Tantissimi classici della letteratura e della cultura politica,
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Abbe Prevost - MANON LESCAUT
Alcott, Louisa M. - AN OLDFASHIONED GIRL
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE MEN
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE WOMEN
Alcott, Louisa May - JACK AND JILL
Alcott, Louisa May - LIFE LETTERS AND JOURNALS
Andersen, Hans Christian - FAIRY TALES
Anonimo - BEOWULF
Ariosto, Ludovico - ORLANDO ENRAGED
Aurelius, Marcus - MEDITATIONS
Austen, Jane - EMMA
Austen, Jane - MANSFIELD PARK
Austen, Jane - NORTHANGER ABBEY
Austen, Jane - PERSUASION
Austen, Jane - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Austen, Jane - SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Authors, Various - LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Authors, Various - SELECTED ENGLISH LETTERS
Autori Vari - THE WORLD ENGLISH BIBLE
Bacon, Francis - THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
Balzac, Honore de - EUGENIE GRANDET
Balzac, Honore de - FATHER GORIOT
Baroness Orczy - THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Barrie, J. M. - PETER AND WENDY
Barrie, James M. - PETER PAN
Bierce, Ambrose - THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Blake, William - SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
Boccaccio, Giovanni - DECAMERONE
Brent, Linda - INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
Bronte, Charlotte - JANE EYRE
Bronte, Charlotte - VILLETTE
Buchan, John - GREENMANTLE
Buchan, John - MR STANDFAST
Buchan, John - THE 39 STEPS
Bunyan, John - THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
Burckhardt, Jacob - THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
Burnett, Frances H. - A LITTLE PRINCESS
Burnett, Frances H. - LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
Burnett, Frances H. - THE SECRET GARDEN
Butler, Samuel - EREWHON
Carlyle, Thomas - PAST AND PRESENT
Carlyle, Thomas - THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Cellini, Benvenuto - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Cervantes - DON QUIXOTE
Chaucer, Geoffrey - THE CANTERBURY TALES
Chesterton, G. K. - A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Chesterton, G. K. - THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE
Chesterton, G. K. - THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
Chesterton, G. K. - THE WISDOM OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - TWELVE TYPES
Chesterton, G. K. - WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA
Chesterton, Gilbert K. - HERETICS
Chopin, Kate - AT FAULT
Chopin, Kate - BAYOU FOLK
Chopin, Kate - THE AWAKENING AND SELECTED SHORT STORIES
Clark Hall, John R. - A CONCISE ANGLOSAXON DICTIONARY
Clarkson, Thomas - AN ESSAY ON THE SLAVERY AND COMMERCE OF THE HUMAN SPECIES
Clausewitz, Carl von - ON WAR
Coleridge, Herbert - A DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST OR OLDEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH
Coleridge, S. T. - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Coleridge, S. T. - HINTS TOWARDS THE FORMATION OF A MORE COMPREHENSIVE THEORY
Coleridge, S. T. - THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
Collins, Wilkie - THE MOONSTONE
Collodi - PINOCCHIO
Conan Doyle, Arthur - A STUDY IN SCARLET
Conan Doyle, Arthur - MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
Conrad, Joseph - HEART OF DARKNESS
Conrad, Joseph - LORD JIM
Conrad, Joseph - NOSTROMO
Conrad, Joseph - THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS
Conrad, Joseph - TYPHOON
Crane, Stephen - LAST WORDS
Crane, Stephen - MAGGIE
Crane, Stephen - THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Crane, Stephen - WOUNDS IN THE RAIN
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: HELL
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PARADISE
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PURGATORY
Darwin, Charles - THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN
Darwin, Charles - THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Defoe, Daniel - A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES
Defoe, Daniel - A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR
Defoe, Daniel - CAPTAIN SINGLETON
Defoe, Daniel - MOLL FLANDERS
Defoe, Daniel - ROBINSON CRUSOE
Defoe, Daniel - THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN
Defoe, Daniel - THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE
Deledda, Grazia - AFTER THE DIVORCE
Dickens, Charles - A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Dickens, Charles - A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Dickens, Charles - BLEAK HOUSE
Dickens, Charles - DAVID COPPERFIELD
Dickens, Charles - DONBEY AND SON
Dickens, Charles - GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Dickens, Charles - HARD TIMES
Dickens, Charles - LETTERS VOLUME 1
Dickens, Charles - LITTLE DORRIT
Dickens, Charles - MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT
Dickens, Charles - NICHOLAS NICKLEBY
Dickens, Charles - OLIVER TWIST
Dickens, Charles - OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
Dickens, Charles - PICTURES FROM ITALY
Dickens, Charles - THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
Dickens, Charles - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Dickens, Charles - THE PICKWICK PAPERS
Dickinson, Emily - POEMS
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Du Maurier, George - TRILBY
Dumas, Alexandre - THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Dumas, Alexandre - THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
Dumas, Alexandre - THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Eliot, George - DANIEL DERONDA
Eliot, George - MIDDLEMARCH
Eliot, George - SILAS MARNER
Eliot, George - THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
Engels, Frederick - THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING-CLASS IN ENGLAND IN 1844
Equiano - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Esopo - FABLES
Fenimore Cooper, James - THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Fielding, Henry - TOM JONES
France, Anatole - THAIS
France, Anatole - THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
France, Anatole - THE LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC
France, Anatole - THE SEVEN WIVES OF BLUEBEARD
Frank Baum, L. - THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ
Frank Baum, L. - THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Franklin, Benjamin - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frazer, James George - THE GOLDEN BOUGH
Freud, Sigmund - DREAM PSYCHOLOGY
Galsworthy, John - COMPLETE PLAYS
Galsworthy, John - STRIFE
Galsworthy, John - STUDIES AND ESSAYS
Galsworthy, John - THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Galsworthy, John - THE FORSYTE SAGA
Galsworthy, John - THE LITTLE MAN
Galsworthy, John - THE SILVER BOX
Galsworthy, John - THE SKIN GAME
Gaskell, Elizabeth - CRANFORD
Gaskell, Elizabeth - MARY BARTON
Gaskell, Elizabeth - NORTH AND SOUTH
Gaskell, Elizabeth - THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Gay, John - THE BEGGAR'S OPERA
Gentile, Maria - THE ITALIAN COOK BOOK
Gilbert and Sullivan - PLAYS
Goethe - FAUST
Gogol - DEAD SOULS
Goldsmith, Oliver - SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
Goldsmith, Oliver - THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD
Grahame, Kenneth - THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Grimm, Brothers - FAIRY TALES
Harding, A. R. - GINSENG AND OTHER MEDICINAL PLANTS
Hardy, Thomas - A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES
Hardy, Thomas - FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Hardy, Thomas - JUDE THE OBSCURE
Hardy, Thomas - TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
Hardy, Thomas - THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE
Hartley, Cecil B. - THE GENTLEMEN'S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - LITTLE MASTERPIECES
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - THE SCARLET LETTER
Henry VIII - LOVE LETTERS TO ANNE BOLEYN
Henry, O. - CABBAGES AND KINGS
Henry, O. - SIXES AND SEVENS
Henry, O. - THE FOUR MILLION
Henry, O. - THE TRIMMED LAMP
Henry, O. - WHIRLIGIGS
Hindman Miller, Gustavus - TEN THOUSAND DREAMS INTERPRETED
Hobbes, Thomas - LEVIATHAN
Homer - THE ILIAD
Homer - THE ODYSSEY
Hornaday, William T. - THE EXTERMINATION OF THE AMERICAN BISON
Hume, David - A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE
Hume, David - AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING
Hume, David - DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION
Ibsen, Henrik - A DOLL'S HOUSE
Ibsen, Henrik - AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
Ibsen, Henrik - GHOSTS
Ibsen, Henrik - HEDDA GABLER
Ibsen, Henrik - JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN
Ibsen, Henrik - ROSMERHOLM
Ibsen, Henrik - THE LADY FROM THE SEA
Ibsen, Henrik - THE MASTER BUILDER
Ibsen, Henrik - WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN
Irving, Washington - THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
James, Henry - ITALIAN HOURS
James, Henry - THE ASPERN PAPERS
James, Henry - THE BOSTONIANS
James, Henry - THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
James, Henry - THE TURN OF THE SCREW
James, Henry - WASHINGTON SQUARE
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN IN A BOAT
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL
Jevons, Stanley - POLITICAL ECONOMY
Johnson, Samuel - A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH TONGUE
Jonson, Ben - THE ALCHEMIST
Jonson, Ben - VOLPONE
Joyce, James - A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Joyce, James - CHAMBER MUSIC
Joyce, James - DUBLINERS
Joyce, James - ULYSSES
Keats, John - ENDYMION
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1817
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1820
King James - THE BIBLE
Kipling, Rudyard - CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS
Kipling, Rudyard - INDIAN TALES
Kipling, Rudyard - JUST SO STORIES
Kipling, Rudyard - KIM
Kipling, Rudyard - THE JUNGLE BOOK
Kipling, Rudyard - THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Kipling, Rudyard - THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK
Lawrence, D. H - THE RAINBOW
Lawrence, D. H - THE WHITE PEACOCK
Lawrence, D. H - TWILIGHT IN ITALY
Lawrence, D. H. - AARON'S ROD
Lawrence, D. H. - SONS AND LOVERS
Lawrence, D. H. - THE LOST GIRL
Lawrence, D. H. - WOMEN IN LOVE
Lear, Edward - BOOK OF NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - LAUGHABLE LYRICS
Lear, Edward - MORE NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - NONSENSE SONG
Leblanc, Maurice - ARSENE LUPIN VS SHERLOCK HOLMES
Leblanc, Maurice - THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE HOLLOW NEEDLE
Leblanc, Maurice - THE RETURN OF ARSENE LUPIN
Lehmann, Lilli - HOW TO SING
Leroux, Gaston - THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER
Leroux, Gaston - THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM
Leroux, Gaston - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
London, Jack - MARTIN EDEN
London, Jack - THE CALL OF THE WILD
London, Jack - WHITE FANG
Machiavelli, Nicolo' - THE PRINCE
Malthus, Thomas - PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION
Mansfield, Katherine - THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES
Marlowe, Christopher - THE JEW OF MALTA
Marryat, Captain - THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST
Maupassant, Guy De - BEL AMI
Melville, Hermann - MOBY DICK
Melville, Hermann - TYPEE
Mill, John Stuart - PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
Milton, John - PARADISE LOST
Mitra, S. M. - HINDU TALES FROM THE SANSKRIT
Montaigne, Michel de - ESSAYS
Montgomery, Lucy Maud - ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
More, Thomas - UTOPIA
Nesbit, E. - FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
Nesbit, E. - THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET
Nesbit, E. - THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Nesbit, E. - THE STORY OF THE AMULET
Newton, Isaac - OPTICKS
Nietsche, Friedrich - BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Nietsche, Friedrich - THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
Nightingale, Florence - NOTES ON NURSING
Owen, Wilfred - POEMS
Ozaki, Yei Theodora - JAPANESE FAIRY TALES
Pascal, Blaise - PENSEES
Pellico, Silvio - MY TEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT
Perrault, Charles - FAIRY TALES
Pirandello, Luigi - THREE PLAYS
Plato - THE REPUBLIC
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 1
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 2
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 3
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 4
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 5
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
Potter, Beatrix - THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT
Proust, Marcel - SWANN'S WAY
Radcliffe, Ann - A SICILIAN ROMANCE
Ricardo, David - ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION
Richardson, Samuel - PAMELA
Rider Haggard, H. - ALLAN QUATERMAIN
Rider Haggard, H. - KING SOLOMON'S MINES
Rousseau, J. J. - THE ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF INEQUALITY AMONG MANKIND
Ruskin, John - THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE
Schiller, Friedrich - THE DEATH OF WALLENSTEIN
Schiller, Friedrich - THE PICCOLOMINI
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE ART OF CONTROVERSY
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE WISDOM OF LIFE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
Scott, Walter - IVANHOE
Scott, Walter - QUENTIN DURWARD
Scott, Walter - ROB ROY
Scott, Walter - THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR
Scott, Walter - WAVERLEY
Sedgwick, Anne Douglas - THE THIRD WINDOW
Sewell, Anna - BLACK BEAUTY
Shakespeare, William - COMPLETE WORKS
Shakespeare, William - HAMLET
Shakespeare, William - OTHELLO
Shakespeare, William - ROMEO AND JULIET
Shelley, Mary - FRANKENSTEIN
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - A DEFENCE OF POETRY AND OTHER ESSAYS
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Sheridan, Richard B. - THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
Sienkiewicz, Henryk - QUO VADIS
Smith, Adam - THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
Smollett, Tobias - TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY
Spencer, Herbert - ESSAYS ON EDUCATION AND KINDRED SUBJECTS
Spyri, Johanna - HEIDI
Sterne, Laurence - A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
Sterne, Laurence - TRISTRAM SHANDY
Stevenson, Robert Louis - A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES
Stevenson, Robert Louis - ESSAYS IN THE ART OF WRITING
Stevenson, Robert Louis - KIDNAPPED
Stevenson, Robert Louis - NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE BLACK ARROW
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Stevenson, Robert Louis - TREASURE ISLAND
Stoker, Bram - DRACULA
Strindberg, August - LUCKY PEHR
Strindberg, August - MASTER OLOF
Strindberg, August - THE RED ROOM
Strindberg, August - THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
Strindberg, August - THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES
Swift, Jonathan - A MODEST PROPOSAL
Swift, Jonathan - A TALE OF A TUB
Swift, Jonathan - GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
Swift, Jonathan - THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS AND OTHER SHORT PIECES
Tagore, Rabindranath - FRUIT GATHERING
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE GARDENER
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE HUNGRY STONES AND OTHER STORIES
Thackeray, William - BARRY LYNDON
Thackeray, William - VANITY FAIR
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE BOOK OF SNOBS
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE ROSE AND THE RING
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE VIRGINIANS
Thoreau, Henry David - WALDEN
Tolstoi, Leo - A LETTER TO A HINDU
Tolstoy, Lev - ANNA KARENINA
Tolstoy, Lev - WAR AND PEACE
Trollope, Anthony - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Trollope, Anthony - BARCHESTER TOWERS
Trollope, Anthony - FRAMLEY PARSONAGE
Trollope, Anthony - THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS
Trollope, Anthony - THE MAN WHO KEPT HIS MONEY IN A BOX
Trollope, Anthony - THE WARDEN
Trollope, Anthony - THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Twain, Mark - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Twain, Mark - SPEECHES
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
Twain, Mark - THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
Vari, Autori - THE MAGNA CARTA
Verga, Giovanni - SICILIAN STORIES
Verne, Jules - 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS
Verne, Jules - A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Verne, Jules - ALL AROUND THE MOON
Verne, Jules - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Verne, Jules - FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON
Verne, Jules - FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Verne, Jules - MICHAEL STROGOFF
Verne, Jules - THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
Voltaire - PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
Vyasa - MAHABHARATA
Wallace, Edgar - SANDERS OF THE RIVER
Wallace, Edgar - THE DAFFODIL MYSTERY
Wallace, Lew - BEN HUR
Webster, Jean - DADDY LONG LEGS
Wedekind, Franz - THE AWAKENING OF SPRING
Wells, H. G. - KIPPS
Wells, H. G. - THE INVISIBLE MAN
Wells, H. G. - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Wells, H. G. - THE STOLEN BACILLUS AND OTHER INCIDENTS
Wells, H. G. - THE TIME MACHINE
Wells, H. G. - THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
Wells, H. G. - WHAT IS COMING
Wharton, Edith - THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
White, Andrew Dickson - FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE
Wilde, Oscar - A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Wilde, Oscar - AN IDEAL HUSBAND
Wilde, Oscar - DE PROFUNDIS
Wilde, Oscar - LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN
Wilde, Oscar - SALOME
Wilde, Oscar - SELECTED POEMS
Wilde, Oscar - THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Wilde, Oscar - THE CANTERVILLE GHOST
Wilde, Oscar - THE HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER TALES
Wilde, Oscar - THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Wilde, Oscar - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY
Wilde, Oscar - THE SOUL OF MAN
Wilson, Epiphanius - SACRED BOOKS OF THE EAST
Wollstonecraft, Mary - A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
Woolf, Virgina - NIGHT AND DAY
Woolf, Virgina - THE VOYAGE OUT
Woolf, Virginia - JACOB'S ROOM
Woolf, Virginia - MONDAY OR TUESDAY
Wordsworth, William - POEMS
Wordsworth, William - PROSE WORKS
Zola, Emile - THERESE RAQUIN
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ISTRUZIONI D'USO DETTAGLIATE
THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE - THE RETURN OF ARSENE LUPIN
By MAURICE LE BLANC
I. CORALIE 11
II. RIGHT HAND AND LEFT LEG 27
III. THE RUSTY KEY 43
IV. BEFORE THE FLAMES 59
V. HUSBAND AND WIFE 74
VI. NINETEEN MINUTES PAST SEVEN 91
VII. TWENTY-THREE MINUTES PAST TWELVE 107
VIII. ESSARÈS BEY'S WORK 124
IX. PATRICE AND CORALIE 140
X. THE RED CORD 156
XI. ON THE BRINK 174
XII. IN THE ABYSS 188
XIII. THE NAILS IN THE COFFIN 206
XIV. A STRANGE CHARACTER 221
XV. THE BELLE HÉLÈNE 241
XVI. THE FOURTH ACT 263
XVII. SIMÉON GIVES BATTLE 283
XVIII. SIMÉON'S LAST VICTIM 304
XIX. FIAT LUX! 332
THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE
It was close upon half-past six and the evening shadows were growing
denser when two soldiers reached the little space, planted with trees,
opposite the Musée Galliéra, where the Rue de Chaillot and the Rue
Pierre-Charron meet. One wore an infantryman's sky-blue great-coat; the
other, a Senegalese, those clothes of undyed wool, with baggy breeches
and a belted jacket, in which the Zouaves and the native African troops
have been dressed since the war. One of them had lost his right leg, the
other his left arm.
They walked round the open space, in the center of which stands a fine
group of Silenus figures, and stopped. The infantryman threw away his
cigarette. The Senegalese picked it up, took a few quick puffs at it,
put it out by squeezing it between his fore-finger and thumb and stuffed
it into his pocket. All this without a word.
Almost at the same time two more soldiers came out of the Rue Galliéra.
It would have been impossible to say to what branch they belonged, for
their military attire was composed of the most incongruous civilian
garments. However, one of them sported a Zouave's "chechia", the other
an artilleryman's "képi". The first walked on crutches, the other on two
sticks. These two kept near the newspaper-kiosk which stands at the edge
of the pavement.
Three others came singly by the Rue Pierre-Charron, the Rue Brignoles
and the Rue de Chaillot: a one-armed rifleman, a limping sapper and a
marine with a hip that looked as if it was twisted. Each of them made
straight for a tree and leant against it.
Not a word was uttered among them. None of the seven crippled soldiers
seemed to know his companions or to trouble about or even perceive their
presence. They stood behind their trees or behind the kiosk or behind
the group of Silenus figures without stirring. And the few wayfarers
who, on that evening of the 3rd of April, 1915, crossed this
unfrequented square, which received hardly any light from the shrouded
street-lamps, did not slacken pace to observe the men's motionless
A clock struck half-past six. At that moment the door of one of the
houses overlooking the square opened. A man came out, closed the door
behind him, crossed the Rue de Chaillot and walked round the open space
in front of the museum. It was an officer in khaki. Under his red
forage-cap, with its three lines of gold braid, his head was wrapped in
a wide linen bandage, which hid his forehead and neck. He was tall and
very slenderly built. His right leg ended in a wooden stump with a
rubber foot to it. He leant on a stick.
Leaving the square, he stepped into the roadway of the Rue
Pierre-Charron. Here he turned and gave a leisurely look to his
surroundings on every side. This minute inspection brought him to one
of the trees facing the museum. With the tip of his cane he gently
tapped a protruding stomach. The stomach pulled itself in.
The officer moved off again. This time he went definitely down the Rue
Pierre-Charron towards the center of Paris. He thus came to the Avenue
des Champs-Élysées, which he went up, taking the left pavement.
Two hundred yards further on was a large house, which had been
transformed, as a flag proclaimed, into a hospital. The officer took up
his position at some distance, so as not to be seen by those leaving,
It struck a quarter to seven and seven o'clock. A few more minutes
passed. Five persons came out of the house, followed by two more. At
last a lady appeared in the hall, a nurse wearing a wide blue cloak
marked with the Red Cross.
"Here she comes," said the officer.
She took the road by which he had arrived and turned down the Rue
Pierre-Charron, keeping to the right-hand pavement and thus making for
the space where the street meets the Rue de Chaillot. Her walk was
light, her step easy and well-balanced. The wind, buffeting against her
as she moved quickly on her way, swelled out the long blue veil floating
around her shoulders. Notwithstanding the width of the cloak, the
rhythmical swing of her body and the youthfulness of her figure were
revealed. The officer kept behind her and walked along with an
absent-minded air, twirling his stick, like a man taking an aimless
At this moment there was nobody in sight, in that part of the street,
except him and her. But, just after she had crossed the Avenue Marceau
and some time before he reached it, a motor standing in the avenue
started driving in the same direction as the nurse, at a fixed distance
It was a taxi-cab. And the officer noticed two things: first, that there
were two men inside it and, next, that one of them leant out of the
window almost the whole time, talking to the driver. He was able to
catch a momentary glimpse of this man's face, cut in half by a heavy
mustache and surmounted by a gray felt hat.
Meanwhile, the nurse walked on without turning round. The officer had
crossed the street and now hurried his pace, the more so as it struck
him that the cab was also increasing its speed as the girl drew near the
space in front of the museum.
From where he was the officer could take in almost the whole of the
little square at a glance; and, however sharply he looked, he discerned
nothing in the darkness that revealed the presence of the seven crippled
men. No one, moreover, was passing on foot or driving. In the distance
only, in the dusk of the wide crossing avenues, two tram-cars, with
lowered blinds, disturbed the silence.
Nor did the girl, presuming that she was paying attention to the sights
of the street, appear to see anything to alarm her. She gave not the
least sign of hesitation. And the behavior of the motor-cab following
her did not seem to strike her either, for she did not look round once.
The cab, however, was gaining ground. When it neared the square, it was
ten or fifteen yards, at most, from the nurse; and, by the time that
she, still noticing nothing, had reached the first trees, it came
closer yet and, leaving the middle of the road, began to hug the
pavement, while, on the side opposite the pavement, the left-hand side,
the man who kept leaning out had opened the door and was now standing on
The officer crossed the street once more, briskly, without fear of being
seen, so heedless did the two men now appear of anything but their
immediate business. He raised a whistle to his lips. There was no doubt
that the expected event was about to take place.
The cab, in fact, pulled up suddenly. The two men leapt from the doors
on either side and rushed to the pavement of the square, a few yards
from the kiosk. At the same moment there was a cry of terror from the
girl and a shrill whistle from the officer. And, also at the same time,
the two men caught up and seized their victim and dragged her towards
the cab, while the seven wounded soldiers, seeming to spring from the
very trunks of the trees that hid them, fell upon the two aggressors.
The battle did not last long. Or rather there was no battle. At the
outset the driver of the taxi, perceiving that the attack was being
countered, made off and drove away as fast as he could. As for the two
men, realizing that their enterprise had failed and finding themselves
faced with a threatening array of uplifted sticks and crutches, not to
mention the barrel of a revolver which the officer pointed at them, they
let go the girl, tacked from side to side, to prevent the officer from
taking aim, and disappeared in the darkness of the Rue Brignoles.
"Run for all you're worth, Ya-Bon," said the officer to the one-armed
Senegalese, "and bring me back one of them by the scruff of the neck!"
He supported the girl with his arm. She was trembling all over and
seemed ready to faint.
"Don't be frightened, Little Mother Coralie," he said, very anxiously.
"It's I, Captain Belval, Patrice Belval."
"Ah, it's you, captain!" she stammered.
"Yes; all your friends have gathered round to defend you, all your old
patients from the hospital, whom I found in the convalescent home."
"Thank you. Thank you." And she added, in a quivering voice, "The
others? Those two men?"
"Run away. Ya-Bon's gone after them."
"But what did they want with me? And what miracle brought you all here?"
"We'll talk about that later, Little Mother Coralie. Let's speak of you
first. Where am I to take you? Don't you think you'd better come in here
with me, until you've recovered and taken a little rest?"
Assisted by one of the soldiers, he helped her gently to the house which
he himself had left three-quarters of an hour before. The girl let him
do as he pleased. They all entered an apartment on the ground-floor and
went into the drawing-room, where a bright fire of logs was burning. He
switched on the electric light:
"Sit down," he said.
She dropped into a chair; and the captain at once gave his orders:
"You, Poulard, go and fetch a glass in the dining-room. And you, Ribrac,
draw a jug of cold water in the kitchen. . . . Chatelain, you'll find a
decanter of rum in the pantry. . . . Or, stay, she doesn't like rum.
. . . Then . . ."
"Then," she said, smiling, "just a glass of water, please."
Her cheeks, which were naturally pale, recovered a little of their
warmth. The blood flowed back to her lips; and the smile on her face was
full of confidence. Her face, all charm and gentleness, had a pure
outline, features almost too delicate, a fair complexion and the
ingenuous expression of a wondering child that looks on life with eyes
always wide open. And all this, which was dainty and exquisite,
nevertheless at certain moments gave an impression of energy, due no
doubt to her shining, dark eyes and to the line of smooth, black hair
that came down on either side from under the white cap in which her
forehead was imprisoned.
"Aha!" cried the captain, gaily, when she had drunk the water. "You're
feeling better, I think, eh, Little Mother Coralie?"
"Capital. But that was a bad minute we went through just now! What an
adventure! We shall have to talk it all over and get some light on it,
sha'n't we? Meanwhile, my lads, pay your respects to Little Mother
Coralie. Eh, my fine fellows, who would have thought, when she was
coddling you and patting your pillows for your fat pates to sink into,
that one day we should be taking care of her and that the children would
be coddling their little mother?"
They all pressed round her, the one-armed and the one-legged, the
crippled and the sick, all glad to see her. And she shook hands with
"Well, Ribrac, how's that leg of yours?"
"I don't feel it any longer, Little Mother Coralie."
"And you, Vatinel? That wound in your shoulder?"
"Not a sign of it, Little Mother Coralie."
"And you, Poulard? And you, Jorisse?"
Her emotion increased at seeing them again, the men whom she called her
children. And Patrice Belval exclaimed:
"Ah, Little Mother Coralie, now you're crying! Little mother, little
mother, that's how you captured all our hearts. When we were trying our
hardest not to call out, on our bed of pain, we used to see your eyes
filling with great tears. Little Mother Coralie was weeping over her
children. Then we clenched our teeth still firmer."
"And I used to cry still more," she said, "just because you were afraid
of hurting me."
"And to-day you're at it again. No, you are too soft-hearted! You love
us. We love you. There's nothing to cry about in that. Come, Little
Mother Coralie, a smile. . . . And, I say, here's Ya-Bon coming; and
Ya-Bon always laughs."
She rose suddenly:
"Do you think he can have overtaken one of the two men?"
"Do I think so? I told Ya-Bon to bring one back by the neck. He won't
fail. I'm only afraid of one thing. . . ."
They had gone towards the hall. The Senegalese was already on the steps.
With his right hand he was clutching the neck of a man, of a limp rag,
rather, which he seemed to be carrying at arm's length, like a
"Drop him," said the captain.
Ya-Bon loosened his fingers. The man fell on the flags in the hall.
"That's what I feared," muttered the officer. "Ya-Bon has only his right
hand; but, when that hand holds any one by the throat, it's a miracle if
it doesn't strangle him. The Boches know something about it."
Ya-Bon was a sort of colossus, the color of gleaming coal, with a woolly
head and a few curly hairs on his chin, with an empty sleeve fastened to
his left shoulder and two medals pinned to his jacket. Ya-Bon had had
one cheek, one side of his jaw, half his mouth and the whole of his
palate smashed by a splinter of shell. The other half of that mouth was
split to the ear in a laugh which never seemed to cease and which was
all the more surprising because the wounded portion of the face, patched
up as best it could be and covered with a grafted skin, remained
Moreover, Ya-Bon had lost his power of speech. The most that he could do
was to emit a sequence of indistinct grunts in which his nickname of
Ya-Bon was everlastingly repeated.
He uttered it once more with a satisfied air, glancing by turns at his
master and his victim, like a good sporting-dog standing over the bird
which he has retrieved.
"Good," said the officer. "But, next time, go to work more gently."
He bent over the man, felt his heart and, on seeing that he had only
fainted, asked the nurse:
"Do you know him?"
"No," she said.
"Are you sure? Have you never seen that head anywhere?"
It was a very big head, with black hair, plastered down with grease, and
a thick beard. The man's clothes, which were of dark-blue serge and
well-cut, showed him to be in easy circumstances.
"Never . . . never," the girl declared.
Captain Belval searched the man's pockets. They contained no papers.
"Very well," he said, rising to his feet, "we will wait till he wakes up
and question him then. Ya-Bon, tie up his arms and legs and stay here,
in the hall. The rest of you fellows, go back to the home: it's time you
were indoors. I have my key. Say good-by to Little Mother Coralie and
And, when good-by had been said, he pushed them outside, came back to
the nurse, led her into the drawing-room and said:
"Now let's talk, Little Mother Coralie. First of all, before we try to
explain things, listen to me. It won't take long."
They were sitting before the merrily blazing fire. Patrice Belval
slipped a hassock under Little Mother Coralie's feet, put out a light
that seemed to worry her and, when he felt certain that she was
"As you know, Little Mother Coralie, I left the hospital a week ago and
am staying on the Boulevard Maillot, at Neuilly, in the home reserved
for the convalescent patients of the hospital. I sleep there at night
and have my wounds dressed in the morning. The rest of the time I spend
in loafing: I stroll about, lunch and dine where the mood takes me and
go and call on my friends. Well, this morning I was waiting for one of
them in a big café-restaurant on the boulevard, when I overheard the end
of a conversation. . . . But I must tell you that the place is divided
into two by a partition standing about six feet high, with the customers
of the café on one side and those of the restaurant on the other. I was
all by myself in the restaurant; and the two men, who had their backs
turned to me and who in any case were out of sight, probably thought
that there was no one there at all, for they were speaking rather louder
than they need have done, considering the sentences which I overheard
. . . and which I afterwards wrote down in my little note-book."
He took the note-book from his pocket and went on:
"These sentences, which caught my attention for reasons which you will
understand presently, were preceded by some others in which there was a
reference to sparks, to a shower of sparks that had already occurred
twice before the war, a sort of night signal for the possible repetition
of which they proposed to watch, so that they might act quickly as soon
as it appeared. Does none of this tell you anything?"
"You shall see. By the way, I forgot to tell you that the two were
talking English, quite correctly, but with an accent which assured me
that neither of them was an Englishman. Here is what they said,
faithfully translated: 'To finish up, therefore,' said one, 'everything
is decided. You and he will be at the appointed place at a little before
seven this evening.' 'We shall be there, colonel. We have engaged our
taxi.' 'Good. Remember that the little woman leaves her hospital at
seven o'clock.' 'Have no fear. There can't be any mistake, because she
always goes the same way, down the Rue Pierre-Charron.' 'And your whole
plan is settled?' 'In every particular. The thing will happen in the
square at the end of the Rue de Chaillot. Even granting that there may
be people about, they will have no time to rescue her, for we shall act
too quickly.' 'Are you certain of your driver?' 'I am certain that we
shall pay him enough to secure his obedience. That's all we want.'
'Capital. I'll wait for you at the place you know of, in a motor-car.
You'll hand the little woman over to me. From that moment, we shall be
masters of the situation.' 'And you of the little woman, colonel, which
isn't bad for you, for she's deucedly pretty.' 'Deucedly, as you say.
I've known her a long time by sight; and, upon my word. . . .' The two
began to laugh coarsely and called for their bill. I at once got up and
went to the door on the boulevard, but only one of them came out by that
door, a man with a big drooping mustache and a gray felt hat. The other
had left by the door in the street round the corner. There was only one
taxi in the road. The man took it and I had to give up all hope of
following him. Only . . . only, as I knew that you left the hospital at
seven o'clock every evening and that you went along the Rue
Pierre-Charron, I was justified, wasn't I, in believing . . . ?"
The captain stopped. The girl reflected, with a thoughtful air.
Presently she asked:
"Why didn't you warn me?"
"Warn you!" he exclaimed. "And, if, after all, it wasn't you? Why alarm
you? And, if, on the other hand, it was you, why put you on your guard?
After the attempt had failed, your enemies would have laid another trap
for you; and we, not knowing of it, would have been unable to prevent
it. No, the best thing was to accept the fight. I enrolled a little band
of your former patients who were being treated at the home; and, as the
friend whom I was expecting to meet happened to live in the square,
here, in this house, I asked him to place his rooms at my disposal from
six to nine o'clock. That's what I did, Little Mother Coralie. And now
that you know as much as I do, what do you think of it?"
She gave him her hand:
"I think you have saved me from an unknown danger that looks like a very
great one; and I thank you."
"No, no," he said, "I can accept no thanks. I was so glad to have
succeeded! What I want to know is your opinion of the business itself?"
Without a second's hesitation, she replied:
"I have none. Not a word, not an incident, in all that you have told me,
suggests the least idea to me."
"You have no enemies, to your knowledge?"
"What about that man to whom your two assailants were to hand you over
and who says that he knows you?"
"Doesn't every woman," she said, with a slight blush, "come across men
who pursue her more or less openly? I can't tell who it is."
The captain was silent for a while and then went on:
"When all is said, our only hope of clearing up the matter lies in
questioning our prisoner. If he refuses to answer, I shall hand him over
to the police, who will know how to get to the bottom of the business."
The girl gave a start:
"Well, of course. What would you have me do with the fellow? He doesn't
belong to me. He belongs to the police."
"No, no, no!" she exclaimed, excitedly. "Not on any account! What, have
my life gone into? . . . Have to appear before the magistrate? . . .
Have my name mixed up in all this? . . ."
"And yet, Little Mother Coralie, I can't . . ."
"Oh, I beg, I beseech you, as my friend, find some way out of it, but
don't have me talked about! I don't want to be talked about!"
The captain looked at her, somewhat surprised to see her in such a state
of agitation, and said:
"You sha'n't be talked about, Little Mother Coralie, I promise you."
"Then what will you do with that man?"
"Well," he said, with a laugh, "I shall begin by asking him politely if
he will condescend to answer my questions; then thank him for his civil
behavior to you; and lastly beg him to be good enough to go away."
"Do you wish to see him, Little Mother Coralie?"
"No," she said, "I am so tired! If you don't want me, question him by
yourself. You can tell me about it afterwards. . . ."
She seemed quite exhausted by all this fresh excitement and strain,
added to all those which already rendered her life as a nurse so hard.
The captain did not insist and went out, closing the door of the
drawing-room after him.
She heard him saying:
"Well, Ya-Bon, have you kept a good watch! No news? And how's your
prisoner? . . . Ah, there you are, my fine fellow! Have you got your
breath back? Oh, I know Ya-Bon's hand is a bit heavy! . . . What's this?
Won't you answer? . . . Hallo, what's happened? Hanged if I don't think
. . ."
A cry escaped him. The girl ran to the hall. She met the captain, who
tried to bar her way.
"Don't come," he said, in great agitation. "What's the use!"
"But you're hurt!" she exclaimed.
"There's blood on your shirt-cuff."
"So there is, but it's nothing: it's the man's blood that must have
"Then he was wounded?"
"Yes, or at least his mouth was bleeding. Some blood-vessel . . ."
"Why, surely Ya-Bon didn't grip as hard as that?"
"It wasn't Ya-Bon."
"Then who was it?"
"Did they come back?"
"Yes; and they've strangled him."
"But it's not possible!"
She pushed by and went towards the prisoner. He did not move. His face
had the pallor of death. Round his neck was a red-silk string, twisted
very thin and with a buckle at either end.
RIGHT HAND AND LEFT LEG
"One rogue less in the world, Little Mother Coralie!" cried Patrice
Belval, after he had led the girl back to the drawing-room and made a
rapid investigation with Ya-Bon. "Remember his name--I found it engraved
on his watch--Mustapha Rovalaïof, the name of a rogue!"
He spoke gaily, with no emotion in his voice, and continued, as he
walked up and down the room:
"You and I, Little Mother Coralie, who have witnessed so many tragedies
and seen so many good fellows die, need not waste tears over the death
of Mustapha Rovalaïof or his murder by his accomplices. Not even a
funeral oration, eh? Ya-Bon has taken him under his arm, waited until
the square was clear and carried him to the Rue Brignoles, with orders
to fling the gentleman over the railings into the garden of the Musée
Galliéra. The railings are high. But Ya-Bon's right hand knows no
obstacles. And so, Little Mother Coralie, the matter is buried. You
won't be talked about; and, this time, I claim a word of thanks."
He stopped to laugh:
"A word of thanks, but no compliments. By Jove, I don't make much of a
warder! It was clever the way those beggars snatched my prisoner. Why
didn't I foresee that your other assailant, the man in the gray-felt
hat, would go and tell the third, who was waiting in his motor, and that
they would both come back together to rescue their companion? And they
came back. And, while you and I were chatting, they must have forced the
servants' entrance, passed through the kitchen, come to the little door
between the pantry and the hall and pushed it open. There, close by
them, lay their man, still unconscious and firmly bound, on his sofa.
What were they to do? It was impossible to get him out of the hall
without alarming Ya-Bon. And yet, if they didn't release him, he would
speak, give away his accomplices and ruin a carefully prepared plan. So
one of the two must have leant forward stealthily, put out his arm,
thrown his string round that throat which Ya-Bon had already handled
pretty roughly, gathered the buckles at the two ends and pulled, pulled,
quietly, until death came. Not a sound. Not a sigh. The whole operation
performed in silence. We come, we kill and we go away. Good-night. The
trick is done and our friend won't talk."
Captain Belval's merriment increased:
"Our friend won't talk," he repeated, "and the police, when they find
his body to-morrow morning inside a railed garden, won't understand a
word of the business. Nor we either, Little Mother Coralie; and we shall
never know why those men tried to kidnap you. It's only too true! I may
not be up to much as a warder, but I'm beneath contempt as a detective!"
He continued to walk up and down the room. The fact that his leg or
rather his calf had been amputated seemed hardly to inconvenience him;
and, as the joints of the knee and thighbone had retained their
mobility, there was at most a certain want of rhythm in the action of
his hips and shoulders. Moreover, his tall figure tended to correct this
lameness, which was reduced to insignificant proportions by the ease of
his movements and the indifference with which he appeared to accept it.
He had an open countenance, rather dark in color, burnt by the sun and
tanned by the weather, with an expression that was frank, cheerful and
often bantering. He must have been between twenty-eight and thirty. His
manner suggested that of the officers of the First Empire, to whom their
life in camp imparted a special air which they subsequently brought into
the ladies' drawing-rooms.
He stopped to look at Coralie, whose shapely profile stood out against
the gleams from the fireplace. Then he came and sat beside her:
"I know nothing about you," he said softly. "At the hospital the doctors
and nurses call you Madame Coralie. Your patients prefer to say Little
Mother. What is your married or your maiden name? Have you a husband or
are you a widow? Where do you live? Nobody knows. You arrive every day
at the same time and you go away by the same street. Sometimes an old
serving-man, with long gray hair and a bristly beard, with a comforter
round his neck and a pair of yellow spectacles on his nose, brings you
or fetches you. Sometimes also he waits for you, always sitting on the
same chair in the covered yard. He has been asked questions, but he
never gives an answer. I know only one thing, therefore, about you,
which is that you are adorably good and kind and that you are also--I
may say it, may I not?--adorably beautiful. And it is perhaps, Little
Mother Coralie, because I know nothing about your life that I imagine it
so mysterious, and, in some way, so sad. You give the impression of
living amid sorrow and anxiety; the feeling that you are all alone.
There is no one who devotes himself to making you happy and taking care
of you. So I thought--I have long thought and waited for an opportunity
of telling you--I thought that you must need a friend, a brother, who
would advise and protect you. Am I not right, Little Mother Coralie?"
As he went on, Coralie seemed to shrink into herself and to place a
greater distance between them, as though she did not wish him to
penetrate those secret regions of which he spoke.
"No," she murmured, "you are mistaken. My life is quite simple. I do not
need to be defended."
"You do not need to be defended!" he cried, with increasing animation.
"What about those men who tried to kidnap you? That plot hatched against
you? That plot which your assailants are so afraid to see discovered
that they go to the length of killing the one who allowed himself to be
caught? Is that nothing? Is it mere delusion on my part when I say that
you are surrounded by dangers, that you have enemies who stick at
nothing, that you have to be defended against their attempts and that,
if you decline the offer of my assistance, I . . . Well, I . . . ?"
She persisted in her silence, showed herself more and more distant,
almost hostile. The officer struck the marble mantelpiece with his fist,
and, bending over her, finished his sentence in a determined tone:
"Well, if you decline the offer of my assistance, I shall force it on
She shook her head.
"I shall force it on you," he repeated, firmly. "It is my duty and my
"No," she said, in an undertone.
"My absolute right," said Captain Belval, "for a reason which outweighs
all the others and makes it unnecessary for me even to consult you."
"What do you mean?"
"I love you."
He brought out the words plainly, not like a lover venturing on a timid
declaration, but like a man proud of the sentiment that he feels and
happy to proclaim it.
She lowered her eyes and blushed; and he cried, exultantly:
"You can take it, Little Mother, from me. No impassioned outbursts, no
sighs, no waving of the arms, no clapping of the hands. Just three
little words, which I tell you without going on my knees. And it's the
easier for me because you know it. Yes, Madame Coralie, it's all very
well to look so shy, but you know my love for you and you've known it as
long as I have. We saw it together take birth when your dear little
hands touched my battered head. The others used to torture me. With you,
it was nothing but caresses. So was the pity in your eyes and the tears
that fell because I was in pain. But can any one see you without loving
you? Your seven patients who were here just now are all in love with
you, Little Mother Coralie. Ya-Bon worships the ground you walk on. Only
they are privates. They cannot speak. I am an officer; and I speak
without hesitation or embarrassment, believe me."
Coralie had put her hands to her burning cheeks and sat silent, bending
"You understand what I mean, don't you," he went on, in a voice that
rang, "when I say that I speak without hesitation or embarrassment? If I
had been before the war what I am now, a maimed man, I should not have
had the same assurance and I should have declared my love for you humbly
and begged your pardon for my boldness. But now! . . . Believe me,
Little Mother Coralie, when I sit here face to face with the woman I
adore, I do not think of my infirmity. Not for a moment do I feel the
impression that I can appear ridiculous or presumptuous in your eyes."
He stopped, as though to take breath, and then, rising, went on:
"And it must needs be so. People will have to understand that those who
have been maimed in this war do not look upon themselves as outcasts,
lame ducks, or lepers, but as absolutely normal men. Yes, normal! One
leg short? What about it? Does that rob a man of his brain or heart?
Then, because the war has deprived me of a leg, or an arm, or even both
legs or both arms, I have no longer the right to love a woman save at
the risk of meeting with a rebuff or imagining that she pities me? Pity!
But we don't want the woman to pity us, nor to make an effort to love
us, nor even to think that she is doing a charity because she treats us
kindly. What we demand, from women and from the world at large, from
those whom we meet in the street and from those who belong to the same
set as ourselves, is absolute equality with the rest, who have been
saved from our fate by their lucky stars or their cowardice."
The captain once more struck the mantelpiece:
"Yes, absolute equality! We all of us, whether we have lost a leg or an
arm, whether blind in one eye or two, whether crippled or deformed,
claim to be just as good, physically and morally, as any one you please;
and perhaps better. What! Shall men who have used their legs to rush
upon the enemy be outdistanced in life, because they no longer have
those legs, by men who have sat and warmed their toes at an office-fire?
What nonsense! We want our place in the sun as well as the others. It is
our due; and we shall know how to get it and keep it. There is no
happiness to which we are not entitled and no work for which we are not
capable with a little exercise and training. Ya-Bon's right hand is
already worth any pair of hands in the wide world; and Captain Belval's
left leg allows him to do his five miles an hour if he pleases."
He began to laugh:
"Right hand and left leg; left hand and right leg: what does it matter
which we have saved, if we know how to use it? In what respect have we
fallen off? Whether it's a question of obtaining a position or
perpetuating our race, are we not as good as we were? And perhaps even
better. I venture to say that the children which we shall give to the
country will be just as well-built as ever, with arms and legs and the
rest . . . not to mention a mighty legacy of pluck and spirit. That's
what we claim, Little Mother Coralie. We refuse to admit that our wooden
legs keep us back or that we cannot stand as upright on our crutches as
on legs of flesh and bone. We do not consider that devotion to us is any
sacrifice or that it's necessary to talk of heroism when a girl has the
honor to marry a blind soldier! Once more, we are not creatures outside
the pale. We have not fallen off in any way whatever; and this is a
truth before which everybody will bow for the next two or three
generations. You can understand that, in a country like France, when
maimed men are to be met by the hundred thousand, the conception of what
makes a perfect man will no longer be as hard and fast as it was. In the
new form of humanity which is preparing, there will be men with two arms
and men with only one, just as there are fair men and dark, bearded men
and clean-shaven. And it will all seem quite natural. And every one will
lead the life he pleases, without needing to be complete in every limb.
And, as my life is wrapped up in you, Little Mother Coralie, and as my
happiness depends on you, I thought I would wait no longer before making
you my little speech. . . . Well! That's finished! I have plenty more to
say on the subject, but it can't all be said in a day, can it? . . ."
He broke off, thrown out of his stride after all by Coralie's silence.
She had not stirred since the first words of love that he uttered. Her
hands had sought her forehead; and her shoulders were shaking slightly.
He stooped and, with infinite gentleness, drawing aside the slender
fingers, uncovered her beautiful face:
"Why are you crying, Little Mother Coralie?"
He was calling her "tu" now, but she did not mind. Between a man and the
woman who has bent over his wounds relations of a special kind arise;
and Captain Belval in particular had those rather familiar, but still
respectful, ways at which it seems impossible to take offence.
"Have "I" made you cry?" he asked.
"No," she said, in a low voice, "it's all of you who upset me. It's your
cheerfulness, your pride, your way not of submitting to fate, but
mastering it. The humblest of you raises himself above his nature
without an effort; and I know nothing finer or more touching than that
He sat down beside her:
"Then you're not angry with me for saying . . . what I said?"
"Angry with you?" she replied, pretending to mistake his meaning. "Why,
every woman thinks as you do. If women, in bestowing their affection,
had to choose among the men returning from the war, the choice I am sure
would be in favor of those who have suffered most cruelly."
He shook his head:
"You see, I am asking for something more than affection and a more
definite answer to what I said. Shall I remind you of my words?"
"Then your answer . . . ?"
"My answer, dear friend, is that you must not speak those words again."
He put on a solemn air:
"You forbid me?"
"In that case, I swear to say nothing more until I see you again."
"You will not see me again," she murmured.
Captain Belval was greatly amused at this:
"I say, I say! And why sha'n't I see you again, Little Mother Coralie?"
"Because I don't wish it."
"And your reason, please?"
She turned her eyes to him and said, slowly:
"I am married."
Belval seemed in no way disconcerted by this news. On the contrary, he
said, in the calmest of tones:
"Well, you must marry again! No doubt your husband is an old man and you
do not love him. He will therefore understand that, as you have some one
in love with you . . ."
"Don't jest, please."
He caught hold of her hand, just as she was rising to go:
"You are right, Little Mother Coralie, and I apologize for not adopting
a more serious manner to speak to you of very serious things. It's a
question of our two lives. I am profoundly convinced that they are
moving towards each other and that you are powerless to restrain them.
That is why your answer is beside the point. I ask nothing of you. I
expect everything from fate. It is fate that will bring us together."
"No," she said.
"Yes," he declared, "that is how things will happen."
"It is not. They will not and shall not happen like that. You must give
me your word of honor not to try to see me again nor even to learn my
name. I might have granted more if you had been content to remain
friends. The confession which you have made sets a barrier between us. I
want nobody in my life . . . nobody!"
She made this declaration with a certain vehemence and at the same time
tried to release her arm from his grasp. Patrice Belval resisted her
efforts and said:
"You are wrong. . . . You have no right to expose yourself to danger
like this. . . . Please reflect . . ."
She pushed him away. As she did so, she knocked off the mantelpiece a
little bag which she had placed there. It fell on the carpet and opened.
Two or three things escaped, and she picked them up, while Patrice
Belval knelt down on the floor to help her:
"Here," he said, "you've missed this."
It was a little case in plaited straw, which had also come open; the
beads of a rosary protruded from it.
They both stood up in silence. Captain Belval examined the rosary.
"What a curious coincidence!" he muttered. "These amethyst beads! This
old-fashioned gold filigree setting! . . . It's strange to find the same
materials and the same workmanship. . . ."
He gave a start, and it was so marked that Coralie asked:
"Why, what's the matter?"
He was holding in his fingers a bead larger than most of the others,
forming a link between the string of tens and the shorter prayer-chain.
And this bead was broken half-way across, almost level with the gold
setting which held it.
"The coincidence," he said, "is so inconceivable that I hardly dare
. . . And yet the face can be verified at once. But first, one question:
who gave you this rosary?"
"Nobody gave it to me. I've always had it."
"But it must have belonged to somebody before?"
"To my mother, I suppose."
"I expect so, in the same way as the different jewels which she left
"Is your mother dead?"
"Yes, she died when I was four years old. I have only the vaguest
recollection of her. But what has all this to do with a rosary?"
"It's because of this," he said. "Because of this amethyst bead broken
He undid his jacket and took his watch from his waistcoat-pocket. It had
a number of trinkets fastened to it by a little leather and silver
strap. One of these trinkets consisted of the half of an amethyst bead,
also broken across, also held in a filigree setting. The original size
of the two beads seemed to be identical. The two amethysts were of the
same color and contained in the same filigree.
Coralie and Belval looked at each other anxiously. She stammered:
"It's only an accident, nothing else . . ."
"I agree," he said. "But, supposing these two halves fit each other
exactly . . ."
"It's impossible," she said, herself frightened at the thought of the
simple little act needed for the indisputable proof.
The officer, however, decided upon that act. He brought his right hand,
which held the rosary-bead, and his left, which held the trinket,
together. The hands hesitated, felt about and stopped. The contact was
The projections and indentations of the broken stones corresponded
precisely. Each protruding part found a space to fit it. The two half
amethysts were the two halves of the same amethyst. When joined, they
formed one and the same bead.
There was a long pause, laden with excitement and mystery. Then,
speaking in a low voice:
"I do not know either exactly where this trinket comes from," Captain
Belval said. "Ever since I was a child, I used to see it among other
things of trifling value which I kept in a cardboard box: watch-keys,
old rings, old-fashioned seals. I picked out these trinkets from among
them two or three years ago. Where does this one come from? I don't
know. But what I do know . . ."
He had separated the two pieces and, examining them carefully,
"What I do know, beyond a doubt, is that the largest bead in this rosary
came off one day and broke; and that the other, with its setting, went
to form the trinket which I now have. You and I therefore possess the
two halves of a thing which somebody else possessed twenty years ago."
He went up to her and, in the same low and rather serious voice, said:
"You protested just now when I declared my faith in destiny and my
certainty that events were leading us towards each other. Do you still
deny it? For, after all, this is either an accident so extraordinary
that we have no right to admit it or an actual fact which proves that
our two lives have already touched in the past at some mysterious point
and that they will meet again in the future, never to part. And that is
why, without waiting for the perhaps distant future, I offer you to-day,
when danger hangs over you, the support of my friendship. Observe that I
am no longer speaking of love but only of friendship. Do you accept?"
She was nonplussed and so much perturbed by that miracle of the two
broken amethysts, fitting each other exactly, that she appeared not to
hear Belval's voice.
"Do you accept?" he repeated.
After a moment she replied:
"Then the proof which destiny has given you of its wishes does not
satisfy you?" he said, good-humoredly.
"We must not see each other again," she declared.
"Very well. I will leave it to chance. It will not be for long.
Meanwhile, I promise to make no effort to see you."
"Nor to find out my name?"
"Yes, I promise you."
"Good-by," she said, giving him her hand.
""Au revoir"," he answered.
She moved away. When she reached the door, she seemed to hesitate. He
was standing motionless by the chimney. Once more she said:
""Au revoir", Little Mother Coralie."
Then she went out.
