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The Rome Express by Arthur Griffiths

Part 3 out of 3

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staff, and was only doing his duty according to his lights, and he
said so with such an injured air that the General was pacified,
laughed, and relapsed into silence without lighting his cigarette.

The time ran on, from minutes into nearly an hour, a very trying
wait for Sir Charles. There is always something irritating in
doing antechamber work, in kicking one's heels in the waiting-room
of any functionary or official, high or low, and the General found
it hard to possess himself in patience, when he thought he was
being thus ignominiously treated by a man like M. Flocon. All the
time, too, he was worrying himself about the Countess, wondering
first how she had fared; next, where she was just then; last of
all, and longest, whether it was possible for her to be mixed up
in anything compromising or criminal.

Suddenly an electric bell struck in the room. There was a table
telephone at Baume's elbow; he took up the handle, put the tube to
his mouth and ear, got his message answered, and then, rising,
said abruptly to Sir Charles:

"Come."

When the General was at last ushered into the presence of the
Chief of the Detective Police, he found to his satisfaction that
Colonel Papillon was also there, and at M. Flocon's side sat the
instructing judge, M. Beaumont le Hardi, who, after waiting
politely until the two Englishmen had exchanged greetings, was the
first to speak, and in apology.

"You will, I trust, pardon us, M. le General, for having detained
you here and so long. But there were, as we thought, good and
sufficient reasons. If those have now lost some of their cogency,
we still stand by our action as having been justifiable in the
execution of our duty. We are now willing to let you go free,
because--because--"

"We have caught the person, the lady you helped to escape,"
blurted out the detective, unable to resist making the point.

"The Countess? Is she here, in custody? Never!"

"Undoubtedly she is in custody, and in very close custody too,"
went on M. Flocon, gleefully. "_ Au secret_, if you know what
that means--in a cell separate and apart, where no one is
permitted to see or speak to her."

"Surely not that? Jack--Papillon--this must not be. I beg of you,
implore, insist, that you will get his lordship to interpose."

"But, sir, how can I? You must not ask impossibilities. The
Contessa Castagneto is really an Italian subject now."

"She is English by birth, and whether or no, she is a woman, a
high-bred lady; and it is abominable, unheard-of, to subject her
to such monstrous treatment," said the General.

"But these gentlemen declare that they are fully warranted, that
she has put herself in the wrong--greatly, culpably in the wrong."

"I don't believe it!" cried the General, indignantly. "Not from
these chaps, a pack of idiots, always on the wrong tack! I don't
believe a word, not if they swear."

"But they have documentary evidence--papers of the most damaging
kind against her."

"Where? How?"

"He--M. le Juge--has been showing me a note-book;" and the
General's eyes, following Jack Papillon's, were directed to a
small _carnet_, or memorandum-book, which the Judge, interpreting
the glance, was tapping significantly with his finger.

Then the Judge said blandly, "It is easy to perceive that you
protest, M. le General, against that lady's arrest. Is it so?
Well, we are not called upon to justify it to you, not in the very
least. But we are dealing with a brave man, a gentleman, an
officer of high rank and consideration, and you shall know things
that we are not bound to tell, to you or to any one."

"First," he continued, holding up the note-book, "do you know what
this is? Have you ever seen it before?"

"I am dimly conscious of the fact, and yet I cannot say when or
where."

"It is the property of one of your fellow travellers--an Italian
called Ripaldi."

"Ripaldi?" said the General, remembering with some uneasiness that
he had seen the name at the bottom of the Countess's telegram.
"Ah! now I understand."

"You had heard of it, then? In what connection?" asked the Judge,
a little carelessly, but it was a suddenly planned pitfall.

"I now understand," replied the General, perfectly on his guard,
"why the note-book was familiar to me. I had seen it in that man's
hands in the waiting-room. He was writing in it."

"Indeed? A favourite occupation evidently. He was fond of
confiding in that note-book, and committed to it much that he
never expected would see the light--his movements, intentions,
ideas, even his inmost thoughts. The book--which he no doubt lost
inadvertently is very incriminating to himself and his friends."

"What do you imply?" hastily inquired Sir Charles.

