Part 3 out of 9
own fighting, as you used to. But in Heaven's name don't remain Perenna!
It is too dangerous. And don't occupy yourself officially with a business
in which you are not interested."
"The things you say, Alexandre! I am interested in it to the tune of a
hundred millions. If Perenna does not stick to his post, the hundred
millions will be snatched from under his nose. And, on the one occasion
when I can earn a few honest centimes, that would be most annoying."
"And, if they arrest you?"
"No go! I'm dead!"
"Lupin is dead. But Perenna is alive."
"As they haven't arrested me to-day, I'm easy in my mind."
"It's only put off. And the orders are strict from this moment onward.
They mean to surround your house and to keep watch day and night."
"Capital. I always was frightened at night."
"But, good Lord! what are you hoping for?"
"I hope for nothing, Alexandre. I am sure. I am sure now that they will
not dare arrest me."
"Do you imagine that Weber will stand on ceremony?"
"I don't care a hang about Weber. Without orders, Weber can do nothing."
"But they'll give him his orders."
"The order to shadow me, yes; to arrest me, no. The Prefect of Police has
committed himself about me to such an extent that he will be obliged to
back me up. And then there's this: the whole affair is so absurd, so
complicated, that you people will never find your way out of it alone.
Sooner or later, you will come and fetch me. For there is no one but
myself able to fight such adversaries as these: not you nor Weber, nor
any of your pals at the detective office. I shall expect your visit,
On the next day an expert examination identified the tooth prints on the
two apples and likewise established the fact that the print on the cake
of chocolate was similar to the others.
Also, the driver of a taxicab came and gave evidence that a lady engaged
him as she left the opera, told him to drive her straight to the end of
the Avenue Henri Martin, and left the cab on reaching that spot.
Now the end of the Avenue Henri Martin was within five minutes' walk of
the Fauvilles' house.
The man was brought into Mme. Fauville's presence and recognized
her at once.
What had she done in that neighbourhood for over an hour?
Marie Fauville was taken to the central lockup, was entered on the
register, and slept, that night, at the Saint-Lazare prison.
That same day, when the reporters were beginning to publish details of
the investigation, such as the discovery of the tooth prints, but when
they did not yet know to whom to attribute them, two of the leading
dailies used as a headline for their article the very words which Don
Luis Perenna had employed to describe the marks on the apple, the
sinister words which so well suggested the fierce, savage, and so to
speak, brutal character of the incident:
"THE TEETH OF THE TIGER."
THE IRON CURTAIN
It is sometimes an ungrateful task to tell the story of Arsene Lupin's
life, for the reason that each of his adventures is partly known to the
public, having at the time formed the subject of much eager comment,
whereas his biographer is obliged, if he would throw light upon what is
not known, to begin at the beginning and to relate in full detail all
that which is already public property.
It is because of this necessity that I am compelled to speak once more of
the extreme excitement which the news of that shocking series of crimes
created in France, in Europe and throughout the civilized world. The
public heard of four murders practically all at once, for the particulars
of Cosmo Mornington's will were published two days later.
There was no doubt that the same person had killed Cosmo Mornington,
Inspector Verot, Fauville the engineer, and his son Edmond. The same
person had made the identical sinister bite, leaving against himself or
herself, with a heedlessness that seemed to show the avenging hand of
fate, a most impressive and incriminating proof, a proof which made
people shudder as they would have shuddered at the awful reality: the
marks of his or her teeth, the teeth of the tiger!
And, in the midst of all this bloodshed, at the most tragic moment
of the dismal tragedy, behold the strangest of figures emerging from
An heroic adventurer, endowed with astounding intelligence and insight,
had in a few hours partly unravelled the tangled skeins of the plot,
divined the murder of Cosmo Mornington, proclaimed the murder of
Inspector Verot, taken the conduct of the investigation into his own
hands, delivered to justice the inhuman creature whose beautiful white
teeth fitted the marks as precious stones fit their settings, received a
cheque for a million francs on the day after these exploits and, finally,
found himself the probable heir to an immense fortune.
And here was Arsene Lupin coming to life again!
For the public made no mistake about that, and, with wonderful intuition,
proclaimed aloud that Don Luis Perenna was Arsene Lupin, before a close
examination of the facts had more or less confirmed the supposition.
"But he's dead!" objected the doubters.
To which the others replied:
"Yes, Dolores Kesselbach's corpse was recovered under the still smoking
ruins of a little chalet near the Luxemburg frontier and, with it, the
corpse of a man whom the police identified as Arsene Lupin. But
everything goes to show that the whole scene was contrived by Lupin, who,
for reasons of his own, wanted to be thought dead. And everything shows
that the police accepted and legalized the theory of his death only
because they wished to be rid of their everlasting adversary.
"As a proof, we have the confidences made by Valenglay, who was Prime
Minister at the time and whom the chances of politics have just replaced
at the head of the government. And there is the mysterious incident on
the island of Capri when the German Emperor, just as he was about to be
buried under a landslip, was saved by a hermit who, according to the
German version, was none other than Arsene Lupin."
To this came a fresh objection:
"Very well; but read the newspapers of the time: ten minutes
afterward, the hermit flung himself into the sea from Tiberius' Leap."
And the answer:
"Yes, but the body was never found. And, as it happens, we know that a
steamer picked up a man who was making signals to her and that this
steamer was on her way to Algiers. Well, a few days later, Don Luis
Perenna enlisted in the Foreign Legion at Sidi-bel-Abbes."
Of course, the controversy upon which the newspapers embarked on this
subject was carried on discreetly. Everybody was afraid of Lupin; and the
journalists maintained a certain reserve in their articles, confined
themselves to comparing dates and pointing out coincidences, and
refrained from speaking too positively of any Lupin that might lie hidden
under the mask of Perenna.
But, as regards the private in the Foreign Legion and his stay in
Morocco, they took their revenge and let themselves go freely.
Major d'Astrignac had spoken. Other officers, other comrades of
Perenna's, related what they had seen. The reports and daily orders
concerning him were published. And what became known as "The Hero's
Idyll" began to take the form of a sort of record each page of which
described the maddest and unlikeliest of facts.
At Mediouna, on the twenty-fourth of March, the adjutant, Captain Pollex,
awarded Private Perenna four days' cells on a charge of having broken out
of camp past two sentries after evening roll call, contrary to orders,
and being absent without leave until noon on the following day. Perenna,
the report went on to say, brought back the body of his sergeant, killed
in ambush. And in the margin was this note, in the colonel's hand:
"The colonel commanding doubles Private Perenna's award, but mentions his
name in orders and congratulates and thanks him."
After the fight of Ber-Rechid, Lieutenant Fardet's detachment being
obliged to retreat before a band of four hundred Moors, Private Perenna
asked leave to cover the retreat by installing himself in a _kasbah_.
"How many men do you want, Perenna?"
"What! Surely you don't propose to cover a retreat all by yourself?"
"What pleasure would there be in dying, sir, if others were to die as
well as I?"
At his request, they left him a dozen rifles, and divided with him the
cartridges that remained. His share came to seventy-five.
The detachment got away without being further molested. Next day, when
they were able to return with reinforcements, they surprised the Moors
lying in wait around the _kasbah_, but afraid to approach. The ground was
covered with seventy-five of their killed.
Our men drove them off. They found Private Perenna stretched on the floor
of the _kasbah_. They thought him dead. He was asleep!
He had not a single cartridge left. But each of his seventy-five bullets
had gone home.
What struck the imagination of the public most, however, was Major Comte
d'Astrignac's story of the battle of Dar-Dbibarh. The major confessed
that this battle, which relieved Fez at the moment when we thought that
all was lost and which created such a sensation in France, was won before
it was fought and that it was won by Perenna, alone!
At daybreak, when the Moorish tribes were preparing for the attack,
Private Perenna lassoed an Arab horse that was galloping across the
plain, sprang on the animal, which had no saddle, bridle, nor any sort of
harness, and without jacket, cap, or arms, with his white shirt bulging
out and a cigarette between his teeth, charged, with his hands in his
He charged straight toward the enemy, galloped through their camp, riding
in and out among the tents, and then left it by the same place by which
he had gone in.
This quite inconceivable death ride spread such consternation among the
Moors that their attack was half-hearted and the battle was won without
This, together with numberless other feats of bravado, went to make up
the heroic legend of Perenna. It threw into relief the superhuman energy,
the marvellous recklessness, the bewildering fancy, the spirit of
adventure, the physical dexterity, and the coolness of a singularly
mysterious individual whom it was impossible not to take for Arsene
Lupin, but a new and greater Arsene Lupin, dignified, idealized, and
ennobled by his exploits.
