at Paris to investigate. Our man
went at once to Armand, _pere_, and he learned a number of very
interesting things. One was, that the son, Felix Armand, was in
Paris; another was that no member of the firm knew anything about
your cable or the answer to it; a third was, that, had the cable
been received, it would not have been understood, because the
Armands' books show that this cabinet was bought by Philip Vantine
for the sum of fifteen thousand francs."

"Not this one!" I protested.

"Yes; this one. And it was cheap at the price. Of course, the Armands
knew nothing about the Montespan story--they were simply selling at a

"But I don't understand!" I stammered. "Vantine told me himself that
he did not buy that cabinet."

"Nor did he. But somebody bought it in his name and directed that it
be sent forward to him."

"And paid fifteen thousand francs for it?"

"Certainly--and paid fifteen thousand francs to the Armands."

"Rather an expensive present," I said, feebly, for my brain was
beginning to whirl again.

"Oh, it wasn't intended as a present. The purchaser planned to
reclaim it--but Vantine's death threw him out. If it hadn't been for
that--for an accident which no one could foresee--everything would
have gone along smoothly and no one would ever have been the wiser."

"But what was his object? Was he trying to evade the duty?"

"Oh, nothing so small as that! Besides, he would have had to refund
the duty to Vantine. Did he refund it to you?"

"No," I said, "I didn't think there was any to refund. Vantine really
paid the duty only on the cabinet he purchased, since that was the
one shown on his manifest. The other fellow must have paid the duty
on the cabinet he brought in; so I didn't see that there was anything
coming to Vantine's estate. There is probably something due the
government, for the cabinet Vantine brought in was, of course, much
more valuable than his manifest showed."

"No doubt of that; and the other cabinet is the one which Vantine
really purchased. It was, of course, sent forward to this other
fellow's address, here in New York. His plan is evident enough--to
call upon Vantine, as the representative of the Armands, or perhaps
as the owner of the Montespan cabinet, and make the exchange.
Vantine's death spoiled that, and he had to make the exchange through
you. Even then, he would have been able to pull it off but for the
fact that Vantine's death and that of Drouet had called our attention
to the cabinet; we followed him, and the incidents of this afternoon

"And he accomplished all this by means of a confederate in the employ
of the Armands?"

"No doubt of it. The clerk who made the supposed sale to Vantine and
got a commission on it, resigned suddenly two days ago--just as soon
as he had intercepted your cable and answered it. The Paris police
are looking for him, but I doubt if they'll find him."

I paused to think this over; and then a sudden impatience seized me.

"That's all clear enough," I said. "The cabinets might have been
exchanged just as you say they were--no doubt you are right--but all
that doesn't lead us anywhere. Why were they exchanged? What is there
about that Boule cabinet which makes this unknown willing to do
murder for it? Does he think those letters are still in it?"

"He knows they are not in it now--you told him. Before that, he knew
nothing about the letters. If he had known of them, he would have had
them out before the cabinet was shipped."

"What is it, then?" I demanded. "And, above all, Godfrey, why should
this fellow hide himself in Vantine's house and kill two men? Did
they surprise him while he was working over the cabinet?"

"I see no reason to believe that he was ever inside the Vantine
house," said Godfrey quietly; "that is, until you took him there
yourself this afternoon."

"But, look here, Godfrey," I protested, "that's nonsense. He must
have been in the house, or he couldn't have killed Vantine and

"Who said he killed them?"

"If he didn't kill them, who did?"

Godfrey took two or three contemplative puffs, while I sat there
staring at him.

"Well," Godfrey answered, at last, "now I'm going to romance a
little. We will return to your fascinating friend, Armand, as we may
as well call him for the present. He is an extraordinary man."

"No doubt of it," I agreed.

"I can only repeat what I have said before--in my opinion, he is the
greatest criminal of modern times."

"If he is a criminal at all, he is undoubtedly a great one," I
conceded. "But it is hard for me to believe that he is a criminal.
He's the most cultured man I ever met."

"Of course he is. That's why he's so dangerous. An ignorant criminal
is never dangerous--it's the ignorant criminals who fill the prisons.
But look out for the educated, accomplished ones. It takes brains to
be a great criminal, Lester, and brains of a high order."

"But why should a man with brains be a criminal?" I queried. "If he
can earn an honest living, why should he be dishonest?"

"In the first place, most criminals are criminals from choice, not
from necessity; and with a cultured man the incentive is usually the
excitement of it. Have you ever thought what an exciting game it is,
Lester, to defy society, to break the law, to know that the odds
against you are a thousand to one, and yet to come out triumphant?
And then, I suppose, every great criminal is a little insane."

"No doubt of it," I agreed.

"Just as every absolutely honest man is a little insane," went on
Godfrey quickly. "Just as every great reformer and enthusiast is a
little insane. The sane men are the average ones, who are fairly
honest and yet tell white lies on occasion, who succumb to temptation
now and then; who temporise and compromise, and try to lead a
comfortable and quiet life. I repeat, Lester, that this fellow is a
great criminal, and that he finds life infinitely more engrossing
than either you or I. I hope I shall meet him some time--not in a
little skirmish like this, but in an out-and-out battle. Of course
I'd be routed, horse, foot and dragoons--but it certainly would be
interesting!" and he looked at me, his eyes glowing.

"It certainly would!" I agreed. "Go ahead with your romance."

"Here it is. This M. Armand is a great criminal, and has, of course,
various followers, upon whom he must rely for the performance of
certain details, since he can be in but one place at a time. Abject
and absolute obedience is necessary to his success, and he compels
obedience in the only way in which it can be compelled among
criminals--by fear. For disobedience, there is but one punishment
--death. And the manner of the death is so certain and so mysterious
as to be almost supernatural. For deserters and traitors are found to
have died, inevitably and invariably, from the effects of an
insignificant wound on the right hand, just above the knuckles."

I was listening intently now, as you may well believe, for I began to
see whither the romance was tending.

"It is by this secret," Godfrey continued, "that Armand preserves his
absolute supremacy. But occasionally the temptation is too great, and
one of his men deserts. Armand sends this cabinet to America. He
knows that in this case the temptation is very great indeed; he fears
treachery, and he arranges in the cabinet a mechanism which will
inflict death upon the traitor in precisely the same way in which he
himself inflicts it--by means of a poisoned stab in the right hand.
Imagine the effect upon his gang. He is nowhere near when the act of
treachery is performed, and yet the traitor dies instantly and
surely! Why, it was a tremendous idea! And it was carried out with
absolute genius."

"But," I questioned, "what act of treachery was it that Armand

"The opening of the secret drawer."

"Then you still believe in the poisoned mechanism?"

"I certainly do. The tragedy of this afternoon proves the truth of
the theory."

"I don't see it," I said, helplessly.

"Why, Lester," protested Godfrey, "it's as plain as day. Who was that
bearded giant who was killed? The traitor, of course. We will find
that he was a member of Armand's gang. He followed Armand to America,
lay in wait for him, caught him in the net and bound him hand and
foot. Do you suppose for an instant that Armand was ignorant of his
presence in that house? Do you suppose he would have been able to
take Armand prisoner if Armand had not been willing that he should?"

"I don't see how Armand could help himself after that fellow got his
hands on him."

"You don't? And yet you saw yourself that he was not really bound
--that he had cut himself loose!"

"That is true," I said, thoughtfully.

