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Through the Wall by Cleveland Moffett

Part 5 out of 7

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It was a quarter past four, and still night, when Coquenil left the Hotel
des Etrangers; he wore a soft black hat pulled down over his eyes, and a
shabby black coat turned up around his throat; and he carried the leather
bag taken from the automobile. The streets were silent and deserted, yet
the detective studied every doorway and corner with vigilant care, while a
hundred yards behind him, in exactly similar dress, came Papa Tignol,
peering into the shadows with sharpest watchfulness against human shadows
bent on harming M. Paul.

So they moved cautiously down the Boulevard St. Michel, then over the
bridge and along the river to Notre-Dame, whose massive towers stood out in
mysterious beauty against the faintly lighted eastern sky. Here the leader
paused for his companion.

"There's nothing," he said, as the latter joined him.


"Good! Take the bag and wait for me, but keep out of sight."


Coquenil walked across the square to the cathedral, moving slowly, thinking
over the events of the night. They had crossed the track of the assassin,
that was sure, but they had discovered nothing that could help in his
capture except the fact of the long little finger. The man had left
absolutely nothing in his room at the hotel (this they verified with the
help of false keys), and had never returned after the night of the crime,
although he had taken the room for a month, and paid the rent in advance.
He had made two visits to this room, one at about three in the afternoon of
the fatal day, when he spent an hour there, and entered Kittredge's room,
no doubt, for the boots and the pistol; the other visit he made the same
night when he tried to return the boots and was prevented from doing so.
How he must have cursed that little photographer!

As to the assassin's personal appearance, there was a startling difference
of opinion between the hotel doorkeeper and the _garcon_, both of whom saw
him and spoke to him. The one declared he had light hair and a beard, the
other that he had dark hair and no beard; the one thought he was a
Frenchman, the other was sure he was a foreigner. Evidently the man was
disguised either coming or going, so this testimony was practically

Despite all this, Coquenil was pleased and confident as he rang the night
bell at the archbishop's house beside the cathedral, for he had one
precious clew, he had the indication of this extraordinarily long little
finger, and he did not believe that in all France there were two men with
hands like that. And he knew there was one such man, for Alice had seen
him. Where had she seen him? She said she had often noticed his long little
finger, so she must often have been close enough to him to observe such a
small peculiarity. But Alice went about very little, she had few friends,
and all of them must be known to the Bonnetons. It ought to be easy to get
from the sacristan this information which the girl herself might withhold.
Hence this nocturnal visit to Notre Dame--it was of the utmost importance
that Coquenil have an immediate talk with Papa Bonneton.

And presently, after a sleepy salutation from the archbishop's servant, and
a brief explanation, M. Paul was shown through a stone passageway that
connects the church with the house, and on pushing open a wide door covered
with red velvet, he found himself alone in Notre Dame, alone in utter
darkness save for a point of red light on the shadowy altar before the
Blessed Sacrament.

As he stood uncertain which way to turn, the detective heard a step and a
low growl, and peering among the arches of the choir he saw a lantern
advancing, then a figure holding the lantern, then another crouching figure
moving before the lantern. Then he recognized Caesar.

"Phee-et, phee-et!" he whistled softly, and with a start and a glad rush,
the dog came bounding to his master, while the sacristan stared in alarm.

"Good old Caesar! There, there!" murmured Coquenil, fondling the eager
head. "It's all right, Bonneton," and coming forward, he held out his hand
as the guardian lifted his lantern in suspicious scrutiny.

"M. Paul, upon my soul!" exclaimed the sacristan. "What are you doing here
at this hour?"

"It's a little--er--personal matter," coughed Coquenil discreetly, "partly
about Caesar. Can we sit down somewhere?"

Still wondering, Bonneton led the way to a small room adjoining the
treasure chamber, where a dim lamp was burning; here he and his associates
got alternate snatches of sleep during the night.

"Hey, Francois!" He shook a sleeping figure on a cot bed, and the latter
roused himself and sat up. "It's time to make the round."

Francois looked stupidly at Coquenil and then, with a yawn and a shrug of
indifference, he called to the dog, while Caesar growled his reluctance.

"It's all right, old fellow," encouraged Coquenil, "I'll see you again,"
whereupon Caesar trotted away reassured.

"Take this chair," said the sacristan. "I'll sit on the bed. We don't have
many visitors."

"Now, then," began M. Paul. "I'll come to the dog in a minute--don't worry.
I'm not going to take him away. But first I want to ask about that girl who
sells candles. She boards with you, doesn't she?"


"You know she's in love with this American who's in prison?"

"I know."

"She came to see me the other day."

"She did?"

"Yes, and the result of her visit was--well, it has made a lot of trouble.
What I'm going to say is absolutely between ourselves--you mustn't tell a
soul, least of all your wife."

"You can trust me, M. Paul," declared Papa Bonneton rubbing his hands in

"To begin with, who is the man with the long little finger that she told me
about?" He put the questions carelessly, as if it were of no particular

"Why, that's Groener," answered Bonneton simply.

"Groener? Oh, her cousin?"


"I'm interested," went on the detective with the same indifferent air,
"because I have a collection of plaster hands at my house--I'll show it to
you some day--and there's one with a long little finger that the candle
girl noticed. Is her cousin's little finger really very long?"

"It's pretty long," said Bonneton. "I used to think it had been stretched
in some machine. You know he's a wood carver."

"I know. Well, that's neither here nor there. The point is, this girl had a
dream that--why, what's the matter?"

"Don't talk to me about her dreams!" exclaimed the sacristan. "She used to
have us scared to death with 'em. My wife won't let her tell 'em any more,
and it's a good thing she won't." For a mild man he spoke with surprising

"Bonneton," continued the detective mysteriously, "I don't know whether
it's from her dreams or in some other way, but that girl knows things
that--that she has no business to know."

Then, briefly and impressively, Coquenil told of the extraordinary
revelations that Alice had made, not only to him, but to the director of
the Sante prison.

"_Mon Dieu, mon Dieu!_" muttered the old man. "I think she's possessed of
the devil."

"She's possessed of dangerous knowledge, and I want to know where she got
it. I want to know all about this girl, who she is, where she came from,
everything. And that's where you can help me."

Bonneton shook his head. "We know very little about her, and, the queer
thing is, she seems to know very little about herself."

"Perhaps she knows more than she wants to tell."

"Perhaps, but--I don't think so. I believe she is perfectly honest. Anyhow,
her cousin is a stupid fellow. He comes on from Brussels every five or six
months and spends two nights with us--never more, never less. He eats his
meals, attends to his commissions for wood carving, takes Alice out once in
the afternoon or evening, gives my wife the money for her board, and
that's all. For five years it's been the same--you know as much about him
in one visit as you would in a hundred. There's nothing much to know; he's
just a stupid wood carver."

"You say he takes Alice out every time he comes? Is she fond of him?"

"Why--er--yes, I think so, but he upsets her. I've noticed she's nervous
just before his visits, and sort of sad after them. My wife says the girl
has her worst dreams then."

Coquenil took out a box of cigarettes. "You don't mind if I smoke?" And,
without waiting for permission, he lighted one of his Egyptians and inhaled
long breaths of the fragrant smoke. "Not a word, Bonneton! I want to
think." Then for full five minutes he sat silent.

"I have it!" he exclaimed presently. "Tell me about this man Francois."

"Francois?" answered the sacristan in surprise. "Why, he helps me with the
night work here."

"Where does he live?"

"In a room near here."

"Where does he eat?"

"He takes two meals with us."

"Ah! Do you think he would like to make a hundred francs by doing nothing?
Of course he would. And you would like to make five hundred?"

"Five hundred francs?" exclaimed Bonneton, with a frightened look.

"Don't be afraid," laughed the other. "I'm not planning to steal the
treasure. When do you expect this wood carver again?"

"It's odd you should ask that, for my wife only told me this morning she's
had a letter from him. We didn't expect him for six weeks yet, but it
seems he'll be here next Wednesday. Something must have happened."

"Next Wednesday," reflected Coquenil. "He always comes when he says he

"Always. He's as regular as clockwork."

"And he spends two nights with you?"


"That will be Wednesday night and Thursday night of next week?"


"Good! Now I'll show you how you're going to make this money. I want
Francois to have a little vacation; he looks tired. I want him to go into
the country on Tuesday and stay until Friday."

"And his work? Who will do his work?"

Coquenil smiled quietly and tapped his breast.


"I will take Francois's place. I'll be the best assistant you ever had and
I shall enjoy Mother Bonneton's cooking."

"You will take your meals with us?" cried the sacristan aghast. "But they
all know you."

"None of them will know me; you won't know me yourself."

"Ah, I see," nodded the old man wisely. "You will have a disguise. But my
wife has sharp eyes."

"If she knows me, or if the candle girl knows me, I'll give you a thousand
francs instead of five hundred. Now, here is the money for Francois"--he
handed the sacristan a hundred-franc note--"and here are five hundred
francs for you. I shall come on Tuesday, ready for work. When do you want

"At six o'clock," answered the sacristan doubtfully. "But what shall I say
if anyone asks me about it?"

"Say Francois was sick, and you got your old friend Matthieu to replace him
for a few days. I'm Matthieu!"