Only when the street-door had closed behind her did Captain Belval go to
one of the windows. He saw Coralie passing through the trees, looking
quite small in the surrounding darkness. He felt a pang at his heart.
Would he ever see her again?
"Shall I? Rather!" he exclaimed. "Why, to-morrow perhaps. Am I not the
favorite of the gods?"
And, taking his stick, he set off, as he said, with his wooden leg
That evening, after dining at the nearest restaurant, Captain Belval
went to Neuilly. The home run in connection with the hospital was a
pleasant villa on the Boulevard Maillot, looking out on the Bois de
Boulogne. Discipline was not too strictly enforced. The captain could
come in at any hour of the night; and the man easily obtained leave from
"Is Ya-Bon there?" he asked this lady.
"Yes, he's playing cards with his sweetheart."
"He has the right to love and be loved," he said. "Any letters for me?"
"No, only a parcel."
"A commissionaire brought it and just said that it was 'for Captain
Belval.' I put it in your room."
The officer went up to his bedroom on the top floor and saw the parcel,
done up in paper and string, on the table. He opened it and discovered a
box. The box contained a key, a large, rusty key, of a shape and
manufacture that were obviously old.
What could it all mean? There was no address on the box and no mark. He
presumed that there was some mistake which would come to light of
itself; and he slipped the key into his pocket.
"Enough riddles for one day," he thought. "Let's go to bed."
But when he went to the window to draw the curtains he saw, across the
trees of the Bois, a cascade of sparks which spread to some distance in
the dense blackness of the night. And he remembered the conversation
which he had overheard in the restaurant and the rain of sparks
mentioned by the men who were plotting to kidnap Little Mother Coralie.
. . .
THE RUSTY KEY
When Patrice Belval was eight years old he was sent from Paris, where he
had lived till then, to a French boarding-school in London. Here he
remained for ten years. At first he used to hear from his father weekly.
Then, one day, the head-master told him that he was an orphan, that
provision had been made for the cost of his education and that, on his
majority, he would receive through an English solicitor his paternal
inheritance, amounting to some eight thousand pounds.
Two hundred thousand francs could never be enough for a young man who
soon proved himself to possess expensive tastes and who, when sent to
Algeria to perform his military service, found means to run up twenty
thousand francs of debts before coming into his money. He therefore
started by squandering his patrimony and, having done so, settled down
to work. Endowed with an active temperament and an ingenious brain,
possessing no special vocation, but capable of anything that calls for
initiative and resolution, full of ideas, with both the will and the
knowledge to carry out an enterprise, he inspired confidence in others,
found capital as he needed it and started one venture after another,
including electrical schemes, the purchase of rivers and waterfalls, the
organization of motor services in the colonies, of steamship lines and
of mining companies. In a few years he had floated a dozen of such
enterprises, all of which succeeded.
The war came to him as a wonderful adventure. He flung himself into it
with heart and soul. As a sergeant in a colonial regiment, he won his
lieutenant's stripes on the Marne. He was wounded in the calf on the
15th of September and had it amputated the same day. Two months after,
by some mysterious wirepulling, cripple though he was, he began to go up
as observer in the aeroplane of one of our best pilots. A shrapnel-shell
put an end to the exploits of both heroes on the 10th of January. This
time, Captain Belval, suffering from a serious wound in the head, was
discharged and sent to the hospital in the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.
About the same period, the lady whom he was to call Little Mother
Coralie also entered the hospital as a nurse.
There he was trepanned. The operation was successful, but complications
remained. He suffered a good deal of pain, though he never uttered a
complaint and, in fact, with his own good-humor kept up the spirits of
his companions in misfortune, all of whom were devoted to him. He made
them laugh, consoled them and stimulated them with his cheeriness and
his constant happy manner of facing the worst positions.
Not one of them is ever likely to forget the way in which he received a
manufacturer who called to sell him a mechanical leg:
"Aha, a mechanical leg! And what for, sir? To take in people, I suppose,
so that they may not notice that I've lost a bit of mine? Then you
consider, sir, that it's a blemish to have your leg amputated, and that
I, a French officer, ought to hide it as a disgrace?"
"Not at all, captain. Still . . ."
"And what's the price of that apparatus of yours?"
"Five hundred francs."
"Five hundred francs! And you think me capable of spending five hundred
francs on a mechanical leg, when there are a hundred thousand poor
devils who have been wounded as I have and who will have to go on
showing their wooden stumps?"
The men sitting within hearing reveled with delight. Little Mother
Coralie herself listened with a smile. And what would Patrice Belval not
have given for a smile from Little Mother Coralie?
As he told her, he had fallen in love with her from the first, touched
by her appealing beauty, her artless grace, her soft eyes, her gentle
soul, which seemed to bend over the patients and to fondle them like a
soothing caress. From the very first, the charm of her stole into his
being and at the same time compassed it about. Her voice gave him new
life. She bewitched him with the glance of her eyes and with her
fragrant presence. And yet, while yielding to the empire of this love,
he had an immense craving to devote himself to and to place his strength
at the service of this delicate little creature, whom he felt to be
surrounded with danger.
And now events were proving that he was right, the danger was taking
definite shape and he had had the happiness to snatch Coralie from the
grasp of her enemies. He rejoiced at the result of the first battle, but
could not look upon it as over. The attacks were bound to be repeated.
And even now was he not entitled to ask himself if there was not some
close connection between the plot prepared against Coralie that morning
and the sort of signal given by the shower of sparks? Did the two facts
announced by the speakers at the restaurant not form part of the same
The sparks continued to glitter in the distance. So far as Patrice
Belval could judge, they came from the riverside, at some spot between
two extreme points which might be the Trocadéro on the left and the Gare
de Passy on the right.
"A mile or two at most, as the crow flies," he said to himself. "Why not
go there? We'll soon see."
A faint light filtered through the key-hole of a door on the second
floor. It was Ya-Bon's room; and the matron had told him that Ya-Bon was
playing cards with his sweetheart. He walked in.
Ya-Bon was no longer playing. He had fallen asleep in an armchair, in
front of the outspread cards, and on the pinned-back sleeve hanging from
his left shoulder lay the head of a woman, an appallingly common head,
with lips as thick as Ya-Bon's, revealing a set of black teeth, and with
a yellow, greasy skin that seemed soaked in oil. It was Angèle, the
kitchen-maid, Ya-Bon's sweetheart. She snored aloud.
Patrice looked at them contentedly. The sight confirmed the truth of his
theories. If Ya-Bon could find some one to care for him, might not the
most sadly mutilated heroes aspire likewise to all the joys of love?
He touched the Senegalese on the shoulder. Ya-Bon woke up and smiled,
or rather, divining the presence of his captain, smiled even before he
"I want you, Ya-Bon."
Ya-Bon uttered a grunt of pleasure and gave a push to Angèle, who fell
over on the table and went on snoring.
Coming out of the house, Patrice saw no more sparks. They were hidden
behind the trees. He walked along the boulevard and, to save time, went
by the Ceinture railway to the Avenue Henri-Martin. Here he turned down
the Rue de la Tour, which runs to Passy.
On the way he kept talking to Ya-Bon about what he had in his mind,
though he well knew that the negro did not understand much of what he
said. But this was a habit with him. Ya-Bon, first his comrade-in-arms
and then his orderly, was as devoted to him as a dog. He had lost a limb
on the same day as his officer and was wounded in the head on the same
day; he believed himself destined to undergo the same experiences
throughout; and he rejoiced at having been twice wounded just as he
would have rejoiced at dying at the same time as Captain Belval. On his
side, the captain rewarded this humble, dumb devotion by unbending
genially to his companion; he treated him with an ironical and sometimes
impatient humor which heightened the negro's love for him. Ya-Bon played
the part of the passive confidant who is consulted without being
regarded and who is made to bear the brunt of his interlocutor's hasty
"What do you think of all this, Master Ya-Bon?" asked the captain,
walking arm-in-arm with him. "I have an idea that it's all part of the
same business. Do you think so too?"
Ya-Bon had two grunts, one of which meant yes, the other no. He grunted
"So there's no doubt about it," the officer declared, "and we must admit
that Little Mother Coralie is threatened with a fresh danger. Is that
"Yes," grunted Ya-Bon, who always approved, on principle.
"Very well. It now remains to be seen what that shower of sparks means.
I thought for a moment that, as we had our first visit from the
Zeppelins a week ago . . . are you listening to me?"
"I thought that it was a treacherous signal with a view to a second
Zeppelin visit . . ."
"No, you idiot, it's not yes. How could it be a Zeppelin signal when,
according to the conversation which I overheard, the signal had already
been given twice before the war. Besides, is it really a signal?"
"How do you mean, no? What else could it be, you silly ass? You'd do
better to hold your tongue and listen to me, all the more as you don't
even know what it's all about. . . . No more do I, for that matter, and
I confess that I'm at an utter loss. Lord, it's a complicated business,
and I'm not much of a hand at solving these problems."
Patrice Belval was even more perplexed when he came to the bottom of the
Rue de la Tour. There were several roads in front of him, and he did
not know which to take. Moreover, though he was in the middle of Passy,
not a spark shone in the dark sky.
"It's finished, I expect," he said, "and we've had our trouble for
nothing. It's your fault, Ya-Bon. If you hadn't made me lose precious
moments in snatching you from the arms of your beloved we should have
arrived in time. I admit Angèle's charms, but, after all . . ."
He took his bearings, feeling more and more undecided. The expedition
undertaken on chance and with insufficient information was certainly
yielding no results; and he was thinking of abandoning it when a closed
private car came out of the Rue Franklin, from the direction of the
Trocadéro, and some one inside shouted through the speaking-tube:
"Bear to the left . . . and then straight on, till I stop you."
Now it appeared to Captain Belval that this voice had the same foreign
inflection as one of those which he had heard that morning at the
"Can it be the beggar in the gray hat," he muttered, "one of those who
tried to carry off Little Mother Coralie?"
"Yes," grunted Ya-Bon.
"Yes. The signal of the sparks explains his presence in these parts. We
mustn't lose sight of this track. Off with you, Ya-Bon."
But there was no need for Ya-Bon to hurry. The car had gone down the Rue
Raynouard, and Belval himself arrived just as it was stopping three or
four hundred yards from the turning, in front of a large
carriage-entrance on the left-hand side.
Five men alighted. One of them rang. Thirty or forty seconds passed.
Then Patrice heard the bell tinkle a second time. The five men waited,
standing packed close together on the pavement. At last, after a third
ring, a small wicket contrived in one of the folding-doors was opened.
There was a pause and some argument. Whoever had opened the wicket
appeared to be asking for explanations. But suddenly two of the men bore
heavily on the folding-door, which gave way before their thrust and let
the whole gang through.
There was a loud noise as the door slammed to. Captain Belval at once
studied his surroundings.
The Rue Raynouard is an old country-road which at one time used to wind
among the houses and gardens of the village of Passy, on the side of the
hills bathed by the Seine. In certain places, which unfortunately are
becoming more and more rare, it has retained a provincial aspect. It is
skirted by old properties. Old houses stand hidden amidst the trees:
that in which Balzac lived has been piously preserved. It was in this
street that the mysterious garden lay where Arsène Lupin discovered a
farmer-general's diamonds hidden in a crack of an old sundial.
[Footnote 1: "The Confessions of Arsène Lupin." By Maurice Leblanc.
Translated by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos. III. "The Sign of the
The car was still standing outside the house into which the five men had
forced their way; and this prevented Patrice Belval from coming nearer.
It was built in continuation of a wall and seemed to be one of the
private mansions dating back to the First Empire. It had a very long
front with two rows of round windows, protected by gratings on the
ground-floor and solid shutters on the story above. There was another
building farther down, forming a separate wing.
"There's nothing to be done on this side," said the captain. "It's as
impregnable as a feudal stronghold. Let's look elsewhere."
From the Rue Raynouard, narrow lanes, which used to divide the old
properties, make their way down to the river. One of them skirted the
wall that preceded the house. Belval turned down it with Ya-Bon. It was
constructed of ugly pointed pebbles, was broken into steps and faintly
lighted by the gleam of a street-lamp.
"Lend me a hand, Ya-Bon. The wall is too high. But perhaps with the aid
of the lamp-post . . ."
Assisted by the negro, he hoisted himself to the lamp and was stretching
out one of his hands when he noticed that all this part of the wall
bristled with broken glass, which made it absolutely impossible to
grasp. He slid down again.
"Upon my word, Ya-Bon," he said, angrily, "you might have warned me!
Another second and you would have made me cut my hands to pieces. What
are you thinking of? In fact, I can't imagine what made you so anxious
to come with me at all costs."
There was a turn in the lane, hiding the light, so that they were now in
utter darkness, and Captain Belval had to grope his way along. He felt
the negro's hand come down upon his shoulder.
"What do you want, Ya-Bon?"
The hand pushed him against the wall. At this spot there was a door in
"Well, yes," he said, "that's a door. Do you think I didn't see it? Oh,
no one has eyes but Master Ya-Bon, I suppose."
Ya-Bon handed him a box of matches. He struck several, one after the
other, and examined the door.
"What did I tell you?" he said between his teeth. "There's nothing to be
done. Massive wood, barred and studded with iron. . . . Look, there's no
handle on this side, merely a key-hole. . . . Ah, what we want is a key,
made to measure and cut for the purpose! . . . For instance, a key like
the one which the commissionaire left for me at the home just now.
. . ."
He stopped. An absurd idea flitted through his brain; and yet, absurd as
it was, he felt that he was bound to perform the trifling action which
it suggested to him. He therefore retraced his steps. He had the key on
him. He took it from his pocket.
He struck a fresh light. The key-hole appeared. Belval inserted the key
at the first attempt. He bore on it to the left: the key turned in the
lock. He pushed the door: it opened.
"Come along in," he said.
The negro did not stir a foot. Patrice could understand his amazement.
All said, he himself was equally amazed. By what unprecedented miracle
was the key just the key of this very door? By what miracle was the
unknown person who had sent it him able to guess that he would be in a
position to use it without further instructions? A miracle indeed!
But Patrice had resolved to act without trying to solve the riddle
which a mischievous chance seemed bent upon setting him.
"Come along in," he repeated, triumphantly.
Branches struck him in the face and he perceived that he was walking on
grass and that there must be a garden lying in front of him. It was so
dark that he could not see the paths against the blackness of the turf;
and, after walking for a minute or two, he hit his foot against some
rocks with a sheet of water on them.
"Oh, confound it!" he cursed. "I'm all wet. Damn you, Ya-Bon!"
He had not finished speaking when a furious barking was heard at the far
end of the garden; and the sound at once came nearer, with extreme
rapidity. Patrice realized that a watchdog, perceiving their presence,
was rushing upon them, and, brave as he was, he shuddered, because of
the impressiveness of this attack in complete darkness. How was he to
defend himself? A shot would betray them; and yet he carried no weapon
but his revolver.
The dog came dashing on, a powerful animal, to judge by the noise it
made, suggesting the rush of a wild boar through the copsewood. It must
have broken its chain, for it was accompanied by the clatter of iron.
Patrice braced himself to meet it. But through the darkness he saw
Ya-Bon pass before him to protect him, and the impact took place almost
"Here, I say, Ya-Bon! Why did you get in front of me? It's all right, my
lad, I'm coming!"
The two adversaries had rolled over on the grass. Patrice stooped down,
seeking to rescue the negro. He touched the hair of an animal and then
Ya-Bon's clothes. But the two were wriggling on the ground in so compact
a mass and fighting so frantically that his interference was useless.
Moreover, the contest did not last long. In a few minutes the
adversaries had ceased to move. A strangled death-rattle issued from the
"Is it all right, Ya-Bon?" whispered the captain, anxiously.
The negro stood up with a grunt. By the light of a match Patrice saw
that he was holding at the end of his outstretched arm, of the one arm
with which he had had to defend himself, a huge dog, which was gurgling,
clutched round the throat by Ya-Bon's implacable fingers. A broken chain
hung from its neck.
"Thank you, Ya-Bon. I've had a narrow escape. You can let him go now. He
can't do us any harm, I think."
Ya-Bon obeyed. But he had no doubt squeezed too tight. The dog writhed
for a moment on the grass, gave a few moans and then lay without moving.
"Poor brute!" said Patrice. "After all, he only did his duty in going
for the burglars that we are. Let us do ours, Ya-Bon, which is nothing
like as plain."
Something that shone like a window-pane guided his steps and led him, by
a series of stairs cut in the rocks and of successive terraces, to the
level ground on which the house was built. On this side also, all the
windows were round and high up, like those in the streets, and
barricaded with shutters. But one of them allowed the light which he
had seen from below to filter through.
Telling Ya-Bon to hide in the shrubberies, he went up to the house,
listened, caught an indistinct sound of voices, discovered that the
shutters were too firmly closed to enable him either to see or to hear
and, in this way, after the fourth window, reached a flight of steps. At
the top of the steps was a door.
"Since they sent me the key of the garden," he said to himself, "there's
no reason why this door, which leads from the house into the garden,
should not be open."
It was open.
The voices indoors were now more clearly perceptible, and Belval
observed that they reached him by the well of the staircase and that
this staircase, which seemed to lead to an unoccupied part of the house,
showed with an uncertain light above him.
He went up. A door stood ajar on the first floor. He slipped his head
through the opening and went in. He found that he was on a narrow
balcony which ran at mid-height around three sides of a large room,
along book-shelves rising to the ceiling. Against the wall at either end
of the room was an iron spiral staircase. Stacks of books were also
piled against the bars of the railing which protected the gallery, thus
hiding Patrice from the view of the people on the ground-floor, ten or
twelve feet below.
He gently separated two of these stacks. At that moment the sound of
voices suddenly increased to a great uproar and he saw five men,
shouting like lunatics, hurl themselves upon a sixth and fling him to
the ground before he had time to lift a finger in self-defense.
Belval's first impulse was to rush to the victim's rescue. With the aid
of Ya-Bon, who would have hastened to his call, he would certainly have
intimidated the five men. The reason why he did not act was that, at any
rate, they were using no weapons and appeared to have no murderous
intentions. After depriving their victim of all power of movement, they
were content to hold him by the throat, shoulders and ankles. Belval
wondered what would happen next.
One of the five drew himself up briskly and, in a tone of command, said:
"Bind him. . . . Put a gag in his mouth. . . . Or let him call out, if
he wants to: there's no one to hear him."
Patrice at once recognized one of the voices which he had heard that
morning in the restaurant. Its owner was a short, slim-built,
well-dressed man, with an olive complexion and a cruel face.
"At last we've got him," he said, "the rascal! And I think we shall get
him to speak this time. Are you prepared to go all lengths, friends?"
One of the other four growled, spitefully:
"Yes. And at once, whatever happens!"
The last speaker had a big black mustache; and Patrice recognized the
other man whose conversation at the restaurant he had overheard, that is
to say, one of Coralie's assailants, the one who had taken to flight.
His gray-felt hat lay on a chair.
"All lengths, Bournef, whatever happens, eh?" grinned the leader. "Well,
let's get on with the work. So you refuse to give up your secret,
Essarès, old man? We shall have some fun."
All their movements must have been prepared beforehand and the parts
carefully arranged, for the actions which they carried out were
performed in an incredibly prompt and methodical fashion.
After the man was tied up, they lifted him into an easy-chair with a
very low back, to which they fastened him round the chest and waist with
a rope. His legs, which were bound together, were placed on the seat of
a heavy chair of the same height as the arm-chair, with the two feet
projecting. Then the victim's shoes and socks were removed.
"Roll him along!" said the leader.
Between two of the four windows that overlooked the chimney was a large
fire-place, in which burnt a red coal-fire, white in places with the
intense heat of the hearth. The men pushed the two chairs bearing the
victim until his bare feet were within twenty inches of the blazing
In spite of his gag, the man uttered a hideous yell of pain, while his
legs, in spite of their bonds, succeeded in contracting and curling upon
"Go on!" shouted the leader, passionately. "Go on! Nearer!"
Patrice Belval grasped his revolver.
"Oh, I'm going on too!" he said to himself. "I won't let that wretch be
. . ."
But, at this very moment, when he was on the point of drawing himself up
and acting, a chance movement made him behold the most extraordinary and
unexpected sight. Opposite him, on the other side of the room, in a part
of the balcony corresponding with that where he was, he saw a woman's
head, a head glued to the rails, livid and terror-stricken, with eyes
wide-open in horror gazing frenziedly at the awful scene that was being
enacted below by the glowing fire.
Patrice had recognized Little Mother Coralie.
BEFORE THE FLAMES
Little Mother Coralie! Coralie concealed in this house into which her
assailants had forced their way and in which she herself was hiding,
through force of circumstances which were incapable of explanation.
His first idea, which would at least have solved one of the riddles, was
that she also had entered from the lane, gone into the house by the
steps and in this way opened a passage for him. But, in that case, how
had she procured the means of carrying out this enterprise? And, above
all, what brought her here?
All these questions occurred to Captain Belval's mind without his trying
to reply to them. He was far too much impressed by the absorbed
expression on Coralie's face. Moreover, a second cry, even wilder than
the first, came from below; and he saw the victim's face writhing before
the red curtain of fire from the hearth.
But, this time, Patrice, held back by Coralie's presence, had no
inclination to go to the sufferer's assistance. He decided to model
himself entirely upon her and not to move or do anything to attract her
"Easy!" the leader commanded. "Pull him back. I expect he's had
He went up to the victim:
"Well, my dear Essarès," he asked, "what do you think of it? Are you
happy? And, you know, we're only beginning. If you don't speak, we shall
go on to the end, as the real "chauffeurs" used to do in the days of the
Revolution. So it's settled, I presume: you're going to speak?"
There was no answer. The leader rapped out an oath and went on:
"What do you mean? Do you refuse? But, you obstinate brute, don't you
understand the situation? Or have you a glimmer of hope? Hope, indeed!
You're mad. Who would rescue you? Your servants? The porter, the footman
and the butler are in my pay. I gave them a week's notice. They're gone
by now. The housemaid? The cook? They sleep at the other end of the
house; and you yourself have told me, time after time, that one can't
hear anything over there. Who else? Your wife? Her room also is far
away; and she hasn't heard anything either? Siméon, your old secretary?
We made him fast when he opened the front door to us just now. Besides,
we may as well finish the job here. Bournef!"
The man with the big mustache, who was still holding the chair, drew
"Bournef, where did you lock up the secretary?"
"In the porter's lodge."
"You know where to find Mme. Essarès' bedroom?"
"Yes, you told me the way."
"Go, all four of you, and bring the lady and the secretary here!"
The four men went out by a door below the spot where Coralie was
standing. They were hardly out of sight when the leader stooped eagerly
over his victim and said:
"We're alone, Essarès. It's what I intended. Let's make the most of it."
He bent still lower and whispered so that Patrice found it difficult to
hear what he said:
"Those men are fools. I twist them round my finger and tell them no more
of my plans than I can help. You and I, on the other hand, Essarès, are
the men to come to terms. That is what you refused to admit; and you see
where it has landed you. Come, Essarès, don't be obstinate and don't
shuffle. You are caught in a trap, you are helpless, you are absolutely
in my power. Well, rather than allow yourself to be broken down by
tortures which would certainly end by overcoming your resistance, strike
a bargain with me. We'll go halves, shall we? Let's make peace and treat
upon that basis. I'll give you a hand in my game and you'll give me one
in yours. As allies, we are bound to win. As enemies, who knows whether
the victor will surmount all the obstacles that will still stand in his
path? That's why I say again, halves! Answer me. Yes or no."
He loosened the gag and listened. This time, Patrice did not hear the
few words which the victim uttered. But the other, the leader, almost
immediately burst into a rage:
"Eh? What's that you're proposing? Upon my word, but you're a cool hand!
An offer of this kind to me! That's all very well for Bournef or his
fellows. They'll understand, they will. But it won't do for me, it won't
do for Colonel Fakhi. No, no, my friend, I open my mouth wider! I'll
consent to go halves, but accept an alms, never!"
Patrice listened eagerly and, at the same time, kept his eyes on
Coralie, whose face still contorted with anguish, wore an expression of
the same rapt attention. And he looked back at the victim, part of whose
body was reflected in the glass above the mantelpiece. The man was
dressed in a braided brown-velvet smoking-suit and appeared to be about
fifty years of age, quite bald, with a fleshy face, a large hooked nose,
eyes deep set under a pair of thick eyebrows and puffy cheeks covered
with a thick grizzled beard. Patrice was also able to examine his
features more closely in a portrait of him which hung to the left of the
fireplace, between the first and second windows, and which represented a
strong, powerful countenance with an almost fierce expression.
"It's an Eastern face," said Patrice to himself. "I've seen heads like
that in Egypt and Turkey."
The names of all these men too--Colonel Fakhi, Mustapha, Bournef,
Essarès--their accent in talking, their way of holding themselves, their
features, their figures, all recalled impressions which he had gathered
in the Near East, in the hotels at Alexandria or on the banks of the
Bosphorus, in the bazaars of Adrianople or in the Greek boats that plow
the Ægean Sea. They were Levantine types, but of Levantines who had
taken root in Paris. Essarès Bey was a name which Patrice recognized as
well-known in the financial world, even as he knew that of Colonel
Fakhi, whose speech and intonation marked him for a seasoned Parisian.
But a sound of voices came from outside the door. It was flung open
violently and the four men appeared, dragging in a bound man, whom they
dropped to the floor as they entered.
"Here's old Siméon," cried the one whom Fakhi had addressed as Bournef.
"And the wife?" asked the leader. "I hope you've got her too!"
"What is that? Has she escaped?"
"Yes, through her window."
"But you must run after her. She can only be in the garden. Remember,
the watch-dog was barking just now."
"And suppose she's got away?"
"By the door on the lane?"
"The door hasn't been used for years. There's not even a key to it."
"That's as may be," Bournef rejoined. "All the same, we're surely not
going to organize a battue with lanterns and rouse the whole district
for the sake of finding a woman . . ."
"Yes, but that woman . . ."
Colonel Fakhi seemed exasperated. He turned to the prisoner:
"You're in luck, you old rascal! This is the second time to-day that
minx of yours has slipped through my fingers! Did she tell you what
happened this afternoon? Oh, if it hadn't been for an infernal officer
who happened to be passing! . . . But I'll get hold of him yet and he
shall pay dearly for his interference. . . ."
Patrice clenched his fists with fury. He understood: Coralie was hiding
in her own house. Surprised by the sudden arrival of the five men, she
had managed to climb out of her window and, making her way along the
terrace to the steps, had gone to the part of the house opposite the
rooms that were in use and taken refuge in the gallery of the library,
where she was able to witness the terrible assault levied at her
"Her husband!" thought Patrice, with a shudder. "Her husband!"
And, if he still entertained any doubts on the subject, the hurried
course of events soon removed them, for the leader began to chuckle:
"Yes, Essarès, old man, I confess that she attracts me more than I can
tell you; and, as I failed to catch her earlier in the day, I did hope
this evening, as soon as I had settled my business with you, to settle
something infinitely more agreeable with your wife. Not to mention that,
once in my power, the little woman would be serving me as a hostage and
that I would only have restored her to you--oh, safe and sound, believe
me!--after specific performance of our agreement. And you would have run
straight, Essarès! For you love your Coralie passionately! And quite
He went to the right-hand side of the fireplace and, touching a switch,
lit an electric lamp under a reflector between the third and fourth
windows. There was a companion picture here to Essarès' portrait, but it
was covered over. The leader drew the curtain, and Coralie appeared in
the full light.
"The monarch of all she surveys! The idol! The witch! The pearl of
pearls! The imperial diamond of Essarès Bey, banker! Isn't she
beautiful? I ask you. Admire the delicate outline of her face, the
purity of that oval; and the pretty neck; and those graceful shoulders.
Essarès, there's not a favorite in the country we come from who can hold
a candle to your Coralie! My Coralie, soon! For I shall know how to find
her. Ah, Coralie, Coralie! . . ."
Patrice looked across at her, and it seemed to him that her face was
reddened with a blush of shame. He himself was shaken by indignation and
anger at each insulting word. It was a violent enough sorrow to him to
know that Coralie was the wife of another; and added to this sorrow was
his rage at seeing her thus exposed to these men's gaze and promised as
a helpless prey to whosoever should prove himself the strongest.
At the same time, he wondered why Coralie remained in the room.
Supposing that she could not leave the garden, nevertheless she was free
to move about in that part of the house and might well have opened a
window and called for help. What prevented her from doing so? Of course
she did not love her husband. If she had loved him, she would have faced
every danger to defend him. But how was it possible for her to allow
that man to be tortured, worse still, to be present at his sufferings,
to contemplate that most hideous of sights and to listen to his yells of
"Enough of this nonsense!" cried the leader, pulling the curtain back
into its place. "Coralie, you shall be my final reward; but I must first
win you. Comrades, to work; let's finish our friend's job. First of all,
twenty inches nearer, no more. Good! Does it burn, Essarès? All the
same, it's not more than you can stand. Bear up, old fellow."
He unfastened the prisoner's right arm, put a little table by his side,
laid a pencil and paper on it and continued:
"There's writing-materials for you. As your gag prevents you from
speaking, write. You know what's wanted of you, don't you? Scribble a
few letters, and you're free. Do you consent? No? Comrades, three inches
He moved away and stooped over the secretary, whom Patrice, by the
brighter light, had recognized as the old fellow who sometimes escorted
Coralie to the hospital.
"As for you, Siméon," he said, "you shall come to no harm. I know that
you are devoted to your master, but I also know that he tells you none
of his private affairs. On the other hand, I am certain that you will
keep silent as to all this, because a single word of betrayal would
involve your master's ruin even more than ours. That's understood
between us, isn't it? Well, why don't you answer? Have they squeezed
your throat a bit too tight with their cords? Wait, I'll give you some
air. . . ."
Meanwhile the ugly work at the fireplace pursued its course. The two
feet were reddened by the heat until it seemed almost as though the
bright flames of the fire were glowing through them. The sufferer
exerted all his strength in trying to bend his legs and to draw back;
and a dull, continuous moan came through his gag.
"Oh, hang it all!" thought Patrice. "Are we going to let him roast like
this, like a chicken on a spit?"
He looked at Coralie. She did not stir. Her face was distorted beyond
recognition, and her eyes seemed fascinated by the terrifying sight.
"Couple of inches nearer!" cried the leader, from the other end of the
room, as he unfastened Siméon's bonds.
The order was executed. The victim gave such a yell that Patrice's blood
froze in his veins. But, at the same moment, he became aware of
something that had not struck him so far, or at least he had attached no
significance to it. The prisoner's hand, as the result of a sequence of
little movements apparently due to nervous twitches, had seized the
opposite edge of the table, while his arm rested on the marble top. And
gradually, unseen by the torturers, all whose efforts were directed to
keeping his legs in position, or by the leader, who was still engaged
with Siméon, this hand opened a drawer which swung on a hinge, dipped
into the drawer, took out a revolver and, resuming its original position
with a jerk, hid the weapon in the chair.
The act, or rather the intention which it indicated, was foolhardy in
the extreme, for, when all was said, reduced to his present state of
helplessness, the man could not hope for victory against five
adversaries, all free and all armed. Nevertheless, as Patrice looked at
the glass in which he beheld him, he saw a fierce determination pictured
in the man's face.
"Another two inches," said Colonel Fakhi, as he walked back to the
He examined the condition of the flesh and said, with a laugh:
"The skin is blistering in places; the veins are ready to burst.
Essarès Bey, you can't be enjoying yourself, and it strikes me that you
mean to do the right thing at last. Have you started scribbling yet? No?
And don't you mean to? Are you still hoping? Counting on your wife,
perhaps? Come, come, you must see that, even if she has succeeded in
escaping, she won't say anything! Well, then, are you humbugging me, or
what? . . ."
He was seized with a sudden burst of rage and shouted:
"Shove his feet into the fire! And let's have a good smell of burning
for once! Ah, you would defy me, would you? Well, wait a bit, old chap,
and let me have a go at you! I'll cut you off an ear or two: you know,
the way we have in our country!"
He drew from his waistcoat a dagger that gleamed in the firelight. His
face was hideous with animal cruelty. He gave a fierce cry, raised his
arm and stood over the other relentlessly.
But, swift as his movement was, Essarès was before him. The revolver,
quickly aimed, was discharged with a loud report. The dagger dropped
from the colonel's hand. For two or three seconds he maintained his
threatening attitude, with one arm lifted on high and a haggard look in
his eyes, as though he did not quite understand what had happened to
him. And then, suddenly, he fell upon his victim in a huddled heap,
paralyzing his arm with the full weight of his body, at the moment when
Essarès was taking aim at one of the other confederates.
He was still breathing:
"Oh, the brute, the brute!" he panted. "He's killed me! . . . But
you'll lose by it, Essarès. . . . I was prepared for this. If I don't
come home to-night, the prefect of police will receive a letter. . . .
They'll know about your treason, Essarès . . . all your story . . . your
plans. . . . Oh, you devil! . . . And what a fool! . . . We could so
easily have come to terms. . . ."
He muttered a few inaudible words and rolled down to the floor. It was
A moment of stupefaction was produced not so much by this unexpected
tragedy as by the revelation which the leader had made before dying and
by the thought of that letter, which no doubt implicated the aggressors
as well as their victim. Bournef had disarmed Essarès. The latter, now
that the chair was no longer held in position, had succeeded in bending
his legs. No one moved.
Meanwhile, the sense of terror which the whole scene had produced seemed
rather to increase with the silence. On the ground was the corpse, with
the blood flowing on the carpet. Not far away lay Siméon's motionless
form. Then there was the prisoner, still bound in front of the flames
waiting to devour his flesh. And standing near him were the four
butchers, hesitating perhaps what to do next, but showing in every
feature an implacable resolution to defeat the enemy by all and every
His companions glanced at Bournef, who seemed the kind of man to go any
length. He was a short, stout, powerfully-built man; his upper lip
bristled with the mustache which had attracted Patrice Belval's
attention. He was less cruel in appearance than his chief, less elegant
in his manner and less masterful, but displayed far greater coolness
and self-command. As for the colonel, his accomplices seemed not to
trouble about him. The part which they were playing dispensed them from
showing any empty compassion.
At last Bournef appeared to have made up his mind how to act. He went to
his hat, the gray-felt hat lying near the door, turned back the lining
and took from it a tiny coil the sight of which made Patrice start. It
was a slender red cord, exactly like that which he had found round the
neck of Mustapha Rovalaïof, the first accomplice captured by Ya-Bon.
Bournef unrolled the cord, took it by the two buckles, tested its
strength across his knee and then, going back to Essarès, slipped it
over his neck after first removing his gag.
"Essarès," he said, with a calmness which was more impressive than the
colonel's violence and sneers, "Essarès, I shall not put you to any
pain. Torture is a revolting process; and I shall not have recourse to
it. You know what to do; I know what to do. A word on your side, an
action on my side; and the thing is done. The word is the yes or no
which you will now speak. The action which I shall accomplish in reply
to your yes or no will mean either your release or else . . ."
He stopped for a second or two. Then he declared:
"Or else your death."
The brief phrase was uttered very simply but with a firmness that gave
it the full significance of an irrevocable sentence. It was clear that
Essarès was faced with a catastrophe which he could no longer avoid
save by submitting absolutely. In less than a minute, he would have
spoken or he would be dead.
Once again Patrice fixed his eyes on Coralie, ready to interfere should
he perceive in her any other feeling than one of passive terror. But her
attitude did not change. She was therefore accepting the worst, it
appeared, even though this meant her husband's death; and Patrice held
his hand accordingly.
"Are we all agreed?" Bournef asked, turning to his accomplices.
"Quite," said one of them.
"Do you take your share of the responsibility?"
Bournef brought his hands together and crossed them, which had the
result of knotting the cord round Essarès' neck. Then he pulled
slightly, so as to make the pressure felt, and asked, unemotionally:
"Yes or no?"
There was a murmur of satisfaction. The accomplices heaved a breath; and
Bournef nodded his head with an air of approval:
"Ah, so you accept! It was high time: I doubt if any one was ever nearer
death than you were, Essarès." Retaining his hold of the cord, he
continued, "Very well. You will speak. But I know you; and your answer
surprises me, for I told the colonel that not even the certainty of
death would make you confess your secret. Am I wrong?"
"No," replied Essarès. "Neither death nor torture."
"Then you have something different to propose?"
"Something worth our while?"
"Yes. I suggested it to the colonel just now, when you were out of the
room. But, though he was willing to betray you and go halves with me in
the secret, he refused the other thing."
"Why should I accept it?"
"Because you must take it or leave it and because you will understand
what he did not."
"It's a compromise, I suppose?"
Bournef shrugged his shoulders:
"A few thousand-franc notes, I expect. And you imagine that Bournef and
his friends will be such fools? . . . Come, Essarès, why do you want us
to compromise? We know your secret almost entirely. . . ."
"You know what it is, but not how to use it. You don't know how to get
at it; and that's just the point."
"We shall discover it."
"Yes, your death will make it easier for us."
"My death? Thanks to the information lodged by the colonel, in a few
hours you will be tracked down and most likely caught: in any case, you
will be unable to pursue your search. Therefore you have hardly any
choice. It's the money which I'm offering you, or else . . . prison."
"And, if we accept," asked Bournef, to whom the argument seemed to
appeal, "when shall we be paid?"
"Then the money is here?"
"A contemptible sum, as I said before?"
"No, a much larger sum than you hope for; infinitely larger."
HUSBAND AND WIFE
The accomplices started, as though they had received an electric shock.
Bournef darted forward:
"What did you say?"
"I said four millions, which means a million for each of you."
"Look here! . . . Do you mean it? . . . Four millions? . . ."
"Four millions is what I said."
The figure was so gigantic and the proposal so utterly unexpected that
the accomplices had the same feeling which Patrice Belval on his side
underwent. They suspected a trap; and Bournef could not help saying:
"The offer is more than we expected. . . . And I am wondering what
induced you to make it."
"Would you have been satisfied with less?"
"Yes," said Bournef, candidly.
"Unfortunately, I can't make it less. I have only one means of escaping
death; and that is to open my safe for you. And my safe contains four
bundles of a thousand bank-notes each."
Bournef could not get over his astonishment and became more and more
"How do you know that, after taking the four millions, we shall not
insist on more?"
"Insist on what? The secret of the site?"
"Because you know that I would as soon die as tell it you. The four
millions are the maximum. Do you want them or don't you? I ask for no
promise in return, no oath of any kind, for I am convinced that, when
you have filled your pockets, you will have but one thought, to clear
off, without handicapping yourselves with a murder which might prove
The argument was so unanswerable that Bournef ceased discussing and
"Is the safe in this room?"
"Yes, between the first and second windows, behind my portrait."
Bournef took down the picture and said:
"I see nothing."
"It's all right. The lines of the safe are marked by the moldings of the
central panel. In the middle you will see what looks like a rose, not of
wood but of iron; and there are four others at the four corners of the
panel. These four turn to the right, by successive notches, forming a
word which is the key to the lock, the word Cora."
"The first four letters of Coralie?" asked Bournef, following Essarès'
instructions as he spoke.
"No," said Essarès Bey, "the first four letters of the Coran. Have you
After a moment, Bournef answered:
"Yes, I've finished. And the key?"
"There's no key. The fifth letter of the word, the letter N, is the
letter of the central rose."
Bournef turned this fifth rose; and presently a click was heard.
"Now pull," said Essarès. "That's it. The safe is not deep: it's dug in
one of the stones of the front wall. Put in your hand. You'll find four
It must be admitted that Patrice Belval expected to see something
startling interrupt Bournef's quest and hurl him into some pit suddenly
opened by Essarès' trickery. And the three confederates seemed to share
this unpleasant apprehension, for they were gray in the face, while
Bournef himself appeared to be working very cautiously and suspiciously.
At last he turned round and came and sat beside Essarès. In his hands he
held a bundle of four pocket-books, short but extremely bulky and bound
together with a canvas strap. He unfastened the buckle of the strap and
opened one of the pocket-books.
His knees shook under their precious burden, and, when he had taken a
huge sheaf of notes from one of the compartments, his hands were like
the hands of a very old man trembling with fever.
"Thousand-franc notes," he murmured. "Ten packets of thousand-franc
Brutally, like men prepared to fight one another, each of the other
three laid hold of a pocket-book, felt inside and mumbled:
"Ten packets . . . they're all there. . . . Thousand-franc notes . . ."
And one of them forthwith cried, in a choking voice:
"Let's clear out! . . . Let's go!"
A sudden fear was sending them off their heads. They could not imagine
that Essarès would hand over such a fortune to them unless he had some
plan which would enable him to recover it before they had left the room.
That was a certainty. The ceiling would come down on their heads. The
walls would close up and crush them to death, while sparing their
Nor had Patrice Belval any doubt of it. The disaster was preparing.
Essarès' revenge was inevitably at hand. A man like him, a fighter as
able as he appeared to be, does not so easily surrender four million
francs if he has not some scheme at the back of his head. Patrice felt
himself breathing heavily. His present excitement was more violent than
any with which he had thrilled since the very beginning of the tragic
scenes which he had been witnessing; and he saw that Coralie's face was
as anxious as his own.
Meanwhile Bournef partially recovered his composure and, holding back
his companions, said:
"Don't be such fools! He would be capable, with old Siméon, of releasing
himself and running after us."
Using only one hand, for the other was clutching a pocket-book, all four
fastened Essarès' arm to the chair, while he protested angrily:
"You idiots! You came here to rob me of a secret of immense importance,
as you well knew, and you lose your heads over a trifle of four
millions. Say what you like, the colonel had more backbone than that!"
They gagged him once more and Bournef gave him a smashing blow with his
fist which laid him unconscious.
"That makes our retreat safe," said Bournef.
"What about the colonel?" asked one of the others. "Are we to leave him
But apparently he thought this unwise; for he added:
"On second thoughts, no. It's not to our interest to compromise Essarès
any further. What we must do, Essarès as well as ourselves, is to make
ourselves scarce as fast as we can, before that damned letter of the
colonel's is delivered at headquarters, say before twelve o'clock in the
"Then what do you suggest?"
"We'll take the colonel with us in the motor and drop him anywhere. The
police must make what they can of it."
"And his papers?"
"We'll look through his pockets as we go. Lend me a hand."
They bandaged the wound to stop the flow of blood, took up the body,
each holding it by an arm or leg, and walked out without any one of them
letting go his pocket-book for a second.
Patrice Belval heard them pass through another room and then tramp
heavily over the echoing flags of a hall.
"This is the moment," he said. "Essarès or Siméon will press a button
and the rogues will be nabbed."
Essarès did not budge.
Siméon did not budge.
Patrice heard all the sounds accompanying their departure: the slamming
of the carriage-gate, the starting-up of the engine and the drone of the
car as it moved away. And that was all. Nothing had happened. The
confederates were getting off with their four millions.
A long silence followed, during which Patrice remained on tenterhooks.
He did not believe that the drama had reached its last phase; and he was
so much afraid of the unexpected which might still occur that he
determined to make Coralie aware of his presence.
A fresh incident prevented him. Coralie had risen to her feet.
Her face no longer wore its expression of horror and affright, but
Patrice was perhaps more scared at seeing her suddenly animated with a
sinister energy that gave an unwonted sparkle to her eyes and set her
eyebrows and her lips twitching. He realized that Coralie was preparing
In what way? Was this the end of the tragedy?
She walked to the corner on her side of the gallery where one of the two
spiral staircases stood and went down slowly, without, however, trying
to deaden the sound of her feet. Her husband could not help hearing her.
Patrice, moreover, saw in the mirror that he had lifted his head and was
following her with his eyes.
She stopped at the foot of the stairs. But there was no indecision in
her attitude. Her plan was obviously quite clear; and she was only
thinking out the best method of putting it into execution.
"Ah!" whispered Patrice to himself, quivering all over. "What are you
doing, Little Mother Coralie?"
He gave a start. The direction in which Coralie's eyes were turned,
together with the strange manner in which they stared, revealed her
secret resolve to him. She had caught sight of the dagger, lying on the
floor where it had slipped from the colonel's grasp.
Not for a second did Patrice believe that she meant to pick up that
dagger with any other thought than to stab her husband. The intention of
murder was so plainly written on her livid features that, even before
she stirred a limb, Essarès was seized with a fit of terror and strained
every muscle to break the bonds that hampered his movements.
She came forward, stopped once more and, suddenly bending, seized the
dagger. Without waiting, she took two more steps. These brought her to
the right of the chair in which Essarès lay. He had only to turn his
head a little way to see her. And an awful minute passed, during which
the husband and wife looked into each other's eyes.
The whirl of thoughts, of fear, of hatred, of vagrant and conflicting
passions that passed through the brains of her who was about to kill and
him who was about to die, was reproduced in Patrice Belval's mind and
deep down in his inner consciousness. What was he to do? What part ought
he to play in the tragedy that was being enacted before his eyes? Should
he intervene? Was it his duty to prevent Coralie from committing the
irreparable deed? Or should he commit it himself by breaking the man's
head with a bullet from his revolver?
Yet, from the beginning, Patrice had really been swayed by a feeling
which, mingling with all the others, gradually paralyzed him and
rendered any inward struggle illusory: a feeling of curiosity driven to
its utmost pitch. It was not the everyday curiosity of unearthing a
squalid secret, but the higher curiosity of penetrating the mysterious
soul of a woman whom he loved, who was carried away by the rush of
events and who suddenly, becoming once more mistress of herself, was of
her own accord and with impressive calmness taking the most fearful
resolution. Thereupon other questions forced themselves upon him. What
prompted her to take this resolution? Was it revenge? Was it punishment?
Was it the gratification of hatred?
Patrice Belval remained where he was.
Coralie raised her arm. Her husband, in front of her, no longer even
attempted to make those movements of despair which indicate a last
effort. There was neither entreaty nor menace in his eyes. He waited in
Not far from them, old Siméon, still bound, half-lifted himself on his
elbows and stared at them in dismay.
Coralie raised her arm again. Her whole frame seemed to grow larger and
taller. An invisible force appeared to strengthen and stiffen her whole
being, summoning all her energies to the service of her will. She was on
the point of striking. Her eyes sought the place at which she should
Yet her eyes became less hard and less dark. It even seemed to Patrice
that there was a certain hesitation in her gaze and that she was
recovering not her usual gentleness, but a little of her womanly grace.
"Ah, Little Mother Coralie," murmured Patrice, "you are yourself again!
You are the woman I know. Whatever right you may think you have to kill
that man, you will not kill him . . . and I prefer it so."
Slowly Coralie's arm dropped to her side. Her features relaxed. Patrice
could guess the immense relief which she felt at escaping from the
obsessing purpose that was driving her to murder. She looked at her
dagger with astonishment, as though she were waking from a hideous
nightmare. And, bending over her husband she began to cut his bonds.
She did so with visible repugnance, avoiding his touch, as it were, and
shunning his eyes. The cords were severed one by one. Essarès was free.
What happened next was in the highest measure unexpected. With not a
word of thanks to his wife, with not a word of anger either, this man
who had just undergone the most cruel torture and whose body still
throbbed with pain hurriedly tottered barefoot to a telephone standing
on a table. He was like a hungry man who suddenly sees a piece of bread
and snatches at it greedily as the means of saving himself and returning
to life. Panting for breath, Essarès took down the receiver and called
Then he turned abruptly to his wife:
"Go away," he said.
She seemed not to hear. She had knelt down beside old Siméon and was
setting him free also.
Essarès at the telephone began to lose patience:
"Are you there? . . . Are you there? . . . I want that number to-day,
please, not next week! It's urgent. . . . 40.39. . . . It's urgent, I
And, turning to Coralie, he repeated, in an imperious tone:
She made a sign that she would not go away and that, on the contrary,
she meant to listen. He shook his fist at her and again said:
"Go away, go away! . . . I won't have you stay in the room. You go away
Old Siméon got up and moved towards Essarès. It looked as though he
wished to speak, no doubt to protest. But his action was undecided; and,
after a moment's reflection, he turned to the door and went without
uttering a word.
"Go away, will you, go away!" Essarès repeated, his whole body
But Coralie came nearer to him and crossed her arms obstinately and
defiantly. At that moment, Essarès appeared to get his call, for he
"Is that 40.39? Ah, yes . . ."
He hesitated. Coralie's presence obviously displeased him greatly, and
he was about to say things which he did not wish her to know. But time,
no doubt, was pressing. He suddenly made up his mind and, with both
receivers glued to his ears, said, in English:
"Is that you, Grégoire? . . . Essarès speaking. . . . Hullo! . . . Yes,
I'm speaking from the Rue Raynouard. . . . There's no time to lose.
. . . Listen. . . ."
He sat down and went on:
"Look here. Mustapha's dead. So is the colonel. . . . Damn it, don't
interrupt, or we're done for! . . . Yes, done for; and you too. . . .
Listen, they all came, the colonel, Bournef, the whole gang, and robbed
me by means of violence and threats. . . . I finished the colonel, only
he had written to the police, giving us all away. The letter will be
delivered soon. So you understand, Bournef and his three ruffians are
going to disappear. They'll just run home and pack up their papers; and
I reckon they'll be with you in an hour, or two hours at most. It's the
refuge they're sure to make for. They prepared it themselves, without
suspecting that you and I know each other. So there's no doubt about it.
They're sure to come. . . ."
Essarès stopped. He thought for a moment and resumed:
"You still have a second key to each of the rooms which they use as
bedrooms? Is that so? . . . Good. And you have duplicates of the keys
that open the cupboards in the walls of those rooms, haven't you? . . .
Capital. Well, as soon as they get to sleep, or rather as soon as you
are certain that they are sound asleep, go in and search the cupboards.
Each of them is bound to hide his share of the booty there. You'll find
it quite easily. It's the four pocket-books which you know of. Put them
in your bag, clear out as fast as you can and join me."
There was another pause. This time it was Essarès listening. He replied:
"What's that you say? Rue Raynouard? Here? Join me here? Why, you must
be mad! Do you imagine that I can stay now, after the colonel's given me
away? No, go and wait for me at the hotel, near the station. I shall be
there by twelve o'clock or one in the afternoon, perhaps a little later.
Don't be uneasy. Have your lunch quietly and we'll talk things over
. . . Hullo! Did you hear? . . . Very well, I'll see that everything's
all right. Good-by for the present."
The conversation was finished; and it looked as if Essarès, having taken
all his measures to recover possession of the four million francs, had
no further cause for anxiety. He hung up the receiver, went back to the
lounge-chair in which he had been tortured, wheeled it round with its
back to the fire, sat down, turned down the bottoms of his trousers and
pulled on his socks and shoes, all a little painfully and accompanied by
a few grimaces, but calmly, in the manner of a man who has no need to
Coralie kept her eyes fixed on his face.
"I really ought to go," thought Captain Belval, who felt a trifle
embarrassed at the thought of overhearing what the husband and wife were
about to say.
Nevertheless he stayed. He was not comfortable in his mind on Coralie's
Essarès fired the first shot:
"Well," he asked, "what are you looking at me like that for?"
"So it's true?" she murmured, maintaining her attitude of defiance. "You
leave me no possibility of doubt?"
"Why should I lie?" he snarled. "I should not have telephoned in your
hearing if I hadn't been sure that you were here all the time."
"I was up there."
"Then you heard everything?"
"And saw everything?"
"And, seeing the torture which they inflicted on me and hearing my
cries, you did nothing to defend me, to defend me against torture,
"No, for I knew the truth."
"The truth which I suspected without daring to admit it."
"What truth?" he repeated, in a louder voice.
"The truth about your treason."
"You're mad. I've committed no treason."
"Oh, don't juggle with words! I confess that I don't know the whole
truth: I did not understand all that those men said or what they were
demanding of you. But the secret which they tried to force from you was
a treasonable secret."
"A man can only commit treason against his country," he said, shrugging
his shoulders. "I'm not a Frenchman."
"You were a Frenchman!" she cried. "You asked to be one and you became
one. You married me, a Frenchwoman, and you live in France and you've
made your fortune in France. It's France that you're betraying."
"Don't talk nonsense! And for whose benefit?"
"I don't know that, either. For months, for years indeed, the colonel,
Bournef, all your former accomplices and yourself have been engaged on
an enormous work--yes, enormous, it's their own word--and now it appears
that you are fighting over the profits of the common enterprise and the
others accuse you of pocketing those profits for yourself alone and of
keeping a secret that doesn't belong to you. So that I seem to see
something dirtier and more hateful even than treachery, something
worthy of a common pickpocket. . . ."
The man struck the arm of his chair with his fist:
"Enough!" he cried.
Coralie seemed in no way alarmed:
"Enough," she echoed, "you are right. Enough words between us. Besides,
there is one fact that stands out above everything: your flight. That
amounts to a confession. You're afraid of the police."