"Let us reconstruct the story," Godfrey went on rapidly. "The traitor
discovers the secret of the cabinet; he follows Armand to New York,
shadows him to the house on Seventh Avenue, waits for him there, and
seizes and binds him. He is half mad with triumph--he chants a crazy
sing-song about revenge, revenge, revenge! And, in order that the
triumph may be complete, he does not kill his prisoner at once. He
rolls him into a corner and proceeds to rip away the burlap. His
triumph will be to open the secret drawer before Armand's eyes. And
Armand lies there in the corner, his eyes gleaming, because it is
really the moment of _his_ triumph which is at hand!"

"The moment of his triumph?" I repeated. "What do you mean by that,

"I mean that, the instant the traitor opened the drawer, he would be
stabbed by the poisoned mechanism! It was for that that Armand

I lay back in my chair with a gasp of amazement and admiration. I had
been blind not to see it! Armand had merely to lie still and permit
the traitor to walk into the trap prepared for him. No wonder his
eyes had glowed as he lay there watching that frenzied figure at the

"It was not until the last moment," Godfrey went on, "when the
traitor was bending above the cabinet feeling for the spring, that I
realised what was about to happen. There was no time for hesitation
--I sprang into the room. Armand vanished in an instant, and the
giant also tried to escape; but I caught him at the door. I had no
idea of his danger; I had no thought that Armand would dare linger.
And yet he did. Now that it is too late, I understand. He _had_ to
kill that man; there were no two ways about it. Whatever the risk, he
had to kill him."

"But why?" I asked. "Why?"

"To seal his lips. If we had captured him, do you suppose Armand's
secret would have been safe for an instant? So he had to kill him--he
had to kill him with the poisoned barb--and he _did_ kill him, and
got away into the bargain! Never in my life have I felt so like a
fool as when that door was slammed in my face!"

"Perhaps he had that prepared, too," I suggested timidly, ready to
believe anything of this extraordinary man. "Perhaps he knew that we
were there, all the time."

"Of course he did," assented Godfrey grimly. "Why else would there be
a snap-lock on the outside of the door? And to think I didn't see it!
To think that I was fool enough to suppose that I could follow him
about the streets of New York without his knowing it! He knew from
the first that he might be followed, and prepared for it!"

"But it's incredible!" I protested feebly. "It's incredible!"

"Nothing is incredible in connection with that man!"

"But the risk--think of the risk he ran!"

"What does he care for risks? He despises them--and rightly. He got
away, didn't he?"

"Yes," I said, "he got away; there's no question of that, I guess."

"Well, that is the story of this afternoon's tragedy, as I understand
it," proceeded Godfrey, more calmly. "And now I'm going to leave you.
I want you to think it over. If it doesn't hold together, show me
where it doesn't. But it _will_ hold together--it _has_ to--because
it's true!"

"But how about Armand?" I protested. "Aren't you going to try to
capture him? Are you going to let him get away?"

"He won't get away!" and Godfrey's eyes were gleaming again. "We
don't have to search for him; for we've got our trap, Lester, and
it's baited with a bait he can't resist--the Boule cabinet!"

"But he knows it's a trap."

"Of course he knows it!"

"And you really think he will walk into it?" I asked incredulously.

"I know he will! One of these days, he will try to get that cabinet
out of the steel cell at the Twenty-third Street station, in which we
have it locked!"

I shook my head.

"He's no such fool," I said. "No man is such a fool as that. He'll
give it up and go quietly back to Paris."

"Not if he's the man I think he is," said Godfrey, his hand on the
door. "He will never give up! Just wait, Lester; we shall know in a
day or two which of us is a true prophet. The only thing I am afraid
of," he added, his face clouding, "is that he'll get away with the
cabinet, in spite of us!"

And he went away down the hall, leaving me staring after him.



It seemed for once that Godfrey was destined to be wrong, for the
days passed and nothing happened--nothing, that is, in so far as the
cabinet was concerned. There was an inquest, of course, over the
victim of the latest tragedy, and once again I was forced to give my
evidence before a coroner's jury. I must confess that, this time, it
made me appear considerable of a fool, and the papers poked sly fun
at the attorney who had walked blindly into a trap which, now that it
was sprung, seemed so apparent.

The Bertillon measurements of the victim had been cabled to Paris,
and he had been instantly identified as a fellow named Morel,
well-known to the police as a daring and desperate criminal; in fact,
M. Lepine considered the matter so important that he cabled next day
that he was sending Inspector Pigot to New York to investigate the
affair further, and to confer with our bureau as to the best methods
to be taken to apprehend the murderer. Inspector Pigot, it was added,
would sail at once for Havre on _La Savoie._

Meanwhile, Grady's men, with Simmonds at their head, strained every
nerve to discover the whereabouts of the fugitive; a net was thrown
over the entire city, but, while a number of fish were captured, the
one which the police particularly wished for was not among them. Not
a single trace of the fugitive was discovered; he had vanished
absolutely, and, after a day or two, Grady asserted confidently that
he had left New York.

For Grady had come back into the case again, goaded by the papers,
particularly by the _Record_, to efforts which he must have
considered superhuman. The remarkable nature of the mystery, its
picturesque and unique features, the fact that three men had been
killed within a few days in precisely the same manner, and the
absence of any reasonable hypothesis to explain these deaths--all
this served to rivet public attention. Every amateur detective in the
country had a theory to exploit--and far-fetched enough most of them

Grady did a lot of talking in those days, explaining in detail the
remarkable measures he was taking to capture the criminal; but the
fact remained that three men had been killed, and that no one had
been punished; that a series of crimes had been committed, and that
the criminal was still at large, and seemed likely to remain so; and,
naturally enough, the papers, having exhausted every other phase of
the case, were soon echoing public sentiment that something was wrong
somewhere, and that the detective bureau needed an overhauling,
beginning at the top.

The Boule cabinet remained locked up in a cell at the Twenty-third
Street station; and Simmonds kept the key in his pocket. I know now
that he was as much in the dark concerning the cabinet as the general
public was; and the general public was very much in the dark indeed,
for the cabinet had not figured in the accounts of the first two
tragedies at all, and only incidentally in the reports of the latest
one. As far as it was concerned, the affair seemed clear enough to
most of the reporters, as an attempt to smuggle into the country an
art object of great value. Such cases were too common to attract
especial attention.

But Simmonds had come to see that Grady was tottering on his throne;
he realised, perhaps, that his own head was not safe; and he had made
up his mind to pin his faith to Godfrey as the only one at all likely
to lead him out of the maze. And Godfrey laid the greatest stress
upon the necessity of keeping the cabinet under lock and key; so
under lock and key it was kept. As for Grady, I do not believe that,
even at the last, he realised the important part the cabinet had
played in the drama.

But while the Boule cabinet failed to focus the attention of the
public, and while most of the reporters promptly forgot all about it,
I was amused at the pains which Godfrey took to inform the fugitive
as to its whereabouts and as to how it was guarded. Over and over
again, while the other papers wondered at his imbecility, he told how
it had been placed in the strongest cell at the Twenty-third Street
station; a cell whose bars were made of chrome-nickle steel which no
saw could bite into; a cell whose lock was worked not only by a key
but by a combination, known to one man only; a cell isolated from the
others, standing alone in the middle of the third corridor, in full
view of the officer on guard, so that no one could approach it, day
or night, without being instantly discovered; a cell whose door was
connected with an automatic alarm over the sergeant's desk in the
front room; a cell, in short, from which no man could possibly
escape, and which no man could possibly enter unobserved.