One morning, a fortnight after the double murder in the Boulevard
Suchet, this extraordinary man, who aroused such eager interest and who
was spoken of on every side as a fabulous and more or less impossible
being: one morning, Don Luis Perenna dressed himself and went the rounds
of his house.
It was a comfortable and roomy eighteenth-century mansion, situated at
the entrance to the Faubourg Saint-Germain, on the little Place du
Palais-Bourbon. He had bought it, furnished, from a rich Hungarian, Count
Malonyi, keeping for his own use the horses, carriages, motor cars, and
taking over the eight servants and even the count's secretary, Mlle.
Levasseur, who undertook to manage the household and to receive and get
rid of the visitors--journalists, bores and curiosity-dealers--attracted
by the luxury of the house and the reputation of its new owner.
After finishing his inspection of the stables and garage, he walked
across the courtyard and went up to his study, pushed open one of the
windows and raised his head. Above him was a slanting mirror; and this
mirror reflected, beyond the courtyard and its surrounding wall, one
whole side of the Place du Palais-Bourbon.
"Bother!" he said. "Those confounded detectives are still there. And this
has been going on for a fortnight. I'm getting tired of this spying."
He sat down, in a bad temper, to look through his letters, tearing up,
after he had read them, those which concerned him personally and making
notes on the others, such as applications for assistance and requests for
interviews. When he had finished, he rang the bell.
"Ask Mlle. Levasseur to bring me the newspapers."
She had been the Hungarian count's reader as well as his secretary; and
Perenna had trained her to pick out in the newspapers anything that
referred to him, and to give him each morning an exact account of the
proceedings that were being taken against Mme. Fauville.
Always dressed in black, with a very elegant and graceful figure, she had
attracted him from the first. She had an air of great dignity and a grave
and thoughtful face which made it impossible to penetrate the secret of
her soul, and which would have seemed austere had it not been framed in a
cloud of fair curls, resisting all attempts at discipline and setting a
halo of light and gayety around her.
Her voice had a soft and musical tone which Perenna loved to hear; and,
himself a little perplexed by Mlle. Levasseur's attitude of reserve, he
wondered what she could think of him, of his mode of life, and of all
that the newspapers had to tell of his mysterious past.
"Nothing new?" he asked, as he glanced at the headings of the articles.
She read the reports relating to Mme. Fauville; and Don Luis could see
that the police investigations were making no headway. Marie Fauville
still kept to her first method, that of weeping, making a show of
indignation, and assuming entire ignorance of the facts upon which she
was being examined.
"It's ridiculous," he said, aloud. "I have never seen any one defend
herself so clumsily."
"Still, if she's innocent?"
It was the first time that Mlle. Levasseur had uttered an opinion or
rather a remark upon the case. Don Luis looked at her in great surprise.
"So you think her innocent, Mademoiselle?"
She seemed ready to reply and to explain the meaning of her
interruption. It was as though she were removing her impassive mask and
about to allow her face to adopt a more animated expression under the
impulse of her inner feelings. But she restrained herself with a visible
effort, and murmured:
"I don't know. I have no views."
"Possibly," he said, watching her with curiosity, "but you have a doubt:
a doubt which would be permissible if it were not for the marks left by
Mme. Fauville's own teeth. Those marks, you see, are something more than
a signature, more than a confession of guilt. And, as long as she is
unable to give a satisfactory explanation of this point--"
But Marie Fauville vouchsafed not the slightest explanation of this or of
anything else. She remained impenetrable. On the other hand, the police
failed to discover her accomplice or accomplices, or the man with the
ebony walking-stick and the tortoise-shell glasses whom the waiter at the
Cafe du Pont-Neuf had described to Mazeroux and who seemed to have played
a singularly suspicious part. In short, there was not a ray of light
thrown upon the subject.
Equally vain was all search for the traces of Victor, the Roussel
sister's first cousin, who would have inherited the Mornington bequest in
the absence of any direct heirs.
"Is that all?" asked Perenna.
"No," said Mlle. Levasseur, "there is an article in the _Echo de
"Relating to me?"
"I presume so, Monsieur. It is called, 'Why Don't They Arrest Him?'"
"That concerns me," he said, with a laugh.
He took the newspaper and read:
"Why do they not arrest him? Why go against logic and prolong an
unnatural situation which no decent man can understand? This is the
question which everybody is asking and to which our investigations enable
us to furnish a precise reply.
"Two years ago, in other words, three years after the pretended death of
Arsene Lupin, the police, having discovered or believing they had
discovered that Arsene Lupin was really none other than one Floriani,
born at Blois and since lost to sight, caused the register to be
inscribed, on the page relating to this Floriani, with the word
'Deceased,' followed by the words 'Under the alias of Arsene Lupin.'
"Consequently, to bring Arsene Lupin back to life, there would be wanted
something more than the undeniable proof of his existence, which would
not be impossible. The most complicated wheels in the administrative
machine would have to be set in motion, and a decree obtained from the
Council of State.
"Now it would seem that M. Valenglay, the Prime Minister, together with
the Prefect of Police, is opposed to making any too minute inquiries
capable of opening up a scandal which the authorities are anxious to
avoid. Bring Arsene Lupin back to life? Recommence the struggle with
that accursed scoundrel? Risk a fresh defeat and fresh ridicule? No, no,
and again no!
"And thus is brought about this unprecedented, inadmissible,
inconceivable, disgraceful situation, that Arsene Lupin, the hardened
thief, the impenitent criminal, the robber-king, the emperor of burglars
and swindlers, is able to-day, not clandestinely, but in the sight and
hearing of the whole world, to pursue the most formidable task that he
has yet undertaken, to live publicly under a name which is not his own,
but which he has incontestably made his own, to destroy with impunity
four persons who stood in his way, to cause the imprisonment of an
innocent woman against whom he himself has accumulated false evidence,
and at the end of all, despite the protests of common sense and thanks
to an unavowed complicity, to receive the hundred millions of the
"There is the ignominious truth in a nutshell. It is well that it should
be stated. Let us hope, now that it stands revealed, that it will
influence the future conduct of events."
"At any rate, it will influence the conduct of the idiot who wrote that
article," said Lupin, with a grin.
He dismissed Mlle. Levasseur and rang up Major d'Astrignac on the
"Is that you, Major? Perenna speaking."
"Yes, what is it?"
"Have you read the article in the _Echo de France_?"
"Would it bore you very much to call on that gentleman and ask for
satisfaction in my name?"
"Oh! A duel!"
"It's got to be, Major. All these sportsmen are wearying me with their
lucubrations. They must be gagged. This fellow will pay for the rest."
"Well, of course, if you're bent on it--"
"I am, very much."
* * * * *
The preliminaries were entered upon without delay. The editor of the
_Echo de France_ declared that the article had been sent in without a
signature, typewritten, and that it had been published without his
knowledge; but he accepted the entire responsibility.
That same day, at three o'clock, Don Luis Perenna, accompanied by Major
d'Astrignac, another officer, and a doctor, left the house in the Place
du Palais-Bourbon in his car, and, followed by a taxi crammed with the
detectives engaged in watching him, drove to the Parc des Princes.
While waiting for the arrival of the adversary, the Comte d'Astrignac
took Don Luis aside.
"My dear Perenna, I ask you no questions. I don't want to know how much
truth there is in all that is being written about you, or what your real
name is. To me, you are Perenna of the Legion, and that is all I care
about. Your past began in Morocco. As for the future, I know that,
whatever happens and however great the temptation, your only aim will be
to revenge Cosmo Mornington and protect his heirs. But there's one thing
that worries me."
"Speak out, Major."
"Give me your word that you won't kill this man."
"Two months in bed, Major; will that suit you?"
"Too long. A fortnight."
The two adversaries took up their positions. At the second encounter, the
editor of the _Echo de France_ fell, wounded in the chest.
"Oh, that's too bad of you, Perenna!" growled the Comte d'Astrignac. "You
"And I've kept my promise, Major."
The doctors were examining the injured man. Presently one of them
rose and said:
"It's nothing. Three weeks' rest, at most. Only a third of an inch more,
and he would have been done for."
"Yes, but that third of an inch isn't there," murmured Perenna.
Still followed by the detectives' motor cab, Don Luis returned to the
Faubourg Saint-Germain; and it was then that an incident occurred which
was to puzzle him greatly and throw a most extraordinary light on the
article in the _Echo de France_.
In the courtyard of his house he saw two little puppies which belonged to
the coachman and which were generally confined to the stables. They were
playing with a twist of red string which kept catching on to things, to
the railings of the steps, to the flower vases. In the end, the paper
round which the string was wound, appeared. Don Luis happened to pass at
that moment. His eyes noticed marks of writing on the paper, and he
mechanically picked it up and unfolded it.
