Part 5 out of 9
perhaps it was better so, that society itself should punish the two
criminals whom he was about to hand over to it.
He shut the door, pushed the bolt, faced his two prisoners again and,
taking a chair, said to Sauverand:
"Let us talk."
Owing to the narrow dimensions of the room they were all so close
together that Don Luis felt as if he were almost touching the man whom he
loathed from the very bottom of his heart. Their two chairs were hardly a
yard asunder. A long table, covered with books, stood between them and
the windows, which, hollowed out of the very thick wall, formed a recess,
as is usual in old houses.
Florence had turned her chair away from the light, and Don Luis could not
see her face clearly. But he looked straight into Gaston Sauverand's face
and watched it with eager curiosity; and his anger was heightened by the
sight of the still youthful features, the expressive mouth, and the
intelligent eyes, which were fine in spite of their hardness.
"Well? Speak!" said Don Luis, in a commanding tone. "I have agreed to a
truce, but a momentary truce, just long enough to say what is necessary.
Are you afraid now that the time has arrived? Do you regret the step
which you have taken?"
The man smiled calmly and said:
"I am afraid of nothing, and I do not regret coming, for I have a very
strong intuition that we can, that we are bound to, come to an
"An understanding!" protested Don Luis with a start.
"A compact! An alliance between you and me!"
"Why not? It is a thought which I had already entertained more than once,
which took a more precise shape in the magistrates' corridor, and which
finally decided me when I read the announcement which you caused to be
made in the special edition of this paper: 'Sensational declaration by
Don Luis Perenna. Mme. Fauville is innocent!'"
Gaston Sauverand half rose from his chair and, carefully picking his
words, emphasizing them with sharp gestures, he whispered:
"Everything lies, Monsieur, in those four words. Do those four words
which you have written, which you have uttered publicly and
solemnly--'Mme. Fauville is innocent'--do they express your real mind? Do
you now absolutely believe in Marie Fauville's innocence?"
Don Luis shrugged his shoulders.
"Mme. Fauville's innocence has nothing to do with the case. It is a
question not of her, but of you, of you two and myself. So come straight
to the point and as quickly as you can. It is to your interest even more
than to mine."
"To our interest?"
"You forget the third heading to the article," cried Don Luis. "I did
more than proclaim Marie Fauville's innocence. I also announced--read for
yourself--The 'imminent arrest of the criminals,'"
Sauverand and Florence rose together, with the same unguarded movement.
"And, in your view, the criminals are--?" asked Sauverand.
"Why, you know as well as I do: they are the man with the ebony
walking-stick, who at any rate cannot deny having murdered Chief
Inspector Ancenis, and the woman who is his accomplice in all his crimes.
Both of them must remember their attempts to assassinate me: the revolver
shot on the Boulevard Suchet; the motor smash causing the death of my
chauffeur; and yesterday again, in the barn--you know where--the barn
with the two skeletons hanging from the rafters: yesterday--you
remember--the scythe, the relentless scythe, which nearly beheaded me."
"Well, then, the game is lost. You must pay up; and all the more so as
you have foolishly put your heads into the lion's mouth."
"I don't understand. What does all this mean?"
"It simply means that they know Florence Levasseur, that they know you
are both here, that the house is surrounded, and that Weber, the deputy
chief detective, is on his way."
Sauverand appeared disconcerted by this unexpected threat. Florence,
standing beside him, had turned livid. A mad anguish distorted her
features. She stammered:
"Oh, it is awful! No, no, I can't endure it!"
And, rushing at Don Luis:
"Coward! Coward! It's you who are betraying us! Coward! Oh, I knew that
you were capable of the meanest treachery! There you stand like an
executioner! Oh, you villain, you coward!"
She fell into her chair, exhausted and sobbing, with her hand to her
Don Luis turned away. Strange to say, he experienced no sense of pity;
and Florence's tears affected him no more than her insults had done, no
more than if he had never loved the girl. He was glad of this release.
The horror with which she filled him had killed his love.
But, when he once more stood in front of them after taking a few steps
across the room, he saw that they were holding each other's hands, like
two friends in distress, trying to give each other courage; and, again
yielding to a sudden impulse of hatred, for a moment beside himself, he
gripped the man's arm:
"I forbid you--By what right--? Is she your wife? Your mistress? Then--"
His voice became perplexed. He himself felt the strangeness of that fit
of anger which suddenly revealed, in all its force and all its blindness,
a passion which he thought dead. And he blushed, for Gaston Sauverand was
looking at him in amazement; and he did not doubt that the enemy had
penetrated his secret.
A long pause followed, during which he met Florence's eyes, hostile eyes,
full of rebellion and disdain. Had she, too, guessed?
He dared not speak another word. He waited for Sauverand's explanation.
And, while waiting, he gave not a thought to the coming revelations, nor
to the tremendous problems of which he was at last about to know the
solution, nor to the tragic events at hand.
He thought of one thing only, thought of it with the fevered throbbing of
his whole being, thought of what he was on the point of learning about
Florence, about the girl's affections, about her past, about her love for
Sauverand. That alone interested him.
"Very well," said Sauverand. "I am caught in a trap. Fate must take its
course. Nevertheless, can I speak to you? It is the only wish that
remains to me."
"Speak," replied Don Luis. "The door is locked. I shall not open it until
I think fit. Speak."
"I shall be brief," said Gaston Sauverand. "For one thing, what I can
tell you is not much. I do not ask you to believe it, but to listen to it
as if I were possibly telling the truth, the whole truth."
And he expressed himself in the following words:
"I never met Hippolyte and Marie Fauville, though I used to correspond
with them--you will remember that we were all cousins--until five
years ago, when chance brought us together at Palmero. They were
passing the winter there while their new house on the Boulevard Suchet
was being built.
"We spent five months at Palmero, seeing one another daily. Hippolyte and
Marie were not on the best of terms. One evening after they had been
quarrelling more violently than usual I found her crying. Her tears upset
me and I could not longer conceal my secret. I had loved Marie from the
first moment when we met. I was to love her always and to love her more
"You lie!" cried Don Luis, losing his self-restraint. "I saw the two of
you yesterday in the train that brought you back from Alencon--"
Gaston Sauverand looked at Florence. She sat silent, with her hands to
her face and her elbows on her knees. Without replying to Don Luis's
exclamation, he went on:
"Marie also loved me. She admitted it, but made me swear that I would
never try to obtain from her more than the purest friendship would allow.
I kept my oath. We enjoyed a few weeks of incomparable happiness.
Hippolyte Fauville, who had become enamoured of a music-hall singer, was
"I took a good deal of trouble with the physical training of the little
boy Edmond, whose health was not what it should be. And we also had with
us, between us, the best of friends, the most devoted and affectionate
counsellor, who staunched our wounds, kept up our courage, restored our
gayety, and bestowed some of her own strength and dignity upon our love.
Florence was there."
Don Luis felt his heart beating faster. Not that he attached the least
credit to Gaston Sauverand's words; but he had every hope of arriving,
through those words, at the real truth. Perhaps, also, he was
unconsciously undergoing the influence of Gaston Sauverand, whose
apparent frankness and sincerity of tone caused him a certain surprise.
"Fifteen years before, my elder brother, Raoul Sauverand, had picked up
at Buenos Aires, where he had gone to live, a little girl, the orphan
daughter of some friends. At his death he entrusted the child, who was
then fourteen, to an old nurse who had brought me up and who had
accompanied my brother to South America. The old nurse brought the child
to me and herself died of an accident a few days after her arrival in
France.... I took the little girl to Italy to friends, where she worked
and studied and became--what she is.
"Wishing to live by her own resources, she accepted a position as teacher
in a family. Later I recommended her to my Fauville cousins with whom I
found her at Palmero as governess to the boy Edmond and especially as the
friend, the dear and devoted friend, of Marie Fauville.... She was mine,
also, at that happy time, which was so sunny and all too short. Our
happiness, in fact--the happiness of all three of us--was to be wrecked
in the most sudden and tantalizing fashion.
"Every evening I used to write in a diary the daily life of my love, an
uneventful life, without hope or future before it, but eager and radiant.
Marie Fauville was extolled in it as a goddess. Kneeling down to write, I
sang litanies of her beauty, and I also used to invent, as a poor
compensation, wholly imaginary scenes, in which she said all the things
which she might have said but did not, and promised me all the happiness
which we had voluntarily renounced.
"Hippolyte Fauville found the diary.... His anger was something terrible.
His first impulse was to get rid of Marie. But in the face of his wife's
attitude, of the proofs of her innocence which she supplied, of her
inflexible refusal to consent to a divorce, and of her promise never to
see me again, he recovered his calmness.... I left, with death in my
soul. Florence left, too, dismissed. And never, mark me, never, since
that fatal hour, did I exchange a single word with Marie. But an
indestructible love united us, a love which neither absence nor time was
He stopped for a moment, as though to read in Don Luis's face the effect
produced by his story. Don Luis did not conceal his anxious attention.
What astonished him most was Gaston Sauverand's extraordinary calmness,
the peaceful expression of his eyes, the quiet ease with which he set
forth, without hurrying, almost slowly and so very simply, the story of
that family tragedy.
"What an actor!" he thought.
And as he thought it, he remembered that Marie Fauville had given him the
same impression. Was he then to hark back to his first conviction and
believe Marie guilty, a dissembler like her accomplice, a dissembler like
Florence? Or was he to attribute a certain honesty to that man?
"Afterward I travelled about. I resumed my life of work and pursued my
studies wherever I went, in my bedroom at the hotels, and in the public
laboratories of the big towns."
"And Mme. Fauville?"