"Simply that it is on that which is written here that we base one
part, perhaps the strongest, of our case against the Countess.
It is strangely but convincingly corroborative of our suspicions
against her."

"May I look at it for myself?" went on the General in a tone of
contemptuous disbelief.

"It is in Italian. Perhaps you can read that language? If not, I
have translated the most important passages," said the Judge,
offering some other papers.

"Thank you; if you will permit me, I should prefer to look at the
original;" and the General, without more ado, stretched out his
hand and took the note-book.

What he read there, as he quickly scanned its pages, shall be told
in the next chapter. It will be seen that there were things
written that looked very damaging to his dear friend, Sabine
Castagneto.

CHAPTER XVIII

Ripaldi's diary--its ownership plainly shown by the record of his
name in full, Natale Ripaldi, inside the cover--was a commonplace
note-book bound in shabby drab cloth, its edges and corners
strengthened with some sort of white metal. The pages were of
coarse paper, lined blue and red, and they were dog-eared and
smirched as though they had been constantly turned over and used.

The earlier entries were little more than a record of work to do
or done.

"Jan. 11. To call at Cafe di Roma, 12.30. Beppo will meet me.

"Jan. 13. Traced M. L. Last employed as a model at S.'s studio,
Palazzo B.

"Jan. 15. There is trouble brewing at the Circulo Bonafede;
Louvaih, Malatesta, and the Englishman Sprot, have joined it. All
are noted Anarchists.

"Jan. 20. Mem., pay Trattore. The Bestia will not wait. X. is also
pressing, and Mariuccia. Situation tightens.

"Jan. 23. Ordered to watch Q. Could I work him? No. Strong doubts
of his solvency.

"Feb. 10, 11, 12. After Q. No grounds yet.

"Feb. 27. Q. keeps up good appearance. Any mistake? Shall I try
him? Sorely pressed. X. threatens me with Prefettura.

"March 1. Q. in difficulties. Out late every night. Is playing
high; poor luck.

"March 3. Q. means mischief. Preparing for a start?

"March 10. Saw Q. about, here, there, everywhere."

Then followed a brief account of Quadling's movements on the day
before his departure from Rome, very much as they have been
described in a previous chapter. These were made mostly in the
form of reflections, conjectures, hopes, and fears; hurry-scurry
of pursuit had no doubt broken the immediate record of events, and
these had been entered next day in the train.

"March 17 (the day previous). He has not shown up. I thought to
see him at the buffet at Genoa. The conductor took him his coffee
to the car. I hoped to have begun an acquaintance.

"12.30. Breakfasted at Turin. Q. did not come to table. Found him
hanging about outside restaurant. Spoke; got short reply. Wishes
to avoid observation, I suppose.

"But he speaks to others. He has claimed acquaintance with
madame's lady's maid, and he wants to speak to the mistress. 'Tell
her I must speak to her,' I heard him say, as I passed close to
them. Then they separated hurriedly.

"At Modane he came to the Douane, and afterwards into the
restaurant. He bowed across the table to the lady. She hardly
recognized him, which is odd. Of course she must know him; then
why--? There is something between them, and the maid is in it.

"What shall _I_ do? I could spoil any game of theirs if I
stepped in. What are they after? His money, no doubt.

"So am I; I have the best right to it, for I can do most for him.
He is absolutely in my power, and he'll see that--he's no fool--
directly he knows who I am, and why I'm here. It will be worth his
while to buy me off, if I'm ready to sell myself, and my duty, and
the Prefettura--and why shouldn't I? What better can I do? Shall I
ever have such a chance again? Twenty, thirty, forty thousand
lire, more, even, at one stroke; why, it's a fortune! I could go
to the Republic, to America, North or South, send for Mariuccia--
no, _cos petto!_ I will continue free! I will spend the money on
myself, as I alone will have earned it, and at such risk.

"I have worked it out thus:

"I will go to him at the very last, just before we are reaching
Paris. Tell him, threaten him with arrest, then give him his
chance of escape. No fear that he won't accept it; he _must_,
whatever he may have settled with the others. _Altro!_ I snap my
fingers at them. He has most to fear from me."