He shrugged his shoulders a second time:
"I'm afraid of nobody."
"Very well, but you're going."
"Then let's have it out. When are you going?"
"Presently, at twelve o'clock."
"And if you're arrested?"
"I sha'n't be arrested."
"If you are arrested, however?"
"I shall be let go."
"At least there will be an inquiry, a trial?"
"No, the matter will be hushed up."
"You hope so."
"I'm sure of it."
"God grant it! And you will leave France, of course?"
"As soon as I can."
"When will that be?"
"In a fortnight or three weeks."
"Send me word of the day, so that I may know when I can breathe again."
"I shall send you word, Coralie, but for another reason."
"So that you may join me."
He gave a cruel smile:
"You are my wife," he said. "Where the husband goes the wife goes; and
you know that, in my religion, the husband has every right over his
wife, including that of life and death. Well, you're my wife."
Coralie shook her head, and, in a tone of indescribable contempt,
"I am not your wife. I feel nothing for you but loathing and horror. I
don't wish to see you again, and, whatever happens, whatever you may
threaten, I shall not see you again."
He rose, and, walking to her, bent in two, all trembling on his legs, he
shouted, while again he shook his clenched fists at her:
"What's that you say? What's that you dare to say? I, I, your lord and
master, order you to join me the moment that I send for you."
"I shall not join you. I swear it before God! I swear it as I hope to be
He stamped his feet with rage. His face underwent a hideous contortion;
and he roared:
"That means that you want to stay! Yes, you have reasons which I don't
know, but which are easy to guess! An affair of the heart, I suppose.
There's some one in your life, no doubt. . . . Hold your tongue, will
you? . . . Haven't you always detested me? . . . Your hatred does not
date from to-day. It dates back to the first time you saw me, to a time
even before our marriage. . . . We have always lived like mortal
enemies. I loved you. I worshipped you. A word from you would have
brought me to your feet. The mere sound of your steps thrilled me to the
marrow. . . . But your feeling for me is one of horror. And you imagine
that you are going to start a new life, without me? Why, I'd sooner kill
you, my beauty!"
He had unclenched his fists; and his open hands were clutching on either
side of Coralie, close to her head, as though around a prey which they
seemed on the point of throttling. A nervous shiver made his jaws clash
together. Beads of perspiration gleamed on his bald head.
In front of him, Coralie stood impassive, looking very small and frail.
Patrice Belval, in an agony of suspense and ready at any moment to act,
could read nothing on her calm features but aversion and contempt.
Mastering himself at last, Essarès said:
"You shall join me, Coralie. Whether you like it or not, I am your
husband. You felt it just now, when the lust to murder me made you take
up a weapon and left you without the courage to carry out your
intention. It will always be like that. Your independent fit will pass
away and you will join the man who is your master."
"I shall remain behind to fight against you," she replied, "here, in
this house. The work of treason which you have accomplished I shall
destroy. I shall do it without hatred, for I am no longer capable of
hatred, but I shall do it without intermission, to repair the evil which
you have wrought."
He answered, in a low voice:
"I "am" capable of hatred. Beware, Coralie. The very moment when you
believe that you have nothing more to fear will perhaps be the moment
when I shall call you to account. Take care."
He pushed an electric bell. Old Siméon appeared.
"So the two men-servants have decamped?" asked Essarès. And, without
waiting for the answer, he went on, "A good riddance. The housemaid and
the cook can do all I want. They heard nothing, did they? No, their
bedroom is too far away. No matter, Siméon: you must keep a watch on
them after I am gone."
He looked at his wife, surprised to see her still there, and said to his
"I must be up at six to get everything ready; and I am dead tired. Take
me to my room. You can come back and put out the lights afterwards."
He went out, supported by Siméon. Patrice Belval at once perceived that
Coralie had done her best to show no weakness in her husband's presence,
but that she had come to the end of her strength and was unable to walk.
Seized with faintness, she fell on her knees, making the sign of the
When she was able to rise, a few minutes later, she saw on the carpet,
between her and the door, a sheet of note-paper with her name on it. She
picked it up and read:
"Little Mother Coralie, the struggle is too much for
you. Why not appeal to me, your friend? Give a signal
and I am with you."
She staggered, dazed by the discovery of the letter and dismayed by
Belval's daring. But, making a last effort to summon up her power of
will, she left the room, without giving the signal for which Patrice was
NINETEEN MINUTES PAST SEVEN
Patrice, in his bedroom at the home, was unable to sleep that night. He
had a continual waking sensation of being oppressed and hunted down, as
though he were suffering the terrors of some monstrous nightmare. He had
an impression that the frantic series of events in which he was playing
the combined parts of a bewildered spectator and a helpless actor would
never cease so long as he tried to rest; that, on the contrary, they
would rage with greater violence and intensity. The leave-taking of the
husband and wife did not put an end, even momentarily, to the dangers
incurred by Coralie. Fresh perils arose on every side; and Patrice
Belval confessed himself incapable of foreseeing and still more of
After lying awake for two hours, he switched on his electric light and
began hurriedly to write down the story of the past twelve hours. He
hoped in this way to some small extent to unravel the tangled knot.
At six o'clock he went and roused Ya-Bon and brought him back with him.
Then, standing in front of the astonished negro, he crossed his arms and
"So you consider that your job is over! While I lie tossing about in the
dark, my lord sleeps and all's well! My dear man, you have a jolly
The word elastic amused the Senegalese mightily. His mouth opened wider
than ever; and he gave a grunt of enjoyment.
"That'll do, that'll do," said the captain. "There's no getting a word
in, once you start talking. Here, take a chair, read this report and
give me your reasoned opinion. What? You don't know how to read? Well,
upon my word! What was the good, then, of wearing out the seat of your
trousers on the benches of the Senegal schools and colleges? A queer
education, I must say!"
He heaved a sigh, and, snatching the manuscript, said:
"Listen, reflect, argue, deduct and conclude. This is how the matter
briefly stands. First, we have one Essarès Bey, a banker, rich as
Crœsus, and the lowest of rapscallions, who betrays at one and the same
time France, Egypt, England, Turkey, Bulgaria and Greece . . . as is
proved by the fact that his accomplices roast his feet for him.
Thereupon he kills one of them and gets rid of four with the aid of as
many millions, which millions he orders another accomplice to get back
for him before five minutes are passed. And all these bright spirits
will duck underground at eleven o'clock this morning, for at twelve
o'clock the police propose to enter on the scene. Good."
Patrice Belval paused to take breath and continued:
"Secondly, Little Mother Coralie--upon my word, I can't say why--is
married to Rapscallion Bey. She hates him and wants to kill him. He
loves her and wants to kill her. There is also a colonel who loves her
and for that reason loses his life and a certain Mustapha, who tries to
kidnap her on the colonel's account and also loses his life for that
reason, strangled by a Senegalese. Lastly, there is a French captain, a
dot-and-carry-one, who likewise loves her, but whom she avoids because
she is married to a man whom she abhors. And with this captain, in a
previous incarnation, she has halved an amethyst bead. Add to all this,
by way of accessories, a rusty key, a red silk bowstring, a dog choked
to death and a grate filled with red coals. And, if you dare to
understand a single word of my explanation, I'll catch you a whack with
my wooden leg, for I don't understand it a little bit and I'm your
Ya-Bon laughed all over his mouth and all over the gaping scar that cut
one of his cheeks in two. As ordered by his captain, he understood
nothing of the business and very little of what Patrice had said; but he
always quivered with delight when Patrice addressed him in that gruff
"That's enough," said the captain. "It's my turn now to argue, deduct
He leant against the mantelpiece, with his two elbows on the marble
shelf and his head tight-pressed between his hands. His merriment, which
sprang from temperamental lightness of heart, was this time only a
surface merriment. Deep down within himself he did nothing but think of
Coralie with sorrowful apprehension. What could he do to protect her? A
number of plans occurred to him: which was he to choose? Should he hunt
through the numbers in the telephone-book till he hit upon the
whereabouts of that Grégoire, with whom Bournef and his companions had
taken refuge? Should he inform the police? Should he return to the Rue
Raynouard? He did not know. Yes, he was capable of acting, if the act to
be performed consisted in flinging himself into the conflict with
furious ardor. But to prepare the action, to divine the obstacles, to
rend the darkness, and, as he said, to see the invisible and grasp the
intangible, that was beyond his powers.
He turned suddenly to Ya-Bon, who was standing depressed by his silence:
"What's the matter with you, putting on that lugubrious air? Of course
it's you that throw a gloom over me! You always look at the black side
of things . . . like a nigger! . . . Be off."
Ya-Bon was going away discomfited, when some one tapped at the door and
a voice said:
"Captain Belval, you're wanted on the telephone."
Patrice hurried out. Who on earth could be telephoning to him so early
in the morning?
"Who is it?" he asked the nurse.
"I don't know, captain. . . . It's a man's voice; he seemed to want you
urgently. The bell had been ringing some time. I was downstairs, in the
kitchen. . . ."
Before Patrice's eyes there rose a vision of the telephone in the Rue
Raynouard, in the big room at the Essarès' house. He could not help
wondering if there was anything to connect the two incidents.
He went down one flight of stairs and along a passage. The telephone was
through a small waiting-room, in a room that had been turned into a
linen-closet. He closed the door behind him.
"Hullo! Captain Belval speaking. What is it?"
A voice, a man's voice which he did not know, replied in breathless,
"Ah! . . . Captain Belval! . . . It's you! . . . Look here . . . but I'm
almost afraid that it's too late. . . . I don't know if I shall have
time to finish. . . . Did you get the key and the letter? . . ."
"Who are you?" asked Patrice.
"Did you get the key and the letter?" the voice insisted.
"The key, yes," Patrice replied, "but not the letter."
"Not the letter? But this is terrible! Then you don't know . . ."
A hoarse cry struck Patrice's ear and the next thing he caught was
incoherent sounds at the other end of the wire, the noise of an
altercation. Then the voice seemed to glue itself to the instrument and
he distinctly heard it gasping:
"Too late! . . . Patrice . . . is that you? . . . Listen, the amethyst
pendant . . . yes, I have it on me. . . . The pendant. . . . Ah, it's
too late! . . . I should so much have liked to . . . Patrice. . . .
Coralie. . . ."
Then again a loud cry, a heart-rending cry, and confused sounds growing
more distant, in which he seemed to distinguish:
"Help! . . . Help! . . ."
These grew fainter and fainter. Silence followed. And suddenly there was
a little click. The murderer had hung up the receiver.
All this had not taken twenty seconds. But, when Patrice wanted to
replace the telephone, his fingers were gripping it so hard that it
needed an effort to relax them.
He stood utterly dumfounded. His eyes had fastened on a large clock
which he saw, through the window, on one of the buildings in the yard,
marking nineteen minutes past seven; and he mechanically repeated these
figures, attributing a documentary value to them. Then he asked
himself--so unreal did the scene appear to him--if all this was true and
if the crime had not been penetrated within himself, in the depths of
his aching heart. But the shouting still echoed in his ears; and
suddenly he took up the receiver again, like one clinging desperately to
some undefined hope:
"Hullo!" he cried. "Exchange! . . . Who was it rang me up just now?
. . . Are you there? Did you hear the cries? . . . Are you there? . . .
Are you there? . . ."
There was no reply. He lost his temper, insulted the exchange, left the
linen-closet, met Ya-Bon and pushed him about:
"Get out of this! It's your fault. Of course you ought to have stayed
and looked after Coralie. Be off there now and hold yourself at my
disposal. I'm going to inform the police. If you hadn't prevented me, it
would have been done long ago and we shouldn't be in this predicament.
Off you go!"
He held him back:
"No, don't stir. Your plan's ridiculous. Stay here. Oh, not here in my
pocket! You're too impetuous for me, my lad!"
He drove him out and returned to the linen-closet, striding up and down
and betraying his excitement in irritable gestures and angry words.
Nevertheless, in the midst of his confusion, one idea gradually came to
light, which was that, after all, he had no proof that the crime which
he suspected had happened at the house in the Rue Raynouard. He must not
allow himself to be obsessed by the facts that lingered in his memory to
the point of always seeing the same vision in the same tragic setting.
No doubt the drama was being continued, as he had felt that it would be,
but perhaps elsewhere and far away from Coralie.
And this first thought led to another: why not investigate matters at
"Yes, why not?" he asked himself. "Before bothering the police,
discovering the number of the person who rang me up and thus working
back to the start, a process which it will be time enough to employ
later, why shouldn't I telephone to the Rue Raynouard at once, on any
pretext and in anybody's name? I shall then have a chance of knowing
what to think. . . ."
Patrice felt that this measure did not amount to much. Suppose that no
one answered, would that prove that the murder had been committed in the
house, or merely that no one was yet about? Nevertheless, the need to do
something decided him. He looked up Essarès Bey's number in the
telephone-directory and resolutely rang up the exchange.
The strain of waiting was almost more than he could bear. And then he
was conscious of a thrill which vibrated through him from head to foot.
He was connected; and some one at the other end was answering the call.
"Hullo!" he said.
"Hullo!" said a voice. "Who are you?"
It was the voice of Essarès Bey.
Although this was only natural, since at that moment Essarès must be
getting his papers ready and preparing his flight, Patrice was so much
taken aback that he did not know what to say and spoke the first words
that came into his head:
"Is that Essarès Bey?"
"Yes. Who are you?"
"I'm one of the wounded at the hospital, now under treatment at the
home. . . ."
"Captain Belval, perhaps?"
Patrice was absolutely amazed. So Coralie's husband knew him by name? He
"Yes . . . Captain Belval."
"What a lucky thing!" cried Essarès Bey, in a tone of delight. "I rang
you up a moment ago, at the home, Captain Belval, to ask . . ."
"Oh, it was you!" interrupted Patrice, whose astonishment knew no
"Yes, I wanted to know at what time I could speak to Captain Belval in
order to thank him."
"It was "you"! . . . It was "you"! . . ." Patrice repeated, more and
Essarès' intonation denoted a certain surprise.
"Yes, wasn't it a curious coincidence?" he said. "Unfortunately, I was
cut off, or rather my call was interrupted by somebody else."
"Then you heard?"
"What, Captain Belval?"
"At least, so it seemed to me; but the connection was very indistinct."
"All that I heard was somebody asking for you, somebody who was in a
great hurry; and, as I was not, I hung up the telephone and postponed
the pleasure of thanking you."
"Of thanking me?"
"Yes, I have heard how my wife was assaulted last night and how you came
to her rescue. And I am anxious to see you and express my gratitude.
Shall we make an appointment? Could we meet at the hospital, for
instance, at three o'clock this afternoon?"
Patrice made no reply. The audacity of this man, threatened with arrest
and preparing for flight, baffled him. At the same time, he was
wondering what Essarès' real object had been in telephoning to him
without being in any way obliged to. But Belval's silence in no way
troubled the banker, who continued his civilities and ended the
inscrutable conversation with a monologue in which he replied with the
greatest ease to questions which he kept putting to himself.
In spite of everything, Patrice felt more comfortable. He went back to
his room, lay down on his bed and slept for two hours. Then he sent for
"This time," he said, "try to control your nerves and not to lose your
head as you did just now. You were absurd. But don't let's talk about
it. Have you had your breakfast? No? No more have I. Have you seen the
doctor? No? No more have I. And the surgeon has just promised to take
off this beastly bandage. You can imagine how pleased I am. A wooden leg
is all very well; but a head wrapped up in lint, for a lover, never! Get
on, look sharp. When we're ready, we'll start for the hospital. Little
Mother Coralie can't forbid me to see her there!"
Patrice was as happy as a schoolboy. As he said to Ya-Bon an hour later,
on their way to the Porte-Maillot, the clouds were beginning to roll by:
"Yes, Ya-Bon, yes, they are. And this is where we stand. To begin with,
Coralie is not in danger. As I hoped, the battle is being fought far
away from her, among the accomplices no doubt, over their millions. As
for the unfortunate man who rang me up and whose dying cries I
overheard, he was obviously some unknown friend, for he addressed me
familiarly and called me by my Christian name. It was certainly he who
sent me the key of the garden. Unfortunately, the letter that came with
the key went astray. In the end, he felt constrained to tell me
everything. Just at that moment he was attacked. By whom, you ask.
Probably by one of the accomplices, who was frightened of his
revelations. There you are, Ya-Bon. It's all as clear as noonday. For
that matter, the truth may just as easily be the exact opposite of what
I suggest. But I don't care. The great thing is to take one's stand upon
a theory, true or false. Besides, if mine is false, I reserve the right
to shift the responsibility on you. So you know what you're in for.
. . ."
At the Porte-Maillot they took a cab and it occurred to Patrice to drive
round by the Rue Raynouard. At the junction of this street with the Rue
de Passy, they saw Coralie leaving the Rue Raynouard, accompanied by old
She had hailed a taxi and stepped inside. Siméon sat down by the
driver. They went to the hospital in the Champs-Élysées, with Patrice
following. It was eleven o'clock when they arrived.
"All's well," said Patrice. "While her husband is running away, she
refuses to make any change in her daily life."
He and Ya-Bon lunched in the neighborhood, strolled along the avenue,
without losing sight of the hospital, and called there at half-past one.
Patrice at once saw old Siméon, sitting at the end of a covered yard
where the soldiers used to meet. His head was half wrapped up in the
usual comforter; and, with his big yellow spectacles on his nose, he sat
smoking his pipe on the chair which he always occupied.
As for Coralie, she was in one of the rooms allotted to her on the first
floor, seated by the bedside of a patient whose hand she held between
her own. The man was asleep.
Coralie appeared to Patrice to be very tired. The dark rings round her
eyes and the unusual pallor of her cheeks bore witness to her fatigue.
"Poor child!" he thought. "All those blackguards will be the death of
He now understood, when he remembered the scenes of the night before,
why Coralie kept her private life secret and endeavored, at least to the
little world of the hospital, to be merely the kind sister whom people
call by her Christian name. Suspecting the web of crime with which she
was surrounded, she dropped her husband's name and told nobody where she
lived. And so well was she protected by the defenses set up by her
modesty and determination that Patrice dared not go to her and stood
rooted to the threshold.
"Yet surely," he said to himself, as he looked at Coralie without being
seen by her, "I'm not going to send her in my card!"
He was making up his mind to enter, when a woman who had come up the
stairs, talking loudly as she went, called out:
"Where is madame? . . . M. Siméon, she must come at once!"
Old Siméon, who had climbed the stairs with her, pointed to where
Coralie sat at the far end of the room; and the woman rushed in. She
said a few words to Coralie, who seemed upset and at once, ran to the
door, passing in front of Patrice, and down the stairs, followed by
Siméon and the woman.
"I've got a taxi, ma'am," stammered the woman, all out of breath. "I had
the luck to find one when I left the house and I kept it. We must be
quick, ma'am. . . . The commissary of police told me to . . ."
Patrice, who was downstairs by this time, heard nothing more; but the
last words decided him. He seized hold of Ya-Bon as he passed; and the
two of them leapt into a cab, telling the driver to follow Coralie's
"There's news, Ya-Bon, there's news!" said Patrice. "The plot is
thickening. The woman is obviously one of the Essarès' servants and she
has come for her mistress by the commissary's orders. Therefore the
colonel's disclosures are having their effect. House searched;
magistrate's inquest; every sort of worry for Little Mother Coralie; and
you have the cheek to advise me to be careful! You imagine that I would
leave her to her own devices at such a moment! What a mean nature you
must have, my poor Ya-Bon!"
An idea occurred to him; and he exclaimed:
"Heavens! I hope that ruffian of an Essarès hasn't allowed himself to be
caught! That would be a disaster! But he was far too sure of himself. I
expect he's been trifling away his time. . . ."
All through the drive this fear excited Captain Belval and removed his
last scruples. In the end his certainty was absolute. Nothing short of
Essarès' arrest could have produced the servant's attitude of panic or
Coralie's precipitate departure. Under these conditions, how could he
hesitate to interfere in a matter in which his revelations would
enlighten the police? All the more so as, by revealing less or more,
according to circumstances, he could make his evidence subservient to
The two cabs pulled up almost simultaneously outside the Essarès' house,
where a car was already standing. Coralie alighted and disappeared
through the carriage-gate. The maid and Siméon also crossed the
"Come along," said Patrice to the Senegalese.
The front-door was ajar and Patrice entered. In the big hall were two
policemen on duty. Patrice acknowledged their presence with a hurried
movement of his hand and passed them with the air of a man who belonged
to the house and whose importance was so great that nothing done without
him could be of any use.
The sound of his footsteps echoing on the flags reminded him of the
flight of Bournef and his accomplices. He was on the right road.
Moreover, there was a drawing-room on the left, the room, communicating
with the library, to which the accomplices had carried the colonel's
body. Voices came from the library. He walked across the drawing-room.
At that moment he heard Coralie exclaim in accents of terror:
"Oh, my God, it can't be! . . ."
Two other policemen barred the doorway.
"I am a relation of Mme. Essarès'," he said, "her only relation. . . ."
"We have our orders, captain . . ."
"I know, of course. Be sure and let no one in! Ya-Bon, stay here."
And he went in.
But, in the immense room, a group of six or seven gentlemen, no doubt
commissaries of police and magistrates, stood in his way, bending over
something which he was unable to distinguish. From amidst this group
Coralie suddenly appeared and came towards him, tottering and wringing
her hands. The housemaid took her round the waist and pressed her into a
"What's the matter?" asked Patrice.
"Madame is feeling faint," replied the woman, still quite distraught.
"Oh, I'm nearly off my head!"
"But why? What's the reason?"
"It's the master . . . just think! . . . Such a sight! . . . It gave me
a turn, too . . ."
One of the gentlemen left the group and approached:
"Is Mme. Essarès ill?"
"It's nothing," said the maid. "A fainting-fit. . . . She is liable to
"Take her away as soon as she can walk. We shall not need her any
And, addressing Patrice Belval with a questioning air:
"Captain? . . ."
Patrice pretended not to understand:
"Yes, sir," he said, "we will take Mme. Essarès away. Her presence, as
you say, is unnecessary. Only I must first . . ."
He moved aside to avoid his interlocutor, and, perceiving that the group
of magistrates had opened out a little, stepped forward. What he now saw
explained Coralie's fainting-fit and the servant's agitation. He himself
felt his flesh creep at a spectacle which was infinitely more horrible
than that of the evening before.
On the floor, near the fireplace, almost at the place where he had
undergone his torture, Essarès Bey lay upon his back. He was wearing the
same clothes as on the previous day: a brown-velvet smoking-suit with a
braided jacket. His head and shoulders had been covered with a napkin.
But one of the men standing around, a divisional surgeon no doubt, was
holding up the napkin with one hand and pointing to the dead man's face
with the other, while he offered an explanation in a low voice.
And that face . . . but it was hardly the word for the unspeakable mass
of flesh, part of which seemed to be charred while the other part formed
no more than a bloodstained pulp, mixed with bits of bone and skin,
hairs and a broken eye-ball.
"Oh," Patrice blurted out, "how horrible! He was killed and fell with
his head right in the fire. That's how they found him, I suppose?"
The man who had already spoken to him and who appeared to be the most
important figure present came up to him once more:
"May I ask who you are?" he demanded.
"Captain Belval, sir, a friend of Mme. Essarès, one of the wounded
officers whose lives she has helped to save . . ."
"That may be, sir," replied the important figure, "but you can't stay
here. Nobody must stay here, for that matter. Monsieur le commissaire,
please order every one to leave the room, except the doctor, and have
the door guarded. Let no one enter on any pretext whatever. . . ."
"Sir," Patrice insisted, "I have some very serious information to
"I shall be pleased to receive it, captain, but later on. You must
excuse me now."
TWENTY-THREE MINUTES PAST TWELVE
The great hall that ran from Rue Raynouard to the upper terrace of the
garden was filled to half its extent by a wide staircase and divided the
Essarès house into two parts communicating only by way of the hall.
On the left were the drawing-room and the library, which was followed by
an independent block containing a private staircase. On the right were a
billiard-room and the dining-room, both with lower ceilings. Above these
were Essarès Bey's bedroom, on the street side, and Coralie's,
overlooking the garden. Beyond was the servants' wing, where old Siméon
also used to sleep.
Patrice was asked to wait in the billiard-room, with the Senegalese. He
had been there about a quarter of an hour when Siméon and the maid were
The old secretary seemed quite paralyzed by the death of his employer
and was holding forth under his breath, making queer gestures as he
spoke. Patrice asked him how things were going; and the old fellow
whispered in his ear:
"It's not over yet . . . There's something to fear . . . to fear! . . .
To-day . . . presently."
"Presently?" asked Patrice.
"Yes . . . yes," said the old man, trembling.
He said nothing more. As for the housemaid, she readily told her story
in reply to Patrice' questions:
"The first surprise, sir, this morning was that there was no butler, no
footman, no porter. All the three were gone. Then, at half-past six, M.
Siméon came and told us from the master that the master had locked
himself in his library and that he wasn't to be disturbed even for
breakfast. The mistress was not very well. She had her chocolate at nine
o'clock. . . . At ten o'clock she went out with M. Siméon. Then, after
we had done the bedrooms, we never left the kitchen. Eleven o'clock
came, twelve . . . and, just as the hour was striking, we heard a loud
ring at the front-door. I looked out of the window. There was a motor,
with four gentlemen inside. I went to the door. The commissary of police
explained who he was and wanted to see the master. I showed them the
way. The library-door was locked. We knocked: no answer. We shook it: no
answer. In the end, one of the gentlemen, who knew how, picked the lock.
. . . Then . . . then . . . you can imagine what we saw. . . . But you
can't, it was much worse, because the poor master at that moment had his
head almost under the grate. . . . Oh, what scoundrels they must have
been! . . . For they did kill him, didn't they? I know one of the
gentlemen said at once that the master had died of a stroke and fallen
into the fire. Only my firm belief is . . ."
Old Siméon had listened without speaking, with his head still half
wrapped up, showing only his bristly gray beard and his eyes hidden
behind their yellow spectacles. But at this point of the story he gave
a little chuckle, came up to Patrice and said in his ear:
"There's something to fear . . . to fear! . . . Mme. Coralie. . . . Make
her go away at once . . . make her go away. . . . If not, it'll be the
worse for her. . . ."
Patrice shuddered and tried to question him, but could learn nothing
more. Besides, the old man did not remain. A policeman came to fetch him
and took him to the library.
His evidence lasted a long time. It was followed by the depositions of
the cook and the housemaid. Next, Coralie's evidence was taken, in her
own room. At four o'clock another car arrived. Patrice saw two gentlemen
pass into the hall, with everybody bowing very low before them. He
recognized the minister of justice and the minister of the interior.
They conferred in the library for half an hour and went away again.
At last, shortly before five o'clock, a policeman came for Patrice and
showed him up to the first floor. The man tapped at a door and stood
aside. Patrice entered a small boudoir, lit up by a wood fire by which
two persons were seated: Coralie, to whom he bowed, and, opposite her,
the gentleman who had spoken to him on his arrival and who seemed to be
directing the whole enquiry.
He was a man of about fifty, with a thickset body and a heavy face, slow
of movement, but with bright, intelligent eyes.
"The examining-magistrate, I presume, sir?" asked Patrice.
"No," he replied, "I am M. Masseron, a retired magistrate, specially
appointed to clear up this affair . . . not to examine it, as you
think, for it does not seem to me that there is anything to examine."
"What?" cried Patrice, in great surprise. "Nothing to examine?"
He looked at Coralie, who kept her eyes fixed upon him attentively. Then
she turned them on M. Masseron, who resumed:
"I have no doubt, Captain Belval, that, when we have said what we have
to say, we shall be agreed at all points . . . just as madame and I are
"I don't doubt it either," said Patrice. "All the same, I am afraid that
many of those points remain unexplained."
"Certainly, but we shall find an explanation, we shall find it together.
Will you please tell me what you know?"
Patrice waited for a moment and then said:
"I will not disguise my astonishment, sir. The story which I have to
tell is of some importance; and yet there is no one here to take it
down. Is it not to count as evidence given on oath, as a deposition
which I shall have to sign?"
"You yourself, captain, shall determine the value of your words and the
innuendo which you wish them to bear. For the moment, we will look on
this as a preliminary conversation, as an exchange of views relating to
facts . . . touching which Mme. Essarès has given me, I believe, the
same information that you will be able to give me."
Patrice did not reply at once. He had a vague impression that there was
a private understanding between Coralie and the magistrate and that, in
face of that understanding, he, both by his presence and by his zeal,
was playing the part of an intruder whom they would gladly have
dismissed. He resolved therefore to maintain an attitude of reserve
until the magistrate had shown his hand.
"Of course," he said, "I daresay madame has told you. So you know of the
conversation which I overheard yesterday at the restaurant?"
"And the attempt to kidnap Mme. Essarès?"
"And the murder? . . ."
"Mme. Essarès has described to you the blackmailing scene that took
place last night, with M. Essarès for a victim, the details of the
torture, the death of the colonel, the handing over of the four
millions, the conversation on the telephone between M. Essarès and a
certain Grégoire and, lastly, the threats uttered against madame by her
"Yes, Captain Belval, I know all this, that is to say, all that you
know; and I know, in addition, all that I discovered through my own
"Of course, of course," Patrice repeated. "I see that my story becomes
superfluous and that you are in possession of all the necessary factors
to enable you to draw your conclusions." And, continuing to put rather
than answer questions, he added, "May I ask what inference you have
"To tell you the truth, captain, my inferences are not definite.
However, until I receive some proof to the contrary, I propose to remain
satisfied with the actual words of a letter which M. Essarès wrote to
his wife at about twelve o'clock this morning and which we found lying
on his desk, unfinished. Mme. Essarès asked me to read it and, if
necessary, to communicate the contents to you. Listen."
M. Masseron proceeded to read the letter aloud:
"You were wrong yesterday to attribute my departure to
reasons which I dared not acknowledge; and perhaps I
also was wrong not to defend myself more convincingly
against your accusation. The only motive for my
departure is the hatred with which I am surrounded.
You have seen how fierce it is. In the face of these
enemies who are seeking to despoil me by every
possible means, my only hope of salvation lies in
flight. That is why I am going away.
"But let me remind you, Coralie, of my clearly
expressed wish. You are to join me at the first
summons. If you do not leave Paris then, nothing shall
protect you against my lawful resentment: nothing, not
even my death. I have made all my arrangements so
that, even in the contingency . . ."
"The letter ends there," said M. Masseron, handing it back to Coralie,
"and we know by an unimpeachable sign that the last lines were written
immediately before M. Essarès' death, because, in falling, he upset a
little clock which stood on his desk and which marked twenty-three
minutes past twelve. I assume that he felt unwell and that, on trying to
rise, he was seized with a fit of giddiness and fell to the floor.
Unfortunately, the fireplace was near, with a fierce fire blazing in it;
his head struck the grate; and the wound that resulted was so deep--the
surgeon testified to this--that he fainted. Then the fire close at hand
did its work . . . with the effects which you have seen. . . ."
Patrice had listened in amazement to this unexpected explanation:
"Then in your opinion," he asked, "M. Essarès died of an accident? He
was not murdered?"
"Murdered? Certainly not! We have no clue to support any such theory."
"Still . . ."
"Captain Belval, you are the victim of an association of ideas which, I
admit, is perfectly justifiable. Ever since yesterday you have been
witnessing a series of tragic incidents; and your imagination naturally
leads you to the most tragic solution, that of murder.
Only--reflect--why should a murder have been committed? And by whom? By
Bournef and his friends? With what object? They were crammed full with
bank-notes; and, even admitting that the man called Grégoire recovered
those millions from them, they would certainly not have got them back by
killing M. Essarès. Then again, how would they have entered the house?
And how can they have gone out? . . . No, captain, you must excuse me,
but M. Essarès died an accidental death. The facts are undeniable; and
this is the opinion of the divisional surgeon, who will draw up his
report in that sense."
Patrice turned to Coralie:
"Is it Mme. Essarès' opinion also?"
She reddened slightly and answered:
"And old Siméon's?"
"Oh," replied the magistrate, "old Siméon is wandering in his mind! To
listen to him, you would think that everything was about to happen all
over again, that Mme. Essarès is threatened with danger and that she
ought to take to flight at once. That is all that I have been able to
get out of him. However, he took me to an old disused door that opens
out of the garden on a lane running at right angles with the Rue
Raynouard; and here he showed me first the watch-dog's dead body and
next some footprints between the door and the flight of steps near the
library. But you know those foot-prints, do you not? They belong to you
and your Senegalese. As for the death of the watch-dog, I can put that
down to your Senegalese, can't I?"
Patrice was beginning to understand. The magistrate's reticence, his
explanation, his agreement with Coralie: all this was gradually becoming
plain. He put the question frankly:
"So there was no murder?"
"Then there will be no magistrate's examination?"
"And no talk about the matter; it will all be kept quiet, in short, and
Captain Belval began to walk up and down, as was his habit. He now
remembered Essarès' prophecy:
"I sha'n't be arrested. . . . If I am, I shall be let go. . . . The
matter will be hushed up. . . ."
Essarès was right. The hand of justice was arrested; and there was no
way for Coralie to escape silent complicity.
Patrice was intensely annoyed by the manner in which the case was being
handled. It was certain that a compact had been concluded between
Coralie and M. Masseron. He suspected the magistrate of circumventing
Coralie and inducing her to sacrifice her own interests to other
considerations. To effect this, the first thing was to get rid of him,
"Ugh!" said Patrice to himself. "I'm fairly sick of this sportsman, with
his cool ironical ways. It looks as if he were doing a considerable
piece of thimblerigging at my expense."
He restrained himself, however, and, with a pretense of wanting to keep
on good terms with the magistrate, came and sat down beside him:
"You must forgive me, sir," he said, "for insisting in what may appear
to you an indiscreet fashion. But my conduct is explained not only by
such sympathy or feeling as I entertain for Mme. Essarès at a moment in
her life when she is more lonely than ever, a sympathy and feeling which
she seems to repulse even more firmly than she did before. It is also
explained by certain mysterious links which unite us to each other and
which go back to a period too remote for our eyes to focus. Has Mme.
Essarès told you those details? In my opinion, they are most important;
and I cannot help associating them with the events that interest us."
M. Masseron glanced at Coralie, who nodded. He answered:
"Yes, Mme. Essarès has informed me and even . . ."
He hesitated once more and again consulted Coralie, who flushed and
seemed put out of countenance. M. Masseron, however, waited for a reply
which would enable him to proceed. She ended by saying, in a low voice:
"Captain Belval is entitled to know what we have discovered. The truth
belongs as much to him as to me; and I have no right to keep it from
him. Pray speak, monsieur."
"I doubt if it is even necessary to speak," said the magistrate. "It
will be enough, I think, to show the captain this photograph-album which
I have found. Here you are, Captain Belval."
And he handed Patrice a very slender album, covered in gray canvas and
fastened with an india-rubber band.
Patrice took it with a certain anxiety. But what he saw on opening it
was so utterly unexpected that he gave an exclamation:
On the first page, held in place by their four corners, were two
photographs: one, on the right, representing a small boy in an Eton
jacket; the other, on the left, representing a very little girl. There
was an inscription under each. On the right: "Patrice, at ten." On the
left: "Coralie, at three."
Moved beyond expression, Patrice turned the leaf. On the second page
they appeared again, he at the age of fifteen, she at the age of eight.
And he saw himself at nineteen and at twenty-three and at twenty-eight,
always accompanied by Coralie, first as a little girl, then as a young
girl, next as a woman.
"This is incredible!" he cried. "How is it possible? Here are portraits
of myself which I had never seen, amateur photographs obviously, which
trace my whole life. Here's one when I was doing my military training.
. . . Here I am on horseback . . . Who can have ordered these
photographs? And who can have collected them together with yours,
He fixed his eyes on Coralie, who evaded their questioning gaze and
lowered her head as though the close connection between their two lives,
to which those pages bore witness, had shaken her to the very depths of
"Who can have brought them together?" he repeated. "Do you know? And
where does the album come from?"
M. Masseron supplied the answer:
"It was the surgeon who found it. M. Essarès wore a vest under his
shirt; and the album was in an inner pocket, a pocket sewn inside the
vest. The surgeon felt the boards through it when he was undressing M.
This time, Patrice's and Coralie's eyes met. The thought that M. Essarès
had been collecting both their photographs during the past twenty years
and that he wore them next to his breast and that he had lived and died
with them upon him, this thought amazed them so much that they did not
even try to fathom its strange significance.
"Are you sure of what you are saying, sir?" asked Patrice.
"I was there," said M. Masseron. "I was present at the discovery.
Besides, I myself made another which confirms this one and completes it
in a really surprising fashion. I found a pendant, cut out of a solid
block of amethyst and held in a setting of filigree-work."
"What's that?" cried Captain Belval. "What's that? A pendant? An
"Look for yourself, sir," suggested the magistrate, after once more
consulting Mme. Essarès with a glance.
And he handed Captain Belval an amethyst pendant, larger than the ball
formed by joining the two halves which Coralie and Patrice possessed,
she on her rosary and he on his bunch of seals; and this new ball was
encircled with a specimen of gold filigree-work exactly like that on the
rosary and on the seal.
The setting served as a clasp.
"Am I to open it?" he asked.
Coralie nodded. He opened the pendant. The inside was divided by a
movable glass disk, which separated two miniature photographs, one of
Coralie as a nurse, the other of himself, wounded, in an officer's
Patrice reflected, with pale cheeks. Presently he asked:
"And where does this pendant come from? Did you find it, sir?"
"Yes, Captain Belval."
The magistrate seemed to hesitate. Coralie's attitude gave Patrice the
impression that she was unaware of this detail. M. Masseron at last
"I found it in the dead man's hand."
"In the dead man's hand? In M. Essarès' hand?"
Patrice had given a start, as though under an unexpected blow, and was
now leaning over the magistrate, greedily awaiting a reply which he
wanted to hear for the second time before accepting it as certain.
"Yes, in his hand. I had to force back the clasped fingers in order to
Belval stood up and, striking the table with his fist, exclaimed:
"Well, sir, I will tell you one thing which I was keeping back as a last
argument to prove to you that my collaboration is of use; and this thing
becomes of great importance after what we have just learnt. Sir, this
morning some one asked to speak to me on the telephone; and I had hardly
answered the call when this person, who seemed greatly excited, was the
victim of a murderous assault, committed in my hearing. And, amid the
sound of the scuffle and the cries of agony, I caught the following
words, which the unhappy man insisted on trying to get to me as so many
last instructions: 'Patrice! . . . Coralie! . . . The amethyst pendant.
. . . Yes, I have it on me. . . . The pendant. . . . Ah, it's too late!
. . . I should so much have liked. . . . Patrice. . . . Coralie. . . .'
There's what I heard, sir, and here are the two facts which we cannot
escape. This morning, at nineteen minutes past seven, a man was murdered
having upon him an amethyst pendant. This is the first undeniable fact.
A few hours later, at twenty-three minutes past twelve, this same
amethyst pendant is discovered clutched in the hand of another man. This
is the second undeniable fact. Place these facts side by side and you
are bound to come to the conclusion that the first murder, the one of
which I caught the distant echo, was committed here, in this house, in
the same library which, since yesterday evening, witnessed the end of
every scene in the tragedy which we are contemplating."
This revelation, which in reality amounted to a fresh accusation against
Essarès, seemed to affect the magistrate profoundly. Patrice had flung
himself into the discussion with a passionate vehemence and a logical
reasoning which it was impossible to disregard without evident
Coralie had turned aside slightly and Patrice could not see her face;
but he suspected her dismay in the presence of all this infamy and
M. Masseron raised an objection:
"Two undeniable facts, you say, Captain Belval? As to the first point,
let me remark that we have not found the body of the man who is supposed
to have been murdered at nineteen minutes past seven this morning."
"It will be found in due course."
"Very well. Second point: as regards the amethyst pendant discovered in
Essarès' hand, how can we tell that Essarès Bey found it in the murdered
man's hand and not somewhere else? For, after all, we do not know if he
was at home at that time and still less if he was in his library."
"But I do know."
"I telephoned to him a few minutes later and he answered. More than
that, to sweep away any trace of doubt, he told me that he had rung me
up but that he had been cut off."
M. Masseron thought for a moment and then said:
"Did he go out this morning?"
"Ask Mme. Essarès."
Without turning round, manifestly wishing to avoid Belval's eyes,
"I don't think that he went out. The suit he was wearing at the time of
his death was an indoor suit."
"Did you see him after last night?"
"He came and knocked at my room three times this morning, between seven
and nine o'clock. I did not open the door. At about eleven o'clock I
started off alone; I heard him call old Siméon and tell him to go with
me. Siméon caught me up in the street. That is all I know."
A prolonged silence ensued. Each of the three was meditating upon this
strange series of adventures. In the end, M. Masseron, who had realized
that a man of Captain Belval's stamp was not the sort to be easily
thrust aside, spoke in the tone of one who, before coming to terms,
wishes to know exactly what his adversary's last word is likely to be:
"Let us come to the point, captain. You are building up a theory which
strikes me as very vague. What is it precisely? And what are you
proposing to do if I decline to accept it? I have asked you two very
plain questions. Do you mind answering them?"
"I will answer them, sir, as plainly as you put them."
He went up to the magistrate and said:
"Here, sir, is the field of battle and of attack--yes, of attack, if
need be--which I select. A man who used to know me, who knew Mme.
Essarès as a child and who was interested in both of us, a man who used
to collect our portraits at different ages, who had reasons for loving
us unknown to me, who sent me the key of that garden and who was making
arrangements to bring us together for a purpose which he would have told
us, this man was murdered at the moment when he was about to execute
his plan. Now everything tells me that he was murdered by M. Essarès. I
am therefore resolved to lodge an information, whatever the results of
my action may be. And believe me, sir, my charge will not be hushed up.
There are always means of making one's self heard . . . even if I am
reduced to shouting the truth from the house-tops."
M. Masseron burst out laughing:
"By Jove, captain, but you're letting yourself go!"
"I'm behaving according to my conscience; and Mme. Essarès, I feel sure,
will forgive me. She knows that I am acting for her good. She knows that
all will be over with her if this case is hushed up and if the
authorities do not assist her. She knows that the enemies who threaten
her are implacable. They will stop at nothing to attain their object and
to do away with her, for she stands in their way. And the terrible thing
about it is that the most clear-seeing eyes are unable to make out what
that object is. We are playing the most formidable game against these
enemies; and we do not even know what the stakes are. Only the police
can discover those stakes."
M. Masseron waited for a second or two and then, laying his hand on
Patrice's shoulder, said, calmly:
"And, suppose the authorities knew what the stakes were?"
Patrice looked at him in surprise:
"What? Do you mean to say you know?"
"And can you tell me?"
"Oh, well, if you force me to!"
"What are they?"
"Not much! A trifle!"
"But what sort of trifle?"
"A thousand million francs."
"A thousand millions?"
"Just that. A thousand millions, of which two-thirds, I regret to say,
if not three-quarters, had already left France before the war. But the
remaining two hundred and fifty or three hundred millions are worth more
than a thousand millions all the same, for a very good reason."
"They happen to be in gold."
ESSARÈS BEY'S WORK
This time Captain Belval seemed to relax to some extent. He vaguely
perceived the consideration that compelled the authorities to wage the
"Are you sure?" he asked.
"Yes, I was instructed to investigate this matter two years ago; and my
enquiries proved that really remarkable exports of gold were being
effected from France. But, I confess, it is only since my conversation
with Mme. Essarès that I have seen where the leakage came from and who
it was that set on foot, all over France, down to the least important
market-towns, the formidable organization through which the
indispensable metal was made to leave the country."
"Then Mme. Essarès knew?"
"No, but she suspected a great deal; and last night, before you arrived,
she overheard some words spoken between Essarès and his assailants which
she repeated to me, thus giving me the key to the riddle. I should have
been glad to work out the complete solution without your assistance--for
one thing, those were the orders of the minister of the interior; and
Mme. Essarès displayed the same wish--but your impetuosity overcomes my
hesitation; and, since I can't manage to get rid of you, Captain
Belval, I will tell you the whole story frankly . . . especially as your
cooperation is not to be despised."
"I am all ears," said Patrice, who was burning to know more.
"Well, the motive force of the plot was here, in this house. Essarès
Bey, president of the Franco-Oriental Bank, 6, Rue Lafayette, apparently
an Egyptian, in reality a Turk, enjoyed the greatest influence in the
Paris financial world. He had been naturalized an Englishman, but had
kept up secret relations with the former possessors of Egypt; and he had
received instructions from a foreign power, which I am not yet able to
name with certainty, to bleed--there is no other word for it--to bleed
France of all the gold that he could cause to flow into his coffers.
According to documents which I have seen, he succeeded in exporting in
this way some seven hundred million francs in two years. A last
consignment was preparing when war was declared. You can understand that
thenceforth such important sums could not be smuggled out of the country
so easily as in times of peace. The railway-wagons are inspected on the
frontiers; the outgoing vessels are searched in the harbors. In short,
the gold was not sent away. Those two hundred and fifty or three hundred
millions remained in France. Ten months passed; and the inevitable
happened, which was that Essarès Bey, having this fabulous treasure at
his disposal, clung to it, came gradually to look upon it as his own
and, in the end, resolved to appropriate it. Only there were
accomplices. . . ."
"The men I saw last night?"
"Yes, half-a-dozen shady Levantines, sham naturalized French citizens,
more or less well-disguised Bulgarians, secret agents of the little
German courts in the Balkans. This gang ran provincial branches of
Essarès' bank. It had in its pay, on Essarès' account, hundreds of minor
agents, who scoured the villages, visited the fairs, were
hail-fellow-well-met with the peasants, offered them bank-notes and
government securities in exchange for French gold and trousered all
their savings. When war broke out the gang shut up shop and gathered
round Essarès Bey, who also had closed his offices in the Rue
"What happened then?"
"Things that we don't know. No doubt the accomplices learnt from their
governments that the last despatch of gold had never taken place; and no
doubt they also guessed that Essarès Bey was trying to keep for himself
the three hundred millions collected by the gang. One thing is certain,
that a struggle began between the former partners, a fierce, implacable
struggle, the accomplices wanting their share of the plunder, while
Essarès Bey was resolved to part with none of it and pretended that the
millions had left the country. Yesterday the struggle attained its
culminating-point. In the afternoon the accomplices tried to get hold of
Mme. Essarès so that they might have a hostage to use against her
husband. In the evening . . . in the evening you yourself witnessed the
"But why yesterday evening rather than another?"
"Because the accomplices had every reason to think that the millions
were intended to disappear yesterday evening. Though they did not know
the methods employed by Essarès Bey when he made his last remittances,
they believed that each of the remittances, or rather each removal of
the sacks, was preceded by a signal."
"Yes, a shower of sparks, was it not?"
"Exactly. In a corner of the garden are some old conservatories, above
which stands the furnace that used to heat them. This grimy furnace,
full of soot and rubbish, sends forth, when you light it, flakes of fire
and sparks which are seen at a distance and serve as an intimation.
Essarès Bey lit it last night himself. The accomplices at once took
alarm and came prepared to go any lengths."
"And Essarès' plan failed."
"Yes. But so did theirs. The colonel is dead. The others were only able
to get hold of a few bundles of notes which have probably been taken
from them by this time. But the struggle was not finished; and its dying
agony has been a most shocking tragedy. According to your statement, a
man who knew you and who was seeking to get into touch with you, was
killed at nineteen minutes past seven, most likely by Essarès Bey, who
dreaded his intervention. And, five hours later, at twenty-three past
twelve, Essarès Bey himself was murdered, presumably by one of his
accomplices. There is the whole story, Captain Belval. And, now that you
know as much of it as I do, don't you think that the investigation of
this case should remain secret and be pursued not quite in accordance
with the ordinary rules?"
After a moment's reflection Patrice said:
"Yes, I agree."
"There can be no doubt about it!" cried M. Masseron. "Not only will it
serve no purpose to publish this story of gold which has disappeared and
which can't be found, which would startle the public and excite their
imaginations, but you will readily imagine that an operation which
consisted in draining off such a quantity of gold in two years cannot
have been effected without compromising a regrettable number of people.
I feel certain that my own enquiries will reveal a series of weak
concessions and unworthy bargains on the part of certain more or less
important banks and credit-houses, transactions on which I do not wish
to insist, but which it would be the gravest of blunders to publish.
"But is silence possible?"
"Bless my soul, there are a good few corpses to be explained away!
Colonel Fakhi's, for instance?"
"Mustapha's, which you will discover or which you have already
discovered in the Galliéra garden?"
"So that all these manifestations of the same power will remain
"There is nothing to show the link that connects them."
"Perhaps the public will think otherwise."
"The public will think what we wish it to think. This is war-time."
"The press will speak."
"The press will do nothing of the kind. We have the censorship."
"But, if some fact or, rather, a fresh crime . . . ?"
"Why should there be a fresh crime? The matter is finished, at least on
its active and dramatic side. The chief actors are dead. The curtain
falls on the murder of Essarès Bey. As for the supernumeraries, Bournef
and the others, we shall have them stowed away in an internment-camp
before a week is past. We therefore find ourselves in the presence of a
certain number of millions, with no owner, with no one who dares to
claim them, on which France is entitled to lay hands. I shall devote my
activity to securing the money for the republic."
Patrice Belval shook his head:
"Mme. Essarès remains, sir. We must not forget her husband's threats."
"He is dead."
"No matter, the threats are there. Old Siméon tells you so in a striking
"He's half mad."
"Exactly, his brain retains the impression of great and imminent danger.
No, the struggle is not ended. Perhaps indeed it is only beginning."
"Well, captain, are we not here? Make it your business to protect and
defend Mme. Essarès by all the means in your power and by all those
which I place at your disposal. Our collaboration will be uninterrupted,
because my task lies here and because, if the battle--which you expect
and I do not--takes place, it will be within the walls of this house and
"What makes you think that?"
"Some words which Mme. Essarès overheard last night. The colonel
repeated several times, 'The gold is here, Essarès.' He added, 'For
years past, your car brought to this house all that there was at your
bank in the Rue Lafayette. Siméon, you and the chauffeur used to let the
sacks down the last grating on the left. How you used to send it away I
do not know. But of what was here on the day when the war broke out, of
the seventeen or eighteen hundred bags which they were expecting out
yonder, none has left your place. I suspected the trick; and we kept
watch night and day. The gold is here.'"
"And have you no clue?"
"Not one. Or this at most; but I attach comparatively little value to
He took a crumpled paper from his pocket, unfolded it and continued:
"Besides the pendant, Essarès Bey held in his hand this bit of blotted
paper, on which you can see a few straggling, hurriedly-written words.
The only ones that are more or less legible are these: 'golden
triangle.' What this golden triangle means, what it has to do with the
case in hand, I can't for the present tell. The most that I am able to
presume is that, like the pendant, the scrap of paper was snatched by
Essarès Bey from the man who died at nineteen minutes past seven this
morning and that, when he himself was killed at twenty-three minutes
past twelve, he was occupied in examining it."
"And then there is the album," said Patrice, making his last point. "You
see how all the details are linked together. You may safely believe that
it is all one case."
"Very well," said M. Masseron. "One case in two parts. You, captain, had
better follow up the second. I grant you that nothing could be stranger
than this discovery of photographs of Mme. Essarès and yourself in the
same album and in the same pendant. It sets a problem the solution of
which will no doubt bring us very near to the truth. We shall meet again
soon, Captain Belval, I hope. And, once more, make use of me and of my
He shook Patrice by the hand. Patrice held him back:
"I shall make use of you, sir, as you suggest. But is this not the time
to take the necessary precautions?"
"They are taken, captain. We are in occupation of the house."
"Yes . . . yes . . . I know; but, all the same . . . I have a sort of
presentiment that the day will not end without. . . . Remember old
Siméon's strange words. . . ."
M. Masseron began to laugh:
"Come, Captain Belval, we mustn't exaggerate things. If any enemies
remain for us to fight, they must stand in great need, for the moment,
of taking council with themselves. We'll talk about this to-morrow,
shall we, captain?"
He shook hands with Patrice again, bowed to Mme. Essarès and left the
Belval had at first made a discreet movement to go out with him. He
stopped at the door and walked back again. Mme. Essarès, who seemed not
to hear him, sat motionless, bent in two, with her head turned away from
"Coralie," he said.
She did not reply; and he uttered her name a second time, hoping that
again she might not answer, for her silence suddenly appeared to him to
be the one thing in the world for him to desire. That silence no longer
implied either constraint or rebellion. Coralie accepted the fact that
he was there, by her side, as a helpful friend. And Patrice no longer
thought of all the problems that harassed him, nor of the murders that
had mounted up, one after another, around them, nor of the dangers that
might still encompass them. He thought only of Coralie's yielding
"Don't answer, Coralie, don't say a word. It is for me to speak. I must
tell you what you do not know, the reasons that made you wish to keep me
out of this house . . . out of this house and out of your very life."