"She lived in Paris in her new house. Neither she nor her husband ever
referred to the past."
"How do you know? Did she write to you?"
"No. Marie is a woman who does not do her duty by halves; and her sense
of duty is strict to excess. She never wrote to me. But Florence, who had
accepted a place as secretary and reader to Count Malonyi, your
predecessor in this house, used often to receive Marie's visits in her
"They did not speak of me once, did they, Florence? Marie would not have
allowed it. But all her life and all her soul were nothing but love and
passionate memories. Isn't that so, Florence?
"At last," he went on slowly, "weary of being so far away from her, I
returned to Paris. That was our undoing.... It was about a year ago. I
took a flat in the Avenue du Roule and went to it in the greatest
secrecy, so that Hippolyte Fauville might not know of my return. I was
afraid of disturbing Marie's peace of mind. Florence alone knew, and came
to see me from time to time. I went out little, only after dark, and in
the most secluded parts of the Bois. But it happened--for our most heroic
resolutions sometimes fail us--one Wednesday night, at about eleven
o'clock, my steps led me to the Boulevard Suchet, without my noticing it,
and I went past Marie's house.
"It was a warm and fine night and, as luck would have it, Marie was at
her window. She saw me, I was sure of it, and knew me; and my happiness
was so great that my legs shook under me as I walked away.
"After that I passed in front of her house every Wednesday evening; and
Marie was nearly always there, giving me this unhoped-for and ever-new
delight, in spite of the fact that her social duties, her quite natural
love of amusement, and her husband's position obliged her to go out a
"Quick! Why can't you hurry?" said Don Luis, urged by his longing to know
more. "Look sharp and come to the facts. Speak!"
He had become suddenly afraid lest he should not hear the remainder of
the explanation; and he suddenly perceived that Gaston Sauverand's words
were making their way into his mind as words that were perhaps not
untrue. Though he strove to fight against them, they were stronger than
his prejudices and triumphed over his arguments.
The fact is, that deep down in his soul, tortured with love and jealousy,
there was something that disposed him to believe this man in whom
hitherto he had seen only a hated rival, and who was so loudly
proclaiming, in Florence's very presence, his love for Marie.
"Hurry!" he repeated. "Every minute is precious!"
Sauverand shook his head.
"I shall not hurry. All my words were carefully thought out before I
decided to speak. Every one of them is essential. Not one of them can be
omitted, for you will find the solution of the problem not in facts
presented anyhow, separated one from the other, but in the concatenation
of the facts, and in a story told as faithfully as possible."
"Why? I don't understand."
"Because the truth lies hidden in that story."
"But that truth is your innocence, isn't it?"
"It is Marie's innocence."
"But I don't dispute it!"
"What is the use of that if you can't prove it?"
"Exactly! It's for you to give me proofs."
"I have none."
"I tell you, I have no proof of what I am asking you to believe."
"Then I shall not believe it!" cried Don Luis angrily. "No, and again no!
Unless you supply me with the most convincing proofs, I shall refuse to
believe a single word of what you are going to tell me."
"You have believed everything that I have told you so far," Sauverand
retorted very simply.
Don Luis offered no denial. He turned his eyes to Florence Levasseur; and
it seemed to him that she was looking at him with less aversion, and as
though she were wishing with all her might that he would not resist the
impressions that were forcing themselves upon him. He muttered:
"Go on with your story."
And there was something really strange about the attitude of those two
men, one making his explanation in precise terms and in such a way as to
give every word its full value, the other listening attentively and
weighing every one of those words; both controlling their excitement;
both as calm in appearance as though they were seeking the philosophical
solution in a case of conscience. What was going on outside did not
matter. What was to happen presently did not count.
Before all, whatever the consequences of their inactivity at this moment
when the circle of the police was closing in around them, before all it
was necessary that one should speak and the other listen.
"We are coming," said Sauverand, in his grave voice, "we are coming to
the most important events, to those of which the interpretation, which is
new to you, but strictly true, will make you believe in our good faith.
Ill luck having brought me across Hippolyte Fauville's path in the course
of one of my walks in the Bois, I took the precaution of changing my
abode and went to live in the little house on the Boulevard
Richard-Wallace, where Florence came to see me several times.
"I was even careful to keep her visits a secret and, moreover, to refrain
from corresponding with her except through the _poste restante_. I was
therefore quite easy in my mind.
"I worked in perfect solitude and in complete security. I expected
nothing. No danger, no possibility of danger, threatened us. And, I may
say, to use a commonplace but very accurate expression, that what
happened came as an absolute bolt from the blue. I heard at the same
time, when the Prefect of Police and his men broke into my house and
proceeded to arrest me, I heard at the same time and for the first time
of the murder of Hippolyte Fauville, the murder of Edmond, and the arrest
of my adored Marie."
"Impossible!" cried Don Luis, in a renewed tone of aggressive wrath.
"Impossible! Those facts were a fortnight old. I cannot allow that you
had not heard of them."
"Through the papers," exclaimed Don Luis. "And, more certainly still,
through Mlle. Levasseur."
"Through the papers?" said Sauverand. "I never used to read them. What!
Is that incredible? Are we under an obligation, an inevitable necessity,
to waste half an hour a day in skimming through the futilities of
politics and the piffle of the news columns? Is your imagination
incapable of conceiving a man who reads nothing but reviews and
"The fact is rare, I admit," he continued. "But the rarity of a fact is
no proof against it. On the other hand, on the very morning of the crime
I had written to Florence saying that I was going away for three weeks
and bidding her good-bye. I changed my mind at the last moment; but this
she did not know; and, thinking that I had gone, not knowing where I was,
she was unable to inform me of the crime, of Marie's arrest, or, later,
when an accusation was brought against the man with the ebony
walking-stick, of the search that was being made for me."
"Exactly!" declared Don Luis. "You cannot pretend that the man with the
ebony walking-stick, the man who followed Inspector Verot to the Cafe du
Pont-Neuf and purloined his letter--"
"I am not the man," Sauverand interrupted.
And, when Don Luis shrugged his shoulders, he insisted, in a more
forcible tone of voice:
"I am not that man. There is some inexplicable mistake in all this, but I
have never set foot in the Cafe du Pont-Neuf. I swear it. You must accept
this statement as positively true. Besides, it agrees entirely with the
retired life which I was leading from necessity and from choice. And, I
repeat, I knew nothing.
"The thunderbolt was unexpected. And it was precisely for this reason,
you must understand, that the shock produced in me an equally unexpected
reaction, a state of mind diametrically opposed to my real nature, an
outburst of my most savage and primitive instincts. Remember, Monsieur,
that they had laid hands upon what to me was the most sacred thing on
earth. Marie was in prison. Marie was accused of committing two
murders!... I went mad.
"At first controlling myself, playing a part with the Prefect of Police,
then overthrowing every obstacle, shooting Chief Inspector Ancenis,
shaking off Sergeant Mazeroux, jumping from the window, I had only one
thought in my head--that of escape. Once free, I should save Marie. Were
there people in my way? So much the worse for them.
"By what right did those people dare to attack the most blameless of
women? I killed only one man that day! I would have killed ten! I would
have killed twenty! What was Chief Inspector Ancenis's life to me? What
cared I for the lives of any of those wretches? They stood between Marie
and myself; and Marie was in prison!"
Gaston Sauverand made an effort which contracted every muscle of his face
to recover the coolness that was gradually leaving him. He succeeded in
doing so, but his voice, nevertheless, remained tremulous, and the fever
with which he was consumed shook his frame in a manner which he was
unable to conceal.
"At the corner of the street down which I turned after outdistancing the
Prefect's men on the Boulevard Richard-Wallace, Florence saved me just as
I believed that all was lost. Florence had known everything for a
fortnight past. She learnt the news of the double murder from the papers,
those papers which she used to read out to you, and which you discussed
with her. And it was by being with you, by listening to you, that she
acquired the opinion which everything that happened tended to confirm:
the opinion that Marie's enemy, her only enemy, was yourself."
"But why? Why?"
"Because she saw you at work," exclaimed Sauverand, "because it was more
to your interest than to that of any one else that first Marie and then I
should not come between you and the Mornington inheritance, and lastly--"
Gaston Sauverand hesitated and then said, plainly:
"Lastly, because she knew your real name beyond a doubt, and because she
felt that Arsene Lupin was capable of anything."
They were both silent; and their silence, at such a moment, was
impressive to a degree. Florence remained impassive under Don Luis
Perenna's gaze; and he was unable to discern on her sealed face any of
the feelings with which she must needs be stirred.
Gaston Sauverand continued:
"It was against Arsene Lupin, therefore, that Florence, Marie's terrified
friend, engaged in the struggle. It was to unmask Lupin that she wrote or
rather inspired the article of which you found the original in a ball of
string. It was Lupin whom she spied upon, day by day, in this house. It
was Lupin whom she heard one morning telephoning to Sergeant Mazeroux and
rejoicing in my imminent arrest. It was to save me from Lupin that she
let down the iron curtain in front of him, at the risk of an accident,
and took a taxi to the corner of the Boulevard Richard-Wallace, where she
arrived too late to warn me, as the detectives had already entered my
house, but in time to screen me from their pursuit.
"Her mistrust and terror-stricken hatred of you were told to me in an
instant," Sauverand declared. "During the twenty minutes which we
employed in throwing our assailants off the scent, she hurriedly sketched
the main lines of the business and described to me in a few words the
leading part which you were playing in it; and we then and there prepared
a counter-attack upon you, so that you might be suspected of complicity.
"While I was sending a message to the Prefect of Police, Florence went
home and hid under the cushions of your sofa the end of the stick
which I had kept in my hand without thinking. It was an ineffective
parry and missed its aim. But the fight had begun; and I threw myself
into it headlong.