Papa Bonneton touched the five crisp bank notes caressingly; their clean
blue and white attracted him irresistibly.

"You wouldn't get me into trouble, M. Paul?" he appealed weakly.

"Papa Bonneton," answered Coquenil earnestly, "have I ever shown you
anything but friendship? When old Max died and you asked me to lend you
Caesar I did it, didn't I? And you know what Caesar is to me. I _love_ that
dog, if anything happened to him--well, I don't like to think of it, but I
let you have him, didn't I? That proves my trust; now I want yours. I can't
explain my reasons; it isn't necessary, but I tell you that what I'm asking
cannot do you the least harm, and may do me the greatest good. There, it's
up to you."

M. Paul held out his hand frankly and the sacristan took it, with emotion.

"That settles it," he murmured. "I never doubted you, but--my wife has an
infernal tongue and----"

"She will never know anything about this," smiled the other, "and, if she
should, give her one or two of these bank notes. It's wonderful how they
change a woman's point of view. Besides, you can prepare her by talking
about Francois's bad health."

"A good idea!" brightened Bonneton.

"Then it's understood. Tuesday, at six, your friend Matthieu will be here
to replace Francois. Remember--Matthieu!"

"I'll remember."

The detective rose to go. "Good night--or, rather, good morning, for the
day is shining through that rose window. Pretty, isn't it? Ouf, I wonder
when I'll get the sleep I need!" He moved toward the door. "Oh, I forgot
about the dog. Tignol will come for him Tuesday morning with a line from
me. I shall want Caesar in the afternoon, but I'll bring him back at six."

"All right," nodded the sacristan; "he'll be ready. _Au revoir_--until

M. Paul went through the side door and then through the high iron gateway
before the archbishop's house. He glanced at his watch and it was after
five. Across the square Papa Tignol was waiting.

"Things are marching along," smiled Coquenil some minutes later as they
rolled along toward the Eastern railway station. "You know what you have to
do. And I know what I have to do! _Bon Dieu!_ what a life! You'd better
have more money--here," and he handed the other some bank notes. "We meet
Tuesday at noon near the Auteuil station beneath the first arch of the

"Do you know what day Tuesday is?"

M. Paul thought a moment. "The fourteenth of July! Our national holiday!
And the crime was committed on the American Independence Day. Strange,
isn't it?"

"There will be a great crowd about."

"There's safety in a crowd. Besides, I've got to suit my time to _his_."

"Then you really expect to see--_him?_" questioned the old man.

"Yes," nodded the other briefly. "Remember this, don't join me on Tuesday
or speak to me or make any sign to me unless you are absolutely sure you
have not been followed. If you are in any doubt, put your message under
the dog's collar and let him find me. By the way, you'd better have Caesar
clipped. It's a pity, but--it's safer."

Now they were rattling up the Rue Lafayette in the full light of day.

"Ten minutes to six," remarked Tignol. "My train leaves at six forty."

"You'll have time to get breakfast. I'll leave you now. There's nothing
more to say. You have my letter--_for her_. You'll explain that it isn't
safe for me to write through the post office. And she mustn't try to write
me. I'll come to her as soon as I can. You have the money for her; say I
want her to buy a new dress, a nice one, and if there's anything else she
wants, why, she must have it. Understand?"

Tignol nodded.

Then, dropping the cab window, M. Paul told the driver to stop, and they
drew up before the terraced fountains of the Trinite church.

"Good-by and good luck," said Coquenil, clasping Tignol's hand, "and--don't
let her worry."

The cab rolled on, and M. Paul, bag in hand, strode down a side street; but
just at the corner he turned and looked after the hurrying vehicle, and his
eyes were full of sadness and yearning.

* * * * *

Tuesday, the fourteenth of July! The great French holiday! All Paris in the
streets, bands playing, soldiers marching, everybody happy or looking
happy! And from early morning all trains, 'buses, cabs, automobiles, in
short, all moving things in the gay city were rolling a jubilant multitude
toward the Bois de Boulogne, where the President of the Republique was to
review the troops before a million or so of his fellow-citizens. Coquenil
had certainly chosen the busiest end of Paris for his meeting with Papa

Their rendezvous was at noon, but two hours earlier Tignol took the train
at the St. Lazare station. And with him came Caesar, such a changed,
unrecognizable Caesar! Poor dog! His beautiful, glossy coat of brown and
white had been clipped to ridiculous shortness, and he crouched at the old
man's feet in evident humiliation.

"It was a shame, old fellow," said Tignol consolingly, "but we had to obey
orders, eh? Never mind, it will grow out again."

Leaving the train at Auteuil, they walked down the Rue La Fontaine to a
tavern near the Rue Mozart, where the old man left Caesar in charge of the
proprietor, a friend of his. It was now a quarter to eleven, and Tignol
spent the next hour riding back and forth on the circular railway between
Auteuil and various other stations; he did this because Coquenil had
charged him to be sure he was not followed; he felt reasonably certain that
he was not, but he wished to be absolutely certain.

So he rode back to the Avenue Henri Martin, where he crossed the platform
and boarded a returning train for the Champs de Mars, telling the guard he
had made a mistake. Two other passengers did the same, a young fellow and a
man of about fifty, with a rough gray beard. Tignol did not see the young
fellow again, but when he got off at the Champs de Mars, the gray-bearded
man got off also and followed across the bridge to the opposite platform,
where both took the train back to Auteuil.

This was suspicious, so at Auteuil Tignol left the station quickly, only to
return a few minutes later and buy another ticket for the Avenue Henri
Martin. There once more he crossed the platform and took a train for the
Champs de Mars, and this time he congratulated himself that no one had
followed him; but when he got off, as before, at the Champs de Mars and
crossed the bridge, he saw the same gray-bearded man crossing behind him.
There was no doubt of it, he was being shadowed.

And now Tignol waited until the train back to Auteuil was about starting,
then he deliberately got into a compartment where the gray-bearded man was
seated alone. And, taking out pencil and paper, he proceeded to write a
note for Coquenil. Their meeting was now impossible, so he must fasten this
explanation, along with his full report, under Caesar's collar and let the
dog be messenger, as had been arranged.

"I am sending this by Caesar," he wrote, "because I am watched. The man
following me is a bad-looking brute with dirty gray beard and no mustache.
He has a nervous trick of half shutting his eyes and jerking up the corners
of his mouth, which shows the worst set of ugly yellow teeth I ever saw.
I'd like to have one of them for a curiosity."

"Would you?" said the man suddenly, as if answering a question.

Tignol stared at him.

"Excuse me," explained the other, "but I read handwriting upside down."


"You say you would like one of my teeth?"

"Don't trouble," smiled Tignol.

"It's no trouble," declared the stranger. "On the contrary!" and seizing
one of his yellow fangs between thumb and first finger he gave a quick
wrench. "There!" he said with a hideous grin, and he handed Tignol the

They were just coming into the Auteuil station as this extraordinary
maneuver was accomplished.

"I'll be damned!" exclaimed Tignol.

[Illustration: "'There!' he said with a hideous grin, and he handed Tignol
the tooth."]

"Is it really as good as that?" asked the stranger, in a tone that made the
old man jump.

Tignol leaned closer, and then in a burst of admiration he cried: "_Nom de
dieu! It's Coquenil!_"



"It's a composition of rubber," laughed Coquenil. "You slip it on over your
own tooth. See?" and he put back the yellow fang.

"Extraordinary!" muttered Tignol. "Even now I hardly know you."

"Then I ought to fool the wood carver."

"Fool him? You would fool your own mother. That reminds me--" He rose as
the train stopped.

"Yes, yes?" questioned M. Paul eagerly. "Tell me about my mother. Is she
well? Is she worried? Did you give her all my messages? Have you a letter
for me?"

Tignol smiled. "There's a devoted son! But the old lady wouldn't like you
with those teeth. Eh, eh! Shades of Vidocq, what a make-up! We'd better get
out! I'll tell you about my visit as we walk along."

"Where are you going?" asked the detective, as the old man led the way
toward the Rue La Fontaine.

"Going to get the dog," answered Tignol.

"No, no," objected M. Paul. "I wouldn't have Caesar see me like this. I
have a room on the Rue Poussin; I'll go back there first and take off some
of this."

"As you please," said Tignol, and he proceeded to give Coquenil the latest
news of his mother, all good news, and a long letter from the old lady,
full of love and wise counsels and prayers for her boy's safety.

"There's a woman for you!" murmured M. Paul, and the tenderness of his
voice contrasted oddly with the ugliness of his disguise.

"Suppose I get the dog while you are changing?" suggested Tignol. "You know
he's been clipped?"

"Poor Caesar! Yes, get him. My room is across the street. Walk back and
forth along here until I come down."

Half an hour later Coquenil reappeared almost his ordinary self, except
that he wore neither mustache nor eyeglasses, and, instead of his usual
neat dress he had put on the shabby black coat and the battered soft hat
that he had worn in leaving the Hotel des Etrangers.

"Ah, Caesar! Old fellow!" he cried fondly as the dog rushed to meet him
with barks of joy. "It's good to have a friend like that! Where is the man
who cares so much? Or the woman either--except one?"