He put his hand on the back of the chair in which she was sitting; and
his hand just touched Coralie's hair.
"Coralie, you imagine that it is the shame of your life here that keeps
you away from me. You blush at having been that man's wife; and this
makes you feel troubled and anxious, as though you yourself had been
guilty. But why should you? It was not your fault. Surely you know that
I can guess the misery and hatred that must have passed between you and
him and the constraint that was brought to bear upon you, by some
machination, in order to force your consent to the marriage! No,
Coralie, there is something else; and I will tell you what it is. There
is something else. . . ."
He was bending over her still more. He saw her beautiful profile lit up
by the blazing logs and, speaking with increasing fervor and adopting
the familiar "tu" and "toi" which, in his mouth, retained a note of
affectionate respect, he cried:
"Am I to speak, Little Mother Coralie? I needn't, need I? You have
understood; and you read yourself clearly. Ah, I feel you trembling
from head to foot! Yes, yes, I tell you, I knew your secret from the
very first day. From the very first day you loved your great beggar of a
wounded man, all scarred and maimed though he was. Hush! Don't deny it!
. . . Yes, I understand: you are rather shocked to hear such words as
these spoken to-day. I ought perhaps to have waited. And yet why should
I? I am asking you nothing. I know; and that is enough for me. I sha'n't
speak of it again for a long time to come, until the inevitable hour
arrives when you are forced to tell it to me yourself. Till then I shall
keep silence. But our love will always be between us; and it will be
exquisite, Little Mother Coralie, it will be exquisite for me to know
that you love me. Coralie. . . . There, now you're crying! And you would
still deny the truth? Why, when you cry--I know you, Little Mother--it
means that your dear heart is overflowing with tenderness and love! You
are crying? Ah, Little Mother, I never thought you loved me to that
Patrice also had tears in his eyes. Coralie's were coursing down her
pale cheeks; and he would have given much to kiss that wet face. But the
least outward sign of affection appeared to him an offense at such a
moment. He was content to gaze at her passionately.
And, as he did so, he received an impression that her thoughts were
becoming detached from his own, that her eyes were being attracted by an
unexpected sight and that, amid the great silence of their love, she was
listening to something that he himself had not heard.
And suddenly he too heard that thing, though it was almost
imperceptible. It was not so much a sound as the sensation of a presence
mingling with the distant rumble of the town. What could be happening?
The light had begun to fade, without his noticing it. Also unperceived
by Patrice, Mme. Essarès had opened the window a little way, for the
boudoir was small and the heat of the fire was becoming oppressive.
Nevertheless, the two casements were almost touching. It was at this
that she was staring; and it was from there that the danger threatened.
Patrice's first impulse was to run to the window, but he restrained
himself. The danger was becoming defined. Outside, in the twilight, he
distinguished through the slanting panes a human form. Next, he saw
between the two casements something which gleamed in the light of the
fire and which looked like the barrel of a revolver.
"Coralie is done for," he thought, "if I allow it to be suspected for an
instant that I am on my guard."
She was in fact opposite the window, with no obstacle intervening. He
therefore said aloud, in a careless tone:
"Coralie, you must be a little tired. We will say good-by."
At the same time, he went round her chair to protect her.
But he had not the time to complete his movement. She also no doubt had
seen the glint of the revolver, for she drew back abruptly, stammering:
"Oh, Patrice! . . . Patrice! . . ."
Two shots rang out, followed by a moan.
"You're wounded!" cried Patrice, springing to her side.
"No, no," she said, "but the fright . . ."
"Oh, if he's touched you, the scoundrel!"
"No, he hasn't."
"Are you quite sure?"
He lost thirty or forty seconds, switching on the electric light,
looking at Coralie for signs of a wound and waiting in an agony of
suspense for her to regain full consciousness. Only then did he rush to
the window, open it wide and climb over the balcony. The room was on the
first floor. There was plenty of lattice-work on the wall. But, because
of his leg, Patrice had some difficulty in making his way down.
Below, on the terrace, he caught his foot in the rungs of an overturned
ladder. Next, he knocked against some policemen who were coming from the
ground-floor. One of them shouted:
"I saw the figure of a man making off that way."
"Which way?" asked Patrice.
The man was running in the direction of the lane. Patrice followed him.
But, at that moment, from close beside the little door, there came
shrill cries and the whimper of a choking voice:
"Help! . . . Help! . . ."
When Patrice came up, the policeman was already flashing his electric
lantern over the ground; and they both saw a human form writhing in the
"The door's open!" shouted Patrice. "The assassin has escaped! Go after
The policeman vanished down the lane; and, Ya-Bon appearing on the
scene, Patrice gave him his orders:
"Quick as you can, Ya-Bon! . . . If the policeman is going up the lane,
you go down. Run! I'll look after the victim."
All this time, Patrice was stooping low, flinging the light of the
policeman's lantern on the man who lay struggling on the ground. He
recognized old Siméon, nearly strangled, with a red-silk cord round his
"How do you feel?" he asked. "Can you understand what I'm saying?"
He unfastened the cord and repeated his question. Siméon stuttered out a
series of incoherent syllables and then suddenly began to sing and
laugh, a very low, jerky laugh, alternating with hiccoughs. He had gone
When M. Masseron arrived, Patrice told him what had happened:
"Do you really believe it's all over?" he asked.
"No. You were right and I was wrong," said M. Masseron. "We must take
every precaution to ensure Mme. Essarès' safety. The house shall be
guarded all night."
A few minutes later the policeman and Ya-Bon returned, after a vain
search. The key that had served to open the door was found in the lane.
It was exactly similar to the one in Patrice Belval's possession,
equally old and equally rusty. The would-be murderer had thrown it away
in the course of his flight.
* * * * *
It was seven o'clock when Patrice, accompanied by Ya-Bon, left the house
in the Rue Raynouard and turned towards Neuilly. As usual, Patrice took
Ya-Bon's arm and, leaning upon him for support as he walked, he said:
"I can guess what you're thinking, Ya-Bon."
"That's it," said Captain Belval, in a tone of approval. "We are
entirely in agreement all along the line. What strikes you first and
foremost is the utter incapacity displayed by the police. A pack of
addle-pates, you say? When you speak like that, Master Ya-Bon, you are
talking impertinent nonsense, which, coming from you, does not astonish
me and which might easily make me give you the punishment you deserve.
But we will overlook it this time. Whatever you may say, the police do
what they can, not to mention that, in war-time, they have other things
to do than to occupy themselves with the mysterious relations between
Captain Belval and Mme. Essarès. It is I therefore who will have to act;
and I have hardly any one to reckon on but myself. Well, I wonder if I
am a match for such adversaries. To think that here's one who has the
cheek to come back to the house while it is being watched by the police,
to put up a ladder, to listen no doubt to my conversation with M.
Masseron and afterwards to what I said to Little Mother Coralie and,
lastly, to send a couple of bullets whizzing past our ears! What do you
say? Am I the man for the job? And could all the French police,
overworked as they are, give me the indispensable assistance? No, the
man I need for clearing up a thing like this is an exceptional sort of
chap, one who unites every quality in himself, in short the type of man
one never sees."
Patrice leant more heavily on his companion's arm:
"You, who know so many good people, haven't you the fellow I want
concealed about your person? A genius of sorts? A demigod?"
Ya-Bon grunted again, merrily this time, and withdrew his arm. He always
carried a little electric lamp. Switching on the light, he put the
handle between his teeth. Then he took a bit of chalk out of his
A grimy, weather-beaten plaster wall ran along the street. Ya-Bon took
his stand in front of the wall and, turning the light upon it, began to
write with an unskilful hand, as though each letter cost him a
measureless effort and as though the sum total of those letters were the
only one that he had ever succeeded in composing and remembering. In
this way he wrote two words which Patrice read out:
"Arsène Lupin," said Patrice, under his breath. And, looking at Ya-Bon
in amazement, "Are you in your right mind? What do you mean by Arsène
Lupin? Are you suggesting Arsène Lupin to me?"
Ya-Bon nodded his head.
"Arsène Lupin? Do you know him?"
"Yes," Ya-Bon signified.
Patrice then remembered that the Senegalese used to spend his days at
the hospital getting his good-natured comrades to read all the
adventures of Arsène Lupin aloud to him; and he grinned:
"Yes, you know him as one knows somebody whose history one has read."
"No," protested Ya-Bon.
"Do you know him personally?"
"Get out, you silly fool! Arsène Lupin is dead. He threw himself into
the sea from a rock; and you pretend that you know him?"
[Footnote 2: "813". By Maurice Leblanc. Translated by Alexander Teixeira
"Do you mean to say that you have met him since he died?"
"By Jove! And Master Ya-Bon's influence with Arsène Lupin is enough to
make him come to life again and put himself out at a sign from Master
"I say! I had a high opinion of you as it was, but now there is nothing
for me but to make you my bow. A friend of the late Arsène Lupin! We're
going it! . . . And how long will it take you to place his ghost at our
disposal? Six months? Three months? One month? A fortnight?"
Ya-Bon made a gesture.
"About a fortnight," Captain Belval translated. "Very well, evoke your
friend's spirit; I shall be delighted to make his acquaintance. Only,
upon my word, you must have a very poor idea of me to imagine that I
need a collaborator! What next! Do you take me for a helpless
PATRICE AND CORALIE
Everything happened as M. Masseron had foretold. The press did not
speak. The public did not become excited. The various deaths were
casually paragraphed. The funeral of Essarès Bey, the wealthy banker,
But, on the day following the funeral, after Captain Belval, with the
support of the police, had made an application to the military
authorities, a new order of things was established in the house in the
Rue Raynouard. It was recognized as Home No. 2 attached to the hospital
in the Champs-Élysées; Mme. Essarès was appointed matron; and it became
the residence of Captain Belval and his seven wounded men exclusively.
Coralie, therefore, was the only woman remaining. The cook and housemaid
were sent away. The seven cripples did all the work of the house. One
acted as hall-porter, another as cook, a third as butler. Ya-Bon,
promoted to parlor-maid, made it his business to wait on Little Mother
Coralie. At night he slept in the passage outside her door. By day he
mounted guard outside her window.
"Let no one near that door or that window!" Patrice said to him. "Let no
one in! You'll catch it if so much as a mosquito succeeds in entering
Nevertheless, Patrice was not easy in his mind. The enemy had given him
too many proofs of reckless daring to let him imagine that he could take
any steps to ensure her perfect protection. Danger always creeps in
where it is least expected; and it was all the more difficult to ward
off in that no one knew whence it threatened. Now that Essarès Bey was
dead, who was continuing his work? Who had inherited the task of revenge
upon Coralie announced in his last letter?
M. Masseron had at once begun his work of investigation, but the
dramatic side of the case seemed to leave him indifferent. Since he had
not found the body of the man whose dying cries reached Patrice Belval's
ears, since he had discovered no clue to the mysterious assailant who
had fired at Patrice and Coralie later in the day, since he was not able
to trace where the assailant had obtained his ladder, he dropped these
questions and confined his efforts entirely to the search of the
eighteen hundred bags of gold. These were all that concerned him.
"We have every reason to believe that they are here," he said, "between
the four sides of the quadrilateral formed by the garden and the house.
Obviously, a bag of gold weighing a hundredweight does not take up as
much room, by a long way, as a sack of coal of the same weight. But, for
all that, eighteen hundred bags represent a cubic content; and a content
like that is not easily concealed."
In two days he had assured himself that the treasure was hidden neither
in the house nor under the house. On the evenings when Essarès Bey's car
brought the gold out of the coffers of the Franco-Oriental Bank to the
Rue Raynouard, Essarès, the chauffeur and the man known as Grégoire
used to pass a thick wire through the grating of which the accomplices
spoke. This wire was found. Along the wire ran hooks, which were also
found; and on these the bags were slung and afterwards stacked in a
large cellar situated exactly under the library. It is needless to say
that M. Masseron and his detectives devoted all their ingenuity and all
the painstaking patience of which they were capable to the task of
searching every corner of this cellar. Their efforts only established
beyond doubt that it contained no secret, save that of a staircase which
ran down from the library and which was closed at the top by a trap-door
concealed by the carpet.
In addition to the grating on the Rue Raynouard, there was another which
overlooked the garden, on the level of the first terrace. These two
openings were barricaded on the inside by very heavy shutters, so that
it was an easy matter to stack thousands and thousands of rouleaus of
gold in the cellar before sending them away.
"But how were they sent away?" M. Masseron wondered. "That's the
mystery. And why this intermediate stage in the basement, in the Rue
Raynouard? Another mystery. And now we have Fakhi, Bournef and Co.
declaring that, this time, it was not sent away, that the gold is here
and that it can be found for the searching. We have searched the house.
There is still the garden. Let us look there."
It was a beautiful old garden and had once formed part of the
wide-stretching estate where people were in the habit, at the end of the
eighteenth century, of going to drink the Passy waters. With a
two-hundred-yard frontage, it ran from the Rue Raynouard to the quay of
the river-side and led, by four successive terraces, to an expanse of
lawn as old as the rest of the garden, fringed with thickets of
evergreens and shaded by groups of tall trees.
But the beauty of the garden lay chiefly in its four terraces and in the
view which they afforded of the river, the low ground on the left bank
and the distant hills. They were united by twenty sets of steps; and
twenty paths climbed from the one to the other, paths cut between the
buttressing walls and sometimes hidden in the floods of ivy that dashed
from top to bottom.
Here and there a statue stood out, a broken column, or the fragments of
a capital. The stone balcony that edged the upper terrace was still
adorned with all its old terra-cotta vases. On this terrace also were
the ruins of two little round temples where, in the old days, the
springs bubbled to the surface. In front of the library windows was a
circular basin, with in the center the figure of a child shooting a
slender thread of water through the funnel of a shell. It was the
overflow from this basin, forming a little stream, that trickled over
the rocks against which Patrice had stumbled on the first evening.
"Ten acres to explore before we've done," said M. Masseron to himself.
He employed upon this work, in addition to Belval's cripples, a dozen of
his own detectives. It was not a difficult business and was bound to
lead to some definite result. As M. Masseron never ceased saying,
eighteen hundred bags cannot remain invisible. An excavation leaves
traces. You want a hole to go in and out by. But neither the grass of
the lawns nor the sand of the paths showed any signs of earth recently
disturbed. The ivy? The buttressing-walls? The terraces? Everything was
inspected, but in vain. Here and there, in cutting up the ground, old
conduit pipes were found, running towards the Seine, and remains of
aqueducts that had once served to carry off the Passy waters. But there
was no such thing as a cave, an underground chamber, a brick arch or
anything that looked like a hiding-place.
Patrice and Coralie watched the progress of the search. And yet, though
they fully realized its importance and though, on the other hand, they
were still feeling the strain of the recent dramatic hours, in reality
they were engrossed only in the inexplicable problem of their fate; and
their conversation nearly always turned upon the mystery of the past.
Coralie's mother was the daughter of a French consul at Salonica, where
she married a very rich man of a certain age, called Count Odolavitch,
the head of an ancient Servian family. He died a year after Coralie was
born. The widow and child were at that time in France, at this same
house in the Rue Raynouard, which Count Odolavitch had purchased through
a young Egyptian called Essarès, his secretary and factotum.
Coralie here spent three years of her childhood. Then she suddenly lost
her mother and was left alone in the world. Essarès took her to
Salonica, to a surviving sister of her grandfather the consul, a woman
many years younger than her brother. This lady took charge of Coralie.
Unfortunately, she fell under Essarès' influence, signed papers and
made her little grand-niece sign papers, until the child's whole
fortune, administered by the Egyptian, gradually disappeared.
At last, when she was about seventeen, Coralie became the victim of an
adventure which left the most hideous memory in her mind and which had a
fatal effect on her life. She was kidnaped one morning by a band of
Turks on the plains of Salonica and spent a fortnight in the palace of
the governor of the province, exposed to his desires. Essarès released
her. But the release was brought about in so fantastic a fashion that
Coralie must have often wondered afterwards whether the Turk and the
Egyptian were not in collusion.
At any rate, sick in body and depressed in spirits, fearing a fresh
assault upon her liberty and yielding to her aunt's wishes, a month
later she married this Essarès, who had already been paying her his
addresses and who now definitely assumed in her eyes the figure of a
deliverer. It was a hopeless union, the horror of which became manifest
to her on the very day on which it was cemented. Coralie was the wife of
a man whom she hated and whose love only grew with the hatred and
contempt which she showed for it.
Before the end of the year they came and took up their residence at the
house in the Rue Raynouard. Essarès, who had long ago established and
was at that time managing the Salonica branch of the Franco-Oriental
Bank, bought up almost all the shares of the bank itself, acquired the
building in the Rue Lafayette for the head office, became one of the
financial magnates of Paris and received the title of bey in Egypt.
This was the story which Coralie told Patrice one day in the beautiful
garden at Passy; and, in this unhappy past which they explored together
and compared with Patrice Belval's own, neither he nor Coralie was able
to discover a single point that was common to both. The two of them had
lived in different parts of the world. Not one name evoked the same
recollection in their minds. There was not a detail that enabled them to
understand why each should possess a piece of the same amethyst bead nor
why their joint images should be contained in the same medallion-pendant
or stuck in the pages of the same album.
"Failing everything else," said Patrice, "we can explain that the
pendant found in the hand of Essarès Bey was snatched by him from the
unknown friend who was watching over us and whom he murdered. But what
about the album, which he wore in a pocket sewn inside his vest?"
Neither attempted to answer the question. Then Patrice asked:
"Tell me about Siméon."
"Siméon has always lived here."
"Even in your mother's time?"
"No, it was one or two years after my mother's death and after I went to
Salonica that Essarès put him to look after this property and keep it in
"Was he Essarès' secretary?"
"I never knew what his exact functions were. But he was not Essarès'
secretary, nor his confidant either. They never talked together
intimately. He came to see us two or three times at Salonica. I remember
one of his visits. I was quite a child and I heard him speaking to
Essarès in a very angry tone, apparently threatening him."
"I don't know. I know nothing at all about Siméon. He kept himself very
much to himself and was nearly always in the garden, smoking his pipe,
dreaming, tending the trees and flowers, sometimes with the assistance
of two or three gardeners whom he would send for."
"How did he behave to you?"
"Here again I can't give any definite impression. We never talked; and
his occupations very seldom brought him into contact with me.
Nevertheless I sometimes thought that his eyes used to seek me, through
their yellow spectacles, with a certain persistency and perhaps even a
certain interest. Moreover, lately, he liked going with me to the
hospital; and he would then, either there or on the way, show himself
more attentive, more eager to please . . . so much so that I have been
wondering this last day or two . . ."
She hesitated for a moment, undecided whether to speak, and then
"Yes, it's a very vague notion . . . but, all the same . . . Look here,
there's one thing I forgot to tell you. Do you know why I joined the
hospital in the Champs-Élysées, the hospital where you were lying
wounded and ill? It was because Siméon took me there. He knew that I
wanted to become a nurse and he suggested this hospital. . . . And then,
if you think, later on, the photograph in the pendant, the one showing
you in uniform and me as a nurse, can only have been taken at the
hospital. Well, of the people here, in this house, no one except Siméon
ever went there. . . . You will also remember that he used to come to
Salonica, where he saw me as a child and afterwards as a girl, and that
there also he may have taken the snapshots in the album. So that, if we
allow that he had some correspondent who on his side followed your
footsteps in life, it would not be impossible to believe that the
unknown friend whom you assume to have intervened between us, the one
who sent you the key of the garden . . ."
"Was old Siméon?" Patrice interrupted. "The theory won't hold water."
"Because this friend is dead. The man who, as you say, sought to
intervene between us, who sent me the key of the garden, who called me
to the telephone to tell me the truth, that man was murdered. There is
not the least doubt about it. I heard the cries of a man who is being
killed, dying cries, the cries which a man utters when at the moment of
"You can never be sure."
"I am, absolutely. There is no shadow of doubt in my mind. The man whom
I call our unknown friend died before finishing his work; he died
murdered, whereas Siméon is alive. Besides," continued Patrice, "this
man had a different voice from Siméon, a voice which I had never heard
before and which I shall never hear again."
Coralie was convinced and did not insist.
They were seated on one of the benches in the garden, enjoying the
bright April sunshine. The buds of the chestnut-trees shone at the tips
of the branches. The heavy scent of the wall-flowers rose from the
borders; and their brown and yellow blossoms, like a cluster of bees and
wasps pressed close together, swayed to the light breeze.
Suddenly Patrice felt a thrill. Coralie had placed her hand on his, with
engaging friendliness; and, when he turned to look at her, he saw that
she was in tears.
"What's the matter, Little Mother Coralie?"
Coralie's head bent down and her cheek touched the officer's shoulder.
He dared not move. She was treating him as a protecting elder brother;
and he shrank from showing any warmth of affection that might annoy her.
"What is it, dear?" he repeated. "What's the matter?"
"Oh, it is so strange!" she murmured. "Look, Patrice, look at those
They were on the third terrace, commanding a view of the fourth; and
this, the lowest of the terraces, was adorned not with borders of
wall-flowers but with beds in which were mingled all manner of spring
flowers; tulips, silvery alyssums, hyacinths, with a great round plot of
pansies in the middle.
"Look over there," she said, pointing to this plot with her outstretched
arm. "Do you see? . . . Letters. . . ."
Patrice looked and gradually perceived that the clumps of pansies were
so arranged as to form on the ground some letters that stood out among
the other flowers. It did not appear at the first glance. It took a
certain time to see; but, once seen, the letters grouped themselves of
their own accord, forming three words set down in a single line:
"Patrice and Coralie"
"Ah," he said, in a low voice, "I understand what you mean!"
It gave them a thrill of inexpressible excitement to read their two
names, which a friendly hand had, so to speak, sown; their two names
united in pansy-flowers. It was inexpressibly exciting too that he and
she should always find themselves thus linked together, linked together
by events, linked together by their portraits, linked together by an
unseen force of will, linked together now by the struggling effort of
little flowers that spring up, waken into life and blossom in
Coralie, sitting up, said:
"It's Siméon who attends to the garden."
"Yes," he said, wavering slightly. "But surely that does not affect my
opinion. Our unknown friend is dead, but Siméon may have known him.
Siméon perhaps was acting with him in certain matters and must know a
good deal. Oh, if he could only put us on the right road!"
An hour later, as the sun was sinking on the horizon, they climbed the
terraces. On reaching the top they saw M. Masseron beckoning to them.
"I have something curious to show you," he said, "something I have found
which will interest both you, madame, and you, captain, particularly."
He led them to the very end of the terrace, outside the occupied part of
the house next to the library. Two detectives were standing mattock in
hand. In the course of their searching, M. Masseron explained, they had
begun by removing the ivy from the low wall adorned with terra-cotta
vases. Thereupon M. Masseron's attention was attracted by the fact that
this wall was covered, for a length of some yards, by a layer of plaster
which appeared to be more recent in date than the stone.
"What did it mean?" said M. Masseron. "I had to presuppose some motive.
I therefore had this layer of plaster demolished; and underneath it I
found a second layer, not so thick as the first and mingled with the
rough stone. Come closer . . . or, rather, no, stand back a little way:
you can see better like that."
The second layer really served only to keep in place some small white
pebbles, which constituted a sort of mosaic set in black pebbles and
formed a series of large, written letters, spelling three words. And
these three words once again were:
"Patrice and Coralie"
"What do you say to that?" asked M. Masseron. "Observe that the
inscription goes several years back, at least ten years, when we
consider the condition of the ivy clinging to this part of the wall."
"At least ten years," Patrice repeated, when he was once more alone with
Coralie. "Ten years ago was when you were not married, when you were
still at Salonica and when nobody used to come to this garden . . .
nobody except Siméon and such people as he chose to admit. And among
these," he concluded, "was our unknown friend who is now dead. And
Siméon knows the truth, Coralie."
They saw old Siméon, late that afternoon, as they had seen him
constantly since the tragedy, wandering in the garden or along the
passages of the house, restless and distraught, with his comforter
always wound round his head and his spectacles on his nose, stammering
words which no one could understand. At night, his neighbor, one of the
maimed soldiers, would often hear him humming to himself.
Patrice twice tried to make him speak. He shook his head and did not
answer, or else laughed like an idiot.
The problem was becoming complicated; and nothing pointed to a possible
solution. Who was it that, since their childhood, had promised them to
each other as a pair betrothed long beforehand by an inflexible
ordinance? Who was it that arranged the pansy-bed last autumn, when they
did not know each other? And who was it that had written their two
names, ten years ago, in white pebbles, within the thickness of a wall?
These were haunting questions for two young people in whom love had
awakened quite spontaneously and who suddenly saw stretching behind them
a long past common to them both. Each step that they took in the garden
seemed to them a pilgrimage amid forgotten memories; and, at every turn
in a path, they were prepared to discover some new proof of the bond
that linked them together unknown to themselves.
As a matter of fact, during those few days, they saw their initials
interlaced twice on the trunk of a tree, once on the back of a bench.
And twice again their names appeared inscribed on old walls and
concealed behind a layer of plaster overhung with ivy.
On these two occasions their names were accompanied by two separate
"Patrice and Coralie, 1904"
"Patrice and Coralie, 1907"
"Eleven years ago and eight years ago," said the officer. "And always
our two names: Patrice and Coralie."
Their hands met and clasped each other. The great mystery of their past
brought them as closely together as did the great love which filled them
and of which they refrained from speaking.
In spite of themselves, however, they sought out solitude; and it was in
this way that, a fortnight after the murder of Essarès Bey, as they
passed the little door opening on the lane, they decided to go out by it
and to stroll down to the river bank. No one saw them, for both the
approach to the door and the path leading to it were hidden by a screen
of tall bushes; and M. Masseron and his men were exploring the old
green-houses, which stood at the other side of the garden, and the old
furnace and chimney which had been used for signaling.
But, when he was outside, Patrice stopped. Almost in front of him, in
the opposite wall, was an exactly similar door. He called Coralie's
attention to it, but she said:
"There is nothing astonishing about that. This wall is the boundary of
another garden which at one time belonged to the one we have just left."
"But who lives there?"
"Nobody. The little house which overlooks it and which comes before
mine, in the Rue Raynouard, is always shut up."
"Same door, same key, perhaps," Patrice murmured, half to himself.
He inserted in the lock the rusty key, which had reached him by
messenger. The lock responded.
"Well," he said, "the series of miracles is continuing. Will this one be
in our favor?"
The vegetation had been allowed to run riot in the narrow strip of
ground that faced them. However, in the middle of the exuberant grass, a
well-trodden path, which looked as if it were often used, started from
the door in the wall and rose obliquely to the single terrace, on which
stood a dilapidated lodge with closed shutters. It was built on one
floor, but was surmounted by a small lantern-shaped belvedere. It had
its own entrance in the Rue Raynouard, from which it was separated by a
yard and a very high wall. This entrance seemed to be barricaded with
boards and posts nailed together.
They walked round the house and were surprised by the sight that awaited
them on the right-hand side. The foliage had been trained into
rectangular cloisters, carefully kept, with regular arcades cut in yew-
and box-hedges. A miniature garden was laid out in this space, the very
home of silence and tranquillity. Here also were wall-flowers and
pansies and hyacinths. And four paths, coming from four corners of the
cloisters, met round a central space, where stood the five columns of a
small, open temple, rudely constructed of pebbles and unmortared
Under the dome of this little temple was a tombstone and, in front of
it, an old wooden praying-chair, from the bars of which hung, on the
left, an ivory crucifix and, on the right, a rosary composed of amethyst
beads in a gold filigree setting.
"Coralie, Coralie," whispered Patrice, in a voice trembling with
emotion, "who can be buried here?"
They went nearer. There were bead wreaths laid in rows on the tombstone.
They counted nineteen, each bearing the date of one of the last nineteen
years. Pushing them aside, they read the following inscription in gilt
letters worn and soiled by the rain:
PATRICE AND CORALIE,
BOTH OF WHOM WERE MURDERED
ON THE 14th OF APRIL, 1895.
REVENGE TO ME: I WILL REPAY.
THE RED CORD
Coralie, feeling her legs give way beneath her, had flung herself on the
prie-dieu and there knelt praying fervently and wildly. She could not
tell on whose behalf, for the repose of what unknown soul her prayers
were offered; but her whole being was afire with fever and exaltation
and the very action of praying seemed able to assuage her.
"What was your mother's name, Coralie?" Patrice whispered.
"Louise," she replied.
"And my father's name was Armand. It cannot be either of them,
therefore; and yet . . ."
Patrice also was displaying the greatest agitation. Stooping down, he
examined the nineteen wreaths, renewed his inspection of the tombstone
"All the same, Coralie, the coincidence is really too extraordinary. My
father died in 1895."
"And my mother died in that year too," she said, "though I do not know
the exact date."
"We shall find out, Coralie," he declared. "These things can all be
verified. But meanwhile one truth becomes clear. The man who used to
interlace the names of Patrice and Coralie was not thinking only of us
and was not considering only the future. Perhaps he thought even more of
the past, of that Coralie and Patrice whom he knew to have suffered a
violent death and whom he had undertaken to avenge. Come away, Coralie.
No one must suspect that we have been here."
They went down the path and through the two doors on the lane. They were
not seen coming in. Patrice at once brought Coralie indoors, urged
Ya-Bon and his comrades to increase their vigilance and left the house.
He came back in the evening only to go out again early the next day; and
it was not until the day after, at three o'clock in the afternoon, that
he asked to be shown up to Coralie.
"Have you found out?" she asked him at once.
"I have found out a great many things which do not dispel the darkness
of the present. I am almost tempted to say that they increase it. They
do, however, throw a very vivid light on the past."
"Do they explain what we saw two days ago?" she asked, anxiously.
"Listen to me, Coralie."
He sat down opposite her and said:
"I shall not tell you all the steps that I have taken. I will merely sum
up the result of those which led to some result. I went, first of all,
to the Mayor of Passy's office and from there to the Servian Legation."
"Then you persist in assuming that it was my mother?"
"Yes. I took a copy of her death-certificate, Coralie. Your mother died
on the fourteenth of April, 1895."
"Oh!" she said. "That is the date on the tomb!"
"The very date."
"But the name? Coralie? My father used to call her Louise."
"Your mother's name was Louise Coralie Countess Odolavitch."
"Oh, my mother!" she murmured. "My poor darling mother! Then it was she
who was murdered. It was for her that I was praying over the way?"
"For her, Coralie, and for my father. I discovered his full name at the
mayor's office in the Rue Drouot. My father was Armand Patrice Belval.
He died on the fourteenth of April, 1895."
Patrice was right in saying that a singular light had been thrown upon
the past. He had now positively established that the inscription on the
tombstone related to his father and Coralie's mother, both of whom were
murdered on the same day. But by whom and for what reason, in
consequence of what tragedies? This was what Coralie asked him to tell
"I cannot answer your questions yet," he replied. "But I addressed
another to myself, one more easily solved; and that I did solve. This
also makes us certain of an essential point. I wanted to know to whom
the lodge belonged. The outside, in the Rue Raynouard, affords no clue.
You have seen the wall and the door of the yard: they show nothing in
particular. But the number of the property was sufficient for my
purpose. I went to the local receiver and learnt that the taxes were
paid by a notary in the Avenue de l'Opéra. I called on this notary, who
told me . . ."
He stopped for a moment and then said:
"The lodge was bought twenty-one years ago by my father. Two years
later my father died; and the lodge, which of course formed part of his
estate, was put up for sale by the present notary's predecessor and
bought by one Siméon Diodokis, a Greek subject."
"It's he!" cried Coralie. "Siméon's name is Diodokis."
"Well, Siméon Diodokis," Patrice continued, "was a friend of my
father's, because my father appointed him the sole executor of his will
and because it was Siméon Diodokis who, through the notary in question
and a London solicitor, paid my school-fees and, when I attained my
majority, made over to me the sum of two hundred thousand francs, the
balance of my inheritance."
They maintained a long silence. Many things were becoming manifest, but
indistinctly, as yet, and shaded, like things seen in the evening mist.
And one thing stood in sharper outline than the rest, for Patrice
"Your mother and my father loved each other, Coralie."
The thought united them more closely and affected them profoundly. Their
love was the counterpart of another love, bruised by trials, like
theirs, but still more tragic and ending in bloodshed and death.
"Your mother and my father loved each other," he repeated. "I should say
they must have belonged to that class of rather enthusiastic lovers
whose passion indulges in charming little childish ways, for they had a
trick of calling each other, when alone, by names which nobody else used
to them; and they selected their second Christian names, which were
also yours and mine. One day your mother dropped her amethyst rosary.
The largest of the beads broke in two pieces. My father had one of the
pieces mounted as a trinket which he hung on his watch-chain. Both were
widowed. You were two years old and I was eight. In order to devote
himself altogether to the woman he loved, my father sent me to England
and bought the lodge in which your mother, who lived in the big house
next door, used to go and see him, crossing the lane and using the same
key for both doors. It was no doubt in this lodge, or in the garden
round it, that they were murdered. We shall find that out, because there
must be visible proofs of the murder, proofs which Siméon Diodokis
discovered, since he was not afraid to say so in the inscription on the
"And who was the murderer?" Coralie asked, under her breath.
"You suspect it, Coralie, as I do. The hated name comes to your mind,
even though we have no grounds for speaking with certainty."
"Essarès!" she cried, in anguish.
She hid her face in her hands:
"No, no, it is impossible. It is impossible that I should have been the
wife of the man who killed my mother."
"You bore his name, but you were never his wife. You told him so the
evening before his death, in my presence. Let us say nothing that we are
unable to say positively; but all the same let us remember that he was
your evil genius. Remember also that Siméon, my father's friend and
executor, the man who bought the lovers' lodge, the man who swore upon
their tomb to avenge them: remember that Siméon, a few months after your
mother's death, persuaded Essarès to engage him as caretaker of the
estate, became his secretary and gradually made his way into Essarès'
life. His only object must have been to carry out a plan of revenge."
"There has been no revenge."
"What do we know about it? Do we know how Essarès met his death?
Certainly it was not Siméon who killed him, as Siméon was at the
hospital. But he may have caused him to be killed. And revenge has a
thousand ways of manifesting itself. Lastly, Siméon was most likely
obeying instructions that came from my father. There is little doubt
that he wanted first to achieve an aim which my father and your mother
had at heart: the union of our destinies, Coralie. And it was this aim
that ruled his life. It was he evidently who placed among the
knick-knacks which I collected as a child this amethyst of which the
other half formed a bead in your rosary. It was he who collected our
photographs. He lastly was our unknown friend and protector, the one who
sent me the key, accompanied by a letter which I never received,
"Then, Patrice, you no longer believe that he is dead, this unknown
friend, or that you heard his dying cries?"
"I cannot say. Siméon was not necessarily acting alone. He may have had
a confidant, an assistant in the work which he undertook. Perhaps it was
this other man who died at nineteen minutes past seven. I cannot say.
Everything that happened on that ill-fated morning remains involved in
the deepest mystery. The only conviction that we are able to hold is
that for twenty years Siméon Diodokis has worked unobtrusively and
patiently on our behalf, doing his utmost to defeat the murderer, and
that Siméon Diodokis is alive. Alive, but mad!" Patrice added. "So that
we can neither thank him nor question him about the grim story which he
knows or about the dangers that threaten you."
* * * * *
Patrice resolved once more to make the attempt, though he felt sure of a
fresh disappointment. Siméon had a bedroom, next to that occupied by two
of the wounded soldiers, in the wing which formerly contained the
servants' quarters. Here Patrice found him.
He was sitting half-asleep in a chair turned towards the garden. His
pipe was in his mouth; he had allowed it to go out. The room was small,
sparsely furnished, but clean and light. Hidden from view, the best part
of the old man's life was spent here. M. Masseron had often visited the
room, in Siméon's absence, and so had Patrice, each from his own point
The only discovery worthy of note consisted of a crude diagram in
pencil, on the white wall-paper behind a chest of drawers: three lines
intersecting to form a large equilateral triangle. In the middle of this
geometrical figure were three words clumsily inscribed in adhesive
"The Golden Triangle"
There was nothing more, not another clue of any kind, to further M.
Patrice walked straight up to the old man and tapped him on the
"Siméon!" he said.
The other lifted his yellow spectacles to him, and Patrice felt a sudden
wish to snatch away this glass obstacle which concealed the old fellow's
eyes and prevented him from looking into his soul and his distant
memories. Siméon began to laugh foolishly.
"So this," thought Patrice, "is my friend and my father's friend. He
loved my father, respected his wishes, was faithful to his memory,
raised a tomb to him, prayed on it and swore to avenge him. And now his
mind has gone."
Patrice felt that speech was useless. But, though the sound of his voice
roused no echo in that wandering brain, it was possible that the eyes
were susceptible to a reminder. He wrote on a clean sheet of paper the
words that Siméon had gazed upon so often:
"Patrice and Coralie"
"14 April, 1895"
The old man looked, shook his head and repeated his melancholy, foolish
The officer added a new line:
The old man displayed the same torpor. Patrice continued the test. He
wrote down the names of Essarès Bey and Colonel Fakhi. He drew a
triangle. The old man failed to understand and went on chuckling.
But suddenly his laughter lost some of its childishness. Patrice had
written the name of Bournef, the accomplice, and this time the old
secretary appeared to be stirred by a recollection. He tried to get up,
fell back in his chair, then rose to his feet again and took his hat
from a peg on the wall.
He left his room and, followed by Patrice, marched out of the house and
turned to the left, in the direction of Auteuil. He moved like a man in
a trance who is hypnotized into walking without knowing where he is
going. He led the way along the Rue de Boulainvilliers, crossed the
Seine and turned down the Quai de Grenelle with an unhesitating step.
Then, when he reached the boulevard, he stopped, putting out his arm,
made a sign to Patrice to do likewise. A kiosk hid them from view. He
put his head round it. Patrice followed his example.
Opposite, at the corner of the boulevard and a side-street, was a café,
with a portion of the pavement in front of it marked out by dwarf shrubs
in tubs. Behind these tubs four men sat drinking. Three of them had
their backs turned to Patrice. He saw the only one that faced him, and
he at once recognized Bournef.
By this time Siméon was some distance away, like a man whose part is
played and who leaves it to others to complete the work. Patrice looked
round, caught sight of a post-office and went in briskly. He knew that
M. Masseron was at the Rue Raynouard. He telephoned and told him where
Bournef was. M. Masseron replied that he would come at once.
Since the murder of Essarès Bey, M. Masseron's enquiry had made no
progress in so far as Colonel Fakhi's four accomplices were concerned.
True, they discovered the man Grégoire's sanctuary and the bedrooms with
the wall-cupboards; but the whole place was empty. The accomplices had
"Old Siméon," said Patrice to himself, "was acquainted with their
habits. He must have known that they were accustomed to meet at this
café on a certain day of the week, at a fixed hour, and he suddenly
remembered it all at the sight of Bournef's name."
A few minutes later M. Masseron alighted from his car with his men. The
business did not take long. The open front of the café was surrounded.
The accomplices offered no resistance. M. Masseron sent three of them
under a strong guard to the Dépôt and hustled Bournef into a private
"Come along," he said to Patrice. "We'll question him."
"Mme. Essarès is alone at the house," Patrice objected.
"Alone? No. There are all your soldier-men."
"Yes, but I would rather go back, if you don't mind. It's the first time
that I've left her and I'm justified in feeling anxious."
"It's only a matter of a few minutes," M. Masseron insisted. "One should
always take advantage of the fluster caused by the arrest."
Patrice followed him, but they soon saw that Bournef was not one of
those men who are easily put out. He simply shrugged his shoulders at
"It is no use, sir," he said, "to try and frighten me. I risk nothing.
Shot, do you say? Nonsense! You don't shoot people in France for the
least thing; and we are all four subjects of a neutral country. Tried?
Sentenced? Imprisoned? Never! You forget that you have kept everything
dark so far; and, when you hushed up the murder of Mustapha, of Fakhi
and of Essarès, it was not done with the object of reviving the case for
no valid reason. No, sir, I am quite easy. The internment-camp is the
worst that can await me."
"Then you refuse to answer?" said M. Masseron.
"Not a bit of it! I accept internment. But there are twenty different
ways of treating a man in these camps, and I should like to earn your
favor and, in so doing, make sure of reasonable comfort till the end of
the war. But first of all, what do you know?"
"Pretty well everything."
"That's a pity: it decreases my value. Do you know about Essarès' last
"Yes, with the bargain of the four millions. What's become of the
Bournef made a furious gesture:
"Taken from us! Stolen! It was a trap!"
"Who took it?"
"Who was he?"
"His familiar, as we have since learnt. We discovered that this Grégoire
was no other than a fellow who used to serve as his chauffeur on
"And who therefore helped him to convey the bags of gold from the bank
to his house."
"Yes. And we also think, we know . . . Look here, you may as well call
it a certainty. Grégoire . . . is a woman."
"Exactly. His mistress. We have several proofs of it. But she's a
trustworthy, capable woman, strong as a man and afraid of nothing."
"Do you know her address?"
"As to the gold: have you no clue to its whereabouts, no suspicion?"
"No. The gold is in the garden or in the house in the Rue Raynouard. We
saw it being taken in every day for a week. It has not been taken out
since. We kept watch every night. The bags are there."
"No clue either to Essarès' murderer?"
"Are you quite sure?"
"Why should I tell a lie?"
"Suppose it was yourself? Or one of your friends?"
"We thought that you would suspect us. Fortunately, we happen to have an
"Easy to prove?"
"Impossible to upset."
"We'll look into it. So you have nothing more to reveal?"
"No. But I have an idea . . . or rather a question which you will answer
or not, as you please. Who betrayed us? Your reply may throw some useful
light, for one person only knew of our weekly meetings here from four
to five o'clock, one person only, Essarès Bey; and he himself often came
here to confer with us. Essarès is dead. Then who gave us away?"
Bournef started with astonishment:
"What! Siméon? Siméon Diodokis?"
"Yes. Siméon Diodokis, Essarès Bey's secretary."
"He? Oh, I'll make him pay for this, the blackguard! But no, it's
"What makes you say that it's impossible?'"
"Why, because . . ."
He stopped and thought for some time, no doubt to convince himself that
there was no harm in speaking. Then he finished his sentence:
"Because old Siméon was on our side."
"What's that you say?" exclaimed Patrice, whose turn it was to be
"I say and I swear that Siméon Diodokis was on our side. He was our man.
It was he who kept us informed of Essarès Bey's shady tricks. It was he
who rang us up at nine o'clock in the evening to tell us that Essarès
had lit the furnace of the old hothouses and that the signal of the
sparks was going to work. It was he who opened the door to us,
pretending to resist, of course, and allowed us to tie him up in the
porter's lodge. It was he, lastly, who paid and dismissed the
"But why? Why this treachery? For the sake of money?"
"No, from hatred. He bore Essarès Bey a hatred that often gave us the
"What prompted it?"
"I don't know. Siméon keeps his own counsel. But it dated a long way
"Did he know where the gold was hidden?" asked M. Masseron.
"No. And it was not for want of hunting to find out. He never knew how
the bags got out the cellar, which was only a temporary hiding-place."
"And yet they used to leave the grounds. If so, how are we to know that
the same thing didn't happen this time?"
"This time we were keeping watch the whole way round outside, a thing
which Siméon could not do by himself."
Patrice now put the question:
"Can you tell us nothing more about him?"
"No, I can't. Wait, though; there was one rather curious thing. On the
afternoon of the great day, I received a letter in which Siméon gave me
certain particulars. In the same envelope was another letter, which had
evidently got there by some incredible mistake, for it appeared to be
"What did it say?" asked Patrice, anxiously.
"It was all about a key."
"Don't you remember the details?"
"Here is the letter. I kept it in order to give it back to him and warn
him what he had done. Here, it's certainly his writing. . . ."
Patrice took the sheet of notepaper; and the first thing that he saw was
his own name. The letter was addressed to him, as he anticipated:
"You will this evening receive a key. The key opens
two doors midway down a lane leading to the river:
one, on the right, is that of the garden of the woman
you love; the other, on the left, that of a garden
where I want you to meet me at nine o'clock in the
morning on the 14th of April. She will be there also.
You shall learn who I am and the object which I intend
to attain. You shall both hear things about the past
that will bring you still closer together.
"From now until the 14th the struggle which begins
to-night will be a terrible one. If anything happens
to me, it is certain that the woman you love will run
the greatest dangers. Watch over her, Patrice; do not
leave her for an instant unprotected. But I do not
intend to let anything happen to me; and you shall
both know the happiness which I have been preparing
for you so long.
"My best love to you."
"It's not signed," said Bournef, "but, I repeat, it's in Siméon's
handwriting. As for the lady, she is obviously Mme. Essarès."
"But what danger can she be running?" exclaimed Patrice, uneasily.
"Essarès is dead, so there is nothing to fear."
"I wouldn't say that. He would take some killing."
"Whom can he have instructed to avenge him? Who would continue his
"I can't say, but I should take no risks."
Patrice waited to hear no more. He thrust the letter into M. Masseron's
hand and made his escape.
"Rue Raynouard, fast as you can," he said, springing into a taxi.
He was eager to reach his destination. The dangers of which old Siméon
spoke seemed suddenly to hang over Coralie's head. Already the enemy,
taking advantage of Patrice's absence, might be attacking his beloved.
And who could defend her?
"If anything happens to me," Siméon had said.
And the supposition was partly realized, since he had lost his wits.
"Come, come," muttered Patrice, "this is sheer idiocy. . . . I am
fancying things. . . . There is no reason . . ."
But his mental anguish increased every minute. He reminded himself that
old Siméon was still in full possession of his faculties at the time
when he wrote that letter and gave the advice which it contained. He
reminded himself that old Siméon had purposely informed him that the key
opened the door of Coralie's garden, so that he, Patrice, might keep an
effective watch by coming to her in case of need.
He saw Siméon some way ahead of him. It was growing late, and the old
fellow was going home. Patrice passed him just outside the porter's
lodge and heard him humming to himself.
"Any news?" Patrice asked the soldier on duty.
"Where's Little Mother Coralie?"
"She had a walk in the garden and went upstairs half an hour ago."
"Ya-Bon went up with Little Mother Coralie. He should be at her door."
Patrice climbed the stairs, feeling a good deal calmer. But, when he
came to the first floor, he was astonished to find that the electric
light was not on. He turned on the switch. Then he saw, at the end of
the passage, Ya-Bon on his knees outside Coralie's room, with his head
leaning against the wall. The door was open.
"What are you doing there?" he shouted, running up.
Ya-Bon made no reply. Patrice saw that there was blood on the shoulder
of his jacket. At that moment the Senegalese sank to the floor.
"Damn it! He's wounded! Dead perhaps."
He leapt over the body and rushed into the room, switching on the light
Coralie was lying at full length on a sofa. Round her neck was the
terrible little red-silk cord. And yet Patrice did not experience that
awful, numbing despair which we feel in the presence of irretrievable
misfortunes. It seemed to him that Coralie's face had not the pallor of
He found that she was in fact breathing:
"She's not dead. She's not dead," said Patrice to himself. "And she's
not going to die, I'm sure of it . . . nor Ya-Bon either. . . . They've
failed this time."
He loosened the cords. In a few seconds Coralie heaved a deep breath and
recovered consciousness. A smile lit up her eyes at the sight of him.
But, suddenly remembering, she threw her arms, still so weak, around
"Oh, Patrice," she said, in a trembling voice, "I'm frightened . . .
frightened for you!"
"What are you frightened of, Coralie? Who is the scoundrel?"
"I didn't see him. . . . He put out the light, caught me by the throat
and whispered, 'You first. . . . To-night it will be your lover's turn!'
. . . Oh, Patrice, I'm frightened for you! . . ."
ON THE BRINK
Patrice at once made up his mind what to do. He lifted Coralie to her
bed and asked her not to move or call out. Then he made sure that Ya-Bon
was not seriously wounded. Lastly, he rang violently, sounding all the
bells that communicated with the posts which he had placed in different
parts of the house.
The men came hurrying up.
"You're a pack of nincompoops," he said. "Some one's been here. Little
Mother Coralie and Ya-Bon have had a narrow escape from being killed."
They began to protest loudly.
"Silence!" he commanded. "You deserve a good hiding, every one of you.
I'll forgive you on one condition, which is that, all this evening and
all to-night, you speak of Little Mother Coralie as though she were
"But whom are we to speak to, sir?" one of them objected. "There's
"Yes, there is, you silly fool, since Little Mother Coralie and Ya-Bon
have been attacked. Unless it was yourselves who did it! . . . It
wasn't? Very well then. . . . And let me have no more nonsense. It's not
a question of speaking to others, but of talking among yourselves . . .
and of thinking, even, without speaking. There are people listening to
you, spying on you, people who hear what you say and who guess what you
don't say. So, until to-morrow, Little Mother Coralie will not leave her
room. You shall keep watch over her by turns. Those who are not watching
will go to bed immediately after dinner. No moving about the house, do
you understand? Absolute silence and quiet."
"And old Siméon, sir?"
"Lock him up in his room. He's dangerous because he's mad. They may have
taken advantage of his madness to make him open the door to them. Lock
Patrice's plan was a simple one. As the enemy, believing Coralie to be
on the point of death, had revealed to her his intention, which was to
kill Patrice as well, it was necessary that he should think himself free
to act, with nobody to suspect his schemes or to be on his guard against
him. He would enter upon the struggle and would then be caught in a
Pending this struggle, for which he longed with all his might, Patrice
saw to Ya-Bon's wound, which proved to be only slight, and questioned
him and Coralie. Their answers tallied at all points. Coralie, feeling a
little tired, was lying down reading. Ya-Bon remained in the passage,
outside the open door, squatting on the floor, Arab-fashion. Neither of
them heard anything suspicious. And suddenly Ya-Bon saw a shadow between
himself and the light in the passage. This light, which came from an
electric lamp, was put out at just about the same time as the light in
the bed-room. Ya-Bon, already half-erect, felt a violent blow in the
back of the neck and lost consciousness. Coralie tried to escape by the
door of her boudoir, was unable to open it, began to cry out and was at
once seized and thrown down. All this had happened within the space of a
The only hint that Patrice succeeded in obtaining was that the man came
not from the staircase but from the servants' wing. This had a smaller
staircase of its own, communicating with the kitchen through a pantry by
which the tradesmen entered from the Rue Raynouard. The door leading to
the street was locked. But some one might easily possess a key.
After dinner Patrice went in to see Coralie for a moment and then, at
nine o'clock, retired to his bedroom, which was situated a little lower
down, on the same side. It had been used, in Essarès Bey's lifetime, as
As the attack from which he expected such good results was not likely to
take place before the middle of the night, Patrice sat down at a
roll-top desk standing against the wall and took out the diary in which
he had begun his detailed record of recent events. He wrote on for half
an hour or forty minutes and was about to close the book when he seemed
to hear a vague rustle, which he would certainly not have noticed if his
nerves had not been stretched to their utmost state of tension. And he
remembered the day when he and Coralie had once before been shot at.
This time, however, the window was not open nor even ajar.
He therefore went on writing without turning his head or doing anything
to suggest that his attention had been aroused; and he set down, almost
unconsciously, the actual phases of his anxiety:
"He is here. He is watching me. I wonder what he means
to do. I doubt if he will smash a pane of glass and
fire a bullet at me. He has tried that method before
and found it uncertain and a failure. No, his plan is
thought out, I expect, in a different and more
intelligent fashion. He is more likely to wait for me
to go to bed, when he can watch me sleeping and effect
his entrance by some means which I can't guess.
"Meanwhile, it's extraordinarily exhilarating to know
that his eyes are upon me. He hates me; and his hatred
is coming nearer and nearer to mine, like one sword
feeling its way towards another before clashing. He is
watching me as a wild animal, lurking in the dark,
watches its prey and selects the spot on which to
fasten its fangs. But no, I am certain that it's he
who is the prey, doomed beforehand to defeat and
destruction. He is preparing his knife or his red-silk
cord. And it's these two hands of mine that will
finish the battle. They are strong and powerful and
are already enjoying their victory. They will be
Patrice shut down the desk, lit a cigarette and smoked it quietly, as
his habit was before going to bed. Then he undressed, folded his clothes
carefully over the back of a chair, wound up his watch, got into bed and
switched off the light.
"At last," he said to himself, "I shall know the truth. I shall know who
this man is. Some friend of Essarès', continuing his work? But why this
hatred of Coralie? Is he in love with her, as he is trying to finish me
off too? I shall know . . . I shall soon know. . . ."
