Part 7 out of 7
Half the great men of this world are great criminals. The Napoleons
of war murder thousands, the Napoleons of trade and finance plunder
tens of thousands. It is the same among beasts and fishes, among
birds and insects, probably among angels and devils, everywhere we
find one inexorable law, resistless as gravitation, that impels the
strong to plunder and destroy the weak.
It is five years since I committed what would be called a monstrous
and cowardly crime. As a matter of fact, I did what my intelligence
recognized as necessary and what was therefore my duty. However,
let us call it a crime. I have been interested to watch for any
consequences or effects of this crime in myself and I have
discovered none. I study my face carefully and fail to find any
marks of wickedness. My eyes are clear and beautiful, my skin is
remarkably free from lines. I am in splendid health, I eat well,
sleep well, and enjoy life. My nerves are absolutely steady. I have
never felt the slightest twinge of remorse. I have a keen sense of
humor. I look five years younger than I am and ten years younger
than men who have drudged virtuously and uncomplainingly on the
"Thy-will-be-done" plan. I am certainly a better man, better
looking, better feeling, stronger in every way than I was before I
committed this crime. It is absolute nonsense, therefore, to say
that sin or crime (I mean intelligent sin or crime) put an ugly
stamp on a man. The ugly stamp comes from bad health, bad
surroundings, bad conditions of life, and these can usually be
changed by money. _Which I have!_
Last night (July 4th) I shot a man (Martinez) at the Ansonia Hotel.
I observed my sensations carefully and must say that they were of a
most commonplace character. There was no danger in the adventure,
nothing difficult about it; in fact, it was far less exciting than
shooting moose in the Maine woods or tracking grizzlies in the
Rockies or going after tigers in India. There is really nothing so
tame as shooting a man!
There is no necessary connection between crime and vice. Some of
the most vicious men--I mean gluttons, drunkards, degenerates, drug
fiends, etc. have never committed any crimes of importance. On the
other hand, I am satisfied that great criminals are usually free
from vices. It must be so, for vices weaken the will and dull the
brain. I take a little wine at my meals, but never to excess, and I
never was drunk in my life. I smoke three or four cigars a day and
occasionally a cigarette, that is all. And I never gamble. No doubt
there are vicious criminals, but they would probably have been
vicious if they had not been criminals.
I have the most tremendous admiration for myself, for my courage,
for my intelligence, for the use I have made of my opportunities. I
started as the son of a broken-down nobleman, my material assets
being a trumpery title. My best chance was to marry one of the vain
and shallow rich women of America, and by many brilliant maneuvers
in a most difficult and delicate campaign, I succeeded in marrying
the very richest of them. She was a widow with an enormous fortune
that her husband (a rapacious brute) had wrung from the toil of
thousands in torturing mines. Following his method, I disposed of
the woman, then of her daughter, and came into possession of the
fortune. It would have been a silly thing to leave such vast
potential power to a chit of a girl unable to use it or appreciate
it. I have used it as a master, as a man of brain, as a gentleman.
I have made myself a force throughout Europe, I have overthrown
ministries, averted wars, built up great industries, helped the
development of literature and art; in short, I have made amends for
the brutality and dishonesty of the lady's first husband. I believe
his name was Mike!
I am afraid of this girl's dreams! I can control her body, and when
she is awake, I can more or less control her mind. But I cannot
control her dreams. Sometimes, when I look into the depths of her
strange, beautiful eyes, it seems to me she knows things or half
knows them with some other self. I am afraid of her dreams!
Coquenil had reached this point in his reading and was pressing on through
the pages, utterly oblivious to everything, when a harsh voice broke in
upon him: "You seem to have an interesting book, my friend?"
Looking up with a start, M. Paul saw De Heidelmann-Bruck himself standing
in the open doorway. His hands were thrust carelessly in his coat pockets
and a mocking smile played about his lips, the smile that Coquenil had
learned to fear.
"It's more than interesting, it's marvelous, it's unbelievable," answered
the detective quietly. "Please shut that door. There's a draught coming
As he spoke he sneezed twice and reached naturally toward his coat as if
for a handkerchief.
"No, no! None of that!" warned the other sharply. "Hands up!" And Coquenil
obeyed. "My pistol is on you in this side pocket. If you move, I'll shoot
through the cloth."
"That's a cowboy trick; you must have traveled in the Far West," said M.
"Stand over there!" came the order. "Face against the wall! Hands high! Now
Coquenil did as he was bidden. He stood against the wall while quick
fingers went through his clothes, he felt his pistol taken from him, then
something soft and wet pressed under his nostrils. He gasped and a
sweetish, sickening breath filled his lungs, he tried to struggle, but
iron arms held him helpless. He felt himself drifting into unconsciousness
and strove vainly against it. He knew he had lost the battle, there was
nothing to hope for from this man--nothing. Well--it had been a finish
fight and--one or the other had to go. _He_ was the one, he was
going--going. He--he couldn't fix his thoughts. What queer lights! Hey,
Caesar! How silly! Caesar was dead--Oh! he must tell Papa Tignol that--a
man shouldn't swear so with a--red--nose. Stop! this must be the--_end_
With a last rally of his darkening consciousness, Coquenil called up his
mother's face and, looking at it through the eyes of his soul, he spoke to
her across the miles, in a wild, voiceless cry: "I did the best I could,
little mother, the--the best I--could."
Then utter blackness!
A GREAT CRIMINAL
Coquenil came back to consciousness his first thought was that the
adventure had brought him no pain; he moved his arms and legs and
discovered no injury, then he reached out a hand and found that he was
lying on a cold stone floor with his head on a rough sack filled apparently
He did not open his eyes, but tried to think where he could be and to
imagine what had happened. It was not conceivable that his enemy would let
him escape, this delay was merely preliminary to something else and--he was
certainly a prisoner--somewhere.
Reasoning thus he caught a sound as of rustling paper, then a faint
scratching. With eyes still shut, he turned his face toward the scratching
sound, then away from it, then toward it, then away from it. Now he sniffed
the air about him, now he rubbed a finger on the floor and smelled it, now
he lay quiet and listened. He had found a fascinating problem, and for a
long time he studied it without moving and without opening his eyes.
Finally he spoke aloud in playful reproach: "It's a pity, baron, to write
in that wonderful diary of yours with a lead pencil."
Instantly there came the scraping of a chair and quick approaching steps.
"How did you see me?" asked a harsh voice.
Coquenil smiled toward a faint light, but kept his eyes closed. "I didn't,
I haven't seen you yet."
"But you knew I was writing in my diary?"
"Because you were so absorbed that you did not hear me stir."
"Humph! And the lead pencil?"
"I heard you sharpen it. That was just before you stopped to eat the
The light came nearer. M. Paul felt that the baron was bending over him.
"What's the matter? Your eyes are shut."
"It amuses me to keep them shut. Do you mind?"
"Singular man!" mattered the other. "What makes you think I ate an orange?"
[Illustration: "'What's the matter? Your eyes are shut.'"]
"I got the smell of it when you tore the peel off and I heard the seeds
The baron's voice showed growing interest. "Where do you think you are?"
"In a deep underground room where you store firewood."
"Not at all. The floor is covered with chips of it and this bag is full of
"How do you know we are underground?"
"By the smell of the floor and because you need a candle when it's full
"Then you know what time it is?" asked the other incredulously.
"Why--er--I can tell by looking." He opened his eyes. "Ah, it's earlier
than I thought, it's barely seven."
"How the devil do you know that?"
Coquenil did not answer for a moment. He was looking about him wonderingly,
noting the damp stone walls and high vaulted ceiling of a large windowless
chamber. By the uncertain light of the baron's candle he made out an arched
passageway at one side and around the walls piles of logs carefully roped
and stacked together.
"Your candle hasn't burned more than an hour," answered the detective.
"It might be a second candle."