He gave a start. He had at once recognized the opening lines of the
article printed in the _Echo de France_. And the whole article was there,
written in ink, on ruled paper, with erasures, and with sentences added,
struck out, and begun anew.
He called the coachman and asked him:
"Where does this ball of string come from?"
"The string, sir? Why, from the harness-room, I think. It must have been
that little she-devil of a Mirza who--"
"And when did you wind the string round the paper?"
"Yesterday evening, Monsieur."
"Yesterday evening. I see. And where is the paper from?"
"Upon my word, Monsieur, I can't say. I wanted something to wind my
string on. I picked this bit up behind the coach-house where they fling
all the rubbish of the house to be taken into the street at night."
Don Luis pursued his investigations. He questioned or asked Mlle.
Levasseur to question the other servants. He discovered nothing; but one
fact remained: the article in the _Echo de France_ had been written, as
the rough draft which he had picked up proved, by somebody who lived in
the house or who was in touch with one of the people in the house.
The enemy was inside the fortress.
But what enemy? And what did he want? Merely Perenna's arrest?
All the remainder of the afternoon Don Luis continued anxious, annoyed by
the mystery that surrounded him, incensed at his own inaction, and
especially at that threatened arrest, which certainly caused him no
uneasiness, but which hampered his movements.
Accordingly, when he was told at about ten o'clock that a man who gave
the name of Alexandre insisted on seeing him, he had the man shown in;
and when he found himself face to face with Mazeroux, but Mazeroux
disguised beyond recognition and huddled in an old cloak, he flung
himself on him as on a prey, hustling and shaking him.
"So it's you, at last?" he cried. "Well, what did I tell you? You can't
make head or tail of things at the police office and you've come for me!
Confess it, you numskull! You've come to fetch me! Oh, how funny it all
is! Gad, I knew that you would never have the cheek to arrest me, and
that the Prefect of Police would manage to calm the untimely ardour of
that confounded Weber! To begin with, one doesn't arrest a man whom one
has need of. Come, out with it! Lord, how stupid you look! Why don't you
answer? How far have you got at the office? Quick, speak! I'll settle the
thing in five seconds. Just tell me about your inquiry in two words, and
I'll finish it for you in the twinkling of a bed-post, in two minutes by
my watch. Well, you were saying--"
"But, Chief," spluttered Mazeroux, utterly nonplussed.
"What! Must I drag the words out of you? Come on! I'll make a start. It
has to do with the man with the ebony walking-stick, hasn't it? The one
we saw at the Cafe du Pont-Neuf on the day when Inspector Verot was
"Yes, it has."
"Have you found his traces?"
"Well, come along, find your tongue!"
"It's like this, Chief. Some one else noticed him besides the waiter.
There was another customer in the cafe; and this other customer, whom I
ended by discovering, went out at the same time as our man and heard
him ask somebody in the street which was the nearest underground
station for Neuilly."
"Capital, that. And, in Neuilly, by asking questions on every side, you
ferreted him out?"
"And even learnt his name, Chief: Hubert Lautier, of the Avenue du Roule.
Only he decamped from there six months ago, leaving his furniture behind
him and taking nothing but two trunks."
"What about the post-office?"
"We have been to the post-office. One of the clerks recognized the
description which we supplied. Our man calls once every eight or ten days
to fetch his mail, which never amounts to much: just one or two letters.
He has not been there for some time."
"Is the correspondence in his name?"
"Were they able to remember them?"
"Is that all?"
"That is absolutely all that I have discovered. But one of my fellow
officers succeeded in proving, from the evidence of two detectives, that
a man carrying a silver-handled ebony walking-stick and a pair of
tortoise-shell glasses walked out of the Gare d'Auteuil on the evening of
the double murder and went toward Renelagh. Remember the presence of Mme.
Fauville in that neighbourhood at the same hour. And remember that the
crime was committed round about midnight. I conclude from this--"
"That will do; be off!"
"Then I don't see you again?"
"Meet me in half an hour outside our man's place."
"Marie Fauville's accomplice."
"But you don't know--"
"The address? Why, you gave it to me yourself: Boulevard Richard-Wallace,
No. 8. Go! And don't look such a fool."
He made him spin round on his heels, took him by the shoulders, pushed
him to the door, and handed him over, quite flabbergasted, to a footman.
He himself went out a few minutes later, dragging in his wake the
detectives attached to his person, left them posted on sentry duty
outside a block of flats with a double entrance, and took a motor cab
He went along the Avenue de Madrid on foot and turned down the Boulevard
Richard-Wallace, opposite the Bois de Boulogne. Mazeroux was waiting for
him in front of a small three-storied house standing at the back of a
courtyard contained within the very high walls of the adjoining property.
"Is this number eight?"
"Yes, Chief, but tell me how--"
"One moment, old chap; give me time to recover my breath."
He gave two or three great gasps.
"Lord, how good it is to be up and doing!" he said. "Upon my word, I was
getting rusty. And what a pleasure to pursue those scoundrels! So you
want me to tell you?"
He passed his arm through the sergeant's.
"Listen, Alexandre, and profit by my words. Remember this: when a person
is choosing initials for his address at a _poste restante_ he doesn't
pick them at random, but always in such a way that the letters convey a
meaning to the person corresponding with him, a meaning which will enable
that other person easily to remember the address."
"And in this case?"
"In this case, Mazeroux, a man like myself, who knows Neuilly and the
neighbourhood of the Bois, is at once struck by those three letters,
'B.R.W,' and especially by the 'W.', a foreign letter, an English letter.
So that in my mind's eye, instantly, as in a flash, I saw the three
letters in their logical place as initials at the head of the words for
which they stand. I saw the 'B' of 'boulevard,' and the 'R' and the
English 'W' of Richard-Wallace. And so I came to the Boulevard
Richard-Wallace, And that, my dear sir, explains the milk in the
Mazeroux seemed a little doubtful.
"And what do you think, Chief?"
"I think nothing. I am looking about. I am building up a theory on the
first basis that offers a probable theory. And I say to myself ... I say
to myself ... I say to myself, Mazeroux, that this is a devilish
mysterious little hole and that this house--Hush! Listen--"
He pushed Mazeroux into a dark corner. They had heard a noise, the
slamming of a door.
Footsteps crossed the courtyard in front of the house. The lock of the
outer gate grated. Some one appeared, and the light of a street lamp fell
full on his face.
"Dash it all," muttered Mazeroux, "it's he!"
"I believe you're right."
"It's he. Chief. Look at the black stick and the bright handle. And did
you see the eyeglasses--and the beard? What a oner you are, Chief!"
"Calm yourself and let's go after him."
The man had crossed the Boulevard Richard-Wallace and was turning into
the Boulevard Maillot. He was walking pretty fast, with his head up,
gayly twirling his stick. He lit a cigarette.
At the end of the Boulevard Maillot, the man passed the octroi and
entered Paris. The railway station of the outer circle was close by. He
went to it and, still followed by the others, stepped into a train that
took them to Auteuil.
"That's funny," said Mazeroux. "He's doing exactly what he did a
fortnight ago. This is where he was seen."
The man now went along the fortifications. In a quarter of an hour he
reached the Boulevard Suchet and almost immediately afterward the house
in which M. Fauville and his son had been murdered.
He climbed the fortifications opposite the house and stayed there for
some minutes, motionless, with his face to the front of the house. Then
continuing his road he went to La Muette and plunged into the dusk of the
Bois de Boulogne.
"To work and boldly!" said Don Luis, quickening his pace.
Mazeroux stopped him.
"What do you mean, Chief?"
"Well, catch him by the throat! There are two of us; we couldn't hope for
a better moment."
"What! Why, it's impossible!"
"Impossible? Are you afraid? Very well, I'll do it by myself."
"Look here, Chief, you're not serious!"
"Why shouldn't I be serious?"
"Because one can't arrest a man without a reason."
"Without a reason? A scoundrel like this? A murderer? What more do
"In the absence of compulsion, of catching him in the act, I want
something that I haven't got."
"A warrant. I haven't a warrant."
Mazeroux's accent was so full of conviction, and the answer struck Don
Luis Perenna as so comical, that he burst out laughing.
"You have no warrant? Poor little chap! Well, I'll soon show you if I
need a warrant!"
"You'll show me nothing," cried Mazeroux, hanging on to his companion's
arm. "You shan't touch the man."
"One would think he was your mother!"
"But, you stick-in-the-mud of an honest man," shouted Don Luis, angrily,
"if we let this opportunity slip shall we ever find another?"
"Easily. He's going home. I'll inform the commissary of police. He will
telephone to headquarters; and to-morrow morning--"
"And suppose the bird has flown?"
"I have no warrant."
"Do you want me to sign you one, idiot?"