"There's one woman who seems to care a lot about this dog," remarked
Tignol. "I mean the candle girl. Such a fuss as she made when I went to get

M. Paul listened in surprise. "What did she do?"

"Do? She cried and carried on in a great way. She said something was going
to happen to Caesar; she didn't want me to take him."

"Strange!" muttered the other.

"I told her I was only taking him to you, and that you would bring him back
to-night. When she had heard that she caught my two hands in hers and said
I must tell you she wanted to see you very much. There's something on her
mind or--or she's afraid of something."

Coquenil frowned and twisted his seal ring, then he changed it deliberately
from the left hand to the right, as if with some intention.

"We'll never get to the bottom of this case," he muttered, "until we know
the truth about that girl. Papa Tignol, I want you to go right back to
Notre-Dame and keep an eye on her. If she is afraid of something, there's
something to be afraid of, _for she knows_. Don't talk to her; just hang
about the church until I come. Remember, we spend the night there."

"_Sapristi_, a night in a church!"

"It won't hurt you for once," smiled M. Paul. "There's a bed to sleep on,
and a lot to talk about. You know we begin the great campaign to-morrow."

Tignol rubbed his hands in satisfaction. "The sooner the better." Then
yielding to his growing curiosity: "Have you found out much?"

Coquenil's eyes twinkled. "You're dying to know what I've been doing these
last five days, eh?"

"Nothing of the sort," said the old man testily. "If you want to leave me
in the dark, all right, only if I'm to help in the work----"

"Of course, of course," broke in the other good-naturedly. "I was going to
tell you to-night, but Bonneton will be with us, so--come, we'll stroll
through the _bois_ as far as Passy, and I'll give you the main points. Then
you can take a cab."

Papa Tignol was enormously pleased at this mark of confidence, but he
merely gave one of his jerky little nods and walked along solemnly beside
his brilliant associate. In his loyalty for M. Paul this tough old veteran
would have allowed himself to be cut into small pieces, but he would have
spluttered and grumbled throughout the operation.

"Let's see," began Coquenil, as they entered the beautiful park, "I have
five days to account for. Well, I spent two days in Paris and three in

"Where the wood carver lives?"

"Exactly. I got his address from Papa Bonneton. I thought I'd look the man
over in his home when he was not expecting me. And before I started I put
in two days studying wood carving, watching the work and questioning the
workmen until I knew more about it than an expert. I made up my mind that,
when I saw this man with the long little finger, I must be able to decide
whether he was a genuine wood carver--or--or something else."

"I see," admired Tignol. "Well?"

"As it turned out, I didn't find him, I haven't seen him yet. He was away
on a trip when I got to Brussels, away on this trip that will bring him to
Paris to-morrow, so I missed him and--it's just as well I did!"

"You got facts about him?"

"Yes, I got facts about him; not the kind of facts I expected to get,
either. I saw the place where he boards, this Adolph Groener. In fact, I
stopped there, and I talked to the woman who runs it, a sharp-eyed young
widow with a smooth tongue; and I saw the place where he works; it's a
wood-carving shop, all right, and I talked to the men there--two big strong
fellows with jolly red faces, and--well--" he hesitated.


The detective crossed his arms and faced the old man with a grim, searching

"Papa Tignol," he said impressively, "they all tell a simple, straight
story. His name _is_ Adolf Groener, he _does_ live in Brussels, he makes
his living at wood carving, and the widow who runs the confounded boarding
house knows all about this girl Alice."

Tignol rubbed his nose reflectively. "It was a long shot, anyway."

"What would _you_ have done?" questioned the other sharply.

"Why," answered Tignol slowly, while his shrewd eyes twinkled, "I--I'd have
cussed a little and--had a couple of drinks and--come back to Paris."

Coquenil sat silent frowning. "I wasn't much better. After that first day I
was ready to drop the thing, I admit it, only I went for a walk that
night--and there's a lot in walking. I wandered for hours through that nice
little town of Brussels, in the crowd and then alone, and the more I
thought the more I came back to the same idea, _he can't be a wood

"You couldn't prove it, but you knew it," chuckled the old man.

Coquenil nodded. "So I kept on through the second day. I saw more people
and asked more questions, then I saw the same people again and tried to
trip them up, but I didn't get ahead an inch. Groener was a wood carver,
and he stayed a wood carver."

"It began to look bad, eh?"

Coquenil stopped short and said earnestly: "Papa Tignol, when this case is
over and forgotten, when this man has gone where he belongs, and I know
where that is"--he brought his hand down sideways swiftly--"I shall have
the lesson of this Brussels search cut on a block of stone and set in my
study wall. Oh, I've learned the lesson before, but this drives it home,
that _the most important knowledge a detective can have is the knowledge he
gets inside himself!_"

Tignol had never seen M. Paul more deeply stirred. "_Sacre matin!_" he
exclaimed. "Then you did find something?"

"Ah, but I deserve no credit for it, I ought to have failed. I weakened; I
had my bag packed and was actually starting for Paris, convinced that
Groener had nothing to do with the case. Think of that!"

"Yes, but you _didn't_ start."

"It was a piece of stupid luck that saved me when I ought to have known,
when I ought to have been sure. And, mark you, if I had come back believing
in Groener's innocence, this crime would never have been cleared up,

Tignol shrugged his shoulders. "La, la, la! What a man! If you had fallen
into a hole you might have broken your leg! Well, you didn't fall into the

Coquenil smiled. "You're right, I ought to be pleased, I am pleased. After
all, it was a neat bit of work. You see, I was waiting in the parlor of
this boarding house for the widow to bring me my bill--I had spent two days
there--and I happened to glance at a photograph she had shown me when I
first came, a picture of Alice and herself, taken five years ago, when
Alice was twelve years old. There was no doubt about the girl, and it was a
good likeness of the widow. She told me she was a great friend of Alice's
mother, and the picture was taken when the mother died, just before Alice
went to Paris.

"Well, as I looked at the picture now, I noticed that it had no
photographer's name on it, which is unusual, and it seemed to me there was
something queer about the girl's hand; I went to the window and was
studying the picture with my magnifying glass when I heard the woman's step
outside, so I slipped it into my pocket. Then I paid my bill and came

"You _needed_ that picture," approved Tignol.

"As soon as I was outside I jumped into a cab and drove to the principal
photographers in Brussels. There were three of them, and at each place I
showed this picture and asked how much it would cost to copy it, and as I
asked the question I watched the man's face. The first two were perfectly
businesslike, but the third man gave a little start and looked at me in an
odd way. I made up my mind he had seen the picture before, but I didn't get
anything out of him--then. In fact, I didn't try very hard, for I had my

"From here I drove straight to police headquarters and had a talk with the
chief. He knew me by reputation, and a note that I brought from Pougeot
helped, and--well, an hour later that photographer was ready to tell me the
innermost secrets of his soul."

"Eh, eh, eh!" laughed Tignol. "And what did he tell you?"

"He told me he made this picture of Alice and the widow _only six weeks

"Six weeks ago!" stared the other. "But the widow told you it was taken
five years ago."


"Besides, Alice wasn't in Brussels six weeks ago, was she?"

"Of course not; the picture was a fake, made from a genuine one of Alice
and a lady, perhaps her mother. This photographer had blotted out the lady
and printed in the widow without changing the pose. It's a simple trick in

"You saw the genuine picture?"

"Of course--that is, I saw a reproduction of it which the photographer made
on his own account. He suspected some crooked work, and he didn't like the
man who gave him the order."

"You mean the wood carver?"

Coquenil shrugged his shoulders. "Call him a wood carver, call him what you
like. He didn't go to the photographer in his wood-carver disguise, he
went as a gentleman in a great hurry, and willing to pay any price for the

Tignol twisted the long ends of his black mustache reflectively. "He was
covering his tracks in advance?"


"And the smooth young widow lied?"

"Lied?" snapped the detective savagely. "I should say she did. She lied
about this, and lied about the whole affair. So did the men at the shop. It
was manufactured testimony, bought and paid for, and a manufactured

"Then," cried Tignol excitedly, "then Groener is _not_ a wood carver?"

"He may be a wood carver, but he's a great deal more, he--he--" Coquenil
hesitated, and then, with eyes blazing and nostrils dilating, he burst out:
"If I know anything about my business, he's the man who gave me that
left-handed jolt under the heart, he's the man who choked your shrimp
photographer, he's the man who killed Martinez!"

"Name of a green dog!" muttered Tignol. "Is that true, or--or do you only
_know_ it?"

"It's true _because_ I know it," answered Coquenil. "See here, I'll bet you
a good dinner against a box of those vile cigarettes you smoke that this
man who calls himself Alice's cousin has the marks of my teeth on the calf
of one of his legs--I forget which leg it is."

"Taken!" said Tignol, and then, with sudden gravity: "But if this is true,
things are getting serious, eh?"

"They've been serious."

"I mean the chase is nearly over?"

M. Paul answered slowly, as if weighing his words: "This man is desperate
and full of resources, I know that, but, with the precautions I have
taken, I don't see how he can escape--if he goes to Bonneton's house

Tignol scratched his head in perplexity. "Why in thunder is he such a fool
as to go there?"

"I've wondered about that myself," mused Coquenil "Perhaps he won't go,
perhaps there is some extraordinary reason why he _must_ go."