M. Paul shook his head. "Then you wouldn't have been eating your breakfast
orange. And you wouldn't have been waiting so patiently."
The two men eyed each other keenly.
"Coquenil," said De Heidelmann-Bruck slowly, "I give you credit for
unusual cleverness, but if you tell me you have any inkling what I am
"It's more than inkling," answered the detective quietly, "I _know_ that
you are waiting for the girl."
"The girl?" The other started.
"The girl Alice or--Mary your stepdaughter."
"God Almighty!" burst out the baron. "What a guess!"
M. Paul shook his head. "No, not a guess, a fair deduction. My ring is
gone. It was on my hand before you gave me that chloroform. You took it.
That means you needed it. Why? To get the girl! You knew it would bring
her, though _how_ you knew it is more than I can understand."
"Gibelin heard you speak of the ring to Pougeot that night in the
"Ah! And how did you know where the girl was?"
"Guessed it partly and--had Pougeot followed."
"And she's coming here?"
The baron nodded. "She ought to be here shortly." Then with a quick, cruel
smile: "I suppose you know _why_ I want her?"
"I'm afraid I do," said Coquenil.
"Suppose we come in here," suggested the other. "I'm tired holding this
candle and you don't care particularly about lying on that bag of
With this he led the way through the arched passageway into another stone
chamber very much like the first, only smaller, and lined in the same way
with piled-up logs. In the middle of the floor was a rough table spread
with food, and two rough chairs. On the table lay the diary.
"Sit down," continued the baron. "Later on you can eat, but first we'll
have a talk. Coquenil, I've watched you for years, I know all about you,
and--I'll say this, you're the most interesting man I ever met. You've
given me trouble, but--that's all right, you played fair, and--I like you,
I like you."
There was no doubt about the genuineness of this and M. Paul glanced
wonderingly across the table.
"Thanks," he said simply.
"It's a pity you couldn't see things my way. I wanted to be your friend, I
wanted to help you. Just think how many times I've gone out of my way to
give you chances, fine business chances."
"And that night on the Champs Elysees! Didn't I warn you? Didn't I almost
plead with you to drop this case? And you wouldn't listen?"
"Now see where you are! See what you've forced me to do. It's a pity; it
cuts me up, Coquenil." He spoke with real sadness.
"I understand," answered M. Paul. "I appreciate what you say. There's a
bond between a good detective and----"
"A _great_ detective!" put in the baron admiringly, "the greatest detective
Paris has known in fifty years or will know in fifty more. Yes, yes, it's a
"I was saying," resumed the other, "that there is a bond between a
detective and a criminal--I suppose it gets stronger between a--a great
detective," he smiled, "and a great criminal."
De Heidelmann-Bruck looked pleased. "You regard _me_ as a great criminal?"
Coquenil nodded gravely. "I certainly do. The greatest since Ludovico
Schertzi--you know he had your identical little finger."
"Yes. And your absolute lack of feeling about crime. Never a tremor! Never
a qualm of remorse! Just cold intelligence!"
"Of course." The baron held his left hand close to the candle and looked at
it critically. "Strange about that little finger! And _pretty_ the way you
caught the clew of it on that photographer's neck. Poor little devil!"
"What did you do with the boots you were trying to return that night?"
questioned the detective.
Coquenil was silent a moment. "And this American? What of him--now?"
"He will be tried and----" The baron shrugged his shoulders.
"And be found guilty?"
"Yes, but--with jealousy as an extenuating circumstance. He'll do a few
years, say five."
"I never saw quite why you put the guilt on him."
"It had to go on some one and--he was available."
"You had nothing against him personally?"
"Oh, no. He was a pawn in the game."
"A pawn to be sacrificed--like Martinez?"
"Ah, that brings me to the main point. How did Martinez get possession of
"He met the girl accidentally and--remembered her."
"As the one he had rescued from the Charity Bazaar fire?"
"Yes. You'd better eat a little. Try some of this cold meat and salad? My
cook makes rather good dressing."
"No, thanks! Speaking of cooks, how did you know the name of that canary
"Ha, ha! Pete? I knew it from the husband of the woman who opens the big
gate of the Villa Montmorency. He cleans your windows, you know, and--he
was useful to me."
"He knew you as--Groener?"
"None of these people knew you really?"
"Ah, Dubois knew me, of course, but--Dubois is an automaton to carry out
orders; he never knows what they mean. Anything else?"
Coquenil thought a moment. "Oh! Did you know that private room Number Seven
would not be occupied that night by Wilmott and the dancing girl?"
"Then how did you dare go in there?"
"Wilmott and the girl were not due until nine and I had--finished by half
"How did you know Wilmott would not be there until nine?"
"Martinez told me. It was in Anita's _petit bleu_ that Mrs. Wilmott showed
"Had you no direct dealings with Anita?"
The baron shook his head. "I never saw the girl. The thing just happened
and--I took my chance."
"You bought the auger for Martinez and told him where to bore the holes?"
"And the key to the alleyway door?"
"I got a duplicate key--through Dubois. Anything else?"
"It's all very clever," reflected M. Paul, "but--isn't it _too_ clever? Too
complicated? Why didn't you get rid of this billiard player in some simpler
"A natural question," agreed De Heidelmann-Bruck. "I could have done it
easily in twenty ways--twenty stupid safe ways. But don't you see that is
what I didn't want? It was necessary to suppress Martinez, but, in
suppressing him as I did, there was also good sport. And when a man has
everything, Coquenil, good sport is mighty rare."
"I see, I see," murmured the detective. "And you let Alice live all these
years for the same reason?"
"The wood-carver game diverted you?"
"Precisely. It put a bit of ginger into existence." He paused, and half
closing his eyes, added musingly: "I'll miss it now. And I'll miss the zest
of fighting you."
"Ah!" said Coquenil. "By the way, how long have you known that I was
working here in your stable?"
The baron smiled. "Since the first day."
"And--you knew about the valet?"
"And about the safe?"
"It was all arranged."
"Then--then you _wanted_ me to read the diary?"
"Yes," answered the other with a strange expression. "I knew that if you
read my diary I should be protected."
"I don't understand."
"Of course not, but--" Suddenly his voice grew harsher and M. Paul thought
of the meeting on the Champs Elysees. "Do you realize, sir," the baron went
on, and his voice was almost menacing, "that not once but half a dozen
times since this affair started, I have been on the point of crushing you,
of sweeping you out of my path?"
"I can believe that."
"Why haven't I done it? Why have I held back the order that was trembling
on my lips? Because I admire you, I'm interested in the workings of your
mind, I, yes, by God, in spite of your stubbornness and everything, I like
you, Coquenil, and I don't want to harm you.
"You may not believe it," he went on, "but when you sent word to the
Brazilian Embassy the other day that you would accept the Rio Janeiro
offer, after all, I was honestly happy _for you_, not for myself. What did
it matter to me? I was relieved to know that you were out of danger, that
you had come to your senses. Then suddenly you went mad again and, and did
this. So I said to myself: 'All right, he wants it, he'll get it,' and, I
let you read the diary."
"Why?" cried the baron hoarsely. "Don't you _see_ why? You know everything
now, _everything_. It isn't guesswork, it isn't deduction, it's absolute
certainty. You have _seen_ my confession, you _know_ that I killed
Martinez, that I robbed this girl of her fortune, that I am going to let an
innocent man suffer in my place. You know that to be true, don't you?"
"Yes, I know it to be true."
"And because it's true, and because we both know it to be true, neither one
of us can draw back. We _cannot_ draw back if we would. Suppose I said to
you: 'Coquenil, I like you, I'm going to let you go free.' What would you
reply? You would say: 'Baron de Heidelmann-Bruck, I'm much obliged, but, as
an honest man, I tell you that, as soon as I am free, I shall proceed to
have this enormous fortune you have been wickedly enjoying taken from you
and given to its rightful owner.' Isn't that about what you would say?"