Of the Boule cabinet itself Godfrey said little, saving his story for
the denouement which he seemed so sure would come; but the details
which I have given above were dwelt upon in the _Record_, until,
happening to meet Godfrey on the street one day, I protested that he
would only succeed in frightening the fugitive away altogether, even
if he still had any designs on the cabinet, which I very much
doubted. But Godfrey only laughed.

"There's not the slightest danger of frightening him away," he said.
"This fellow isn't that kind. If I am right in sizing him up, he's
the sort of dare-devil whom an insuperable difficulty only attracts.
The harder the job, the more he is drawn to it. That's the reason I
am making this one just as hard as I can."

"But a man would be a fool to attempt to get to that cabinet," I
protested. "It's simply impossible."

"It looks impossible, I'm free to admit," he agreed. "But, just the
same, I wake every morning cold with fear, and run to the 'phone to
make sure the cabinet's safe. If I could think of any further
safeguards, I would certainly employ them."

I looked at Godfrey searchingly, for it seemed to me that he must be
jesting. He smiled as he caught my glance.

"I was never more in earnest in my life, Lester," he said. "You don't
appreciate this fellow as I do. He's a genius; nothing is impossible
to him. He disdains easy jobs; when he thinks a job is too easy, he
makes it harder, just as a sporting chance. He has been known to warn
people that they kept their jewels too carelessly, and then, after
they had put them in a safer place, he would go and take them."

"That seems rather foolish, doesn't it?" I queried.

"Not from his point of view. He doesn't steal because he needs money,
but because he needs excitement."

"You know who he is, then?" I demanded.

"I think I do--I hope I do; but I am not going to tell even you till
I'm sure. I'll say this--if he is who I think he is, it would be a
delight to match one's brains with his. We haven't got any one like
him over here--which is a pity!"

I was inclined to doubt this, for I have no romantic admiration for
gentlemen burglars, even in fiction. However picturesque and
chivalric, a thief is, after all, a thief. Perhaps it is my training
as a lawyer, or perhaps I am simply narrow, but crime, however
brilliantly carried out, seems to me a sordid and unlovely thing. I
know quite well that there are many people who look at these things
from a different angle, Godfrey is one of them.

I pointed out to him now that, if his intuitions were correct, he
would soon have a chance to match his wits with those of the Great

"Yes," he agreed, "and I'm scared to death--I have been ever since I
began to suspect his identity. I feel like a tyro going up against a
master in a game of chess--mate in six moves!"

"I shouldn't consider you exactly a tyro," I said, drily.

"It's long odds that the Great Unknown will," Godfrey retorted, and
bade me good-bye.

Except for that chance meeting, I saw nothing of him, and in this I
was disappointed, for there were many things about the whole affair
which I did not understand. In fact, when I sat down of an evening
and lit my pipe and began to think it over, I found that I understood
nothing at all. Godfrey's theory held together perfectly, so far as I
could see, but it led nowhere. How had Drouet and Vantine been
killed? Why had they been killed? What was the secret of the cabinet?
In a word, what was all this mystery about? Not one of these
questions could I answer; and the solutions I guessed at seemed so
absurd that I dismissed them in disgust. In the end, I found that the
affair was interfering with my work, and I banished it from my mind,
turning my face resolutely away from it whenever it tried to break
into my thoughts.

But though I could shut it out of my waking hours successfully
enough, I could not control my sleeping ones, and my dreams became
more and more horrible. Always there was the serpent with dripping
fangs, sometimes with Armand's head, sometimes with a face unknown to
me, but hideous beyond description; its slimy body glittered with
inlay and arabesque; its scaly legs were curved like those of the
Boule cabinet; sometimes the golden sun glittered on its forehead
like a great eye. Over and over again I saw this monster slay its
three victims; and always, when that was done, it raised its head and
glared at me, as though selecting me for the fourth.... But I shall
not try to describe those dreams; even yet I cannot recall them
without a shudder.

It was while I was sitting moodily in my room one night, debating
whether or not to go to bed; weary to exhaustion and yet reluctant to
resign myself to a sleep from which I knew I should wake shrieking,
that a knock came at the door--a knock I recognised; and I arose
joyfully to admit Godfrey.

I could see by the way his eyes were shining that he had something
unusual to tell me; and then, as he looked at me, his face changed.

"What's the matter, Lester?" he demanded. "You're looking fagged out.
Working too hard?"

"It's not that," I said. "I can't sleep. This thing has upset my
nerves, Godfrey. I dream about it--have regular nightmares."

He sat down opposite me, concern and anxiety in his face.

"That won't do," he protested. "You must go away somewhere--take a
rest, and a good long one."

"A rest wouldn't do me any good, as long as this mystery is
unsolved," I said. "It's only by working that I can keep my mind off
of it."

"Well," he smiled, "just to oblige you, we will solve it first,

"Do you mean you know...."

"I know who the Great Unknown is, and I'm going to tell you
presently. Day after to-morrow--Wednesday--I'll know all the rest.
The whole story will be in Thursday morning's paper. Suppose you
arrange to start Thursday afternoon."

I could only stare at him. He smiled as he met my gaze.

"You're looking better already," he said, "as though you were taking
a little more interest in life," and he helped himself to a cigar.

"Godfrey," I protested, "I wish you would pick out somebody else to
practise on. You come up here and explode a bomb just to see how high
I'll jump. It's amusing to you, no doubt, and perhaps a little
instructive; but my nerves won't stand it."

"My dear Lester," he broke in, "that wasn't a bomb; that was a simple
statement of fact."

"Are you serious?"

"Perfectly so."

"But how do you know...."

"Before I answer any questions, I want to ask you one. Did you, by
any chance, mention me to the gentleman known to you as M. Felix

"Yes," I answered, after a moment's thought; "I believe I did. I was
telling him about our trying to find the secret drawer--I mentioned
your name--and he asked who you were. I told him you were a genius at
solving mysteries."

Godfrey nodded.

"That," he said, "explains the one thing I didn't understand. Now go
ahead with your questions."

"You said a while ago that you would know all about this affair day
after to-morrow."


"How do you know you will?"

"Because I have received a letter which sets the date," and he took
from his pocket a sheet of paper and handed it over to me. "Read it!"

The letter was written in pencil, in a delicate and somewhat feminine
hand, on a sheet of plain, unruled paper. With an astonishment which
increased with every word, I read this extraordinary epistle:--

"_My Dear Mr. Godfrey:_

"I have been highly flattered by your interest in the affaire of
the cabinet Boule, and admire most deeply your penetration in
arriving at a conclusion so nearly correct regarding it. I must
thank you, also, for your kindness in keeping me informed of the
measures which have been taken to guard the cabinet, and which
seem to me very complete and well thought out. I have myself
visited the station and inspected the cell, and I find that in
every detail you were correct.

"It is because I so esteem you as an adversary that I tell you, in
confidence, that it is my intention to regain possession of my
property on Wednesday next, and that, having done so, I shall beg
you to accept a small souvenir of the occasion.

"I am, my dear sir,

"Most cordially yours,



I looked up to find Godfrey regarding me with a quizzical smile.

"Of course it's a joke," I said. Then I looked at him again. "Surely,
Godfrey, you don't believe this is genuine!"