But Don Luis mastered his rage. He felt that all his arguments would be
shattered to pieces against the sergeant's obstinacy, and that, if
necessary, Mazeroux would go to the length of defending the enemy against
him. He simply said in a sententious tone:
"One ass and you make a pair of asses; and there are as many asses as
there are people who try to do police work with bits of paper,
signatures, warrants, and other gammon. Police work, my lad, is done with
one's fists. When you come upon the enemy, hit him. Otherwise, you stand
a chance of hitting the air. With that, good-night. I'm going to bed.
Telephone to me when the job is done."
He went home, furious, sick of an adventure in which he had not had elbow
room, and in which he had had to submit to the will, or, rather, to the
weakness of others.
But next morning when he woke up his longing to see the police lay hold
of the man with the ebony stick, and especially the feeling that his
assistance would be of use, impelled him to dress as quickly as he could.
"If I don't come to the rescue," he thought, "they'll let themselves be
done in the eye. They're not equal to a contest of this kind."
Just then Mazeroux rang up and asked to speak to him. He rushed to a
little telephone box which his predecessor had fitted up on the first
floor, in a dark recess that communicated only with his study, and
switched on the electric light.
"Is that you, Alexandre?"
"Yes, Chief. I'm speaking from a wine shop near the house on the
"What about our man?"
"The bird's still in the nest. But we're only just in time."
"Yes, he's packed his trunk. He's going away this morning."
"How do they know?"
"Through the woman who manages for him. She's just come to the house and
will let us in."
"Does he live alone?"
"Yes, the woman cooks his meals and goes away in the evening. No one ever
calls except a veiled lady who has paid him three visits since he's been
here. The housekeeper was not able to see what she was like. As for him,
she says he's a scholar, who spends his time reading and working."
"And have you a warrant?"
"Yes, we're going to use it."
"I'll come at once."
"You can't! We've got Weber at our head. Oh, by the way, have you heard
the news about Mme. Fauville?"
"About Mme. Fauville?"
"Yes, she tried to commit suicide last night."
"What! Tried to commit suicide!"
Perenna had uttered an exclamation of astonishment and was very much
surprised to hear, almost at the same time, another cry, like an echo, at
his elbow. Without letting go the receiver, he turned round and saw that
Mlle. Levasseur was in the study a few yards away from him, standing with
a distorted and livid face. Their eyes met. He was on the point of
speaking to her, but she moved away, without leaving the room, however.
"What the devil was she listening for?" Don Luis wondered. "And why that
look of dismay?"
Meanwhile, Mazeroux continued:
"She said, you know, that she would try to kill herself. But it must have
taken a goodish amount of pluck."
"But how did she do it?" Perenna asked.
"I'll tell you another time. They're calling me. Whatever you do, Chief,
"Yes," he replied, firmly, "I'm coming. After all, the least I can do is
to be in at the death, seeing that it was I who found the scent. But
don't be afraid. I shall keep in the background."
"Then hurry, Chief. We're delivering the attack in ten minutes."
"I'll be with you before that."
He quickly hung up the receiver and turned on his heel to leave the
telephone box. The next moment he had flung himself against the farther
wall. Just as he was about to pass out he had heard something click
above his head and he but barely had the time to leap back and escape
being struck by an iron curtain which fell in front of him with a
Another second and the huge mass would have crushed him. He could feel it
whizzing by his head. And he had never before experienced the anguish of
danger so intensely.
After a moment of genuine fright, in which he stood as though petrified,
with his brain in a whirl, he recovered his coolness and threw himself
upon the obstacle. But it at once appeared to him that the obstacle was
It was a heavy metal panel, not made of plates or lathes fastened one to
the other, but formed of a solid slab, massive, firm, and strong, and
covered with the sheen of time darkened here and there with patches of
rust. On either side and at the top and bottom the edges of the panel
fitted in a narrow groove which covered them hermetically.
He was a prisoner. In a sudden fit of rage he banged at the metal with
his fists. He remembered that Mlle. Levasseur was in the study. If she
had not yet left the room--and surely she could not have left it when the
thing happened--she would hear the noise. She was bound to hear it. She
would be sure to come back, give the alarm, and rescue him.
He listened. He shouted. No reply. His voice died away against the walls
and ceiling of the box in which he was shut up, and he felt that the
whole house--drawing-rooms, staircases, and passages--remained deaf to
And yet ... and yet ... Mlle. Levasseur--
"What does it mean?" he muttered. "What can it all mean?"
And motionless now and silent, he thought once more of the girl's strange
attitude, of her distraught face, of her haggard eyes. And he also began
to wonder what accident had released the mechanism which had hurled the
formidable iron curtain upon him, craftily and ruthlessly.
THE MAN WITH THE EBONY WALKING-STICK
A group consisting of Deputy Chief Detective Weber, Chief Inspector
Ancenis, Sergeant Mazeroux, three inspectors, and the Neuilly commissary
of police stood outside the gate of No. 8 Boulevard Richard-Wallace.
Mazeroux was watching the Avenue de Madrid, by which Don Luis would have
to come, and began to wonder what had happened; for half an hour had
passed since they telephoned to each other, and Mazeroux could find no
further pretext for delaying the work.
"It's time to make a move," said Weber. "The housekeeper is making
signals to us from the window: the joker's dressing."
"Why not nab him when he comes out?" objected Mazeroux. "We shall capture
him in a moment."
"And if he cuts off by another outlet which we don't know of?" said the
deputy chief. "You have to be careful with these beggars. No, let's beard
him in his den. It's more certain."
"What's the matter with you, Mazeroux?" asked the deputy chief, taking
him on one side. "Don't you see that our men are getting restive? They're
afraid of this sportsman. There's only one way, which is to set them on
him as if he were a wild beast. Besides, the business must be finished by
the time the Prefect comes,"
"Is he coming?"
"Yes. He wants to see things for himself. The whole affair interests him
enormously. So, forward! Are you ready, men? I'm going to ring."
The bell sounded; and the housekeeper at once came and half opened the
Although the orders were to observe great quiet, so as not to alarm the
enemy too soon, the fear which he inspired was so intense that there
was a general rush; and all the detectives crowded into the courtyard,
ready for the fight. But a window opened and some one cried from the
The deputy chief did not reply. Two detectives, the chief inspector, the
commissary, and himself entered the house, while the others remained in
the courtyard and made any attempt at flight impossible.
The meeting took place on the first floor. The man had come down, fully
dressed, with his hat on his head; and the deputy chief roared:
"Stop! Hands up! Are you Hubert Lautier?"
The man seemed disconcerted. Five revolvers were levelled at him. And yet
no sign of fear showed in his face; and he simply said:
"What do you want, Monsieur? What are you here for?"
"We are here in the name of the law, with a warrant for your arrest."
"A warrant for my arrest?"
"A warrant for the arrest of Hubert Lautier, residing at 8 Boulevard
"But it's absurd!" said the man. "It's incredible! What does it mean?
They took him by both arms, without his offering the least resistance,
pushed him into a fairly large room containing no furniture but three
rush-bottomed chairs, an armchair, and a table covered with big books.
"There," said the deputy chief. "Don't stir. If you attempt to move, so
much the worse for you."
The man made no protest. While the two detectives held him by the
collar, he seemed to be reflecting, as though he were trying to
understand the secret causes of an arrest for which he was totally
unprepared. He had an intelligent face, a reddish-brown beard, and a
pair of blue-gray eyes which now and again showed a certain hardness of
expression behind his glasses. His broad shoulders and powerful neck
pointed to physical strength.
"Shall we tie his wrists?" Mazeroux asked the deputy chief.
"One second. The Prefect's coming; I can hear him. Have you searched the
man's pockets? Any weapons?"
"No flask, no phial? Nothing suspicious?"
M. Desmalions arrived and, while watching the prisoner's face, talked
in a low voice with the deputy chief and received the particulars of
"This is good business," he said. "We wanted this. Now that both
accomplices are in custody, they will have to speak; and everything will
be cleared up. So there was no resistance?"
"None at all, Monsieur le Prefet."
"No matter, we will remain on our guard."
The prisoner had not uttered a word, but still wore a thoughtful look, as
though trying to understand the inexplicable events of the last few
minutes. Nevertheless, when he realized that the newcomer was none other
than the Prefect of Police, he raised his head and looked at M.
Desmalions, who asked him:
"It is unnecessary to tell you the cause of your arrest, I presume?"
He replied, in a deferential tone:
"Excuse me, Monsieur le Prefet, but I must ask you, on the contrary, to
inform me. I have not the least idea of the reason. Your detectives have
made a grave mistake which a word, no doubt, will be enough to set right.
That word I wish for, I insist upon--"
The Prefect shrugged his shoulders and said:
"You are suspected of taking part in the murder of Fauville, the civil
engineer, and his son Edmond."
"Is Hippolyte dead?"