"Some reason connected with the girl?" asked the other quickly.


"You say he _calls_ himself Alice's cousin. Isn't he really her cousin?"

Coquenil shook his head. "He isn't her cousin, and she isn't Alice."


"Her name is Mary, and he is her stepfather."

The old man stared in bewilderment. "But--how the devil do you know that?"

Coquenil smiled. "I found an inscription on the back of that Brussels
photograph--I mean the genuine one--it was hidden under a hinged support,
and Groener must have overlooked it. That was his second great mistake."

"What was the inscription?" asked Tignol eagerly.

"It read: 'To my dear husband, Raoul, from his devoted wife Margaret and
her little Mary.' You notice it says _her_ little Mary. That one word
throws a flood of light on this case. The child was not _his_ little Mary."

"I see, I see," reflected the old man. "And Alice? Does she know that--that
she _isn't_ Alice?"


"Does she know that Groener is her stepfather, and not her cousin?"


"Why not?"

"I _think_ I know why not, but, until I'm sure, I'd rather call it a
mystery. See here, we've talked too much, you must hurry back to her.
Better take an auto. And remember, Papa Tignol," he added in final warning,
"there is nothing so important as to guard this girl."

A few moments later, with Caesar bounding happily at his side, M. Paul
entered the quieter paths of the great park, and presently came to a
thickly wooded region that has almost the air of a natural forest. Here the
two romped delightedly together, and Coquenil put the dog through many of
his tricks, the fine creature fairly outdoing himself in eagerness and

"Now, old fellow," said M. Paul, "I'll sit down here and have a cigarette,"
and he settled himself on a rustic bench, while Caesar stretched out
comfortably at his feet. And so the one dozed as the other drifted far away
in smoke-laden reverie.

What days these had been, to be sure! How tired he was! He hadn't noticed
it before, but now that everything was ready, now that he had finished his
preparations--yes, he was very tired.

Everything was ready! It was good to know that. He had forgotten nothing.
And, if all went well, he would soon be able to answer these questions that
were fretting him. Who was Groener? Why had he killed Martinez? How had he
profited by the death of this unfortunate billiard player? And why did he
hate Kittredge? Was it because the American loved Alice? And who was Alice,
this girl whose dreams and fears changed the lives of serious men? From
whichever side he studied the crime he always came back to her--Kittredge
loved her, Martinez knew her, he himself had started on the case on her
account. _Who was Alice?_

During these reflections Coquenil had been vaguely aware of gay sounds from
the neighboring woods, and now a sudden burst of laughter brought him back
to the consciousness of things about him.

"We're too serious, my boy," he said with an effort at lightness; "this is
a bit of an outing, and we must enjoy it. Come, we'll move on!"

With the dog at his heels M. Paul turned his steps toward a beautiful cool
glade, carpeted in gold and green as the sunbeams sprinkled down through
the trees upon the spreading moss. Here he came into plain view of a
company of ladies and gentlemen, who, having witnessed the review, had
chosen this delightful spot for luncheon. They were evidently rich and
fashionable people, for they had come as a coaching party on a very smart
break, with four beautiful horses, and some in a flashing red-and-black
automobile that was now drawn up beside the larger vehicle.

With an idle eye M. Paul observed the details of the luncheon, red-coated
servants emptying bounteous hampers and passing tempting food from group to
group, others opening bottles of champagne, with popping corks, and filling
bubbling glasses, while the men of the party passed back and forth from
break to automobile with jests and gay words, or strolled under the trees
enjoying post-prandial cigars.

Altogether it was a pleasing picture, and Coquenil's interest was
heightened when he overheard a passing couple say that these were the
guests of no less a person than the Duke of Montreuil, whose lavish
entertainments were the talk of Paris. There he was, on the break, this
favorite of fortune! What a brilliant figure of a man! Famous as a
sportsman, enormously rich, popular in society, at the head of vast
industrial enterprises, and known to have almost controlling power in
affairs of state!

"Never mind, old sport, it takes all kinds of people to make up the world.
Now then, jump!"

So they went on, playing together, master and dog, and were passing around
through the woods on the far side of the coaching party, when, suddenly,
Caesar ceased his romping and began to nose the ground excitedly. Then,
running to his master, he stood with eager eyes, as if urging some pursuit.

The detective observed the dog in surprise. Was this some foolish whim to
follow a squirrel or a rabbit? It wasn't like Caesar.

"Come, come," he reasoned with friendly chiding, "don't be a baby."

Caesar growled in vigorous protest, and darting away, began circling the
ground before him, back and forth, in widening curves, as Coquenil had
taught him.

"Have you found something--sure?"

The animal barked joyously.

M. Paul was puzzled. Evidently there was a scent here, but what scent? He
had made no experiments with Caesar since the night of the crime, when the
dog had taken the scent of the pistol and found the alleyway footprints.
But that was ten days ago; the dog could not still be on that same scent.
Impossible! Yet he was on _some_ scent, and very eagerly. Coquenil had
never seen him more impatient for permission to be off. Could a dog
remember a scent for ten days?

"After all, what harm can it do?" reflected the detective, becoming
interested in his turn. Then, deciding quickly, he gave the word,
"_Cherche!_" and instantly the dog was away.

"He means business," muttered M. Paul, hurrying after him.

On through the woods went Caesar, nose down, tail rigid, following the
scent, moving carefully among the trees, and once or twice losing the
trail, but quickly finding it again, and, presently, as he reached more
open ground, running ahead swiftly, straight toward the coaching party.

In a flash Coquenil realized the danger and called loudly to the dog, but
the distance was too great, and his voice was drowned by the cries of
ladies on the break, who, seeing the bounding animal, screamed their
fright. And no wonder, for this powerful, close-clipped creature, in his
sudden rush looked like some formidable beast of prey; even the men started
up in alarm.

"Caesar!" shouted M. Paul, but it was too late. The dog was flying full at
the break, eyes fixed, body tense; now he was gathering strength to
spring, and now, with a splendid effort, he was actually hurling himself
through the air, when among the confused figures on the coach a man leaned
forward suddenly, and something flashed in his hand. There was a feather
of smoke, a sharp report, and then, with a stab of pain, Coquenil saw
Caesar fall back to the ground and lie still.

"My dog, my dog!" he cried, and coming up to the stricken creature, he
knelt beside him with ashen face.

One glance showed there was nothing to be done, the bullet had crashed into
the broad breast in front of the left shoulder and--it was all over with

"My friend, my dear old friend!" murmured M. Paul in broken tones, and he
took the poor head in his arms. At the master's voice Caesar opened his
beautiful eyes weakly, in a last pitiful appeal, then the lids closed.

"You cowards!" flung out the heartsick man. "You have killed my dog!"

"It was your own fault," said one of the gentlemen coldly, "you had no
business to leave a dangerous animal like that at liberty."

[Illustration: "'My dog, my dog!'"]

M. Paul did not speak or move; he was thinking bitterly of Alice's

Then some one on the break said: "We had better move along, hadn't we,

"Yes," agreed another. "What a beastly bore!"

And a few moments later, with clanking harness and sounding horn, the gay
party rolled away.

Coquenil sat silent by his dog.



A detective, like an actor or a soldier, must go on fighting and playing
his part, regardless of personal feelings. Sorrow brings him no reprieve
from duty, so the next morning after the last sad offices for poor Caesar,
Coquenil faced the emergency before him with steady nerve and calm
resolution. There was an assassin to be brought to justice and the time for
action had come. This was, perhaps, the most momentous day of his whole

Up to the very hour of luncheon M. Paul doubted whether the wood carver
would keep his appointment at the Bonnetons'. Why should he take such a
risk? Why walk deliberately into a trap that he must suspect? It was true,
Coquenil remembered with chagrin, that this man, if he really was the man,
had once before walked into a trap (there on the Champs Elysees) and had
then walked calmly out again; but this time the detective promised himself
things should happen differently. His precautions were taken, and if
Groener came within his clutches to-day, he would have a lively time
getting out of them. There was a score to be settled between them, a heavy
score, and--let the wood carver beware!

The wood carver kept his appointment. More than that, he seemed in
excellent spirits, and as he sat down to Mother Bonneton's modest luncheon
he nodded good-naturedly to Matthieu, the substitute watchman, whom the
sacristan introduced, not too awkwardly, then he fell to eating with a
hearty appetite and without any sign of embarrassment or suspicion.

"It's a strong game he's playing," reflected the detective, "but he's going
to lose."

The wood carver appeared to be a man approaching forty, of medium height
and stocky build, the embodiment of good health and good humor. His round,
florid face was free from lines, his gray eyes were clear and friendly. He
had thick, brown hair, a short, yellowish mustache, and a close-cut,
brownish beard. He was dressed like a superior workingman, in a flannel
shirt, a rough, blue suit, oil-stained and dust-sprinkled, and he wore
thick-soled boots. His hands were strong and red and not too clean, with
several broken nails and calloused places. In a word, he looked the wood
carver, every inch of him, and the detective was forced to admit that, if
this was a disguise, it was the most admirable one he had ever seen. If
this beard and hair and mustache were false, then his own make-up, the best
he had ever created, was a poor thing in comparison.