"I suppose it is," answered M. Paul.
"You know it is, and you would also say: 'Baron de Heidelmann-Bruck, I
shall not only take this fortune from you and make you very poor instead of
very rich, but I shall denounce you as a murderer and shall do my best to
have you marched out from a cell in the Roquette prison some fine morning,
about dawn, between a jailer and a priest, with your legs roped together
and your shirt cut away at the back of the neck and then to have you bound
against an upright plank and tipped forward gently under a forty-pound
knife'--you see I know the details--and then, phsst! the knife falls and
behold the head of De Heidelmann-Bruck in one basket and his body in
another! That would be your general idea, eh?"
"Yes, it would," nodded the other.
"Ah!" smiled the baron. "You see how I have protected myself _against my
own weakness_. I must destroy you or be destroyed. _I am forced_, M.
Coquenil, to end my friendly tolerance of your existence."
"I see," murmured M. Paul. "If I hadn't read that diary, your nerve would
have been a little dulled for this--business." He motioned meaningly toward
"Whereas now the thing _has_ to be done and--you'll do it."
"Exactly! Exactly!" replied the baron with the pleasure one might show at a
For some moments the two were silent, then M. Paul asked gravely: "How soon
will the girl be here?"
"She's undoubtedly here now. She is waiting outside." He pointed to a
heavily barred iron door.
"Does she know it was a trick, about the ring?"
Again there was a silence. Coquenil hesitated before he said with an
effort: "Do you think it's necessary to--to include _her_ in this--affair?"
The baron thought a moment. "I think I'd better make a clean job of it."
"You mean _both?_"
They seemed to understand by half words, by words not spoken, by little
signs, as brokers in a great stock-exchange battle dispose of fortunes with
a nod or a lift of the eyebrows.
"But--she doesn't know anything about you or against you," added M. Paul,
and he seemed to be almost pleading.
"She has caused me a lot of trouble and, she _might_ know."
"You mean, her memory?"
"Yes, it might come back."
"Of course," agreed the other with judicial fairness. "I asked Duprat about
it and he said _it might_."
"Ah, you see!"
"And--when do you--begin?"
"There's no hurry. When we get through talking. Is there anything else you
want to ask?"
The detective reflected a moment. "Was it you personally who killed my
"And my mother?" His face was very white and his voice trembled. "Did
you--did you intend to kill her?"
The baron shrugged his shoulders. "I left that to chance."
"That's all," said Coquenil. "I--I am ready now."
With a look of mingled compassion and admiration De Heidelmann-Bruck met M.
Paul's unflinching gaze.
"We take our medicine, eh? I took mine when you had me hitched to that
heart machine, and--now you'll take yours. Good-by, Coquenil," he held out
his hand, "I'm sorry."
"Good-by," answered the detective with quiet dignity. "If it's all the same
to you, I--I won't shake hands."
"No? Ah, well! I'll send in the girl." He moved toward the heavy door.
"Wait!" said M. Paul. "You have left your diary." He pointed to the table.
The baron smiled mockingly. "I intended to leave it; the book has served
its purpose, I'm tired of it. Don't be alarmed, _it will not be found_." He
glanced with grim confidence at the stacked wood. "You'll have fifteen or
twenty minutes after she comes in, that is, if you make no disturbance.
The door swung open and a moment later Coquenil saw a dim, white-clad
figure among the shadows, and Alice, with beautiful, frightened eyes,
staggered toward him. Then the door clanged shut and the sound of grating
bolts was heard on the other side.
Alice and Coquenil were alone.
THE LOST DOLLY
As Alice saw M. Paul she ran forward with a glad cry and clung to his arm.
"I've been _so_ frightened," she trembled. "The man said you wanted me and
I came at once, but, in the automobile, I felt something was wrong and--you
know _he_ is outside?" Her eyes widened anxiously.
"I know. Sit down here." He pointed to the table. "Does Pougeot know about
She shook her head. "The man came for M. Pougeot first. I wasn't down at
breakfast yet, so I don't know what he said, but they went off together.
I'm afraid it was a trick. Then about twenty minutes later the same man
came back and said M. Pougeot was with you and that he had been sent to
bring me to you. He showed me your ring and----"
"Yes, yes, I understand," interrupted Coquenil. "You are not to blame,
only--God, what can I do?" He searched the shadows with a savage sense of
"But it's all right, now, M. Paul," she said confidently, "I am with
Her look of perfect trust came to him with a stab of pain.
"My poor child," he muttered, peering about him, "I'm afraid we are--in
trouble--but--wait a minute."
Taking the candle, Coquenil went through the arched opening into the
larger chamber and made a hurried inspection. The room was about fifteen
feet square and ten feet high, with everything of stone--walls, floor, and
arched ceiling. Save for the passage into the smaller room, there was no
sign of an opening anywhere except two small square holes near the ceiling,
probably ventilating shafts.
A. Bag of shavings where Coquenil recovered consciousness in large
B. Table and two chairs in smaller chamber where de Heidelmann-Bruck was
C C C C C C. Logs of wood piled around walls of two chambers.
D. Heavy iron door through which Alice was brought in.
E. Stone shelf above wood pile.
F. F. Opening through thick wall separating chambers, where Coquenil built
a barricade of logs. Dotted lines 1-2, indicate curve of archway.
S. S. Section of wood pile torn down by Alice to make barricade.
X. The second barricade of logs.]
Around the four walls were logs piled evenly to the height of nearly six
feet, and at the archway the pile ran straight through into the smaller
room. The logs were in two-foot lengths, and as the archway was about four
feet wide, the passage between the two rooms was half blocked with wood.
Coquenil walked slowly around the chamber, peering carefully into cracks
between the logs, as if searching for something. As he went on he held the
candle lower and lower, and presently got down upon his hands and knees and
crept along the base of the pile.
"What _are_ you doing?" asked Alice, watching him in wonder from the
Without replying, the detective rose to his feet, and holding the candle
high above his head, examined the walls above the wood pile. Then he
reached up and scraped the stones with his finger nails in several places,
and then held his fingers close to the candlelight and looked at them and
smelled them. His fingers were black with soot.
"M. Paul, won't you speak to me?" begged the girl.
"Just a minute, just a minute," he answered absently. Then he spoke with
quick decision: "I'm going to set you to work," he said. "By the way, have
you any idea where we are?"
She looked at him in surprise. "Why, don't _you_ know?"
"I _think_ we are on the Rue de Varennes--a big _hotel_ back of the high
"That's right," she said.
"Ah, he didn't take me away!" reflected M. Paul. "That is something.
Pougeot will scent danger and will move heaven and earth to save us. He
will get Tignol and Tignol knows I was here. But can they find us? Can they
find us? Tell me, did you come down many stairs?"
"Yes," she said, "quite a long flight; but won't you please----"
He cut her short, speaking kindly, but with authority.
"You mustn't ask questions, there isn't time. I may as well tell you our
lives are in danger. He's going to set fire to this wood and----"
"Oh!" she cried, her eyes starting with terror.
"See here," he said sharply. "You've got to help me. We have a chance yet.
The fire will start in this big chamber and--I want to cut it off by
blocking the passageway. Let's see!" He searched through his pockets. "He
has taken my knife. Ah, this will do!" and lifting a plate from the table
he broke it against the wall. "There! Take one of these pieces and see if
you can saw through the rope. Use the jagged edge--like this. That cuts it.
Try over there."
Alice fell to work eagerly, and in a few moments they had freed a section
of the wood piled in the smaller chamber from the restraining ropes and
"Now then," directed Coquenil, "you carry the logs to me and I'll make a
barricade in the passageway."
The word passageway is somewhat misleading--there was really a distance of
only three feet between the two chambers, this being the thickness of the
massive stone wall that separated them. Half of this opening was already
filled by the wood pile, and Coquenil proceeded to fill up the other half,
laying logs on the floor, lengthwise, in the open part of the passage from
chamber to chamber, and then laying other logs on top of these, and so on
as rapidly as the girl brought wood.