"Perhaps we can prove it," he said, quietly. "That is one reason I
came up. Didn't Armand leave a note for you the day he failed to see

"Yes; on his card; I have it here!" and with trembling fingers, I got
out my pocket-book and drew the card from the compartment in which I
had carefully preserved it.

One glance at it was enough. The pencilled line on the back was
unquestionably written by the same hand which wrote the letter.

"And now you know his name," Godfrey added, tapping the signature
with his finger. "I have been certain from the first that it was he!"

I gazed at the signature without answering. I had, of course, read in
the papers many times of the Gargantuan exploits of Crochard--"The
Invincible," as he loved to call himself, and with good reason. But
his achievements, at least as the papers described them, seemed too
fantastic to be true. I had suspected more than once that he was
merely a figment of the Parisian space-writers, a sort of reserve for
the dull season; or else that he was a kind of scape-goat saddled by
the French police with every crime which proved too much for them.
Now, however, it seemed that Crochard really existed; I held his
letter in my hand; I had even talked with him--and as I remembered
the fascination, the finish, the distinguished culture of M. Felix
Armand, I understood something of the reason of his extraordinary

"There can be no two opinions about him," said Godfrey, reaching out
his hand for the letter and sinking back in his chair to contemplate
it. "Crochard is one of the greatest criminals who ever lived, full
of imagination and resource, and with a sense of humour most acute. I
have followed his career for years--it was this fact that gave me my
first clue. He killed a man once before, just as he killed this last
one. The man had betrayed him to the police. He was never betrayed

"What a fiend he must be!" I said, with a shudder.

But Godfrey shook his head quickly.

"Don't get that idea of him," he protested earnestly. "Up to the time
of his arrival in New York, he had never killed any man except that
traitor. Him he had a certain right to kill--according to thieves'
ethics, anyway. His own life has been in peril scores of times, but
he has never killed a man to save himself. Put that down to his

"But Drouet and Vantine," I objected.

"An accident for which he was in no way responsible," said Godfrey

"You mean he didn't kill them?"

"Most certainly not. This last man he did kill was a traitor like the
first. Crochard, I think, reasons like this; to kill an adversary is
too easy; it is too brutal; it lacks finesse. Besides, it removes the
adversary. And without adversaries, Crochard's life would be of no
interest to him. After he had killed his last adversary, he would
have to kill himself."

"I can't understand a man like that," I said.

"Well, look at this," said Godfrey, and tapped the letter again. "He
honours me by considering me an adversary. Does he seek to remove me?
On the contrary, he gives me a handicap. He takes off his queen in
order that it may be a little more difficult to mate me!"

"But, surely, Godfrey," I protested, "you don't take that letter
seriously! If he wrote it at all, he wrote it merely to throw you off
the track. If he says Wednesday, he really intends to try for the
cabinet to-morrow."

"I don't think so. I told you he would think me only a tyro. And,
beside him, that is all I am. Do you know where he wrote that letter,
Lester? Right in the _Record_ office. That is a sheet of our copy
paper. He sat down there, right under my nose, wrote that letter,
dropped it into my box, and walked out. And all that sometime this
evening, when the office was crowded."

"But it's absurd for him to write a letter like that, if he really
means it. You have only to warn the police...."

"You'll notice he says it is in confidence."

"And you're going to keep it so?"

"Certainly I am; I consider that he has paid me a high compliment. I
have shown it to no one but you--also in confidence."

"It is not the sort of confidence the law recognises," I pointed out.
"To keep a confidence like that is practically to abet a felony."

"And yet you will keep it," said Godfrey cheerfully. "You see, I am
going to do everything I can to prevent that felony. And we will see
if Crochard is really invincible!"

"I'll keep it," I agreed, "because I think the letter is just a
blind. And, by the way," I added, "I have a letter from Armand & Son
confirming the fact that their books show that the Boule cabinet was
bought by Philip Vantine. Under the circumstances, I shall have to
claim it and hand it over to the Metropolitan."

"I hope you won't disturb it until after Wednesday," said Godfrey,
quickly. "I won't have any interest in it after that."

"You really think Crochard will try for it Wednesday?"

"I really do."

I shrugged my shoulders. What was the use of arguing with a man like

"Till after Wednesday, then," I agreed; and Godfrey, having verified
his letter and secured from me the two promises he was after, bade me



I was just getting ready to leave the office the next afternoon when
Godfrey called me up.

"How are you feeling to-day, Lester?" he asked.

"Not as fit as I might," I said.

"Have you arranged to start on that vacation Thursday?"

"I don't think that's a good joke, Godfrey."

"It isn't a joke at all. I want you to arrange it. But meanwhile, how
would you like a whiff of salt air this evening?"

"First rate. How will I get it?"

"The _Savoie_ will get to quarantine about six o'clock. I'm going
down on our boat to meet her. I want to have a talk with Inspector
Pigot--the French detective. Will you come along?"

"Will I!" I said. "Where shall I meet you?"

"At the foot of Liberty Street, at five o'clock."

"I'll be there," I promised. And I was.

The boat was cast loose as soon as we got aboard, backed out into the
busy river, her whistle shrieking shrilly, then swung about and
headed down stream. It was a fast boat--the _Record_, which prided
itself on outdistancing its contemporaries in other directions, would
of course try to do so in this--and when she got fairly into her
stride, with her engines throbbing rhythmically, the shore on either
hand slipped past us rapidly.

The New York sky-line, as seen from the river, is one of the wonders
of the world, and I stood looking at it until we swung out into the
bay. There were two other men on board--the regular ship reporters, I
suppose--and Godfrey had gone into the cabin with them to talk over
some detail of the evening's work; so I went forward to the bow,
where I would get the full benefit of the salt breeze, with the taste
of it on my lips. The Statue of Liberty was just ahead, and already
the great search-light in her torch was winking across the water.
Craft innumerable crossed and re-crossed, their lights reflected in
the waves, and far ahead, a little to the left, I could see the white
glow against the sky which marked the position of Coney Island.

Godfrey joined me presently, and we stood for some time looking at
this scene in silence.

"It's a great sight, isn't it?" he said, at last. "Hello! look at
that boat!" he added, as a yacht, coming down the bay, drew abreast
of us and then slowly forged ahead. "She can go some, can't she? This
boat of ours is no slouch, you know; but just look how that one walks
away from us. I wonder who she is? What boat is that, captain?" he
called to the man on the bridge.

"Don't know, sir," answered the captain, after a look through his
glasses. "Private yacht--can't make out her name--there's a flag or
something hanging over the stern. She's flying the French flag. There
come the other press boats behind us, sir," he added. "And there's
the _Savoie_ just slowing down at quarantine."

Far ahead we could see the great hull of the liner, dark against the
horizon, and crowned with row upon row of glowing lights.

"One doesn't appreciate how big those boats are until one sees them
from the water," I remarked. "Isn't she immense?"

"And yet she's not an especially big boat, either," said Godfrey. "To
swing in under the really big ones--like the _Olympic_--is an
experience to remember."

The _Savoie_ had by this time slowed down until she was just holding
her own against the tide, and one of her lower ports swung open. A
moment later, a boat puffed up beside her, made fast, and three or
four men clambered aboard and disappeared through the port.

"There go the doctors," said Godfrey. "And there is that French boat
going alongside."