An hour passed, however, and another hour, during which nothing happened
on the side of the window. A single creaking came from somewhere beside
the desk. But this no doubt was one of those sounds of creaking
furniture which we often hear in the silence of the night.
Patrice began to lose the buoyant hope that had sustained him so far. He
perceived that his elaborate sham regarding Coralie's death was a poor
thing after all and that a man of his enemy's stamp might well refuse to
be taken in by it. Feeling rather put out, he was on the point of going
to sleep, when he heard the same creaking sound at the same spot.
The need to do something made him jump out of bed. He turned on the
light. Everything seemed to be as he had left it. There was no trace of
a strange presence.
"Well," said Patrice, "one thing's certain: I'm no good. The enemy must
have smelt a rat and guessed the trap I laid for him. Let's go to sleep.
There will be nothing happening to-night."
There was in fact no alarm.
Next morning, on examining the window, he observed that a stone ledge
ran above the ground-floor all along the garden front of the house, wide
enough for a man to walk upon by holding on to the balconies and
rain-pipes. He inspected all the rooms to which the ledge gave access.
None of them was old Siméon's room.
"He hasn't stirred out, I suppose?" he asked the two soldiers posted on
"Don't think so, sir. In any case, we haven't unlocked the door."
Patrice went in and, paying no attention to the old fellow, who was
still sucking at his cold pipe, he searched the room, having it at the
back of his mind that the enemy might take refuge there. He found
nobody. But what he did discover, in a press in the wall, was a number
of things which he had not seen on the occasion of his investigations in
M. Masseron's company. These consisted of a rope-ladder, a coil of lead
pipes, apparently gas-pipes, and a small soldering-lamp.
"This all seems devilish odd," he said to himself. "How did the things
get in here? Did Siméon collect them without any definite object,
mechanically? Or am I to assume that Siméon is merely an instrument of
the enemy's? He used to know the enemy before he lost his reason; and he
may be under his influence at present."
Siméon was sitting at the window, with his back to the room. Patrice
went up to him and gave a start. In his hands the old man held a
funeral-wreath made of black and white beads. It bore a date, "14 April,
1915," and made the twentieth, the one which Siméon was preparing to lay
on the grave of his dead friends.
"He will lay it there," said Patrice, aloud. "His instinct as an
avenging friend, which has guided his steps through life, continues in
spite of his insanity. He will lay it on the grave. That's so, Siméon,
isn't it: you will take it there to-morrow? For to-morrow is the
fourteenth of April, the sacred anniversary. . . ."
He leant over the incomprehensible being who held the key to all the
plots and counterplots, to all the treachery and benevolence that
constituted the inextricable drama. Siméon thought that Patrice wanted
to take the wreath from him and pressed it to his chest with a startled
"Don't be afraid," said Patrice. "You can keep it. To-morrow, Siméon,
to-morrow, Coralie and I will be faithful to the appointment which you
gave us. And to-morrow perhaps the memory of the horrible past will
unseal your brain."
The day seemed long to Patrice, who was eager for something that would
provide a glimmer in the surrounding darkness. And now this glimmer
seemed about to be kindled by the arrival of this twentieth anniversary
of the fourteenth of April.
At a late hour in the afternoon M. Masseron called at the Rue Raynouard.
"Look what I've just received," he said to Patrice. "It's rather
curious: an anonymous letter in a disguised hand. Listen:
"'"Sir", be warned. They're going away. Take care.
To-morrow evening the 1800 bags will be on their way
out of the country.
A FRIEND OF FRANCE.'"
"And to-morrow is the fourteenth of April," said Patrice, at once
connecting the two trains of thought in his mind.
"Yes. What makes you say that?"
"Nothing. . . . Something that just occurred to me. . . ."
He was nearly telling M. Masseron all the facts associated with the
fourteenth of April and all those concerning the strange personality of
old Siméon. If he did not speak, it was for obscure reasons, perhaps
because he wished to work out this part of the case alone, perhaps also
because of a sort of shyness which prevented him from admitting M.
Masseron into all the secrets of the past. He said nothing about it,
therefore, and asked:
"What do you think of the letter?"
"Upon my word, I don't know what to think. It may be a warning with
something to back it, or it may be a trick to make us adopt one course
of conduct rather than another. I'll talk about it to Bournef."
"Nothing fresh on his side?"
"No; and I don't expect anything in particular. The alibi which he has
submitted is genuine. His friends and he are so many supers. Their parts
The coincidence of dates was all that stuck in Patrice's mind. The two
roads which M. Masseron and he were following suddenly met on this day
so long since marked out by fate. The past and the present were about to
unite. The catastrophe was at hand. The fourteenth of April was the day
on which the gold was to disappear for good and also the day on which an
unknown voice had summoned Patrice and Coralie to the same tryst which
his father and her mother had kept twenty years ago.
And the next day was the fourteenth of April.
* * * * *
At nine o'clock in the morning Patrice asked after old Siméon.
"Gone out, sir. You had countermanded your orders."
Patrice entered the room and looked for the wreath. It was not there.
Moreover, the three things in the cupboard, the rope-ladder, the coil of
lead and the glazier's lamp, were not there either.
"Did Siméon take anything with him?"
"Yes, sir, a wreath."
The window was open. Patrice came to the conclusion that the things had
gone by this way, thus confirming his theory that the old fellow was an
Shortly before ten o'clock Coralie joined him in the garden. Patrice had
told her the latest events. She looked pale and anxious.
They went round the lawns and, without being seen, reached the clumps of
dwarf shrubs which hid the door on the lane. Patrice opened the door. As
he started to open the other his hand hesitated. He felt sorry that he
had not told M. Masseron and that he and Coralie were performing by
themselves a pilgrimage which certain signs warned him to be dangerous.
He shook off the obsession, however. He had two revolvers with him. What
had he to fear?
"You're coming in, aren't you, Coralie?"
"Yes," she said.
"I somehow thought you seemed undecided, anxious . . ."
"It's quite true," said Coralie. "I feel a sort of hollowness."
"Why? Are you afraid?"
"No. Or rather yes. I'm not afraid for to-day, but in some way for the
past. I think of my poor mother, who went through this door, as I am
doing, one April morning. She was perfectly happy, she was going to
meet her love. . . . And then I feel as if I wanted to hold her back and
cry, 'Don't go on. . . . Death is lying in wait for you. . . . Don't go
on. . . .' And it's I who hear those words of terror, they ring in my
ears; it's I who hear them and I dare not go on. I'm afraid."
"Let's go back, Coralie."
She only took his arm:
"No," she said, in a firm voice. "We'll walk on. I want to pray. It will
do me good."
Boldly she stepped along the little slanting path which her mother had
followed and climbed the slope amid the tangled weeds and the straggling
branches. They passed the lodge on their left and reached the leafy
cloisters where each had a parent lying buried. And at once, at the
first glance, they saw that the twentieth wreath was there.
"Siméon has come," said Patrice. "An all-powerful instinct obliged him
to come. He must be somewhere near."
While Coralie knelt down beside the tombstone, he hunted around the
cloisters and went as far as the middle of the garden. There was nothing
left but to go to the lodge, and this was evidently a dread act which
they put off performing, if not from fear, at least from the reverent
awe which checks a man on entering a place of death and crime.
It was Coralie once again who gave the signal for action:
"Come," she said.
Patrice did not know how they would make their way into the lodge, for
all its doors and windows had appeared to them to be shut. But, as they
approached, they saw that the back-door opening on the yard was wide
open, and they at once thought that Siméon was waiting for them inside.
It was exactly ten o'clock when they crossed the threshold of the lodge.
A little hall led to a kitchen on one side and a bedroom on the other.
The principal room must be that opposite. The door stood ajar.
"That's where it must have happened . . . long ago," said Coralie, in a
"Yes," said Patrice, "we shall find Siméon there. But, if your courage
fails you, Coralie, we had better give it up."
An unquestioning force of will supported her. Nothing now would have
induced her to stop. She walked on.
Though large, the room gave an impression of coziness, owing to the way
in which it was furnished. The sofas, armchairs, carpet and hangings all
tended to add to its comfort; and its appearance might well have
remained unchanged since the tragic death of the two who used to occupy
it. This appearance was rather that of a studio, because of a skylight
which filled the middle of the high ceiling, where the belvedere was.
The light came from here. There were two other windows, but these were
hidden by curtains.
"Siméon is not here," said Patrice.
Coralie did not reply. She was examining the things around her with an
emotion which was reflected in every feature. There were books, all of
them going back to the last century. Some of them were signed "Coralie"
in pencil on their blue or yellow wrappers. There were pieces of
unfinished needlework, an embroidery-frame, a piece of tapestry with a
needle hanging to it by a thread of wool. And there were also books
signed "Patrice" and a box of cigars and a blotting-pad and an inkstand
and penholders. And there were two small framed photographs, those of
two children, Patrice and Coralie. And thus the life of long ago went
on, not only the life of two lovers who loved each other with a violent
and fleeting passion, but of two beings who dwell together in the calm
assurance of a long existence spent in common.
"Oh, my darling, darling mother!" Coralie whispered.
Her emotion increased with each new memory. She leant trembling on
"Let's go," he said.
"Yes, dear, yes, we had better. We will come back again. . . . We will
come back to them. . . . We will revive the life of love that was cut
short by their death. Let us go for to-day; I have no strength left."
But they had taken only a few steps when they stopped dismayed.
The door was closed.
Their eyes met, filled with uneasiness.
"We didn't close it, did we?" he asked.
"No," she said, "we didn't close it."
He went to open it and perceived that it had neither handle nor lock.
It was a single door, of massive wood that looked hard and substantial.
It might well have been made of one piece, taken from the very heart of
an oak. There was no paint or varnish on it. Here and there were
scratches, as if some one had been rapping at it with a tool. And then
. . . and then, on the right, were these few words in pencil:
"Patrice and Coralie, 14 April, 1895"
"God will avenge us"
Below this was a cross and, below the cross, another date, but in a
different and more recent handwriting:
"14 April, 1915"
"This is terrible, this is terrible," said Patrice. "To-day's date! Who
can have written that? It has only just been written. Oh, it's terrible!
. . . Come, come, after all, we can't . . ."
He rushed to one of the windows, tore back the curtain that veiled it
and pulled upon the casement. A cry escaped him. The window was walled
up, walled up with building-stones that filled the space between the
glass and the shutters.
He ran to the other window and found the same obstacle.
There were two doors, leading probably to the bedroom on the right and
to a room next to the kitchen on the left. He opened them quickly. Both
doors were walled up.
He ran in every direction, during the first moment of terror, and then
hurled himself against the first of the three doors and tried to break
it down. It did not move. It might have been an immovable block.
Then, once again, they looked at each other with eyes of fear; and the
same terrible thought came over them both. The thing that had happened
before was being repeated! The tragedy was being played a second time.
After the mother and the father, it was the turn of the daughter and the
son. Like the lovers of yesteryear, those of to-day were prisoners. The
enemy held them in his powerful grip; and they would doubtless soon know
how their parents had died by seeing how they themselves would die.
. . . 14 April, 1895. . . . 14 April, 1915. . . .
IN THE ABYSS
"No, no, no!" cried Patrice. "I won't stand this!"
He flung himself against the windows and doors, took up an iron dog from
the fender and banged it against the wooden doors and the stone walls.
Barren efforts! They were the same which his father had made before him;
and they could only result in the same mockery of impotent scratches on
the wood and the stone.
"Oh, Coralie, Coralie!" he cried in his despair. "It's I who have
brought you to this! What an abyss I've dragged you into! It was madness
to try to fight this out by myself! I ought to have called in those who
understand, who are accustomed to it! . . . No, I was going to be so
clever! . . . Forgive me, Coralie."
She had sunk into a chair. He, almost on his knees beside her, threw his
arms around her, imploring her pardon.
She smiled, to calm him:
"Come, dear," she said, gently, "don't lose courage. Perhaps we are
mistaken. . . . After all, there's nothing to show that it is not all an
"The date!" he said. "The date of this year, of this day, written in
another hand! It was your mother and my father who wrote the first . . .
but this one, Coralie, this one proves premeditation, and an implacable
determination to do away with us."
She shuddered. Still she persisted in trying to comfort him:
"It may be. But yet it is not so bad as all that. We have enemies, but
we have friends also. They will look for us."
"They will look for us, but how can they ever find us, Coralie? We took
steps to prevent them from guessing where we were going; and not one of
them knows this house."
"Old Siméon does."
"Siméon came and placed his wreath, but some one else came with him,
some one who rules him and who has perhaps already got rid of him, now
that Siméon has played his part."
"And what then, Patrice?"
He felt that she was overcome and began to be ashamed of his own
"Well," he said, mastering himself, "we must just wait. After all, the
attack may not materialize. The fact of our being locked in does not
mean that we are lost. And, even so, we shall make a fight for it, shall
we not? You need not think that I am at the end of my strength or my
resources. Let us wait, Coralie, and act."
The main thing was to find out whether there was any entrance to the
house which could allow of an unforeseen attack. After an hour's search
they took up the carpet and found tiles which showed nothing unusual.
There was certainly nothing except the door, and, as they could not
prevent this from being opened, since it opened outwards, they heaped
up most of the furniture in front of it, thus forming a barricade which
would protect them against a surprise.
Then Patrice cocked his two revolvers and placed them beside him, in
"This will make us easy in our minds," he said. "Any enemy who appears
is a dead man."
But the memory of the past bore down upon them with all its awful
weight. All their words and all their actions others before them had
spoken and performed, under similar conditions, with the same thoughts
and the same forebodings. Patrice's father must have prepared his
weapons. Coralie's mother must have folded her hands and prayed.
Together they had barricaded the door and together sounded the walls and
taken up the carpet. What an anguish was this, doubled as it was by a
To dispel the horror of the idea, they turned the pages of the books,
works of fiction and others, which their parents had read. On certain
pages, at the end of a chapter or volume, were lines constituting notes
which Patrice's father and Coralie's mother used to write each other.
"I ran in this morning to recreate our life of
yesterday and to dream of our life this afternoon. As
you will arrive before me, you will read these lines.
You will read that I love you. . . ."
And, in another book:
""My own Coralie",
"You have this minute gone; I shall not see you until
to-morrow and I do not want to leave this haven where
our love has tasted such delights without once more
telling you . . ."
They looked through most of the books in this way, finding, however,
instead of the clues for which they hoped, nothing but expressions of
love and affection. And they spent more than two hours waiting and
dreading what might happen.
"There will be nothing," said Patrice. "And perhaps that is the most
awful part of it, for, if nothing occurs, it will mean that we are
doomed not to leave this room. And, in that case . . ."
Patrice did not finish the sentence. Coralie understood. And together
they received a vision of the death by starvation that seemed to
threaten them. But Patrice exclaimed:
"No, no, we have not that to fear. No. For people of our age to die of
hunger takes several days, three or four days or more. And we shall be
rescued before then."
"How?" asked Coralie.
"How? Why, by our soldiers, by Ya-Bon, by M. Masseron! They will be
uneasy if we do not come home to-night."
"You yourself said, Patrice, that they cannot know where we are."
"They'll find out. It's quite simple. There is only the lane between the
two gardens. Besides, everything we do is set down in my diary, which is
in the desk in my room. Ya-Bon knows of its existence. He is bound to
speak of it to M. Masseron. And then . . . and then there is Siméon.
What will have become of him? Surely they will notice his movements?
And won't he give a warning of some kind?"
But words were powerless to comfort them. If they were not to die of
hunger, then the enemy must have contrived another form of torture.
Their inability to do anything kept them on the rack. Patrice began his
investigations again. A curious accident turned them in a new direction.
On opening one of the books through which they had not yet looked, a
book published in 1895, Patrice saw two pages turned down together. He
separated them and read a letter addressed to him by his father:
""Patrice, my dear Son",
"If ever chance places this note before your eyes, it
will prove that I have met with a violent death which
has prevented my destroying it. In that case, Patrice,
look for the truth concerning my death on the wall of
the studio, between the two windows. I shall perhaps
have time to write it down."
The two victims had therefore at that time foreseen the tragic fate in
store for them; and Patrice's father and Coralie's mother knew the
danger which they ran in coming to the lodge. It remained to be seen
whether Patrice's father had been able to carry out his intention.
Between the two windows, as all around the room, was a wainscoting of
varnished wood, topped at a height of six feet by a cornice. Above the
cornice was the plain plastered wall. Patrice and Coralie had already
observed, without paying particular attention to it, that the
wainscoting seemed to have been renewed in this part, because the
varnish of the boards did not have the same uniform color. Using one of
the iron dogs as a chisel, Patrice broke down the cornice and lifted the
first board. It broke easily. Under this plank, on the plaster of the
wall, were lines of writing.
"It's the same method," he said, "as that which old Siméon has since
employed. First write on the walls, then cover it up with wood or
He broke off the top of the other boards and in this way brought several
complete lines into view, hurried lines, written in pencil and slightly
worn by time. Patrice deciphered them with the greatest emotion. His
father had written them at a moment when death was stalking at hand. A
few hours later he had ceased to live. They were the evidence of his
death-agony and perhaps too an imprecation against the enemy who was
killing him and the woman he loved.
Patrice read, in an undertone:
"I am writing this in order that the scoundrel's plot
may not be achieved to the end and in order to ensure
his punishment. Coralie and I are no doubt going to
perish, but at least we shall not die without
revealing the cause of our death.
"A few days ago, he said to Coralie, 'You spurn my
love, you load me with your hatred. So be it. But I
shall kill you both, your lover and you, in such a
manner that I can never be accused of the death, which
will look like suicide. Everything is ready. Beware,
"Everything was, in fact, ready. He did not know me,
but he must have known that Coralie used to meet
somebody here daily; and it was in this lodge that he
prepared our tomb.
"What manner of death ours will be we do not know.
Lack of food, no doubt. It is four hours since we were
imprisoned. The door closed upon us, a heavy door
which he must have placed there last night. All the
other openings, doors and windows alike, are stopped
up with blocks of stone laid and cemented since our
last meeting. Escape is impossible. What is to become
The uncovered portion stopped here. Patrice said:
"You see, Coralie, they went through the same horrors as ourselves. They
too dreaded starvation. They too passed through long hours of waiting,
when inaction is so painful; and it was more or less to distract their
thoughts that they wrote those lines."
He went on, after examining the spot:
"They counted, most likely, on what happened, that the man who was
killing them would not read this document. Look, one long curtain was
hung over these two windows and the wall between them, one curtain, as
is proved by the single rod covering the whole distance. After our
parents' death no one thought of drawing it, and the truth remained
concealed until the day when Siméon discovered it and, by way of
precaution, hid it again under a wooden panel and hung up two curtains
in the place of one. In this way everything seemed normal."
Patrice set to work again. A few more lines made their appearance:
"Oh, if I were the only one to suffer, the only one to
die! But the horror of it all is that I am dragging my
dear Coralie with me. She fainted and is lying down
now, prostrate by the fears which she tries so hard to
overcome. My poor darling! I seem already to see the
pallor of death on her sweet face. Forgive me,
dearest, forgive me!"
Patrice and Coralie exchanged glances. Here were the same sentiments
which they themselves felt, the same scruples, the same delicacy, the
same effacement of self in the presence of the other's grief.
"He loved your mother," Patrice murmured, "as I love you. I also am not
afraid of death. I have faced it too often, with a smile! But you,
Coralie, you, for whose sake I would undergo any sort of torture
. . . !"
He began to walk up and down, once more yielding to his anger:
"I shall save you, Coralie, I swear it. And what a delight it will then
be to take our revenge! He shall have the same fate which he was
devising for us. Do you understand, Coralie? He shall die here, here in
this room. Oh, how my hatred will spur me to bring that about!"
He tore down more pieces of boarding, in the hope of learning something
that might be useful to him, since the struggle was being renewed under
exactly similar conditions. But the sentences that followed, like those
which Patrice had just uttered, were oaths of vengeance:
"Coralie, he shall be punished, if not by us, then by
the hand of God. No, his infernal scheme will not
succeed. No, it will never be believed that we had
recourse to suicide to relieve ourselves of an
existence that was built up of happiness and joy. No,
his crime will be known. Hour by hour I shall here set
down the undeniable proofs. . . ."
"Words, words!" cried Patrice, in a tone of exasperation. "Words of
vengeance and sorrow, but never a fact to guide us. Father, will you
tell us nothing to save your Coralie's daughter? If your Coralie
succumbed, let mine escape the disaster, thanks to your aid, father!
Help me! Counsel me!"
But the father answered the son with nothing but more words of challenge
"Who can rescue us? We are walled up in this tomb,
buried alive and condemned to torture without being
able to defend ourselves. My revolver lies there, upon
the table. What is the use of it? The enemy does not
attack us. He has time on his side, unrelenting time
which kills of its own strength, by the mere fact that
it is time. Who can rescue us? Who will save my
The position was terrible, and they felt all its tragic horror. It
seemed to them as though they were already dead, once they were enduring
the same trial endured by others and that they were still enduring it
under the same conditions. There was nothing to enable them to escape
any of the phases through which the other two, his father and her
mother, had passed. The similarity between their own and their parents'
fate was so striking that they seemed to be suffering two deaths, and
the second agony was now commencing.
Coralie gave way and began to cry. Moved by her tears, Patrice attacked
the wainscoting with new fury, but its boards, strengthened by
cross-laths, resisted his efforts:
At last he read:
"What is happening? We had an impression that some one
was walking outside, in the garden. Yes, when we put
our ears to the stone wall built in the embrasure of
the window, we thought we heard footsteps. Is it
possible? Oh, if it only were! It would mean the
struggle, at last. Anything rather than the maddening
silence and endless uncertainty!
"That's it! . . . That's it! . . . The sound is
becoming more distinct. . . . It is a different sound,
like that which you make when you dig the ground with
a pick-ax. Some one is digging the ground, not in
front of the house, but on the right, near the
kitchen. . . ."
Patrice redoubled his efforts. Coralie came and helped him. This time he
felt that a corner of the veil was being lifted. The writing went on:
"Another hour, with alternate spells of sound and
silence: the same sound of digging and the same
silence which suggests work that is being continued.
"And then some one entered the hall, one person; he,
evidently. We recognized his step. . . . He walks
without attempting to deaden it. . . . Then he went to
the kitchen, where he worked the same way as before,
with a pick-ax, but on the stones this time. We also
heard the noise of a pane of glass breaking.
"And now he has gone outside again and there is a new
sort of sound, against the house, a sound that seems
to travel up the house as though the wretch had to
climb to a height in order to carry out his plan.
. . ."
Patrice stopped reading and looked at Coralie. Both of them were
"Hark!" he said, in a low voice.
"Yes, yes," she answered, "I hear. . . . Steps outside the house . . .
in the garden. . . ."
They went to one of the windows, where they had left the casement open
behind the wall of building-stones, and listened. There was really some
one walking; and the knowledge that the enemy was approaching gave them
the same sense of relief that their parents had experienced.
Some one walked thrice round the house. But they did not, like their
parents, recognize the sound of the footsteps. They were those of a
stranger, or else steps that had changed their tread. Then, for a few
minutes, they heard nothing more. And suddenly another sound arose; and,
though in their innermost selves they were expecting it, they were
nevertheless stupefied at hearing it. And Patrice, in a hollow voice,
laying stress upon each syllable, uttered the sentence which his father
had written twenty years before:
"It's the sound which you make when you dig the ground with a pick-ax."
Yes, It must be that. Some one was digging the ground, not in front of
the house, but on the right, near the kitchen.
And so the abominable miracle of the revived tragedy was continuing.
Here again the former act was repeated, a simple enough act in itself,
but one which became sinister because it was one of those which had
already been performed and because it was announcing and preparing the
death once before announced and prepared.
An hour passed. The work went on, paused and went on again. It was like
the sound of a spade at work in a courtyard, when the grave-digger is in
no hurry and takes a rest and then resumes his work.
Patrice and Coralie stood listening side by side, their eyes in each
other's eyes, their hands in each other's hands.
"He's stopping," whispered Patrice.
"Yes," said Coralie; "only I think . . ."
"Yes, Coralie, there's some one in the hall. . . . Oh, we need not
trouble to listen! We have only to remember. There: 'He goes to the
kitchen and digs as he did just now, but on the stones this time.' . . .
And then . . . and then . . . oh, Coralie, the same sound of broken
It was memories mingling with the grewsome reality. The present and the
past formed but one. They foresaw events at the very instant when these
The enemy went outside again; and, forthwith, the sound seemed "to
travel up the house as though the wretch had to climb to a height in
order to carry out his plans."
And then . . . and then what would happen next? They no longer thought
of consulting the inscription on the wall, or perhaps they did not dare.
Their attention was concentrated on the invisible and sometimes
imperceptible deeds that were being accomplished against them outside,
an uninterrupted stealthy effort, a mysterious twenty-year-old plan
whereof each slightest detail was settled as by clockwork!
The enemy entered the house and they heard a rustling at the bottom of
the door, a rustling of soft things apparently being heaped or pushed
against the wood. Next came other vague noises in the two adjoining
rooms, against the walled doors, and similar noises outside, between the
stones of the windows and the open shutters. And then they heard some
one on the roof.
They raised their eyes. This time they felt certain that the last act
was at hand, or at least one of the scenes of the last act. The roof to
them was the framed skylight which occupied the center of the ceiling
and admitted the only daylight that entered the room. And still the same
agonizing question rose to their minds: what was going to happen? Would
the enemy show his face outside the skylight and reveal himself at last?
This work on the roof continued for a considerable time. Footsteps shook
the zinc sheets that covered it, moving between the right-hand side of
the house and the edge of the skylight. And suddenly this skylight, or
rather a part of it, a square containing four panes, was lifted, a very
little way, by a hand which inserted a stick to keep it open.
And the enemy again walked across the roof and went down the side of the
They were almost disappointed and felt such a craving to know the truth
that Patrice once more fell to breaking the boards of the wainscoting,
removing the last pieces, which covered the end of the inscription. And
what they read made them live the last few minutes all over again. The
enemy's return, the rustle against the walls and the walled windows, the
noise on the roof, the opening of the skylight, the method of supporting
it: all this had happened in the same order and, so to speak, within the
same limit of time. Patrice's father and Coralie's mother had undergone
the same impressions. Destiny seemed bent on following the same paths
and making the same movements in seeking the same object.
And the writing went on:
"He is going up again, he is going up again. . . .
There's his footsteps on the roof. . . . He is near
the skylight. . . . Will he look through? . . . Shall
we see his hated face? . . ."
"He is going up again, he is going up again," gasped Coralie, nestling
The enemy's footsteps were pounding over the zinc.
"Yes," said Patrice, "he is going up as before, without departing from
the procedure followed by the other. Only we do not know whose face will
appear to us. Our parents knew their enemy."
She shuddered at her image of the man who had killed her mother; and she
"It was he, was it not?"
"Yes, it was he. There is his name, written by my father."
Patrice had almost entirely uncovered the inscription. Bending low, he
pointed with his finger:
"Look. Read the name: Essarès. You can see it down there: it was one of
the last words my father wrote."
And Coralie read:
"The skylight rose higher, a hand lifted it and we saw
. . . we saw, laughing as he looked down on us--oh,
the scoundrel--Essarès! . . . Essarès! . . . And then
he passed something through the opening, something
that came down, that unrolled itself in the middle of
the room, over our heads: a ladder, a rope-ladder.
"We did not understand. It was swinging in front of
us. And then, in the end, I saw a sheet of paper
rolled round the bottom rung and pinned to it. On the
paper, in Essarès' handwriting, are the words, 'Send
Coralie up by herself. Her life shall be saved. I give
her ten minutes to accept. If not . . .'"
"Ah," said Patrice, rising from his stooping posture, "will this also be
repeated? What about the ladder, the rope-ladder, which I found in old
Coralie kept her eyes fixed on the skylight, for the footsteps were
moving around it. Then they stopped. Patrice and Coralie had not a doubt
that the moment had come and that they also were about to see their
enemy. And Patrice said huskily, in a choking voice:
"Who will it be? There are three men who could have played this sinister
part as it was played before. Two are dead, Essarès and my father. And
Siméon, the third, is mad. Is it he, in his madness, who has set the
machine working again? But how are we to imagine that he could have done
it with such precision? No, no, it is the other one, the one who directs
him and who till now has remained in the background."
He felt Coralie's fingers clutching his arm.
"Hush," she said, "here he is!"
"Yes, I'm sure of it."
Her imagination had foretold what was preparing; and in fact, as once
before, the skylight was raised higher. A hand lifted it. And suddenly
they saw a head slipping under the open framework.
It was the head of old Siméon.
"The madman!" Patrice whispered, in dismay. "The madman!"
"But perhaps he isn't mad," she said. "He can't be mad."
She could not check the trembling that shook her.
The man overhead looked down upon them, hidden behind his spectacles,
which allowed no expression of satisfied hatred or joy to show on his
"Coralie," said Patrice, in a low voice, "do what I say. . . . Come.
. . ."
He pushed her gently along, as though he were supporting her and leading
her to a chair. In reality he had but one thought, to reach the table
on which he had placed his revolvers, take one of them and fire.
Siméon remained motionless, like some evil genius come to unloose the
tempest. . . . Coralie could not rid herself of that glance which
weighted upon her.
"No," she murmured, resisting Patrice, as though she feared that his
intention would precipitate the dreaded catastrophe, "no, you mustn't.
. . ."
But Patrice, displaying greater determination, was near his object. One
more effort and his hand would hold the revolver.
He quickly made up his mind, took rapid aim and fired a shot.
The head disappeared from sight.
"Oh," said Coralie, "you were wrong, Patrice! He will take his revenge
on us. . . ."
"No, perhaps not," said Patrice, still holding his revolver. "I may very
well have hit him. The bullet struck the frame of the skylight. But it
may have glanced off, in which case . . ."
They waited hand in hand, with a gleam of hope, which did not last long,
The noise on the roof began again. And then, as before--and this they
really had the impression of not seeing for the first time--as before,
something passed through the opening, something that came down, that
unrolled itself in the middle of the room, a ladder, a rope-ladder, the
very one which Patrice had seen in old Siméon's cupboard.
As before, they looked at it; and they knew so well that everything was
being done over again, that the facts were inexorably, pitilessly linked
together, they were so certain of it that their eyes at once sought the
sheet of paper which must inevitably be pinned to the bottom rung.
It was there, forming a little scroll, dry and discolored and torn at
the edges. It was the sheet of twenty years ago, written by Essarès and
now serving, as before, to convey the same temptation and the same
"Send Coralie up by herself. Her life shall be saved.
I give her ten minutes to accept. If not . . ."
THE NAILS IN THE COFFIN
"If not . . ."
Patrice repeated the words mechanically, several times over, while their
formidable significance became apparent to both him and Coralie. The
words meant that, if Coralie did not obey and did not deliver herself to
the enemy, if she did not flee from prison to go with the man who held
the keys of the prison, the alternative was death.
At that moment neither of them was thinking what end was in store for
them nor even of that death itself. They thought only of the command to
separate which the enemy had issued against them. One was to go and the
other to die.
Coralie was promised her life if she would sacrifice Patrice. But what
was the price of the promise? And what would be the form of the
There was a long silence, full of uncertainty and anguish between the
two lovers. They were coming to grips with something; and the drama was
no longer taking place absolutely outside them, without their playing
any other part than that of helpless victims. It was being enacted
within themselves; and they had the power to alter its ending. It was a
terrible problem. It had already been set to the earlier Coralie; and
she had solved it as a lover would, for she was dead. And now it was
being set again.
Patrice read the inscription; and the rapidly scrawled words became less
"I have begged and entreated Coralie. . . . She flung
herself on her knees before me. She wants to die with
me. . . ."
Patrice looked at Coralie. He had read the words in a very low voice;
and she had not heard them. Then, in a burst of passion, he drew her
eagerly to him and exclaimed:
"You must go, Coralie! You can understand that my not saying so at once
was not due to hesitation. No, only . . . I was thinking of that man's
offer . . . and I am frightened for your sake. . . . What he asks,
Coralie, is terrible. His reason for promising to save your life is that
he loves you. And so you understand. . . . But still, Coralie, you must
obey . . . you must go on living. . . . Go! It is no use waiting for the
ten minutes to pass. He might change his mind and condemn you to death
as well. No, Coralie, you must go, you must go at once!"
"I shall stay," she replied, simply.
He gave a start:
"But this is madness! Why make a useless sacrifice? Are you afraid of
what might happen if you obeyed him?"
"I shall stay."
"But why? Why this obstinacy? It can do no good. Then why stay?"
"Because I love you, Patrice."
He stood dumfounded. He knew that she loved him and he had already told
her so. But that she loved him to the extent of preferring to die in his
company, this was an unexpected, exquisite and at the same time terrible
"Ah," he said, "you love me, Coralie! You love me!"
"I love you, my own Patrice."
She put her arms around his neck; and he felt that hers was an embrace
too strong to be sundered. Nevertheless, he was resolved to save her;
and he refused to yield:
"If you love me," he said, "you must obey me and save your life. Believe
me, it is a hundred times more painful for me to die with you than to
die alone. If I know that you are free and alive, death will be sweet to
She did not listen and continued her confession, happy in making it,
happy in uttering words which she had kept to herself so long:
"I have loved you, Patrice, from the first day I saw you. I knew it
without your telling me; and my only reason for not telling you earlier
was that I was waiting for a solemn occasion, for a time when it would
be a glory to tell you so, while I looked into the depths of your eyes
and offered myself to you entirely. As I have had to speak on the brink
of the grave, listen to me and do not force upon me a separation which
would be worse than death."
"No, no," he said, striving to release himself, "it is your duty to
He made another effort and caught hold of her hands:
"It is your duty to go," he whispered, "and, when you are free, to do
all that you can to save me."
"What are you saying, Patrice?"
"Yes," he repeated, "to save me. There is no reason why you should not
escape from that scoundrel's clutches, report him, seek assistance, warn
our friends. You can call out, you can play some trick. . . ."
She looked at him with so sad a smile and such a doubting expression
that he stopped speaking.
"You are trying to mislead me, my poor darling," she said, "but you are
no more taken in by what you say than I am. No, Patrice, you well know
that, if I surrender myself to that man, he will reduce me to silence or
imprison me in some hiding-place, bound hand and foot, until you have
drawn your last breath."
"You really think that?"
"Just as you do, Patrice. Just as you are sure of what will happen
"Well, what will happen?"
"Ah, Patrice, if that man saves my life, it will not be out of
generosity. Don't you see what his plan is, his abominable plan, once I
am his prisoner? And don't you also see what my only means of escape
will be? Therefore, Patrice, if I am to die in a few hours, why not die
now, in your arms . . . at the same time as yourself, with my lips to
yours? Is that dying? Is it not rather living, in one instant, the most
wonderful of lives?"
He resisted her embrace. He knew that the first kiss of her proffered
lips would deprive him of all his power of will.
"This is terrible," he muttered. "How can you expect me to accept your
sacrifice, you, so young, with years of happiness before you?"
"Years of mourning and despair, if you are gone."
"You must live, Coralie. I entreat you to, with all my soul."
"I cannot live without you, Patrice. You are my only happiness. I have
no reason for existence except to love you. You have taught me to love.
I love you!"
Oh, those heavenly words! For the second time they rang between the four
walls of that room. The same words, spoken by the daughter, which the
mother had spoken with the same passion and the same glad acceptance of
her fate! The same words made twice holy by the recollection of death
past and the thought of death to come!
Coralie uttered them without alarm. All her fears seemed to disappear in
her love; and it was love alone that shook her voice and dimmed the
brightness of her eyes.
Patrice contemplated her with a rapt look. He too was beginning to think
that minutes such as these were worth dying for. Nevertheless, he made a
"And if I ordered you to go, Coralie?"
"That is to say," she murmured, "if you ordered me to go to that man and
surrender myself to him? Is that what you wish, Patrice?"
The thought was too much for him.
"Oh, the horror of it! That man . . . that man . . . you, my Coralie,
so stainless and undefiled! . . ."
Neither he nor she pictured the man in the exact image of Siméon. To
both of them, notwithstanding the hideous vision perceived above, the
enemy retained a mysterious character. It was perhaps Siméon. It was
perhaps another, of whom Siméon was but the instrument. Assuredly it was
the enemy, the evil genius crouching above their heads, preparing their
death-throes while he pursued Coralie with his foul desire.
Patrice asked one more question:
"Did you ever notice that Siméon sought your company?"
"No, never. If anything, he rather avoided me."
"Then it's because he's mad. . . ."
"I don't think he is mad: he is revenging himself."
"Impossible. He was my father's friend. All his life long he worked to
bring us together: surely he would not kill us deliberately?"
"I don't know, Patrice, I don't understand. . . ."
They discussed it no further. It was of no importance whether their
death was caused by this one or that one. It was death itself that they
had to fight, without troubling who had set it loose against them. And
what could they do to ward it off?
"You agree, do you not?" asked Coralie, in a low voice.
He made no answer.
"I shall not go," she went on, "but I want you to be of one mind with
me. I entreat you. It tortures me to think that you are suffering more
than I do. You must let me bear my share. Tell me that you agree."
"Yes," he said, "I agree."
"My own Patrice! Now give me your two hands, look right into my eyes and
Mad with love and longing they plunged themselves for an instant into a
sort of ecstasy. Then she asked:
"What is it, Patrice? You seem distraught again."
He gave a hoarse cry:
"Look! . . . Look . . ."
This time he was certain of what he had seen. The ladder was going up.
The ten minutes were over.
He rushed forward and caught hold of one of the rungs. The ladder no
He did not know exactly what he intended to do. The ladder afforded
Coralie's only chance of safety. Could he abandon that hope and resign
himself to the inevitable?
One or two minutes passed. The ladder must have been hooked fast again,
for Patrice felt a firm resistance up above.
Coralie was entreating him:
"Patrice," she asked, "Patrice, what are you hoping for?"
He looked around and above him, as though seeking an idea, and he seemed
also to look inside himself, as though he were seeking that idea amid
all the memories which he had accumulated at the moment when his father
also held the ladder, in a last effort of will. And suddenly, throwing
up his leg, he placed his left foot on the fifth rung of the ladder and
began to raise himself by the uprights.
It was an absurd attempt to scale the ladder, to reach the skylight, to
lay hold of the enemy and thus save himself and Coralie. If his father
had failed before him, how could he hope to succeed?
It was all over in less than three seconds. The ladder was at once
unfastened from the hook that kept it hanging from the skylight; and
Patrice and the ladder came to the ground together. At the same time a
strident laugh rang out above, followed the next moment by the sound of
the skylight closing.
Patrice picked himself up in a fury, hurled insults at the enemy and, as
his rage increased, fired two revolver shots, which broke two of the
panes. He next attacked the doors and windows, banging at them with the
iron dog which he had taken from the fender. He hit the walls, he hit
the floor, he shook his fist at the invisible enemy who was mocking him.
But suddenly, after a few blows struck at space, he was compelled to
stop. Something like a thick veil had glided overhead. They were in the
He understood what had happened. The enemy had lowered a shutter upon
the skylight, covering it entirely.
"Patrice! Patrice!" cried Coralie, maddened by the blotting out of the
light and losing all her strength of mind. "Patrice! Where are you,
Patrice? Oh, I'm frightened! Where are you?"
They began to grope for each other, like blind people, and nothing that
had gone before seemed to them more horrible than to be lost in this
"Patrice! Oh, Patrice! Where are you?"
Their hands touched, Coralie's poor little frozen fingers and Patrice's
hands that burned with fever, and they pressed each other and twined
together and clutched each other as though to assure themselves that
they were still living.
"Oh, don't leave me, Patrice!" Coralie implored.
"I am here," he replied. "Have no fear: they can't separate us."
"You are right," she panted, "they can't separate us. We are in our
The word was so terrible and Coralie uttered it so mournfully that a
reaction overtook Patrice.
"No! What are you talking about?" he exclaimed. "We must not despair.
There is hope of safety until the last moment."
Releasing one of his hands, he took aim with his revolver. A few faint
rays trickled through the chinks around the skylight. He fired three
times. They heard the crack of the wood-work and the chuckle of the
enemy. But the shutter must have been lined with metal, for no split
Besides, the chinks were forthwith stopped up; and they became aware
that the enemy was engaged in the same work that he had performed around
the doors and windows. It was obviously very thorough and took a long
time in the doing. Next came another work, completing the first. The
enemy was nailing the shutter to the frame of the skylight.
It was an awful sound! Swift and light as were the taps of the hammer,
they seemed to drive deep into the brain of those who heard them. It was
their coffin that was being nailed down, their great coffin with a lid
hermetically sealed that now bore heavy upon them. There was no hope
left, not a possible chance of escape. Each tap of the hammer
strengthened their dark prison, making yet more impregnable the walls
that stood between them and the outer world and bade defiance to the
most resolute assault:
"Patrice," stammered Coralie, "I'm frightened . . . That tapping hurts
me so!" . . .
She sank back in his arms. Patrice felt tears coursing down her cheeks.
Meanwhile the work overhead was being completed. They underwent the
terrible experience which condemned men must feel on the morning of
their last day, when from their cells they hear the preparations: the
engine of death that is being set up, or the electric batteries that are
being tested. They hear men striving to have everything ready, so that
not one propitious chance may remain and so that destiny may be
fulfilled. Death had entered the enemy's service and was working hand in
hand with him. He was death itself, acting, contriving and fighting
against those whom he had resolved to destroy.
"Don't leave me," sobbed Coralie, "don't leave me! . . ."
"Only for a second or two," he said. "We must be avenged later."
"What is the use, Patrice? What can it matter to us?"
He had a box containing a few matches. Lighting them one after the
other, he led Coralie to the panel with the inscription.
"What are you going to do?" she asked.
"I will not have our death put down to suicide. I want to do what our
parents did before us and to prepare for the future. Some one will read
what I am going to write and will avenge us."
He took a pencil from his pocket and bent down. There was a free space,
right at the bottom of the panel. He wrote:
"Patrice Belval and Coralie, his betrothed, die the
same death, murdered by Siméon Diodokis, 14 April,
But, as he finished writing, he noticed a few words of the former
inscription which he had not yet read, because they were placed outside
it, so to speak, and did not appear to form part of it.
"One more match," he said. "Did you see? There are some words there, the
last, no doubt, that my father wrote."
She struck a match. By the flickering light they made out a certain
number of misshapen letters, obviously written in a hurry and forming
""Asphyxiated. . . . Oxide. . . .""
The match went out. They rose in silence. Asphyxiated! They understood.
That was how their parents had perished and how they themselves would
perish. But they did not yet fully realize how the thing would happen.
The lack of air would never be great enough to suffocate them in this
large room, which contained enough to last them for many days.
"Unless," muttered Patrice, "unless the quality of the air can be
impaired and therefore . . ."
He stopped. Then he went on:
"Yes, that's it. I remember."
He told Coralie what he suspected, or rather what conformed so well with
the reality as to leave no room for doubt. He had seen in old Siméon's
cupboard not only the rope-ladder which the madman had brought with him,
but also a coil of lead pipes. And now Siméon's behavior from the moment
when they were locked in, his movements to and fro around the lodge, the
care with which he had stopped up every crevice, his labors along the
wall and on the roof: all this was explained in the most definite
fashion. Old Siméon had simply fitted to a gas-meter, probably in the
kitchen, the pipe which he had next laid along the wall and on the roof.
This therefore was the way in which they were about to die, as their
parents had died before them, stifled by ordinary gas.
Panic-stricken, they began to run aimlessly about the room, holding
hands, while their disordered brains, bereft of thought or will, seemed
like tiny things shaken by the fiercest gale. Coralie uttered incoherent
words. Patrice, while imploring her to keep calm, was himself carried
away by the storm and powerless to resist the terrible agony of the
darkness wherein death lay waiting. At such times a man tries to flee,
to escape the icy breath that is already chilling his marrow. He must
flee, but where? Which way? The walls are insurmountable and the
darkness is even harder than the walls.
They stopped, exhausted. A low hiss was heard somewhere in the room, the
faint hiss that issues from a badly-closed gas-jet. They listened and
perceived that it came from above. The torture was beginning.
"It will last half an hour, or an hour at most," Patrice whispered.
Coralie had recovered her self-consciousness:
"We shall be brave," she said.
"Oh, if I were alone! But you, you, my poor Coralie!"
"It is painless," she murmured.
"You are bound to suffer, you, so weak!"
"One suffers less, the weaker one is. Besides, I know that we sha'n't
She suddenly appeared so placid that he on his side was filled with a
great peace. Seated on a sofa, their fingers still entwined, they
silently steeped themselves in the mighty calm which comes when we think
that events have run their course. This calm is resignation, submission
to superior forces. Natures such as theirs cease to rebel when destiny
has manifested its orders and when nothing remains but acquiescence and
She put her arm round Patrice's neck:
"I am your bride in the eyes of God," she said. "May He receive us as He
would receive a husband and wife."
Her gentle resignation brought tears to his eyes. She dried them with
her kisses, and, of her own seeking, offered him her lips.
They sat wrapped in an infinite silence. They perceived the first smell
of gas descending around them, but they felt no fear.
"Everything will happen as it did before, Coralie," whispered Patrice,
"down to the very last second. Your mother and my father, who loved
each other as we do, also died in each other's arms, with their lips
joined together. They had decided to unite us and they have united us."
"Our grave will be near theirs," she murmured.
Little by little their ideas became confused and they began to think
much as a man sees through a rising mist. They had had nothing to eat;
and hunger now added its discomfort to the vertigo in which their minds
were imperceptibly sinking. As it increased, their uneasiness and
anxiety left them, to be followed by a sense of ecstasy, then lassitude,
extinction, repose. The dread of the coming annihilation faded out of
Coralie, the first to be affected, began to utter delirious words which
astonished Patrice at first:
"Dearest, there are flowers falling, roses all around us. How
Presently he himself grew conscious of the same blissful exaltation,
expressing itself in tenderness and joyful emotion. With no sort of
dismay he felt her gradually yielding in his arms and abandoning
herself; and he had the impression that he was following her down a
measureless abyss, all bathed with light, where they floated, he and
she, descending slowly and without effort towards a happy valley.
Minutes or perhaps hours passed. They were still descending, he
supporting her by the waist, she with her head thrown back a little way,
her eyes closed and a smile upon her lips. He remembered pictures
showing gods thus gliding through the blue of heaven; and, drunk with
pure, radiant light and air, he continued to circle above the happy
But, as he approached it, he felt himself grow weary. Coralie weighed
heavily on his bent arm. The descent increased in speed. The waves of
light turned to darkness. A thick cloud came, followed by others that
formed a whirl of gloom.
And suddenly, worn out, his forehead bathed in sweat and his body
shaking with fever, he pitched forward into a great black pit. . . .
A STRANGE CHARACTER
It was not yet exactly death. In his present condition of agony, what
lingered of Patrice's consciousness mingled, as in a nightmare, the life
which he knew with the imaginary world in which he now found himself,
the world which was that of death.
In this world Coralie no longer existed; and her loss distracted him
with grief. But he seemed to hear and see somebody whose presence was
revealed by a shadow passing before his closed eyelids. This somebody he
pictured to himself, though without reason, under the aspect of Siméon,
who came to verify the death of his victims, began by carrying Coralie
away, then came back to Patrice and carried him away also and laid him
down somewhere. And all this was so well-defined that Patrice wondered
whether he had not woke up.
Next hours passed . . . or seconds. In the end Patrice had a feeling
that he was falling asleep, but as a man sleeps in hell, suffering the
moral and physical tortures of the damned. He was back at the bottom of
the black pit, which he was making desperate efforts to leave, like a
man who has fallen into the sea and is trying to reach the surface. In
this way, with the greatest difficulty, he passed through one waste of
water after another, the weight of which stifled him. He had to scale
them, gripping with his hands and feet to things that slipped, to
rope-ladders which, possessing no points of support, gave way beneath
Meanwhile the darkness became less intense. A little muffled daylight
mingled with it. Patrice felt less greatly oppressed. He half-opened his
eyes, drew a breath or two and, looking round, beheld a sight that
surprised him, the embrasure of an open door, near which he was lying in
the air, on a sofa. Beside him he saw Coralie, on another sofa. She
moved restlessly and seemed to be in great discomfort.
"She is climbing out of the black pit," he thought to himself. "Like me,
she is struggling. My poor Coralie!"
There was a small table between them, with two glasses of water on it.
Parched with thirst, he took one of them in his hand. But he dared not
At that moment some one came through the open door, which Patrice
perceived to be the door of the lodge; and he observed that it was not
old Siméon, as he had thought, but a stranger whom he had never seen
"I am not asleep," he said to himself. "I am sure that I am not asleep
and that this stranger is a friend."
And he tried to say it aloud, to make certainty doubly sure. But he had
not the strength.
The stranger, however, came up to him and, in a gentle voice, said:
"Don't tire yourself, captain. You're all right now. Allow me. Have some
The stranger handed him one of the two glasses; Patrice emptied it at a
draught, without any feeling of distrust, and was glad to see Coralie
"Yes, I'm all right now," he said. "Heavens, how good it is to be alive!
Coralie is really alive, isn't she?"
He did not hear the answer and dropped into a welcome sleep.
When he woke up, the crisis was over, though he still felt a buzzing in
his head and a difficulty in drawing a deep breath. He stood up,
however, and realized that all these sensations were not fanciful, that
he was really outside the door of the lodge and that Coralie had drunk
the glass of water and was peacefully sleeping.
"How good it is to be alive!" he repeated.
He now felt a need for action, but dared not go into the lodge,
notwithstanding the open door. He moved away from it, skirting the
cloisters containing the graves, and then, with no exact object, for he
did not yet grasp the reason of his own actions, did not understand what
had happened to him and was simply walking at random, he came back
towards the lodge, on the other front, the one overlooking the garden.
Suddenly he stopped. A few yards from the house, at the foot of a tree
standing beside the slanting path, a man lay back in a wicker
long-chair, with his face in the shade and his legs in the sun. He was
sleeping, with his head fallen forward and an open book upon his knees.
Then and not till then did Patrice clearly understand that he and
Coralie had escaped being killed, that they were both really alive and
that they owed their safety to this man whose sleep suggested a state of
absolute security and satisfied conscience.
Patrice studied the stranger's appearance. He was slim of figure, but
broad-shouldered, with a sallow complexion, a slight mustache on his
lips and hair beginning to turn gray at the temples. His age was
probably fifty at most. The cut of his clothes pointed to dandyism.
Patrice leant forward and read the title of the book: "The Memoirs of
Benjamin Franklin". He also read the initials inside a hat lying on the
grass: "L. P."
"It was he who saved me," said Patrice to himself, "I recognize him. He
carried us both out of the studio and looked after us. But how was the
miracle brought about? Who sent him?"
He tapped him on the shoulder. The man was on his feet at once, his face
lit up with a smile:
"Pardon me, captain, but my life is so much taken up that, when I have a
few minutes to myself, I use them for sleeping, wherever I may be . . .
like Napoleon, eh? Well, I don't object to the comparison. . . . But
enough about myself. How are you feeling now? And madame--'Little Mother
Coralie'--is she better? I saw no use in waking you, after I had opened
the doors and taken you outside. I had done what was necessary and felt
quite easy. You were both breathing. So I left the rest to the good pure
He broke off, at the sight of Patrice's disconcerted attitude; and his
smile made way for a merry laugh:
"Oh, I was forgetting: you don't know me! Of course, it's true, the
letter I sent you was intercepted. Let me introduce myself. Don Luis
Perenna, a member of an old Spanish family, genuine patent of
nobility, papers all in order. . . . But I can see that all this tells
you nothing," he went on, laughing still more gaily. "No doubt Ya-Bon
described me differently when he wrote my name on that street-wall, one
evening a fortnight ago. Aha, you're beginning to understand! . . . Yes,
I'm the man you sent for to help you. Shall I mention the name, just
bluntly? Well, here goes, captain! . . . Arsène Lupin, at your service."
[Footnote 3: "The Teeth of the Tiger." By Maurice Leblanc. Translated by
Alexander Teixeira de Mattos. "Luis Perenna" is one of several anagrams
of "Arsène Lupin."]
Patrice was stupefied. He had utterly forgotten Ya-Bon's proposal and
the unthinking permission which he had given him to call in the famous
adventurer. And here was Arsène Lupin standing in front of him, Arsène
Lupin, who, by a sheer effort of will that resembled an incredible
miracle, had dragged him and Coralie out of their hermetically-sealed
He held out his hand and said:
"Tut!" said Don Luis, playfully. "No thanks! Just a good hand-shake,
that's all. And I'm a man you can shake hands with, captain, believe me.