"Monsieur, to understand my actions thoroughly, you must remember that I
was a student, a man leading a solitary life, but also an ardent lover. I
would have spent all my life in work, asking no more from fate than to
see Marie at her window from time to time at night. But, once she was
being persecuted, another man arose within me, a man of action, bungling,
certainly, and inexperienced, but a man who was ready to stick at
nothing, and who, not knowing how to save Marie Fauville, had no other
object before him than to do away with that enemy of Marie's to whom he
was entitled to ascribe all the misfortunes that had befallen the woman
he loved.... This started the series of my attempts upon your life.
Brought into your house, concealed in Florence's own rooms, I
tried--unknown to her: that I swear--to poison you."
He paused for an instant to mark the effect of his words, then went on:
"Her reproaches, her abhorrence of such an act, would perhaps have moved
me, but, I repeat, I was mad, quite mad; and your death seemed to me to
imply Marie's safety. And, one morning, on the Boulevard Suchet, where I
had followed you, I fired a revolver at you.
"The same evening your motor car, tampered with by myself--remember,
Florence's rooms are close to the garage--carried you, I hoped, to your
death, together with Sergeant Mazeroux, your confederate.... That time
again you escaped my vengeance. But an innocent man, the chauffeur who
drove you, paid for you with his life; and Florence's despair was such
that I had to yield to her entreaties and lay down my arms.
"I myself, terrified by what I had done, shattered by the remembrance of
my two victims, changed my plans and thought only of saving Marie by
contriving her escape from prison....
"I am a rich man. I lavished money upon Marie's warders, without,
however, revealing my intentions. I entered into relations with the
prison tradesmen and the staff of the infirmary. And every day, having
procured a card of admission as a law reporter, I went to the law courts,
to the examining magistrates' corridor, where I hoped to meet Marie, to
encourage her with a look, a gesture, perhaps to slip a few words of
comfort into her hand...."
Sauverand moved closer to Don Luis.
"Her martyrdom continued. You struck her a most terrible blow with that
mysterious business of Hippolyte Fauville's letters. What did those
letters mean? Where did they come from? Were we not entitled to
attribute the whole plot to you, to you who introduced them into the
"Florence watched you, I may say, night and day. We sought for a clue, a
glimmer of light in the darkness.... Well, yesterday morning, Florence
saw Sergeant Mazeroux arrive. She could not overhear what he said to you,
but she caught the name of a certain Langernault and the name of Damigni,
the village where Langernault lived. She remembered that old friend of
Hippolyte Fauville's. Were the letters not addressed to him and was it
not in search of him that you were going off in the motor with Sergeant
"Half an hour later we were in the train for Alencon. A carriage took us
from the station to just outside Damigni, where we made our inquiries
with every possible precaution. On learning what you must also know, that
Langernault was dead, we resolved to visit his place, and we had
succeeded in effecting an entrance when Florence saw you in the grounds.
Wishing at all costs to avoid a meeting between you and myself, she
dragged me across the lawn and behind the bushes. You followed us,
however, and when a barn appeared in sight she pushed one of the doors
which half opened and let us through. We managed to slip quickly through
the lumber in the dark and knocked up against a ladder. This we climbed
and reached a loft in which we took shelter. You entered at that
"You know the rest: how you discovered the two hanging skeletons; how
your attention was drawn to us by an imprudent movement of Florence; your
attack, to which I replied by brandishing the first weapon with which
chance provided me; lastly, our flight through the window in the roof,
under the fire of your revolver. We were free. But in the evening, in the
train, Florence fainted. While bringing her to I perceived that one of
your bullets had wounded her in the shoulder. The wound was slight and
did not hurt her, but it was enough to increase the extreme tension of
her nerves. When you saw us--at Le Mans station wasn't it?--she was
asleep, with her head on my shoulder."
Don Luis had not once interrupted the latter part of this narrative,
which was told in a more and more agitated voice and quickened by an
accent of profound truth. Thanks to a superhuman effort of attention, he
noted Sauverand's least words and actions in his mind. And as these words
were uttered and these actions performed, he received the impression of
another woman who rose up beside the real Florence, a woman unspotted and
innocent of all the shame which he had attributed to her on the strength
Nevertheless, he did not yet give in. How could Florence possibly be
innocent? No, no, the evidence of his eyes, which had seen, and the
evidence of his reason, which had judged, both rebelled against any such
He would not admit that Florence could suddenly be different from what
she really was to him: a crafty, cunning, cruel, blood-thirsty monster.
No, no, the man was lying with infernal cleverness. He put things with a
skill amounting to genius, until it was no longer possible to
differentiate between the false and the true, or to distinguish the light
from the darkness.
He was lying! He was lying! And yet how sweet were the lies he told! How
beautiful was that imaginary Florence, the Florence compelled by destiny
to commit acts which she loathed, but free of all crime, free of remorse,
humane and pitiful, with her clear eyes and her snow-white hands! And how
good it was to yield to this fantastic dream!
Gaston Sauverand was watching the face of his former enemy. Standing
close to Don Luis, his features lit up with the expression of
feelings and passions which he no longer strove to check, he asked,
in a low voice:
"You believe me, don't you?"
"No, I don't," said Perenna, hardening himself to resist the man's
"You must!" cried Sauverand, with a fierce outburst of violence. "You
must believe in the strength of my love. It is the cause of everything.
My hatred for you comes only from my love. Marie is my life. If she were
dead, there would be nothing for me to do but die. Oh, this morning, when
I read in the papers that the poor woman had opened her veins--and
through your fault, after Hippolyte's letters accusing her--I did not
want to kill you so much as to inflict upon you the most barbarous
tortures! My poor Marie, what a martyrdom she must be enduring!...
"As you were not back, Florence and I wandered about all morning to have
news of her: first around the prison, next to the police office and the
law courts. And it was there, in the magistrates' corridor, that I saw
you. At that moment you were mentioning Marie Fauville's name to a number
of journalists; and you told them that Marie Fauville was innocent; and
you informed them of the evidence which you possessed in Marie's favour!
"My hatred ceased then and there, Monsieur. In one second the enemy had
become the ally, the master to whom one kneels. So you had had the
wonderful courage to repudiate all your work and to devote yourself to
Marie's rescue! I ran off, trembling with joy and hope, and, as I joined
Florence, I shouted, 'Marie is saved! He proclaims her innocent! I must
see him and speak to him!'...
"We came back here. Florence refused to lay down her arms and begged me
not to carry out my plan before your new attitude in the case was
confirmed by deeds. I promised everything that she asked. But my mind was
made up. And my will was still further strengthened when I had read your
declaration in the newspaper. I would place Marie's fate in your hands
whatever happened and without an hour's delay, I waited for your return
and came up here."
He was no longer the same man who had displayed such coolness at the
commencement of the interview. Exhausted by his efforts and by a struggle
that had lasted for weeks, costing him so much fruitless energy, he was
now trembling; and clinging to Don Luis, with one of his knees on the
chair beside which Don Luis was standing, he stammered:
"Save her, I implore you! You have it in your power. Yes, you can do
anything. I learnt to know you in fighting you. There was more than
your genius defending you against me; there is a luck that protects
you. You are different from other men. Why, the mere fact of your not
killing me at once, though I had pursued you so savagely, the fact of
your listening to the inconceivable truth of the innocence of all three
of us and accepting it as admissible, surely these constitute an
"While I was waiting for you and preparing to speak to you, I received
an intuition of it all!" he exclaimed. "I saw clearly that the man who
was proclaiming Marie's innocence with nothing to guide him but his
reason, I saw that this man alone could save her and that he would save
her. Ah, I beseech you, save her--and save her at once. Otherwise it
will be too late.
"In a few days Marie will have ended her life. She cannot go on living in
prison. You see, she means to die. No obstacle can prevent her. Can any
one be prevented from committing suicide? And how horrible if she were to
die!... Oh, if the law requires a criminal I will confess anything that I
am asked to. I will joyfully accept every charge and pay every penalty,
provided that Marie is free! Save her!... I did not know, I do not yet
know the best thing to be done! Save her from prison and death, save her,
for God's sake, save her!"
Tears flowed down his anguish-stricken face. Florence also was crying,
bowed down with sorrow. And Perenna suddenly felt the most terrible dread
steal over him.
Although, ever since the beginning of the interview, a fresh conviction
had gradually been mastering him, it was only as it were a glance that he
became aware of it. Suddenly he perceived that his belief in Sauverand's
words was unrestricted, and that Florence was perhaps not the loathsome
creature that he had had the right to think, but a woman whose eyes did
not lie and whose face and soul were alike beautiful.
Suddenly he learnt that the two people before him, as well as Marie
Fauville, for love of whom they had fought so unskilful a fight, were
imprisoned in an iron circle which their efforts would not succeed in
breaking. And that circle traced by an unknown hand he, Perenna, had
drawn tighter around them with the most ruthless determination.
"If only it is not too late!" he muttered.
He staggered under the shock of the sensations and ideas that crowded
upon him. Everything clashed in his brain with tragic violence:
certainty, joy, dismay, despair, fury. He was struggling in the clutches
of the most hideous nightmare; and he already seemed to see a detective's
heavy hand descending on Florence's shoulder.
"Come away! Come away!" he cried, starting up in alarm. "It is madness
"But the house is surrounded," Sauverand objected.
"And then? Do you think that I will allow for a second--? No, no, come!
We must fight side by side. I shall still entertain some doubts, that is
certain. You must destroy them; and we will save Mme. Fauville."
"But the detectives round the house?"