The tug from quarantine dropped astern and the French yacht took her
place. After a short colloquy, one man from her was helped aboard the
_Savoie_. Then it was our turn, and after what seemed to me a
tremendous swishing and swirling at imminent risk of collision, we
swung up to the open port, a line was flung out and made fast, and a
moment later Godfrey and I and the other two men were aboard the

My companions exchanged greetings with the officer in charge of the
open port, and then we hurried forward along a narrow corridor,
smelling of rubber and heated metal, then up stair after stair, until
at last we came to the main companionway. Here the two men left us,
to seek certain distinguished passengers, I suppose, whose views upon
the questions of the day were (presumably) anxiously awaited by an
expectant public. Godfrey stopped in front of the purser's office,
and passed his card through the little window to the man inside the

"I should like to see M. Pigot, of the Paris _Service du Surete_" he
said. "Perhaps you will be so kind as to have a steward take my card
to him?"

"That is unnecessary, sir," replied the purser, courteously. "That is
M. Pigot yonder--the gentleman with the white hair, with his back to
us. You will have to wait for a moment, however; the gentleman
speaking with him is from the French consulate, and has but this
moment come aboard."

I could not see Inspector Pigot's face, but I could see that he held
himself very erect, in a manner bespeaking military training. The
messenger from the legation was a youngish man, with waxed moustache
and wearing an eyeglass. He was greeting M. Pigot at the moment, and,
after a word or two, produced from an inside pocket an
official-looking envelope, tied with red tape and secured with an
immense red seal.

M. Pigot looked at it an instant, while his companion added a
sentence in his ear; then, with a nod of assent, the detective turned
down one of the passage-ways, the other man at his heels.

"Official business, no doubt," commented the purser, who had also
been watching this little scene. "M. Pigot is one of the best of our
officers, and you will find it a pleasure to talk with him. He will
no doubt soon be disengaged."

"Yes, but meanwhile my esteemed contemporaries will arrive," said
Godfrey, with a grimace. "They are on my heels--here they are now!"

In fact, for the next twenty minutes, reporters from the other papers
kept arriving, till there was quite a crowd before the purser's
office. And from nearly every paper a special man had been detailed
to interview M. Pigot. Evidently all the papers were alive to the
importance of the subject. There was some good-natured chaffing, and
then one of the stewards was bribed to carry the cards of the
assembled multitude to M. Pigot's stateroom, with the request for an

The steward went away laughing, and came back presently to say that
M. Pigot would be pleased to see us in a few minutes. But when five
minutes more passed and he did not appear, impatience broke out anew.
The lords of the press were not accustomed to being kept waiting.

"I move we storm his castle," suggested the _World_ man.

And just then, M. Pigot himself stepped out into the companionway. In
an instant he was surrounded.

"My good friends of the press," he said, speaking slowly, but with
only the faintest accent, and he smiled around at the faces bent upon
him. "You will pardon me for keeping you in waiting, but I had some
matters of the first importance to attend to; and also my bag to
pack. Steward," he added, "you will find my bag outside my door.
Please bring it here, so that I may be ready to go ashore at once."
The steward hurried away, and M. Pigot turned back to us. "Now,
gentlemen," he went on, "what is it that I can do for you?"

It was to Godfrey that the position of spokesman naturally fell.

"We wish first to welcome you to America, M. Pigot," he said, "and to
hope that you will have a pleasant and interesting stay in our

"You are most kind," responded the Frenchman, with a charming smile.
"I am sure that I shall find it most interesting--especially your
wonderful city, of which I have heard many marvellous things."

"And in the next place," continued Godfrey, "we hope that, with your
assistance, our police may be able to solve the mystery surrounding
the death of the three men recently killed here, and to arrest the
murderer. Of themselves, they seem to be able to do nothing."

M. Pigot spread out his hands with a little deprecating gesture.

"I also hope we may be successful," he said; "but if your police have
not been, my poor help will be of little account. I have a profound
admiration for your police; the results which they accomplish are
wonderful, when one considers the difficulties under which they

He spoke with an accent so sincere that I was almost convinced he
meant every word of it; but Godfrey only smiled.

"It is a proverb," he said, "that the French police are the best in
the world. You, no doubt, have a theory in regard to the death of
these men?"

"I fear it is impossible, sir," said M. Pigot, regretfully, "to
answer that question at present, or to discuss this case with you. I
have my report first to make to the chief of your detective bureau.
To-morrow I shall be most happy to tell you all that I can. But for
to-night my lips are closed, sad as it makes me to seem

I could hear behind me the little indrawn breath of disappointment at
the failure of the direct attack. M. Pigot's position was, of course,
absolutely correct; but nevertheless Godfrey prepared to attack it on
the flank.

"You are going ashore to-night?" he inquired.

"I was expecting a representative of your bureau to meet me here," M.
Pigot explained. "I was hoping to return with him to the city. I have
no time to lose. In addition, the more quickly we get to work, the
more likely we shall be to succeed. Ah! perhaps that is he," he
added, as a voice was heard inquiring loudly for Moosseer Piggott.

I recognised that voice, and so did Godfrey, and I saw the cloud of
disappointment which fell upon his face.

An instant later, Grady, with Simmonds in his wake, elbowed his way
through the group.

"Moosseer Piggott!" he cried, and enveloped the Frenchman's slender
hand in his great paw, and gave it a squeeze which was no doubt

"Glad to see you, sir. Welcome to our city, as we say over here in
America. I certainly hope you can speak English, for I don't know a
word of your lingo. I'm Commissioner Grady, in charge of the
detective bureau; and this is Simmonds, one of my men."

M. Pigot's perfect suavity was not even ruffled.

"I am most pleased to meet you, sir; and you Monsieur Simmon," he
said. "Yes--I speak English--though, as you see, with some

"These reporters bothering your life out, I see," and Grady glanced
about the group, scowling as his eyes met Godfrey's. "Now you boys
might as well fade away. You won't get anything out of either of us
to-night--eh, Moosseer Piggott?"

"I have but just told them that my first report must be made to you,
sir," assented Pigot.

"Then let's go somewhere and have a drink," suggested Grady.

"I was hoping," said M. Pigot, gently, "that we might go ashore at
once. I have my papers ready for you...."

"All right," agreed Grady. "And after I've looked over your papers,
I'll show you Broadway, and I'll bet you agree with me that it beats
anything in gay Paree. Our boat's waiting, and we can start right
away. This your bag? Yes? Bring it along, Simmonds," and Grady
started for the stair.

But the attentive steward got ahead of Simmonds.

M. Pigot turned to us with a little smile.

"Till to-morrow, gentlemen," he said. "I shall be at the Hotel Astor,
and shall be glad to see you--shall we say at eleven o'clock? I am
truly sorry that I can tell you nothing to-night."

He shook hands with the purser, waved his hand to us, and joined
Grady, who was watching these amenities with evident impatience.
Together they disappeared down the stair.

"A contrast in manners, was it not, gentlemen?" asked Godfrey,
looking about him. "Didn't you blush for America?"

The men laughed, for they knew he was after Grady, and yet it was
evident enough that they agreed with him.

"Come on, Lester," he added; "we might as well be getting back. I can
send the boat down again after the other boys," and he turned down
the stair.