I may have a few peccadilloes on my conscience, but on the other hand I
have committed a certain number of good actions which should win me the
esteem of decent folk . . . beginning with my own. And so . . ."
He interrupted himself again, seemed to reflect and, taking Patrice by a
button of his jacket, said:
"Don't move. We are being watched."
"Some one on the quay, right at the end of the garden. The wall is not
high. There's a grating on the top of it. They're looking through the
bars and trying to see us."
"How do you know? You have your back turned to the quay; and then there
are the trees."
"I don't hear anything out of the way."
"Yes, the sound of an engine . . . the engine of a stopping car. Now
what would a car want to stop here for, on the quay, opposite a wall
with no house near it?"
"Then who do you think it is?"
"Why, old Siméon, of course!"
"Certainly. He's looking to see whether I've really saved the two of
"Then he's not mad?"
"Mad? No more mad than you or I!"
"And yet . . ."
"What you mean is that Siméon used to protect you; that his object was
to bring you two together; that he sent you the key of the garden-door;
and so on and so on."
"Do you know all that?"
"Well, of course! If not, how could I have rescued you?"
"But," said Patrice, anxiously, "suppose the scoundrel returns to the
attack. Ought we not to take some precautions? Let's go back to the
lodge: Coralie is all alone."
"There's no danger."
"Because I'm here."
Patrice was more astounded than ever:
"Then Siméon knows you?" he asked. "He knows that you are here?"
"Yes, thanks to a letter which I wrote you under cover to Ya-Bon and
which he intercepted. I told you that I was coming; and he hurried to
get to work. Only, as my habit is on these occasions, I hastened on my
arrival by a few hours, so that I caught him in the act."
"At that moment you did not know he was the enemy; you knew nothing?"
"Nothing at all."
"Was it this morning?"
"No, this afternoon, at a quarter to two."
Patrice took out his watch:
"And it's now four. So in two hours . . ."
"Not that. I've been here an hour."
"Did you find out from Ya-Bon?"
"Do you think I've no better use for my time? Ya-Bon simply told me that
you were not there, which was enough to astonish me."
"I looked to see where you were."
"I first searched your room and, doing so in my own thorough fashion,
ended by discovering that there was a crack at the back of your roll-top
desk and that this crack faced a hole in the wall of the next room. I
was able therefore to pull out the book in which you kept your diary and
acquaint myself with what was going on. This, moreover, was how Siméon
became aware of your least intentions. This was how he knew of your plan
to come here, on a pilgrimage, on the fourteenth of April. This was how,
last night, seeing you write, he preferred, before attacking you, to
know what you were writing. Knowing it and learning, from your own
words, that you were on your guard, he refrained. You see how simple it
all is. If M. Masseron had grown uneasy at your absence, he would have
been just as successful. Only he would have been successful to-morrow."
"That is to say, too late."
"Yes, too late. This really isn't his business, however, nor that of the
police. So I would rather that they didn't meddle with it. I asked your
wounded soldiers to keep silent about anything that may strike them as
queer. Therefore, if M. Masseron comes to-day, he will think that
everything is in order. Well, having satisfied my mind in this respect
and possessing the necessary information from your diary, I took Ya-Bon
with me and walked across the lane and into the garden."
"Was the door open?"
"No, but Siméon happened to be coming out at that moment. Bad luck for
him, wasn't it? I took advantage of it boldly. I put my hand on the
latch and we went in, without his daring to protest. He certainly knew
who I was."
"But you didn't know at that time that he was the enemy?"
"I didn't know? And what about your diary?"
"I had no notion . . ."
"But, captain, every page is an indictment of the man. There's not an
incident in which he did not take part, not a crime which he did not
"In that case you should have collared him."
"And if I had? What good would it have done me? Should I have compelled
him to speak? No, I shall hold him tightest by leaving him his liberty.
That will give him rope, you know. You see already he's prowling round
the house instead of clearing out. Besides, I had something better to
do: I had first to rescue you two . . . if there was still time. Ya-Bon
and I therefore rushed to the door of the lodge. It was open; but the
other, the door of the studio, was locked and bolted. I drew the bolts;
and to force the lock was, for me, child's play. Then the smell of gas
was enough to tell me what had happened, Siméon must have fitted an old
meter to some outside pipe, probably the one which supplied the lamps on
the lane, and he was suffocating you. All that remained for us to do was
to fetch the two of you out and give you the usual treatment: rubbing,
artificial respiration and so on. You were saved."
"I suppose he removed all his murderous appliances?" asked Patrice.
"No, he evidently contemplated coming back and putting everything to
rights, so that his share in the business could not be proved, so too
that people might believe in your suicide, a mysterious suicide, death
without apparent cause; in short, the same tragedy that happened with
your father and Little Mother Coralie's mother."
"Then you know? . . ."
"Why, haven't I eyes to read with? What about the inscription on the
wall, your father's revelations? I know as much as you do, captain . . .
and perhaps a bit more."
"Well, of course! Habit, you know, experience! Plenty of problems,
unintelligible to others, seem to me the simplest and clearest that can
be. Therefore . . ."
Don Luis hesitated whether to go on:
"No," he said, "it's better that I shouldn't speak. The mystery will be
dispelled gradually. Let us wait. For the moment . . ."
He again stopped, this time to listen:
"There, he must have seen you. And now that he knows what he wants to,
he's going away."
Patrice grew excited:
"He's going away! You really ought to have collared him. Shall we ever
find him again, the scoundrel? Shall we ever be able to take our
Don Luis smiled:
"There you go, calling him a scoundrel, the man who watched over you for
twenty years, who brought you and Little Mother Coralie together, who
was your benefactor!"
"Oh, I don't know! All this is so bewildering! I can't help hating him.
. . . The idea of his getting away maddens me. . . . I should like to
torture him and yet . . ."
He yielded to a feeling of despair and took his head between his two
hands. Don Luis comforted him:
"Have no fear," he said. "He was never nearer his downfall than at the
present moment. I hold him in my hand as I hold this leaf."
"The man who's driving him belongs to me."
"What's that? What do you mean?"
"I mean that I put one of my men on the driver's seat of a taxi, with
instructions to hang about at the bottom of the lane, and that Siméon
did not fail to take the taxi in question."
"That is to say, you suppose so," Patrice corrected him, feeling more
and more astounded.
"I recognized the sound of the engine at the bottom of the garden when I
"And are you sure of your man?"
"What's the use? Siméon can drive far out of Paris, stab the man in the
back . . . and then when shall we get to know?"
"Do you imagine that people can get out of Paris and go running about
the high-roads without a special permit? No, if Siméon leaves Paris he
will have to drive to some railway station or other and we shall know of
it twenty minutes after. And then we'll be off."
"Then you have a pass?"
"Yes, valid for the whole of France."
"You don't mean it!"
"I do; and a genuine pass at that! Made out in the name of Don Luis
Perenna, signed by the minister of the interior and countersigned . . ."
"By the President of the Republic."
Patrice felt his bewilderment change all at once into violent
excitement. Hitherto, in the terrible adventure in which he was engaged,
he had undergone the enemy's implacable will and had known little
besides defeat and the horrors of ever-threatening death. But now a more
powerful will suddenly arose in his favor. And everything was abruptly
altered. Fate seemed to be changing its course, like a ship which an
unexpected fair wind brings back into harbor.
"Upon my word, captain," said Don Luis, "I thought you were going to cry
like Little Mother Coralie. Your nerves are overstrung. And I daresay
you're hungry. We must find you something to eat. Come along."
He led him slowly towards the lodge and, speaking in a rather serious
"I must ask you," he said, "to be absolutely discreet in this whole
matter. With the exception of a few old friends and of Ya-Bon, whom I
met in Africa, where he saved my life, no one in France knows me by my
real name. I call myself Don Luis Perenna. In Morocco, where I was
soldiering, I had occasion to do a service to the very gracious
sovereign of a neighboring neutral nation, who, though obliged to
conceal his true feelings, is ardently on our side. He sent for me; and,
in return, I asked him to give me my credentials and to obtain a pass
for me. Officially, therefore, I am on a secret mission, which expires
in two days. In two days I shall go back . . . to whence I came, to a
place where, during the war, I am serving France in my fashion: not a
bad one, believe me, as people will see one day."
They came to the settee on which Coralie lay sleeping. Don Luis laid his
hand on Patrice's arm:
"One word more, captain. I swore to myself and I gave my word of honor
to him who trusted me that, while I was on this mission, my time should
be devoted exclusively to defending the interests of my country to the
best of my power. I must warn you, therefore, that, notwithstanding all
my sympathy for you, I shall not be able to prolong my stay for a single
minute after I have discovered the eighteen hundred bags of gold. They
were the one and only reason why I came in answer to Ya-Bon's appeal.
When the bags of gold are in our possession, that is to say, to-morrow
evening at latest, I shall go away. However, the two quests are joined.
The clearing up of the one will mean the end of the other. And now
enough of words. Introduce me to Little Mother Coralie and let's get to
work! Make no mystery with her, captain," he added, laughing. "Tell her
my real name. I have nothing to fear: Arsène Lupin has every woman on
* * * * *
Forty minutes later Coralie was back in her room, well cared for and
well watched. Patrice had taken a substantial meal, while Don Luis
walked up and down the terrace smoking cigarettes.
"Finished, captain? Then we'll make a start."
He looked at his watch:
"Half-past five. We have more than an hour of daylight left. That'll be
"Enough? You surely don't pretend that you will achieve your aim in an
"My definite aim, no, but the aim which I am setting myself at the
moment, yes . . . and even earlier. An hour? What for? To do what? Why,
you'll be a good deal wiser in a few minutes!"
Don Luis asked to be taken to the cellar under the library; where
Essarès Bey used to keep the bags of gold until the time had come to
send them off.
"Was it through this ventilator that the bags were let down?"
"Is there no other outlet?"
"None except the staircase leading to the library and the other
"Opening on the terrace?"
"Then that's clear. The bags used to come in by the first and go out by
"But . . ."
"There's no but about it, captain: how else would you have it happen?
You see, the mistake people always make is to go looking for
difficulties where there are none."
They returned to the terrace. Don Luis took up his position near the
ventilator and inspected the ground immediately around. It did not take
long. Four yards away, outside the windows of the library, was the basin
with the statue of a child spouting a jet of water through a shell.
Don Luis went up, examined the basin and, leaning forwards, reached the
little statue, which he turned upon its axis from right to left. At the
same time the pedestal described a quarter of a circle.
"That's it," he said, drawing himself up again.
"The basin will empty itself."
He was right. The water sank very quickly and the bottom of the fountain
Don Luis stepped into it and squatted on his haunches. The inner wall
was lined with a marble mosaic composing a wide red-and-white fretwork
pattern. In the middle of one of the frets was a ring, which Don Luis
lifted and pulled. All that portion of the wall which formed the pattern
yielded to his effort and came down, leaving an opening of about twelve
inches by ten.
"That's where the bags of gold went," said Don Luis. "It was the second
stage. They were despatched in the same manner, on a hook sliding along
a wire. Look, here is the wire, in this groove at the top."
"By Jove!" cried Captain Belval. "But you've unraveled this in a
masterly fashion! What about the wire? Can't we follow it?"
"No, but it will serve our purpose if we know where it finishes. I say,
captain, go to the end of the garden, by the wall, taking a line at
right angles to the house. When you get there, cut off a branch of a
tree, rather high up. Oh, I was forgetting! I shall have to go out by
the lane. Have you the key of the door? Give it me, please."
Patrice handed him the key and then went down to the wall beside the
"A little farther to the right," Don Luis instructed him. "A little more
still. That's better. Now wait."
He left the garden by the lane, reached the quay and called out from the
other side of the wall:
"Are you there, captain?"
"Fix your branch so that I can see it from here. Capital."
Patrice now joined Don Luis, who was crossing the road. All the way down
the Seine are wharves, built on the bank of the river and used for
loading and unloading vessels. Barges put in alongside, discharge their
cargoes, take in fresh ones and often lie moored one next to the other.
At the spot where Don Luis and Patrice descended by a flight of steps
there was a series of yards, one of which, the one which they reached
first, appeared to be abandoned, no doubt since the war. It contained,
amid a quantity of useless materials, several heaps of bricks and
building-stones, a hut with broken windows and the lower part of a
steam-crane. A placard swinging from a post bore the inscription:
WHARFINGER & BUILDER.
Don Luis walked along the foot of the embankment, ten or twelve feet
high, above which the quay was suspended like a terrace. Half of it was
occupied by a heap of sand; and they saw in the wall the bars of an iron
grating, the lower half of which was hidden by the sand-heap shored up
Don Luis cleared the grating and said, jestingly:
"Have you noticed that the doors are never locked in this adventure?
Let's hope that it's the same with this one."
His theory was confirmed, somewhat to his own surprise, and they entered
one of those recesses where workmen put away their tools.
"So far, nothing out of the common," said Don Luis, switching on an
electric torch. "Buckets, pick-axes, wheelbarrows, a ladder. . . . Ah!
Ah! Just as I expected: rails, a complete set of light rails! . . . Lend
me a hand, captain. Let's clear out the back. Good, that's done it."
Level with the ground and opposite the grating was a rectangular
opening exactly similar to the one in the basin. The wire was visible
above, with a number of hooks hanging from it.
"So this is where the bags arrived," Don Luis explained. "They dropped,
so to speak, into one of the two little trollies which you see over
there, in the corner. The rails were laid across the bank, of course at
night; and the trollies were pushed to a barge into which they tipped
"So that . . . ?"
"So that the French gold went this way . . . anywhere you like . . .
"And you think that the last eighteen hundred bags have also been
"I fear so."
"Then we are too late?"
Don Luis reflected for a while without answering. Patrice, though
disappointed by a development which he had not foreseen, remained amazed
at the extraordinary skill with which his companion, in so short a time,
had succeeded in unraveling a portion of the tangled skein.
"It's an absolute miracle," he said, at last. "How on earth did you do
Without a word, Don Luis took from his pocket the book which Patrice had
seen lying on his knees, "The Memoirs of Benjamin Franklin", and
motioned to him to read some lines which he indicated with his finger.
They were written towards the end of the reign of Louis XVI and ran:
"We go daily to the village of Passy adjoining my
home, where you take the waters in a beautiful garden.
Streams and waterfalls pour down on all sides, this
way and that, in artfully leveled beds. I am known to
like skilful mechanism, so I have been shown the basin
where the waters of all the rivulets meet and mingle.
There stands a little marble figure in the midst; and
the weight of water is strong enough to turn it a
quarter circle to the left and then pour down straight
to the Seine by a conduit, which opens in the ground
of the basin."
Patrice closed the book; and Don Luis went on to explain:
"Things have changed since, no doubt, thanks to the energies of Essarès
Bey. The water escapes some other way now; and the aqueduct was used to
drain off the gold. Besides, the bed of the river has narrowed. Quays
have been built, with a system of canals underneath them. You see,
captain, all this was easy enough to discover, once I had the book to
tell me. "Doctus cum libro.""
"Yes, but, even so, you had to read the book."
"A pure accident. I unearthed it in Siméon's room and put it in my
pocket, because I was curious to know why he was reading it."
"Why, that's just how he must have discovered Essarès Bey's secret!"
cried Patrice. "He didn't know the secret. He found the book among his
employer's papers and got up his facts that way. What do you think?
Don't you agree? You seem not to share my opinion. Have you some other
Don Luis did not reply. He stood looking at the river. Beside the
wharves, at a slight distance from the yard, a barge lay moored, with
apparently no one on her. But a slender thread of smoke now began to
rise from a pipe that stood out above the deck.
"Let's go and have a look at her," he said.
The barge was lettered:
LA NONCHALANTE. BEAUNE
They had to cross the space between the barge and the wharf and to step
over a number of ropes and empty barrels covering the flat portions of
the deck. A companion-way brought them to a sort of cabin, which did
duty as a stateroom and a kitchen in one. Here they found a
powerful-looking man, with broad shoulders, curly black hair and a
clean-shaven face. His only clothes were a blouse and a pair of dirty,
patched canvas trousers.
Don Luis offered him a twenty-franc note. The man took it eagerly.
"Just tell me something, mate. Have you seen a barge lately, lying at
"Yes, a motor-barge. She left two days ago."
"What was her name?"
"The "Belle Hélène". The people on board, two men and a woman, were
foreigners talking I don't know what lingo. . . . We didn't speak to one
"But Berthou's Wharf has stopped work, hasn't it?"
"Yes, the owner's joined the army . . . and the foremen as well. We've
all got to, haven't we? I'm expecting to be called up myself . . .
though I've got a weak heart."
"But, if the yard's stopped work, what was the boat doing here?"
"I don't know. They worked the whole of one night, however. They had
laid rails along the quay. I heard the trollies; and they were loading
up. What with I don't know. And then, early in the morning, they
"Where did they go?"
"Down stream, Mantes way."
"Thanks, mate. That's what I wanted to know."
Ten minutes later, when they reached the house, Patrice and Don Luis
found the driver of the cab which Siméon Diodokis had taken after
meeting Don Luis. As Don Luis expected, Siméon had told the man to go to
a railway-station, the Gare Saint-Lazare, and there bought his ticket.
THE BELLE HÉLÈNE
"There's no mistake about it," said Patrice. "The information conveyed
to M. Masseron that the gold had been sent away; the speed with which
the work was carried out, at night, mechanically, by the people
belonging to the boat; their alien nationality; the direction which they
took: it all agrees. The probability is that, between the cellar into
which the gold was shot and the place where it finished its journey,
there was some spot where it used to remain concealed . . . unless the
eighteen hundred bags can have awaited their despatch, slung one behind
the other, along the wire. But that doesn't matter much. The great thing
is to know that the "Belle Hélène", hiding somewhere in the outskirts,
lay waiting for the favorable opportunity. In the old days Essarès Bey,
by way of precaution, used to send her a signal with the aid of that
shower of sparks which I saw. This time old Siméon, who is continuing
Essarès' work, no doubt on his own account, gave the crew notice; and
the bags of gold are on their way to Rouen and Le Hâvre, where some
steamer will take them over and carry them . . . eastwards. After all,
forty or fifty tons, hidden in the hold under a layer of coal, is
nothing. What do you say? That's it, isn't it? I feel positive about it.
. . . Then we have Mantes, to which he took his ticket and for which
the "Belle Hélène" is bound. Could anything be clearer? Mantes, where
he'll pick up his cargo of gold and go on board in some seafaring
disguise, unknown and unseen. . . . Loot and looter disappearing
together. It's as clear as daylight. Don't you agree?"
Once again Don Luis did not answer. However, he must have acquiesced in
Patrice's theories, for, after a minute, he declared:
"Very well. I'll go to Mantes." And, turning to the chauffeur, "Hurry
off to the garage," he said, "and come back in the six-cylinder. I want
to be at Mantes in less than an hour. You, captain . . ."
"I shall come with you."
"And who will look after . . . ?"
"Coralie? She's in no danger! Who can attack her now? Siméon has failed
in his attempt and is thinking only of saving his own skin . . . and his
bags of gold."
"You insist, do you?"
"I don't know that you're wise. However, that's your affair. Let's go.
By the way, though, one precaution." He raised his voice. "Ya-Bon!"
The Senegalese came hastening up. While Ya-Bon felt for Patrice all the
affection of a faithful dog, he seemed to profess towards Don Luis
something more nearly approaching religious devotion. The adventurer's
slightest action roused him to ecstasy. He never stopped laughing in the
great chief's presence.
"Ya-Bon, are you all right now? Is your wound healed? You don't feel
tired? Good. In that case, come with me."
He led him to the quay, a short distance away from Berthou's Wharf:
"At nine o'clock this evening," he said, "you're to be on guard here, on
this bench. Bring your food and drink with you; and keep a particular
look-out for anything that happens over there, down stream. Perhaps
nothing will happen at all; but never mind: you're not to move until I
come back . . . unless . . . unless something does happen, in which case
you will act accordingly."
He paused and then continued:
"Above all, Ya-Bon, beware of Siméon. It was he who gave you that wound.
If you catch sight of him, leap at his throat and bring him here. But
mind you don't kill him! No nonsense now. I don't want you to hand me
over a corpse, but a live man. Do you understand, Ya-Bon?"
Patrice began to feel uneasy:
"Do you fear anything from that side?" he asked. "Look here, it's out of
the question, as Siméon has gone . . ."
"Captain," said Don Luis, "when a good general goes in pursuit of the
enemy, that does not prevent him from consolidating his hold on the
conquered ground and leaving garrisons in the fortresses. Berthou's
Wharf is evidently one of our adversary's rallying-points. I'm keeping
it under observation."
Don Luis also took serious precautions with regard to Coralie. She was
very much overstrained and needed rest and attention. They put her into
the car and, after making a dash at full speed towards the center of
Paris, so as to throw any spies off the scent, took her to the home on
the Boulevard Maillot, where Patrice handed her over to the matron and
recommended her to the doctor's care. The staff received strict orders
to admit no strangers to see her. She was to answer no letter, unless
the letter was signed "Captain Patrice."
At nine o'clock, the car sped down the Saint-Germain and Mantes road.
Sitting inside with Don Luis, Patrice felt all the enthusiasm of victory
and indulged freely in theories, every one of which possessed for him
the value of an unimpeachable certainty. A few doubts lingered in his
mind, however, points which remained obscure and on which he would have
been glad to have Don Luis' opinion.
"There are two things," he said, "which I simply cannot understand. In
the first place, who was the man murdered by Essarès, at nineteen
minutes past seven in the morning, on the fourth of April? I heard his
dying cries. Who was killed? And what became of the body?"
Don Luis was silent; and Patrice went on:
"The second point is stranger still. I mean Siméon's behavior. Here's a
man who devotes his whole life to a single object, that of revenging his
friend Belval's murder and at the same time ensuring my happiness and
Coralie's. This is his one aim in life; and nothing can make him swerve
from his obsession. And then, on the day when his enemy, Essarès Bey, is
put out of the way, suddenly he turns round completely and persecutes
Coralie and me, going to the length of using against us the horrible
contrivance which Essarès Bey had employed so successfully against our
parents! You really must admit that it's an amazing change! Can it be
the thought of the gold that has hypnotized him? Are his crimes to be
explained by the huge treasure placed at his disposal on the day when
he discovered the secret? Has a decent man transformed himself into a
bandit to satisfy a sudden instinct? What do you think?"
Don Luis persisted in his silence. Patrice, who expected to see every
riddle solved by the famous adventurer in a twinkling, felt peevish and
surprised. He made a last attempt:
"And the golden triangle? Another mystery! For, after all, there's not a
trace of a triangle in anything we've seen! Where is this golden
triangle? Have you any idea what it means?"
Don Luis allowed a moment to pass and then said:
"Captain, I have the most thorough liking for you and I take the
liveliest interest in all that concerns you, but I confess that there is
one problem which excludes all others and one object towards which all
my efforts are now directed. That is the pursuit of the gold of which we
have been robbed; and I don't want this gold to escape us. I have
succeeded on your side, but not yet on the other. You are both of you
safe and sound, but I haven't the eighteen hundred bags; and I want
them, I want them."
"You'll have them, since we know where they are."
"I shall have them," said Don Luis, "when they lie spread before my
eyes. Until then, I can tell you nothing."
At Mantes the enquiries did not take long. They almost immediately had
the satisfaction of learning that a traveler, whose description
corresponded with old Siméon's, had gone to the Hôtel des
Trois-Empereurs and was now asleep in a room on the third floor.
Don Luis took a ground-floor room, while Patrice, who would have
attracted the enemy's attention more easily, because of his lame leg,
went to the Grand Hôtel.
He woke late the next morning. Don Luis rang him up and told him that
Siméon, after calling at the post-office, had gone down to the river and
then to the station, where he met a fashionably-dressed woman, with her
face hidden by a thick veil, and brought her back to the hotel. The two
were lunching together in the room on the third floor.
At four o'clock Don Luis rang up again, to ask Patrice to join him at
once in a little café at the end of the town, facing the Seine. Here
Patrice saw Siméon on the quay. He was walking with his hands behind his
back, like a man strolling without any definite object.
"Comforter, spectacles, the same get-up as usual," said Patrice. "Not a
thing about him changed. Watch him. He's putting on an air of
indifference, but you can bet that his eyes are looking up stream, in
the direction from which the "Belle Hélène" is coming."
"Yes, yes," said Don Luis. "Here's the lady."
"Oh, that's the one, is it?" said Patrice. "I've met her two or three
times already in the street."
A dust-cloak outlined her figure and shoulders, which were wide and
rather well-developed. A veil fell around the brim of her felt hat. She
gave Siméon a telegram to read. Then they talked for a moment, seemed to
be taking their bearings, passed by the café and stopped a little lower
down. Here Siméon wrote a few words on a sheet of note-paper and handed
it to his companion. She left him and went back into the town. Siméon
resumed his walk by the riverside.
"You must stay here, captain," said Don Luis.
"But the enemy doesn't seem to be on his guard," protested Patrice.
"He's not turning round."
"It's better to be prudent, captain. What a pity that we can't have a
look at what Siméon wrote down!"
"I might . . ."
"Go after the lady? No, no, captain. Without wishing to offend you,
you're not quite cut out for it. I'm not sure that even I . . ."
And he walked away.
Patrice waited. A few boats moved up or down the river. Mechanically, he
glanced at their names. And suddenly, half an hour after Don Luis had
left him, he heard the clearly-marked rhythm, the pulsation of one of
those powerful motors which, for a few years past, have been fitted to
At the bend of the river a barge appeared. As she passed in front of
him, he distinctly and with no little excitement read the name of the
She was gliding along at a fair pace, to the accompaniment of a regular,
throbbing beat. She was big and broad in the beam, heavy and pretty deep
in the water, though she appeared to carry no cargo. Patrice saw two
watermen on board, sitting and smoking carelessly. A dinghy floated
behind at the end of a painter.
The barge went on and passed out of sight at the turn. Patrice waited
another hour before Don Luis came back.
"Well?" he asked. "Have you seen her?"
"Yes, they let go the dinghy, a mile and a half from here, and put in
"Then he's gone with them?"
"Without suspecting anything?"
"You're asking me too much, captain!"
"Never mind! We've won! We shall catch them up in the car, pass them
and, at Vernon or somewhere, inform the military and civil authorities,
so that they may proceed to arrest the men and seize the boat."
"We shall inform nobody, captain. We shall proceed to carry out these
little operations ourselves."
"What do you mean? Surely . . ."
The two looked at each other. Patrice had been unable to dissemble the
thought that occurred to his mind. Don Luis showed no resentment:
"You're afraid that I shall run away with the three hundred millions? By
jingo, it's a largish parcel to hide in one's jacket-pocket!"
"Still," said Patrice, "may I ask what you intend to do?"
"You may, captain, but allow me to postpone my reply until we've really
won. For the moment, we must first find the barge again."
They went to the Hôtel des Trois-Empereurs and drove off in the car
towards Vernon. This time they were both silent.
The road joined the river a few miles lower down, at the bottom of the
steep hill which begins at Rosny. Just as they reached Rosny the "Belle
Hélène" was entering the long loop which curves out to La Roche-Guyon,
turns back and joins the high-road again at Bonnières. She would need at
least three hours to cover the distance, whereas the car, climbing the
hill and keeping straight ahead, arrived at Bonnières in fifteen
They drove through the village. There was an inn a little way beyond it,
on the right. Don Luis made his chauffeur stop here:
"If we are not back by twelve to-night," he said, "go home to Paris.
Will you come with me, captain?"
Patrice followed him towards the right, whence a small road led them to
the river-bank. They followed this for a quarter of an hour. At last Don
Luis found what he appeared to be seeking, a boat fastened to a stake,
not far from a villa with closed shutters. Don Luis unhooked the chain.
It was about seven o'clock in the evening. Night was falling fast, but a
brilliant moonlight lit the landscape.
"First of all," said Don Luis, "a word of explanation. We're going to
wait for the barge. She'll come in sight on the stroke of ten and find
us lying across stream. I shall order her to heave to; and there's no
doubt that, when they see your uniform by the light of the moon or of my
electric lamp, they will obey. Then we shall go on board."
"Suppose they refuse?"
"If they refuse, we shall board her by force. There are three of them
and two of us. So . . ."
"And then? Well, there's every reason to believe that the two men
forming the crew are only extra hands, employed by Siméon, but ignorant
of his actions and knowing nothing of the nature of the cargo. Once we
have reduced Siméon to helplessness and paid them handsomely, they'll
take the barge wherever I tell them. But, mind you--and this is what I
was coming to--I mean to do with the barge exactly as I please. I shall
hand over the cargo as and when I think fit. It's my booty, my prize. No
one is entitled to it but myself."
The officer drew himself up:
"Oh, I can't agree to that, you know!"
"Very well, then give me your word of honor that you'll keep a secret
which doesn't belong to you. After which, we'll say good-night and go
our own ways. I'll do the boarding alone and you can go back to your own
business. Observe, however, that I am not insisting on an immediate
reply. You have plenty of time to reflect and to take the decision which
your interest, honor and conscience may dictate to you. For my part,
excuse me, but you know my weakness: when circumstances give me a little
spare time, I take advantage of it to go to sleep. "Carpe somnum", as
the poet says. Good-night, captain."
And, without another word, Don Luis wrapped himself in his great-coat,
sprang into the boat and lay down.
Patrice had had to make a violent effort to restrain his anger. Don
Luis' calm, ironic tone and well-bred, bantering voice got on his nerves
all the more because he felt the influence of that strange man and fully
recognized that he was incapable of acting without his assistance.
Besides, he could not forget that Don Luis had saved his life and
The hours slipped by. The adventurer slumbered peacefully in the cool
night air. Patrice hesitated what to do, seeking for some plan of
conduct which would enable him to get at Siméon and rid himself of that
implacable adversary and at the same time to prevent Don Luis from
laying hands on the enormous treasure. He was dismayed at the thought of
being his accomplice. And yet, when the first throbs of the motor were
heard in the distance and when Don Luis awoke, Patrice was by his side,
ready for action.
They did not exchange a word. A village-clock struck ten. The "Belle
Hélène" was coming towards them.
Patrice felt his excitement increase. The "Belle Hélène" meant Siméon's
capture, the recovery of the millions, Coralie out of danger, the end of
that most hideous nightmare and the total extinction of Essarès'
handiwork. The engine was throbbing nearer and nearer. Its loud and
regular beat sounded wide over the motionless Seine. Don Luis had taken
the sculls and was pulling hard for the middle of the river. And
suddenly they saw in the distance a black mass looming up in the white
moonlight. Twelve or fifteen more minutes passed and the "Belle Hélène"
was before them.
"Shall I lend you a hand?" whispered Patrice. "It looks as if you had
the current against you and as if you had a difficulty in getting
"Not the least difficulty," said Don Luis; and he began to hum a tune.
"But . . ."
Patrice was stupefied. The boat had turned in its own length and was
making for the bank.
"But, I say, I say," he said, "what's this? Are you going back? Are you
giving up? . . . I don't understand. . . . You're surely not afraid
because they're three to our two?"
Don Luis leapt on shore at a bound and stretched out his hand to him.
Patrice pushed it aside, growling:
"Will you explain what it all means?"
"Take too long," replied Don Luis. "Just one question, though. You know
that book I found in old Siméon's room, "The Memoirs of Benjamin
Franklin": did you see it when you were making your search?"
"Look here, it seems to me we have other things to . . ."
"It's an urgent question, captain."
"Well, no, it wasn't there."
"Then that's it," said Don Luis. "We've been done brown, or rather, to
be accurate, I have. Let's be off, captain, as fast as we can."
Patrice was still in the boat. He pushed off abruptly and caught up the
"As I live, I believe the beggar's getting at me!"
He was ten yards from shore when he cried:
"If you're afraid, I'll go alone. Don't want any help."
"Right you are, captain!" replied Don Luis. "I'll expect you presently
at the inn."
* * * * *
Patrice encountered no difficulties in his undertaking. At the first
order, which he shouted in a tone of command, the "Belle Hélène"
stopped; and he was able to board her peacefully. The two bargees were
men of a certain age, natives of the Basque coast. He introduced himself
as a representative of the military authorities; and they showed him
over their craft. He found neither old Siméon nor the very smallest bag
of gold. The hold was almost empty.
The questions and answers did not take long:
"Where are you going?"
"To Rouen. We've been requisitioned by the government for transport of
"But you picked up somebody on the way."
"Yes, at Mantes."
"His name, please?"
"Where's he got to?"
"He made us put him down a little after, to take the train."
"What did he want?"
"To pay us."
"For a shipload we took at Paris two days ago."
"Don't know. We were well paid and asked no questions."
"And what's become of the load?"
"We transhipped it last night to a small steamer that came alongside of
us below Passy."
"What's the steamer's name?"
"The "Chamois". Crew of six."
"Where is she now?"
"Ahead of us. She was going fast. She must be at Rouen by this time.
Siméon Diodokis is on his way to join her."
"How long have you known Siméon Diodokis?"
"It's the first time we saw him. But we knew that he was in M. Essarès'
"Oh, so you've worked for M. Essarès?"
"Yes, often. . . . Same job and same trip."
"He called you by means of a signal, didn't he?"
"Yes, he used to light an old factory-chimney."
"Was it always bags?"
"Yes. We didn't know what was inside. He was a good payer."
Patrice asked no more questions. He hurriedly got into his boat, pulled
back to shore and found Don Luis seated with a comfortable supper in
front of him.
"Quick!" he said. "The cargo is on board a steamer, the "Chamois". We
can catch her up between Rouen and Le Hâvre."
Don Luis rose and handed the officer a white-paper packet:
"Here's a few sandwiches for you, captain," he said. "We've an arduous
night before us. I'm very sorry that you didn't get a sleep, as I did.
Let's be off, and this time I shall drive. We'll knock some pace out of
her! Come and sit beside me, captain."
They both stepped into the car; the chauffeur took his seat behind them.
But they had hardly started when Patrice exclaimed:
"Hi! What are you up to? Not this way! We're going back to Mantes or
"That's what I mean to do," said Luis, with a chuckle.
"Eh, what? Paris?"
"Well, of course!"
"Oh, look here, this is a bit too thick! Didn't I tell you that the two
bargees . . . ?"
"Those bargees of yours are humbugs."
"They declared that the cargo . . ."
"Cargo? No go!"
"But the "Chamois" . . ."
""Chamois"? Sham was! I tell you once more, we're done, captain, done
brown! Old Siméon is a wonderful old hand! He's a match worth meeting.
He gives you a run for your money. He laid a trap in which I've been
fairly caught. It's a magnificent joke, but there's moderation in all
things. We've been fooled enough to last us the rest of our lives. Let's
be serious now."
"But . . ."
"Aren't you satisfied yet, captain? After the "Belle Hélène" do you want
to attack the "Chamois"? As you please. You can get out at Mantes: Only,
I warn you, Siméon is in Paris, with three or four hours' start of us."
Patrice gave a shudder. Siméon in Paris! In Paris, where Coralie was
alone and unprotected! He made no further protest; and Don Luis ran on:
"Oh, the rascal! How well he played his hand! "The Memoirs of Benjamin
Franklin" were a master stroke. Knowing of my arrival, he said to
himself, 'Arsène Lupin is a dangerous fellow, capable of disentangling
the affair and putting both me and the bags of gold in his pocket. To
get rid of him, there's only one thing to be done: I must act in such a
way as to make him rush along the real track at so fast a rate of speed
that he does not perceive the moment when the real track becomes a false
track.' That was clever of him, wasn't it? And so we have the Franklin
book, held out as a bait; the page opening of itself, at the right
place; my inevitable easy discovery of the conduit system; the clue of
Ariadne most obligingly offered. I follow up the clue like a trusting
child, led by Siméon's own hand, from the cellar down to Berthou's
Wharf. So far all's well. But, from that moment, take care! There's
nobody at Berthou's Wharf. On the other hand, there's a barge alongside,
which means a chance of making enquiries, which means the certainty that
I shall make enquiries. And I make enquiries. And, having made
enquiries, I am done for."
"But then that man . . . ?"
"Yes, yes, yes, an accomplice of Siméon's, whom Siméon, knowing that he
would be followed to the Gare Saint-Lazare, instructs in this way to
direct me to Mantes for the second time. At Mantes the comedy continues.
The "Belle Hélène" passes, with her double freight, Siméon and the bags
of gold. We go running after the "Belle Hélène". Of course, on the
"Belle Hélène" there's nothing: no Siméon, no bags of gold. 'Run after
the "Chamois". We've transhipped it all on the "Chamois".' We run after
the "Chamois", to Rouen, to Le Hâvre, to the end of the world; and of
course our pursuit is fruitless, for the "Chamois" does not exist. But
we are convinced that she does exist and that she has escaped our
search. And by this time the trick is played. The millions are gone,
Siméon has disappeared and there is only one thing left for us to do,
which is to resign ourselves and abandon our quest. You understand,
we're to abandon our quest: that's the fellow's object. And he would
have succeeded if . . ."
The car was traveling at full speed. From time to time Don Luis would
stop her dead with extraordinary skill. Post of territorials. Pass to be
produced. Then a leap onward and once more the breakneck pace.
"If what?" asked Patrice, half-convinced. "Which was the clue that put
you on the track?"
"The presence of that woman at Mantes. It was a vague clue at first. But
suddenly I remembered that, in the first barge, the "Nonchalante", the
person who gave us information--do you recollect?--well, that this
person somehow gave me the queer impression, I can't tell you why, that
I might be talking to a woman in disguise. The impression occurred to me
once more. I made a mental comparison with the woman at Mantes. . . .
And then . . . and then it was like a flash of light. . . ."
Don Luis paused to think and, in a lower voice, continued:
"But who the devil can this woman be?"
There was a brief silence, after which Patrice said, from instinct
rather than reason:
"Grégoire, I suppose."
"Eh? What's that? Grégoire?"
"Yes. Yes, Grégoire is a woman."
"What are you talking about?"
"Well, obviously. Don't you remember? The accomplice told me so, on the
day when I had them arrested outside the café."
"Why, your diary doesn't say a word about it!"
"Oh, that's true! . . . I forgot to put down that detail."
"A detail! He calls it a detail! Why, it's of the greatest importance,
captain! If I had known, I should have guessed that that bargee was no
other than Grégoire and we should not have wasted a whole night. Hang it
all, captain, you really are the limit!"
But all this was unable to affect his good-humor. While Patrice,
overcome with presentiments, grew gloomier and gloomier, Don Luis began
to sing victory in his turn:
"Thank goodness! The battle is becoming serious! Really, it was too easy
before; and that was why I was sulking, I, Lupin! Do you imagine things
go like that in real life? Does everything fit in so accurately?
Benjamin Franklin, the uninterrupted conduit for the gold, the series of
clues that reveal themselves of their own accord, the man and the bags
meeting at Mantes, the "Belle Hélène": no, it all worried me. The cat
was being choked with cream! And then the gold escaping in a barge! All
very well in times of peace, but not in war-time, in the face of the
regulations: passes, patrol-boats, inspections and I don't know what.
. . . How could a fellow like Siméon risk a trip of that kind? No, I had
my suspicions; and that was why, captain, I made Ya-Bon mount guard, on
the off chance, outside Berthou's Wharf. It was just an idea that
occurred to me. The whole of this adventure seemed to center round the
wharf. Well, was I right or not? Is M. Lupin no longer able to follow a
scent? Captain, I repeat, I shall go back to-morrow evening. Besides, as
I told you, I've got to. Whether I win or lose, I'm going. But we shall
win. Everything will be cleared up. There will be no more mysteries, not
even the mystery of the golden triangle. . . . Oh, I don't say that I
shall bring you a beautiful triangle of eighteen-carat gold! We mustn't
allow ourselves to be fascinated by words. It may be a geometrical
arrangement of the bags of gold, a triangular pile . . . or else a hole
in the ground dug in that shape. No matter, we shall have it! And the
bags of gold shall be ours! And Patrice and Coralie shall appear before
monsieur le maire and receive my blessing and live happily ever after!"
They reached the gates of Paris. Patrice was becoming more and more
"Then you think the danger's over?"
"Oh, I don't say that! The play isn't finished. After the great scene of
the third act, which we will call the scene of the oxide of carbon,
there will certainly be a fourth act and perhaps a fifth. The enemy has
not laid down his arms, by any means."
They were skirting the quays.
"Let's get down," said Don Luis.
He gave a faint whistle and repeated it three times.
"No answer," he said. "Ya-Bon's not there. The battle has begun."
"But Coralie . . ."
"What are you afraid of for her? Siméon doesn't know her address."
There was nobody on Berthou's Wharf and nobody on the quay below. But by
the light of the moon they saw the other barge, the "Nonchalante".
"Let's go on board," said Don Luis. "I wonder if the lady known as
Grégoire makes a practise of living here? Has she come back, believing
us on our way to Le Hâvre? I hope so. In any case, Ya-Bon must have been
there and no doubt left something behind to act as a signal. Will you
"Right you are. It's a queer thing, though: I feel frightened!"
"What of?" asked Don Luis, who was plucky enough himself to understand
"Of what we shall see."
"My dear sir, there may be nothing there!"
Each of them switched on his pocket-lamp and felt the handle of his
revolver. They crossed the plank between the shore and the boat. A few
steps downwards brought them to the cabin. The door was locked.
"Hi, mate! Open this, will you?"
There was no reply. They now set about breaking it down, which was no
easy matter, for it was massive and quite unlike an ordinary cabin-door.
At last it gave way.
"By Jingo!" said Don Luis, who was the first to go in. "I didn't expect
"Look. The woman whom they called Grégoire. She seems to be dead."
She was lying back on a little iron bedstead, with her man's blouse open
at the top and her chest uncovered. Her face still bore an expression of
extreme terror. The disordered appearance of the cabin suggested that a
furious struggle had taken place.
"I was right. Here, by her side, are the clothes she wore at Mantes. But
what's the matter, captain?"
Patrice had stifled a cry:
"There . . . opposite . . . under the window . . ."
It was a little window overlooking the river. The panes were broken.
"Well?" asked Don Luis. "What? Yes, I believe some one's been thrown out
"The veil . . . that blue veil," stammered Patrice, "is her nurse's veil
. . . Coralie's. . . ."
Don Luis grew vexed:
"Nonsense! Impossible! Nobody knew her address."
"Still . . ."
"Still what? You haven't written to her? You haven't telegraphed to
"Yes . . . I telegraphed to her . . . from Mantes."
"What's that? Oh, but look here. This is madness! You don't mean that
you really telegraphed?"
"Yes, I do."
"You telegraphed from the post-office at Mantes?"
"And was there any one in the post-office?"
"Yes, a woman."
"What woman? The one who lies here, murdered?"
"But she didn't read what you wrote?"
"No, but I wrote the telegram twice over."
"And you threw the first draft anywhere, on the floor, so that any one
who came along. . . . Oh, really, captain, you must confess . . . !"
But Patrice was running towards the car and was already out of ear-shot.
Half an hour after, he returned with two telegrams which he had found on
Coralie's table. The first, the one which he had sent, said:
"All well. Be easy and stay indoors. Fondest love.
The second, which had evidently been despatched by Siméon, ran as
"Events taking serious turn. Plans changed. Coming
back. Expect you nine o'clock this evening at the
small door of your garden.
This second telegram was delivered to Coralie at eight o'clock; and she
had left the home immediately afterwards.
THE FOURTH ACT
"Captain," said Don Luis, "you've scored two fine blunders. The first
was your not telling me that Grégoire was a woman. The second . . ."
But Don Luis saw that the officer was too much dejected for him to care
about completing his charge. He put his hand on Patrice Belval's
"Come," he said, "don't upset yourself. The position's not as bad as you
"Coralie jumped out of the window to escape that man," Patrice muttered.
"Your Coralie is alive," said Don Luis, shrugging his shoulders. "In
Siméon's hands, but alive."
"Why, what do you know about it? Anyway, if she's in that monster's
hands, might she not as well be dead? Doesn't it mean all the horrors of
death? Where's the difference?"
"It means a danger of death, but it means life if we come in time; and
"Have you a clue?"
"Do you imagine that I have sat twiddling my thumbs and that an old hand
like myself hasn't had time in half an hour to unravel the mysteries
which this cabin presents?"
"Then let's go," cried Patrice, already eager for the fray. "Let's have
at the enemy."
"Not yet," said Don Luis, who was still hunting around him. "Listen to
me. I'll tell you what I know, captain, and I'll tell it you straight
out, without trying to dazzle you by a parade of reasoning and without
even telling you of the tiny trifles that serve me as proofs. The bare
facts, that's all. Well, then . . ."
"Little Mother Coralie kept the appointment at nine o'clock. Siméon was
there with his female accomplice. Between them they bound and gagged her
and brought her here. Observe that, in their eyes, it was a safe spot
for the job, because they knew for certain that you and I had not
discovered the trap. Nevertheless, we may assume that it was a
provisional base of operations, adopted for part of the night only, and
that Siméon reckoned on leaving Little Mother Coralie in the hands of
his accomplice and setting out in search of a definite place of
confinement, a permanent prison. But luckily--and I'm rather proud of
this--Ya-Bon was on the spot. Ya-Bon was watching on his bench, in the
dark. He must have seen them cross the embankment and no doubt
recognized Siméon's walk in the distance. We'll take it that he gave
chase at once, jumped on to the deck of the barge and arrived here at
the same time as the enemy, before they had time to lock themselves in.
Four people in this narrow space, in pitch darkness, must have meant a
frightful upheaval. I know my Ya-Bon. He's terrible at such times.
Unfortunately, it was not Siméon whom he caught by the neck with that
merciless hand of his, but . . . the woman. Siméon took advantage of
this. He had not let go of Little Mother Coralie. He picked her up in
his arms and went up the companionway, flung her on the deck and then
came back to lock the door on the two as they struggled."
"Do you think so? Do you think it was Ya-Bon and not Siméon who killed
"I'm sure of it. If there were no other proof, there is this particular
fracture of the wind-pipe, which is Ya-Bon's special mark. What I do not
understand is why, when he had settled his adversary, Ya-Bon didn't
break down the door with a push of his shoulder and go after Siméon. I
presume that he was wounded and that he had not the strength to make the
necessary effort. I presume also that the woman did not die at once and
that she spoke, saying things against Siméon, who had abandoned her
instead of defending her. This much is certain, that Ya-Bon broke the
window-panes . . ."
"To jump into the Seine, wounded as he was, with his one arm?" said
"Not at all. There's a ledge running along the window. He could set his
feet on it and get off that way."
"Very well. But he was quite ten or twenty minutes behind Siméon?"
"That didn't matter, if the woman had time, before dying, to tell him
where Siméon was taking refuge."
"How can we get to know?"
"I've been trying to find out all the time that we've been chatting
. . . and I've just discovered the way."
"This minute; and I expected no less from Ya-Bon. The woman told him of
a place in the cabin--look, that open drawer, probably--in which there
was a visiting-card with an address on it. Ya-Bon took it and, in order
to let me know, pinned the card to the curtain over there. I had seen it
already; but it was only this moment that I noticed the pin that fixed
it, a gold pin with which I myself fastened the Morocco Cross to
"What is the address?"
"Amédée Vacherot, 18, Rue Guimard. The Rue Guimard is close to this,
which makes me quite sure of the road they took."
The two men at once went away, leaving the woman's dead body behind. As
Don Luis said, the police must make what they could of it.
As they crossed Berthou's Wharf they glanced at the recess and Don Luis
"There's a ladder missing. We must remember that detail. Siméon has been
in there. He's beginning to make blunders too."
The car took them to the Rue Guimard, a small street in Passy. No. 18
was a large house let out in flats, of fairly ancient construction. It
was two o'clock in the morning when they rang.
A long time elapsed before the door opened; and, as they passed through
the carriage-entrance, the porter put his head out of his lodge:
"Who's there?" he asked.
"We want to see M. Amédée Vacherot on urgent business."
"Yes, I, the porter. But by what right . . . ?"
"Orders of the prefect of police," said Don Luis, displaying a badge.
They entered the lodge. Amédée Vacherot was a little,
respectable-looking old man, with white whiskers. He might have been a
"Answer my questions plainly," Don Luis ordered, in a rough voice, "and
don't try to prevaricate. We are looking for a man called Siméon
The porter took fright at once:
"To do him harm?" he exclaimed. "If it's to do him harm, it's no use
asking me any questions. I would rather die by slow tortures than injure
that kind M. Siméon."
Don Luis assumed a gentler tone:
"Do him harm? On the contrary, we are looking for him to do him a
service, to save him from a great danger."
"A great danger?" cried M. Vacherot. "Oh, I'm not at all surprised! I
never saw him in such a state of excitement."
"Then he's been here?"
"Yes, since midnight."
"Is he here now?"
"No, he went away again."
Patrice made a despairing gesture and asked:
"Perhaps he left some one behind?"
"No, but he intended to bring some one."
M. Vacherot hesitated.
"We know," Don Luis resumed, "that Siméon Diodokis was trying to find a
place of safety in which to shelter a lady for whom he entertained the
"Can you tell me the lady's name?" asked the porter, still on his guard.
"Certainly, Mme. Essarès, the widow of the banker to whom Siméon used to
act as secretary. Mme. Essarès is a victim of persecution; he is
defending her against her enemies; and, as we ourselves want to help the
two of them and to take this criminal business in hand, we must insist
that you . . ."
"Oh, well!" said M. Vacherot, now fully reassured. "I have known Siméon
Diodokis for ever so many years. He was very good to me at the time when
I was working for an undertaker; he lent me money; he got me my present
job; and he used often to come and sit in my lodge and talk about heaps
of things. . . ."
"Such as relations with Essarès Bey?" asked Don Luis, carelessly. "Or
his plans concerning Patrice Belval?"
"Heaps of things," said the porter, after a further hesitation. "He is
one of the best of men, does a lot of good and used to employ me in
distributing his local charity. And just now again he was risking his
life for Mme. Essarès."
"One more word. Had you seen him since Essarès Bey's death?"
"No, it was the first time. He arrived a little before one o'clock. He
was out of breath and spoke in a low voice, listening to the sounds of
the street outside: 'I've been followed,' said he; 'I've been followed.
I could swear it.' 'By whom?' said I. 'You don't know him,' said he. 'He
has only one hand, but he wrings your neck for you.' And then he
stopped. And then he began again, in a whisper, so that I could hardly
hear: 'Listen to me, you're coming with me. We're going to fetch a lady,
Mme. Essarès. They want to kill her. I've hidden her all right, but
she's fainted: we shall have to carry her. . . . Or no, I'll go alone.
I'll manage. But I want to know, is my room still free?' I must tell
you, he has a little lodging here, since the day when he too had to hide
himself. He used to come to it sometimes and he kept it on in case he
might want it, for it's a detached lodging, away from the other
"What did he do after that?" asked Patrice, anxiously.
"After that, he went away."
"But why isn't he back yet?"
"I admit that it's alarming. Perhaps the man who was following him has
attacked him. Or perhaps something has happened to the lady."
"What do you mean, something happened to the lady?"
"I'm afraid something may have. When he first showed me the way we
should have to go to fetch her, he said, 'Quick, we must hurry. To save
her life, I had to put her in a hole. That's all very well for two or
three hours. But, if she's left longer, she will suffocate. The want of
air . . ."
Patrice had leapt upon the old man. He was beside himself, maddened at
the thought that Coralie, ill and worn-out as she was, might be at the
point of death in some unknown place, a prey to terror and suffering.
"You shall speak," he cried, "and this very minute! You shall tell us
where she is! Oh, don't imagine that you can fool us any longer! Where
is she? You know! He told you!"
He was shaking M. Vacherot by the shoulders and hurling his rage into
the old man's face with unspeakable violence.
Don Luis, on the other hand, stood chuckling.
"Splendid, captain," he said, "splendid! My best compliments! You're
making real progress since I joined forces with you. M. Vacherot will go
through fire and water for us now."
"Well, you see if I don't make the fellow speak," shouted Patrice.
"It's no use, sir," declared the porter, very firmly and calmly. "You
have deceived me. You are enemies of M. Siméon's. I shall not say
another word that can give you any information."
"You refuse to speak, do you? You refuse to speak?"
In his exasperation Patrice drew his revolver and aimed it at the man:
"I'm going to count three. If, by that time, you don't make up your mind
to speak, you shall see the sort of man that Captain Belval is!"
The porter gave a start:
"Captain Belval, did you say? Are you Captain Belval?"
"Ah, old fellow, that seems to give you food for thought!"
"Are you Captain Belval? Patrice Belval?"
"At your service; and, if in two seconds from this you haven't told me
. . ."
"Patrice Belval! And you are M. Siméon's enemy? And you want to . . . ?"
"I want to do him up like the cur he is, your blackguard of a Siméon
. . . and you, his accomplice, with him. A nice pair of rascals! . . .