The cry was spontaneous, almost unconscious; a bewildered cry of dismay
from a man moved to the depths of his being. And his dismay was supremely
strange, his question, trying to make them believe in his ignorance,
"Is Hippolyte dead?"
He repeated the question in a hoarse voice, trembling all over as he
"Is Hippolyte dead? What are you saying? Is it possible that he can be
dead? And how? Murdered? Edmond, too?"
The Prefect once more shrugged his shoulders.
"The mere fact of your calling M. Fauville by his Christian name shows
that you knew him intimately. And, even if you were not concerned in his
murder, it has been mentioned often enough in the newspapers during the
last fortnight for you to know of it."
"I never read a newspaper, Monsieur le Prefet."
"What! You mean to tell me--?"
"It may sound improbable, but it is quite true. I lead an industrious
life, occupying myself solely with scientific research, in view of a
popular work which I am preparing, and I do not take the least part or
the least interest in outside things. I defy any one to prove that I have
read a newspaper for months and months past. And that is why I am
entitled to say that I did not know of Hippolyte Fauville's murder."
"Still, you knew M. Fauville."
"I used to know him, but we quarrelled."
"For what reason?"
"Family affairs! Were you related, then?"
"Yes. Hippolyte was my cousin."
"Your cousin! M. Fauville was your cousin! But ... but then ... Come, let
us have the rights of the matter. M. Fauville and his wife were the
children of two sisters, Elizabeth and Armande Roussel. Those two sisters
had been brought up with a first cousin called Victor."
"Yes, Victor Sauverand, whose grandfather was a Roussel. Victor Sauverand
married abroad and had two sons. One of them died fifteen years ago; the
other is myself."
M. Desmalions gave a start. His excitement was manifest. If that man was
telling the truth, if he was really the son of that Victor whose record
the police had not yet been able to trace, then, owing to this very fact,
since M. Fauville and his son were dead and Mme. Fauville, so to speak,
convicted of murder and forfeiting her rights, they had arrested the
final heir to Cosmo Mornington. But why, in a moment of madness, had he
voluntarily brought this crushing indictment against himself?
"My statements seem to surprise you, Monsieur le Prefet. Perhaps they
throw a light on the mistake of which I am a victim?"
He expressed himself calmly, with great politeness and in a remarkably
well-bred voice; and he did not for a moment seem to suspect that his
revelations, on the contrary, were justifying the measures taken
Without replying to the question, the Prefect of Police asked him:
"So your real name is--"
"Why do you call yourself Hubert Lautier?"
The man had a second of indecision which did not escape so clear-sighted
an observer as M. Desmalions. He swayed from side to side, his eyes
flickered and he said:
"That does not concern the police; it concerns no one but myself."
M. Desmalions smiled:
"That is a poor argument. Will you use the same when I ask you why you
live in hiding, why you left the Avenue du Roule, where you used to live,
without leaving an address behind you, and why you receive your letters
at the post-office under initials?"
"Yes, Monsieur le Prefet, those are matters of a private character, which
affect only my conscience. You have no right to question me about them."
"That is the exact reply which we are constantly receiving at every
moment from your accomplice."
"Yes, Mme. Fauville."
Gaston Sauverand had uttered the same cry as when he heard of the death
of the engineer; and his stupefaction seemed even greater, combined as it
was with an anguish that distorted his features beyond recognition.
"What?... What?... What do you say? Marie!... No, you don't mean it! It's
M. Desmalions considered it useless to reply, so absurd and childish
was this affectation of knowing nothing about the tragedy on the
Gaston Sauverand, beside himself, with his eyes starting from his
"Is it true? Is Marie the victim of the same mistake as myself? Perhaps
they have arrested her? She, she in prison!"
He raised his clenched fists in a threatening manner against all the
unknown enemies by whom he was surrounded, against those who were
persecuting him, those who had murdered Hippolyte Fauville and delivered
Marie Fauville to the police.
Mazeroux and Chief Inspector Ancenis took hold of him roughly. He made a
movement of resistance, as though he intended to thrust back his
aggressors. But it was only momentary; and he sank into a chair and
covered his face with his hands:
"What a mystery!" he stammered. "I don't understand! I don't
Weber, who had gone out a few minutes before, returned. M.
"Is everything ready?"
"Yes, Monsieur le Prefet, I have had the taxi brought up to the gate
beside your car."
"How many of you are there?"
"Eight. Two detectives have just arrived from the commissary's."
"Have you searched the house?"
"Yes. It's almost empty, however. There's nothing but the indispensable
articles of furniture and some bundles of papers in the bedroom."
"Very well. Take him away and keep a sharp lookout."
Gaston Sauverand walked off quietly between the deputy chief and
Mazeroux. He turned round in the doorway.
"Monsieur le Prefet, as you are making a search, I entreat you to take
care of the papers on the table in my bedroom. They are notes that have
cost me a great deal of labour in the small hours of the night. Also--"
He hesitated, obviously embarrassed.
"Well, Monsieur le Prefet, I must tell you--something--"
He was looking for his words and seemed to fear the consequences of them
at the same time that he uttered them. But he suddenly made up his mind.
"Monsieur le Prefet, there is in this house--somewhere--a packet of
letters which I value more than my life. It is possible that those
letters, if misinterpreted, will furnish a weapon against me; but no
matter. The great thing is that they should be safe. You will see. They
include documents of extreme importance. I entrust them to your
keeping--to yours alone, Monsieur le Prefet."
"Where are they?"
"The hiding-place is easily found. All you have to do is to go to the
garret above my bedroom and press on a nail to the right of the window.
It is an apparently useless nail, but it controls a hiding-place outside,
under the slates of the roof, along the gutter."
He moved away between the two men. The Prefect called them back.
"One second. Mazeroux, go up to the garret and bring me the letters."
Mazeroux went out and returned in a few minutes. He had been unable to
work the spring.
The Prefect ordered Chief Inspector Ancenis to go up with Mazeroux and to
take the prisoner, who would show them how to open the hiding-place. He
himself remained in the room with Weber, awaiting the result of the
search, and began to read the titles of the volumes piled upon the table.
They were scientific books, among which he noticed works on chemistry:
"Organic Chemistry" and "Chemistry Considered in Its Relations with
Electricity." They were all covered with notes in the margins. He was
turning over the pages of one of them, when he seemed to hear shouts.
The Prefect rushed to the door, but had not crossed the threshold when a
pistol shot echoed down the staircase and there was a yell of pain.
Immediately after came two more shots, accompanied by cries, the sound of
a struggle, and yet another shot.
Tearing upstairs, four steps at a time, with an agility not to be
expected from a man of his build, the Prefect of Police, followed by the
deputy chief, covered the second flight and came to a third, which was
narrower and steeper. When he reached the bend, a man's body, staggering
above him, fell into his arms: it was Mazeroux, wounded.
On the stairs lay another body, lifeless, that of Chief Inspector
Above them, in the frame of a small doorway, stood Gaston Sauverand, with
a savage look on his face and his arm outstretched. He fired a fifth shot
at random. Then, seeing the Prefect of Police, he took deliberate aim.
The Prefect stared at that terrifying barrel levelled at his face and
gave himself up for lost. But, at that exact second, a shot was
discharged from behind him, Sauverand's weapon fell from his hand before
he was able to fire, and the Prefect saw, as in a dream, a man, the man
who had saved his life, striding across the chief inspector's body,
propping Mazeroux against the wall, and darting ahead, followed by the
detectives. He recognized the man: it was Don Luis Perenna.
Don Luis stepped briskly into the garret where Sauverand had retreated,
but had time only to catch sight of him standing on the window ledge and
leaping into space from the third floor.
"Has he jumped from there?" cried the Prefect, hastening up. "We shall
never capture him alive!"
"Neither alive nor dead, Monsieur le Prefet. See, he's picking himself
up. There's a providence which looks after that sort. He's making for the
gate. He's hardly limping."
"But where are my men?"
"Why, they're all on the staircase, in the house, brought here by the
shots, seeing to the wounded--"
"Oh, the demon!" muttered the Prefect. "He's played a masterly game!"
Gaston Sauverand, in fact, was escaping unmolested.
"Stop him! Stop him!" roared M. Desmalions.
There were two motors standing beside the pavement, which is very wide
at this spot: the Prefect's own car, and the cab which the deputy chief
had provided for the prisoner. The two chauffeurs, sitting on their
seats, had noticed nothing of the fight. But they saw Gaston Sauverand's
leap into space; and the Prefect's chauffeur, on whose seat a certain
number of incriminating articles had been placed, taking out of the heap
the first weapon that offered, the ebony walking-stick, bravely rushed
at the fugitive.
"Stop him! Stop him!" shouted M. Desmalions.