Godfrey bade me good-bye at the dock and hastened away to the office
to write his story, which, I could guess, would be concerned with the
manners of Americans, especially with Grady's. As for me, that whiff
of salt air had put an unaccustomed edge to my appetite, and I took a
cab to Murray's, deciding to spend the remainder of the evening
there, over a good dinner. Except in a certain mood, Murray's does
not appeal to me; the pseudo-Grecian temple in the corner, with water
cascading down its steps, the make-believe clouds which float across
the ceiling, the tables of glass lighted from beneath--all this,
ordinarily, seems trivial and banal; but occasionally, in an esoteric
mood, I like Murray's, and can even find something picturesque and
romantic in bright gowns, and gleaming shoulders, and handsome faces
seen amid these bizarre surroundings. And then, of course, there is
always the cooking, which leaves nothing to be desired.

I was in the right mood to-night for the enjoyment of the place, and
I ambled through the dinner in a fashion so leisurely and trifled so
long over coffee and cigarette that it was far past ten o'clock when
I came out again into Forty-second Street. After an instant's
hesitation, I decided to walk home, and turned back toward Broadway,
already filling with the after-theatre crowd.

Often as I have seen it, Broadway at night is still a fascinating
place to me, with its blazing signs, its changing crowds, its
clanging street traffic, its bright shop-windows. Grady was right in
saying that "gay Paree" had nothing like it; nor has any other city
that I know. It is, indeed, unique and thoroughly American; and I
walked along it that night in the most leisurely fashion, savouring
it to the full; pausing, now and then, for a glance at a shop-window,
and stopping at the Hoffman House--now denuded, alas! of its
Bouguereau--to replenish my supply of cigarettes.

Reaching Madison Square, at last, I walked out under the trees, as I
almost always do, to have a look at the Flatiron Building, white
against the sky. Then I glanced up at the Metropolitan tower, higher
but far less romantic in appearance, and saw by the big illuminated
clock that it was nearly half-past eleven.

I crossed back over Broadway, at last, and turned down Twenty-third
Street in the direction of the Marathon, when, just at the corner, I
came face to face with three men as they swung around the corner in
the same direction, and, with a little start, I recognised Grady and
Simmonds, with M. Pigot between them. Evidently Grady had felt it
incumbent upon himself to make good his promise in the most liberal
manner, and to display the wonders of the Great White Way from end to
end--the ceremony no doubt involving the introduction of the stranger
to a number of typical American drinks--and the result of all this
was that Grady's legs wobbled perceptibly. As a matter of racial
comparison, I glanced at M. Pigot's, but they seemed in every way

"Hello, Lester," said Simmonds, in a voice which showed that he had
not wholly escaped the influences of the evening's celebration; and
even Grady condescended to nod, from which I inferred that he was
feeling very unusually happy.

"Hello, Simmonds," I answered, and, as I turned westward with them,
he dropped back and; fell into step beside me.

"Piggott is certainly a wonder," he said. "A regular sport--wanted to
see everything and taste everything. He says Paris ain't in the same
class with this town."

"Where are you going now?" I asked.

"We're going round to the station. Piggott says he's got a sensation
up his sleeve for us--it's got something to do with that cabinet."

"With the cabinet?"

"Yes--that shiny thing Godfrey got me to lock up in a cell."

"Simmonds," I said, seriously, "does Godfrey know about this?"

"No," said Simmonds, looking a little uncomfortable. "I told Grady we
ought to 'phone him to come up, but the chief got mad and told me to
mind my own business. Godfrey's been after him, you know, for a long

"Suppose I 'phone him," I suggested. "There'd be no objection to
that, would there?"

"_I_ won't object," said Simmonds, "and I don't know who else will,
since nobody else will know about it."

"All right. And drag out the preliminaries as long as you can, to
give him a chance to get up here."

Simmonds nodded.

"I'll do what I can," he agreed, "but I don't see what good it will
do. The chief won't let him in, even if he does come up." "We'll
have to leave that to Godfrey. But he ought to be told. He's
responsible for the cabinet being where it is."

"I know he is, and Piggott says it was a mighty wise thing to put it
there, though I'm blessed if I know why. Hurry Godfrey along as much
as you can. Good-night," and he followed his companions into the

There was a drugstore at the corner with a public telephone station,
and two minutes later, I was asking to be connected with the city-room
at the _Record_ office.

No, said a supercilious voice, Mr. Godfrey was not there; he had left
some time before; no, the speaker did not know where he was going,
nor when he would be back.

"Look here," I said, "this is important. I want to talk to the city
editor--and be quick about it."

There was an instant's astonished silence.

"What name?" asked the voice.

"Lester, of Royce and Lester--and you might tell your city editor
that Godfrey is a close friend of mine."

The city editor seemed to understand, for I was switched on to him a
moment later. But he was scarcely more satisfactory.

"We sent Godfrey up into Westchester to see a man," he said, "on a
tip that looked pretty good. He started just as soon as he got his
Pigot story written, and he ought to be back almost any time. Is
there a message I can give him?"

"Yes--tell him Pigot is at the Twenty-third Street station, and that
he'd better come up as soon as he can."

"Very good. I'll give him the message the moment he comes in."

"Thank you," I said, but the disappointment was a bitter one.

In the street again, I paused hesitatingly at the curb, my eyes on
the red light of the police station. What was about to happen there?
What was the sensation M. Pigot had up his sleeve? Had I any excuse
for being present?

And then, remembering Grady's nod and his wobbly legs--remembering,
too, that, at the worst, he could only put me out!--I turned toward
the light, pushed open the door and entered.

There was no one in sight except the sergeant at the desk.

"My name is Lester," I said. "You have a cabinet here belonging to
the estate of the late Philip Vantine."

"We've got a cabinet, all right; but I don't know who it belongs to."

"It belongs to Mr. Vantine's estate."

"Well, what about it?" he asked, looking at me to see if I was drunk.
"You haven't come in here at midnight to tell me that, I hope?"

"No; but I'd like to see the cabinet a minute."

"You can't see it to-night. Come around to-morrow. Besides, I don't
know you."

"Here's my card. Either Mr. Simmonds or Mr. Grady would know me. And
to-morrow won't do."

The sergeant took the card, looked at it, and looked at me.

"Wait a minute," he said, at last, and disappeared through a door at
the farther side of the room. He was gone three or four minutes, and
the station-clock struck twelve as I stood there. I counted the
sonorous, deliberate strokes, and then, in the silence that followed,
my hands began to tremble with the suspense. Suppose Grady should
refuse to see me? But at last the sergeant came back.

"Come along," he said, opening the gate in the railing and motioning
me through. "Straight on through that door," he added, and sat down
again at his desk.

With a desperate effort at careless unconcern, I opened the door and
passed through. Then, involuntarily, I stopped. For there, in the
middle of the floor, was the Boule cabinet, with M. Pigot standing
beside it, and Grady and Simmonds sitting opposite, flung carelessly
back in their chairs, and puffing at black cigars.

They all looked at me as I entered, Pigot with an evident contraction
of the brows which showed how strongly his urbanity was strained;
Simmonds with an affectation of surprise, and Grady with a bland and
somewhat vacant smile. My heart rose when I saw that smile.

"Well, Mr. Lester," he said, "so you want to see this cabinet?"

"Yes," I answered; "it really belongs to the Vantine estate, you
know; I'm going to put in a claim for it--that is, if you are not
willing to surrender it without contest."

"Did you just happen to think of this in the middle of the night?" he
inquired quizzically.