Well, have you made up your mind?"
"Unhappy man!" gasped the porter. "Unhappy man! You don't know what
you're doing. Kill M. Siméon! You? You? Why, you're the last man who
could commit a crime like that!"
"What about it? Speak, will you, you old numskull!"
"You, kill M. Siméon? You, Patrice? You, Captain Belval? You?"
"And why not? Speak, damn it! Why not?"
"You are his son."
All Patrice's fury, all his anguish at the thought that Coralie was in
Siméon's power or else lying in some pit, all his agonized grief, all
his alarm: all this gave way, for a moment, to a terrible fit of
merriment, which revealed itself in a long burst of laughter.
"Siméon's son! What the devil are you talking about? Oh, this beats
everything! Upon my word, you're full of ideas, when you're trying to
save him! You old ruffian! Of course, it's most convenient: don't kill
that man, he's your father. He my father, that putrid Siméon! Siméon
Diodokis, Patrice Belval's father! Oh, it's enough to make a chap split
Don Luis had listened in silence. He made a sign to Patrice:
"Will you allow me to clear up this business, captain? It won't take me
more than a few minutes; and that certainly won't delay us." And,
without waiting for the officer's reply, he turned to the old man and
said slowly, "Let's have this out, M. Vacherot. It's of the highest
importance. The great thing is to speak plainly and not to lose yourself
in superfluous words. Besides, you have said too much not to finish your
revelation. Siméon Diodokis is not your benefactor's real name, is it?"
"No, that's so."
"He is Armand Belval; and the woman who loved him used to call him
"Yes, his son's name."
"Nevertheless, this Armand Belval was a victim of the same murderous
attempt as the woman he loved, who was Coralie Essarès' mother?"
"Yes, but Coralie Essarès' mother died; and he did not."
"That was on the fourteenth of April, 1895."
"The fourteenth of April, 1895."
Patrice caught hold of Don Luis' arm:
"Come," he spluttered, "Coralie's at death's door. The monster has
buried her. That's the only thing that matters."
"Then you don't believe that monster to be your father?" asked Don Luis.
"For all that, captain, you're trembling! . . ."
"I dare say, I dare say, but it's because of Coralie. . . . I can't even
hear what the man's saying! . . . Oh, it's a nightmare, every word of
it! Make him stop! Make him shut up! Why didn't I wring his neck?"
He sank into a chair, with his elbows on the table and his head in his
hands. It was really a horrible moment; and no catastrophe would have
overwhelmed a man more utterly.
Don Luis looked at him with feeling and then turned to the porter:
"Explain yourself, M. Vacherot," he said. "As briefly as possible, won't
you? No details. We can go into them later. We were saying, on the
fourteenth of April, 1895 . . ."
"On the fourteenth of April, 1895, a solicitor's clerk, accompanied by
the commissary of police, came to my governor's, close by here, and
ordered two coffins for immediate delivery. The whole shop got to work.
At ten o'clock in the evening, the governor, one of my mates and I went
to the Rue Raynouard, to a sort of pavilion or lodge, standing in a
"I know. Go on."
"There were two bodies. We wrapped them in winding-sheets and put them
into the coffins. At eleven o'clock my governor and my fellow-workmen
went away and left me alone with a sister of mercy. There was nothing
more to do except to nail the coffins down. Well, just then, the nun,
who had been watching and praying, fell asleep and something happened
. . . oh, an awful thing! It made my hair stand on end, sir. I shall
never forget it as long as I live. My knees gave way beneath me, I shook
with fright. . . . Sir, the man's body had moved. The man was alive!"
"Then you didn't know of the murder at that time?" asked Don Luis. "You
hadn't heard of the attempt?"
"No, we were told that they had both suffocated themselves with gas.
. . . It was many hours before the man recovered consciousness
entirely. He was in some way poisoned."
"But why didn't you inform the nun?"
"I couldn't say. I was simply stunned. I looked at the man as he slowly
came back to life and ended by opening his eyes. His first words were,
'She's dead, I suppose?' And then at once he said, 'Not a word about all
this. Let them think me dead: that will be better.' And I can't tell you
why, but I consented. The miracle had deprived me of all power of will.
I obeyed like a child. . . . He ended by getting up. He leant over the
other coffin, drew aside the sheet and kissed the dead woman's face over
and over again, whispering, 'I will avenge you. All my life shall be
devoted to avenging you and also, as you wished, to uniting our
children. If I don't kill myself, it will be for Patrice and Coralie's
sake. Good-by.' Then he told me to help him. Between us, we lifted the
woman out of the coffin and carried it into the little bedroom next
door. Then we went into the garden, took some big stones and put them
into the coffins where the two bodies had been. When this was done, I
nailed the coffins down, woke the good sister and went away. The man had
locked himself into the bedroom with the dead woman. Next morning the
undertaker's men came and fetched away the two coffins."
Patrice had unclasped his hands and thrust his distorted features
between Don Luis and the porter. Fixing his haggard eyes upon the
latter, he asked, struggling with his words:
"But the graves? The inscription saying that the remains of both lie
there, near the lodge where the murder was committed? The cemetery?"
"Armand Belval wished it so. At that time I was living in a garret in
this house. I took a lodging for him where he came and lived by stealth,
under the name of Siméon Diodokis, since Armand Belval was dead, and
where he stayed for several months without going out. Then, in his new
name and through me, he bought his lodge. And, bit by bit, we dug the
graves. Coralie's and his. His because, I repeat, he wished it so.
Patrice and Coralie were both dead. It seemed to him, in this way, that
he was not leaving her. Perhaps also, I confess, despair had upset his
balance a little, just a very little, only in what concerned his memory
of the woman who died on the fourteenth of April, 1895, and his devotion
for her. He wrote her name and his own everywhere: on the grave and also
on the walls, on the trees and in the very borders of the flower-beds.
They were Coralie Essarès' name and yours. . . . And for this, for all
that had to do with his revenge upon the murderer and with his son and
with the dead woman's daughter, oh, for these matters he had all his
wits about him, believe me, sir!"
Patrice stretched his clutching hands and his distraught face towards
"Proofs, proofs, proofs!" he insisted, in a stifled voice. "Give me
proofs at once! There's some one dying at this moment by that
scoundrel's criminal intentions, there's a woman at the point of death.
Give me proofs!"
"You need have no fear," said M. Vacherot. "My friend has only one
thought, that of saving the woman, not killing her. . . ."
"He lured her and me into the lodge to kill us, as our parents were
killed before us."
"He is trying only to unite you."
"Yes, in death."
"No, in life. You are his dearly-loved son. He always spoke of you with
"He is a ruffian, a monster!" shouted the officer.
"He is the very best man living, sir, and he is your father."
Patrice started, stung by the insult:
"Proofs," he roared, "proofs! I forbid you to speak another word until
you have proved the truth in a manner admitting of no doubt."
Without moving from his seat, the old man put out his arm towards an old
mahogany escritoire, lowered the lid and, pressing a spring, pulled out
one of the drawers. Then he held out a bundle of papers:
"You know your father's handwriting, don't you, captain?" he said. "You
must have kept letters from him, since the time when you were at school
in England. Well, read the letters which he wrote to me. You will see
your name repeated a hundred times, the name of his son; and you will
see the name of the Coralie whom he meant you to marry. Your whole
life--your studies, your journeys, your work--is described in these
letters. And you will also find your photographs, which he had taken by
various correspondents, and photographs of Coralie, whom he had visited
at Salonica. And you will see above all his hatred for Essarès Bey,
whose secretary he had become, and his plans of revenge, his patience,
his tenacity. And you will also see his despair when he heard of the
marriage between Essarès and Coralie and, immediately afterwards, his
joy at the thought that his revenge would be more cruel when he
succeeded in uniting his son Patrice with Essarès' wife."
As the old fellow spoke, he placed the letters one by one under the eyes
of Patrice, who had at once recognized his father's hand and sat
greedily devouring sentences in which his own name was constantly
repeated. M. Vacherot watched him.
"Have you any more doubts, captain?" he asked, at last.
The officer again pressed his clenched fists to his temples:
"I saw his face," he said, "above the skylight, in the lodge into which
he had locked us. . . . It was gloating over our death, it was a face
mad with hatred. . . . He hated us even more than Essarès did. . . ."
"A mistake! Pure imagination!" the old man protested.
"Or madness," muttered Patrice.
Then he struck the table violently, in a fit of revulsion:
"It's not true, it's not true!" he exclaimed. "That man is not my
father. What, a scoundrel like that! . . ."
He took a few steps round the little room and, stopping in front of Don
Luis, jerked out:
"Let's go. Else I shall go mad too. It's a nightmare, there's no other
word for it, a nightmare in which things turn upside down until the
brain itself capsizes. Let's go. Coralie is in danger. That's the only
thing that matters."
The old man shook his head:
"I'm very much afraid . . ."
"What are "you" afraid of?" bellowed the officer.
"I'm afraid that my poor friend has been caught up by the person who was
following him . . . and then how can he have saved Mme. Essarès? The
poor thing was hardly able to breathe, he told me."
Hanging on to Don Luis' arm, Patrice staggered out of the porter's lodge
like a drunken man:
"She's done for, she must be!" he cried.
"Not at all," said Don Luis. "Siméon is as feverishly active as
yourself. He is nearing the catastrophe. He is quaking with fear and not
in a condition to weigh his words. Believe me, your Coralie is in no
immediate danger. We have some hours before us."
"But Ya-Bon? Suppose Ya-Bon has laid hands upon him?"
"I gave Ya-Bon orders not to kill him. Therefore, whatever happens,
Siméon is alive. That's the great thing. So long as Siméon is alive,
there is nothing to fear. He won't let your Coralie die."
"Why not, seeing that he hates her? Why not? What is there in that man's
heart? He devotes all his existence to a work of love on our behalf;
and, from one minute to the next, that love turns to execration."
He pressed Don Luis' arm and, in a hollow voice, asked:
"Do you believe that he is my father?"
"Siméon Diodokis is your father, captain," replied Don Luis.
"Ah, don't, don't! It's too horrible! God, but we are in the valley of
"On the contrary," said Don Luis, "the shadow is lifting slightly; and I
confess that our talk with M. Vacherot has given me a little light."
"Do you mean it?"
But, in Patrice Belval's fevered brain, one idea jostled another. He
"Siméon may have gone back to the porter's lodge! . . . And we sha'n't
be there! . . . Perhaps he will bring Coralie back!"
"No," Don Luis declared, "he would have done that before now, if it
could be done. No, it's for us to go to him."
"Well, of course, where all the fighting has been . . . where the gold
lies. All the enemy's operations are centered in that gold; and you may
be sure that, even in retreat, he can't get away from it. Besides, we
know that he is not far from Berthou's Wharf."
Patrice allowed himself to be led along without a word. But suddenly Don
"Did you hear?"
"Yes, a shot."
At that moment they were on the point of turning into the Rue Raynouard.
The height of the houses prevented them from perceiving the exact spot
from which the shot had been fired, but it came approximately from the
Essarès house or the immediate precincts. Patrice was filled with
"Can it be Ya-Bon?"
"I'm afraid so," said Don Luis, "and, as Ya-Bon wouldn't fire, some one
must have fired a shot at him. . . . Oh, by Jove, if my poor Ya-Bon were
to be killed . . . !"
"And suppose it was at her, at Coralie?" whispered Patrice.
Don Luis began to laugh:
"Oh, my dear captain, I'm almost sorry that I ever mixed myself up in
this business! You were much cleverer before I came and a good deal
clearer-sighted. Why the devil should Siméon attack your Coralie,
considering that she's already in his power?"
They hurried their steps. As they passed the Essarès house they saw that
everything was quiet and they went on until they came to the lane, down
which they turned.
Patrice had the key, but the little door which opened on to the garden
of the lodge was bolted inside.
"Aha!" said Don Luis. "That shows that we're warm. Meet me on the quay,
captain. I shall run down to Berthou's Wharf to have a look round."
During the past few minutes a pale dawn had begun to mingle with the
shades of night. The embankment was still deserted, however.
Don Luis observed nothing in particular at Berthou's Wharf; but, when he
returned to the quay above, Patrice showed him a ladder lying right at
the end of the pavement which skirted the garden of the lodge; and Don
Luis recognized the ladder as the one whose absence he had noticed from
the recess in the yard. With that quick vision which was one of his
greatest assets, he at once furnished the explanation:
"As Siméon had the key of the garden, it was obviously Ya-Bon who used
the ladder to make his way in. Therefore he saw Siméon take refuge there
on returning from his visit to old Vacherot and after coming to fetch
Coralie. Now the question is, did Siméon succeed in fetching Little
Mother Coralie, or did he run away before fetching her? That I can't
say. But, in any case . . ."
Bending low down, he examined the pavement and continued:
"In any case, what is certain is that Ya-Bon knows the hiding-place
where the bags of gold are stacked and that it is there most likely that
your Coralie was and perhaps still is, worse luck, if the enemy, giving
his first thought to his personal safety, has not had time to remove
"Are you sure?"
"Look here, captain, Ya-Bon always carries a piece of chalk in his
pocket. As he doesn't know how to write, except just the letters forming
my name, he has drawn these two straight lines which, with the line of
the wall, make a triangle . . . the golden triangle."
Don Luis drew himself up:
"The clue is rather meager. But Ya-Bon looks upon me as a wizard. He
never doubted that I should manage to find this spot and that those
three lines would be enough for me. Poor Ya-Bon!"
"But," objected Patrice, "all this, according to you, took place before
our return to Paris, between twelve and one o'clock, therefore."
"Then what about the shot which we have just heard, four or five hours
"As to that I'm not so positive. We may assume that Siméon squatted
somewhere in the dark. Possibly at the first break of day, feeling
easier and hearing nothing of Ya-Bon, he risked taking a step or two.
Then Ya-Bon, keeping watch in silence, would have leaped upon him."
"So you think . . ."
"I think that there was a struggle, that Ya-Bon was wounded and that
Siméon . . ."
"That Siméon escaped?"
"Or else was killed. However, we shall know all about it in a few
He set the ladder against the railing at the top of the wall. Patrice
climbed over with Don Luis' assistance. Then, stepping over the railing
in his turn, Don Luis drew up the ladder, threw it into the garden and
made a careful examination. Finally, they turned their steps, through
the tall grasses and bushy shrubs, towards the lodge.
The daylight was increasing rapidly and the outlines of everything were
becoming clearer. The two men walked round the lodge, Don Luis leading
the way. When he came in sight of the yard, on the street side, he
turned and said: "I was right."
And he ran forward.
Outside the hall-door lay the bodies of the two adversaries, clutching
each other in a confused heap. Ya-Bon had a horrible wound in the head,
from which the blood was flowing all over his face. With his right hand
he held Siméon by the throat.
Don Luis at once perceived that Ya-Bon was dead and Siméon Diodokis
SIMÉON GIVES BATTLE
It took them some time to loosen Ya-Bon's grip. Even in death the
Senegalese did not let go his prey; and his fingers, hard as iron and
armed with nails piercing as a tiger's claws, dug into the neck of the
enemy, who lay gurgling, deprived of consciousness and strength.
Don Luis caught sight of Siméon's revolver on the cobbles of the yard:
"It was lucky for you, you old ruffian," he said, in a low voice, "that
Ya-Bon did not have time to squeeze the breath out of you before you
fired that shot. But I wouldn't chortle overmuch, if I were you. He
might perhaps have spared you, whereas, now that Ya-Bon's dead, you can
write to your family and book your seat below. "De profundis",
Diodokis!" And, giving way to his grief, he added, "Poor Ya-Bon! He
saved me from a horrible death one day in Africa . . . and to-day he
dies by my orders, so to speak. My poor Ya-Bon!"
Assisted by Patrice, he carried the negro's corpse into the little
bedroom next to the studio.
"We'll inform the police this evening, captain, when the drama is
finished. For the moment, it's a matter of avenging him and the
He thereupon applied himself to making a minute inspection of the scene
of the struggle, after which he went back to Ya-Bon and then to Siméon,
whose clothes and shoes he examined closely.
Patrice was face to face with his terrible enemy, whom he had propped
against the wall of the lodge and was contemplating in silence, with a
fixed stare of hatred. Siméon! Siméon Diodokis, the execrable demon who,
two days before, had hatched the terrible plot and, bending over the
skylight, had laughed as he watched their awful agony! Siméon Diodokis,
who, like a wild beast, had hidden Coralie in some hole, so that he
might go back and torture her at his ease!
He seemed to be in pain and to breathe with great difficulty. His
wind-pipe had no doubt been injured by Ya-Bon's clutch. His yellow
spectacles had fallen off during the fight. A pair of thick, grizzled
eyebrows lowered about his heavy lids.
"Search him, captain," said Don Luis.
But, as Patrice seemed to shrink from the task, he himself felt in
Siméon's jacket and produced a pocket-book, which he handed to the
It contained first of all a registration-card, in the name of Siméon
Diodokis, Greek subject, with his photograph gummed to it. The
photograph was a recent one, taken with the spectacles, the comforter
and the long hair, and bore a police-stamp dated December, 1914. There
was a collection of business documents, invoices and memoranda,
addressed to Siméon as Essarès Bey's secretary, and, among these papers,
a letter from Amédée Vacherot, running as follows:
""Dear M. Siméon",
"I have succeeded. A young friend of mine has taken a
snapshot of Mme. Essarès and Patrice at the hospital,
at a moment when they were talking together. I am so
glad to be able to gratify you. But when will you tell
your dear son the truth? How delighted he will be when
he hears it!"
At the foot of the letter were a few words in Siméon's hand, a sort of
"Once more I solemnly pledge myself not to reveal
anything to my dearly-beloved son until Coralie, my
bride, is avenged and until Patrice and Coralie
Essarès are free to love each other and to marry."
"That's your father's writing, is it not?" asked Don Luis.
"Yes," said Patrice, in bewilderment. "And it is also the writing of the
letters which he addressed to his friend Vacherot. Oh, it's too hideous
to be true! What a man! What a scoundrel!"
Siméon moved. His eyes opened and closed repeatedly. Then, coming to
himself entirely, he looked at Patrice, who at once, in a stifled voice,
And, as Siméon, still dazed, seemed not to understand and sat gazing at
him stupidly, he repeated, in a harsher tone:
"Where's Coralie? What have you done with her? Where have you put her?
She must be dying!"
Siméon was gradually recovering life and consciousness. He mumbled:
"Patrice. . . . Patrice. . . ."
He looked around him, saw Don Luis, no doubt remembered his fight to the
death with Ya-Bon and closed his eyes again. But Patrice's rage
"Will you attend?" he shouted. "I won't wait any longer! It'll cost you
your life if you don't answer!"
The man's eyes opened again, red-rimmed, bloodshot eyes. He pointed to
his throat to indicate his difficulty in speaking. At last, with a
visible effort, he repeated:
"Patrice! Is it you? . . . I have been waiting for this moment so long!
. . . And now we are meeting as enemies! . . ."
"As mortal enemies," said Patrice, with emphasis. "Death stands between
us: Ya-Bon's death, Coralie's perhaps. . . . Where is she? You must
speak, or . . ."
"Patrice, is it really you?" the man repeated, in a whisper.
The familiarity exasperated the officer. He caught his adversary by the
lapel of his jacket and shook him. But Siméon had seen the pocket-book
which he held in his other hand and, without resisting Patrice's
"You wouldn't hurt me, Patrice. You must have found some letters; and
you now know the link that binds us together. Oh, how happy I should
have been . . . !"
Patrice had released his hold and stood staring at him in horror.
Sinking his voice in his turn, he said:
"Don't dare to speak of that: I won't, I won't believe it!"
"It's the truth, Patrice."
"You lie! You lie!" cried the officer, unable to restrain himself any
longer, while his grief distorted his face out of all recognition.
"Ah, I see you have guessed it! Then I need not explain . . ."
"You lie! You're just a common scoundrel! . . . If what you say is true,
why did you plot against Coralie and me? Why did you try to murder the
two of us?"
"I was mad, Patrice. Yes, I go mad at times. All these tragedies have
turned my head. My own Coralie's death . . . and then my life in
Essarès' shadow . . . and then . . . and then, above all, the gold!
. . . Did I really try to kill you both? I no longer remember. Or at
least I remember a dream I had: it happened in the lodge, didn't it, as
before? Oh, madness! What a torture! I'm like a man in the galleys. I
have to do things against my will! . . . Then it was in the lodge, was
it, as before? And in the same manner? With the same implements? . . .
Yes, in my dream, I went through all my agony over again . . . and that
of my darling. . . . But, instead of being tortured, I was the torturer
. . . What a torment!"
He spoke low, inside himself, with hesitations and intervals and an
unspeakable air of suffering. Don Luis kept his eyes fixed on him, as
though trying to discover what he was aiming at. And Siméon continued:
"My poor Patrice! . . . I was so fond of you! . . . And now you are my
worst enemy! . . . How indeed could it be otherwise? . . . How could
you forget? . . . Oh, why didn't they lock me up after Essarès' death?
It was then that I felt my brain going. . . ."
"So it was you who killed him?" asked Patrice.
"No, no, that's just it: somebody else robbed me of my revenge."
"I don't know. . . . The whole business is incomprehensible to me. . . .
Don't speak of it. . . . It all pains me. . . . I have suffered so since
"Coralie!" exclaimed Patrice.
"Yes, the woman I loved. . . . As for little Coralie, I've suffered also
on her account. . . . She ought not to have married Essarès."
"Where is she?" asked Patrice, in agony.
"I can't tell you."
"Oh," cried Patrice, shaking with rage, "you mean she's dead!"
"No, she's alive, I swear it."
"Then where is she? That's the only thing that matters. All the rest
belongs to the past. But this thing, a woman's life, Coralie's life
. . ."
Siméon stopped and gave a glance at Don Luis;
"Tell him to go away," he said.
Don Luis laughed:
"Of course! Little Mother Coralie is hidden in the same place as the
bags of gold. To save her means surrendering the bags of gold."
"Well?" said Patrice, in an almost aggressive tone.
"Well, captain," replied Don Luis, not without a certain touch of
banter in his voice, "if this honorable gentleman suggested that you
should release him on parole so that he might go and fetch your Coralie,
I don't suppose you'd accept?"
"You haven't the least confidence in him, have you? And you're right.
The honorable gentleman, mad though he may be, gave such proofs of
mental superiority and balance, when he sent us trundling down the road
to Mantes, that it would be dangerous to attach the least credit to his
promises. The consequence is . . ."
"This, captain, that the honorable gentleman means to propose a bargain
to you, which may be couched thus: 'You can have Coralie, but I'll keep
"And then? It would be a capital notion, if you were alone with the
honorable gentleman. The bargain would soon be concluded. But I'm here
. . . by Jupiter!"
Patrice had drawn himself up. He stepped towards Don Luis and said, in a
voice which became openly hostile:
"I presume that you won't raise any opposition. It's a matter of a
"No doubt. But, on the other hand, it's a matter of three hundred
"Then you refuse?"
"Refuse? I should think so!"
"You refuse when that woman is at her last gasp? You would rather she
died? . . . Look here, you seem to forget that this is my affair, that
. . . that . . ."
The two men were standing close together. Don Luis retained that
chaffing calmness, that air of knowing more than he chose to say, which
irritated Patrice. At heart Patrice, while yielding to Don Luis'
mastery, resented it and felt a certain embarrassment at accepting the
services of a man with whose past he was so well acquainted.
"Then you actually refuse?" he rapped out, clenching his fists.
"Yes," said Don Luis, preserving his coolness. "Yes, Captain Belval, I
refuse this bargain, which I consider absurd. Why, it's the
confidence-trick! By Jingo! Three hundred millions! Give up a windfall
like that? Never. But I haven't the least objection to leaving you alone
with the honorable gentleman. That's what he wants, isn't it?"
"Well, talk it over between yourselves. Sign the compact. The honorable
gentleman, who, for his part, has every confidence in his son, will tell
you the whereabouts of the hiding-place; and you shall release your
"And you? What about you?" snarled Patrice, angrily.
"I? I'm going to complete my little enquiry into the present and the
past by revisiting the room where you nearly met your death. See you
later, captain. And, whatever you do, insist on guarantees."
Switching on his pocket-lamp, Don Luis entered the lodge and walked
straight to the studio. Patrice saw the electric rays playing on the
panels between the walled-up windows. He went back to where Siméon sat:
"Now then," he said, in a voice of authority. "Be quick about it."
"Are you sure he's not listening?"
"Be careful with him, Patrice. He means to take the gold and keep it."
"Don't waste time," said Patrice, impatiently. "Get to Coralie."
"I've told you Coralie was alive."
"She was alive when you left her; but since then . . ."
"Yes, since then . . ."
"Since then, what? You seem to have your doubts."
"It was last night, five or six hours ago, and I am afraid . . ."
Patrice felt a cold shudder run down his back. He would have given
anything for a decisive word; and at the same time he was almost
strangling the old man to punish him. He mastered himself, however:
"Don't let's waste time," he repeated. "Tell me where to go."
"No, we'll go together."
"You haven't the strength."
"Yes, yes, I can manage . . . it's not far. Only, only, listen to me.
. . ."
The old man seemed utterly exhausted. From time to time his breathing
was interrupted, as though Ya-Bon's hand were still clutching him by the
throat, and he sank into a heap, moaning.
Patrice stooped over him:
"I'm listening," he said. "But, for God's sake, hurry!"
"All right," said Siméon. "All right. She'll be free in a few minutes.
But on one condition, just one. . . . Patrice, you must swear to me on
Coralie's head that you will not touch the gold and that no one shall
know . . ."
"I swear it on her head."
"You swear it, yes; but the other one, your damned companion, he'll
follow us, he'll see."
"No, he won't."
"Yes, he will, unless you consent . . ."
"To what? Oh, in Heaven's name, speak!"
"I'll tell you. Listen. But remember, we must go to Coralie's assistance
. . . and that quickly . . . otherwise . . ."
Patrice hesitated, bending one leg, almost on his knees:
"Then come, do!" he said, modifying his tone. "Please come, because
Coralie . . ."
"Yes, but that man . . ."
"Oh, Coralie first!"
"What do you mean? Suppose he sees us? Suppose he takes the gold from
"What does that matter!"
"Oh, don't say that, Patrice! . . . The gold! That's the one thing!
Since that gold has been mine, my life is changed. The past no longer
counts . . . nor does hatred . . . nor love. . . . There's only the
gold, the bags of gold . . . I'd rather die . . . and let Coralie die
. . . and see the whole world disappear . . ."
"But, look here, what is it you want? What is it you demand?"
Patrice had taken the two arms of this man who was his father and whom
he had never detested with greater vehemence. He was imploring him with
all the strength of his being. He would have shed tears had he thought
that the old man would allow himself to be moved by tears.
"What is it?"
"I'll tell you. Listen. He's there, isn't he?"
"In the studio?"
"In that case . . . he mustn't come out. . . ."
"How do you mean?"
"No, he must stay there until we've done."
"But . . ."
"It's quite easy. Listen carefully. You've only to make a movement, to
shut the door on him. The lock has been forced, but there are the two
bolts; and those will do. Do you consent?"
"But you're mad! "I" consent, "I"? . . . Why, the man saved my life!
. . . He saved Coralie!"
"But he's doing for her now. Think a moment: if he were not there, if he
were not interfering, Coralie would be free. Do you accept?"
"Why not? Do you know what that man is? A highway robber . . . a wretch
who has only one thought, to get hold of the millions. And you have
scruples! Come, it's absurd, isn't it? . . . Do you accept?"
"No and again no!"
"Then so much the worse for Coralie. . . . Oh, yes, I see you don't
realize the position exactly! It's time you did, Patrice. Perhaps it's
even too late."
"Oh, don't say that!"
"Yes, yes, you must learn the facts and take your share of the
responsibility. When that damned negro was chasing me, I got rid of
Coralie as best I could, intending to release her in an hour or two. And
then . . . and then you know what happened. . . . It was eleven o'clock
at night . . . nearly eight hours ago. . . . So work it out for yourself
. . ."
Patrice wrung his hands. Never had he imagined that a man could be
tortured to such a degree. And Siméon continued, unrelentingly.
"She can't breathe, on my soul she can't! . . . Perhaps just a very
little air reaches her, but that is all. . . . Then again I can't tell
that all that covers and protects her hasn't given way. If it has, she's
suffocating . . . while you stand here arguing. . . . Look here, can it
matter to you to lock up that man for ten minutes? . . . Only ten
minutes, you know. And you still hesitate! Then it's you who are killing
her, Patrice. Think . . . buried alive!"
Patrice drew himself up. His resolve was taken. At that moment he would
have shrunk from no act, however painful. And what Siméon asked was so
"What do you want me to do?" he asked. "Give your orders."
"You know what I want," said the other. "It's quite simple. Go to the
door, bolt it and come back again."
The officer entered the lodge with a firm step and walked through the
hall. The light was dancing up and down at the far end of the studio.
Without a word, without a moment's hesitation, he slammed the door, shot
both the bolts and hastened back. He felt relieved. The action was a
base one, but he never doubted that he had fulfilled an imperative duty.
"That's it," he said, "Let's hurry."
"Help me up," said the old man. "I can't manage by myself."
Patrice took him under the armpits and lifted him to his feet. But he
had to support him, for the old man's legs were swaying beneath him.
"Oh, curse it!" blurted Siméon. "That blasted nigger has done for me.
I'm suffocating too, I can't walk."
Patrice almost carried him, while Siméon, in the last stage of weakness,
"This way. . . . Now straight ahead. . . ."
They passed the corner of the lodge and turned their steps towards the
"You're quite sure you fastened the door?" the old man continued. "Yes,
I heard it slam. Oh, he's a terrible fellow, that! You have to be on
your guard with him! But you swore not to say anything, didn't you?
Swear it again, by your mother's memory . . . no, better, swear it by
Coralie. . . . May she die on the spot if you betray your oath!"
He stopped. A spasm prevented his going any further until he had drawn a
little air into his lungs. Nevertheless he went on talking:
"I needn't worry, need I? Besides, you don't care about gold. That being
so, why should you speak? Never mind, swear that you will be silent.
Or, look here, give me your word of honor. That's best. Your word, eh?"
Patrice was still holding him round the waist. It was a terrible, long
agony for the officer, this slow crawl and this sort of embrace which he
was compelled to adopt in order to effect Coralie's release. As he felt
the contact of the detested man's body, he was more inclined to squeeze
the life out of it. And yet a vile phrase kept recurring deep down
"I am his son, I am his son. . . ."
"It's here," said the old man.
"Here? But these are the graves."
"Coralie's grave and mine. It's what we were making for."
He turned round in alarm:
"I say, the footprints! You'll get rid of them on the way back, won't
you? For he would find our tracks otherwise and he would know that this
is the place. . . ."
"Let's hurry. . . . So Coralie is here? Down there? Buried? Oh, how
It seemed to Patrice as if each minute that passed meant more than an
hour's delay and as if Coralie's safety might be jeopardized by a
moment's hesitation or a single false step.
He took every oath that was demanded of him. He swore upon Coralie's
head. He pledged his word of honor. At that moment there was not an
action which he would not have been ready to perform.
Siméon knelt down on the grass, under the little temple, pointing with
"It's there," he repeated. "Underneath that."
"Under the tombstone?"
"Then the stone lifts?" asked Patrice, anxiously. "I can't lift it by
myself. It can't be done. It would take three men to lift that."
"No," said the old man, "the stone swings on a pivot. You'll manage
quite easily. All you have to do is to pull at one end . . . this one,
on the right."
Patrice came and caught hold of the great stone slab, with its
inscription, "Here lie Patrice and Coralie," and pulled.
The stone rose at the first endeavor, as if a counterweight had forced
the other end down.
"Wait," said the old man. "We must hold it in position, or it will fall
down again. You'll find an iron bar at the bottom of the second step."
There were three steps running into a small cavity, barely large enough
to contain a man stooping. Patrice saw the iron bar and, propping up the
stone with his shoulder, took the bar and set it up.
"Good," said Siméon. "That will keep it steady. What you must now do is
to lie down in the hollow. This was where my coffin was to have been and
where I often used to come and lie beside my dear Coralie. I would
remain for hours, flat on the ground, speaking to her. . . . We both
talked. . . . Yes, I assure you, we used to talk. . . . Oh, Patrice!
. . ."
Patrice had bent his tall figure in the narrow space where he was hardly
able to move.
"What am I to do?" he asked.
"Don't you hear your Coralie? There's only a partition-wall between
you: a few bricks hidden under a thin layer of earth. And a door. The
other vault, Coralie's, is behind it. And behind that there's a third,
with the bags of gold."
The old man was bending over and directing the search as he knelt on the
"The door's on the left. Farther than that. Can't you find it? That's
odd. You mustn't be too slow about it, though. Ah, have you got it now?
No? Oh, if I could only go down too! But there's not room for more than
There was a brief silence. Then he began again:
"Stretch a bit farther. Good. Can you move?"
"Yes," said Patrice.
"Then go on moving, my lad!" cried the old man, with a yell of laughter.
And, stepping back briskly, he snatched away the iron bar. The enormous
block of stone came down heavily, slowly, because of the counterweight,
but with irresistible force.
Though floundering in the newly-turned earth, Patrice tried to rise, at
the sight of his danger. Siméon had taken up the iron bar and now struck
him a blow on the head with it. Patrice gave a cry and moved no more.
The stone covered him up. The whole incident had lasted but a few
Siméon did not lose an instant. He knew that Patrice, wounded as he was
bound to be and weakened by the posture to which he was condemned, was
incapable of making the necessary effort to lift the lid of his tomb. On
that side, therefore, there was no danger.
He went back to the lodge and, though he walked with some difficulty, he
had no doubt exaggerated his injuries, for he did not stop until he
reached the door. He even scorned to obliterate his footprints and went
On entering the hall he listened. Don Luis was tapping against the walls
and the partition inside the studio and the bedroom.
"Capital!" said Siméon, with a grin. "His turn now."
It did not take long. He walked to the kitchen on the right, opened the
door of the meter and, turning the key, released the gas, thus beginning
again with Don Luis what he had failed to achieve with Patrice and
Not till then did he yield to the immense weariness with which he was
overcome and allow himself to lie back in a chair for two or three
His most terrible enemy also was now out of the way. But it was still
necessary for him to act and ensure his personal safety. He walked round
the lodge, looked for his yellow spectacles and put them on, went
through the garden, opened the door and closed it behind him. Then he
turned down the lane to the quay.
Once more stopping, in front of the parapet above Berthou's Wharf, he
seemed to hesitate what to do. But the sight of people passing, carmen,
market-gardeners and others, put an end to his indecision. He hailed a
taxi and drove to the Rue Guimard.
His friend Vacherot was standing at the door of his lodge.
"Oh, is that you, M. Siméon?" cried the porter. "But what a state you're
"Hush, no names!" he whispered, entering the lodge. "Has any one seen
"No. It's only half-past seven and the house is hardly awake. But, Lord
forgive us, what have the scoundrels done to you? You look as if you had
no breath left in your body!"
"Yes, that nigger who came after me . . ."
"But the others?"
"The two who were here? Patrice?"
"Eh? Has Patrice been?" asked Siméon, still speaking in a whisper.
"Yes, last night, after you left."
"And you told him?"
"That he was your son."
"Then that," mumbled the old man, "is why he did not seem surprised at
what I said."
"Where are they now?"
"With Coralie. I was able to save her. I've handed her over to them. But
it's not a question of her. Quick, I must see a doctor; there's no time
"We have one in the house."
"No, that's no use. Have you a telephone-directory?"
"Here you are."
"Turn up Dr. Géradec."
"What? You can't mean that?"
"Why not? He has a private hospital quite close, on the Boulevard de
Montmorency, with no other house near it."
"That's so, but haven't you heard? There are all sorts of rumors about
him afloat: something to do with passports and forged certificates."
"Never mind that."
M. Vacherot hunted out the number in the directory and rang up the
exchange. The line was engaged; and he wrote down the number on the
margin of a newspaper. Then he telephoned again. The answer was that the
doctor had gone out and would be back at ten.
"It's just as well," said Siméon. "I'm not feeling strong enough yet.
Say that I'll call at ten o'clock."
"Shall I give your name as Siméon?"
"No, my real name, Armand Belval. Say it's urgent, say it's a surgical
The porter did so and hung up the instrument, with a moan:
"Oh, my poor M. Siméon! A man like you, so good and kind to everybody!
Tell me what happened?"
"Don't worry about that. Is my place ready?"
"To be sure it is."
"Take me there without any one seeing us."
"Be quick. Put your revolver in your pocket. What about your lodge? Can
you leave it?"
"Five minutes won't hurt."
The lodge opened at the back on a small courtyard, which communicated
with a long corridor. At the end of this passage was another yard, in
which stood a little house consisting of a ground-floor and an attic.
They went in. There was an entrance-hall followed by three rooms,
leading one into the other. Only the second room was furnished. The
third had a door opening straight on a street that ran parallel with the
They stopped in the second room.
"Did you shut the hall-door after you?"
"Yes, M. Siméon."
"No one saw us come in, I suppose?"
"Not a soul."
"No one suspects that you're here?"
"Give me your revolver."
"Here it is."
"Do you think, if I fired it off, any one would hear?"
"No, certainly not. Who is there to hear? But . . ."
"You're surely not going to fire?"
"Yes, I am."
"At yourself, M. Siméon, at yourself? Are you going to kill yourself?"
"Don't be an ass."
"Well, who then?"
"You, of course!" chuckled Siméon.
Pressing the trigger, he blew out the luckless man's brains. His victim
fell in a heap, stone dead. Siméon flung aside the revolver and remained
impassive, a little undecided as to his next step. He opened out his
fingers, one by one, up to six, apparently counting the six persons of
whom he had got rid in a few hours: Grégoire, Coralie, Ya-Bon, Patrice,
Don Luis, old Vacherot!
His mouth gave a grin of satisfaction. One more endeavor; and his flight
and safety were assured.
For the moment he was incapable of making the endeavor. His head
whirled. His arms struck out at space. He fell into a faint, with a
gurgle in his throat, his chest crushed under an unbearable weight.
But, at a quarter to ten, with an effort of will, he picked himself up
and, mastering himself and disregarding the pain, he went out by the
other door of the house.
At ten o'clock, after twice changing his taxi, he arrived at the
Boulevard Montmorency, just at the moment when Dr. Géradec was alighting
from his car and mounting the steps of the handsome villa in which his
private hospital had been installed since the beginning of the war.
SIMEON'S LAST VICTIM
Dr. Géradec's hospital had several annexes, each of which served a
specific purpose, grouped around it in a fine garden. The villa itself
was used for the big operations. The doctor had his consulting-room here
also; and it was to this room that Siméon Diodokis was first shown. But,
after answering a few questions put to him by a male nurse, Siméon was
taken to another room in a separate wing.
Here he was received by the doctor, a man of about sixty, still young in
his movements, clean-shaven and wearing a glass screwed into his right
eye, which contracted his features into a constant grimace. He was
wrapped from the shoulders to the feet in a large white operating-apron.
Siméon explained his case with great difficulty, for he could hardly
speak. A footpad had attacked him the night before, taken him by the
throat and robbed him, leaving him half-dead in the road.
"You have had time to send for a doctor since," said Dr. Géradec, fixing
him with a glance.
Siméon did not reply; and the doctor added:
"However, it's nothing much. The fact that you are alive shows that
there's no fracture. It reduces itself therefore to a contraction of the
larynx, which we shall easily get rid of by tubing."
He gave his assistant some instructions. A long aluminum tube was
inserted in the patient's wind-pipe. The doctor, who had absented
himself meanwhile, returned and, after removing the tube, examined the
patient, who was already beginning to breathe with greater ease.
"That's over," said Dr. Géradec, "and much quicker than I expected.
There was evidently in your case an inhibition which caused the throat
to shrink. Go home now; and, when you've had a rest, you'll forget all
Siméon asked what the fee was and paid it. But, as the doctor was seeing
him to the door, he stopped and, without further preface, said:
"I am a friend of Mme. Albonin's."
The doctor did not seem to understand what he meant.
"Perhaps you don't recognize the name," Siméon insisted. "When I tell
you, however, that it conceals the identity of Mme. Mosgranem, I have no
doubt that we shall be able to arrange something."
"What about?" asked the doctor, while his face displayed still greater
"Come, doctor, there's no need to be on your guard. We are alone. You
have sound-proof, double doors. Sit down and let's talk."
He took a chair. The doctor sat down opposite him, looking more and more
surprised. And Siméon proceeded with his statement:
"I am a Greek subject. Greece is a neutral; indeed, I may say, a
friendly country; and I can easily obtain a passport and leave France.
But, for personal reasons, I want the passport made out not in my own
name but in some other, which you and I will decide upon together and
which will enable me, with your assistance, to go away without any
The doctor rose to his feet indignantly.
"Oh, please don't be theatrical! It's a question of price, is it not? My
mind is made up. How much do you want?"
The doctor pointed to the door.
Siméon raised no protest. He put on his hat. But, on reaching the door,
"Twenty thousand francs? Is that enough?"
"Do you want me to ring?" asked the doctor, "and have you turned out?"
Siméon laughed and quietly, with a pause after each figure:
"Thirty thousand?" he asked. "Forty? . . . Fifty? . . . Oh, I see, we're
playing a great game, we want a round sum. . . . All right. Only, you
know, everything must be included in the price we settle. You must not
only fix me up a passport so genuine that it can't be disputed, but you
must guarantee me the means of leaving France, as you did for Mme.
Mosgranem, on terms not half so handsome, by Jove! However, I'm not
haggling. I need your assistance. Is it a bargain? A hundred thousand
Dr. Géradec bolted the door, came back, sat down at his desk and said,
"We'll talk about it."
"I repeat the question," said Siméon, coming closer. "Are we agreed at a
"We are agreed," said the doctor, "unless any complications appear
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that the figure of a hundred thousand francs forms a suitable
basis for discussion, that's all."
Siméon hesitated a second. The man struck him as rather greedy. However,
he sat down once more; and the doctor at once resumed the conversation:
"Your real name, please."
"You mustn't ask me that. I tell you, there are reasons . . ."
"Then it will be two hundred thousand francs."
"Eh?" said Siméon, with a start. "I say, that's a bit steep! I never
heard of such a price."
"You're not obliged to accept," replied Géradec, calmly. "We are
discussing a bargain. You are free to do as you please."
"But, look here, once you agree to fix me up a false passport, what can
it matter to you whether you know my name or not?"
"It matters a great deal. I run an infinitely greater risk in assisting
the escape--for that's the only word--of a spy than I do in assisting
the escape of a respectable man."
"I'm not a spy."
"How do I know? Look here, you come to me to propose a shady
transaction. You conceal your name and your identity; and you're in such
a hurry to disappear from sight that you're prepared to pay me a hundred
thousand francs to help you. And, in the face of that, you lay claim to
being a respectable man! Come, come! It's absurd! A respectable man does
not behave like a burglar or a murderer."
Old Siméon did not wince. He slowly wiped his forehead with his
handkerchief. He was evidently thinking that Géradec was a hardy
antagonist and that he would perhaps have done better not to go to him.
But, after all, the contract was a conditional one. There would always
be time enough to break it off.
"I say, I say!" he said, with an attempt at a laugh. "You are using big
"They're only words," said the doctor. "I am stating no hypothesis. I am
content to sum up the position and to justify my demands."
"You're quite right."
"Then we're agreed?"
"Yes. Perhaps, however--and this is the last observation I propose to
make--you might let me off more cheaply, considering that I'm a friend
of Mme. Mosgranem's."
"What do you suggest by that?" asked the doctor.
"Mme. Mosgranem herself told me that you charged her nothing."
"That's true, I charged her nothing," replied the doctor, with a fatuous
smile, "but perhaps she presented me with a good deal. Mme. Mosgranem
was one of those attractive women whose favors command their own price."
There was a silence. Old Siméon seemed to feel more and more
uncomfortable in his interlocutor's presence. At last the doctor sighed:
"Poor Mme. Mosgranem!"
"What makes you speak like that?" asked Siméon.
"What! Haven't you heard?"
"I have had no letters from her since she left."
"I see. I had one last night; and I was greatly surprised to learn that
she was back in France."
"In France! Mme. Mosgranem!"
"Yes. And she even gave me an appointment for this morning, a very
"Where?" asked Siméon, with visible concern.
"You'll never guess. On a barge, yes, called the "Nonchalante", moored
at the Quai de Passy, alongside Berthou's Wharf."
"Is it possible?" said Siméon.
"It's as I tell you. And do you know how the letter was signed? It was
"Grégoire? A man's name?" muttered the old man, almost with a groan.
"Yes, a man's name. Look, I have the letter on me. She tells me that she
is leading a very dangerous life, that she distrusts the man with whom
her fortunes are bound up and that she would like to ask my advice."
"Then . . . then you went?"
"Yes, I was there this morning, while you were ringing up here.
Unfortunately . . ."
"I arrived too late. Grégoire, or rather Mme. Mosgranem, was dead. She
had been strangled."
"So you know nothing more than that?" asked Siméon, who seemed unable to
get his words out.
"Nothing more about what?"
"About the man whom she mentioned."
"Yes, I do, for she told me his name in the letter. He's a Greek, who
calls himself Siméon Diodokis. She even gave me a description of him. I
haven't read it very carefully."
He unfolded the letter and ran his eyes down the second page, mumbling:
"A broken-down old man. . . . Passes himself off as mad. . . . Always
goes about in a comforter and a pair of large yellow spectacles. . . ."
Dr. Géradec ceased reading and looked at Siméon with an air of
amazement. Both of them sat for a moment without speaking. Then the
"You are Siméon Diodokis."
The other did not protest. All these incidents were so strangely and, at
the same time, so naturally interlinked as to persuade him that lying
"This alters the situation," declared the doctor. "The time for trifling
is past. It's a most serious and terribly dangerous matter for me, I can
tell you! You'll have to make it a million."
"Oh, no!" cried Siméon, excitedly. "Certainly not! Besides, I never
touched Mme. Mosgranem. I was myself attacked by the man who strangled
her, the same man--a negro called Ya-Bon--who caught me up and took me
by the throat."
"Ya-Bon? Did you say Ya-Bon?"
"Yes, a one-armed Senegalese."
"And did you two fight?"
"And did you kill him?"
"Well . . ."
The doctor shrugged his shoulders with a smile:
"Listen, sir, to a curious coincidence. When I left the barge, I met
half-a-dozen wounded soldiers. They spoke to me and said that they were
looking for a comrade, this very Ya-Bon, and also for their captain,
Captain Belval, and a friend of this officer's and a lady, the lady they
were staying with. All these people had disappeared; and they accused a
certain person . . . wait, they told me his name. . . . Oh, but this is
more and more curious! The man's name was Siméon Diodokis. It was you
they accused! . . . Isn't it odd? But, on the other hand, you must
confess that all this constitutes fresh facts and therefore . . ."
There was a pause. Then the doctor formulated his demand in plain tones:
"I shall want two millions."
This time Siméon remained impassive. He felt that he was in the man's
clutches, like a mouse clawed by a cat. The doctor was playing with him,
letting him go and catching him again, without giving him the least hope
of escaping from this grim sport.
"This is blackmail," he said, quietly.
The doctor nodded:
"There's no other word for it," he admitted. "It's blackmail. Moreover,
it's a case of blackmail in which I have not the excuse of creating the
opportunity that gives me my advantage. A wonderful chance comes within
reach of my hand. I grab at it, as you would do in my place. What else
is possible? I have had a few differences, which you know of, with the
police. We've signed a peace, the police and I. But my professional
position has been so much injured that I cannot afford to reject with
scorn what you so kindly bring me."
"Suppose I refuse to submit?"
"Then I shall telephone to the headquarters of police, with whom I stand
in great favor at present, as I am able to do them a good turn now and
Siméon glanced at the window and at the door. The doctor had his hand on
the receiver of the telephone. There was no way out of it.
"Very well," he declared. "After all, it's better so. You know me; and
I know you. We can come to terms."
"On the basis suggested?"
"Yes. Tell me your plan."
"No, it's not worth while. I have my methods; and there's no object in
revealing them beforehand. The point is to secure your escape and to put
an end to your present danger. I'll answer for all that."
"What guarantee have I. . . ?"
"You will pay me half the money now and the other half when the business
is done. There remains the matter of the passport, a secondary matter
for me. Still, we shall have to make one out. In what name is it to be?"
"Any name you like."
The doctor took a sheet of paper and wrote down the description, looking
at Siméon between the phrases and muttering:
"Gray hair. . . . Clean-shaven. . . . Yellow spectacles. . . ."
Then he stopped and asked:
"But how do I know that I shall be paid the money? That's essential, you
know. I want bank-notes, real ones."
"You shall have them."
"Where are they?"
"In a hiding-place that can't be got at."
"Tell me where."
"I have no objection. Even if I give you a clue to the general position,
you'll never find it."
"Well, go on."
"Grégoire had the money in her keeping, four million francs. It's on
board the barge. We'll go there together and I'll count you out the
"You say those millions are on board the barge?"
"And there are four of those millions?"
"I won't accept any of them in payment."
"Why not? You must be mad!"
"Why not? Because you can't pay a man with what already belongs to him."
"What's that you're saying?" cried Siméon, in dismay.
"Those four millions belong to me, so you can't offer them to me."
Siméon shrugged his shoulders:
"You're talking nonsense. For the money to belong to you, it must first
be in your possession."
"And is it?"
"Explain yourself, explain yourself at once!" snarled Siméon, beside
himself with anger and alarm.
"I will explain myself. The hiding-place that couldn't be got at
consisted of four old books, back numbers of Bottin's directory for
Paris and the provinces, each in two volumes. The four volumes were
hollow inside, as though they had been scooped out; and there was a
million francs in each of them."
"You lie! You lie!"
"They were on a shelf, in a little lumber-room next the cabin."
"Well, what then?"
"What then? They're here."
"Yes, here, on that bookshelf, in front of your nose. So, in the
circumstances, you see, as I am already the lawful owner, I can't accept
. . ."
"You thief! You thief!" shouted Siméon, shaking with rage and clenching
his fist. "You're nothing but a thief; and I'll make you disgorge. Oh,
you dirty thief!"
Dr. Géradec smiled very calmly and raised his hand in protest:
"This is strong language and quite unjustified! quite unjustified! Let
me remind you that Mme. Mosgranem honored me with her affection. One
day, or rather one morning, after a moment of expansiveness, 'My dear
friend,' she said--she used to call me her dear friend--'my dear friend,
when I die'--she was given to those gloomy forebodings--'when I die, I
bequeath to you the contents of my home!' Her home, at that moment, was
the barge. Do you suggest that I should insult her memory by refusing to
obey so sacred a wish?"
Old Siméon was not listening. An infernal thought was awakening in him;
and he turned to the doctor with a movement of affrighted attention.
"We are wasting precious time, my dear sir," said the doctor. "What have
you decided to do?"
He was playing with the sheet of paper on which he had written the
particulars required for the passport. Siméon came up to him without a
word. At last the old man whispered:
"Give me that sheet of paper. . . . I want to see . . ."
He took the paper out of the doctor's hand, ran his eyes down it and
suddenly leapt backwards:
"What name have you put? What name have you put? What right have you to
give me that name? Why did you do it?"
"You told me to put any name I pleased, you know."
"But why this one? Why this one?"
"Can it be your own?"
The old man started with terror and, bending lower and lower over the
doctor, said, in a trembling voice:
"One man alone, one man alone was capable of guessing . . ."
There was a long pause. Then the doctor gave a little chuckle:
"I know that only one man was capable of it. So let's take it that I'm
"One man alone," continued the other, while his breath once again seemed
to fail him, "one man alone could find the hiding-place of the four
millions in a few seconds."
The doctor did not answer. He smiled; and his features gradually
In a sort of terror-stricken tone Siméon hissed out:
"Arsène Lupin! . . . Arsène Lupin! . . ."
"You've hit it in one," exclaimed the doctor, rising.