The encounter took place at the exit from the courtyard. It did not last
long. Sauverand flung himself upon his assailant, snatched the stick from
him, and broke it across his face. Then, without dropping the handle, he
ran away, pursued by the other chauffeur and by three detectives who at
last appeared from the house. He had thirty yards' start of the
detectives, one of whom fired several shots at him without effect.
When M. Desmalions and Weber went downstairs again, they found the chief
inspector lying on the bed in Gaston Sauverand's room on the second
floor, gray in the face. He had been hit on the head and was dying. A few
minutes later he was dead.
Sergeant Mazeroux, whose wound was only slight, said, while it was being
dressed, that Sauverand had taken the chief inspector and himself up to
the garret, and that, outside the door, he had dipped his hand quickly
into an old satchel hanging on the wall among some servants' wornout
aprons and jackets. He drew out a revolver and fired point-blank at the
chief inspector, who dropped like a log. When seized by Mazeroux, the
murderer released himself and fired three bullets, the third of which hit
the sergeant in the shoulder.
And so, in a fight in which the police had a band of experienced
detectives at their disposal, while the enemy, a prisoner, seemed to
possess not the remotest chance of safety, this enemy, by a strategem of
unprecedented daring, had led two of his adversaries aside, disabled
both of them, drawn the others into the house and, finding the coast
M. Desmalions was white with anger and despair. He exclaimed:
"He's tricked us! His letters, his hiding-place, the movable nail, were
all shams. Oh, the scoundrel!"
He went down to the ground floor and into the courtyard. On the boulevard
he met one of the detectives who had given chase to the murderer and who
was returning quite out of breath.
"Well?" he asked anxiously,
"Monsieur le Prefet, he turned down the first street, where there was a
motor waiting for him. The engine must have been working, for our man
outdistanced us at once."
"But what about my car?"
"You see, Monsieur le Prefet, by the time it was started--"
"Was the motor that picked him up a hired one?"
"Yes, a taxi."
"Then we shall find it. The driver will come of his own accord when he
has seen the newspapers."
Weber shook his head.
"Unless the driver is himself a confederate, Monsieur le Prefet.
Besides, even if we find the cab, aren't we bound to suppose that Gaston
Sauverand will know how to front the scent? We shall have trouble,
Monsieur le Prefet."
"Yes," whispered Don Luis, who had been present at the first
investigation and who was left alone for a moment with Mazeroux. "Yes,
you will have trouble, especially if you let the people you capture take
to their heels. Eh, Mazeroux, what did I tell you last night? But, still,
what a scoundrel! And he's not alone, Alexandre. I'll answer for it that
he has accomplices--and not a hundred yards from my house--do you
understand? From my house."
After questioning Mazeroux upon Sauverand's attitude and the other
incidents of the arrest, Don Luis went back to the Place du
* * * * *
The inquiry which he had to make related to events that were certainly
quite as strange as those which he had just witnessed; and while the
part played by Gaston Sauverand in the pursuit of the Mornington
inheritance deserved all his attention, the behaviour of Mile. Levasseur
puzzled him no less.
He could not forget the cry of terror that escaped the girl while he was
telephoning to Mazeroux, nor the scared expression of her face. Now it
was impossible to attribute that cry and that expression to anything
other than the words which he had uttered in reply to Mazeroux:
"What! Mme. Fauville tried to commit suicide!"
The fact was certain; and the connection between the announcement of the
attempt and Mlle. Levasseur's extreme emotion was too obvious for Perenna
not to try to draw conclusions.
He went straight to his study and at once examined the arch leading to
the telephone box. This arch, which was about six feet wide and very low,
had no door, but merely a velvet hanging, which was nearly always drawn
up, leaving the arch uncovered. Under the hanging, among the moldings of
the cornice, was a button that had only to be pressed to bring down the
iron curtain against which he had thrown himself two hours before.
He worked the catch two or three times over, and his experiments
proved to him in the most explicit fashion that the mechanism was in
perfect order and unable to act without outside intervention. Was he
then to conclude that the girl had wanted to kill him? But what could
be her motive?
He was on the point of ringing and sending for her, so as to receive the
explanation which he was resolved to demand from her. However, the
minutes passed and he did not ring. He saw her through the window as she
walked slowly across the yard, her body swinging gracefully from her
hips. A ray of sunshine lit up the gold of her hair.
All the rest of the morning he lay on a sofa, smoking cigars. He was ill
at ease, dissatisfied with himself and with the course of events, not one
of which brought him the least glimmer of truth; in fact, all of them
seemed to deepen the darkness in which he was battling. Eager to act, the
moment he did so he encountered fresh obstacles that paralyzed his powers
of action and left him in utter ignorance of the nature of his
But, at twelve o'clock, just as he had rung for lunch, his butler entered
the study with a tray in his hand, and exclaimed, with an agitation which
showed that the household was aware of Don Luis's ambiguous position:
"Sir, it's the Prefect of Police!"
"Eh?" said Perenna. "Where is he?"
"Downstairs, sir. I did not know what to do, at first ... and I thought
of telling Mlle. Levasseur. But--"
"Are you sure?"
"Here is his card, sir."
Perenna took the card from the tray and read M. Desmalions's name. He
went to the window, opened it and, with the aid of the overhead mirror,
looked into the Place du Palais-Bourbon. Half a dozen men were walking
about. He recognized them. They were his usual watchers, those whom he
had got rid of on the evening before and who had come to resume their
"No others?" he said to himself. "Come, we have nothing to fear, and the
Prefect of Police has none but the best intentions toward me. It was what
I expected; and I think that I was well advised to save his life."
M. Desmalions entered without a word. All that he did was to bend his
head slightly, with a movement that might be taken for a bow. As for
Weber, who was with him, he did not even give himself the trouble to
disguise his feelings toward such a man as Perenna.
Don Luis took no direct notice of this attitude, but, in revenge,
ostentatiously omitted to push forward more than one chair. M.
Desmalions, however, preferred to walk about the room, with his hands
behind his back, as if to continue his reflections before speaking.
The silence was prolonged. Don Luis waited patiently. Then, suddenly, the
Prefect stopped and said:
"When you left the Boulevard Richard-Wallace, Monsieur, did you go
Don Luis did not demur to this cross-examining manner and answered:
"Yes, Monsieur le Prefet."
"Here, to your study?"
"Here, to my study."
M. Desmalions paused and then went on:
"I left thirty or forty minutes after you and drove to the police office
in my car. There I received this express letter. Read it. You will see
that it was handed in at the Bourse at half-past nine."
Don Luis took the letter and read the following words, written in
This is to inform you that Gaston Sauverand, after making his escape,
rejoined his accomplice Perenna, who, as you know, is none other than
Arsene Lupin. Arsene Lupin gave you Sauverand's address in order to get
rid of him and to receive the Mornington inheritance. They were
reconciled this morning, and Arsene Lupin suggested a safe hiding-place
to Sauverand. It is easy to prove their meeting and their complicity.
Sauverand handed Lupin the half of the walking-stick which he had carried
away unawares. You will find it under the cushions of a sofa standing
between the two windows of Perenna's study.
Don Luis shrugged his shoulders. The letter was absurd; for he had not
once left his study. He folded it up quietly and handed it to the Prefect
of Police without comment. He was resolved to let M. Desmalions take the
initiative in the conversation.
The Prefect asked:
"What is your reply to the accusation?"
"None, Monsieur le Prefet."
"Still, it is quite plain and easy to prove or disprove."
"Very easy, indeed, Monsieur le Prefet; the sofa is there, between
M. Desmalions waited two or three seconds and then walked to the sofa and
moved the cushions. Under one of them lay the handle end of the
Don Luis could not repress a gesture of amazement and anger. He had not
for a second contemplated the possibility of such a miracle; and it took
him unawares. However, he mastered himself. After all, there was nothing
to prove that this half of a walking-stick was really that which had
been seen in Gaston Sauverand's hands and which Sauverand had carried
away by mistake.
"I have the other half on me," said the Prefect of Police, replying to
the unspoken objection. "Deputy Chief Weber himself picked it up on the
Boulevard Richard-Wallace. Here it is."
He produced it from the inside pocket of his overcoat and tried it. The
ends of the two pieces fitted exactly.
There was a fresh pause. Perenna was confused, as were those, invariably,
upon whom he himself used to inflict this kind of defeat and humiliation.
He could not get over it. By what prodigy had Gaston Sauverand managed,
in that short space of twenty minutes, to enter the house and make his
way into this room? Even the theory of an accomplice living in the house
did not do much to make the phenomenon easier to understand.
"It upsets all my calculations," he thought, "and I shall have to go
through the mill this time. I was able to baffle Mme. Fauville's
accusation and to foil the trick of the turquoise. But M. Desmalions will
never admit that this is a similar attempt and that Gaston Sauverand has
tried, as Marie Fauville did, to get me out of the way by compromising me
and procuring my arrest."