"We'll manage them."
"Weber, the deputy chief?"
"He's not here. And as long as he's not here I'll take everything on
myself. Come, follow me, but at some little distance. When I give the
signal and not till then--"
He drew the bolt and turned the handle of the door. At that moment some
one knocked. It was the butler.
"Well?" asked Don Luis. "Why am I disturbed?"
"The deputy chief detective, M. Weber, is here, sir."
Don Luis had certainly expected this formidable blow; and yet it appeared
to take him unawares, and he repeated more than once:
"Ah, Weber is here! Weber is here!"
All his buoyancy left him, and he felt like a retreating army which,
after almost making good its escape, suddenly finds itself brought to a
stop by a steep mountain. Weber was there--that is to say, the chief
leader of the enemies, the man who would be sure to plan the attack and
the resistance in such a manner as to dash Perenna's hopes to the ground.
With Weber at the head of the detectives, any attempt to force a way out
would have been absurd.
"Did you let him in?" he asked.
"You did not tell me not to, sir."
"Is he alone?"
"No, sir, the deputy chief has six men with him. He has left them in the
"And where is he?"
"He asked me to take him to the first floor. He expected to find you in
your study, sir."
"Does he know now that I am with Sergeant Mazeroux and Mlle. Levasseur?"
Perenna thought for a moment and then said:
"Tell him that you have not found me and that you are going to look for
me in Mlle. Levasseur's rooms. Perhaps he will go with you. All the
better if he does."
And he locked the door again.
The struggle through which he had just passed did not show itself on his
face; and, now that all was lost, now that he was called upon to act, he
recovered that wonderful composure which never abandoned him at decisive
moments. He went up to Florence. She was very pale and was silently
weeping. He said:
"You must not be frightened, Mademoiselle. If you obey me implicitly, you
will have nothing to fear."
She did not reply and he saw that she still mistrusted him. And he almost
rejoiced at the thought that he would compel her to believe in him.
"Listen to me," he said to Sauverand. "In case I should not succeed after
all, there are still several things which you must explain."
"What are they?" asked Sauverand, who had lost none of his coolness.
Then, collecting all his riotous thoughts, resolved to omit nothing, but
at the same time to speak only what was essential, Don Luis asked, in a
"Where were you on the morning before the murder, when a man carrying an
ebony walking-stick and answering to your description entered the Cafe du
Pont-Neuf immediately after Inspector Verot?"
"Are you sure that you did not go out?"
"Absolutely sure. And I am also sure that I have never been to the Cafe
du Pont-Neuf, of which I had never even heard."
"Good. Next question. Why, when you learned all about this business, did
you not go to the Prefect of Police or the examining magistrate? It would
have been simpler for you to give yourself up and tell the exact truth
than to engage in this unequal fight."
"I was thinking of doing so. But I at once realized that the plot hatched
against me was so clever that no bare statement of the truth would have
been enough to convince the authorities. They would never have believed
me. What proof could I supply? None at all--whereas, on the other hand,
the proofs against us were overwhelming and undeniable. Were not the
marks of the teeth evidence of Marie's undoubted guilt? And were not my
silence, my flight, the shooting of Chief Inspector Ancenis so many
crimes? No, if I would rescue Marie, I must remain free."
"But she could have spoken herself?"
"And confessed our love? Apart from the fact that her womanly modesty
would have prevented her, what good would it have done? On the contrary,
it meant lending greater weight to the accusation. That was just what
happened when Hippolyte Fauville's letters, appearing one by one,
revealed to the police the as yet unknown motives of the crimes imputed
to us. We loved each other."
"How do you explain the letters?"
"I can't explain them. We did not know of Fauville's jealousy. He kept it
to himself. And then, again, why did he suspect us? What can have put it
into his head that we meant to kill him? Where did his fears, his
nightmares, come from? It is a mystery. He wrote that he had letters of
ours in his possession: what letters?"
"And the marks of the teeth, those marks which were undoubtedly made by
"I don't know. It is all incomprehensible."
"You don't know either what she can have done after leaving the opera
between twelve and two in the morning?"
"No. She was evidently lured into a trap. But how and by whom? And why
does she not say what she was doing? More mystery."
"You were seen that evening, the evening of the murders, at Auteuil
station. What were you doing there?"
"I was going to the Boulevard Suchet and I passed under Marie's windows.
Remember that it was a Wednesday. I came back on the following Wednesday,
and, still knowing nothing of the tragedy or of Marie's arrest, I came
back again on the second Wednesday, which was the evening on which you
found out where I lived and informed Sergeant Mazeroux against me."
"Another thing. Did you know of the Mornington inheritance?"
"No, nor Florence either; and we have every reason to think that Marie
and her husband knew no more about it than we did."
"That barn at Damigni: was it the first time that you had entered it?"
"Yes; and our astonishment at the sight of the two skeletons hanging from
the rafters equalled yours."
Don Luis was silent. He cast about for a few seconds longer to see if he
had any more questions to ask. Then he said:
"That is all I wanted to know. Are you, on your side, certain that
everything that is necessary has been said?"
"This is a serious moment. It is possible that we may not meet again. Now
you have not given me a single proof of your statements."
"I have told you the truth. To a man like yourself, the truth is enough.
As for me, I am beaten. I give up the struggle, or, rather, I place
myself under your orders. Save Marie."
"I will save the three of you," said Perenna. "The fourth of the
mysterious letters is to make its appearance to-morrow: that leaves ample
time for us to lay our heads together and study the matter fully. And
to-morrow evening I shall go there and, with the help of all that you
have told me, I shall prove the innocence of you all. The essential thing
is to be present at the meeting on the twenty-fifth of May."
"Please think only of Marie. Sacrifice me, if necessary. Sacrifice
Florence even. I am speaking in her name as well as my own when I tell
you that it is better to desert us than to jeopardize the slightest
chance of success."
"I will save the three of you," Perenna repeated.
He pushed the door ajar and, after listening outside, said:
"Don't move. And don't open the door to anybody, on any pretext whatever,
before I come to fetch you. I shall not be long."
He locked the door behind him and went down to the first floor. He did
not feel those high spirits which usually cheered him on the eve of his
great battles. This time, Florence Levasseur's life and liberty were at
stake; and the consequences of a defeat seemed to him worse than death.
Through the window on the landing he saw the detectives guarding the
courtyard. He counted six of them. And he also saw the deputy chief at
one of the windows of his study, watching the courtyard and keeping in
touch with his detectives.
"By Jove!" he thought, "he's sticking to his post. It will be a tough
job. He suspects something. However, let's make a start!"
He went through the drawing-room and entered his study. Weber saw him.
The two enemies were face to face.
There was a few seconds' silence before the duel opened, the duel which
was bound to be swift and vigorous, without the least sign of weakness or
distraction on either side. It could not last longer than three minutes.
The deputy chief's face bore an expression of mingled joy and anxiety.
For the first time he had permission, he had orders, to fight that
accursed Don Luis, against whom he had never yet been able to satisfy
his hatred. And his delight was all the greater because he held every
trump, whereas Don Luis had put himself in the wrong by defending
Florence Levasseur and tampering with the girl's portrait. On the other
hand, Weber did not forget that Don Luis was identical with Arsene
Lupin; and this consideration caused him a certain uneasiness. He was
"The least blunder, and I'm done for."
He crossed swords with a jest.
"I see that you were not in Mlle. Levasseur's lodge, as your man
"My man spoke in accordance with my instructions, I was in my bedroom,
upstairs. But I wanted to finish the job before I came down."
"And is it done?"
"It's done. Florence Levasseur and Gaston Sauverand are in my room,
gagged and bound. You have only to accept delivery of the goods."
"Gaston Sauverand!" cried Weber. "Then it was he who was seen coming in?"
"Yes. He was simply living with Florence Levasseur, whose lover he is."
"Oho!" said the deputy chief, in a bantering tone. "Her lover!"
"Yes; and when Sergeant Mazeroux brought Florence Levasseur to my room,
to question her out of hearing of the servants, Sauverand, foreseeing the
arrest of his mistress, had the audacity to join us. He tried to rescue
her from our hands."
"And you checkmated him?"
It was clear that the deputy chief did not believe one word of the story.
He knew through M. Desmalions and Mazeroux that Don Luis was in love with
Florence; and Don Luis was not the man even through jealousy to hand over
a woman whom he loved. He increased his attention.
"Good business!" he said. "Take me up to your room. Was it a hard
"Not very. I managed to disarm the scoundrel. All the same, Mazeroux got
stabbed in the thumb."
"Oh, dear, no; but he has gone to have his wound dressed at the
The deputy chief stopped, greatly surprised.
"What! Isn't Mazeroux in your room with the two prisoners?"
"I never told you that he was."
"No, but your butler--"
"The butler made a mistake. Mazeroux went out a few minutes before
"It's funny," said Weber, watching Don Luis closely, "but my men all
think he's here. They haven't seen him go out."
"They haven't seen him go out?" echoed Don Luis, pretending to feel
anxious. "But, then, where can he be? He told me he wanted to have his
thumb seen to."
The deputy chief was growing more and more suspicious. Evidently Perenna
was trying to get rid of him by sending him in search of the sergeant.
"I will send one of my men," he said. "Is the chemist's near?"
"Just around the corner, in the Rue de Bourgogne. Besides, we can
"Oh, we can telephone!" muttered Weber.
He was quite at a loss and looked like a man who does not know what is
going to happen next. He moved slowly toward the instrument, while
barring the way to Don Luis to prevent his escaping. Don Luis
therefore retreated to the telephone box, as if forced to do so, took
down the receiver with one hand, and, calling, "Hullo! Hullo! Saxe,
2409," with the other hand, which was resting against the wall, he cut
one of the wires with a pair of pliers which he had taken off the
table as he passed.
"Hullo! Are you there? Is that 2409? Are you the
chemist?... Hullo!... Sergeant Mazeroux of the detective service is with
you, isn't he? Eh? What? What do you say? But it's too awful! Are you
sure? Do you mean to say the wound is poisoned?"
Without thinking what he was doing, the deputy chief pushed Don Luis
aside and took hold of the receiver. The thought of the poisoned wound
was too much for him.
"Are you there?" he cried, keeping an eye on Don Luis and motioning to
him not to go away. "Are you there? ... Eh? ... It's Deputy Chief Weber,
of the detective office, speaking.... Hullo! Are you there? ... I want to
know about Sergeant Mazeroux. ... Are you there?. . . Oh, hang it, why
don't you answer!"
Suddenly he let go the instrument, looked at the wires, perceived that
they had been cut, and turned round, showing a face that clearly
expressed the thought in his mind.
"That's done it. I've been tricked!"
Perenna was standing a couple of yards behind him, leaning carelessly
against the woodwork of the arch, with his left hand passed between
his back and the woodwork. He was smiling, smiling pleasantly, kindly,
"Don't move!" he said, with a gesture of his right hand.
Weber, more frightened by that smile than he would have been by threats,
took good care not to move.
"Don't move," repeated Don Luis, in a very queer voice. "And, whatever
you do, don't be alarmed. You shan't be hurt, I promise you. Just five
minutes in a dark cell for a naughty little boy. Are you ready? One two,
He stood aside and pressed the button that worked the iron curtain. The
heavy panel came crashing to the floor. The deputy chief was a prisoner.
"That's a hundred millions gone to Jericho," grinned Don Luis. "A pretty
trick, but a bit expensive. Good-bye, Mornington inheritance! Good-bye,
Don Luis Perenna! And now, my dear Lupin, if you don't want Weber to take
his revenge, beat a retreat and in good order. One, two; left, right;
As he spoke, he locked, on the inside, the folding doors between the
drawing-room and the first-floor anteroom; then, returning to his study,
he locked the door between this room and the drawing-room.
The deputy chief was banging at the iron curtain with all his might and
shouting so loud that they were bound to hear him outside through the
"You're not making half enough noise, deputy!" cried Don Luis. "Let's see
what we can do."
He took his revolver and fired off three bullets, one of which broke a
pane. Then he quickly left his study by a small, massive door, which he
carefully closed behind him. He was now in a secret passage which ran
round both rooms and ended at another door leading to the anteroom. He
opened this door wide and was thus able to hide behind it.
Attracted by the shots and the noise, the detectives were already rushing
through the hall and up the staircase. When they reached the first floor
and had gone through the anteroom, as the drawing-room doors were locked,
the only outlet open to them was the passage, at the end of which they
could hear the deputy shouting. They all six darted down it.
When the last of them had vanished round the bend in the passage, Don
Luis softly pushed back the door that concealed him and locked it
like the rest. The six detectives were as safely imprisoned as the
"Bottled!" muttered Don Luis. "It will take them quite five minutes to
realize the situation, to bang at the locked doors, and to break down one
of them. In five minutes we shall be far away."
He met two of his servants running up with scared faces, the chauffeur
and the butler. He flung each of them a thousand-franc note and said to
"Set the engine going, there's a sportsman, and let no one near the
machine to block my way. Two thousand francs more for each of you if I
get off in the motor. Don't stand staring at me like that: I mean what I
say. Two thousand francs apiece: it's for you to earn it. Look sharp!"
He himself went up the second flight without undue haste, remaining
master of himself. But, on the last stair, he was seized with such a
feeling of elation that he shouted:
"Victory! The road is clear!"
The boudoir door was opposite. He opened it and repeated:
"Victory! But there's not a second to lose. Follow me."
He entered. A stifled oath escaped his lips.
The room was empty.
"What!" he stammered. "What does this mean? They're gone.... Florence--"
Certainly, unlikely though it seemed, he had hitherto supposed that
Sauverand possessed a false key to the lock. But how could they both have
escaped, in the midst of the detectives? He looked around him. And then
In the recess containing the window, the lower part of the wall, which
formed a very wide box underneath the casement, had the top of its
woodwork raised and resting against the panes, exactly like the lid of a
chest. And inside the open chest he saw the upper rungs of a narrow
In a second, Don Luis conjured up the whole story of the past: Count
Malonyi's ancestress hiding in the old family mansion, escaping the
search of the perquisitors, and in this way living throughout the
revolutionary troubles. Everything was explained. A passage contrived in
the thickness of the wall led to some distant outlet. And this was how
Florence used to come and go through the house; this was how Gaston went
in and out in all security; and this also was how both of them were able
to enter his room and surprise his secrets.
"Why not have told me?" he wondered. "A lingering suspicion, I suppose--"
But his eyes were attracted by a sheet of paper on the table. With
a feverish hand, Gaston Sauverand had scribbled the following lines
"We are trying to escape so as not to compromise you. If we are caught,
it can't be helped. The great thing is that you should be free. All our
hopes are centred in you."
Below were two words written by Florence: "Save Marie."
"Ah," he murmured, disconcerted by the turn of events and not knowing
what to decide, "why, oh, why did they not obey my instructions? We are
Downstairs the detectives were battering at the door of the passage in
which they were imprisoned. Perhaps he would still have time to reach his
motor before they succeeded in breaking down the door. Nevertheless, he
preferred to take the same road as Florence and Sauverand, which gave him
the hope of saving them and of rescuing them in case of danger.
He therefore stepped over the side of the chest, placed his foot on the
top rung and went down. Some twenty bars brought him to the middle of the
first floor. Here, by the light of his electric lantern, he entered a
sort of low, vaulted tunnel, dug, as he thought, in the wall, and so
narrow that he could only walk along it sideways.
Thirty yards farther there was a bend, at right angles; and next, at the
end of another tunnel of the same length, a trapdoor, which stood open,
revealing the rungs of a second ladder. He did not doubt that the
fugitives had gone this way.
It was quite light at the bottom. Here he found himself in a cupboard
which was also open and which, on ordinary occasions, must have been
covered by curtains that were now drawn. This cupboard faced a bed that
filled almost the whole space of an alcove. On passing through the alcove
and reaching a room from which it was separated only by a slender
partition, to his great surprise, he recognized Florence's sitting-room.
This time, he knew where he was. The exit, which was not secret, as it
led to the Place du Palais-Bourbon, but nevertheless very safe, was that
which Sauverand generally used when Florence admitted him.
Don Luis therefore went through the entrance hall and down the steps and,
a little way before the pantry, came upon the cellar stairs. He ran down
these and soon recognized the low door that served to admit the
wine-casks. The daylight filtered in through a small, grated spy-hole. He
groped till he found the lock. Glad to have come to the end of his
expedition, he opened the door.
"Hang it all!" he growled, leaping back and clutching at the lock, which
he managed to fasten again.
Two policemen in uniform were guarding the exits two policemen who had
tried to seize him as he appeared.
Where did those two men come from? Had they prevented the escape of
Sauverand and Florence? But in that case Don Luis would have met the two
fugitives, as he had come by exactly the same road as they.
"No," he thought, "they effected their flight before the exit was
watched. But, by Jove! it's my turn to clear out; and that's not easy.
Shall I let myself be caught in my burrow like a rabbit?"
He went up the cellar stairs again, intending to hasten matters, to slip
into the courtyard through the outhouses, to jump into his motor, and to
clear a way for himself. But, when he was just reaching the yard, near
the coach-house, he saw four detectives, four of those whom he had
imprisoned, come up waving their arms and shouting. And he also became
aware of a regular uproar near the main gate and the porter's lodge. A
number of men were all talking together, raising their voices in violent
Perhaps he might profit by this opportunity to steal outside under cover
of the disorder. At the risk of being seen, he put out his head. And what
he saw astounded him.
Gaston Sauverand stood with his back to the wall of the lodge, surrounded
by policemen and detectives who pushed and insulted him. The handcuffs
were on his wrists.
Gaston Sauverand a prisoner! What had happened between the two fugitives
and the police?
His heart wrung with anguish, he leaned out still farther. But he did not
see Florence. The girl had no doubt succeeded in escaping.
Weber's appearance on the steps and the deputy chief's first words
confirmed his hopes. Weber was mad with rage. His recent captivity and
the humiliation of his defeat exasperated him.
"Ah!" he roared, as he saw the prisoner. "There's one of them, at any
rate! Gaston Sauverand! Choice game, that!... Where did you catch him?"
"On the Place du Palais-Bourbon," said one of the inspectors. "We saw him
slinking out through the cellar door."
"And his accomplice, the Levasseur girl?"
"We missed her, Deputy Chief. She was the first out."
"And Don Luis? You haven't let him leave the house, I hope? I gave
"He tried to get out through the cellar door five minutes after."
"Who said so?"
"One of the men in uniform posted outside the door."
"The beggar went back into the cellar."
Weber gave a shout of delight.
"We've got him! And it's a nasty business for him! Charge of resisting
the police!... Complicity ... We shall be able to unmask him at last.
Tally-ho, my lads, tally-ho! Two men to guard Sauverand, four men on the
Place du Palais-Bourbon, revolver in hand. Two men on the roof. The rest
stick to me. We'll begin with the Levasseur girl's room and we'll take
his room next. Hark, forward, my lads!"
Don Luis did not wait for the enemies' attack. Knowing their intentions,
he beat a retreat, unseen, toward Florence's rooms. Here, as Weber did
not yet know the short cut through the outhouses, he had time to make
sure that the trapdoor was in perfect working order, and that there was
no reason why they should discover the existence of a secret cupboard at
the back of the alcove, behind the curtains of the bed.
Once inside the passage, he went up the first staircase, followed the
long corridor contrived in the wall, climbed the ladder leading to the
boudoir, and, perceiving that this second trapdoor fitted the woodwork so
closely that no one could suspect anything, he closed it over him. A few
minutes later he heard the noise of men making a search above his head.
And so, on the twenty-fourth of May, at five o'clock in the afternoon,
the position was as follows: Florence Levasseur with a warrant out
against her, Gaston Sauverand in prison, Marie Fauville in prison and
refusing all food, and Don Luis, who believed in their innocence and who
alone could have saved them, Don Luis was being blockaded in his own
house and hunted down by a score of detectives.
As for the Mornington inheritance, there could be no more question of
that, because the legatee, in his turn, had set himself in open rebellion
"Capital!" said Don Luis, with a grin. "This is life as I understand it.
The question is a simple one and may be put in different ways. How can a
wretched, unwashed beggar, with not a penny in his pocket, make a fortune
in twenty-four hours without setting foot outside his hovel? How can a
general, with no soldiers and no ammunition left, win a battle which he
has lost? In short, how shall I, Arsene Lupin, manage to be present
to-morrow evening at the meeting which will be held on the Boulevard
Suchet and to behave in such a way as to save Marie Fauville, Florence
Levasseur, Gaston Sauverand, and my excellent friend Don Luis Perenna in
Dull blows came from somewhere. The men must be hunting the roofs and
sounding the walls.
Don Luis stretched himself flat on the floor, hid his face in his folded
arms and, shutting his eyes, murmured:
When Lupin afterward told me this episode of the tragic story, he said,
not without a certain self-complacency:
"What astonished me then, and what astonishes me still, as one of the
most amazing victories on which I am entitled to pride myself, is that I
was able to admit Sauverand and Marie Fauville's innocence on the spot,
as a problem solved once and for all. It was a first-class performance, I
swear, and surpassed the most famous deductions of the most famous
investigators both in psychological value and in detective merit.
"After all, taking everything into account, there was not the shadow of a
fresh fact to enable me to alter the verdict. The charges accumulated
against the two prisoners were the same, and were so grave that no
examining magistrate would have hesitated for a second to commit them for
trial, nor any jury to bring them in guilty. I will not speak of Marie
Fauville: you had only to think of the marks of her teeth to be
absolutely certain. But Gaston Sauverand, the son of Victor Sauverand and
consequently the heir of Cosmo Mornington--Gaston Sauverand, the man with
the ebony walking-stick and the murderer of Chief Inspector Ancenis--was
he not just as guilty as Marie Fauville, incriminated with her by the
mysterious letters, incriminated by the very revelation of the husband
whom they had killed?
"And yet why did that sudden change take place in me?" he asked. "Why did
I go against the evidence? Why did I credit an incredible fact? Why did I
admit the inadmissible? Why? Well, no doubt, because truth has an accent
that rings in the ears in a manner all its own. On the one side, every
proof, every fact, every reality, every certainty; on the other, a story,
a story told by one of the three criminals, and therefore, presumptively,
absurd and untrue from start to finish. But a story told in a frank
voice, a clear, dispassionate, closely woven story, free from
complications or improbabilities, a story which supplied no positive
solution, but which, by its very honesty, obliged any impartial mind to
reconsider the solution arrived at. I believed the story."
The explanation which Lupin gave me was not complete. I asked:
"And Florence Levasseur?"
"Yes, you don't tell me what you thought. What was your opinion about
her? Everything tended to incriminate her not only in your eyes, because,
logically speaking, she had taken part in all the attempts to murder you,
but also in the eyes of the police. They knew that she used to pay
Sauverand clandestine visits at his house on the Boulevard
Richard-Wallace. They had found her photograph in Inspector Verot's
memorandum-book, and then--and then all the rest: your accusations, your
certainties. Was all that modified by Sauverand's story? To your mind,
was Florence innocent or guilty?"
He hesitated, seemed on the point of replying directly and frankly to my
question, but could not bring himself to do so, and said:
"I wished to have confidence. In order to act, I must have full and
entire confidence, whatever doubts might still assail me, whatever
darkness might still enshroud this or that part of the adventure. I
therefore believed. And, believing, I acted according to my belief."
Acting, to Don Luis Perenna, during those hours of forced inactivity,
consisted solely in perpetually repeating to himself Gaston Sauverand's
account of the events. He tried to reconstitute it in all its details, to
remember the very least sentences, the apparently most insignificant
phrases. And he examined those sentences, scrutinized those phrases one
by one, in order to extract such particle of the truth as they contained.
For the truth was there. Sauverand had said so and Perenna did not doubt
it. The whole sinister affair, all that constituted the case of the
Mornington inheritance and the tragedy of the Boulevard Suchet, all that
could throw light upon the plot hatched against Marie Fauville, all that
could explain the undoing of Sauverand and Florence--all this lay in
Sauverand's story. Don Luis had only to understand, and the truth would
appear like the moral which we draw from some obscure fable.
Don Luis did not once deviate from his method. If any objection suggested
itself to his mind, he at once replied:
"Very well. It may be that I am wrong and that Sauverand's story will not
enlighten me on any point capable of guiding me. It may be that the truth
lies outside it. But am I in a position to get at the truth in any other
way? All that I possess as an instrument of research, without attaching
undue importance to certain gleams of light which the regular appearance
of the mysterious letters has shed upon the case, all that I possess is
Gaston Sauverand's story. Must I not make use of it?"
And, once again, as when one follows a path by another person's tracks,
be began to live through the adventure which Sauverand had been through.
He compared it with the picture of it which he had imagined until then.
The two were in opposition; but could not the very clash of their
opposition be made to produce a spark of light?
"Here is what he said," he thought, "and there is what I believed. What
does the difference mean? Here is the thing that was, and there is the
thing that appeared to be. Why did the criminal wish the thing that was
to appear under that particular aspect? To remove all suspicion from him?
But, in that case, was it necessary that suspicion should fall precisely
on those on whom it did?"
The questions came crowding one upon the other. He sometimes answered
them at random, mentioning names and uttering words in succession, as
though the name mentioned might be just that of the criminal, and the
words uttered those which contained the unseen reality.
Then at once he would take up the story again, as schoolboys do when
parsing and analyzing a passage, in which each expression is
carefully sifted, each period discussed, each sentence reduced to its
* * * * *
Hours and hours passed. Suddenly, in the middle of the night, he gave a
start. He took out his watch. By the light of his electric lamp he saw
that it was seventeen minutes to twelve.
"So at seventeen minutes to twelve at night," he said, "I fathomed
He tried to control his emotion, but it was too great; and his nerves
were so immensely staggered by the trial that he began to shed tears. He
had caught sight of the appalling truth, all of a sudden, as when at
night one half sees a landscape under a lightning-flash.
There is nothing more unnerving than this sudden illumination when we
have been groping and struggling in the dark. Already exhausted by his
physical efforts and by the want of food, from which he was beginning to
suffer, he felt the shock so intensely that, without caring to think a
moment longer, he managed to go to sleep, or, rather, to sink into sleep,
as one sinks into the healing waters of a bath.
When he woke, in the small hours, alert and well despite the
discomfort of his couch, he shuddered on thinking of the theory which
he had accepted; and his first instinct was to doubt it. He had, so to
speak, no time.
All the proofs came rushing to his mind of their own accord and at once
transformed the theory into one of those certainties which it would be
madness to deny. It was that and nothing else. As he had foreseen, the
truth lay recorded in Sauverand's story. And he had not been mistaken,
either, in saying to Mazeroux that the manner in which the mysterious
letters appeared had put him on the track of the truth.
And the truth was terrible. He felt, at the thought of it, the same fears
that had maddened Inspector Verot when, already tortured by the poison,
"Oh, I don't like this, I don't like the look of this!... The whole thing
has been planned in such an infernal manner!"
Infernal was the word! And Don Luis remained stupefied at the revelation
of a crime which looked as if no human brain could have conceived it.
For two hours more he devoted all his mental powers to examining the
situation from every point of view. He was not much disturbed about the
result, because, being now in possession of the terrible secret, he had
nothing more to do but make his escape and go that evening to the meeting
on the Boulevard Suchet, where he would show them all how the murder was
But when, wishing to try his chance of escaping, he went up through the
underground passage and climbed to the top of the upper ladder--that is
to say, to the level of the boudoir--he heard through the trapdoor the
voices of men in the room.
"By Jove!" he said to himself, "the thing is not so simple as I thought!
In order to escape the minions of the law I must first leave my prison;
and here is at least one of the exits blocked. Let's look at the other."
He went down to Florence's apartments and worked the mechanism,
which consisted of a counterweight. The panel of the cupboard moved
in the groove.
Driven by horror and hoping to find some provisions which enable him to
withstand a siege without being reduced to famine, he was about to pass
through the alcove, behind the curtains, when he was stopped short by a
sound of footsteps. Some one had entered the room.
"Well, Mazeroux, have you spent the night here? Nothing new!"
Don Luis recognized the Prefect of Police by his voice; and the question
put by the Prefect told him, first, that Mazeroux had been released from
the dark closet where he had bound him up, and, secondly, that the
sergeant was in the next room. Fortunately, the sliding panel had worked
without the least sound; and Don Luis was able to overhear the
conversation between the two men.
"No, nothing new, Monsieur le Prefet," replied Mazeroux.
"That's funny. The confounded fellow must be somewhere. Or can he have
got away over the roof?"
"Impossible, Monsieur le Prefet," said a third voice, which Don Luis
recognized as that of Weber, the deputy chief detective. "Impossible. We
made certain yesterday, that unless he has wings--"
"Then what do you think, Weber?"
"I think, Monsieur le Prefet, that he is concealed in the house. This is
an old house and probably contains some safe hiding-place--"
"Of course, of course," said M. Desmalions, whom Don Luis, peeping
through the curtains, saw walking to and fro in front of the alcove.
"You're right; and we shall catch him in his burrow. Only, is it really
"Monsieur le Prefet!"
"Well, you know my opinion on the subject, which is also the Prime
Minister's opinion. Unearthing Lupin would be a blunder which we should
end by regretting. After all, he's become an honest man, you know; he's
useful to us and he does no harm--"
"No harm, Monsieur le Prefet? Do you think so?" said Weber stiffly.
M. Desmalions burst out laughing.
"Oh, of course, yesterday's trick, the telephone trick! You must admit it
was funny. The Premier had to hold his sides when I told him of it."
"Upon my word, I see nothing to laugh at!"
"No, but, all the same, the rascal is never at a loss. Funny or not, the
trick was extraordinarily daring. To cut the telephone wire before your
eyes and then blockade you behind that iron curtain! By the way,
Mazeroux, you must get the telephone repaired this morning, so as to keep
in touch with the office. Have you begun your search in these two rooms?"
"As you ordered, Monsieur le Prefet. The deputy chief and I have been
hunting round for the last hour."
"Yes," said M. Desmalions, "that Florence Levasseur strikes me as a
troublesome creature. She is certainly an accomplice. But what were her
relations with Sauverand and what was her connection with Don Luis
Perenna? That's what I should like to know. Have you discovered nothing
in her papers?"
"No, Monsieur le Prefet," said Mazeroux. "Nothing but bills and
"And you, Weber?"
"I've found something very interesting, Monsieur le Prefet."
Weber spoke in a triumphant tone, and, in answer to M. Desmalions's
question, went on:
"This is a volume of Shakespeare, Monsieur le Prefet, Volume VIII. You
will see that, contrary to the other volumes, the inside is empty and the
binding forms a secret receptacle for hiding documents."
"Yes. What sort of documents?"
"Here they are: sheets of paper, blank sheets, all but three. One of
them gives a list of the dates on which the mysterious letters were
"Oho!" said M. Desmalions. "That's a crushing piece of evidence
against Florence Levasseur. And also it tells us where Don Luis got
his list from."
Perenna listened with surprise: he had utterly forgotten this particular;
and Gaston Sauverand had made no reference to it in his narrative. And
yet it was a strange and serious detail. From whom had Florence received
that list of dates?
"And what's on the other two sheets?" asked M. Desmalions.
Don Luis pricked up his ears. Those two other sheets had escaped his
attention on the day of his interview with Florence in this room.
"Here is one of them," said Weber.
M. Desmalions took the paper and read:
"Bear in mind that the explosion is independent of the letters, and that
it will take place at three o'clock in the morning."
"Yes," he said, "the famous explosion which Don Luis foretold and which
is to accompany the fifth letter, as announced on the list of dates.
Tush! We have plenty of time, as there have been only three letters and
the fourth is due to-night. Besides, blowing up that house on the
Boulevard Suchet would be no easy job, by Jove! Is that all?"
"Monsieur le Prefet," said Weber, producing the third sheet, "would you
mind looking at these lines drawn in pencil and enclosed in a large
square containing some other smaller squares and rectangles of all sizes?
Wouldn't you say that it was the plan of a house?"
"Yes, I should."
"It is the plan of the house in which we are," declared Weber solemnly.
"Here you see the front courtyard, the main building, the porter's lodge,
and, over there, Mlle. Levasseur's lodge. From this lodge, a dotted line,
in red pencil, starts zigzagging toward the main building. The
commencement of this line is marked by a little red cross which stands
for the room in which we are, or, to be more correct, the alcove. You
will see here something like the design of a chimney, or, rather, a
cupboard--a cupboard recessed behind the bed and probably hidden by the
"But, in that case, Weber," said M. Desmalions, "this dotted line must
represent a passage leading from this lodge to the main building. Look,
there is also a little red cross at the other end of the line."
"Yes, Monsieur le Prefet, there is another cross. We shall discover
later for certain what position it marks. But, meanwhile, and acting on
a mere guess, I have posted some men in a small room on the second floor
where the last secret meeting between Don Luis, Florence Levasseur, and
Gaston Sauverand was held yesterday. And, meanwhile, at any rate, we
hold one end of the line and, through that very fact, we know Don Luis
There was a pause, after which the deputy chief resumed in a more and
more solemn voice:
"Monsieur le Prefet, yesterday I suffered a cruel outrage at the hands of
that man. It was witnessed by our subordinates. The servants must be
aware of it. The public will know of it before long. This man has brought
about the escape of Florence Levasseur. He tried to bring about the
escape of Gaston Sauverand. He is a ruffian of the most dangerous type.
Monsieur le Prefet, I am sure that you will not refuse me leave to dig
him out of his hole. Otherwise--otherwise, Monsieur le Prefet, I shall
feel obliged to hand in my resignation."
"With good reasons to back it up!" said the Prefect, laughing. "There's
no doubt about it; you can't stomach the trick of the iron curtain. Well,
go ahead! It's Don Luis's own lookout; he's brought it on himself.
Mazeroux, ring me up at the office as soon as the telephone is put right.
And both of you meet me at the Fauvilles' house this evening. Don't
forget it's the night for the fourth letter."
"There won't be any fourth letter, Monsieur le Prefet," said Weber.
"Because between this and then Don Luis will be under lock and key."
"Oh, so you accuse Don Luis also of--"
Don Luis did not wait to hear more. He softly retreated to the cupboard,
took hold of the panel and pushed it back without a sound.
So his hiding-place was known!
"By Jingo," he growled, "this is a bit awkward! I'm in a nice plight!"
He had run halfway along the underground passage, with the intention of
reaching the other exit. But he stopped.
"It's not worth while, as the exit's watched. Well, let's see; am I to
let myself be collared? Wait a bit, let's see--"
Already there came from the alcove below a noise of blows striking on the
panel, the hollow sound of which had probably attracted the deputy
chief's attention. And, as Weber was not compelled to take the same
precautions as Don Luis, and seemed to be breaking down the panel without
delaying to look for the mechanism, the danger was close at hand.
"Oh, hang it all!" muttered Don Luis. "This is too silly. What shall I
do? Have a dash at them? Ah, if I had all my strength!"
But he was exhausted by want of food. His legs shook beneath him and his
brain seemed to lack its usual clearness.
The increasing violence of the blows in the alcove drove him, in spite of
all, toward the upper exit; and, as he climbed the ladder, he moved his
electric lantern over the stones of the wall and the wood of the
trapdoor. He even tried to lift the door with his shoulder. But he again
heard a sound of footsteps above his head. The men were still there.
Then, consumed with fury and helpless, he awaited the deputy's coming.
A crash came from below; its echo spread through the tunnel, followed by
a tumult of voices.
"That's it," he said to himself. "The handcuffs, the lockup, the cell!
Good Lord, what luck--and what nonsense! And Marie Fauville, who's sure
to do away with herself. And Florence--Florence--"
Before extinguishing his lantern, he cast its light around him for the
At a couple of yards' distance from the ladder, about three quarters of
the way up and set a little way back, there was a big stone missing from
the inner wall, leaving a space just large enough to crouch in.
Although the recess did not form much of a hiding-place, it was just
possible that they might omit to inspect it. Besides, Don Luis had no
choice. At all events, after putting out the light, he leaned toward the
edge of the hole, reached it, and managed to scramble in by bending
himself in two.
Weber, Mazeroux, and their men were coming along. Don Luis propped
himself against the back of his hiding-hole to avoid as far as possible
the glare of the lanterns, of which he was beginning to see the gleams.
And an amazing thing happened: the stone against which he was pushing
toppled over slowly, as though moving on a pivot, and he fell backward
into a second cavity situated behind it.
He quickly drew his legs after him and the stone swung back as slowly as
before, not, however, without sending down a quantity of small stones,
crumbling from the wall and half covering his legs.
"Well, well!" he chuckled. "Can Providence be siding with virtue and
He heard Mazeroux's voice saying:
"Nobody! And here's the end of the passage. Unless he ran away as we
came--look, through the trapdoor at the top of this ladder."
"Considering the slope by which we've come, it's certain that the
trapdoor is on a level with the second floor. Well, the other little
cross ought to mark the boudoir on the second floor, next to Don Luis's
bedroom. That's what I supposed, and why I posted three of our men there.
If he's tried to get out on that side, he's caught."
"We've only got to knock," said Mazeroux. "Our men will find the trapdoor
and let us out. If not, we will break it down."
More blows echoed down the passage. Fifteen or twenty minutes after, the
trapdoor gave way, and other voices now mingled with Weber's and
During this time, Don Luis examined his domain and perceived how
extremely small it was. The most that he could do was to sit in it. It
was a gallery, or, rather, a sort of gut, a yard and a half long and
ending in an orifice, narrower still, heaped up with bricks. The walls,
besides, were formed of bricks, some of which were lacking; and the
building-stones which these should have kept in place crumbled at the
least touch. The ground was strewn with them.
"By Jove!" thought Lupin, "I must not wriggle about too much, or I shall
risk being buried alive! A pleasant prospect!"