They worked with all speed, Alice carrying the logs bravely, in spite of
splintered hands and weary back, and soon the passageway was solidly walled
with closely fitted logs to the height of six feet. Above this, in the
arched part, Coquenil worked more slowly, selecting logs of such shape and
size as would fill the curve with the fewest number of cracks between them.
There was danger in cracks between the obstructing logs, for cracks meant a
draught, and a draught meant the spreading of the fire.
"Now," said M. Paul, surveying the blocked passageway, "that is the best we
can do--with wood. We must stop these cracks with something else. What did
you wear?" He glanced at the chair where Alice had thrown her things. "A
white cloak and a straw hat with a white veil and a black velvet ribbon.
Tear off the ribbon and--we can't stand on ceremony. Here are my coat and
vest. Rip them into strips and--Great God! There's the smoke now!"
As he spoke, a thin grayish feather curled out between two of the upper
logs and floated away, another came below it, then another, each widening
and strengthening as it came. Somewhere, perhaps in his sumptuous library,
De Heidelmann-Bruck had pressed an electric button and, under the logs
piled in the large chamber, deadly sparks had jumped in the waiting tinder;
the crisis had come, the fire was burning, they were prisoners in a huge,
slowly heating oven stacked with tons of dry wood.
"Hurry, my child," urged Coquenil, and working madly with a piece of stick
that he had wrenched from one of the logs, he met each feather of smoke
with a strip of cloth, stuffing the cracks with shreds of garments, with
Alice's veil and hat ribbon, with the lining of his coat, then with the
body of it, with the waist of her dress, with his socks, with her
stockings, and still the smoke came through.
"We _must_ stop this," he cried, and tearing the shirt from his shoulders,
he ripped it into fragments and wedged these tight between the logs. The
smoke seemed to come more slowly, but--it came.
"We must have more cloth," he said gravely. "It's our only chance, little
friend. I'll put out the candle! There! Let me have--whatever you can
Again he worked with frantic haste, stuffing in the last shreds and rags
that could be spared from their bodies, whenever a dull glow from the other
side revealed a crack in the barricade. For agonized moments there was no
sound in that tomblike chamber save Alice's quick breathing and the
shrieking tear of garments, and the ramming thud of the stick as Coquenil
wedged cloth into crannies of the logs.
"There," he panted, "that's the best we can do. _Now it's up to God!_"
For a moment it seemed as if this rough prayer had been answered. There
were no more points in the barricade that showed a glow beyond and to
Coquenil, searching along the logs in the darkness by the sense of smell,
there was no sign of smoke coming through.
"I believe we have stopped the draught," he said cheerfully; "as a final
touch I'll hang that cloak of yours over the whole thing," and, very
carefully, he tucked the white garment over the topmost logs and then at
the sides so that it covered most of the barricade.
"You understand that a fire cannot burn without air," he explained, "and it
must be air that comes in from below to replace the hot air that rises. Now
I couldn't find any openings in that large room except two little
ventilators near the ceiling, so if that fire is going to burn, it must get
air from this room."
"Where does this room get _its_ air from?" asked Alice.
Coquenil thought a moment. "It gets a lot under that iron door, and--there
must be ventilating shafts besides. Anyhow, the point is, if we have
blocked this passage between the rooms we have stopped the fire from
turning, or, anyhow, from burning enough to do us any harm. You see these
logs are quite cold. Feel them."
Alice groped forward in the darkness toward the barricade and, as she
touched the logs, her bare arm touched Coquenil's bare arm.
Suddenly a faint sound broke the stillness and the detective started
violently. He was in such a state of nervous tension that he would have
started at the rustle of a leaf.
"Hark! What is that?"
It was a low humming sound that presently grew stronger, and then sang on
steadily like a buzzing wheel.
"It's over here," said Coquenil, moving toward the door. "No, it's here!"
He turned to the right and stood still, listening. "It's under the floor!"
He bent down and listened again. "It's overhead! It's nowhere
and--everywhere! What _is_ it?"
As he moved about in perplexity it seemed to him that he felt a current of
air. He put one hand in it, then the other hand, then he turned his face to
it; there certainly was a current of air.
"Alice, come here!" he called. "Stand where I am! That's right. Now put out
your hand! Do you feel anything?"
"I feel a draught," she answered.
"There's no doubt about it," he muttered, "but--how _can_ there be a
As he spoke the humming sound strengthened and with it the draught blew
"Merciful God!" cried Coquenil in a flash of understanding, "it's a
"A blower?" repeated the girl.
M. Paul turned his face upward and listened attentively. "No doubt of it!
It's sucking through an air shaft--up there--in the ceiling."
"I--I don't understand."
"He's _forcing_ a draught from that room to this one. He has started a
blower, I tell you, and----"
"What _is_ a blower?" put in Alice.
At her frightened tone Coquenil calmed himself and answered gently: "It's
like a big electric fan, it's drawing air out of this room very fast, with
a powerful suction, and I'm afraid--unless----"
Just then there came a sharp pop followed by a hissing noise as if some one
were breathing in air through shut teeth.
"There goes the first one! Come over here!" He bent toward the logs,
searching for something. "Ah, here it is! Do you feel the air blowing
through _toward_ us? The blower has sucked out one of our cloth plugs.
There goes another!" he said, as the popping sound was repeated. "And
another! It's all off with our barricade, little girl!"
"You--you mean the fire will come through now?" she gasped. He could hear
her teeth chattering and feel her whole body shaking in terror.
Coquenil did not answer. He was looking through one of the open cracks,
studying the dull glow beyond, and noting the hot breath that came through.
What could he do? The fire was gaining with every second, the whirling
blower was literally dragging the flames toward them through the dry wood
pile. Already the heat was increasing, it would soon be unbearable; at this
rate their hold on life was a matter of minutes.
"The fire may come through--a little," he answered comfortingly, "but
I--I'll fix it so you will be--all right. Come! We'll build another
barricade. You know wood is a bad conductor of heat, and--if you have wood
all about you and--over you, why, the fire can't burn you."
"Oh!" said Alice.
"We'll go over to this door as far from the passageway as we can get. Now
bring me logs from that side pile! That's right!"
He glanced at the old barricade and saw, with a shudder, that it was
already pierced with countless open cracks that showed the angry fire
beyond. And through these cracks great volumes of smoke were pouring.
Fortunately, most of this smoke, especially at first, was borne away upward
by the blower's suction, and for some minutes Alice was able to help
Coquenil with the new barricade. They built this directly in front of the
iron door, with only space enough between it and the door to allow them to
crouch behind it; they made it about five feet long and three feet high.
Coquenil would have made it higher, but there was no time; indeed, he had
to do the last part of the work alone, for Alice sank back overcome by the
"Lie down there," he directed. "Stretch right out behind the logs and keep,
your mouth close to the floor and as near as you can to the crack under the
door. You'll have plenty of cool, sweet air. See? That's right. Now I'll
fix a roof over this thing and pretty soon, if it gets uncomfortable up
here, I'll crawl in beside you. It's better not to look at the silly old
barricade. Just shut your eyes and--rest. Understand little friend?"
"Ye-es," she murmured faintly, and with sinking heart, he realized that
already she was drifting toward unconsciousness. Ah, well, perhaps that was
the best thing!
He looked down at the fair young face and thought of her lover languishing
in prison. What a wretched fate theirs had been! What sufferings they had
borne! What injustice! And now this end to their dream of happiness!
He turned to his work. He would guard her while life and strength remained,
and he wondered idly, as he braced the overhead logs against the iron door,
how many more minutes of life this shelter would give them. Why take so
much pains for so paltry a result?
He turned toward the barricade and saw that the flames were licking their
way through the wall of logs, shooting and curling their hungry red tongues
through many openings. The heat was becoming unbearable. Well, they were at
the last trench now, he was surprised at the clearness and calmness of his
mind. Death did not seem such a serious thing after all!