"Well," exclaimed M. Desmalions impatiently, "answer! Defend yourself!"
"No, Monsieur le Prefet, it is not for me to defend myself,"
M. Desmalions stamped his foot and growled:
"In that case ... in that case ... since you confess ... since--"
He put his hand on the latch of the window, ready to open it. A whistle,
and the detectives would burst in and all would be over.
"Shall I have your inspectors called, Monsieur le Prefet?" asked Don
M. Desmalions did not reply. He let go the window latch and started
walking about the room again. And, suddenly, while Perenna was wondering
why he still hesitated, for the second time the Prefect planted himself
in front of him, and said:
"And suppose I looked upon the incident of the walking-stick as not
having occurred, or, rather, as an incident which, while doubtless
proving the treachery of your servants, is not able to compromise
yourself? Suppose I took only the services which you have already
rendered us into consideration? In a word, suppose I left you free?"
Perenna could not help smiling. Notwithstanding the affair of the
walking-stick and though appearances were all against him, at the moment
when everything seemed to be going wrong, things were taking the course
which he had prophesied from the start, and which he had mentioned to
Mazeroux during the inquiry on the Boulevard Suchet. They wanted him.
"Free?" he asked. "No more supervision? Nobody shadowing my movements?"
"And what if the press campaign around my name continues, if the papers
succeed, by means of certain pieces of tittle-tattle, of certain
coincidences, in creating a public outcry, if they call for measures
"Those measures shall not be taken."
"Then I have nothing to fear?"
"Will M. Weber abandon his prejudices against me?"
"At any rate, he will act as though he did, won't you, Weber?"
The deputy chief uttered a few grunts which might be taken as an
expression of assent; and Don Luis at once exclaimed:
"In that case, Monsieur le Prefet, I am sure of gaining the victory and
of gaining it in accordance with the wishes and requirements of the
And so, by a sudden change in the situation, after a series of
exceptional circumstances, the police themselves, bowing before Don Luis
Perenna's superior qualities of mind, acknowledging all that he had
already done and foreseeing all that he would be able to do, decided to
back him up, begging for his assistance, and offering him, so to speak,
the command of affairs.
It was a flattering compliment. Was it addressed only to Don Luis
Perenna? And had Lupin, the terrible, undaunted Lupin, no right to claim
his share? Was it possible to believe that M. Desmalions, in his heart of
hearts, did not admit the identity of the two persons?
Nothing in the Prefect's attitude gave any clue to his secret thoughts.
He was suggesting to Don Luis Perenna one of those compacts which the
police are often obliged to conclude in order to gain their ends. The
compact was concluded, and no more was said upon the subject.
"Do you want any particulars of me?" asked the Prefect of Police.
"Yes, Monsieur le Prefet. The papers spoke of a notebook found in poor
Inspector Verot's pocket. Did the notebook contain a clue of any kind?"
"No. Personal notes, lists of disbursements, that's all. Wait, I was
forgetting, there was a photograph of a woman, about which I have not yet
been able to obtain the least information. Besides, I don't suppose that
it bears upon the case and I have not sent it to the newspapers. Look,
here it is."
Perenna took the photograph which the Prefect handed him and gave a start
that did not escape M. Desmalions's eye.
"Do you know the lady?"
"No. No, Monsieur le Prefet. I thought I did; but no, there's merely a
resemblance--a family likeness, which I will verify if you can leave the
photograph with me till this evening."
"Till this evening, yes. When you have done with it, give it back to
Sergeant Mazeroux, whom I will order to work in concert with you in
everything that relates to the Mornington case."
The interview was now over. The Prefect went away. Don Luis saw him to
the door. As M. Desmalions was about to go down the steps, he turned and
"You saved my life this morning. But for you, that scoundrel Sauverand--"
"Oh, Monsieur le Prefet!" said Don Luis, modestly protesting.
"Yes, I know, you are in the habit of doing that sort of thing. All the
same, you must accept my thanks."
And the Prefect of Police made a bow such as he would really have made to
Don Luis Perenna, the Spanish noble, the hero of the Foreign Legion. As
for Weber, he put his two hands in his pockets, walked past with the look
of a muzzled mastiff, and gave his enemy a glance of fierce hatred.
"By Jupiter!" thought Don Luis. "There's a fellow who won't miss me when
he gets the chance to shoot!"
Looking through a window, he saw M. Desmalions's motor car drive off. The
detectives fell in behind the deputy chief and left the Place du
Palais-Bourbon. The siege was raised.
"And now to work!" said Don Luis. "My hands are free, and we shall make
He called the butler.
"Serve lunch; and ask Mlle. Levasseur to come and speak to me
He went to the dining-room and sat down, placing on the table the
photograph which M. Desmalions had left behind; and, bending over it, he
examined it attentively. It was a little faded, a little worn, as
photographs have a tendency to become when they lie about in pocket-books
or among papers; but the picture was quite clear. It was the radiant
picture of a young woman in evening dress, with bare arms and shoulders,
with flowers and leaves in her hair and a smile upon her face.
"Mlle. Levasseur, Mlle. Levasseur," he said. "Is it possible!"
In a corner was a half-obliterated and hardly visible signature. He made
out, "Florence," the girl's name, no doubt. And he repeated:
"Mlle. Levasseur, Florence Levasseur. How did her photograph come to be
in Inspector Verot's pocket-book? And what is the connection between
this adventure and the reader of the Hungarian count from whom I took
over the house?"
He remembered the incident of the iron curtain. He remembered the article
in the _Echo de France_, an article aimed against him, of which he had
found the rough draft in his own courtyard. And, above all, he thought of
the problem of that broken walking-stick conveyed into his study.
And, while his mind was striving to read these events clearly, while he
tried to settle the part played by Mlle. Levasseur, his eyes remained
fixed upon the photograph and he gazed absent-mindedly at the pretty
lines of the mouth, the charming smile, the graceful curve of the neck,
the admirable sweep of the shoulders.
The door opened suddenly and Mlle. Levasseur burst into the room.
Perenna, who had dismissed the butler, was raising to his lips a glass of
water which he had just filled for himself. She sprang forward, seized
his arm, snatched the glass from him and flung it on the carpet, where it
smashed to pieces.
"Have you drunk any of it? Have you drunk any of it?" she gasped, in a
"No, not yet. Why?"
"The water in that bottle ... the water in that bottle--"
He leapt from his chair and, in his turn, gripped her arm fiercely:
"What's that? Poisoned! Are you certain? Speak!"
In spite of his usual self-control, he was this time thoroughly alarmed.
Knowing the terrible effects of the poison employed by the miscreants
whom he was attacking, recalling the corpse of Inspector Verot, the
corpses of Hippolyte Fauville and his son, he knew that, trained though
he was to resist comparatively large doses of poison, he could not have
escaped the deadly action of this. It was a poison that did not forgive,
that killed, surely and fatally.
The girl was silent. He raised his voice in command:
"Answer me! Are you certain?"
"No ... it was an idea that entered my head--a presentiment ... certain
It was as though she regretted her words and now tried to withdraw them.
"Come, come," he cried, "I want to know the truth: You're not certain
that the water in this bottle is poisoned?"
"No ... it's possible--"
"Still, just now--"
"I thought so. But no ... no!"
"It's easy to make sure," said Perenna, putting out his hand for the
She was quicker than he, seized it and, with one blow, broke it against
"What are you doing?" he said angrily.
"I made a mistake. And so there is no need to attach any importance--"
Don Luis hurriedly left the dining-room. By his orders, the water which
he drank was drawn from a filter that stood in a pantry at the end of the
passage leading from the dining-room to the kitchens and beyond. He ran
to it and took from a shelf a bowl which he filled with water from the
filter. Then, continuing to follow the passage, which at this spot
branched off toward the yard, he called Mirza, the puppy, who was playing
by the stables.
"Here," he said, putting the bowl in front of her.
The puppy began to drink. But she stopped almost at once and stood
motionless, with her paws tense and stiff. A shiver passed through the
little body. The dog gave a hoarse groan, spun round two or three
times, and fell.
"She's dead," he said, after touching the animal.
Mile. Levasseur had joined him. He turned to her and rapped out:
"You were right about the poison--and you knew it. How did you know it?"
All out of breath, she checked the beating of her heart and answered:
"I saw the other puppy drinking in the pantry. She's dead. I told the
coachman and the chauffeur. They're over there, in the stable. And I ran
to warn you."
"In that case, there was no doubt about it. Why did you say that you were
not certain that the water was poisoned, when--"
The chauffeur and the coachman were coming out of the stables. Leading
the girl away, Perenna said:
"We must talk about this. We'll go to your rooms."