"No," I said, boldly; "but I saw you and Mr. Simmonds and this
gentleman"--with a bow to M. Pigot--"turn in here a moment ago, and
it occurred to me that the cabinet might have something to do with
your visit. Of course, we don't want the cabinet injured. It is very

"Don't worry," said Grady, easily, "we're not going to injure it. And
I think we'll be ready to surrender it to you at any time after
to-night. Moosseer Piggott here wants to do a few tricks with it
first. I suppose you have a certain right to be present--so, if you
like sleight-of-hand, sit down."

I hastily sought a chair, my heart singing within me. Then I
attempted to assume a mask of indifference, for M. Pigot was
obviously annoyed at my presence, and I feared for a moment that his
Gallic suavity would be strained to breaking. But Grady, if he
noticed his guest's annoyance, paid no heed to it; and I began to
suspect that the Frenchman's courtesy and good-breeding had ended by
rubbing Grady the wrong way, they were in such painful contrast to
his own hob-nailed manners. Whatever the cause, there was a certain
malice in the smile he turned upon the Frenchman.

"And now, Moosseer Piggott," he said, settling back in his chair a
little farther, "we're ready for the show."

"What I have to tell you, sir," began M. Pigot, in a voice as hard as
steel and cold as ice, "has, understand well, to be told in
confidence. It must remain between ourselves until the criminal is

Grady's smile hardened a little. Perhaps he did not like the
imperatives. At any rate, he ignored the hint.

"Understand, Mr. Lester?" he asked, looking at me, and I nodded.

I saw Pigot's eyes flame and his face flush with anger, for Grady's
tone was almost insulting. For an instant I thought that he would
refuse to proceed; but he controlled himself.

Standing there facing me, in the full light, it was possible for me
to examine him much more closely than had been possible on board the
boat, and I looked at him with interest. He was typically French,
--smooth-shaven, with a face seamed with little wrinkles and very
white, eyes shadowed by enormously bushy lashes, and close-cropped
hair as white as his face. But what attracted me most was the mouth
--a mouth at once delicate and humourous, a little large and with the
lips full enough to betoken vigour, yet not too full for fineness. He
was about sixty years of age, I guessed; and there was about him the
air of a man who had passed through a hundred remarkable experiences,
without once losing his aplomb. Certainly he was not going to lose it

"The story which I have to relate," he began in his careful English,
clipping his words a little now and then, "has to do with the theft
of the famous Michaelovitch diamonds. You may, perhaps, remember the

I remembered it, certainly, for the robbery had been conceived and
carried out with such brilliancy and daring that its details had at
once arrested my attention--to say nothing of the fact that the
diamonds, which formed the celebrated collection belonging to the
Grand Duke Michael, of Russia,--sojourning in Paris because
unappreciated in his native land and also because of the supreme
attraction of the French capital to one of his temperament--were
valued at something like eight million francs.

"That theft," continued M. Pigot, "was accomplished in a manner at
once so bold and so unique that we were certain it could be the work
of but a single man--a rascal named Crochard, who calls himself also
'The Invincible'--a rascal who has given us very great trouble, but
whom we have never been able to convict. In this case, we had against
him no direct evidence; we subjected him to an interrogation and
found that he had taken care to provide a perfect alibi; so we were
compelled to release him. We knew that it would be quite useless to
arrest him unless we should find some of the stolen jewels in his
possession. He appeared as usual upon the boulevards, at the cafes,
everywhere. He laughed in our faces. For us, it was not pleasant; but
our law is strict. For us to accuse a man, to arrest him, and then to
be compelled to own ourselves mistaken, is a very serious matter. But
we did what we could. We kept Crochard under constant surveillance;
we searched his rooms and those of his mistress not once but many
times. On one occasion, when he passed the barrier at Vincennes, our
agents fell upon him and searched him, under pretence of robbing him.

"He was, understand well, not for an instant deceived. He knew
thoroughly what we were doing, for what we were searching. He knew
also that nowhere in Europe would he dare to attempt to sell a single
one of those jewels. We suspected that he would attempt to bring them
to this country, and we warned your department of customs. For we
knew that here he could sell all but the very largest not only almost
without danger, but at a price far greater than he could obtain for
them in Europe. We closed every avenue to him, as we thought--and
then, all at once, he disappeared.

"For two weeks we heard nothing--then came the story of this man
Drouet, killed by a stab on the hand. At once we recognised the work
of Crochard, for he alone of living men possesses the secret of the
poison of the Medici. It is a fearful secret, which, in his whole
life, he had used but once--and that upon a man who had betrayed

M. Pigot paused and passed his hand across his forehead.

"We were at a loss to understand Crochard's connection with Drouet,"
M. Pigot continued. "Drouet, while a mere hanger-on of the cafes of
the boulevards, was not a criminal. Then came the death of that
creature Morel, in an effort to gain possession of this cabinet, and
we began to understand. We made inquiries concerning the cabinet; we
learned its history, and the secret of its construction, and we
arrived at a certain conclusion. It was to ascertain if that
conclusion is correct that I came to America."

"What is the conclusion?" queried Grady, who had listened to all this
with a manifest impatience in strong contrast to my own absorbed

For I had already guessed what the conclusion was, and my pulses were
bounding with excitement. "Our theory," replied M. Pigot, without
the slightest acceleration of speech, "is that the Michaelovitch
diamonds are concealed in this cabinet. Everything points to it--and
we shall soon see." As he spoke, he drew from his pocket a steel
gauntlet, marvellously like the one Godfrey had used, and slipped it
over his right hand. "When one attempts to fathom the secrets of
_L'Invincible_" he said with a smile, "one must go armoured. Already
three men have paid with their lives the penalty of their rashness."
"Three men!" repeated Grady, wonderingly. "Three," and Pigot checked
them off upon his fingers. "First the man who gave his name as
d'Aurelle, but who was really a blackmailer named Drouet; second, M.
Vantine, the connoisseur; and third, the creature Morel. Of these,
the only one that really matters is M. Vantine; his death was most
unfortunate, and I am sure that Crochard regrets it exceedingly. He
might also regret my death, but, at any rate, I have no wish to be
the fourth. Not I," and he adjusted the gauntlet carefully. "One
moment, monsieur," I said, bursting in, unable to remain longer
silent. "This is all so wonderful--so thrilling--will you not tell us
more? For what were these three men searching? For the jewels?"
"Monsieur is as familiar with the facts as I," he answered, in a
sarcastic tone. "He knows that Drouet was killed while searching for
a packet of letters, which would have compromised most seriously a
great lady; he knows that M. Vantine was killed while endeavouring to
open the drawer after its secret had been revealed to him by the maid
of that same great lady, who was hoping to get a reward for them;
Morel met death directly at the hands of Crochard because he was a
traitor and deserved it." More and more fascinated, I stared at him.
What secret was safe, I asked myself, from this astonishing man? Or
was he merely piecing together the whole story from such fragments as
he knew? "But even yet," I stammered, "I do not understand. We have
opened the secret drawer of the cabinet--there was no poison. How
could it have killed Drouet and Mr. Vantine?" "Very simply," said M.
Pigot, coldly. "Death came to Drouet and M. Vantine because the maid
of Madame la Duchesse mistook her left hand for her right. The drawer
which contained the letters is at the left of the cabinet--see," and
he pressed the series of springs, caught the little handle, and
pulled the drawer open. "You will notice that the letters are gone,
for the drawer was opened by Madame la Duchesse herself, in the
presence of M. Lestaire, who very gallantly permitted her to resume
possession of them. The drawer which Drouet and M. Vantine opened,"
and here his voice became a little strident under the stress of great
emotion, "is on the right side of the cabinet, exactly opposite the
other, and opened by a similar combination. But there is one great
difference. About the first drawer, there is nothing to harm any one;
the other is guarded by the deadliest poison the world has ever
known. Observe me, gentlemen!" Impelled by an excitement so intense
as to be almost painful, I had risen from my chair and drawn near to
him. As he spoke, he bent above the desk and pressed three fingers
along the right edge. There was a sharp click, and a section of the
inlay fell outward, forming a handle, just as I had seen it do on the
other side of the desk. M. Pigot hesitated an instant--any man would
have hesitated before that awful risk!--then, catching the handle
firmly with his armoured hand, he drew it quickly out. There was a
sharp clash, as of steel on steel, and the drawer stood open.