The next entries were made after some interval, a long interval,
--no doubt, after the terrible deed had been done,--and the words
were traced with trembling fingers, so that the writing was most
irregular and scarcely legible.

"Ugh! I am still trembling with horror and fear. I cannot get it
out of my mind; I never shall. Why, what tempted me? How could I
bring myself to do it?

"But for these two women--they are fiends, furies--it would never
have been necessary. Now one of them has escaped, and the other--
she is here, so cold-blooded, so self-possessed and quiet--who
would have thought it of her? That she, a lady of rank and high
breeding, gentle, delicate, tender-hearted. Tender? the fiend! Oh,
shall I ever forget her?

"And now she has me in her power! But have I not her also? We are
in the same boat--we must sink or swim, together. We are equally
bound, I to her, she to me. What are we to do? How shall we meet
inquiry? _Santissima Donna!_ why did I not risk it, and climb
out like the maid? It was terrible for the moment, but the worst
would have been over, and now--"

There was yet more, scribbled in the same faltering, agitated
handwriting, and from the context the entries had been made in the
waiting-room of the railroad station.

"I must attract her attention. She will not look my way. I want
her to understand that I have something special to say to her, and
that, as we are forbidden to speak, I am writing it herein--that
she must contrive to take the book from me and read unobserved.

"_ Cos petto!_ she is stupid! Has fear dazed her entirely? No
matter, I will set it all down."

Now followed what the police deemed such damaging evidence.

"Countess. Remember. Silence--absolute silence. Not a word as to
who I am, or what is common knowledge to us both. It is done. That
cannot be undone. Be brave, resolute; admit nothing. Stick to it
that you know nothing, heard nothing. Deny that you knew _him_,
or me. Swear you slept soundly the night through, make some
excuse, say you were drugged, anything, only be on your guard, and
say nothing about me. I warn you. Leave me alone. Or--but your
interests are my interests; we must stand or fall together.
Afterwards I will meet you--I _must_ meet you somewhere. If we
miss at the station front, write to me Poste Restante, Grand
Hotel, and give me an address. This is imperative. Once more,
silence and discretion."

This ended the writing in the note-book, and the whole perusal
occupied Sir Charles from fifteen to twenty minutes, during which
the French officials watched his face closely, and his friend
Colonel Papillon anxiously.

But the General's mask was impenetrable, and at the end of his
reading he turned back to read and re-read many pages, holding the
book to the light, and seeming to examine the contents very
curiously.

"Well?" said the Judge at last, when he met the General's eye.

"Do you lay great store by this evidence?" asked the General in a
calm, dispassionate voice.

"Is it not natural that we should? Is it not strongly,
conclusively incriminating?"

"It would be so, of course, if it were to be depended upon. But as
to that I have my doubts, and grave doubts."

"Bah!" interposed the detective; "that is mere conjecture, mere
assertion. Why should not the book be believed? It is perfectly
genuine--"

"Wait, sir," said the General, raising his hand. "Have you not
noticed--surely it cannot have escaped so astute a police
functionary--that the entries are not all in the same handwriting?"

"What! Oh, that is too absurd!" cried both the officials in a
breath.

They saw at once that if this discovery were admitted to be an
absolute fact, the whole drift of their conclusions must be
changed.

"Examine the book for yourselves. To my mind it is perfectly clear
and beyond all question," insisted Sir Charles. "I am quite
positive that the last pages were written by a different hand from
the first."

CHAPTER XIX

For several minutes both the Judge and the detective pored over
the note-book, examining page after page, shaking their heads, and
declining to accept the evidence of their eyes.

"I cannot see it," said the Judge at last; adding reluctantly, "No
doubt there is a difference, but it is to be explained."

"Quite so," put in M. Flocon. "When he wrote the early part, he
was calm and collected; the last entries, so straggling, so
ragged, and so badly written, were made when he was fresh from the
crime, excited, upset, little master of himself. Naturally he
would use a different hand."

"Or he would wish to disguise it. It was likely he would so wish,"
further remarked the Judge.

"You admit, then, that there is a difference?" argued the General,
shrewdly. "But there is more than a disguise. The best disguise
leaves certain unchangeable features. Some letters, capital G's,
H's, and others, will betray themselves through the best
disguise. I know what I am saying. I have studied the subject of
handwriting; it interests me. These are the work of two different
hands. Call in an expert; you will find I am right."

"Well, well," said the Judge, after a pause, "let us grant your
position for the moment. What do you deduce? What do you infer
therefrom?"

"Surely you can see what follows--what this leads us to?" said Sir
Charles, rather disdainfully.

"I have formed an opinion--yes, but I should like to see if it
coincides with yours. You think--"

"I know," corrected the General. "I know that, as two persons
wrote in that book, either it is not Ripaldi's book, or the last
of them was not Ripaldi. I saw the last writer at his work, saw
him with my own eyes. Yet he did not write with Ripaldi's hand--
this is incontestable, I am sure of it, I will swear it--ergo, he
is not Ripaldi."

"But you should have known this at the time," interjected M.
Flocon, fiercely. "Why did you not discover the change of
identity? You should have seen that this was not Ripaldi."

"Pardon me. I did not know the man. I had not noticed him
particularly on the journey. There was no reason why I should. I
had no communication, no dealings, with any of my fellow
passengers except my brother and the Countess."

"But some of the others would surely have remarked the change?"
went on the Judge, greatly puzzled. "That alone seems enough to
condemn your theory, M. le General."

"I take my stand on fact, not theory," stoutly maintained Sir
Charles, "and I am satisfied I am right."

"But if that was not Ripaldi, who was it? Who would wish to
masquerade in his dress and character, to make entries of that
sort, as if under his hand?"

"Some one determined to divert suspicion from himself to others--"

"But stay--does he not plainly confess his own guilt?"

"What matter if he is not Ripaldi? Directly the inquiry was over,
he could steal away and resume his own personality--that of a man
supposed to be dead, and therefore safe from all interference and
future pursuit."

"You mean--Upon my word, I compliment you, M. le General. It is
really ingenious! remarkable, indeed! superb!" cried the Judge,
and only professional jealousy prevented M. Flocon from conceding
the same praise.

"But how--what--I do not understand," asked Colonel Papillon in
amazement. His wits did not travel quite so fast as those of his
companions.

"Simply this, my dear Jack," explained the General: "Ripaldi must
have tried to blackmail Quadling, as he proposed, and Quadling
turned the tables on him. They fought, no doubt, and Quadling
killed him, possibly in self-defence. He would have said so, but
in his peculiar position as an absconding defaulter he did not
dare. That is how I read it, and I believe that now these
gentlemen are disposed to agree with me."

"In theory, certainly," said the Judge, heartily. "But oh! for
some more positive proof of this change of character! If we could
only identify the corpse, prove clearly that it is not Quadling.
And still more, if we had not let this so-called Ripaldi slip
through our fingers! You will never find him, M. Flocon, never."

The detective hung his head in guilty admission of this reproach.

"We may help you in both these difficulties, gentlemen," said Sir
Charles, pleasantly. "My friend here, Colonel Papillon, can speak
as to the man Quadling. He knew him well in Rome, a year or two
ago."

"Please wait one moment only;" the detective touched a bell, and
briefly ordered two fiacres to the door at once.

"That is right, M. Flocon," said the Judge. "We will all go to the
Morgue. The body is there by now. You will not refuse your
assistance, monsieur?"

"One moment. As to the other matter, M. le General?" went on M.
Flocon. "Can you help us to find this miscreant, whoever he may
be?"

"Yes. The man who calls himself Ripaldi is to be found--or, at
least, you would have found him an hour or so ago--at the Hotel
Ivoire, Rue Bellechasse. But time has been lost, I fear."

"Nevertheless, we will send there."

"The woman Hortense was also with him when last I heard of them."

"How do you know?" began the detective, suspiciously.

"Psha!" interrupted the Judge; "that will keep. This is the time
for action, and we owe too much to the General to distrust him
now."

"Thank you; I am pleased to hear you say that," went on Sir
Charles. "But if I have been of some service to you, perhaps you
owe me a little in return. That poor lady! Think what she is
suffering. Surely, to oblige me, you will now set her free?"