Coquenil crawled in behind the shelter of logs and crouched down beside the
girl. She was quite unconscious now, but was breathing peacefully,
smilingly, with face flushed and red lips parted. The glorious masses of
her reddish hair were spread over the girls white shoulders, and it seemed
to M. Paul that he had never seen so beautiful a picture of youth and
Suddenly there was a crumbling of logs at the passageway and the chamber
became light as day while a blast of heat swept over them. Coquenil looked
out around the end of the shelter and saw flames a yard long shooting
toward them through widening breaches in the logs. And a steady roar began.
It was nearly over now, although close to the floor the air was still good.
He reflected that, with the enormous amount of wood here, this fire would
rage hotter and hotter for hours until the stones themselves would be red
hot or white hot and--there would be nothing left when it all was over,
absolutely nothing left but ashes. No one would ever know their fate.
Then he thought of his mother. He wished he might have sent her a
line--still she would know that her boy had fallen in a good cause, as his
father had fallen. He needn't worry about his mother--she would know.
Now another log crumbled with a sharp crackling. Alice stirred uneasily and
opened her eyes. Then she sat up quickly, and there was something in her
face Coquenil had never seen there, something he had never seen in any
"Willie, you naughty, naughty boy!" she cried. "You have taken my beautiful
dolly. Poor little Esmeralda! You threw her up on that shelf, Willie; yes,
Then, before Coquenil could prevent it, she slipped out from behind the
shelter and stood up in the fire-bound chamber.
"Come back!" he cried, reaching after her, but the girl evaded him.
"There it is, on that shelf," she went on positively, and, following her
finger, Coquenil saw, what he had not noticed before, a massive stone shelf
jutting out from the wall just over the wood pile. "You must get my dolly,"
"Certainly, I'll get it," said M. Paul soothingly. "Come back here
and--I'll get your dolly."
She stamped her foot in displeasure. "Not at all; I don't _like_ this
place. It's a hot, _nasty_ place and--come"--she caught Coquenil's
hand--"we'll go out where the fairies are. That's a _much_ nicer place to
Here there came to M. Paul an urging of mysterious guidance, as if an
inward voice had spoken to him and said that God was trying to save them,
that He had put wisdom in this girl's mouth and that he must listen.
"All right," he said, "we'll go and play where the fairies are, but--how do
we get there?"
"Through the door under the shelf. You know _perfectly_ well, Willie!"
"Yes," he agreed, "I know about the door, but--I forget how to get it
"Silly!" She stamped her foot again. "You push on that stone thing under
Shading his eyes against the glare, Coquenil looked at the shelf and saw
that it was supported by two stone brackets.
"You mean the thing that holds the shelf up?"
"Yes, you must press it."
"But there are two things that hold the shelf up. Is it the one on this
side that you press or the one on that side?"
"Dear me, what an _aggravating_ boy! It's the one _this_ side, of course."
"Good! You lie down now and I'll have it open in a jiffy."
He started to force Alice behind the shelter, for the heat was actually
blistering the skin, but to his surprise he found her suddenly limp in his
arms. Having spoken these strange words of wisdom or of folly, she had gone
back into unconsciousness.
Coquenil believed that they were words of wisdom, and without a moment's
hesitation, he acted on that belief. The wall underneath the shelf was half
covered with piled-up logs and these must be removed; which meant that he
must work there for several minutes with the fierce breath of the fire
hissing over him.
It was the work of a madman, or of one inspired. Three times Coquenil fell
to the floor, gasping for breath, blinded by the flames that were roaring
all about him, poisoned by deadly fumes. The skin on his arms and neck was
hanging away in shreds, the pain was unbearable, yet he bore it, the task
was impossible, yet he did it.
At last the space under the shelf was cleared, and staggering, blackened,
blinded, yet believing, Paul Coquenil stumbled forward and seized the
left-hand bracket in his two bruised hands and pressed it with all his
Instantly a door underneath, cunningly hidden in the wall, yawned open on a
square black passage.
"It's here that the fairies play," muttered M. Paul, "and it's a mighty
good place for us!"
With a bound he was back at the shelter and had Alice in his arms, smiling
again, as she slept--as she dreamed. And a moment later he had carried her
safely through flames that actually singed her hair, and laid her tenderly
in the cool passage. _And beside her he laid the baron's diary!_
[Illustration: "And a moment later he had carried her safely through the
Then he went back to close the door. It was high time, for the last
obstructing logs of the old barricade had fallen and the chamber was a
seething mass of fire.
"I feel pretty rotten," reflected Coquenil with a whimsical smile. "My hair
is burned off and my eyebrows are gone and about half my skin, but--I guess
I'll take a chance on a burn or two more and rescue Esmeralda!"
Whereupon he reached up inside that fiery furnace and, groping over the hot
stone shelf, brought down a scorched and battered and dust-covered little
figure that had lain there for many years.
It was the lost dolly!
MRS. LLOYD KITTREDGE
The details of the hours that followed remained blurred memories in the
minds of Alice and her rescuer. There was, first, a period of utter blank
when Coquenil, overcome by the violence of his struggle and the agony of
his burns, fell unconscious near the unconscious girl. How long they lay
thus in the dark playground of the fairies, so near the raging fire, yet
safe from it, was never known exactly; nor how long they wandered
afterwards through a strange subterranean region of passages and cross
passages, that widened and narrowed, that ascended and descended, that were
sometimes smooth under foot, but oftener blocked with rough stones and
always black as night. The fairies must have been sorry at their plight,
for, indeed, it was a pitiable one; bruised, blistered, covered with grime
and with little else, they stumbled on aimlessly, cutting their bare feet,
falling often in sheer weakness, and lying for minutes where they fell
before they could summon strength to stumble on. Surely no more pathetic
pair than these two ever braved the mazes of the Paris catacombs!
Perhaps the fairies finally felt that the odds were too great against them,
and somehow led them to safety. At any rate, through the ghastly horror of
darkness and weakness and pain there presently came hope--flickering
torches in the distance, then faint voices and the presence of friends,
some workingmen, occupied with drainage repairs, who produced stimulants
and rough garments and showed them the way to the upper world, to the
Then it was a matter of temporary relief at the nearest pharmacy, of
waiting until Pougeot, summoned by telephone, could arrive with all haste
in an automobile.
An hour later M. Paul and Alice were in clean, cool beds at a private
hospital near the commissary's house, with nurses and doctors bending over
them. And on a chair beside the girl, battered and blackened, sat
Esmeralda, while under the detective's pillow was the scorched but unharmed
diary of De Heidelmann-Bruck!
"Both cases serious," was the head doctor's grave judgment. "The man is
frightfully burned. The girl's injuries are not so bad, but she is
suffering from shock. We'll know more in twenty-four hours." Then, turning
to Pougeot: "Oh, he insists on seeing you alone. Only a minute mind!"
With a thrill of emotion the commissary entered the silent, darkened room
where his friend lay, swathed in bandages and supported on a water bed to
lessen the pain.
"It's all right Paul," said M. Pougeot, "I've just talked with the doctor."
"Thanks, Lucien," answered a weak voice in the white bundle. "I'm going to
pull through--I've got to, but--if anything should go wrong, I want you to
have the main points. Come nearer."
The commissary motioned to the nurse, who withdrew. Then he bent close to
the injured man and listened intently while Coquenil, speaking with an
effort and with frequent pauses, related briefly what had happened.
"God in heaven!" muttered Pougeot. "He'll pay for this!"
"Yes, I--I think he'll pay for it, but--Lucien, do nothing until I am able
to decide things with you. Say nothing to anyone, not even to the doctor.
And don't give our names."
"No, no, I'll see to that."
"The girl mustn't talk, tell her she--_mustn't talk_. And--Lucien?"