They went back to the bend in the passage. Near the pantry where the
filter was, another passage ran, ending in a flight of three steps, with
a door at the top of the steps. Perenna opened this door. It was the
entrance to the rooms occupied by Mlle. Levasseur. They went into a
Don Luis closed the entrance door and the door of the sitting-room.
"And now," he said, in a resolute tone, "you and I will have an
SHAKESPEARE'S WORKS, VOLUME VIII
Two lodges, belonging to the same old-time period as the house itself,
stood at the extreme right and left of the low wall that separated the
front courtyard from the Place du Palais-Bourbon. These lodges were
joined to the main building, situated at the back of the courtyard, by a
series of outhouses. On one side were the coach-houses, stables,
harness-rooms, and garage, with the porter's lodge at the end; on the
other side, the wash-houses, kitchens, and offices, ending in the lodge
occupied by Mlle. Levasseur.
This lodge had only a ground floor, consisting of a dark entrance hall
and one large room, most of which served as a sitting-room, while the
rest, arranged as a bedroom, was really only a sort of alcove. A curtain
hid the bed and wash-hand-stand. There were two windows looking out on
the Place du Palais-Bourbon.
It was the first time that Don Luis had set foot in Mlle. Levasseur's
room. Engrossed though he was with other matters, he felt its charm. It
was very simply furnished: some old mahogany chairs and armchairs, a
plain, Empire writing-table, a round table with one heavy, massive leg,
and some book-shelves. But the bright colour of the linen curtains
enlivened the room. On the walls hung reproductions of famous pictures,
drawings of sunny buildings and landscapes, Italian villas, Sicilian
The girl remained standing. She had resumed her composure, and her face
had taken on the enigmatical expression so difficult to fathom,
especially as she had assumed a deliberate air of dejection, which
Perenna guessed was intended to hide her excitement and alertness,
together with the tumultuous feelings which even she had great difficulty
Her eyes looked neither timorous nor defiant. It really seemed as though
she had nothing to fear from the explanation.
Don Luis kept silent for some little time. It was strange and it annoyed
him to feel it, but he experienced a certain embarrassment in the
presence of this woman, against whom he was inwardly bringing the most
serious charges. And, not daring to put them into words, not daring to
say plainly what he thought, he began:
"You know what happened in this house this morning?"
"Yes, when I had finished speaking on the telephone."
"I know now. I heard it from the servants, from the butler."
"How could I have known earlier?"
She was lying. It was impossible that she should be speaking the truth.
And yet in what a calm voice she had replied!
He went on:
"I will tell you, in a few words, what happened. I was leaving the
telephone box, when the iron curtain, concealed in the upper part of
the wall, fell in front of me. After making sure that there was nothing
to be done, I simply resolved, as I had the telephone by me, to call in
the assistance of one of my friends. I rang up Major d'Astrignac. He
came at once and, with the help of the butler, let me out. Is that what
"Yes, Monsieur. I had gone to my room, which explains why I knew nothing
of the incident or of Major d'Astrignac's visit."
"Very well. It appears, however, from what I learned when I was released,
that the butler and, for that matter, everybody in the house, including
yourself, knew of the existence of that iron curtain."
"And how did you know it?"
"Through Baron Malonyi. He told me that, during the Revolution, his
great-grandmother, on the mother's side, who then occupied this house and
whose husband was guillotined, remained hidden in that recess for
thirteen months. At that time the curtain was covered with woodwork
similar to that of the room."
"It's a pity that I wasn't informed of it, for, after all, I was very
nearly crushed to death."
This possibility did not seem to move the girl. She said:
"It would be a good thing to look at the mechanism and see why it became
unfastened. It's all very old and works badly."
"The mechanism works perfectly. I tested it. An accident is not enough to
account for it."
"Who could have done it, if it was not an accident?"
"Some enemy whom I am unable to name."
"He would have been seen."
"There was only one person who could have seen him--yourself. You
happened to pass through my study as I was telephoning and I heard your
exclamation of fright at the news about Mme. Fauville."
"Yes, it gave me a shock. I pity the woman so very much, whether she is
guilty or not."
"And, as you were close to the arch, with your hand within reach of the
spring, the presence of an evildoer would not have escaped your notice."
She did not lower her eyes. A slight flush overspread her face,
and she said:
"Yes, I should at least have met him, for, from what I gather, I went out
a few seconds before the accident."
"Quite so," he said. "But what is so curious and unlikely is that you did
not hear the loud noise of the curtain falling, nor my shouts and all the
uproar I created."
"I must have closed the door of the study by that time. I heard nothing."
"Then I am bound to presume that there was some one hidden in my study at
that moment, and that this person is a confederate of the ruffians who
committed the two murders on the Boulevard Suchet; for the Prefect of
Police has just discovered under the cushions of my sofa the half of a
walking-stick belonging to one of those ruffians."
She wore an air of great surprise. This new incident seemed really to be
quite unknown to her. He came nearer and, looking her straight in the
"You must at least admit that it's strange."
"This series of events, all directed against me. Yesterday, that draft of
a letter which I found in the courtyard--the draft of the article
published in the _Echo de France_. This morning, first the crash of the
iron curtain just as I was passing under it, next, the discovery of that
walking-stick, and then, a moment ago, the poisoned water bottle--"
She nodded her head and murmured:
"Yes, yes--there is an array of facts--"
"An array of facts so significant," he said, completing her sentence
meaningly, "as to remove the least shadow of doubt. I can feel absolutely
certain of the immediate intervention of my most ruthless and daring
enemy. His presence here is proved. He is ready to act at any moment. His
object is plain," explained Don Luis. "By means of the anonymous article,
by means of that half of the walking-stick, he meant to compromise me and
have me arrested. By the fall of the curtain he meant to kill me or at
least to keep me imprisoned for some hours. And now it's poison, the
cowardly poison which kills by stealth, which they put in my water to-day
and which they will put in my food to-morrow. And next it will be the
dagger and then the revolver and then the rope, no matter which, so long
as I disappear; for that is what they want: to get rid of me.
"I am the adversary, I am the man they're afraid of, the man who will
discover the secret one day and pocket the millions which they're after.
I am the interloper. I stand mounting guard over the Mornington
inheritance. It's my turn to suffer. Four victims are dead already. I
shall be the fifth. So Gaston Sauverand has decided: Gaston Sauverand or
some one else who's managing the business."
Perenna's eyes narrowed.
"The accomplice is here, in this house, in the midst of everything, by my
side. He is lying in wait for me. He is following every step I take. He
is living in my shadow. He is waiting for the time and place to strike
me. Well, I have had enough of it. I want to know, I will know, and I
shall know. Who is he?"
The girl had moved back a little way and was leaning against the round
table. He took another step forward and, with his eyes still fixed on
hers, looking in that immobile face for a quivering sign of fear or
anxiety, he repeated, with greater violence:
"Who is the accomplice? Who in the house has sworn to take my life?"
"I don't know," she said, "I don't know. Perhaps there is no plot, as you
think, but just a series of chance coincidences--"
He felt inclined to say to her, with his habit of adopting a familiar
tone toward those whom he regarded as his adversaries:
"You're lying, dearie, you're lying. The accomplice is yourself, my
beauty. You alone overheard my conversation on the telephone with
Mazeroux, you alone can have gone to Gaston Sauverand's assistance,
waited for him in a motor at the corner of the boulevard, and arranged
with him to bring the top half of the walking-stick here. You're the
beauty that wants to kill me, for some reason which I do not know. The
hand that strikes me in the dark is yours, sweetheart."
But it was impossible for him to treat her in this fashion; and he was so
much exasperated at not being able to proclaim his certainty in words of
anger and indignation that he took her fingers and twisted them
violently, while his look and his whole attitude accused the girl even
more forcibly than the bitterest words.
He mastered himself and released his grip. The girl freed herself with a
quick movement, indicating repulsion and hatred. Don Luis said:
"Very well. I will question the servants. If necessary I shall dismiss
any whom I suspect."
"No, don't do that," she said eagerly. "You mustn't. I know them all."
Was she going to defend them? Was she yielding to a scruple of conscience
at the moment when her obstinacy and duplicity were on the point of
causing her to sacrifice a set of servants whose conduct she knew to be
beyond reproach? Don Luis received the impression that the glance which
she threw at him contained an appeal for pity. But pity for whom? For the
others? Or for herself?
They were silent for a long time. Don Luis, standing a few steps away
from her, thought of the photograph, and was surprised to find in the
real woman all the beauty of the portrait, all that beauty which he had
not observed hitherto, but which now struck him as a revelation. The
golden hair shone with a brilliancy unknown to him. The mouth wore a less
happy expression, perhaps, a rather bitter expression, but one which