During the meal Groener talked freely, speaking with a slight Belgian
accent, but fluently enough. He seemed to have a naive spirit of drollery,
and he related quite amusingly an experience of his railway journey.

"You see," he laughed, showing strong white teeth, "there were two American
girls in one compartment and a newly married couple in the next one, with a
little glass window between. Well, the young bridegroom wanted to kiss his
bride, naturally, ha, ha! It was a good chance, for they were alone, but he
was afraid some one might look through the little window and see him, so he
kept looking through it himself to make sure it was all right. Well, the
American girls got scared seeing a man's face peeking at them like that,
so one of them caught hold of a cord just above the window and pulled it
down. She thought it was a curtain cord; she wanted to cover the window so
the man couldn't see through. Do I make myself comprehensible, M.
Matthieu?" He looked straight at Coquenil.

"Perfectly," smiled the latter.

"Well, it wasn't a curtain cord," continued the wood carver with great
relish of the joke, "it was the emergency signal, which, by the
regulations, must only be used in great danger, so the first thing we knew
the train drew up with a terrible jerk, and there was a great shouting and
opening of doors and rushing about of officials. And finally, ha, ha! they
discovered that the Brussels express had been stopped, ha, ha, ha! because
a bashful young fellow wanted to kiss his girl."

M. Paul marveled at the man's self-possession. Not a tone or a glance or a
muscle betrayed him, he was perfectly at ease, buoyantly satisfied, one
would say, with himself and all the world--in short, he suggested nothing
so little as a close-tracked assassin.

In vain Coquenil tried to decide whether Groener was really unconscious of
impending danger. Was he deceived by this Matthieu disguise? Or was it
possible, _could_ it be possible, that he was what he appeared to be, a
simple-minded wood carver free from any wickedness or duplicity? No, no, it
was marvelous acting, an extraordinary make-up, but this was his man, all
right. There was the long little finger, plainly visible, the identical
finger of his seventeenth-century cast. Yes, this was the enemy, the
murderer, delivered into his hands through some unaccountable fortune, and
now to be watched like precious prey, and presently to be taken and
delivered over to justice. It seemed too good to be true, too easy, yet
there was the man before him, and despite his habit of caution and his
knowledge that this was no ordinary adversary, the detective thrilled as
over a victory already won.

The wood carver went on to express delight at being back in Paris, where
his work would keep him three or four days. Business was brisk, thank
Heaven, with an extraordinary demand for old sideboards with carved panels
of the Louis XV period, which they turned out by the dozen, ha, ha, ha! in
the Brussels shop. He described with gusto and with evident inside
knowledge how they got the worm holes in these panels by shooting fine shot
into them and the old appearance by burying them in the ground. Then he
told how they distributed the finished sideboards among farmhouses in
various parts of Belgium and Holland and France, where they were left to be
"discovered," ha, ha, ha! by rich collectors glad to pay big prices to the
simple-minded farmers, working on commission, who had inherited these
treasures from their ancestors.

Across the table Matthieu, with grinning yellow teeth, showed his
appreciation of this trick in art catering, and presently, when the coffee
was served, he made bold to ask M. Groener if there would be any chance for
a man like himself in a wood-carving shop. He was strong and willing
and--his present job at Notre-Dame was only for a few days. Papa Bonneton
nearly choked over his _demi tasse_ as he listened to this plea, but the
wood carver took it seriously.

"I'll help you with pleasure," he said; "I'll take you around with me to
several shops to-morrow."

"To-morrow, not to-day?" asked Matthieu, apparently disappointed.

"To-day," smiled Groener, "I enjoy myself. This afternoon I escort my
pretty cousin to hear some music. Did you know that, Alice?" He turned
gayly to the girl.

Since the meal began Alice had scarcely spoken, but had sat looking down at
her plate save at certain moments when she would lift her eyes suddenly and
fix them on Groener with a strange, half-frightened expression.

"You are very kind, Cousin Adolf," she answered timidly, "but--I'm not
feeling well to-day."

"Why, what's the matter?" he asked in a tone of concern that had just a
touch of hardness in it.

The girl hesitated, and Mother Bonneton put in harshly: "I'll tell you,
she's fretting about that American who was sent to prison--a good riddance
it was."

"You have no right to say that," flashed Alice.

"I have a right to tell your cousin about this foolishness. I've tried my
best to look after you and be a mother to you, but when a girl won't listen
to reason, when she goes to a _prison_ to see a worthless lover----"

"Stop!" cried Alice, her beautiful eyes filling with tears.

"No, no, I'll tell it all. When a girl slips away from her work at the
church and goes to see a man like Paul Coquenil----"

"Paul Coquenil?" repeated the wood carver blankly.

"Have you never heard of Paul Coquenil?" smiled Matthieu, kicking Papa
Bonneton warningly under the table.

Groener looked straight at the detective and answered with perfect
simplicity: "No wonder you smile, M. Matthieu, but think how far away from
Paris I live! Besides, I want this to be a happy day. Come, little cousin,
you shall tell me all about it when we are out together. Run along now and
put on your nice dress and hat. We'll start in about half an hour."

Alice rose from the table, deathly white. She tried to speak, but the words
failed her; it seemed to Coquenil that her eyes met his in desperate
appeal, and then, with a glance at Groener, half of submission, half of
defiance, she turned and left the room.

"Now Madam Bonneton," resumed Groener cheerfully, "while the young lady
gets into her finery we might have a little talk. There are a few
matters--er--" He looked apologetically at the others. "You and I will meet
to-morrow, M. Matthieu; I'll see what I can do for you."

"Thanks," said Matthieu, rising in response to this hint for his departure.
He bowed politely, and followed by the sacristan, went out.

"Don't speak until we get downstairs," whispered Coquenil, and they
descended the four flights in silence.

"Now, Bonneton," ordered the detective sharply, when they were in the lower
hallway, "don't ask questions, just do what I say. I want you to go right
across to Notre-Dame, and when you get to the door take your hat off and
stand there for a minute or so fanning yourself. Understand?"

The simple-minded sacristan was in a daze with all this mystery, but he
repeated the words resignedly: "I'm to stand at the church door and fan
myself with my hat. Is that it?"

"That's it. Then Tignol, who's watching in one of these doorways, the sly
old fox, will come across and join you. Tell him to be ready to move any
minute now. He'd better loaf around the corner of the church until he gets
a signal from me. I'll wait here. Now go on."

"But let me say--" began the other in mild protest. "No, no," broke in M.
Paul impatiently, "there's no time. Listen! Some one is coming down. Go,

"I'm going, M. Paul, I'm going," obeyed Bonneton, and he hurried across the
few yards of pavement that separated them from the cathedral.

Meantime, the step on the stairs came nearer. It was a light, quick step,
and, looking up, Coquenil saw Alice hurrying toward him, tense with some
eager purpose.

"Oh, M. Matthieu!" exclaimed the girl in apparent surprise. Then going
close to him she said in a low tone that quivered with emotion: "I came
after you, I must speak to you, I--I know who you are."

He looked at her sharply.

"You are M. Coquenil," she whispered.

"You saw it?" he asked uneasily.

She shook her head. "I _knew_ it."

"Ah!" with relief. "Does _he_ know?"

The girl's hands closed convulsively while the pupils of her eyes widened
and then grew small. "I'm afraid so," she murmured, and then added these
singular words: "_He knows everything_."

M. Paul laid a soothing hand on her arm and said kindly: "Are you afraid of

"Ye-es." Her voice was almost inaudible.

"Is he planning something?"

For a moment Alice hesitated, biting her red lips, then with a quick
impulse, she lifted her dark eyes to Coquenil. "I _must_ tell you, I have
no one else to tell, and I am so distressed, so--so afraid." She caught his
hands pleadingly in hers, and he felt that they were icy cold.

"I'll protect you, that's what I'm here for," he assured her, "but go on,
speak quickly. What is he planning?"

"He's planning to take me away, away from Paris, I'm sure he is. I
overheard him just now telling Mother Bonneton to pack my trunk. He says he
will spend three or four days in Paris, but that may not be true, he may go
at once to-night. You can't believe him or trust him, and, if he takes me
away, I--I may never come back."

"He won't take you away," said M. Paul reassuring, "that is, he won't
if--See here, you trust me?"

"Oh, yes."

"You'll do exactly what I tell you, _exactly_, without asking how or why?"

"I will," she declared.

"You're a plucky little girl," he said as he met her unflinching look. "Let
me think a moment," and he turned back and forth in the hall, brows
contracted, hands deep in his pockets. "I have it!" he exclaimed presently,
his face brightening. "Now listen," and speaking slowly and distinctly, the
detective gave Alice precise instructions, then he went over them again,
point by point.

"Are you sure you understand?" he asked finally.

"Yes, I understand and I will do what you tell me," she answered firmly,


"It will bring trouble on you. If anyone stands in his way--" She shivered
in alarm.

Coquenil smiled confidently. "Don't worry about me."

She shook her head anxiously. "You don't know, you can't understand what
a"--she stopped as if searching for a word--"what a _wicked_ man he is."

"I understand--a little," answered Coquenil gravely; "you can tell me more
when we have time; we mustn't talk now, _we must act_."

"Yes, of course," agreed Alice, "I will obey orders; you can depend on me
and"--she held out her slim hand in a grateful movement--"thank you."