"She may be delirious--_I_ may be delirious, I feel queer--now. You
must--make sure of these--nurses."
"Yes, Paul, I will."
"And--watch the girl! Something has happened to--her mind. She's forgotten
or--_remembered!_ Get the best specialist in Paris and--get Duprat. Do
whatever they advise--no matter what it costs. Everything depends on--her."
"I'll do exactly as you say, old friend," whispered the other. Then, at a
warning signal from the nurse: "Don't worry now. Just rest and get well."
He rose to go. "Until to-morrow, Paul."
The sick man's reply was only a faint murmur, and Pougeot stole softly out
of the room, turning at the door for an anxious glance toward the white
This was the first of many visits to the hospital by the devoted commissary
and of many anxious hours at that distressed bedside. Before midnight
Coquenil was in raging delirium with a temperature of one hundred and five,
and the next morning, when Pougeot called, the doctor looked grave. They
were in for a siege of brain fever with erysipelas to be fought off, if
Poor Coquenil! His body was in torture and his mind in greater torture.
Over and over again, those days, he lived through his struggle with the
fire, he rescued Alice, he played with the fairies, he went back after the
doll. Over and over again!
And when the fever fell and his mind grew calm, there followed a period of
nervous exhaustion when his stomach refused to do its work, when his heart,
for nothing at all, would leap into fits of violent beating. Pougeot could
not even see him now, and the doctor would make no promise as to how soon
it would be safe to mention the case to him. Perhaps not for weeks!
For weeks! And, meantime, Lloyd Kittredge had been placed on trial for the
murder of Martinez and the evidence seemed overwhelmingly against him; in
fact, the general opinion was that the young American would be found
What should the commissary do?
For a week the trial dragged slowly with various delays and adjournments,
during which time, to Pougeot's delight, Coquenil began to mend rapidly.
The doctor assured the commissary that in a few days he should have a
serious talk with the patient. A few days! Unfortunately, the trial began
to march along during these days--they dispose of murder cases
expeditiously in France--and, to make matters worse, Coquenil suffered a
relapse, so that the doctor was forced to retract his promise.
What should the commissary do?
In this emergency Coquenil himself came unexpectedly to Pougeot's relief;
instead of the apathy or indifference he had shown for days, he suddenly
developed his old keen interest in the case, and one morning insisted on
knowing how things were going and what the prospects were. In vain doctor
and nurse objected and reasoned; the patient only insisted the more
strongly, he wished to have a talk with M. Pougeot at once. And, as the
danger of opposing him was felt to be greater than that of yielding, it
resulted that M. Paul had his way, Pougeot came to his bedside and stayed
an hour--two hours, until the doctor absolutely ordered him away; but,
after luncheon, the detective took the bit in his teeth and told the doctor
plainly that, with or without permission, he was going to do his work. He
had learned things that he should have known long ago and there was not an
hour to lose. A man's life was at stake, and--his stomach, his nerves, his
heart, and his other organs might do what they pleased, he proposed to save
Before this uncompromising attitude the doctor could only bow gracefully,
and when he was told by Pougeot (in strictest confidence) that this gaunt
and irascible patient, whom he had known as M. Martin, was none other than
the celebrated Paul Coquenil, he comforted himself with the thought that,
after all, a resolute mind can often do wonders with a weak body.
It was a delightful September afternoon, with a brisk snap in the air and
floods of sunshine. Since early morning the streets about the Palais de
Justice had been, blocked with carriages and automobiles, and the courtyard
with clamorous crowds eager to witness the final scene in this celebrated
murder trial. The case would certainly go to the jury before night. The
last pleas would be made, the judge's grave words would be spoken, and
twelve solemn citizens would march out with the fate of this cheerful young
American in their hands. It was well worth seeing, and all Paris that could
get tickets, especially the American Colony, was there to see it. Pussy
Wilmott, in a most fetching gown, with her hair done ravishingly, sat near
the front and never took her eyes off the prisoner.
In spite of all that he had been through and all that he was facing,
Kittredge looked surprisingly well. A little pale, perhaps, but game to the
end, and ready always with his good-natured smile. All the ladies liked
him. He had such nice teeth and such well-kept hands! A murderer with those
kind, jolly eyes? Never in the world! they vowed, and smiled and stared
A close observer would have noticed, however, that Lloyd's eyes were
anxious as they swept the spread of faces before him; they were searching,
searching for one face that they could not find. Where was Alice? Why had
she sent him no word? Was she ill? Had any harm befallen her? _Where was
So absorbed was Kittredge in these reflections that he scarcely heard the
thundering denunciations hurled at him by the public prosecutor in his
fierce and final demand that blood be the price of blood and that the
extreme penalty of the law be meted out to this young monster of wickedness
Nor did Lloyd notice the stir when one of the court attendants made way
through the crush for a distinguished-looking man, evidently a person of
particular importance, who was given a chair on the platform occupied by
the three black-robed judges.
"The Baron de Heidelmann-Bruck!" whispered eager tongues, and straightway
the awe-inspiring name was passed from mouth to mouth. The Baron de
Heidelmann-Bruck! He had dropped in in a dilettante spirit to hear the
spirited debate, and the judges were greatly honored.
Alas for the baron! It was surely some sinister prompting that brought him
here to-day, so coldly complacent as he nodded to the presiding judge, so
quietly indifferent as he glanced at the prisoner through his single
eyeglass. The gods had given Coquenil a spectacular setting for his
And now, suddenly, the blow fell. As the prosecuting officer soared along
in his oratorial flight, a note was passed unobtrusively to the presiding
judge, a modest little note folded on itself without even an envelope to
hold it. For several minutes the note lay unnoticed; then the judge, with
careless eye, glanced over it; then he started, frowned, and his quick
rereading showed that a spark of something had flashed from that scrap of
The presiding judge leaned quickly toward his associate on the right and
whispered earnestly, then toward his associate on the left, and, one after
another, the three magistrates studied this startling communication,
nodding learned heads and lowering judicial eyebrows. The public prosecutor
blazed through his peroration to an inattentive bench.
No sooner had the speaker finished than the clerk of the court announced a
brief recess, during which the judges withdrew for deliberation and the
audience buzzed their wonder. During this interval the Baron de
Heidelmann-Bruck looked frankly bored.
On the return of the three, an announcement was made by the presiding judge
that important new evidence in the case had been received, evidence of so
unusual a character that the judges had unanimously decided to interrupt
proceedings for a public hearing of the evidence in question. It was
further ordered that no one be allowed to leave the courtroom under any
"Call the first witness!" ordered the judge, and amidst the excitement
caused by these ominous words a small door opened and a woman entered
leaning on a guard. She was dressed simply in black and heavily veiled,
but her girlish figure showed that she was young. As she appeared,
Kittredge started violently.
The clerk of the court cleared his throat and called out something in
The woman came forward to the witness stand and lifted her veil. As she did
so, three distinct things happened: the audience murmured its admiration at
a vision of strange beauty, Kittredge stared in a daze of joy, and De
Heidelmann-Bruck felt the cold hand of death clutching at his heart.
It was Alice come to her lover's need! Alice risen from the flames! Alice
here for chastening and justice!
"What is your name?" questioned the judge.
"Mary Coogan," was the clear answer.
"I am an American."
"You have lived a long time in France?"
"Yes. I came to France as a little girl."
"How did that happen?"
"My father died and--my mother married a second time."
Her voice broke, but she shot a swift glance at the prisoner and seemed to
"Your mother married a Frenchman?"
"What is the name of the Frenchman whom your mother married?"
The girl hesitated, and then looking straight at the baron, she said: "The
Baron de Heidelmann-Bruck."
There was something in the girl's tone, in her manner, in the fearless
poise of her head, that sent a shiver of apprehension through the audience.
Every man and woman waited breathless for the next question. In their
absorbed interest in the girl they scarcely looked at the aristocratic
"Is your mother living?"
"How did she die?"
Again the witness turned to Kittredge and his eyes made her brave.
"My mother was burned to death--in the Charity Bazaar fire," she answered
in a low voice.
"Were you present at the fire?"
"Were you in danger?"
"State what you remember about the fire."
The girl looked down and answered rapidly: "My mother and I went to the
Charity Bazaar with the Baron de Heidelmann-Bruck. When the fire broke out,
there was a panic and we were held by the crush. There was a window near us
through which some people were climbing. My mother and I got to this window
and would have been able to escape through it, but the Baron de
Heidelmann-Bruck pushed us back and climbed through himself."
"It's a lie!" cried the baron hoarsely, while a murmur of dismay arose from
"Silence!" warned the clerk.
"And after that?"
The girl shook her head and there came into her face a look of terrible
"I don't know what happened after that for a long time. I was very ill
and--for years I did not remember these things."
"You mean that for years you did not remember what you have just
"Yes, that is what I mean."
The room was so hushed in expectation that the tension was like physical
"You did not remember your mother during these years?"
"Not even her name?"
She shook her head. "I did not remember my own name."
"But now you remember everything?"
"When did you recover your memory?"
"It began to come back a few weeks ago."
"Under what circumstances?"
"Under circumstances like those when--when I lost it."
"How do you mean?"
"I--I--" She turned slowly, as if drawn by some horrible fascination, and
looked at De Heidelmann-Bruck. The baron's face was ghastly white, but by a
supreme effort he kept an outward show of composure.
"Yes?" encouraged the judge.
"I was in another fire," she murmured, still staring at the baron. "I--I
nearly lost my life there."
The witness had reached the end of her strength; she was twisting and
untwisting her white fingers piteously, while the pupils of her eyes
widened and contracted in terror. She staggered as if she would faint or
fall, and the guard was starting toward her when, through the anguished
silence, a clear, confident voice rang out:
It was the prisoner who had spoken, it was the lover who had come to the
rescue and whose loyal cry broke the spell of horror. Instantly the girl
turned to Lloyd with a look of infinite love and gratitude, and before the
outraged clerk of the court had finished his warning to the young American,
Alice had conquered her distress and was ready once more for the ordeal.
"Tell us in your own words," said the judge kindly, "how it was that you
nearly lost your life a second time in a fire."
In a low voice, but steadily, Alice began her story. She spoke briefly of
her humble life with the Bonnetons, of her work at Notre-Dame, of the
occasional visits of her supposed cousin, the wood carver; then she came to
the recent tragic happenings, to her flight from Groener, to the kindness
of M. Pougeot, to the trick of the ring that lured her from the
commissary's home, and finally to the moment when, half dead with fright,
she was thrust into that cruel chamber and left there with M. Coquenil--to
As she described their desperate struggle for life in that living furnace
and their final miraculous escape, the effect on the audience was
indescribable. Women screamed and fainted, men broke down and wept, even
the judges wiped pitying eyes as Alice told how Paul Coquenil built the
last barricade with fire roaring all about him, and then how he dashed
among leaping flames and, barehanded, all but naked, cleared a way to
Through the tense silence that followed her recital came the judge's voice:
"And you accuse a certain person of committing this crime?"
"I do," she answered firmly.
"You make this accusation deliberately, realizing the gravity of what you
"Whom do you accuse?"
The audience literally held its breath as the girl paused before replying.
Her hands shut hard at her sides, her body seemed to stiffen and rise, then
she turned formidably with the fires of slumbering vengeance burning in her
wonderful eyes--vengeance for her mother, for her lover, for her rescuer,
for herself--she turned slowly toward the cowering nobleman and said
distinctly: "I accuse the Baron de Heidelmann-Bruck."
So monstrous, so unthinkable was the charge, that the audience sat stupidly
staring at the witness as if they doubted their own ears, and some
whispered that the thing had never happened, the girl was mad.
Then all eyes turned to the accused. He struggled to speak but the words
choked in his throat. If ever a great man was guilty in appearance, the
Baron de Heidelmann-Bruck was that guilty great man!
"I insist on saying--" he burst out finally, but the judge cut him short.
"You will be heard presently, sir. Call the next witness."
The girl withdrew, casting a last fond look at her lover, and the clerk's
voice was heard summoning M. Pougeot.
The commissary appeared forthwith and, with all the authority of his
office, testified in confirmation of Alice's story. There was no possible
doubt that the girl would have perished in the flames but for the heroism
of Paul Coquenil.
Pougeot was followed by Dr. Duprat, who gave evidence as to the return of
Alice's memory. He regarded her case as one of the most remarkable
psychological phenomena that had come under his observation, and he
declared, as an expert, that the girl's statements were absolutely worthy
"Call the next witness," directed the judge, and the clerk of the court
A murmur of sympathy and surprise ran through the room as the small door
opened, just under the painting of justice, and a gaunt, pallid figure
appeared, a tall man, wasted and weakened. He came forward leaning on a
cane and his right hand was bandaged.
"I would like to add, your Honor," said Dr. Duprat, "that M. Coquenil has
risen from a sick bed to come here; in fact, he has come against medical
advice to testify in favor of this young prisoner."
The audience was like a powder mine waiting for a spark. Only a word was
needed to set off their quivering, pent-up enthusiasm.
"What is your name?" asked the judge as the witness took the stand.
"Paul Coquenil," was the quiet answer.
It was the needed word, the spark to fire the train. Paul Coquenil! Never
in modern times had a Paris courtroom witnessed a scene like that which
followed. Pussy Wilmott, who spent her life looking for new sensations, had
one now. And Kittredge manacled in the dock, yet wildly happy! And Alice
outside, almost fainting between hope and fear! And De Heidelmann-Bruck
with his brave eyeglass and groveling soul! They _all_ had new sensations!
As Coquenil spoke, there went up a great cry from the audience, an
irresistible tribute to his splendid bravery. It was spontaneous, it was
hysterical, it was tremendous. Men and women sprang to their feet, shouting
and waving and weeping. The crowd, crushed in the corridor, caught the cry
and passed it along.
The down in the courtyard it sounded, and out into the street, where a
group of students started the old snappy refrain:
"Oh, oh! Il nous faut-o!
Beau, beau! Beau Cocono-o!"
In vain the judge thundered admonitions and the clerk shouted for order.
That white-faced, silent witness leaning on his cane, stood for the moment
to these frantic people as the symbol of what they most admired in a
man--resourcefulness before danger and physical courage and the readiness
to die for a friend. For these three they seldom had a chance to shout and
weep, so they wept and shouted now!
There had been bitter moments in the great detective's life, but this made
up for them; there had been proud, intoxicating moments, but this surpassed
them. Coquenil, too, had a new sensation!
When at length the tumult was stilled and the panting, sobbing audience had
settled back in their seats, the presiding judge, lenient at heart to the
disorder, proceeded gravely with his examination.
"Please state what you know about this case," he said, and again the
audience waited in deathlike stillness.
"There is no need of many words," answered M. Paul; then pointing an
accusing arm at De Heidelmann-Bruck, "I know that this man shot Enrico
Martinez on the night of July 4th, at the Ansonia Hotel."
The audience gave a long-troubled sigh, the nobleman sat rigid on his
chair, the judge went on with his questions.
"You say you _know_ this?" he demanded sharply.
"I know it," declared Coquenil, "I have absolute proof of it--here." He
drew from his inner coat the baron's diary and handed it to the judge.
"What is this?" asked the latter.
"His own confession, written by himself and--Quick!" he cried, and sprang
toward the rich man, but Papa Tignol was there before him. With a bound the
old fox had leaped forward from the audience and reached the accused in
time to seize and stay his hand.
"Excuse me, your Honor," apologized the detective, "the man was going to
"It's false!" screamed the baron. "I was getting my handkerchief."
"Here's the handkerchief," said Tignol, holding up a pistol.
At this there was fresh tumult in the audience, with men cursing and women
The judge turned gravely to De Heidelmann-Bruck. "I have a painful duty to
perform, sir. Take this man out--_under arrest_, and--clear the room."
M. Paul sank weakly into a chair and watched idly while the attendants led
away the unresisting millionaire, watched keenly as the judge opened the
baron's diary and began to read. He noted the magistrate's start of
amazement, the eager turning of pages and the increasingly absorbed
"Astounding! Incredible!" muttered the judge. "A great achievement! I
congratulate you, M. Coquenil. It's the most brilliant coup I have ever
known. It will stir Paris to the depths and make you a--a hero."
"Thank you, thank you," murmured the sick man.
At this moment an awe-struck attendant came forward to say that the baron
wished a word with M. Paul.
"By all means," consented the judge.
Haltingly, on his cane, Coquenil made his way to an adjoining room where
De Heidelmann-Bruck was waiting under guard.
As he glanced at the baron, M. Paul saw that once more the man had
demonstrated his extraordinary self-control, he was cold and composed as
"We take our medicine, eh?" said the detective admiringly.
"Yes," answered the prisoner, "we take our medicine."
"But there's a difference," reflected Coquenil. "The other day you said you
were sorry when you left me in that hot cellar. Now you're in a fairly hot
place yourself, baron, and--I'm _not_ sorry."
De Heidelmann-Bruck shrugged his shoulders.
"Any objection to my smoking a cigar?" he asked coolly and reached toward
his coat pocket.
With a quick gesture Coquenil stopped the movement.
"_I don't like smoke_," he said with grim meaning. "If there is anything
you want to say, sir, you had better say it."
"I have only this to say, Coquenil," proceeded the baron, absolutely
unruffled; "we had had our little fight and--I have lost. We both did our
best with the weapons we had for the ends we hoped to achieve. I stood for
wickedness, you stood for virtue, and virtue has triumphed; but, between
ourselves"--he smiled and shrugged his shoulders--"they're both only words
and--it isn't important, anyhow."
He paused while a contemplative, elusive smile played about his mouth.
"The point is, I am going to pay the price that society exacts when this
sort of thing is--found out. I am perfectly willing to pay it, not in the
least afraid to pay it, and, above all, not in the least sorry for
anything. I want you to remember that and repeat it. I have no patience
with cowardly canting talk about remorse. I have never for one moment
regretted anything I have done, and I regret nothing now. Nothing! I have
had five years of the best this world can give--power, fortune, social
position, pleasure, _everything_, and whatever I pay, I'm ahead of the
game, way ahead. If I had it all to do over again and knew that this would
be the end, _I would change nothing_."
"Except that secret door under the stone shelf--you might change that," put
in Coquenil dryly.
"No wonder you feel bitter," mused the baron. "It was you or me, and--_I_
showed no pity. Why should you? I want you to believe, though, that I was
genuine when I said I liked you. I was ready to destroy you, but I liked
you. I like you now, Coquenil, and--this is perhaps our last talk, they
will take me off presently, and--you collect odd souvenirs--here is one--a
little good-by--from an adversary who was--game, anyway. You don't mind
There was something in the man's voice that Coquenil had never heard there.
Was it a faint touch of sentiment? He took the ring that the baron handed
him, an uncut ruby, and looked at it thoughtfully, wondering if, after all,
there was room in this cold, cruel soul for a tiny spot of tenderness.
"It's a beautiful stone, but--I cannot accept it; we never take gifts from
prisoners and--thank you."
He handed back the ring.
The baron's face darkened; he made an angry gesture as if he would dash the
trinket to the floor. Then he checked himself, and studying the ring sadly,
twisted it about in his fingers.
"Ah, that pride of yours! You've been brilliant, you've been brave, but
never unkind before. It's only a bauble, Coquenil, and----"
De Heidelmann-Bruck stopped suddenly and M. Paul caught a savage gleam in
his eyes; then, swiftly, the baron put the ring to his mouth, and sucking
in his breath, swallowed hard.
The detective sprang forward, but it was too late.
"A doctor--quick!" he called to the guard.
"No use!" murmured the rich man, sinking forward.
Coquenil tried to support him, but the body was too heavy for his bandaged
hand, and the prisoner sank to the floor.
"I--I won the last trick, anyhow," the baron whispered as M. Paul bent over
Coquenil picked up the ring that had fallen from a nerveless hand. He put
it to his nose and sniffed it.
"Prussic acid!" he muttered, and turned away from the last horrors.
Two minutes later, when Dr. Duprat rushed in, the Baron de
Heidelmann-Bruck, unafraid and unrepentant, had gone to his last long
sleep. His face was calm, and even in death his lips seemed set in a
mocking smile of triumph.
* * * * *
And so it all ended, as the baron remarked, with virtue rewarded and right
triumphant over wrong. Only the doctors agreed that many a day must pass
before Coquenil could get back to his work, if, indeed, he ever went back
to it. There were reasons, independent of M. Paul's health, that made this
doubtful, reasons connected with the happiness of the lovers, for, after
all, it was to Coquenil that they owed everything; Kittredge owed him his
liberty and established innocence, Alice (we should say Mary) owed him her
memory, her lover, and her fortune; for, as the sole surviving heir of her
mother, the whole vast inheritance came to her. And, when a sweet young
girl finds herself in such serious debt to a man and at the same time one
of the richest heiresses in the world, she naturally wishes to give some
substantial form to her gratitude, even to the extent of a few odd millions
from her limitless store.
At any rate, Coquenil was henceforth far beyond any need of following his
profession; whatever use he might in the future make of his brilliant
talents would be for the sheer joy of conquest and strictly in the spirit
of art for its own sake.
On the other hand, if at any time he wished to undertake a case, it was
certain that the city of Paris or the government of France would tender him
their commissions on a silver salver, for now, of course, his justification
was complete and, by special arrangement, he was given a sort of roving
commission from headquarters with indefinite leave of absence. Best of all,
he was made chevalier of the Legion of Honor "_for conspicuous public
service_." What a day it was, to be sure, when Madam Coquenil first caught
sight of that precious red badge on her son's coat!
So we leave Paul Coquenil resting and recuperating in the Vosges Mountains,
taking long drives with his mother and planning the rebuilding of their
"You did your work, Paul, and I'm proud of you," the old lady said when she
heard the tragic tale, "but don't forget, my boy, it was the hand of God
that saved you."
"Yes, mother," he said fondly, and added with a mischievous smile, "don't
forget that you had a little to do with it, too."
As for the lovers, there is only this to be said: that they were
ridiculously, indescribably happy. The mystery of Alice's strange dreams
and clairvoyant glimpses (it should be Mary) was in great part accounted
for, so Dr. Duprat declared, by certain psychological abnormalities
connected with her loss of memory; these would quickly disappear, he
thought, with a little care and a certain electrical treatment that he
recommended. Lloyd was positive kisses would do the thing just as well; at
any rate, he proposed to give this theory a complete test.
The young American had one grievance.
"It's playing it low on a fellow," he said, "when he's just squared himself
to hustle for a poor candle seller to change her into a howling
millionaire. I'd like to know how the devil I'm going to be a hero now?"
"Silly boy," she laughed, her radiant eyes burning on him, at which he
threatened to begin the treatment forthwith.
"You darling!" he cried. "My little Alice! Hanged if I can _ever_ call you
anything but Alice!"
She looked up at him archly and nestled close.
"Lloyd, dear, I know a nicer name than Alice."
"A nicer name than Mary."
"A nicer name than _any_ name."
"What is it, you little beauty?" he murmured, drawing her closer still and
pressing his lips to hers.
"How can I--tell you--unless you--let me--speak?" she panted.
Then, with wonderful dancing lights in those deep, strange windows of her
soul, she whispered: "The nicest name in the world _for me_ is--_Mrs. Lloyd