Not only this, but the fear of making a noise kept him motionless. As a
matter of fact, he was close to two rooms occupied by the detectives,
first the boudoir and then the study, for the boudoir, as he knew, was
over that part of his study which included the telephone box.
The thought of this suggested another. On reflection, remembering that he
used sometimes to wonder how Count Malonyi's ancestress had managed to
keep alive behind the curtain on the days when she had to hide there, he
realized that there must have been a communication between the secret
passage and what was now the telephone box, a communication too narrow to
admit a person's body, but serving as a ventilating shaft.
As a precaution, in case the secret passage was discovered, a stone
concealed the upper aperture of this shaft. Count Malonyi must have
closed up the lower end when he restored the wainscoting of the study.
So there he was, imprisoned in the thickness of the walls, with no very
definite intention beyond that of escaping from the clutches of the
police. More hours passed.
Gradually, tortured with hunger and thirst, he fell into a heavy sleep,
disturbed by painful nightmares which he would have given much to be able
to throw off. But he slept too deeply to recover consciousness until
eight o'clock in the evening.
When he woke up, feeling very tired, he saw his position in an
unexpectedly hideous light and, at the same time, so accurately that,
yielding to a sudden change of opinion marked by no little fear, he
resolved to leave his hiding-place and give himself up. Anything was
better than the torture which he was enduring and the dangers to which
longer waiting exposed him.
But, on turning round to reach the entrance to his hole, he perceived
first that the stone did not swing over when merely pushed, and, next,
after several attempts, that he could not manage to find the mechanism
which no doubt worked the stone. He persisted. His exertions were all in
vain. The stone did not budge. Only, at each exertion, a few bits of
stone came crumbling from the upper part of the wall and still further
narrowed the space in which he was able to move.
It cost him a considerable effort to master his excitement and to
"That's capital! I shall be reduced now to calling for help. I, Arsene
Lupin! Yes, to call in the help of those gentlemen of the police.
Otherwise, the odds on my being buried alive will increase every minute.
They're ten to one as it is!"
He clenched his fists.
"Hang it! I'll get out of this scrape by myself! Call for help? Not if
I know it!"
He summoned up all his energies to think, but his jaded brain gave him
none but confused and disconnected ideas. He was haunted by Florence's
image and by Marie Fauville's as well.
"It's to-night that I'm to save them," he said to himself. "And I
certainly will save them, as they are not guilty and as I know the real
criminal. But how shall I set about it to succeed?"
He thought of the Prefect of Police, of the meeting that was to take
place at Fauville's house on the Boulevard Suchet. The meeting had begun.
The police were watching the house. And this reminded him of the sheet of
paper found by Weber in the eighth volume of Shakespeare's plays, and of
the sentence written on it, which the Prefect had read out:
"Bear in mind that the explosion is independent of the letters, and that
it will take place at three o'clock in the morning."
"Yes," thought Don Luis, accepting M. Desmalions's reasoning, "yes, in
ten days' time. As there have been only three letters, the fourth will
appear to-night; and the explosion will not take place until the fifth
letter appears--that is in ten days from now."
"In ten days--with the fifth letter--in ten days--"
And suddenly he gave a start of fright. A horrible vision had flashed
across his mind, a vision only too real. The explosion was to occur that
very night! And all at once, knowing that he knew the truth, all at
once, in a revival of his usual clear-sightedness, he accepted the
theory as certain.
No doubt only three letters had appeared out of the mysterious darkness,
but four letters ought to have appeared, because one of them had appeared
not on the date fixed, but ten days later; and this for a reason which
Don Luis knew. Besides, it was not a question of all this. It was not a
question of seeking the truth amid this confusion of dates and letters,
amid this intricate tangle in which no one could lay claim to any
No; one thing alone stood out above the situation: the sentence, "Bear in
mind that the explosion is independent of the letters." And, as the
explosion was put down for the night of the twenty-fifth of May, it would
occur that very night, at three o'clock in the morning!
"Help! Help!" he cried.
This time he did not hesitate. So far, he had had the courage to remain
huddled in his prison and to wait for the miracle that might come to his
assistance; but he preferred to face every danger and undergo every
penalty rather than abandon the Prefect of Police, Weber, Mazeroux, and
their companions to the death that threatened them.
Fauville's house would be blown up in three or four hours. That he knew
with the greatest certainty. Just as punctually as the mysterious letters
had reached their destination in spite of all the obstacles in the way,
so the explosion would occur at the hour named. The infernal artificer of
the accursed work had wished it so. At three o'clock in the morning there
would be nothing left of the Fauvilles' house.
He recovered enough strength to raise desperate shouts and to make his
voice carry beyond the stones and beyond the wainscoting.
Then, when there seemed to be no answer to his call, he stopped
and listened for a long time. There was not a sound. The silence
Thereupon a terrible anguish covered him with a cold sweat. Supposing the
detectives had ceased to watch the upper floors and confined themselves
to spending the night in the rooms on the ground floor?
He madly took a brick and struck it repeatedly against the stone that
closed the entrance, hoping that the noise would spread through the
house. But an avalanche of small stones, loosened by the blows, at once
fell upon him, knocking him down again and fixing him where he lay.
More silence--a great, ruthless silence.
He felt that his shouts did not penetrate the walls that stifled him.
Besides, his voice was growing fainter and fainter, producing a hoarse
groan that died away in his strained throat.
He ceased his cries and again listened, with all his anxious attention,
to the great silence that surrounded as with layers of lead the stone
coffin in which he lay imprisoned. Still nothing, not a sound. No one
would come, no one could come to his assistance.
He continued to be haunted by Florence's name and image. And he thought
also of Marie Fauville, whom he had promised to save. But Marie would die
of starvation. And, like her, like Gaston Sauverand and so many others,
he in his turn was the victim of this monstrous horror.
An incident occurred to increase his dismay. All of a sudden his electric
lantern, which he had left alight to dispel the terrors of the darkness,
went out. It was eleven o'clock at night.
He was overcome with a fit of giddiness. He could hardly breathe in the
close and vitiated air. His brain suffered, as it were, a physical and
exceedingly painful ailment, from the repetition of images that seemed to
encrust themselves there; and it was always Florence's beautiful features
or Marie's livid face. And, in his distraught brain, while Marie lay
dying, he heard the explosion at the Fauvilles' house and saw the Prefect
of Police and Mazeroux lying hideously mutilated, dead.
A numbness crept over him. He fell into a sort of swoon, in which he
continued to stammer confused syllables:
The fourth mysterious letter! The fourth of those letters "posted by the
devil and delivered by the devil," as one of the newspapers expressed it!
We all of us remember the really extraordinary agitation of the public as
the night of the twenty-fifth of May drew near. And fresh news increased
this interest to a yet higher degree.
People heard in quick succession of the arrest of Sauverand, the flight
of his accomplice, Florence Levasseur, Don Luis Perenna's secretary, and
the inexplicable disappearance of Perenna himself, whom they insisted,
for the best of reasons, on identifying with Arsene Lupin.
The police, assured from this moment of victory and having nearly all the
actors in the tragedy in their power, had gradually given way to
indiscretion; and, thanks to the particulars revealed to this or that
journalist, the public knew of Don Luis's change of attitude, suspected
his passion for Florence Levasseur and the real cause of his
right-about-face, and thrilled with excitement as they saw that
astonishing figure enter upon a fresh struggle.
What was he going to do? If he wanted to save the woman he loved from
prosecution and to release Marie and Sauverand from prison, he would have
to intervene some time that night, to take part, somehow or other, in the
event at hand, and to prove the innocence of the three accomplices,
either by arresting the invisible bearer of the fourth letter or by
suggesting some plausible explanation. In short, he would have to be
there; and that was interesting indeed!
And then the news of Marie Fauville was not good. With unwavering
obstinacy she persisted in her suicidal plans. She had to be artificially
fed; and the doctors in the infirmary at Saint-Lazare did not conceal
their anxiety. Would Don Luis Perenna arrive in time?
Lastly, there was that one other thing, the threat of an explosion which
was to blow up Hippolyte Fauville's house ten days after the delivery of
the fourth letter, a really impressive threat when it was remembered that
the enemy had never announced anything that did not take place at the
stated hour. And, although it was still ten days--at least, so people
thought--from the date fixed for the catastrophe, the threat made the
whole business look more and more sinister.
That evening, therefore, a great crowd made its way, through La Muette
and Auteuil, to the Boulevard Suchet, a crowd coming not only from Paris,
but also from the suburbs and the provinces. The spectacle was exciting,
and people wanted to see.
They saw only from a distance, for the police had barred the approaches
a hundred yards from either side of the house and were driving into the
ditches of the fortifications all those who managed to climb the
The sky was stormy, with heavy clouds revealed at intervals by the light
of a silver moon. There were lightning-flashes and peals of distant
thunder. Men sang. Street-boys imitated the noises of animals. People
formed themselves into groups on the benches and pavements and ate and
drank while discussing the matter.
A part of the night was spent in this way and nothing happened to reward
the patience of the crowd, who began to wonder, somewhat wearily, if they
would not do better to go home, seeing that Sauverand was in prison and
that there was every chance that the fourth letter would not appear in
the same mysterious way as the others.
And yet they did not go: Don Luis Perenna was due to come!
From ten o'clock in the evening the Prefect of Police and his secretary
general, the chief detective and Weber, his deputy, Sergeant Mazeroux,
and two detectives were gathered in the large room in which Fauville had
been murdered. Fifteen more detectives occupied the remaining rooms,
while some twenty others watched the roofs, the outside of the house, and
Once again a thorough search had been made during the afternoon, with no
better results than before. But it was decided that all the men should
keep awake. If the letter was delivered anywhere in the big room, they