For a moment he pressed the trembling fingers in a reassuring clasp, then
he watched her wonderingly, as, with a brave little smile, she turned and
went back up the stairs.

"She has the air of a princess, that girl," he mused, "Who is she? What is
she? I ought to know in a few hours now," and moving to the wide space of
the open door, the detective glanced carelessly over the Place Notre-Dame.

It was about two o'clock, and under a dazzling sun the trees and buildings
of the square were outlined on the asphalt in sharp black shadows. A 'bus
lumbered sleepily over the bridge with three straining horses. A big
yellow-and-black automobile throbbed quietly before the hospital. Some
tourists passed, mopping red faces. A beggar crouched in the shade near the
entrance to the cathedral, intoning his woes. Coquenil took out his watch
and proceeded to wind it slowly. At which the beggar dragged himself lazily
out of his cool corner and limped across the street.

"A little charity, kind gentleman," he whined as he came nearer.

"In here, Papa Tignol," beckoned Coquenil; "there's something new. It's all
right, I've fixed the doorkeeper."

And a moment later the two associates were talking earnestly near the
doorkeeper's lodge.

Meantime, Alice, with new life in her heart, was putting on her best dress
and hat as Groener had bidden her, and presently she joined her cousin in
the salon where he sat smoking a cheap cigar and finishing his talk with
Mother Bonneton.

"Ah," he said, "are you ready?" And looking at her more closely, he added:
"Poor child, you've been crying. Wait!" and he motioned Mother Bonneton to
leave them.

"Now," he began kindly, when the woman had gone, "sit down here and tell me
what has made my little cousin unhappy."

He spoke in a pleasant, sympathetic tone, and the girl approached him as if
trying to overcome an instinctive shrinking, but she did not take the
offered chair, she simply stood beside it.

"It's only a little thing," she answered with an effort, "but I was afraid
you might be displeased. What time is it?"

He looked at his watch. "Twenty minutes to three."

"Would you mind very much if we didn't start until five or ten minutes past

"Why--er--what's the matter?"

Alice hesitated, then with pleading eyes: "I've been troubled about
different things lately, so I spoke to Father Anselm yesterday and he said
I might come to him to-day at a quarter to three."

"You mean for confession?"


"I see. How long does it take?"

"Fifteen or twenty minutes."

"Will it make you feel happier?"

"Oh, yes, much happier."

"All right," he nodded, "I'll wait."

"Thank you, Cousin Adolf," she said eagerly. "I'll hurry right back; I'll
be here by ten minutes past three."

He eyed her keenly. "You needn't trouble to come back, I'll go to the
church with you."

"And wait there?" she asked with a shade of disappointment.

"Yes," he answered briefly.

There was nothing more to say, and a few minutes later Alice, anxious-eyed
but altogether lovely in flower-spread hat and a fleecy pink gown, entered
Notre-Dame followed by the wood carver.

"Will you wait here, cousin, by my little table?" she asked sweetly.

"You seem anxious to get rid of me," he smiled.

"No, no," she protested, but her cheeks flushed; "I only thought this chair
would be more comfortable."

"Any chair will do for me," he said dryly. "Where is your confessional?"

"On the other side," and she led the way down the right aisle, past various
recessed chapels, past various confessional boxes, each bearing the name of
the priest who officiated there. And presently as they came to a
confessional box in the space near the sacristy Alice pointed to the name,
"Father Anselm."

"There," she said.

"Is the priest inside?"

"Yes." And then, with a new idea: "Cousin Adolf," she whispered, "if you go
along there back of the choir and down a little stairway, you will come to
the treasure room. It might interest you."

He looked at her in frank amusement. "I'm interested already. I'll get
along very nicely here. Now go ahead and get through with it."

The girl glanced about her with a helpless gesture, and then, sighing
resignedly, she entered the confessional. Groener seated himself on one of
the little chairs and leaned back with a satisfied chuckle. He was so near
the confessional that he could hear a faint murmur of voices--Alice's sweet
tones and then the priest's low questions.

Five minutes passed, ten minutes! Groener looked at his watch impatiently.
He heard footsteps on the stone of the choir, and, glancing up, saw
Matthieu polishing the carved stalls. Some ladies passed with a guide who
was showing them the church. Groener rose and paced back and forth
nervously. What a time the girl was taking! Then the door of the
confessional box opened and a black-robed priest came out and moved
solemnly away. _Enfin!_ It was over! And with a feeling of relief Groener
watched the priest as he disappeared in the passage leading to the

Still Alice lingered, saying a last prayer, no doubt. But the hour was
advancing. Groener looked at his watch again. Twenty minutes past three!
She had been in that box over half an hour. It was ridiculous,
unreasonable. Besides, the priest was gone; her confession was finished.
She must come out.

"Alice!" he called in a low tone, standing near the penitent's curtain.

There was no answer.

Then he knocked sharply on the woodwork: "Alice, what are you doing?"

Still no answer.

Groener's face darkened, and with sudden suspicion he drew aside the

The confessional box was empty--_Alice was gone!_

[Illustration: "The confessional box was empty--_Alice was gone!_"]



What had happened was very simple. The confessional box from which Alice
had vanished was one not in use at the moment, owing to repairs in the wall
behind it. These repairs had necessitated the removal of several large
stones, replaced temporarily by lengths of supporting timbers between which
a person might easily pass. Coquenil, with his habit of careful
observation, had remarked this fact during his night in the church, and now
he had taken advantage of it to effect Alice's escape. The girl had entered
the confessional in the usual way, had remained there long enough to let
Groener hear her voice, and had then slipped out through the open wall into
the sacristy passage beyond. _And the priest was Tignol!_

"I scored on him that time," chuckled Coquenil, rubbing away at the
woodwork and thinking of Alice hastening to the safe place he had chosen
for her.

"M. Matthieu!" called Groener. "Would you mind coming here a moment?"

"I was just going to ask you to look at these carvings," replied Matthieu,
coming forward innocently.

"No, no," answered the other excitedly, "a most unfortunate thing has
happened. Look at that!" and he opened the door of the confessional. "She
has gone--run away!"

Matthieu stared in blank surprise. "Name of a pipe!" he muttered. "Not your

Groener nodded with half-shut eyes in which the detective caught a flash of
black rage, but only a flash. In a moment the man's face was placid and
good-natured as before.

"Yes," he said quietly, "my cousin has run away. It makes me sad
because--Sit down a minute, M. Matthieu, I'll tell you about it."

"We'll be more quiet in here," suggested Matthieu, indicating the sacristy.

The wood carver shook his head. "I'd sooner go outside, if you don't mind.
Will you join me in a glass at the tavern?"

His companion, marveling inwardly, agreed to this, and a few moments later
the two men were seated under the awning of the Three Wise Men.

"Now," began Groener, with perfect simplicity and friendliness, "I'll
explain the trouble between Alice and me. I've had a hard time with that
girl, M. Matthieu, a very hard time. If it wasn't for her mother, I'd have
washed my hands of her long ago; but her mother was a fine woman, a noble
woman. It's true she made one mistake that ruined her life and practically
killed her, still----"

"What mistake was that?" inquired Matthieu with sympathy.

"Why, she married an American who was--the less we say about him the
better. The point is, Alice is half American, and ever since she has been
old enough to take notice, she has been crazy about American men." He
leaned closer and, lowering his voice, added: "That's why I had to send her
to Paris five years ago."

"You don't say!"

"She was only thirteen then, but well developed and very pretty and--M.
Matthieu, she got gone on an American who was spending the winter in
Brussels, a married man. I had to break it up somehow, so I sent her away.
Yes, sir." He shook his head sorrowfully.

"And now it's another American, a man in prison, charged with a horrible
crime. Think of that! As soon as Mother Bonneton wrote me about it, I saw
I'd have to take the girl away again. I told her this morning she must pack
up her things and go back to Brussels with me, and that made the trouble."

"Ah!" exclaimed Matthieu with an understanding nod. "Then she knew at
luncheon that you would take her back to Brussels?"

"Of course she did. You know how she acted; she had made up her mind she
wouldn't go. Only she was tricky about it. She knew I had my eye on her, so
she got this priest to help her."

Now the other stared in genuine astonishment. "Why--was the priest in it?"

"Was he in it? Of course he was in it. He was the whole thing. This Father
Anselm has been encouraging the girl for months, filling her up with
nonsense about how it's right for a young girl to choose her own husband.
Mother Bonneton told me."

"You mean that Father Anselm helped her to run away?" gasped Matthieu.

"Of course he did. You saw him come out of the confessional, didn't you?"

"I was too far away to see his face," replied the other, studying the wood
carver closely. "Did _you_ see his face?"

"Certainly I did. He passed within ten feet of me. I saw his face

"Are you sure it was he? I don't doubt you, M. Groener, but I'm a sort of
official here and this is a serious charge, so I ask if you are _sure_ it
was Father Anselm?".

"I'm absolutely sure it was Father Anselm," answered the wood carver
positively. He paused a moment while the detective wondered what was the
meaning of this extraordinary statement. Why was the man giving him these
details about Alice, and how much of them was true? Did Groener know he was
talking to Paul Coquenil? If so, he knew that Coquenil must know he was
lying about Father Anselm. Then why say such a thing? What was his game?

[Illustration: "'You mean that Father Anselm helped her to run away?'
gasped Matthieu."]

"Have another glass?" asked the wood carver. "Or shall we go on?"

"Go on--where?"

"Oh, of course, you don't know my plan. I will tell you. You see, I must
find Alice, I must try to save her from this folly, for her mother's sake.
Well, I know how to find her."

He spoke so earnestly and straightforwardly that Coquenil began to think
Groener had really been deceived by the Matthieu disguise. After all, why
not? Tignol had been deceived by it.

"How will you find her?"

"I'll tell you as we drive along. We'll take a cab and--you won't leave me,
M. Matthieu?" he said anxiously.

Coquenil tried to soften the grimness of his smile. "No, M. Groener, I
won't leave you."

"Good! Now then!" He threw down some money for the drinks, then he hailed a
passing carriage.

"Rue Tronchet, near the Place de la Madeleine," he directed, and as they
rolled away, he added: "Stop at the nearest telegraph office."

The adventure was taking a new turn. Groener, evidently, had some definite
plan which he hoped to carry out. Coquenil felt for cigarettes in his coat
pocket and his hand touched the friendly barrel of a revolver. Then he
glanced back and saw the big automobile, which had been waiting for hours,
trailing discreetly behind with Tignol (no longer a priest) and two sturdy
fellows, making four men with the chauffeur, all ready to rush up for
attack or defense at the lift of his hand. There must be some miraculous
interposition if this man beside him, this baby-faced wood carver, was to
get away now as he did that night on the Champs Elysees.

"You'll be paying for that left-handed punch, old boy, before very long,"
said Coquenil to himself.

"Now," resumed Groener, as the cab turned into a quiet street out of the
noisy traffic of the Rue de Rivoli, "I'll tell you how I expect to find
Alice. I'm going to find her through the sister of Father Anselm."

"The sister of Father Anselm!" exclaimed the other.

"Certainly. Priests have sisters, didn't you know that? Ha, ha! She's a
hairdresser on the Rue Tronchet, kind-hearted woman with children of her
own. She comes to see the Bonnetons and is fond of Alice. Well, she'll know
where the girl has gone, and I propose to make her tell me."

"To make her?"

"Oh, she'll want to tell me when she understands what this means to her
brother. Hello! Here's the telegraph office! Just a minute."

He sprang lightly from the cab and hurried across the sidewalk. At the same
moment Coquenil lifted his hand and brought it down quickly, twice, in the
direction of the doorway through which Groener had passed. And a moment
later Tignol was in the telegraph office writing a dispatch beside the wood

"I've telegraphed the Paris agent of a big furniture dealer in Rouen,"
explained the latter as they drove on, "canceling an appointment for
to-morrow. He was coming on especially, but I can't see him--I can't do any
business until I've found Alice. She's a sweet girl, in spite of
everything, and I'm very fond of her." There was a quiver of emotion in his

"Are you going to the hairdresser's now?" asked Matthieu.

"Yes. Of course she may refuse to help me, but I _think_ I can persuade her
with you to back me up." He smiled meaningly.

"I? What can I do?"

"Everything, my friend. You can testify that Father Anselm planned Alice's
escape, which is bad for him, as his sister will realize. I'll say to her:
'Now, my dear Madam Page'--that's her name--'you're not going to force me
and my friend, M. Matthieu--he's waiting outside, in a cab--you're not
going to force us to charge your reverend brother with abducting a young
lady? That wouldn't be a nice story to tell the commissary of police, would
it? You're too intelligent a woman, Madam Page, to allow such a thing,
aren't you?' And she'll see the point mighty quick. She'll probably drive
right back with us to Notre-Dame and put a little sense into her brother's
shaven head. It's four o'clock now," he concluded gayly; "I'll bet you we
have Alice with us for dinner by seven, and it will be a good dinner, too.
Understand you dine with us, M. Matthieu."

The man's effrontery was prodigious and there was so much plausibility in
his glib chatter that, in spite of himself, Coquenil kept a last lingering
wonder if Groener _could_ be telling the truth. If not, what was his motive
in this elaborate fooling? He must know that his hypocrisy and deceit would
presently be exposed. So what did he expect to gain by it? What could he be
driving at?

"Stop at the third doorway in the Rue Tronchet," directed the wood carver
as they entered the Place de la Madeleine, and pointing to a hairdresser's
sign, he added: "There is her place, up one flight. Now, if you will be
patient for a few minutes, I think I'll come back with good news."

As Groener stepped from the carriage, Coquenil was on the point of seizing
him and stopping this farce forthwith. What would he gain by waiting? Yet,
after all, what would he lose? With four trained men to guard the house
there was no chance of the fellow escaping, and it was possible his visit
here might reveal something. Besides, a detective has the sportsman's
instinct, he likes to play his fish before landing it.

"All right," nodded M. Paul, "I'll be patient," and as the wood carver
disappeared, he signaled Tignol to surround the house.

"He's trying to lose us," said the old fox, hurrying up a moment later.
"There are three exits here."


"Don't you know this place?"

"What do you mean?"

"There's a passage from the first courtyard into a second one, and from
that you can go out either into the Place de la Madeleine or the Rue de
l'Arcade. I've got a man at each exit but"----he shook his head
dubiously--"one man may not be enough."

"_Tonnere de Dieu_, it's Madam Cecile's!" cried Coquenil. Then he gave
quick orders: "Put the chauffeur with one of your men in the Rue de
l'Arcade, bring your other man here and we'll double him up with this
driver. Listen," he said to the jehu; "you get twenty francs extra to help
watch this doorway for the man who just went in. We have a warrant for his
arrest. You mustn't let him get past. Understand?"

"Twenty francs," grinned the driver, a red-faced Norman with rugged
shoulders; "he won't get past, you can sleep on your two ears for that."

Meantime, Tignol had returned with one of his men, who was straightway
stationed in the courtyard.

"Now," went on Coquenil, "you and I will take the exit on the Place de la
Madeleine. It's four to one he comes out there."

"Why is it?" grumbled Tignol.

"Never mind why," answered the other brusquely, and he walked ahead,
frowning, until they reached an imposing entrance with stately palms on
the white stone floor and the glimpse of an imposing stairway.

"Of course, of course," muttered M. Paul. "To think that I had forgotten
it! After all, one loses some of the old tricks in two years."

"Remember that blackmail case," whispered Tignol, "when we sneaked the
countess out by the Rue de l'Arcade? Eh, eh, eh, what a close shave!"

Coquenil nodded. "Here's one of the same kind." He glanced at a sober
_coupe_ from which a lady, thickly veiled, was descending, and he followed
her with a shrug as she entered the house.

"To think that some of the smartest women in Paris come here!" he mused.
Then to Tignol: "How about that telegram?"

The old man stroked his rough chin. "The clerk gave me a copy of it, all
right, when I showed my papers. Here it is and--much good it will do us."

He handed M. Paul a telegraph blank on which was written:

DUBOIS, 20 Rue Chalgrin.

Special bivouac amateur bouillon danger must have Sahara easily
Groener arms impossible.


"I see," nodded Coquenil; "it ought to be an easy cipher. We must look up
Dubois," and he put the paper in his pocket. "Better go in now and locate
this fellow. Look over the two courtyards, have a word with the
doorkeepers, see if he really went into the hairdresser's; if not, find out
where he did go. Tell our men at the other exits not to let a yellow dog
slip past without sizing it up for Groener."

"I'll tell 'em," grinned the old man, and he slouched away.

For five minutes Coquenil waited at the Place de la Madeleine exit and it
seemed a long time. Two ladies arrived in carriages and passed inside
quickly with exaggerated self-possession. A couple came down the stairs
smiling and separated coldly at the door. Then a man came out alone, and
the detective's eyes bored into him. It wasn't Groener.

Finally, Tignol returned and reported all well at the other exits; no one
had gone out who could possibly be the wood carver. Groener had not been
near the hairdresser; he had gone straight through into the second
courtyard, and from there he had hurried up the main stairway.

"The one that leads to Madam Cecile's?" questioned M. Paul.

"Yes, but Cecile has only two floors. There are two more above hers."

"You think he went higher up?"

"I'm sure he did, for I spoke to Cecile herself. She wouldn't dare lie to
me, and she says she has seen no such man as Groener."

"Then he's in one of the upper apartments now?"

"He must be."

Coquenil turned back and forth, snapping his fingers softly. "I'm nervous,
Papa Tignol," he said; "I ought not to have let him go in here, I ought to
have nailed him when I had him. He's too dangerous a man to take chances
with and--_mille tonneres_, the roof!"

Tignol shook his head. "I don't think so. He might get through one scuttle,
but he'd have a devil of a time getting in at another. He has no tools."

Coquenil looked at his watch. "He's been in there fifteen minutes. I'll
give him five minutes more. If he isn't out then, we'll search the whole
block from roof to cellar. Papa Tignol, it will break my heart if this
fellow gets away."

He laid an anxious hand on his companion's arm and stood moodily silent,
then suddenly his fingers closed with a grip that made the old man wince.

"Suffering gods!" muttered the detective, "he's coming!"