M. Pigot, cool and imperturbable, held out to us, with a little
smile, a hand which showed not a quiver of emotion--his gauntleted
hand; and I saw that, on the back of it, were two tiny depressions.
At the bottom of each depression lay a drop of bright red liquid--
blood-red, I told myself, as I stared at it, fascinated. And what
nerves of steel this man possessed! A sudden warmth of admiration for
him glowed within me. "That liquid, gentlemen," he said in his
smooth voice, "is the most powerful poison ever distilled by man.
Those two tiny drops would kill a score of people, and kill them
instantly. Its odour betrays its origin"--and, indeed, the air was
heavy with the scent of bitter almonds--"but the poison ordinarily
derived from that source is as nothing compared with this. This
poison is said to have been discovered by Remy, the remarkable man
who brought about the death of the Duc d'Anjou. Its distillation was
supposed to be one of the lost arts, but the secret was rediscovered
by this man Crochard. No secret, indeed, is safe from him; criminal
history, criminal memoirs--the mysteries and achievements of the great
confederacy of crime which has existed for many centuries, and whose
existence few persons even suspect--all this is to him an open book.
It is this which renders him so formidable. No man can stand against
him. Even the secret of this drawer was known to him, and he availed
himself of it when need arose." M. Pigot paused, his head bent in
thought; and I seemed to be gazing with him down long avenues of crime,
extending far into the past--dismal avenues like those of Pere Lachaise,
where tombs elbowed each other; where, at every step, one came face to
face with a mystery, a secret, or a tragedy. Only, here, the mysteries
were all solved, the secrets all uncovered, the tragedies all
understood. But only to the elect, to criminals really great, were
these avenues open; to all others they were forbidden. Alone of
living men, perhaps, Crochard was free to wander there unchallenged.

Some such vision as this, I say, passed before my eyes, and I had a
feeling that M. Pigot shared in it; but, after an instant, he turned
back to the cabinet.

"Now, M. Simmon," he said, briskly, in an altered voice, "if you will
have the kindness to hold the drawer for a moment in this position, I
will draw the serpent's fangs. There is not the slightest danger," he
added, seeing that Simmonds very naturally hesitated.

Thus assured, Simmonds grasped the handle of the drawer, and held it
open, while the Frenchman took from his pocket a tiny flask of

"A little farther," he said; and as Simmonds, with evident effort,
drew the drawer out to its full length, a tiny, two-tined prong
pushed itself forward from underneath the cabinet. "There are the
fangs," said M. Pigot. He held the mouth of the flask under first one
and then the other, passing his other hand carefully behind and above
them. "The poison is held in place by what we in French call
_attraction capillaire_--I do not know the English; but I drive it
out by introducing the air behind it--ah, you see!"

He stood erect and held the flask up to the light. It was half full
of the red liquid.

"Enough to decimate France," he said, screwed the stopper carefully
into place, and put the flask in his pocket. "Release the drawer, if
you please, monsieur," he added to Simmonds.

It sprang back into place on the instant, the arabesqued handle
snapping up with a little click.

"You will observe its ingenuity," said M. Pigot. "It is really most
clever. For whenever the hand, struck by the poisoned fangs, loosened
its hold on the drawer, the drawer sprang shut as you see, and
everything was as before--except that one man more had tasted death.
Now I open it. The fangs fall again; they strike the gauntlet; but
for that, they would pierce the hand, but death no longer follows. By
turning this button, I lock the spring, and the drawer remains open.
The man who devised this mechanism was so proud of it that he
described it in a secret memoir for the entertainment of the Grand
Louis. There is a copy of that memoir among the archives of the
Bibliotheque Nationale; the original is owned by Crochard. It was he
who connected that memoir with this cabinet, who rediscovered the
mechanism, rewound the spring, and renewed the poison. No doubt the
stroke with the poisoned fangs, which he used to punish traitors, was
the result of reading that memoir."

"This Croshar--or whatever his name is,--seems to be a 'strordinary
feller," observed Grady, relighting his cigar.

"He is," agreed M. Pigot, quietly; "a most extraordinary man. But
even he is not infallible; for, since the memoir made no mention of
the other secret drawer--the one in which Madame la Duchesse
concealed her love letters--Crochard knew nothing of it. It was that
fact which defeated his combinations--a pure accident which he could
not foresee. And now, gentlemen, it shall be my pleasure to display
before you some very beautiful brilliants."

Not until that instant had I thought of what the drawer contained; I
had been too fascinated by the poisoned fangs and by the story told
so quietly but so effectively by the French detective; but now I
perceived that the drawer was filled with little rolls of cotton,
which had been pressed into it quite tightly.

M. Pigot removed the first of these, unrolled it and spread it out
upon the desk, and instantly we caught the glitter of diamonds
--diamonds so large, so brilliant, so faultlessly white that I drew a
deep breath of admiration. Even M. Pigot, evidently as he prided
himself upon his imperturbability, could not look upon those gems
wholly unmoved; a slow colour crept into his cheeks as he gazed down
at them, and he picked up one or two of the larger ones to admire
them more closely. Then he unfolded roll after roll, stopping from
time to time for a look at the larger brilliants.

"These are from the famous necklace which the Grand Duke inherited
from his grandmother," he said, calling our attention to a little
pile of marvellous gems in one of the last packets. "Crochard, of
course, removed them from their settings--that was inevitable. He
could melt down the settings and sell the gold; but not one of these
brilliants would be marketable in Europe for many years. Each of them
is a marked gem. Here in America, your police regulations are not so
complete; but I fancy that, even here, he would have had difficulty
in marketing this one," and he unfolded the last packet, and held up
to the light a rose-diamond which seemed to me as large as a walnut,
and a-glow with lovely colour.

"Perhaps you have stopped to admire the Mazarin diamond in the
_galerie d'Apollon_ at the Louvre," said M. Pigot. "There is always a
crowd about that case, and a special attendant is installed there to
guard it, for it contains some articles of great value. But the
Mazarin is not one of them; for it is not a diamond at all; it is
paste--a paste facsimile of which this is the original. Oh, it is all
quite honest," he added, as Grady snorted derisively. "Some years
ago, the directors of the Louvre needed a fund for the purchase of
new paintings; needed also to clean and restore the old ones. They
decided that it was folly to keep three millions of francs imprisoned
in a single gem, when their Michael Angelos and da Vincis and
Murillos were encrusted with dirt and fading daily. So they sought a
purchaser for the Mazarin; they found one in the empress of Russia,
who had a craze for precious stones, and who, at her death, left this
remarkable collection to her favourite son, who had inherited her
passion. A paste replica of the Mazarin was placed in the Louvre for

Book of the day: