Part 2 out of 9
She was a woman between thirty and thirty-five, a woman of a bright and
smiling beauty, which she owed to her blue eyes, to her wavy hair, to all
the charm of her rather vapid but amiable and very pretty face. She wore
a long, figured-silk cloak over an evening dress that showed her fine
Her husband said, in surprise
"Are you going out to-night?"
"You forget," she said. "The Auverards offered me a seat in their box at
the opera; and you yourself asked me to look in at Mme. d'Ersingen's
"So I did, so I did," he said. "It escaped my memory; I am working so
She finished buttoning her gloves and asked:
"Won't you come and fetch me at Mme. d'Ersingen's?"
"They would like it."
"But I shouldn't. Besides, I don't feel well enough."
"Then I'll make your apologies for you."
She drew her cloak around her with a graceful gesture, and stood for a
few moments, without moving, as though seeking a word of farewell.
Then she said:
"Edmond's not here! I thought he was working with you?"
"He was feeling tired."
"Is he asleep?"
"I wanted to kiss him good-night."
"No, you would only wake him. And here's your car; so go, dear. Amuse
"Oh, amuse myself!" she said. "There's not much amusement about the opera
and an evening party."
"Still, it's better than keeping one's room."
There was some little constraint. It was obviously one of those
ill-assorted households in which the husband, suffering in health and not
caring for the pleasures of society, stays at home, while the wife seeks
the enjoyments to which her age and habits entitle her.
As he said nothing more, she bent over and kissed him on the forehead.
Then, once more bowing to the two visitors, she went out. A moment later
they heard the sound of the motor driving away.
Hippolyte Fauville at once rose and rang the bell. Then he said:
"No one here has any idea of the danger hanging over me. I have confided
in nobody, not even in Silvestre, my own man, though he has been in my
service for years and is honesty itself."
The manservant entered.
"I am going to bed, Silvestre," said M. Fauville. "Get everything ready."
Silvestre opened the upper part of the great sofa, which made a
comfortable bed, and laid the sheets and blankets. Next, at his master's
orders, he brought a jug of water, a glass, a plate of biscuits, and a
dish of fruit.
M. Fauville ate a couple of biscuits and then cut a dessert-apple. It was
not ripe. He took two others, felt them, and, not thinking them good, put
them back as well. Then he peeled a pear and ate it.
"You can leave the fruit dish," he said to his man. "I shall be glad of
it, if I am hungry during the night.... Oh, I was forgetting! These two
gentlemen are staying. Don't mention it to anybody. And, in the morning,
don't come until I ring."
The man placed the fruit dish on the table before retiring. Perenna, who
was noticing everything, and who was afterward to remember every smallest
detail of that evening, which his memory recorded with a sort of
mechanical faithfulness, counted three pears and four apples in the dish.
Meanwhile, Fauville went up the winding staircase, and, going along the
gallery, reached the room where his son lay in bed.
"He's fast asleep," he said to Perenna, who had joined him.
The bedroom was a small one. The air was admitted by a special system of
ventilation, for the dormer window was hermetically closed by a wooden
shutter tightly nailed down.
"I took the precaution last year," Hippolyte Fauville explained. "I used
to make my electrical experiments in this room and was afraid of being
spied upon, so I closed the aperture opening on the roof."
And he added in a low voice:
"They have been prowling around me for a long time."
The two men went downstairs again.
Fauville looked at his watch.
"A quarter past ten: bedtime, I am exceedingly tired, and you will
It was arranged that Perenna and Mazeroux should make themselves
comfortable in a couple of easy chairs which they carried into the
passage between the study and the entrance hall. But, before bidding them
good-night, Hippolyte Fauville, who, although greatly excited, had
appeared until then to retain his self-control, was seized with a sudden
attack of weakness. He uttered a faint cry. Don Luis turned round and saw
the sweat pouring like gleaming water down his face and neck, while he
shook with fever and anguish.
"What's the matter?" asked Perenna.
"I'm frightened! I'm frightened!" he said.
"This is madness!" cried Don Luis. "Aren't we here, the two of us? We can
easily spend the night with you, if you prefer, by your bedside."
Fauville replied by shaking Perenna violently by the shoulder, and, with
distorted features, stammering:
"If there were ten of you--if there were twenty of you with me, you need
not think that it would spoil their schemes! They can do anything they
please, do you hear, anything! They have already killed Inspector
Verot--they will kill me--and they will kill my son. Oh, the blackguards!
My God, take pity on me! The awful terror of it! The pain I suffer!"
He had fallen on his knees and was striking his breast and repeating:
"O God, have pity on me! I can't die! I can't let my son die! Have pity
on me, I beseech Thee!"
He sprang to his feet and led Perenna to a glass-fronted case, which
he rolled back on its brass castors, revealing a small safe built
into the wall.
"You will find my whole story here, written up day by day for the past
three years. If anything should happen to me, revenge will be easy."
He hurriedly turned the letters of the padlock and, with a key which he
took from his pocket, opened the safe.
It was three fourths empty; but on one of the shelves, between some piles
of papers, was a diary bound in drab cloth, with a rubber band round it.
He took the diary, and, emphasizing his words, said:
"There, look, it's all in here. With this, the hideous business can
be reconstructed.... There are my suspicions first and then my
certainties.... Everything, everything ... how to trap them and how
to do for them.... You'll remember, won't you? A diary bound in drab
cloth.... I'm putting it back in the safe."
Gradually his calmness returned. He pushed back the glass case, tidied a
few papers, switched on the electric lamp above his bed, put out the
lights in the middle of the ceiling, and asked Don Luis and Mazeroux to
Don Luis, who was walking round the room and examining the iron shutters
of the two windows, noticed a door opposite the entrance door and asked
the engineer about it.
"I use it for my regular clients," said Fauville, "and sometimes I go out
"Does it open on the garden?"
"Is it properly closed?"
"You can see for yourself; it's locked and bolted with a safety bolt.
Both keys are on my bunch; so is the key of the garden gate."
He placed the bunch of keys on the table with his pocket-book and, after
first winding it, his watch.
Don Luis, without troubling to ask permission, took the keys and
unfastened the lock and the bolt. A flight of three steps brought him to
the garden. He followed the length of the narrow border. Through the ivy
he saw and heard the two policemen pacing up and down the boulevard. He
tried the lock of the gate. It was fastened.
"Everything's all right," he said when he returned, "and you can be easy.
"Good-night," said the engineer, seeing Perenna and Mazeroux out.
Between his study and the passage were two doors, one of which was padded
and covered with oilcloth. On the other side, the passage was separated
from the hall by a heavy curtain.
"You can go to sleep," said Perenna to his companion. "I'll sit up."
"But surely, Chief, you don't think that anything's going to happen!"
"I don't think so, seeing the precautions which we've taken. But,
knowing Inspector Verot as you did, do you think he was the man to
"Well, you know what he prophesied. That means that he had his reasons
for doing so. And therefore I shall keep my eyes open."
"We'll take it in turns, Chief; wake me when it's my time to watch."
Seated motionlessly, side by side, they exchanged an occasional remark.
Soon after, Mazeroux fell asleep. Don Luis remained in his chair without
moving, his ears pricked up. Everything was quiet in the house. Outside,
from time to time, the sound of a motor car or of a cab rolled by. He
could also hear the late trains on the Auteuil line.
He rose several times and went up to the door. Not a sound. Hippolyte
Fauville was evidently asleep.
"Capital!" said Perenna to himself. "The boulevard is watched. No one can
enter the room except by this way. So there is nothing to fear."
At two o'clock in the morning a car stopped outside the house, and one of
the manservants, who must have been waiting in the kitchen, hastened to
the front door. Perenna switched off the light in the passage, and,
drawing the curtain slightly aside, saw Mme. Fauville enter, followed by
She went up. The lights on the staircase were put out. For half an hour
or so there was a sound overhead of voices and of chairs moving. Then all
And, amid this silence, Perenna felt an unspeakable anguish arise within
him, he could not tell why. But it was so violent, the impression became
so acute, that he muttered:
"I shall go and see if he's asleep. I don't expect that he has bolted
He had only to push both doors to open them; and, with his electric
lantern in his hand, he went up to the bed. Hippolyte Fauville was
sleeping with his face turned to the wall.
Perenna gave a smile of relief. He returned to the passage and,
"Your turn, Alexandre."
"No news, Chief?"
"No, none; he's asleep."
"How do you know?"
"I've had a look at him."
"That's funny; I never heard you. It's true, though, I've slept
like a pig."
He followed Perenna into the study, and Perenna said:
"Sit down and don't wake him. I shall take forty winks."
He had one more turn at sentry duty. But, even while dozing, he remained
conscious of all that happened around him. A clock struck the hours with
a low chime; and each time Perenna counted the strokes. Then came the
life outside awakening, the rattle of the milk-carts, the whistle of the
early suburban trains.
People began to stir inside the house. The daylight trickled in
through the crannies of the shutters, and the room gradually became
filled with light.
"Let's go away," said Sergeant Mazeroux. "It would be better for him not
to find us here."
"Hold your tongue!" said Don Luis, with an imperious gesture.
"You'll wake him up."
"But you can see I'm not waking him," said Mazeroux, without
lowering his tone.
"That's true, that's true," whispered Don Luis, astonished that the sound
of that voice had not disturbed the sleeper.
And he felt himself overcome with the same anguish that had seized upon
him in the middle of the night, a more clearly defined anguish, although
he would not, although he dared not, try to realize the reason of it.
"What's the matter with you, Chief? You're looking like nothing on earth.
What is it?"
"Nothing--nothing. I'm frightened--"
"Frightened of what? You say that just as he did last night."
"Yes ... yes ... and for the same reason."
"Don't you understand? Don't you understand that I'm wondering--?"
"If he's not dead!"
"But you're mad, Chief!"
"No.... I don't know.... Only, only ... I have an impression of death--"
Lantern in hand, he stood as one paralyzed, opposite the bed; and he
who was afraid of nothing in the world had not the courage to throw the
light on Hippolyte Fauville's face. A terrifying silence rose and
filled the room.
"Oh, Chief, he's not moving!"
"I know ... I know ... and I now see that he has not moved once during
the night. And that's what frightens me."
He had to make a real effort in order to step forward. He was now almost
touching the bed.
The engineer did not appear to breathe.
This time, Perenna resolutely took hold of his hand.
It was icy cold.
Don Luis at once recovered all his self-possession.
"The window! Open the window!" he cried.
And, when the light flooded the room, he saw the face of Hippolyte
Fauville all swollen, stained with brown patches.
"Oh," he said, under his breath, "he's dead!"
"Dash it all! Dash it all!" spluttered the detective sergeant.
For two or three minutes they stood petrified, stupefied, staggered at
the sight of this most astonishing and mysterious phenomenon. Then a
sudden idea made Perenna start. He flew up the winding staircase, rushed
along the gallery, and darted into the attic.
Edmond, Hippolyte Fauville's son, lay stiff and stark on his bed, with a
cadaverous face, dead, too.
"Dash it all! Dash it all!" repeated Mazeroux.
Never, perhaps, in the course of his adventurous career, had Perenna
experienced such a knockdown blow. It gave him a feeling of extreme
lassitude, depriving him of all power of speech or movement. Father and
son were dead! They had been killed during that night! A few hours
earlier, though the house was watched and every outlet hermetically
closed, both had been poisoned by an infernal puncture, even as Inspector
Verot was poisoned, even as Cosmo Mornington was poisoned.
"Dash it all!" said Mazeroux once more. "It was not worth troubling about
the poor devils and performing such miracles to save them!"
The exclamation conveyed a reproach. Perenna grasped it and admitted:
"You are right, Mazeroux; I was not equal to the job."
"Nor I, Chief."
"You ... you have only been in this business since yesterday evening--"
"Well, so have you, Chief!"
"Yes, I know, since yesterday evening, whereas the others have been
working at it for weeks and weeks. But, all the same, these two are dead;
and I was there, I, Lupin, was there! The thing has been done under my
eyes; and I saw nothing! I saw nothing! How is it possible?"
He uncovered the poor boy's shoulders, showing the mark of a puncture at
the top of the arm.
"The same mark--the same mark obviously that we shall find on the
father.... The lad does not seem to have suffered, either.... Poor little
chap! He did not look very strong.... Never mind, it's a nice face; what
a terrible blow for his mother when she learns!"
The detective sergeant wept with anger and pity, while he kept on
"Dash it all!... Dash it all!"
"We shall avenge them, eh, Mazeroux?"
"Rather, Chief! Twice over!"
"Once will do, Mazeroux. But it shall be done with a will."
"That I swear it shall!"
"You're right; let's swear. Let us swear that this dead pair shall be
avenged. Let us swear not to lay down our arms until the murderers of
Hippolyte Fauville and his son are punished as they deserve."
"I swear it as I hope to be saved, Chief."
"Good!" said Perenna. "And now to work. You go and telephone at once to
the police office. I am sure that M. Desmalions will approve of your
informing him without delay. He takes an immense interest in the case."
"And if the servants come? If Mme. Fauville--?"
"No one will come till we open the doors; and we shan't open them except
to the Prefect of Police. It will be for him, afterward, to tell Mme.
Fauville that she is a widow and that she has no son. Go! Hurry!"
"One moment, Chief; we are forgetting something that will help us
"The little drab-cloth diary in the safe, in which M. Fauville describes
the plot against him."
"Why, of course!" said Perenna. "You're right ... especially as he
omitted to mix up the letters of the lock last night, and the key is on
the bunch which he left lying on the table."
They ran down the stairs.
"Leave this to me," said Mazeroux. "It's more regular that you shouldn't
touch the safe."
He took the bunch, moved the glass case, and inserted the key with a
feverish emotion which Don Luis felt even more acutely than he did. They
were at last about to know the details of the mysterious story. The dead
man himself would betray the secret of his murderers.
"Lord, what a time you take!" growled Don Luis.
Mazeroux plunged both hands into the crowd of papers that encumbered the
"Well, Mazeroux, hand it over."
"I can't Chief."
Don Luis stifled an oath. The drab-cloth diary, which the engineer had
placed in the safe before their eyes, had disappeared.
Mazeroux shook his head.
"Dash it all! So they knew about that diary!"
"Of course they did; and they knew plenty of other things besides.
We've not seen the end of it with those fellows. There's no time to
lose. Ring up!"
Mazeroux did so and soon received the answer that M. Desmalions was
coming to the telephone. He waited.
In a few minutes Perenna, who had been walking up and down, examining
different objects in the room, came and sat down beside Mazeroux. He
seemed thoughtful. He reflected for some time. But then, his eyes falling
on the fruit dish, he muttered:
"Hullo! There are only three apples instead of four. Then he ate
"Yes," said Mazeroux, "he must have eaten it."
"That's funny," replied Perenna, "for he didn't think them ripe."
He was silent once more, sat leaning his elbows on the table, visibly
preoccupied; then, raising his head, he let fall these words:
"The murder was committed before we entered the room, at half-past
"How do you know, Chief?"
"M. Fauville's murderer or murderers, in touching the things on the
table, knocked down the watch which M. Fauville had placed there.
They put it back; but the fall had stopped it. And it stopped at
"Then, Chief, when we settled ourselves here, at two in the morning, it
was a corpse that was lying beside us and another over our heads?"
"But how did those devils get in?"
"Through this door, which opens on the garden, and through the gate that
opens on the Boulevard Suchet."
"Then they had keys to the locks and bolts?"
"False keys, yes."
"But the policemen watching the house outside?"
"They are still watching it, as that sort watch a house, walking from
point to point without thinking that people can slip into a garden
while they have their backs turned. That's what took place in coming
Sergeant Mazeroux seemed flabbergasted. The criminals' daring, their
skill, the precision of their acts bewildered him.
"They're deuced clever," he said.
"Deuced clever, Mazeroux, as you say; and I foresee a tremendous battle.
By Jupiter, with what a vim they set to work!"
The telephone bell rang. Don Luis left Mazeroux to his conversation with
the Prefect, and, taking the bunch of keys, easily unfastened the lock
and the bolt of the door and went out into the garden, in the hope of
there finding some trace that should facilitate his quest.
As on the day before, he saw, through the ivy, two policemen walking
between one lamp-post and the next. They did not see him. Moreover,
anything that might happen inside the house appeared to be to them a
matter of total indifference.
"That's my great mistake," said Perenna to himself. "It doesn't do to
entrust a job to people who do not suspect its importance."
His investigations led to the discovery of some traces of footsteps on
the gravel, traces not sufficiently plain to enable him to distinguish
the shape of the shoes that had left them, yet distinct enough to confirm
his supposition. The scoundrels had been that way.
Suddenly he gave a movement of delight. Against the border of the path,
among the leaves of a little clump of rhododendrons, he saw something
red, the shape of which at once struck him. He stooped. It was an
apple, the fourth apple, the one whose absence from the fruit dish he
"Excellent!" he said. "Hippolyte Fauville did not eat it. One of them
must have carried it away--a fit of appetite, a sudden hunger--and it
must have rolled from his hand without his having time to look for it and
pick it up."
He took up the fruit and examined it.
"What!" he exclaimed, with a start. "Can it be possible?"
He stood dumfounded, a prey to real excitement, refusing to admit the
inadmissible thing which nevertheless presented itself to his eyes
with the direct evidence of actuality. Some one had bitten into the
apple; into the apple which was too sour to eat. And the teeth had
left their mark!
"Is it possible?" repeated Don Luis. "Is it possible that one of them
can have been guilty of such an imprudence! The apple must have
fallen without his knowing ... or he must have been unable to find it
in the dark."
He could not get over his surprise. He cast about for plausible
explanations. But the fact was there before him. Two rows of teeth,
cutting through the thin red peel, had left their regular, semicircular
bite clearly in the pulp of the fruit. They were clearly marked on the
top, while the lower row had melted into a single curved line.
"The teeth of the tiger!" murmured Perenna, who could not remove his eyes
from that double imprint. "The teeth of the tiger! The teeth that had
already left their mark on Inspector Verot's piece of chocolate! What a
coincidence! It can hardly be fortuitous. Must we not take it as certain
that the same person bit into this apple and into that cake of chocolate
which Inspector Verot brought to the police office as an incontestable
piece of evidence?"
He hesitated a second. Should he keep this evidence for himself, for the
personal inquiry which he meant to conduct? Or should he surrender it to
the investigations of the police? But the touch of the object filled him
with such repugnance, with such a sense of physical discomfort, that he
flung away the apple and sent it rolling under the leaves of the shrubs.
And he repeated to himself:
"The teeth of the tiger! The teeth of the wild beast!"
He locked the garden door behind him, bolted it, put back the keys on the
table and said to Mazeroux:
"Have you spoken to the Chief of Police?"
"Is he coming?"
"Didn't he order you to telephone for the commissary of police?"
"That means that he wants to see everything by himself. So much the
better. But the detective office? The public prosecutor?"
"He's told them."
"What's the matter with you, Alexandre? I have to drag your answers out
of you. Well, what is it? You're looking at me very queerly. What's up?"
"That's all right. I expect this business has turned your head. And no
wonder.... The Prefect won't enjoy himself, either, ... especially as he
put his faith in me a bit light-heartedly and will be called upon to give
an explanation of my presence here. By the way, it's much better that you
should take upon yourself the responsibility for all that we have done.
Don't you agree? Besides, it'll do you all the good in the world.
"Put yourself forward, flatly; suppress me as much as you can; and, above
all--I don't suppose that you will have any objection to this little
detail--don't be such a fool as to say that you went to sleep for a
single second, last night, in the passage. First of all, you'd only be
blamed for it. And then ... well, that's understood, eh? So we have only
to say good-bye.
"If the Prefect wants me, as I expect he will, telephone to my address,
Place du Palais-Bourbon. I shall be there. Good-bye. It is not necessary
for me to assist at the inquiry; my presence would be out of place.
Good-bye, old chap."
He turned toward the door of the passage.
"Half a moment!" cried Mazeroux.
"Half a moment?... What do you mean?"
The detective sergeant had flung himself between him and the door and was
blocking his way.
"Yes, half a moment ... I am not of your opinion. It's far better that
you should wait until the Prefect comes."
"But I don't care a hang about your opinion!"
"May be; but you shan't pass."
"What! Why, Alexandre, you must be ill!"
"Look here, Chief," said Mazeroux feebly. "What can it matter to you?
It's only natural that the Prefect should wish to speak to you."
"Ah, it's the Prefect who wishes, is it?... Well, my lad, you can tell
him that I am not at his orders, that I am at nobody's orders, and that,
if the President of the Republic, if Napoleon I himself were to bar my
way ... Besides, rats! Enough said. Get out of the road!"
"You shall not pass!" declared Mazeroux, in a resolute tone,
extending his arms.
"Well, I like that!"
"You shall not pass."
"Alexandre, just count ten."
"A hundred, if you like, but you shall not...."
"Oh, blow your catchwords! Get out of this."
He seized Mazeroux by both shoulders, made him spin round on his
heels and, with a push, sent him floundering over the sofa. Then he
opened the door.
"Halt, or I fire!"
It was Mazeroux, who had scrambled to his feet and now stood with his
revolver in his hand and a determined expression on his face.
Don Luis stopped in amazement. The threat was absolutely indifferent to
him, and the barrel of that revolver aimed at him left him as cold as
could be. But by what prodigy did Mazeroux, his former accomplice, his
ardent disciple, his devoted servant, by what prodigy did Mazeroux dare
to act as he was doing?
Perenna went up to him and pressed gently on the detective's
"Prefect's orders?" he asked.
"Yes," muttered the sergeant, uncomfortably.
"Orders to keep me here until he comes?"
"And if I betrayed an intention of leaving, to prevent me?"
"By every means?"
"Even by putting a bullet through my skin?"
Perenna reflected; and then, in a serious voice:
"Would you have fired, Mazeroux?"
The sergeant lowered his head and said faintly:
Perenna looked at him without anger, with a glance of affectionate
sympathy; and it was an absorbing sight for him to see his former
companion dominated by such a sense of discipline and duty. Nothing was
able to prevail against that sense, not even the fierce admiration, the
almost animal attachment which Mazeroux retained for his master.
"I'm not angry, Mazeroux. In fact, I approve. Only you must tell me the
reason why the Prefect of Police--"
The detective did not reply, but his eyes wore an expression of such
sadness that Don Luis started, suddenly understanding.
"No," he cried, "no!... It's absurd ... he can't have thought
that!... And you, Mazeroux, do you believe me guilty?"
"Oh, I, Chief, am as sure of you as I am of myself!... You don't take
life!... But, all the same, there are things ... coincidences--"
"Things ... coincidences ..." repeated Don Luis slowly.
He remained pensive; and, in a low voice, he said:
"Yes, after all, there's truth in what you say.... Yes, it all fits
in.... Why didn't I think of it?... My relations with Cosmo Mornington,
my arrival in Paris in time for the reading of the will, my insisting on
spending the night here, the fact that the death of the two Fauvilles
undoubtedly gives me the millions.... And then ... and then ... why, he's
absolutely right, your Prefect of Police!... All the more so as.... Well,
there, I'm a goner!"
"Come, come, Chief!"
"A dead-goner, old chap; you just get that into your head. Not as Arsene
Lupin, ex-burglar, ex-convict, ex-anything you please--I'm unattackable
on that ground--but as Don Luis Perenna, respectable man, residuary
legatee, and the rest of it. And it's too stupid! For, after all, who
will find the murderers of Cosmo, Verot, and the two Fauvilles, if they
go clapping me into jail?"
"Come, come, Chief--"
"Shut up! ... Listen!"
A motor car was stopping on the boulevard, followed by another. It
was evidently the Prefect and the magistrates from the public
Don Luis took Mazeroux by the arm.
"There's only one way out of it, Alexandre! Don't say you went to sleep."
"I must, Chief."
"You silly ass!" growled Don Luis. "How is it possible to be such an ass!
It's enough to disgust one with honesty. What am I to do, then?"
"Discover the culprit, Chief."
"What! ... What are you talking about?"
Mazeroux, in his turn, took him by the arm and, clutching him with a sort
of despair, said, in a voice choked with tears:
"Discover the culprit, Chief. If not, you're done for ... that's
certain ... the Prefect told me so. ... The police want a
culprit ... they want him this evening.... One has got to be
found.... It's up to you to find him."
"What you have, Alexandre, is a merry wit."
"It's child's play for you, Chief. You have only to set your mind to it."
"But there's not the least clue, you ass!"
"You'll find one ... you must ... I entreat you, hand them over
somebody.... It would be more than I could bear if you were arrested.
You, the chief, accused of murder! No, no.... I entreat you, discover the
criminal and hand him over.... You have the whole day to do it in...and
Lupin has done greater things than that!"
He was stammering, weeping, wringing his hands, grimacing with every
feature of his comic face. And it was really touching, this grief, this
dismay at the approach of the danger that threatened his master.
M. Desmalions's voice was heard in the hall, through the curtain that
closed the passage. A third motor car stopped on the boulevard, and a
fourth, both doubtless laden with policemen.
The house was surrounded, besieged.
Perenna was silent.
Beside him, anxious-faced, Mazeroux seemed to be imploring him.
A few seconds elapsed.
Then Perenna declared, deliberately:
"Looking at things all round, Alexandre, I admit that you have seen the
position clearly and that your fears are fully justified. If I do not
manage to hand over the murderer or murderers of Hippolyte Fauville and
his son to the police in a few hours from now, it is I, Don Luis Perenna,
who will be lodged in durance vile on the evening of this Thursday, the
first of April."
THE CLOUDED TURQUOISE
It was about nine o'clock in the morning when the Prefect of Police
entered the study in which the incomprehensible tragedy of that double
murder had been enacted.
He did not even bow to Don Luis; and the magistrates who accompanied him
might have thought that Don Luis was merely an assistant of Sergeant
Mazeroux, if the chief detective had not made it his business to tell
them, in a few words, the part played by the stranger.
M. Desmalions briefly examined the two corpses and received a rapid
explanation from Mazeroux. Then, returning to the hall, he went up to a
drawing-room on the first floor, where Mme. Fauville, who had been
informed of his visit, joined him almost at once.
Perenna, who had not stirred from the passage, slipped into the hall
himself. The servants of the house, who by this time had heard of the
murder, were crossing it in every direction. He went down the few stairs
leading to a ground-floor landing, on which the front door opened.
There were two men there, of whom one said:
"You can't pass."
"You can't pass: those are our orders."
"Your orders? Who gave them?"
"The Prefect himself."
"No luck," said Perenna, laughing. "I have been up all night and I am
starving. Is there no way of getting something to eat?"
The two policemen exchanged glances and one of them beckoned to Silvestre
and spoke to him. Silvestre went toward the dining-room, and returned
with a horseshoe roll.
"Good," thought Don Luis, after thanking him. "This settles it. I'm
nabbed. That's what I wanted to know. But M. Desmalions is deficient in
logic. For, if it's Arsene Lupin whom he means to detain here, all these
worthy plain-clothesmen are hardly enough; and, if it's Don Luis Perenna,
they are superfluous, because the flight of Master Perenna would deprive
Master Perenna of every chance of seeing the colour of my poor Cosmo's
shekels. Having said which, I will take a chair."
He resumed his seat in the passage and awaited events.
Through the open door of the study he saw the magistrates pursuing
their investigations. The divisional surgeon made a first examination
of the two bodies and at once recognized the same symptoms of poisoning
which he himself had perceived, the evening before, on the corpse of
Next, the detectives took up the bodies and carried them to the adjoining
bedrooms which the father and son formerly occupied on the second floor
of the house.
The Prefect of Police then came downstairs; and Don Luis heard him say to
"Poor woman! She refused to understand.... When at last she understood,
she fell to the ground in a dead faint. Only think, her husband and her
son at one blow!... Poor thing!"
From that moment Perenna heard and saw nothing. The door was shut. The
Prefect must afterward have given some order through the outside, through
the communication with the front door offered by the garden, for the two
detectives came and took up their positions in the hall, at the entrance
to the passage, on the right and left of the dividing curtain.
"One thing's certain," thought Don Luis. "My shares are not booming. What
a state Alexandre must be in! Oh, what a state!"
At twelve o'clock Silvestre brought him some food on a tray.
And the long and painful wait began anew.
In the study and in the house, the inquiry, which had been adjourned for
lunch, was resumed. Perenna heard footsteps and the sound of voices on
every side. At last, feeling tired and bored, he leaned back in his chair
and fell asleep.
* * * * *
It was four o'clock when Sergeant Mazeroux came and woke him. As he led
him to the study, Mazeroux whispered:
"Well, have you discovered him?"
"Of course!" said Perenna. "It's as easy as shelling peas!"
"That's a good thing!" said Mazeroux, greatly relieved and failing to see
the joke. "But for that, as you saw for yourself, you would have been
Don Luis entered. In the room were the public prosecutor, the examining
magistrate, the chief detective, the local commissary of police, two
inspectors, and three constables in uniform.
Outside, on the Boulevard Suchet, shouts were raised; and, when the
commissary and his three policemen went out, by the Prefect's orders, to
listen to the crowd, the hoarse voice of a newsboy was heard shouting:
"The double murder on the Boulevard Suchet! Full particulars of the death
of Inspector Verot! The police at a loss!--"
Then, when the door was closed, all was silent.
"Mazeroux was quite right," thought Don Luis. "It's I or the other one:
that's clear. Unless the words that will be spoken and the facts that
will come to light in the course of this examination supply me with some
clue that will enable me to give them the name of that mysterious X,
they'll surrender me this evening for the people to batten on. Attention,
Lupin, old chap, the great game is about to commence!"
He felt that thrill of delight which always ran through him at the
approach of the great struggles. This one, indeed, might be numbered
among the most terrible that he had yet sustained.
He knew the Prefect's reputation, his experience, his tenacity, and the
keen pleasure which he took in conducting important inquiries and in
personally pushing them to a conclusion before placing them in the
magistrate's hands; and he also knew all the professional qualities of
the chief detective, and all the subtlety, all the penetrating logic
possessed by the examining magistrate.
The Prefect of Police himself directed the attack. He did so in a
straightforward fashion, without beating about the bush, and in a rather
harsh voice, which had lost its former tone of sympathy for Don Luis. His
attitude also was more formal and lacked that geniality which had struck
Don Luis on the previous day.
"Monsieur," he said, "circumstances having brought about that, as the
residuary legatee and representative of Mr. Cosmo Mornington, you spent
the night on this ground floor while a double murder was being committed
here, we wish to receive your detailed evidence as to the different
incidents that occurred last night."
"In other words, Monsieur le Prefet," said Perenna, replying directly to
the attack, "in other words, circumstances having brought about that you
authorized me to spend the night here, you would like to know if my
evidence corresponds at all points with that of Sergeant Mazeroux?"
"Meaning that the part played by myself strikes you as suspicious?"
M. Desmalions hesitated. His eyes met Don Luis's eyes; and he was visibly
impressed by the other's frank glance. Nevertheless he replied, plainly
"It is not for you to ask me questions, Monsieur."
Don Luis bowed.
"I am at your orders, Monsieur le Prefet."
"Please tell us what you know."
Don Luis thereupon gave a minute account of events, after which M.
Desmalions reflected for a few moments and said:
"There is one point on which we want to be informed. When you entered
this room at half-past two this morning and sat down beside M. Fauville,
was there nothing to tell you that he was dead?"
"Nothing, Monsieur le Prefet. Otherwise, Sergeant Mazeroux and I would
have given the alarm."
"Was the garden door shut?"
"It must have been, as we had to unlock it at seven o'clock."
"With the key on the bunch."
"But how could the murderers, coming from the outside, have opened it?"
"With false keys."
"Have you a proof which allows you to suppose that it was opened with
"No, Monsieur le Prefet."
"Therefore, until we have proofs to the contrary, we are bound to believe
that it was not opened from the outside, and that the criminal was inside
"But, Monsieur le Prefet, there was no one here but Sergeant Mazeroux
There was a silence, a pause whose meaning admitted of no doubt.
M. Desmalions's next words gave it an even more precise value.
"You did not sleep during the night?"
"Yes, toward the end."
"You did not sleep before, while you were in the passage?"
"And Sergeant Mazeroux?"
Don Luis remained undecided for a moment; but how could he hope that the
honest and scrupulous Mazeroux had disobeyed the dictates of his
"Sergeant Mazeroux went to sleep in his chair and did not wake until Mme.
Fauville returned, two hours later."
There was a fresh silence, which evidently meant:
"So, during the two hours when Sergeant Mazeroux was asleep, it was
physically possible for you to open the door and kill the two Fauvilles."
The examination was taking the course which Perenna had foreseen; and
the circle was drawing closer and closer around him. His adversary was
conducting the contest with a logic and vigour which he admired
"By Jove!" he thought. "How difficult it is to defend one's self when one
is innocent. There's my right wing and my left wing driven in. Will my
centre be able to stand the assault?"
M. Desmalions, after a whispered colloquy with the examining magistrate,
resumed his questions in these terms:
"Yesterday evening, when M. Fauville opened his safe in your presence and
the sergeant's, what was in the safe?"
"A heap of papers, on one of the shelves; and, among those papers, the
diary in drab cloth which has since disappeared."
"You did not touch those papers?"
"Neither the papers nor the safe, Monsieur le Prefet. Sergeant Mazeroux
must have told you that he made me stand aside, to insure the regularity
of the inquiry."
"So you never came into the slightest contact with the safe?"
"Not the slightest."
M. Desmalions looked at the examining magistrate and nodded his head. Had
Perenna been able to doubt that a trap was being laid for him, a glance
at Mazeroux would have told him all about it. Mazeroux was ashen gray.
Meanwhile, M. Desmalions continued:
"You have taken part in inquiries, Monsieur, in police inquiries.
Therefore, in putting my next question to you, I consider that I am
addressing it to a tried detective."
"I will answer your question, Monsieur le Prefet, to the best of
"Here it is, then: Supposing that there were at this moment in the safe
an object of some kind, a jewel, let us say, a diamond out of a tie pin,
and that this diamond had come from a tie pin which belonged to somebody
whom we knew, somebody who had spent the night in this house, what would
you think of the coincidence?"
"There we are," said Perenna to himself. "There's the trap. It's clear
that they've found something in the safe, and next, that they imagine
that this something belongs to me. Good! But, in that case, we must
presume, as I have not touched the safe, that the thing was taken from me
and put in the safe to compromise me. But I did not have a finger in this
pie until yesterday; and it is impossible that, during last night, when I
saw nobody, any one can have had time to prepare and contrive such a
determined plot against me. So--"
The Prefect of Police interrupted this silent monologue by repeating:
"What would be your opinion?"
"There would be an undeniable connection between that person's presence
in the house and the two crimes that had been committed."
"Consequently, we should have the right at least to suspect the person?"
"That is your view?"
M. Desmalions produced a piece of tissue paper from his pocket and took
from it a little blue stone, which he displayed.
"Here is a turquoise which we found in the safe. It belongs, without a
shadow of a doubt, to the ring which you are wearing on your finger."
Don Luis was seized with a fit of rage. He half grated, through his
"Oh, the rascals! How clever they are! But no, I can't believe--"
He looked at his ring, which was formed of a large, clouded, dead
turquoise, surrounded by a circle of small, irregular turquoises, also of
a very pale blue. One of these was missing; and the one which M.
Desmalions had in his hand fitted the place exactly.
"What do you say?" asked M. Desmalions.
"I say that this turquoise belongs to my ring, which was given me by
Cosmo Mornington on the first occasion that I saved his life."
"So we are agreed?"
"Yes, Monsieur le Prefet, we are agreed."
Don Luis Perenna began to walk across the room, reflecting. The movement
which the two detectives made toward the two doors told him that his
arrest was provided for. A word from M. Desmalions, and Sergeant Mazeroux
would be forced to take his chief by the collar.
Don Luis once more gave a glance toward his former accomplice. Mazeroux
made a gesture of entreaty, as though to say:
"Well, what are you waiting for? Why don't you give up the criminal?
Quick, it's time!"
Don Luis smiled.
"What's the matter?" asked the Prefect, in a tone that now entirely
lacked the sort of involuntary politeness which he had shown since the
commencement of the examination.
"The matter? The matter?--"
Perenna seized a chair by the back, spun it round and sat down upon it,
with the simple remark:
And this was said in such a way and the movement executed with so much
decision that the Prefect muttered, as though wavering:
"I don't quite see--"
"You soon will, Monsieur le Prefet."
And, speaking in a slow voice, laying stress on every syllable that he
uttered, he began:
"Monsieur le Prefet, the position is as clear as daylight. Yesterday
evening you gave me an authorization which involves your responsibility
most gravely. The result is that what you now want, at all costs and
without delay, is a culprit. And that culprit is to be myself. By way of
incriminating evidence, you have the fact of my presence here, the fact
the door was locked on the inside, the fact that Sergeant Mazeroux was
asleep while the crime was committed, and the fact of the discovery of
the turquoise in the safe. All this is crushing, I admit. Added to it,"
he continued, "we have the terrible presumption that I had every interest
in the removal of M. Fauville and his son, inasmuch as, if there is no
heir of Cosmo Mornington's in existence, I come into a hundred million
francs. Exactly. There is therefore nothing for me to do, Monsieur le
Prefet, but to go with you to the lockup or else--"
"Or else what?"
"Or else hand over to you the criminal, the real criminal."
The Prefect of Police smiled and took out his watch.
"I'm waiting," he said.
"It will take me just an hour, Monsieur le Prefet, and no more, if you
give me every latitude. And the search of the truth, it seems to me, is
worth a little patience."
"I'm waiting," repeated M. Desmalions.
"Sergeant Mazeroux, please tell Silvestre, the manservant, that Monsieur
le Prefet wishes to see him."
Upon a sign from M. Desmalions, Mazeroux went out.
Don Luis explained his motive.
"Monsieur le Prefet, whereas the discovery of the turquoise constitutes
in your eyes an extremely serious proof against me, to me it is a
revelation of the highest importance. I will tell you why. That turquoise
must have fallen from my ring last evening and rolled on the carpet.
"Now there are only four persons," he continued, "who can have noticed
this fall when it happened, picked up the turquoise and, in order to
compromise the new adversary that I was, slipped it into the safe. The
first of those four persons is one of your detectives, Sergeant Mazeroux,
of whom we will not speak. The second is dead: I refer to M. Fauville. We
will not speak of him. The third is Silvestre, the manservant. I should
like to say a few words to him. I shall not take long."
Silvestre's examination, in fact, was soon over. He was able to prove
that, pending the return of Mme. Fauville, for whom he had to open the
door, he had not left the kitchen, where he was playing at cards with the
lady's maid and another manservant.
"Very well," said Perenna. "One word more. You must have read in this
morning's papers of the death of Inspector Verot and seen his portrait."
"Do you know Inspector Verot?"
"Still, it is probable that he came here yesterday, during the day."
"I can't say," replied the servant. "M. Fauville used to receive many
visitors through the garden and let them in himself."
"You have no more evidence to give?"
"Please tell Mme. Fauville that Monsieur le Prefet would be very much
obliged if he could have a word with her."
Silvestre left the room.
The examining magistrate and the public prosecutor had drawn nearer in
The Prefect exclaimed:
"What, Monsieur! You don't mean to pretend that Mme. Fauville is
"Monsieur le Prefet, Mme. Fauville is the fourth person who may have seen
the turquoise drop out of my ring."
"And what then? Have we the right, in the absence of any real proof,
to suppose that a woman can kill her husband, that a mother can
poison her son?"
"I am supposing nothing, Monsieur le Prefet."
Don Luis made no reply. M. Desmalions did not conceal his irritation.
However, he said:
"Very well; but I order you most positively to remain silent. What
questions am I to put to Mme. Fauville?"
"One only, Monsieur le Prefet: ask Mme. Fauville if she knows any one,
apart from her husband, who is descended from the sisters Roussel."
"Why that question?"
"Because, if that descendant exists, it is not I who will inherit the
millions, but he; and then it will be he and not I who would be
interested in the removal of M. Fauville and his son."
"Of course, of course," muttered M. Desmalions. "But even so, this
Mme. Fauville entered as he was speaking. Her face remained charming and
pretty in spite of the tears that had reddened her eyelids and impaired
the freshness of her cheeks. But her eyes expressed the scare of terror;
and the obsession of the tragedy imparted to all her attractive
personality, to her gait and to her movements, something feverish and
spasmodic that was painful to look upon.
"Pray sit down, Madame," said the Prefect, speaking with the height
of deference, "and forgive me for inflicting any additional emotion
upon you. But time is precious; and we must do everything to make
sure that the two victims whose loss you are mourning shall be
avenged without delay."
Tears were still streaming from her beautiful eyes; and, with a sob, she
"If the police need me, Monsieur le Prefet--"
"Yes, it is a question of obtaining a few particulars. Your husband's
mother is dead, is she not?"
"Yes, Monsieur le Prefet."
"Am I correct in saying that she came from Saint-Etienne and that her
maiden name was Roussel?"
"Had your husband any brothers or sisters?"
"Therefore there is no descendant of Elizabeth Roussel living?"
"Very well. But Elizabeth Roussel had two sisters, did she not?"
"Ermeline Roussel, the elder, went abroad and was not heard of again. The
other, the younger--"
"The other was called Armande Roussel. She was my mother."
"Eh? What do you say?"
"I said my mother's maiden name was Armande Roussel, and I married my
cousin, the son of Elizabeth Roussel."
The statement had the effect of a thunderclap. So, upon the death of
Hippolyte Fauville and his son Edmond, the direct descendants of the
eldest sister, Cosmo Mornington's inheritance passed to the other
branch, that of Armande Roussel; and this branch was represented so far
by Mme. Fauville!
The Prefect of Police and the examining magistrate exchanged glances
and both instinctively turned toward Don Luis Perenna, who did not
move a muscle.
"Have you no brother or sister, Madame?" asked the Prefect.
"No, Monsieur le Prefet, I am the only one."
The only one! In other words, now that her husband and son were dead,
Cosmo Mornington's millions reverted absolutely and undeniably to her, to
Meanwhile, a hideous idea weighed like a nightmare upon the magistrates
and they could not rid themselves of it: the woman sitting before them
was the mother of Edmond Fauville. M. Desmalions had his eyes on Don Luis
Perenna, who wrote a few words on a card and handed it to the Prefect.
M. Desmalions, who was gradually resuming toward Don Luis his courteous
attitude of the day before, read it, reflected a moment, and put this
question to Mme. Fauville:
"What was your son Edmond's age?"
"You look so young--"
"Edmond was not my son, but my stepson, the son of my husband by his
first wife, who died,"
"Ah! So Edmond Fauville--" muttered the Prefect, without finishing
In two minutes the whole situation had changed. In the eyes of the
magistrates, Mme. Fauville was no longer the widow and mother who must on
no account be attacked. She had suddenly become a woman whom
circumstances compelled them to cross-examine. However prejudiced they
might be in her favour, however charmed by the seductive qualities of her
beauty, they were inevitably bound to ask themselves, whether for some
reason or other, for instance, in order to be alone in the enjoyment of
the enormous fortune, she had not had the madness to kill her husband and
to kill the boy who was only her husband's son. In any case, the question
was there, calling for a solution.
The Prefect of Police continued:
"Do you know this turquoise?"
She took the stone which he held out to her and examined it without the
least sign of confusion.
"No," she said. "I have an old-fashioned turquoise necklace, which I
never wear, but the stones are larger and none of them has this
"We found this one in the safe," said M. Desmalions. "It forms part of a
ring belonging to a person whom we know."
"Well," she said eagerly, "you must find that person."
"He is here," said the Prefect, pointing to Don Luis, who had been
standing some way off and who had not been noticed by Mme. Fauville.
She started at the sight of Perenna and cried, very excitedly:
"But that gentleman was here yesterday evening! He was talking to my
husband--and so was that other gentleman," she said, referring to
Sergeant Mazeroux. "You must question them, find out why they were here.
You understand that, if the turquoise belonged to one of them--"
The insinuation was direct, but clumsy; and it lent the greatest weight
to Perenna's unspoken argument:
"The turquoise was picked up by some one who saw me yesterday and who
wishes to compromise me. Apart from M. Fauville and the detective
sergeant, only two people saw me: Silvestre, the manservant, and Mme.
Fauville. Consequently, as Silvestre is outside the question, I accuse
Mme. Fauville of putting the turquoise in the safe."
M. Desmalions asked:
"Will you let me see the necklace, Madame?"
"Certainly. It is with my other jewels, in my wardrobe. I will go for
"Pray don't trouble, Madame. Does your maid know the necklace?"
"In that case, Sergeant Mazeroux will tell her what is wanted."
* * * * *
Not a word was spoken during the few minutes for which Mazeroux was
absent. Mme. Fauville seemed absorbed in her grief. M. Desmalions kept
his eyes fixed on her.
The sergeant returned, carrying a very large box containing a number of
jewel-cases and loose ornaments.
M. Desmalions found the necklace, examined it, and realized, in fact,
that the stones did not resemble the turquoise and that none of them was
missing. But, on separating two jewel cases in order to take out a tiara
which also contained blue stones, he made a gesture of surprise.
"What are these two keys?" he asked, pointing to two keys identical in
shape and size with those which opened the lock and the bolt of the
Mme. Fauville remained very calm. Not a muscle of her face moved. Nothing
pointed to the least perturbation on account of this discovery. She
"I don't know. They have been there a long time."
"Mazeroux," said M. Desmalions, "try them on that door."
Mazeroux did so. The door opened.
"Yes," said Mme. Fauville. "I remember now, my husband gave them to me.
They were duplicates of his own keys--"
The words were uttered in the most natural tone and as though the speaker
did not even suspect the terrible charge that was forming against her.
And nothing was more agonizing than this tranquillity. Was it a sign of
absolute innocence, or the infernal craft of a criminal whom nothing is
able to stir? Did she realize nothing of the tragedy which was taking
place and of which she was the unconscious heroine? Or did she guess the
terrible accusation which was gradually closing in upon her on every side
and which threatened her with the most awful danger? But, in that case,
how could she have been guilty of the extraordinary blunder of keeping
those two keys?
A series of questions suggested itself to the minds of all those present.
The Prefect of Police put them as follows:
"You were out, Madame, were you not, when the murders were committed?"
"You were at the opera?"
"Yes; and I went on to a party at the house of one of my friends, Mme.
"Did your chauffeur drive you?"
"To the opera, yes. But I sent him back to his garage; and he came to
fetch me at the party."
"I see," said M. Desmalions. "But how did you go from the opera to Mme.
For the first time, Mme. Fauville seemed to understand that she was the
victim of a regular cross-examination; and her look and attitude betrayed
a certain uneasiness. She replied:
"I took a motor cab."
"In the street?"
"On the Place de l'Opera."
"At twelve o'clock, therefore?"
"No, at half-past eleven: I left before the opera was over."
"You were in a hurry to get to your friend's?"
"Yes ... or rather--"
She stopped; her cheeks were scarlet; her lips and chin trembled; and
"Why do you ask me all these questions?"
"They are necessary, Madame. They may throw a light on what we want to
know. I beg you, therefore, to answer them. At what time did you reach
your friend's house?"
"I hardly know. I did not notice the time."
"Did you go straight there?"
"How do you mean, almost?"
"I had a little headache and told the driver to go up the Champs
Elysees and the Avenue du Bois--very slowly--and then down the Champs
She was becoming more and more embarrassed. Her voice grew indistinct.
She lowered her head and was silent.
Certainly her silence contained no confession, and there was nothing
entitling any one to believe that her dejection was other than a
consequence of her grief. But yet she seemed so weary as to give the
impression that, feeling herself lost, she was giving up the fight. And
it was almost a feeling of pity that was entertained for this woman
against whom all the circumstances seemed to be conspiring, and who
defended herself so badly that her cross-examiner hesitated to press her
M. Desmalions, in fact, wore an irresolute air, as if the victory had
been too easy, and as if he had some scruple about pursuing it.
Mechanically he observed Perenna, who passed him a slip of paper, saying:
"Mme. d'Ersingen's telephone number."
M. Desmalions murmured:
"Yes, true, they may know--"
And, taking down the receiver, he asked for number 325.04. He was
connected at once and continued:
"Who is that speaking?... The butler? Ah! Is Mme. d'Ersingen at
home?... No?... Or Monsieur?... Not he, either?... Never mind, you can
tell me what I want to know. I am M. Desmalions, the Prefect of Police,
and I need certain information. At what time did Mme. Fauville come last
night?... What do you say?... Are you sure?... At two o'clock in the
morning?... Not before?... And she went away?... In ten minutes
time?... Good ... But you're certain you are not mistaken about the
time when she arrived? I must know this positively: it is most
important.... You say it was two o'clock in the morning? Two o'clock in
the morning?... Very well.... Thank you."
When M. Desmalions turned round, he saw Mme. Fauville standing beside him
and looking at him with an expression of mad anguish. And one and the
same idea occurred to the mind of all the onlookers. They were in the
presence either of an absolutely innocent woman or else of an exceptional
actress whose face lent itself to the most perfect simulation of
"What do you want?" she stammered. "What does this mean? Explain
Then M. Desmalions asked simply:
"What were you doing last night between half-past eleven in the evening
and two o'clock in the morning?"
It was a terrifying question at the stage which the examination had
reached, a fatal question implying:
"If you cannot give us an exact and strict account of the way in which
you employed your time while the crime was being committed, we have the
right to conclude that you were not alien to the murder of your husband
She understood it in this sense and staggered on her feet, moaning:
"It's horrible!... horrible!"
The Prefect repeated:
"What were you doing? The question must be quite easy to answer."
"Oh," she cried, in the same piteous tone, "how can you believe!... Oh,
no, no, it's not possible! How can you believe!"
"I believe nothing yet," he said. "Besides, you can establish the truth
with a single word."
It seemed, from the movement of her lips and the sudden gesture of
resolution that shook her frame, as though she were about to speak that
word. But all at once she appeared stupefied and dumfounded, pronounced a
few unintelligible syllables, and fell huddled into a chair, sobbing
convulsively and uttering cries of despair.
It was tantamount to a confession. At the very least, it was a confession
of her inability to supply the plausible explanation which would have put
an end to the discussion.
The Prefect of Police moved away from her and spoke in a low voice to the
examining magistrate and the public prosecutor. Perenna and Sergeant
Mazeroux were left alone together, side by side.
"What did I tell you? I knew you would find out! Oh, what a man you are!
The way you managed!"
He was beaming at the thought that the chief was clear of the matter and
that he had no more crows to pluck with his, Mazeroux's, superiors, whom
he revered almost as much as he did the chief. Everybody was now agreed;
they were "friends all round"; and Mazeroux was choking with delight.
"They'll lock her up, eh?"
"No," said Perenna. "There's not enough 'hold' on her for them to issue
"What!" growled Mazeroux indignantly. "Not enough hold? I hope, in any
case, that you won't let her go. She made no bones, you know, about
attacking you! Come, Chief, polish her off, a she-devil like that!"
Don Luis remained pensive. He was thinking of the unheard-of
coincidences, the accumulation of facts that bore down on Mme. Fauville
from every side. And the decisive proof which would join all these
different facts together and give to the accusation the grounds which it
still lacked was one which Perenna was able to supply. This was the marks
of the teeth in the apple hidden among the shrubs in the garden. To the
police these would be as good as any fingerprint, all the more as they
could compare the marks with those on the cake of chocolate.
Nevertheless, he hesitated; and, concentrating his anxious attention, he
watched, with mingled feelings of pity and repulsion, that woman who, to
all seeming, had killed her husband and her husband's son. Was he to give
her the finishing stroke? Had he the right to play the part of judge? And
supposing he were wrong?
* * * * *
Meantime, M. Desmalions had walked up to him and, while pretending to
speak to Mazeroux, was really asking Perenna:
"What do you think of it?"
Mazeroux shook his head. Perenna replied:
"I think, Monsieur le Prefet, that, if this woman is guilty, she is
defending herself, for all her cleverness, with inconceivable lack
"Meaning that she was doubtless only a tool in the hands of an
"Remember, Monsieur le Prefet, her husband's exclamation in your office
yesterday: 'Oh, the scoundrels! the scoundrels!' There is, therefore, at
least one accomplice, who perhaps is the same as the man who was present,
as Sergeant Mazeroux must have told you, in the Cafe du Pont-Neuf when
Inspector Verot was last there: a man with a reddish-brown beard,
carrying an ebony walking-stick with a silver handle. So that--"
"So that," said M. Desmalions, completing the sentence, "by arresting
Mme. Fauville to-day, merely on suspicion, we have a chance of laying our
hands on the accomplice."
Perenna did not reply. The Prefect continued, thoughtfully:
"Arrest her ... arrest her.... We should need a proof for that.... Did
you receive no clue?"
"None at all, Monsieur le Prefet. True, my search was only summary."
"But ours was most minute. We have been through every corner of
"And the garden, Monsieur le Prefet?"
"The garden also."
"With the same care?"
"Perhaps not.... But I think--"
"I think, on the contrary, Monsieur le Prefet, that, as the murderers
passed through the garden in coming and going, there might be a chance--"
"Mazeroux," said M. Desmalions, "go outside and make a more thorough
The sergeant went out. Perenna, who was once more standing at one side,
heard the Prefect of Police repeating to the examining magistrate:
"Ah, if we only had a proof, just one! The woman is evidently guilty. The
presumption against her is too great! ... And then there are Cosmo
Mornington's millions.... But, on the other hand, look at her ... look at
all the honesty in that pretty face of hers, look at all the sincerity of
She was still crying, with fitful sobs and starts of indignant protest
that made her clench her fists. At one moment she took her tear-soaked
handkerchief, bit it with her teeth and tore it, after the manner of
Perenna saw those beautiful white teeth, a little wide, moist and
gleaming, rending the dainty cambric. And he thought of the marks of
teeth on the apple. And he was seized with an extreme longing to know the
truth. Was it the same pair of jaws that had left its impress in the pulp
of the fruit?
Mazeroux returned. M. Desmalions moved briskly toward the sergeant, who
showed him the apple which he had found under the ivy. And Perenna at
once realized the supreme importance which the Prefect of Police attached
to Mazeroux's explanations and to his unexpected discovery.
A conversation of some length took place between the magistrates and
ended in the decision which Don Luis foresaw. M. Desmalions walked
across the room to Mme. Fauville. It was the catastrophe. He reflected
for a second on the manner in which he should open this final contest,
and then he asked:
"Are you still unable, Madame, to tell us how you employed your time
She made an effort and whispered:
"Yes, yes.... I took a taxi and drove about. ... I also walked a
"That is a fact which we can easily verify when we have found the
driver of the taxi. Meanwhile, there is an opportunity of removing the
somewhat ... grievous impression which your silence has left on our
"I am quite ready--"
"It is this: the person or one of the persons who took part in the
crime appears to have bitten into an apple which was afterward thrown
away in the garden and which has just been found. To put an end to any
suppositions concerning yourself, we should like you to perform the
"Oh, certainly!" she cried, eagerly. "If this is all you need to
She took one of the three apples which Desmalions handed her from the
dish and lifted it to her mouth.
It was a decisive act. If the two marks resembled each other, the proof
existed, assured and undeniable.
Before completing her movement, she stopped short, as though seized with
a sudden fear.... Fear of what? Fear of the monstrous chance that might
be her undoing? Or fear rather of the dread weapon which she was about to
deliver against herself? In any case nothing accused her with greater
directness than this last hesitation, which was incomprehensible if she
was innocent, but clear as day if she was guilty!
"What are you afraid of, Madame?" asked M. Desmalions.
"Nothing, nothing," she said, shuddering. "I don't know.... I am afraid
of everything.... It is all so horrible--"
"But, Madame, I assure you that what we are asking of you has no sort of
importance and, I am persuaded, can only have a fortunate result for you.
If you don't mind, therefore--"
She raised her hand higher and yet higher, with a slowness that betrayed
her uneasiness. And really, in the fashion in which things were
happening, the scene was marked by a certain solemnity and tragedy that
wrung every heart.
"And, if I refuse?" she asked, suddenly.
"You are absolutely entitled to refuse," said the Prefect of Police. "But
is it worth while, Madame? I am sure that your counsel would be the first
to advise you--"
"My counsel?" she stammered, understanding the formidable meaning
conveyed by that reply.
And, suddenly, with a fierce resolve and the almost ferocious air that
contorts the face when great dangers threaten, she made the movement
which they were pressing her to make. She opened her mouth. They saw
the gleam of the white teeth. At one bite, the white teeth dug into
"There you are, Monsieur," she said.
M. Desmalions turned to the examining magistrate.
"Have you the apple found in the garden?"
"Here, Monsieur le Prefet."
M. Desmalions put the two apples side by side.
And those who crowded round him, anxiously looking on, all uttered one
The two marks of teeth were identical.
Identical! Certainly, before declaring the identity of every detail, the
absolute analogy of the marks of each tooth, they must wait for the
results of the expert's report. But there was one thing which there was
no mistaking and that was the complete similarity of the two curves.
In either fruit the rounded arch was bent according to the same
inflection. The two semicircles could have fitted one into the other,
both very narrow, both a little long-shaped and oval and of a restricted
radius which was the very character of the jaw.
The men did not speak a word. M. Desmalions raised his head. Mme.
Fauville did not move, stood livid and mad with terror. But all the
sentiments of terror, stupor and indignation that she might simulate with
her mobile face and her immense gifts as an actress, did not prevail
against the compelling proof that presented itself to every eye.
The two imprints were identical! The same teeth had bitten into
"Madame--" the Prefect of Police began.
"No, no," she cried, seized with a fit of fury, "no, it's not
true.... This is all just a nightmare.... No, you are never going to
arrest me? I in prison! Why, it's horrible!... What have I done? Oh, I
swear that you are mistaken--"
She took her head between her hands.
"Oh, my brain is throbbing as if it would burst! What does all this mean?
I have done no wrong.... I knew nothing. It was you who told me this
morning.... Could I have suspected? My poor husband ... and that dear
Edmond who loved me ... and whom I loved! Why should I have killed them?
Tell me that! Why don't you answer?" she demanded. "People don't commit
murder without a motive.... Well?... Well?... Answer me, can't you?"
And once more convulsed with anger, standing in an aggressive
attitude, with her clenched hands outstretched at the group of
magistrates, she screamed:
"You're no better than butchers ... you have no right to torture a woman
like this.... Oh, how horrible! To accuse me ... to arrest me ... for
nothing! ... Oh, it's abominable! ... What butchers you all are! ... And
it's you in particular," addressing Perenna, "it's you--yes, I know--it's
you who are the enemy.
"Oh, I understand! You had your reasons, you were here last
night.... Then why don't they arrest you? Why not you, as you were
here and I was not and know nothing, absolutely nothing of what
happened.... Why isn't it you?"
The last words were pronounced in a hardly intelligible fashion. She had
no strength left. She had to sit down, with her head bent over her knees,
and she wept once more, abundantly.
Perenna went up to her and, raising her forehead and uncovering the
tear-stained face, said:
"The imprints of teeth in both apples are absolutely identical. There is
therefore no doubt whatever but that the first comes from you as well as
"No!" she said.
"Yes," he affirmed. "That is a fact which it is materially impossible to
deny. But the first impression may have been left by you before last
night, that is to say, you may have bitten that apple yesterday, for
"Do you think so? Yes, perhaps, I seem to remember--yesterday morning--"
But the Prefect of Police interrupted her.
"It is useless, Madame; I have just questioned your servant, Silvestre.
He bought the fruit himself at eight o'clock last evening. When M.
Fauville went to bed, there were four apples in the dish. At eight
o'clock this morning there were only three. Therefore the one found in
the garden is incontestably the fourth; and this fourth apple was marked
last night. And the mark is the mark of your teeth."
"It was not I ... it was not I ... that mark is not mine."
"That mark is not mine.... I swear it as I hope to be saved.... And I
also swear that I shall die, yes, die.... I prefer death to prison.... I
shall kill myself.... I shall kill myself--"
Her eyes were staring before her. She stiffened her muscles and made a
supreme effort to rise from her chair. But, once on her feet, she
tottered and fell fainting on the floor.
While she was being seen to, Mazeroux beckoned to Don Luis and whispered:
"Clear out, Chief."
"Ah, so the orders are revoked? I'm free?"
"Chief, take a look at the beggar who came in ten minutes ago and who's
talking to the Prefect. Do you know him?"
"Hang it all!" said Perenna, after glancing at a large red-faced man who
did not take his eyes off him. "Hang it, it's Weber, the deputy chief!"
"And he's recognized you, Chief! He recognized Lupin at first sight.
There's no fake that he can't see through. He's got the knack of it.
Well, Chief, just think of all the tricks you've played on him and ask
yourself if he'll stick at anything to have his revenge!"
"And you think he has told the Prefect?"
"Of course he has; and the Prefect has ordered my mates to keep you in
view. If you make the least show of trying to escape them, they'll
"In that case, there's nothing to be done?"
"Nothing to be done? Why, it's a question of putting them off your scent
and mighty quickly!"
"What good would that do me, as I'm going home and they know where I
"Eh, what? Can you have the cheek to go home after what's happened?"
"Where do you expect me to sleep? Under the bridges?"
"But, dash it all, don't you understand that, after this job, there will
be the most infernal stir, that you're compromised up to the neck as it
is, and that everybody will turn against you?"
"Drop the business."
"And the murderers of Cosmo Mornington and the Fauvilles?"
"The police will see to that."
"Alexandre, you're an ass."
"Then become Lupin again, the invisible, impregnable Lupin, and do your