"Indeed, monsieur, I fear--I do not see how, consistently with my
duty"--protested the Judge.

"At least allow her to return to her hotel. She can remain there
at your disposal. I will promise you that."

"How can you answer for her?"

"She will do what I ask, I think, if I may send her just two or
three lines."

The Judge yielded, smiling at the General's urgency, and shrewdly
guessing what it implied.

Then the three departures from the Prefecture took place within a
short time of each other.

A posse of police went to arrest Ripaldi; the Countess returned to
the Hotel Madagascar; and the Judge's party started for the
Morgue,--only a short journey,--where they were presently received
with every mark of respect and consideration.

The keeper, or officer in charge, was summoned, and came out
bareheaded to the fiacre, bowing low before his distinguished
visitors.

"Good morning, La Peche," said M. Flocon in a sharp voice. "We
have come for an identification. The body from the Lyons Station
--he of the murder in the sleeping-car--is it yet arrived?"

"But surely, at your service, Chief," replied the old man,
obsequiously. "If the gentlemen will give themselves the trouble
to enter the office, I will lead them behind, direct into the
mortuary chamber. There are many people in yonder."

It was the usual crowd of sightseers passing slowly before the
plate glass of this, the most terrible shop-front in the world,
where the goods exposed, the merchandise, are hideous corpses laid
out in rows upon the marble slabs, the battered, tattered remnants
of outraged humanity, insulted by the most terrible indignities in
death.

Who make up this curious throng, and what strange morbid motives
drag them there? Those fat, comfortable-looking women, with their
baskets on their arms; the decent workmen in dusty blouses, idling
between the hours of work; the riffraff of the streets, male or
female, in various stages of wretchedness and degradation? A few,
no doubt, are impelled by motives we cannot challenge--they are
torn and tortured by suspense, trembling lest they may recognize
missing dear ones among the exposed; others stare carelessly at
the day's "take," wondering, perhaps, if they may come to the same
fate; one or two are idle sightseers, not always French, for the
Morgue is a favourite haunt with the irrepressible tourist doing
Paris. Strangest of all, the murderer himself, the doer of the
fell deed, comes here, to the very spot where his victim lies
stark and reproachful, and stares at it spellbound, fascinated,
filled more with remorse, perchance, than fear at the risk he
runs. So common is this trait, that in mysterious murder cases the
police of Paris keep a disguised officer among the crowd at the
Morgue, and have thereby made many memorable arrests.

"This way, gentlemen, this way;" and the keeper of the Morgue led
the party through one or two rooms into the inner and back
recesses of the buildings. It was behind the scenes of the Morgue,
and they were made free of its most gruesome secrets as they
passed along.

The temperature had suddenly fallen far below freezing-point, and
the icy cold chilled to the very marrow. Still worse was an
all-pervading, acrid odour of artificially suspended animal decay. The
cold-air process, that latest of scientific contrivances to arrest
the waste of tissue, has now been applied at the Morgue to
preserve and keep the bodies fresh, and allow them to be for a
longer time exposed than when running water was the only aid.
There are, moreover, many specially contrived refrigerating
chests, in which those still unrecognized corpses are laid by for
months, to be dragged out, if needs be, like carcasses of meat.

"What a loathsome place!" cried Sir Charles. "Hurry up, Jack! let
us get out of this, in Heaven's name!"

"Where's my man?" quickly asked Colonel Papillon in response to
this appeal.

"There, the third from the left," whispered M. Flocon. "We hoped
you would recognize the corpse at once."

"That? Impossible! You do not expect it, surely? Why, the face is
too much mangled for any one to say who it is."

"Are there no indications, no marks or signs, to say whether it is
Quadling or not?" asked the Judge in a greatly disappointed tone.

"Absolutely nothing. And yet I am quite satisfied it is not him.
For the simple reason that--"

"Yes, yes, go on."

"That Quadling in person is standing out there among the crowd."

CHAPTER XX

M. Flocon was the first to realize the full meaning of Colonel
Papillon's surprising statement.

"Run, run, La Peche! Have the outer doors closed; let no one leave
the place."

"Draw back, gentlemen!" he went on, and he hustled his companions
with frantic haste out at the back of the mortuary chamber. "Pray
Heaven he has not seen us! He would know us, even if we do not
him."

Then with no less haste he seized Colonel Papillon by the arm and
hurried him by the back passages through the office into the
outer, public chamber, where the astonished crowd stood, silent
and perturbed, awaiting explanation of their detention.

"Quick, monsieur!" whispered the Chief; "point him out to me."

The request was not unnecessary, for when Colonel Papillon went
forward, and, putting his hand on a man's shoulder, saying, "Mr.
Quadling, I think," the police officer was scarcely able to
restrain his surprise.

The person thus challenged was very unlike any one he had seen
before that day, Ripaldi most of all. The moustache was gone, the
clothes were entirely changed; a pair of dark green spectacles
helped the disguise. It was strange indeed that Papillon had known
him; but at the moment of recognition Quadling had removed his
glasses, no doubt that he might the better examine the object of
his visit to the Morgue, that gruesome record of his own fell
handiwork.

Naturally he drew back with well-feigned indignation, muttering
half-unintelligible words in French, denying stoutly both in voice
and gesture all acquaintance with the person who thus abruptly
addressed him.

"This is not to be borne," he cried. "Who are you that dares--"

"Ta! ta!" quietly put in M. Flocon; "we will discuss that fully,
but not here. Come into the office; come, I say, or must we use
force?"

There was no escaping now, and with a poor attempt at bravado the
stranger was led away.

"Now, Colonel Papillon, look at him well. Do you know him? Are you
satisfied it is--"

"Mr. Quadling, late banker, of Rome. I have not the slightest
doubt of it. I recognize him beyond all question."

"That will do. Silence, sir!" This to Quadling. "No observations.
I too can recognize you now as the person who called himself
Ripaldi an hour or two ago. Denial is useless. Let him be
searched; thoroughly, you understand, La Peche? Call in your other
men; he may resist."

They gave the wretched man but scant consideration, and in less
than three minutes had visited every pocket, examined every secret
receptacle, and practically turned him inside out.

After this there could no longer be any doubt of his identity,
still less of his complicity in the crime.

First among the many damning evidences of his guilt was the
missing pocketbook of the porter of the sleeping-car. Within was
the train card and the passengers' tickets, all the papers which
the man Groote had lost so unaccountably. They had, of course,
been stolen from his person with the obvious intention of impeding
the inquiry into the murder. Next, in another inner pocket was
Quadling's own wallet, with his own visiting-cards, several
letters addressed to him by name; above all, a thick sheaf of
bank-notes of all nationalities--English, French, Italian, and
amounting in total value to several thousands of pounds.

"Well, do you still deny? Bah! it is childish, useless, mere waste
of breath. At last we have penetrated the mystery. You may as well
confess. Whether or no, we have enough to convict you by
independent testimony," said the Judge, severely. "Come, what have
you to say?"

But Quadling, with pale, averted face, stood obstinately mute. He
was in the toils, the net had closed round him, they should have
no assistance from him.

"Come, speak out; it will be best. Remember, we have means to make
you--"

"Will you interrogate him further, M. Beaumont le Hardi? Here, at
once?"

"No, let him be removed to the Prefecture; it will be more
convenient; to my private office."

Without more ado a fiacre was called, and the prisoner was taken
off under escort, M. Flocon seated by his side, one policeman in
front, another on the box, and lodged in a secret cell at the Quai
l'Horloge.

"And you, gentlemen?" said the Judge to Sir Charles and Colonel
Papillon. "I do not wish to detain you further, although there may
be points you might help us to elucidate if I might venture to
still trespass on your time?"

Sir Charles was eager to return to the Hotel Madagascar, and yet
he felt that he should best serve his dear Countess by seeing this
to the end. So he readily assented to accompany the Judge, and
Colonel Papillon, who was no less curious, agreed to go too.

"I sincerely trust," said the Judge on the way, "that our people
have laid hands on that woman Petitpre. I believe that she holds
the key to the situation, that when we hear her story we shall
have a clear case against Quadling; and--who knows?--she may
completely exonerate Madame la Comtesse."