As he spoke the glass door at the foot of the stairs opened and a handsome
couple advanced toward them, both dressed in the height of fashion, the
woman young and graceful, the man a perfect type of the dashing

"No, no, you're crazy," whispered Tignol.

As the couple reached the sidewalk, Coquenil himself hesitated. In the
better light he could see no resemblance between the wood carver and this
gentleman with his smart clothes, his glossy silk hat, and his haughty
eyeglass. The wood carver's hair was yellowish brown, this man's was dark,
tinged with gray; the wood carver wore a beard and mustache, this man was
clean shaven--finally, the wood carver was shorter and heavier than this

While the detective wavered, the gentleman stepped forward courteously and
opened the door of a waiting _coupe_. The lady caught up her silken skirts
and was about to enter when Coquenil brushed against her, as if by
accident, and her purse fell to the ground.

"Stupid brute!" exclaimed the gentleman angrily, as he bent over and
reached for the purse with his gloved hand.

At the same moment Coquenil seized the extended wrist in such fierce and
sudden attack that, before the man could think of resisting, he was held
helpless with his left arm bent behind him in twisted torture.

"No nonsense, or you'll break your arm," he warned his captive as the
latter made an ineffectual effort against him. "Call the others," he
ordered, and Tignol blew a shrill summons. "Rip off this glove. I want to
see his hand. Come, come, none of that. Open it up. No? I'll _make_ you
open it. There, I thought so," as an excruciating wrench forced the
stubborn fist to yield. "Now then, off with that glove! Ah!" he cried as
the bare hand came to view. "I thought so. It's too bad you couldn't hide
that long little finger! Tignol, quick with the handcuffs! There, I think
we have you safely landed now, _M. Adolf Groener!_"

[Illustration: "'No nonsense, or you'll break your arm.'"]

The prisoner had not spoken a word; now he flashed at Coquenil a look of
withering contempt that the detective long remembered, and, leaning close,
he whispered: "_You poor fool!_"



Two hours later (it was nearly seven) Judge Hauteville sat in his office at
the Palais de Justice, hurrying through a meal that had been brought in
from a restaurant.

"There," he muttered, wiping his mouth, "that will keep me going for a few
hours," and he touched the bell.

"Is M. Coquenil back yet?" he asked when the clerk appeared.

"Yes, sir," replied the latter, "he's waiting."

"Good! I'll see him."

The clerk withdrew and presently ushered in the detective.

"Sit down," motioned the judge. "Coquenil, I've done a hard day's work and
I'm tired, but I'm going to examine this man of yours to-night."

"I'm glad of that," said M. Paul, "I think it's important."

"Important? Humph! The morning would do just as well--however, we'll let
that go. Remember, you have no standing in this case. The work has been
done by Tignol, the warrant was served by Tignol, and the witnesses have
been summoned by Tignol. Is that understood?"

"Of course."

"That is my official attitude," smiled Hauteville, unbending a little; "I
needn't add that, between ourselves, I appreciate what you have done, and
if this affair turns out as I hope it will, I shall do my best to have your
services properly recognized."

Coquenil bowed.

"Now then," continued the judge, "have you got the witnesses?"

"They are all here except Father Anselm. He has been called to the bedside
of a dying woman, but we have his signed statement that he had nothing to
do with the girl's escape."

"Of course not, we knew that, anyway. And the girl?"

"I went for her myself. She is outside."

"And the prisoner?"

"He's in another room under guard. I thought it best he shouldn't see the

"Quite right. He'd better not see them when he comes through the outer
office. You attend to that."


"Is there anything else before I send for him? Oh, the things he wore? Did
you find them?"

The detective nodded. "We found that he has a room on the fifth floor, over
Madam Cecile's. He keeps it by the year. He made his change there, and we
found everything that he took off--the wig, the beard, and the rough

The judge rubbed his hands. "Capital! Capital! It's a great coup. We may as
well begin. I want you to be present, Coquenil, at the examination."

"Ah, that's kind of you!" exclaimed M. Paul.

"Not kind at all, you'll be of great service. Get those witnesses out of
sight and then bring in the man."

A few moments later the prisoner entered, walking with hands manacled, at
the side of an imposing _garde de Paris_. He still wore his smart clothes,
and was as coldly self-possessed as at the moment of his arrest. He seemed
to regard both handcuffs and guard as petty details unworthy of his
attention, and he eyed the judge and Coquenil with almost patronizing

"Sit there," said Hauteville, pointing to a chair, and the newcomer obeyed

The clerk settled himself at his desk and prepared to write.

"What is your name?" began the judge.

"I don't care to give my name," answered the other.

"Why not?"

"That's my affair."

"Is your name Adolf Groener?"


"Are you a wood carver?"


"Have you recently been disguised as a wood carver?"


He spoke the three negatives with a listless, rather bored air.

"Groener, you are lying and I'll prove it shortly. Tell me, first, if you
have money to employ a lawyer?"

"Possibly, but I wish no lawyer."

"That is not the question. You are under suspicion of having committed a
crime and----"

"What crime?" asked the prisoner sharply.

"Murder," said the judge; then impressively, after a pause: "We have reason
to think that you shot the billiard player, Martinez."

Both judge and detective watched the man closely as this name was spoken,
but neither saw the slightest sign of emotion.

"Martinez?" echoed the prisoner indifferently. "I never heard of him."

"Ah! You'll hear enough of him before you get through," nodded Hauteville
grimly. "The law requires that a prisoner have the advantage of counsel
during examination. So I ask if you will provide a lawyer?"

"No," answered the accused.

"Then the court will assign a lawyer for your defense. Ask Maitre Cure to
come in," he directed the clerk.

"It's quite useless," shrugged the prisoner with careless arrogance, "I
will have nothing to do with Maitre Cure."

"I warn you, Groener, in your own interest, to drop this offensive tone."

"Ta, ta, ta! I'll take what tone I please. And I'll answer your questions
as I please or--or not at all."

At this moment the clerk returned followed by Maitre Cure, a florid-faced,
brisk-moving, bushy-haired man in tight frock coat, who suggested an opera
_impresario_. He seemed amused when told that the prisoner rejected his
services, and established himself comfortably in a corner of the room as an
interested spectator.

Then the magistrate resumed sternly: "You were arrested, sir, this
afternoon in the company of a woman. Do you know who she is?"

"I do. She is a lady of my acquaintance."

"A lady whom you met at Madam Cecile's?"

"Why not?"

"You met her there by appointment?"


The judge snorted incredulously. "You don't even know her name?"

"You think not?"

"Well, what is it?"

"Why should I tell you? Is _she_ charged with murder?" was the sneering

"Groener," said Hauteville sternly, "you say this woman is a person of your
acquaintance. We'll see." He touched the bell, and as the door opened,
"Madam Cecile," he said.

A moment later, with a breath of perfume, there swept in a large,
overdressed woman of forty-five with bold, dark eyes and hair that was too
red to be real. She bowed to the judge with excessive affability and sat

"You are Madam Cecile?"

"Yes, sir."

"You keep a _maison de rendez-vous_ on the Place de la Madeleine?"

"Yes, sir."

"Look at this man," he pointed to the prisoner. "Have you ever seen him

"I have seen him--once."

"When was that?"

"This afternoon. He called at my place and--" she hesitated.

"Tell me what happened--everything."

"He spoke to me and--he said he wanted a lady. I asked him what kind of a
lady he wanted, and he said he wanted a real lady, not a fake. I told him I
had a very pretty widow and he looked at her, but she wasn't _chic_ enough.
Then I told him I had something special, a young married woman, a beauty,
whose husband has plenty of money only----"

"Never mind that," cut in the judge. "What then?"

"He looked her over and said she would do. He offered her five hundred
francs if she would leave the house with him and drive away in a carriage.
It seemed queer but we see lots of queer things, and five hundred francs is
a nice sum. He paid it in advance, so I told her to go ahead and--she did."

"Do you think he knew the woman?"

"I'm sure he did not."

"He simply paid her five hundred francs to go out of the house with him?"


"That will do. You may go."

With a sigh of relief and a swish of her perfumed skirts, Madam Cecile left
the room.

"What do you say to that, Groener?" questioned the judge.

"She's a disreputable person and her testimony has no value," answered the
prisoner unconcernedly.

"Did you pay five hundred francs to the woman who left the house with you?"

"Certainly not."

"Do you still maintain that she is a lady whom you know personally?"

"I do."

Again Hauteville touched the bell. "The lady who was brought with this
man," he directed.

Outside there sounded a murmur of voices and presently a young woman,
handsomely dressed and closely veiled, was led in by a guard. She was
almost fainting with fright.

The judge rose courteously and pointed to a chair. "Sit down, madam. Try to
control yourself. I shall detain you only a minute. Now--what is your

The woman sat silent, wringing her hands in distress, then she burst out:
"It will disgrace me, it will ruin me."

"Not at all," assured Hauteville. "Your name will not go on the
records--you need not even speak it aloud. Simply whisper it to me."

Rising in agitation the lady went to the judge's desk and spoke to him

"Really!" he exclaimed, eying her in surprise as she stood before him, face
down, the picture of shame.

"I have only two questions to ask," he proceeded. "Look at this man and
tell me if you know him," he pointed to the accused.

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