During the events just recorded, which occupied a good hour, the
police agents had time to go and come from the Rue Bellechasse.
They did not return empty-handed, although at first it seemed as
if they had made a fruitless journey. The Hotel Ivoire was a very
second-class place, a lodging-house, or hotel with furnished rooms
let out by the week to lodgers with whom the proprietor had no
very close acquaintance. His clerk did all the business, and this
functionary produced the register, as he is bound by law, for the
inspection of the police officers, but afforded little information
as to the day's arrivals.

"Yes, a man calling himself Dufour had taken rooms about midday,
one for himself, one for madame who was with him, also named
Dufour--his sister, he said;" and he went on at the request of the
police officers to describe them.

"Our birds," said the senior agent, briefly. "They are wanted. We
belong to the detective police."

"All right." Such visits were not new to the clerk.

"But you will not find monsieur; he is out; there hangs his key.
Madame? No, she is within. Yes, that is certain, for not long
since she rang her bell. There, it goes again."

He looked up at the furiously oscillating bell, but made no move.

"Bah! they do not pay for service; let her come and say what she
needs."

"Exactly; and we will bring her," said the officer, making for the
stairs and the room indicated.

But on reaching the door, they found it locked. From within?
Hardly, for as they stood there in doubt, a voice inside cried
vehemently:

"Let me out! Help! Help! Send for the police. I have much to tell
them. Quick! Let me out."

"We are here, my dear, just as you require us. But wait; step
down, Gaston, and see if the clerk has a second key. If not, call
in a locksmith--the nearest. A little patience only, my beauty. Do
not fear."

The key was quickly produced, and an entrance effected.

A woman stood there in a defiant attitude, with arms akimbo;
she, no doubt, of whom they were in search. A tall, rather
masculine-looking creature, with a dark, handsome face, bold black
eyes just now flashing fiercely, rage in every feature.

"Madame Dufour?" began the police officer.

"Dufour! Rot! My name is Hortense Petitpre; who are you? _La
Rousse_?" (Police.)

"At your service. Have you anything to say to us? We have come on
purpose to take you to the Prefecture quietly, if you will let us;
or--"

"I will go quietly. I ask nothing better. I have to lay
information against a miscreant--a murderer--the vile assassin
who would have made me his accomplice--the banker, Quadling, of
Rome!"

In the fiacre Hortense Petitpre talked on with such incessant
abuse, virulent and violent, of Quadling, that her charges were
neither precise nor intelligible.

It was not until she appeared before M. Beaumont le Hardi, and was
handled with great dexterity by that practised examiner, that her
story took definite form.

What she had to say will be best told in the clear, formal
language of the official disposition.

The witness inculpated stated:

"She was named Aglae Hortense Petitpre, thirty-four years of age,
a Frenchwoman, born in Paris, Rue de Vincennes No. 374. Was
engaged by the Contessa Castagneto, November 19, 189--, in Rome,
as lady's maid, and there, at her mistress's domicile, became
acquainted with the Sieur Francis Quadling, a banker of the Via
Condotti, Rome.

"Quadling had pretensions to the hand of the Countess, and sought,
by bribes and entreaties, to interest witness in his suit. Witness
often spoke of him in complimentary terms to her mistress, who was
not very favourably disposed towards him.

"One afternoon (two days before the murder) Quadling paid a
lengthened visit to the Countess. Witness did not hear what
occurred, but Quadling came out much distressed, and again urged
her to speak to the Countess. He had heard of the approaching
departure of the lady from Rome, but said nothing of his own
intentions.

"Witness was much surprised to find him in the sleeping-car, but
had no talk to him till the following morning, when he asked her
to obtain an interview for him with the Countess, and promised a
large reward. In making this offer he produced a wallet and
exhibited a very large number of notes.

"Witness was unable to persuade the Countess, although she
returned to the subject frequently. Witness so informed Quadling,
who then spoke to the lady, but was coldly received.

"During the journey witness thought much over the situation.
Admitted that the sight of Quadling's money had greatly disturbed
her, but, although pressed, would not say when the first idea of
robbing him took possession of her. (Note by Judge--That she had
resolved to do so is, however, perfectly clear, and the conclusion
is borne out by her acts. It was she who secured the Countess's
medicine bottle; she, beyond doubt, who drugged the porter at
Laroche. In no other way can her presence in the sleeping-car
between Laroche and Paris be accounted for-presence which she does
not deny.)

"Witness at last reluctantly confessed that she entered the
compartment where the murder was committed, and at a critical
moment. An affray was actually in progress between the Italian
Ripaldi and the incriminated man Quadling, but the witness arrived
as the last fatal blow was struck by the latter.

"She saw it struck, and saw the victim fall lifeless on the floor.

"Witness declared she was so terrified she could at first utter no
cry, nor call for help, and before she could recover herself the
murderer threatened her with the ensanguined knife. She threw
herself on her knees, imploring pity, but the man Quadling told
her that she was an eye-witness, and could take him to the
guillotine,--she also must die.

"Witness at last prevailed on him to spare her life, but only on
condition that she would leave the car. He indicated the window as
the only way of escape; but on this for a long time she refused to
venture, declaring that it was only to exchange one form of death
for another. Then, as Quadling again threatened to stab her, she
was compelled to accept this last chance, never hoping to win out
alive.

"With Quadling's assistance, however, she succeeded in climbing
out through the window and in gaining the roof. He had told her to
wait for the first occasion when the train slackened speed to
leave it and shift for herself. With this intention he gave her a
thousand francs, and bade her never show herself again.

"Witness descended from the train not far from the small station
of Villeneuve on the line, and there took the local train for
Paris. Landed at the Lyons Station, she heard of the inquiry in
progress, and then, waiting outside, saw Quadling disguised as the
Italian leave in company with another man. She followed and marked
Quadling down, meaning to denounce him on the first opportunity.
Quadling, however, on issuing from the restaurant, had accosted
her, and at once offered her a further sum of five thousand francs
as the price of silence, and she had gone with him to the Hotel
Ivoire, where she was to receive the sum. Quadling had paid it,
but on one condition, that she would remain at the Hotel Ivoire
until the following day. Apparently he had distrusted her, for he
had contrived to lock her into her compartment. As she did not
choose to be so imprisoned, she summoned assistance, and was at
length released by the police."

This was the substance of Hortense Petitpre's deposition, and it
was corroborated in many small details.

When she appeared before the Judge, with whom Sir Charles
Collingham and Colonel Papillon were seated, the former at once
pointed out that she was wearing a dark mantle trimmed with the
same sort of passementerie as that picked up in the sleeping-car.

L'Envoi

Quadling was in due course brought before the Court of Assize and
tried for his life. There was no sort of doubt of his guilt, and
the jury so found, but, having regard to certain extenuating
circumstances, they recommended him to mercy. The chief of these
was Quadling's positive assurance that he had been first attacked
by Ripaldi; he declared that the Italian detective had in the
first instance tried to come to terms with him, demanding 50,000
francs as his price for allowing him to go at large; that when
Quadling distinctly refused to be black-mailed, Ripaldi struck at
him with a knife, but that the blow failed to take effect.

Then Quadling closed with him and took the knife from him. It was
a fierce encounter, and might have ended either way, but the
unexpected entrance of the woman Petitpre took off Ripaldi's
attention, and then he, Quadling, maddened and reckless, stabbed
him to the heart.

It was not until after the deed was done that Quadling realized
the full measure of his crime and its inevitable consequences.
Then, in a daring effort to extricate himself, he intimidated the
woman Petitpre, and forced her to escape through the sleeping-car
window.

It was he who had rung the signal-bell to stop the train and give
her a chance of leaving it. It was after the murder, too, that he
conceived the idea of personating Ripaldi, and, having disfigured
him beyond recognition, as he hoped, he had changed clothes and
compartments.

On the strength of this confession Quadling escaped the
guillotine, but he was transported to New Caledonia for life.

The money taken on him was forwarded to Rome, and was usefully
employed in reducing his liabilities to the depositors in the
bank.

The other word.

Some time in June the following announcement appeared in all the
Paris papers:

"Yesterday, at the British Embassy, General Sir Charles
Collingham, K. C. B., was married to Sabine, Contessa di
Castagneto, widow of the Italian Count of that name."

THE END.

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