He dropped his eye-glass, took from his pocket a little pot of grease,
smeared his face with it, washed it off in a basin in a recess and
reappeared with a clear skin, a smiling, bantering face and an easy
"Arsène Lupin!" repeated Siméon, petrified. "Arsène Lupin! I'm in for
"Up to the neck, you old fool! And what a silly fool you must be! Why,
you know me by reputation, you feel for me the intense and wholesome awe
with which a decent man of my stamp is bound to inspire an old rascal
like you . . . and you go and imagine that I should be ass enough to let
myself be bottled up in that lethal chamber of yours! Mind you, at that
very moment I could have taken you by the hair of the head and gone
straight on to the great scene in the fifth act, which we are now
playing. Only my fifth act would have been a bit short, you see; and I'm
a born actor-manager. As it is, observe how well the interest is
sustained! And what fun it was seeing the thought of it take birth in
your old Turkish noddle! And what a lark to go into the studio, fasten
my electric lamp to a bit of string, make poor, dear Patrice believe
that I was there and go out and hear Patrice denying me three times and
carefully bolting the door on . . . what? My electric lamp! That was all
first-class work, don't you think? What do you say to it? I can feel
that you're speechless with admiration. . . . And, ten minutes after,
when you came back, the same scene in the wings and with the same
success. Of course, you old Siméon, I was banging at the walled-up door,
between the studio and the bedroom on the left. Only I wasn't in the
studio: I was in the bedroom; and you went away quietly, like a good
kind landlord. As for me, I had no need to hurry. I was as certain as
that twice two is four that you would go to your friend M. Amédée
Vacherot, the porter. And here, I may say, old Siméon, you committed a
nice piece of imprudence, which got me out of my difficulty. No one in
the porter's lodge: that couldn't be helped; but what I did find was a
telephone-number on a scrap of newspaper. I did not hesitate for a
moment. I rang up the number, coolly: 'Monsieur, it was I who telephoned
to you just now. Only I've got your number, but not your address.' Back
came the answer: 'Dr. Géradec, Boulevard de Montmorency.' Then I
understood. Dr. Géradec? You would want your throat tubed for a bit,
then the all-essential passport; and I came off here, without troubling
about your poor friend M. Vacherot, whom you murdered in some corner or
other to escape a possible give-away on his side. And I saw Dr. Géradec,
a charming man, whose worries have made him very wise and submissive and
who . . . lent me his place for the morning. I had still two hours
before me. I went to the barge, took the millions, cleared up a few odds
and ends and here I am!"
He came and stood in front of the old man:
"Well, are you ready?" he asked.
Siméon, who seemed absorbed in thought, gave a start.
"Ready for what?" said Don Luis, replying to his unspoken question.
"Why, for the great journey, of course! Your passport is in order. Your
ticket's taken: Paris to Hell, single. Non-stop hearse. Sleeping-coffin.
Step in, sir!"
The old man, tottering on his legs, made an effort and stammered:
"What about him?"
"I offer you his life in exchange for my own."
Don Luis folded his arms across his chest:
"Well, of all the cheek! Patrice is a friend; and you think me capable
of abandoning him like that? Do you see me, Lupin, making more or less
witty jokes upon your imminent death while my friend Patrice is in
danger? Old Siméon, you're getting played out. It's time you went and
rested in a better world."
He lifted a hanging, opened a door and called out:
"Well, captain, how are you getting on? Ah, I see you've recovered
consciousness! Are you surprised to see me? No, no thanks, but please
come in here. Our old Siméon's asking for you."
Then, turning to the old man, he said:
"Here's your son, you unnatural father!"
Patrice entered the room with his head bandaged, for the blow which
Siméon had struck him and the weight of the tombstone had opened his old
wounds. He was very pale and seemed to be in great pain.
At the sight of Siméon Diodokis he gave signs of terrible anger. He
controlled himself, however. The two men stood facing each other,
without stirring, and Don Luis, rubbing his hands, said, in an
"What a scene! What a splendid scene? Isn't it well-arranged? The father
and the son! The murderer and his victim! Listen to the orchestra! . . .
A slight tremolo. . . . What are they going to do? Will the son kill his
father or the father kill his son? A thrilling moment. . . . And the
mighty silence! Only the call of the blood is heard . . . and in what
terms! Now we're off! The call of the blood has sounded; and they are
going to throw themselves into each other's arms, the better to strangle
the life out of each other!"
Patrice had taken two steps forward; and the movement suggested by Don
Luis was about to be performed. Already the officer's arms were flung
wide for the fight. But suddenly Siméon, weakened by pain and dominated
by a stronger will than his own, let himself go and implored his
"Patrice!" he entreated. "Patrice! What are you thinking of doing?"
Stretching out his hands, he threw himself upon the other's pity; and
Patrice, arrested in his onrush, stood perplexed, staring at the man to
whom he was bound by so mysterious and strange a tie:
"Coralie," he said, without lowering his hands, "Coralie . . . tell me
where she is and I'll spare your life."
The old man started. His evil nature was stimulated by the remembrance
of Coralie; and he recovered a part of his energy at the possibility of
wrong-doing. He gave a cruel laugh:
"No, no," he answered. "Coralie in one scale and I in the other? I'd
rather die. Besides, Coralie's hiding-place is where the gold is. No,
never! I may just as well die."
"Kill him then, captain," said Don Luis, intervening. "Kill him, since
he prefers it."
Once more the thought of immediate murder and revenge sent the red blood
rushing to the officer's face. But the same hesitation unnerved him.
"No, no," he said, in a low voice, "I can't do it."
"Why not?" Don Luis insisted. "It's so easy. Come along! Wring his neck,
like a chicken's, and have done with it!"
"But why? Do you dislike the thought of strangling him? Does it repel
you? And yet, if it were a Boche, on the battlefield . . ."
"Yes . . . but this man . . ."
"Is it your hands that refuse? The idea of taking hold of the flesh and
squeezing? . . . Here, captain, take my revolver and blow out his
Patrice accepted the weapon eagerly and aimed it at old Siméon. The
silence was appalling. Old Siméon's eyes had closed and drops of sweat
were streaming down his livid cheeks.
At last the officer lowered his arm:
"I can't do it," he said.
"Nonsense," said Don Luis. "Get on with the work."
"No. . . . No. . . ."
"But, in Heaven's name, why not?"
"You can't? Shall I tell you the reason? You are thinking of that man as
if he were your father."
"Perhaps it's that," said the officer, speaking very low. "There's a
chance of it, you know."
"What does it matter, if he's a beast and a blackguard?"
"No, no, I haven't the right. Let him die by all means, but not by my
hand. I haven't the right."
"You have the right."
"No, it would be abominable! It would be monstrous!"
Don Luis went up to him and, tapping him on the shoulder, said, gravely:
"You surely don't believe that I should stand here, urging you to kill
that man, if he were your father?"
Patrice looked at him wildly:
"Do you know something? Do you know something for certain? Oh, for
Heaven's sake . . . !"
Don Luis continued:
"Do you believe that I would even encourage you to hate him, if he were
"Oh!" exclaimed Patrice. "Do you mean that he's not my father?"
"Of course he's not!" cried Don Luis, with irresistible conviction and
increasing eagerness. "Your father indeed! Why, look at him! Look at
that scoundrelly head. Every sort of vice and violence is written on the
brute's face. Throughout this adventure, from the first day to the last,
there was not a crime committed but was his handiwork: not one, do you
follow me? There were not two criminals, as we thought, not Essarès, to
begin the hellish business, and old Siméon, to finish it. There was only
one criminal, one, do you understand, Patrice? Before killing Coralie
and Ya-Bon and Vacherot the porter and the woman who was his own
accomplice, he killed others! He killed one other in particular, one
whose flesh and blood you are, the man whose dying cries you heard over
the telephone, the man who called you Patrice and who only lived for
you! He killed that man; and that man was your father, Patrice; he was
Armand Belval! Now do you understand?"
Patrice did not understand. Don Luis' words fell uncomprehended; not one
of them lit up the darkness of Patrice's brain. However, one thought
insistently possessed him; and he stammered:
""That" was my father? I heard his voice, you say? Then it was "he" who
called to me?"
"Yes, Patrice, your father."
"And the man who killed him . . . ?"
"Was this one," said Don Luis, pointing to Siméon.
The old man remained motionless, wild-eyed, like a felon awaiting
sentence of death. Patrice, quivering with rage, stared at him fixedly:
"Who are you? Who are you?" he asked. And, turning to Don Luis, "Tell me
his name, I beseech you. I want to know his name, before I destroy him."
"His name? Haven't you guessed it yet? Why, from the very first day, I
took it for granted! After all, it was the only possible theory."
"But what theory? What was it you took for granted?" cried Patrice,
"Do you really want to know?"
"Oh, please! I'm longing to kill him, but I must first know his name."
"Well, then . . ."
There was a long silence between the two men, as they stood close
together, looking into each other's eyes. Then Lupin let fall these four
Patrice felt a shock that ran through him from head to foot. Not for a
second did he try to understand by what prodigy this revelation came to
be merely an expression of the truth. He instantly accepted this truth,
as though it were undeniable and proved by the most evident facts. The
man was Essarès Bey and had killed his father. He had killed him, so to
speak, twice over: first years ago, in the lodge in the garden, taking
from him all the light of life and any reason for living; and again the
other day, in the library, when Armand Belval had telephoned to his son.
This time Patrice was determined to do the deed. His eyes expressed an
indomitable resolution. His father's murderer, Coralie's murderer, must
die then and there. His duty was clear and precise. The terrible Essarès
was doomed to die by the hand of the son and the bridegroom.
"Say your prayers," said Patrice, coldly. "In ten seconds you will be a
He counted out the seconds and, at the tenth, was about to fire, when
his enemy, in an access of mad energy proving that, under the outward
appearance of old Siméon, there was hidden a man still young and
vigorous, shouted with a violence so extraordinary that it made Patrice
"Very well, kill me! . . . Yes, let it be finished! . . . I am beaten: I
accept defeat. But it is a victory all the same, because Coralie is dead
and my gold is saved! . . . I shall die, but nobody shall have either
one or the other, the woman whom I love or the gold that was my life.
Ah, Patrice, Patrice, the woman whom we both loved to distraction is no
longer alive . . . or else she is dying without a possibility of saving
her now. If I cannot have her, you shall not have her either, Patrice.
My revenge has done its work. Coralie is lost!"
He had recovered a fierce energy and was shouting and stammering at the
same time. Patrice stood opposite him, holding him covered with the
revolver, ready to act, but still waiting to hear the terrible words
that tortured him.
"She is lost, Patrice!" Siméon continued, raising his voice still
louder. "Lost! There's nothing to be done! And you will not find even
her body in the bowels of the earth, where I buried her with the bags of
gold. Under the tombstone? No, not such a fool! No, Patrice, you will
never find her. The gold is stifling her. She's dead! Coralie is dead!
Oh, the delight of throwing that in your face! The anguish you must be
feeling! Coralie is dead! Coralie is dead!"
"Don't shout so, you'll wake her," said Don Luis, calmly.
The brief sentence was followed by a sort of stupor which paralyzed the
two adversaries. Patrice's arms dropped to his sides. Siméon turned
giddy and sank into a chair. Both of them, knowing the things of which
Don Luis was capable, knew what he meant.
But Patrice wanted something more than a vague sentence that might just
as easily be taken as a jest. He wanted a certainty.
"Wake her?" he asked, in a broken voice.
"Well, of course!" said Don Luis. "When you shout too loud, you wake
"Then she's alive?"
"You can't wake the dead, whatever people may say. You can only wake the
"Coralie is alive! Coralie is alive!" Patrice repeated, in a sort of
rapture that transfigured his features. "Can it be possible? But then
she must be here! Oh, I beg of you, say you're in earnest, give me your
word! . . . Or no, it's not true, is it? I can't believe it . . . you
must be joking. . . ."
"Let me answer you, captain, as I answered that wretch just now. You are
admitting that it is possible for me to abandon my work before
completing it. How little you know me! What I undertake to do I do.
It's one of my habits and a good one at that. That's why I cling to it.
Now watch me."
He turned to one side of the room. Opposite the hanging that covered the
door by which Patrice had entered was a second curtain, concealing
another door. He lifted the curtain.
"No, no, she's not there," said Patrice, in an almost inaudible voice.
"I dare not believe it. The disappointment would be too great. Swear to
me . . ."
"I swear nothing, captain. You have only to open your eyes. By Jove, for
a French officer, you're cutting a pretty figure! Why, you're as white
as a sheet! Of course it's she! It's Little Mother Coralie! Look, she's
in bed asleep, with two nurses to watch her. But there's no danger;
she's not wounded. A bit of a temperature, that's all, and extreme
weakness. Poor Little Mother Coralie! I never could have imagined her in
such a state of exhaustion and coma."
Patrice had stepped forward, brimming over with joy. Don Luis stopped
"That will do, captain. Don't go any nearer. I brought her here, instead
of taking her home, because I thought a change of scene and atmosphere
essential. But she must have no excitement. She's had her share of that;
and you might spoil everything by showing yourself."
"You're right," said Patrice. "But are you quite sure . . . ?"
"That she's alive?" asked Don Luis, laughing. "She's as much alive as
you or I and quite ready to give you the happiness you deserve and to
change her name to Mme. Patrice Belval. You must have just a little
patience, that's all. And there is yet one obstacle to overcome,
captain, for remember she's a married woman!"
He closed the door and led Patrice back to Essarès Bey:
"There's the obstacle, captain. Is your mind made up now? This wretch
still stands between you and your Coralie."
Essarès had not even glanced into the next room, as though he knew that
there could be no doubt about Don Luis' word. He sat shivering in his
chair, cowering, weak and helpless.
"You don't seem comfortable," said Don Luis. "What's worrying you?
You're frightened, perhaps? What for? I promise you that we will do
nothing except by mutual consent and until we are all of the same
opinion. That ought to cheer you up. We'll be your judges, the three of
us, here and now. Captain Patrice Belval, Arsène Lupin and old Siméon
will form the court. Let the trial begin. Does any one wish to speak in
defense of the prisoner at the bar, Essarès Bey? No one. The prisoner at
the bar is sentenced to death. Extenuating circumstances? No notice of
appeal? No. Commutation of sentence? No. Reprieve? No. Immediate
execution? Yes. You see, there's no delay. What about the means of
death? A revolver-shot? That will do. It's clean, quick work. Captain
Belval, your bird. The gun's loaded. Here you are."
Patrice did not move. He stood gazing at the foul brute who had done him
so many injuries. His whole being seethed with hatred. Nevertheless, he
"I will not kill that man."
"I agree, captain. Your scruples do you honor. You have not the right to
kill a man whom you know to be the husband of the woman you love. It is
not for you to remove the obstacle. Besides, you hate taking life. So do
I. This animal is too filthy for words. And so, my good man, there's no
one left but yourself to help us out of this delicate position."
Don Luis ceased speaking for a moment and leant over Essarès. Had the
wretched man heard? Was he even alive? He looked as if he were in a
faint, deprived of consciousness.
Don Luis shook him by the shoulder.
"The gold," moaned Essarès, "the bags of gold . . ."
"Oh, you're thinking of that, you old scoundrel, are you? You're still
interested? The bags of gold are in my pocket . . . if a pocket can
contain eighteen hundred bags of gold."
"Your hiding-place? It doesn't exist, so far as I'm concerned. I needn't
prove it to you, need I, since Coralie's here? As Coralie was buried
among the bags of gold, you can draw your own conclusion. So you're
nicely done. The woman you wanted is free and, what is worse still, free
by the side of the man whom she adores and whom she will never leave.
And, on the other hand, your treasure is discovered. So it's all
finished, eh? We are agreed? Come, here's the toy that will release
He handed him the revolver. Essarès took it mechanically and pointed it
at Don Luis; but his arm lacked the strength to take aim and fell by his
"Capital!" said Don Luis. "We understand each other; and the action
which you are about to perform will atone for your evil life, you old
blackguard. When a man's last hope is dispelled, there's nothing for it
but death. That's the final refuge."
He took hold of the other's hand and, bending Essarès' nerveless fingers
round the revolver, forced him to point it towards his own face.
"Come," said he, "just a little pluck. What you've resolved to do is a
very good thing. As Captain Belval and I refuse to disgrace ourselves by
killing you, you've decided to do the job yourself. We are touched; and
we congratulate you. But you must behave with courage. No resistance,
come! That's right, that's much more like it. Once more, my compliments.
It's very smart, your manner of getting out of it. You perceive that
there's no room for you on earth, that you're standing in the way of
Patrice and Coralie and that the best thing you can do is to retire. And
you're jolly well right! No love and no gold! No gold, Siméon! The
beautiful shiny coins which you coveted, with which you would have
managed to secure a nice, comfortable existence, all fled, vanished! You
may just as well vanish yourself, what?"
Whether because he felt himself to be helpless or because he really
understood that Don Luis was right and that his life was no longer worth
living, Siméon offered hardly any resistance. The revolver rose to his
forehead. The barrel touched his temple.
At the touch of the cold steel he gave a moan:
"No, no, no!" said Don Luis. "You mustn't show yourself any mercy. And I
won't help you either. Perhaps, if you hadn't killed my poor Ya-Bon, we
might have put our heads together and sought for another ending. But,
honestly, you inspire me with no more pity than you feel for yourself.
You want to die and you are right. I won't prevent you. Besides, your
passport is made out; you've got your ticket in your pocket. They are
expecting you down below. And, you know, you need have no fear of being
bored. Have you ever seen a picture of Hell? Every one has a huge stone
over his tomb; and every one is lifting the stone and supporting it with
his back, in order to escape the flames bursting forth beneath him. You
see, there's plenty of fun. Well, your grave is reserved. Bath's ready,
Slowly and patiently he had succeeded in slipping the wretched man's
fore-finger under the handle, so as to bring it against the trigger.
Essarès was letting himself go. He was little more than a limp rag.
Death had already cast its shadow upon him.
"Mind you," said Don Luis, "you're perfectly free. You can pull the
trigger if you feel like it. It's not my business. I'm not here to
compel you to commit suicide, but only to advise you and to lend you a
He had in fact let go the fore-finger and was holding only the arm. But
he was bearing upon Essarès with all his extraordinary power of will,
the will to seek destruction, the will to seek annihilation, an
indomitable will which Essarès was unable to resist. Every second death
sank a little deeper into that invertebrate body, breaking up instinct,
obscuring thought and bringing an immense craving for rest and inaction.
"You see how easy it is. The intoxication is flying to your brain. It's
an almost voluptuous feeling, isn't it? What a riddance! To cease
living! To cease suffering! To cease thinking of that gold which you no
longer possess and can never possess again, of that woman who belongs to
another and offers him her lips and all her entrancing self! . . . You
couldn't live, could you, with that thought on you? Then come on! . . ."
Seized with cowardice, the wretch was yielding by slow degrees. He found
himself face to face with one of those crushing forces, one of nature's
forces, powerful as fate, which a man must needs accept. His head turned
giddy and swam. He was descending into the abyss.
"Come along now, show yourself a man. Don't forget either that you are
dead already. Remember, you can't appear in this world again without
falling into the hands of the police. And, of course, I'm there to
inform them in case of need. That means prison and the scaffold. The
scaffold, my poor fellow, the icy dawn, the knife . . ."
It was over. Essarès was sinking into the depths of darkness. Everything
whirled around him. Don Luis' will penetrated him and annihilated his
For one moment he turned to Patrice and tried to implore his aid. But
Patrice persisted in his impassive attitude. Standing with his arms
folded, he gazed with eyes devoid of pity upon his father's murderer.
The punishment was well-deserved. Fate must be allowed to take its
course. Patrice did not interfere.
And Don Luis continued, unrelentingly and without intermission:
"Come along, come along! . . . It's a mere nothing and it means eternal
rest! . . . How good it feels, already! To forget! To cease fighting!
. . . Think of the gold which you have lost. . . . Three hundred
millions gone for ever! . . . And Coralie lost as well. Mother and
daughter: you can't have either. In that case, life is nothing but a
snare and a delusion. You may as well leave it. Come, one little effort,
one little movement. . . ."
That little movement the miscreant made. Hardly knowing what he did, he
pulled the trigger. The shot rang through the room; and Essarès fell
forward, with his knees on the floor. Don Luis had to spring to one side
to escape being splashed by the blood that trickled from the man's
"By Jove!" he cried. "The blood of vermin like that would have brought
me ill-luck. And, Lord, what crawling vermin it is! . . . Upon my word,
I believe that this makes one more good action I've done in my life and
that this suicide entitles me to a little seat in Paradise. What say
On the evening of the same day, Patrice was pacing up and down the Quai
de Passy. It was nearly six o'clock. From time to time, a tram-car
passed, or some motor-lorry. There were very few people about on foot.
Patrice had the pavement almost to himself.
He had not seen Don Luis Perenna since the morning, had merely received
a line in which Don Luis asked him to have Ya-Bon's body moved into the
Essarès' house and afterwards to meet him on the quay above Berthou's
Wharf. The time appointed for the meeting was near at hand and Patrice
was looking forward to this interview in which the truth would be
revealed to him at last. He partly guessed the truth, but no little
darkness and any number of unsolved problems remained. The tragedy was
played out. The curtain had fallen on the villain's death. All was well:
there was nothing more to fear, no more pitfalls in store for them. The
formidable enemy was laid low. But Patrice's anxiety was intense as he
waited for the moment when light would be cast freely and fully upon the
"A few words," he said to himself, "a few words from that incredible
person known as Arsène Lupin, will clear up the mystery. It will not
take him long. He will be gone in an hour. Will he take the secret of
the gold with him, I wonder? Will he solve the secret of the golden
triangle for me? And how will he keep the gold for himself? How will he
take it away?"
A motor-car arrived from the direction of the Trocadéro. It slowed down
and stopped beside the pavement. It must be Don Luis, thought Patrice.
But, to his great surprise, he recognized M. Masseron, who opened the
door and came towards him with outstretched hand:
"Well, captain, how are you? I'm punctual for the appointment, am I not?
But, I say, have you been wounded in the head again?"
"Yes, an accident of no importance," replied Patrice. "But what
appointment are you speaking of?"
"Why, the one you gave me, of course!"
"I gave you no appointment."
"Oh, I say!" said M. Masseron. "What does this mean? Why, here's the
note they brought me at the police-office: 'Captain Belval's compliments
to M. Masseron. The problem of the golden triangle is solved. The
eighteen hundred bags are at his disposal. Will he please come to the
Quai de Passy, at six o'clock, with full powers from the government to
accept the conditions of delivery. It would be well if he brought with
him twenty powerful detectives, of whom half should be posted a hundred
yards on one side of Essarès' property and the other half on the other.'
There you are. Is it clear?"
"Perfectly clear," said Patrice, "but I never sent you that note."
"Who sent it then?"
"An extraordinary man who deciphered all those problems like so many
children's riddles and who certainly will be here himself to bring you
"What's his name?"
"I sha'n't say."
"Oh, I don't know about that! Secrets are hard to keep in war-time."
"Very easy, on the contrary, sir," said a voice behind M. Masseron. "All
you need do is to make up your mind to it."
M. Masseron and Patrice turned round and saw a gentleman dressed in a
long, black overcoat, cut like a frock-coat, and a tall collar which
gave him a look of an English clergyman.
"This is the friend I was speaking of," said Patrice, though he had some
difficulty in recognizing Don Luis. "He twice saved my life and also
that of the lady whom I am going to marry. I will answer for him in
M. Masseron bowed; and Don Luis at once began, speaking with a slight
"Sir, your time is valuable and so is mine, for I am leaving Paris
to-night and France to-morrow. My explanation therefore will be brief. I
will pass over the drama itself, of which you have followed the main
vicissitudes so far. It came to an end this morning. Captain Belval will
tell you all about it. I will merely add that our poor Ya-Bon is dead
and that you will find three other bodies: that of Grégoire, whose real
name was Mme. Mosgranem, in the barge over there; that of one Vacherot,
a hall-porter, in some corner of a block of flats at 18, Rue Guimard;
and lastly the body of Siméon Diodokis, in Dr. Géradec's private
hospital on the Boulevard de Montmorency."
"Old Siméon?" asked M. Masseron in great surprise.
"Old Siméon has killed himself. Captain Belval will give you every
possible information about that person and his real identity; and I
think you will agree with me that this business will have to be hushed
up. But, as I said, we will pass over all this. There remains the
question of the gold, which, if I am not mistaken, interests you more
than anything else. Have you brought your men?"
"Yes, I have. But why? The hiding-place, even after you have told me
where it is, will be what it was before, undiscovered by those who do
not know it."
"Certainly; but, as the number of those who do know it increases, the
secret may slip out. In any case that is one of my two conditions."
"As you see, it is accepted. What is the other?"
"A more serious condition, sir, so serious indeed that, whatever powers
may have been conferred upon you, I doubt whether they will be
"Let me hear; then we shall see."
And Don Luis, speaking in a phlegmatic tone, as though he were telling
the most unimportant story, calmly set forth his incredible proposal:
"Two months ago, sir, thanks to my connection with the Near East and to
my influence in certain Ottoman circles, I persuaded the clique which
rules Turkey to-day to accept the idea of a separate peace. It was
simply a question of a few hundred millions for distribution. I had the
offer transmitted to the Allies, who rejected it, certainly not for
financial reasons, but for reasons of policy, which it is not for me to
judge. But I am not content to suffer this little diplomatic check. I
failed in my first negotiation; I do not mean to fail in the second.
That is why I am taking my precautions."
He paused and then resumed, while his voice took on a rather more
"At this moment, in April, 1915, as you are well aware, conferences are
in progress between the Allies and the last of the great European powers
that has remained neutral. These conferences are going to succeed; and
they will succeed because the future of that power demands it and
because the whole nation is uplifted with enthusiasm. Among the
questions raised is one which forms the object of a certain divergency
of opinion. I mean the question of money. This foreign power is asking
us for a loan of three hundred million francs in gold, while making it
quite clear that a refusal on our part would in no way affect a decision
which is already irrevocably taken. Well, I have three hundred millions
in gold; I have them at my command; and I desire to place them at the
disposal of our new allies. This is my second and, in reality, my only
M. Masseron seemed utterly taken aback:
"But, my dear sir," he said, "these are matters quite outside our
province; they must be examined and decided by others, not by us."
"Every one has the right to dispose of his money as he pleases."
M. Masseron made a gesture of distress:
"Come, sir, think a moment. You yourself said that this power was only
putting forward the question as a secondary one."
"Yes, but the mere fact that it is being discussed will delay the
conclusion of the agreement for a few days."
"Well, a few days will make no difference, surely?"
"Sir, a few hours "will" make a difference."
"For a reason which you do not know and which nobody knows . . . except
myself and a few people some fifteen hundred miles away."
"The Russians have no munitions left."
M. Masseron shrugged his shoulders impatiently. What had all this to do
with the matter?
"The Russians have no munitions left," repeated Don Luis. "Now there is
a tremendous battle being fought over there, a battle which will be
decided not many hours hence. The Russian front will be broken and the
Russian troops will retreat and retreat . . . Heaven knows when they'll
stop retreating! Of course, this assured, this inevitable contingency
will have no influence on the wishes of the great power of which we are
talking. Nevertheless, that nation has in its midst a very considerable
party on the side of neutrality, a party which is held in check, but
none the less violent for that. Think what a weapon you will place in
its hands by postponing the agreement! Think of the difficulties which
you are making for rulers preparing to go to war! It would be an
unpardonable mistake, from which I wish to save my country. That is why
I have laid down this condition."
M. Masseron seemed quite discomforted. Waving his hands and shaking his
head, he mumbled:
"It's impossible. Such a condition as that will never be accepted. It
will take time, it will need discussion. . . ."
A hand was laid on his arm by some one who had come up a moment before
and who had listened to Don Luis' little speech. Its owner had alighted
from a car which was waiting some way off; and, to Patrice's great
astonishment, his presence had aroused no opposition on the part of
either M. Masseron or Don Luis Perenna. He was a man well-advanced in
years, with a powerful, lined face.
"My dear Masseron," he said, "it seems to me that you are not looking at
the question from the right point of view."
"That's what I think, monsieur le président," said Don Luis.
"Ah, do you know me, sir?"
"M. Valenglay, I believe? I had the honor of calling on you some years
ago, sir, when you were president of the council."
"Yes, I thought I remembered . . . though I can't say exactly . . ."
"Please don't tax your memory, sir. The past does not concern us. What
matters is that you should be of my opinion."
"I don't know that I am of your opinion. But I consider that this makes
no difference. And that is what I was telling you, my dear Masseron.
It's not a question of knowing whether you ought to discuss this
gentleman's conditions. It's a question of accepting them or refusing
them without discussion. There's no bargain to be driven in the
circumstances. A bargain presupposes that each party has something to
offer. Now we have no offer to make, whereas this gentleman comes with
his offer in his hand and says, 'Would you like three hundred million
francs in gold? In that case you must do so-and-so with it. If that
doesn't suit you, good-evening.' That's the position, isn't it,
"Yes, monsieur le président."
"Well, can you dispense with our friend here? Can you, without his
assistance, find the place where the gold is hidden? Observe that he
makes things very easy for you by bringing you to the place and almost
pointing out the exact spot to you. Is that enough? Have you any hope of
discovering the secret which you have been seeking for weeks and
M. Masseron was very frank in his reply:
"No, monsieur le président," he said, plainly and without hesitation.
"Well, then. . . ."
And, turning to Don Luis:
"And you, sir," Valenglay asked, "is it your last word?"
"My last word."
"If we refuse . . . good-evening?"
"You have stated the case precisely, monsieur le président."
"And, if we accept, will the gold be handed over at once?"
And, after a slight pause, he repeated:
"We accept. The ambassador shall receive his instructions this
"Do you give me your word, sir?"
"I give you my word."
"In that case, we are agreed."
"We are agreed. Now then! . . ."
All these sentences were uttered rapidly. Not five minutes had elapsed
since the former prime minister had appeared upon the scene. Nothing
remained to do but for Don Luis to keep his promise.
It was a solemn moment. The four men were standing close together, like
acquaintances who have met in the course of a walk and who stop for a
minute to exchange their news. Valenglay, leaning with one arm on the
parapet overlooking the lower quay, had his face turned to the river and
kept raising and lowering his cane above the sand-heap. Patrice and M.
Masseron stood silent, with faces a little set.
Don Luis gave a laugh:
"Don't be too sure, monsieur le président," he said, "that I shall make
the gold rise from the ground with a magic wand or show you a cave in
which the bags lie stacked. I always thought those words, 'the golden
triangle,' misleading, because they suggest something mysterious and
fabulous. Now according to me it was simply a question of the space
containing the gold, which space would have the shape of a triangle. The
golden triangle, that's it: bags of gold arranged in a triangle, a
triangular site. The reality is much simpler, therefore; and you will
perhaps be disappointed."
"I sha'n't be," said Valenglay, "if you put me with my face towards the
eighteen hundred bags of gold."
"You're that now, sir."
"What do you mean?"
"Exactly what I say. Short of touching the bags of gold, it would be
difficult to be nearer to them than you are."
For all his self-control, Valenglay could not conceal his surprise:
"You are not suggesting, I suppose, that I am walking on gold and that
we have only to lift up the flags of the pavement or to break down this
"That would be removing obstacles, sir, whereas there is no obstacle
between you and what you are seeking."
"None, monsieur le président, for you have only to make the least little
movement in order to touch the bags."
"The least little movement!" said Valenglay, mechanically repeating Don
"I call a little movement what one can make without an effort, almost
without stirring, such as dipping one's stick into a sheet of water, for
instance, or . . ."
"Well, or a heap of sand."
Valenglay remained silent and impassive, with at most a slight shiver
passing across his shoulders. He did not make the suggested movement. He
had no need to make it. He understood.
The others also did not speak a word, struck dumb by the simplicity of
the amazing truth which had suddenly flashed upon them like lightning.
And, amid this silence, unbroken by protest or sign of incredulity, Don
Luis went on quietly talking:
"If you had the least doubt, monsieur le président--and I see that you
have not--you would dig your cane, no great distance, twenty inches at
most, into the sand beneath you. You would then encounter a resistance
which would compel you to stop. That is the bags of gold. There ought to
be eighteen hundred of them; and, as you see, they do not make an
enormous heap. A kilogram of gold represents three thousand one hundred
francs. Therefore, according to my calculation, a bag containing
approximately fifty kilograms, or one hundred and fifty-five thousand
francs done up in rouleaus of a thousand francs, is not a very large
bag. Piled one against the other and one on top of the other, the bags
represent a bulk of about fifteen cubic yards, no more. If you shape the
mass roughly like a triangular pyramid you will have a base each of
whose sides would be three yards long at most, or three yards and a half
allowing for the space lost between the rouleaus of coins. The height
will be that of the wall, nearly. Cover the whole with a layer of sand
and you have the heap which lies before your eyes . . ."
Don Luis paused once more before continuing:
"And which has been there for months, monsieur le président, safe from
discovery not only by those who were looking for it, but also by
accident on the part of a casual passer-by. Just think, a heap of sand!
Who would dream of digging a hole in it to see what is going on inside?
The dogs sniff at it, the children play beside it and make mudpies, an
occasional tramp lies down against it and takes a snooze. The rain
softens it, the sun hardens it, the snow whitens it all over; but all
this happens on the surface, in the part that shows. Inside reigns
impenetrable mystery, darkness unexplored. There is not a hiding-place
in the world to equal the inside of a sand heap exposed to view in a
public place. The man who thought of using it to hide three hundred
millions of gold, monsieur le président, knew what he was about."
The late prime minister had listened to Don Luis' explanation without
interrupting him. When Don Luis had finished, Valenglay nodded his head
once or twice and said:
"He did indeed. But there is one man who is cleverer still."
"I don't believe it."
"Yes, there's the man who guessed that the heap of sand concealed the
three hundred million francs. That man is a master, before whom we must
Flattered by the compliment, Don Luis raised his hat. Valenglay gave him
"I can think of no reward worthy of the service which you have done the
"I ask for no reward," said Don Luis.
"I daresay, sir, but I should wish you at least to be thanked by voices
that carry more weight than mine."
"Is it really necessary, monsieur le président?"
"I consider it essential. May I also confess that I am curious to learn
how you discovered the secret? I should be glad, therefore, if you would
call at my department in an hour's time."
"I am very sorry, sir, but I shall be gone in fifteen minutes."
"No, no, you can't go like this," said Valenglay, with authority.
"Why not, sir?"
"Well, because we don't know your name or anything about you."
"That makes so little difference!"
"In peace-time, perhaps. But, in war-time, it won't do at all."
"Surely, monsieur le président, you will make an exception in my case?"
"An exception, indeed? What next?"
"Suppose it's the reward which I ask, will you refuse me then?"
"It's the only one which we are obliged to refuse you. However, you
won't ask for it. A good citizen like yourself understands the
constraints to which everybody is bound to submit. My dear Masseron,
arrange it with this gentleman. At the department in an hour from now.
Good-by till then, sir. I shall expect you."
And, after a very civil bow, he walked away to his car, twirling his
stick gaily and escorted by M. Masseron.
"Well, on my soul!" chuckled Don Luis. "There's a character for you! In
the twinkling of an eye, he accepts three hundred millions in gold,
signs an epoch-making treaty and orders the arrest of Arsène Lupin!"
"What do you mean?" cried Patrice, startled out of his life. "Your
"Well, he orders me to appear before him, to produce my papers and the
devil knows what."
"But that's monstrous!"
"It's the law of the land, my dear captain. We must bow to it."
"But . . ."
"Captain, believe me when I say that a few little worries of this sort
deprive me of none of the whole-hearted satisfaction which I feel at
rendering this great service to my country. I wanted, during the war, to
do something for France and to make the most of the time which I was
able to devote to her during my stay. I've done it. And then I have
another reward: the four millions. For I think highly enough of your
Coralie to believe her incapable of wishing to touch this money . . .
which is really her property."
"I'll go bail for her over that."
"Thank you. And you may be sure that the gift will be well employed. So
everything is settled. I have still a few minutes to give you. Let us
turn them to good account. M. Masseron is collecting his men by now. To
simplify their task and avoid a scandal, we'll go down to the lower
quay, by the sand-heap. It'll be easier for him to collar me there."
"I accept your few minutes," said Patrice, as they went down the steps.
"But first of all I want to apologize . . ."
"For what? For behaving a little treacherously and locking me into the
studio of the lodge? You couldn't help yourself: you were trying to
assist your Coralie. For thinking me capable of keeping the treasure on
the day when I discovered it? You couldn't help that either: how could
you imagine that Arsène Lupin would despise three hundred million
"Very well, no apologies," said Patrice, laughing. "But all my thanks."
"For what? For saving your life and saving Coralie's? Don't thank me.
It's a hobby of mine, saving people."
Patrice took Don Luis' hand and pressed it firmly. Then, in a chaffing
tone which hid his emotion, he said:
"Then I won't thank you. I won't tell you that you rid me of a hideous
nightmare by letting me know that I was not that monster's son and by
unveiling his real identity. I will not tell you either that I am a
happy man now that life is opening radiantly before me, with Coralie
free to love me. No, we won't talk of it. But shall I confess to you
that my happiness is still a little--what shall I say?--a little dim, a
little timid? I no longer feel any doubt; but in spite of all, I don't
quite understand the truth, and, until I do understand it, the truth
will cause me some anxiety. So tell me . . . explain to me . . . I want
to know . . ."
"And yet the truth is so obvious!" cried Don Luis. "The most complex
truths are always so simple! Look here, don't you understand anything?
Just think of the way in which the problem is set. For sixteen or
eighteen years, Siméon Diodokis behaves like a perfect friend, devoted
to the pitch of self-denial, in short, like a father. He has not a
thought, outside that of his revenge, but to secure your happiness and
Coralie's. He wants to bring you together. He collects your photographs.
He follows the whole course of your life. He almost gets into touch with
you. He sends you the key of the garden and prepares a meeting.
Then, suddenly, a complete change takes place. He becomes your
inveterate enemy and thinks of nothing but killing the pair of you. What
is there that separates those two states of mind? One fact, that's all,
or rather one date, the night of the third of April and the tragedy that
takes place that night and the following day at Essarès' house. Until
that date, you were Siméon Diodokis' son. After that date, you were
Siméon Diodokis' greatest enemy. Does that suggest nothing to you? It's
really curious. As for me, all my discoveries are due to this general
view of the case which I took from the beginning."
Patrice shook his head without replying. He did not understand. The
riddle retained a part of its unfathomable secret.
"Sit down there," said Don Luis, "on our famous sand-heap, and listen to
me. It won't take me ten minutes."
They were on Berthou's Wharf. The light was beginning to wane and the
outlines on the opposite bank of the river were becoming indistinct. The
barge rocked lazily at the edge of the quay.
Don Luis expressed himself in the following terms:
"On the evening when, from the inner gallery of the library, you
witnessed the tragedy at Essarès' house, you saw before your eyes two
men bound by their accomplices: Essarès Bey and Siméon Diodokis. They
are both dead. One of them was your father. Let us speak first of the
other. Essarès Bey's position was a critical one that evening. After
draining our gold currency on behalf of an eastern power, he was trying
to filch the remainder of the millions of francs collected. The "Belle
Hélène", summoned by the rain of sparks, was lying moored alongside
Berthou's Wharf. The gold was to be shifted at night from the sand-bags
to the motor-barge. All was going well, when the accomplices, warned by
Siméon, broke in. Thereupon we have the blackmailing-scene, Colonel
Fakhi's death and so on, with Essarès learning at one and the same time
that his accomplices knew of his schemes and his plan to pilfer the gold
and also that Colonel Fakhi had informed the police about him. He was
cornered. What could he do? Run away? But, in war-time, running away is
almost impossible. Besides, running away meant giving up the gold and
likewise giving up Coralie, which would never have done. So there was
only one thing, to disappear from sight. To disappear from sight and yet
to remain there, on the battlefield, near the gold and near Coralie.
Night came; and he employed it in carrying out his plan. So much for
Essarès. We now come to Siméon Diodokis."
Don Luis stopped to take breath. Patrice had been listening eagerly, as
though each word had brought its share of light into the oppressive
"The man who was known as old Siméon," continued Don Luis, "that is to
say, your father, Armand Belval, a former victim, together with
Coralie's mother, of Essarès Bey, had also reached a turning-point of
his career. He was nearly achieving his object. He had betrayed and
delivered his enemy, Essarès, into the hands of Colonel Fakhi and the
accomplices. He had succeeded in bringing you and Coralie together. He
had sent you the key of the lodge. He was justified in hoping that, in
a few days more, everything would end according to his wishes. But, next
morning, on waking, certain indications unknown to me revealed to him a
threatening danger; and he no doubt foresaw the plan which Essarès was
engaged in elaborating. And he too put himself the same question: What
was he to do? What was there for him to do? He must warn you, warn you
without delay, telephone to you at once. For time was pressing, the
danger was becoming definite. Essarès was watching and hunting down the
man whom he had chosen as his victim for the second time. You can
picture Siméon possibly feeling himself pursued and locking himself into
the library. You can picture him wondering whether he would ever be able
to telephone to you and whether you would be there. He asks for you. He
calls out to you. Essarès hammers away at the door. And your father,
gasping for breath, shouts, 'Is that you, Patrice? Have you the key?
. . . And the letter? . . . No? . . . But this is terrible! Then you
don't know' . . . And then a hoarse cry, which you hear at your end of
the wire, and incoherent noises, the sound of an altercation. And then
the lips gluing themselves to the instrument and stammering words at
random: 'Patrice, the amethyst pendant . . . Patrice, I should so much
have liked . . . Patrice, Coralie!' Then a loud scream . . . cries that
grow weaker and weaker . . . silence, and that is all. Your father is
dead, murdered. This time, Essarès Bey, who had failed before, in the
lodge, took his revenge on his old rival."
"Oh, my unhappy father!" murmured Patrice, in great distress.
"Yes, it was he. That was at nineteen minutes past seven in the morning,
as you noted. A few minutes later, eager to know and understand, you
yourself rang up; and it was Essarès who replied, with your father's
dead body at his feet."
"Oh, the scoundrel! So that this body, which we did not find and were
not able to find . . ."
"Was simply made up by Essarès, made up, disfigured, transformed into
his own likeness. That, captain, is how--and the whole mystery lies in
this--Siméon Diodokis, dead, became Essarès Bey, while Essarès Bey,
transformed into Siméon Diodokis, played the part of Siméon Diodokis."
"Yes," said Patrice, "I see, I understand."
"As to the relations existing between the two men," continued Don Luis,
"I am not certain. Essarès may or may not have known before that old
Siméon was none other than his former rival, the lover of Coralie's
mother, the man in short who had escaped death. He may or may not have
known that Siméon was your father. These are points which will never be
decided and which, moreover, do not matter. What I do take for granted
is that this new murder was not improvised on the spot. I firmly believe
that Essarès, having noticed certain similarities in height and figure,
had made every preparation to take Siméon's place if circumstances
obliged him to disappear. And it was easily done. Siméon Diodokis wore a
wig and no beard. Essarès, on the contrary, was bald-headed and had a
beard. He shaved himself, smashed Siméon's face against the grate,
mingled the hairs of his own beard with the bleeding mass, dressed the
body in his clothes, took his victim's clothes for himself, put on the
wig, the spectacles and the comforter. The transformation was complete."
Patrice thought for a moment. Then he raised an objection:
"Yes, that's what happened at nineteen minutes past seven. But something
else happened at twenty-three minutes past twelve."
"No, nothing at all."
"But that clock, which stopped at twenty-three minutes past twelve?"
"I tell you, nothing happened at all. Only, he had to put people off the
scent. He had above all to avoid the inevitable accusation that would
have been brought against the new Siméon."
"What accusation? Why, that he had killed Essarès Bey, of course! A dead
body is discovered in the morning. Who has committed the murder?
Suspicion would at once have fallen on Siméon. He would have been
questioned and arrested. And Essarès would have been found under
Siméon's mask. No, he needed liberty and facilities to move about as he
pleased. To achieve this, he kept the murder concealed all the morning
and arranged so that no one set foot in the library. He went three times
and knocked at his wife's door, so that she should say that Essarès Bey
was still alive during the morning. Then, when she went out, he raised
his voice and ordered Siméon, in other words himself, to see her to the
hospital in the Champs-Élysées. And in this way Mme. Essarès thought
that she was leaving her husband behind her alive and that she was
escorted by old Siméon, whereas actually she was leaving old Siméon's
corpse in an empty part of the house and was escorted by her husband.
Then what happened? What the rascal had planned. At one o'clock, the
police, acting on the information laid by Colonel Fakhi, arrived and
found themselves in the presence of a corpse. Whose corpse? There was
not a shadow of hesitation on that point. The maids recognized their
master; and, when Mme. Essarès returned, it was her husband whom she saw
lying in front of the fireplace at which he had been tortured the night
before. Old Siméon, that is to say, Essarès himself, helped to establish
the identification. You yourself were taken in. The trick was played."
"Yes," said Patrice, nodding his head, "that is how things must have
gone. They all fit in."
"The trick was played," Don Luis repeated, "and nobody could make out
how it was done. Was there not this further proof, the letter written in
Essarès' own hand and found on his desk? The letter was dated at twelve
o'clock on the fourth of April, addressed to his wife, and told her that
he was going away. Better still, the trick was so successfully played
that the very clues which ought to have revealed the truth merely
concealed it. For instance, your father used to carry a tiny album of
photographs in a pocket stitched inside his under-vest. Essarès did not
notice it and did not remove the vest from the body. Well, when they
found the album, they at once accepted that most unlikely hypothesis:
Essarès Bey carrying on his person an album filled with photographs of
his wife and Captain Belval! In the same way, when they found in the
dead man's hand an amethyst pendant containing your two latest
photographs and when they also found a crumpled paper with something on
it about the golden triangle, they at once admitted that Essarès Bey had
stolen the pendant and the document and was holding them in his hand
when he died! So absolutely certain were they all that it was Essarès
Bey who had been murdered, that his dead body lay before their eyes and
that they must not trouble about the question any longer. And in this
way the new Siméon was master of the situation. Essarès Bey is dead,
long live Siméon!"
Don Luis indulged in a hearty laugh. The adventure struck him as really
"Then and there," he went on, "Essarès, behind his impenetrable mask,
set to work. That very day he listened to your conversation with Coralie
and, overcome with fury at seeing you bend over her, fired a shot from
his revolver. But, when this new attempt failed, he ran away and played
an elaborate comedy near the little door in the garden, crying murder,
tossing the key over the wall to lay a false scent and falling to the
ground half dead, as though he had been strangled by the enemy who was
supposed to have fired the shot. The comedy ended with a skilful
assumption of madness."
"But what was the object of this madness?"
"What was the object? Why, to make people leave him alone and keep them
from questioning him or suspecting him. Once he was looked upon as mad,
he could remain silent and unobserved. Otherwise, Mme. Essarès would
have recognized his voice at the first words he spoke, however cleverly
he might have altered his tone. From this time onward, he is mad. He is
an irresponsible being. He goes about as he pleases. He is a madman! And
his madness is so thoroughly admitted that he leads you, so to speak, by
the hand to his former accomplices and causes you to have them arrested,
without asking yourself for an instant if this madman is not acting with
the clearest possible sense of his own interest. He's a madman, a poor,
harmless madman, one of those unfortunates with whom nobody dreams of
interfering. Henceforth, he has only his last two adversaries to fight:
Coralie and you. And this is an easy matter for him. I presume that he
got hold of a diary kept by your father. At any rate, he knows every day
of the one which you keep. From this he learns the whole story of the
graves; and he knows that, on the fourteenth of April, Coralie and you
are both going on a pilgrimage to those graves. Besides, he plans to
make you go there, for his plot is laid. He prepares against the son and
the daughter, against the Patrice and Coralie of to-day, the attempt
which he once prepared against the father and the mother. The attempt
succeeds at the start. It would have succeeded to the end, but for an
idea that occurred to our poor Ya-Bon, thanks to which a new adversary,
in the person of myself, entered the lists. . . . But I need hardly go
on. You know the rest as well as I do; and, like myself, you can judge
in all his glory the inhuman villain who, in the space of those
twenty-four hours, allowed his accomplice Grégoire to be strangled,
buried your Coralie under the sand-heap, killed Ya-Bon, locked me in the
lodge, or thought he did, buried you alive in the grave dug by your
father and made away with Vacherot, the porter. And now, Captain
Belval, do you think that I ought to have prevented him from committing
suicide, this pretty gentleman who, in the last resort, was trying to
pass himself off as your father?"
"You were right," said Patrice. "You have been right all through, from
start to finish. I see it all now, as a whole and in every detail. Only
one point remains: the golden triangle. How did you find out the truth?
What was it that brought you to this sand-heap and enabled you to save
Coralie from the most awful death?"
"Oh, that part was even simpler," replied Don Luis, "and the light came
almost without my knowing it! I'll tell it you in a few words. But let
us move away first. M. Masseron and his men are becoming a little
The detectives were distributed at the two entrances to Berthou's Wharf.
M. Masseron was giving them his instructions. He was obviously speaking
to them of Don Luis and preparing to accost him.
"Let's get on the barge," said Don Luis. "I've left some important
Patrice followed him. Opposite the cabin containing Grégoire's body was
another cabin, reached by the same companion-way. It was furnished with
a table and a chair.
"Here, captain," said Don Luis, taking a letter from the drawer of the
table and settling it, "is a letter which I will ask you to . . . but
don't let us waste words. I shall hardly have time to satisfy your
curiosity. Our friends are coming nearer. Well, we were saying, the
golden triangle . . ."
He listened to what was happening outside with an attention whose real
meaning Patrice was soon to understand. And, continuing to give ear, he
"The golden triangle? There are problems which we solve more or less by
accident, without trying. We are guided to a right solution by external
events, among which we choose unconsciously, feeling our way in the
dark, examining this one, thrusting aside that one and suddenly
beholding the object aimed at. . . . Well, this morning, after taking
you to the tombs and burying you under the stone, Essarès Bey came back
to me. Believing me to be locked into the studio, he had the pretty
thought to turn on the gas-meter and then went off to the quay above
Berthou's Wharf. Here he hesitated; and his hesitation provided me with
a precious clue. He was certainly then thinking of releasing Coralie.
People passed and he went away. Knowing where he was going, I returned
to your assistance, told your friends at Essarès' house and asked them
to look after you. Then I came back here. Indeed, the whole course of
events obliged me to come back. It was unlikely that the bags of gold
were inside the conduit; and, as the "Belle Hélène" had not taken them
off, they must be beyond the garden, outside the conduit and therefore
somewhere near here. I explored the barge we are now on, not so much
with the object of looking for the bags as with the hope of finding some
unexpected piece of information and also, I confess, the four millions
in Grégoire's possession. Well, when I start exploring a place where I
fail to find what I want, I always remember that capital story of Edgar
Allan Poe's, "The Purloined Letter". Do you recollect? The stolen
diplomatic document which was known to be hidden in a certain room. The
police investigate every nook and corner of the room and take up all the
boards of the floor, without results. But Dupin arrives and almost
immediately goes to a card-rack dangling from a little brass knob on the
wall and containing a solitary soiled and crumpled letter. This is the
document of which he was in search. Well, I instinctively adopted the
same process. I looked where no one would dream of looking, in places
which do not constitute a hiding-place because it would really be too
easy to discover. This gave me the idea of turning the pages of four old
directories standing in a row on that shelf. The four millions were
there. And I knew all that I wanted to know."
"About Essarès' temperament, his habits, the extent of his attainments,
his notion of a good hiding-place. We had plunged on the expectation of
meeting with difficulties; we ought to have looked at the outside, to
have looked at the surface of things. I was assisted by two further
clues. I had noticed that the uprights of the ladder which Ya-Bon must
have taken from here had a few grains of sand on them. Lastly, I
remembered that Ya-Bon had drawn a triangle on the pavement with a piece
of chalk and that this triangle had only two sides, the third side being
formed by the foot of the wall. Why this detail? Why not a third line in
chalk? . . . To make a long story short, I lit a cigarette, sat down
upstairs, on the deck of the barge, and, looking round me, said to
myself, 'Lupin, my son, five minutes and no more.' When I say, 'Lupin,
my son,' I simply can't resist myself. By the time I had smoked a
quarter of the cigarette, I was there."
"You had found out?"
"I had found out. I can't say which of the factors at my disposal
kindled the spark. No doubt it was all of them together. It's a rather
complicated psychological operation, you know, like a chemical
experiment. The correct idea is formed suddenly by mysterious reactions
and combinations among the elements in which it existed in a potential
stage. And then I was carrying within myself an intuitive principle, a
very special incentive which obliged me, which inevitably compelled me,
to discover the hiding-place: Little Mother Coralie was there! I knew
for certain that failure on my part, prolonged weakness or hesitation
would mean her destruction. There was a woman there, within a radius of
a dozen yards or so. I had to find out and I found out. The spark was
kindled. The elements combined. And I made straight for the sand-heap. I
at once saw the marks of footsteps and, almost at the top, the signs of
a slight stamping. I started digging. You can imagine my excitement when
I first touched one of the bags. But I had no time for excitement. I
shifted a few bags. Coralie was there, unconscious, hardly protected
from the sand which was slowly stifling her, trickling through, stopping
up her eyes, suffocating her. I needn't tell you more, need I? The wharf
was deserted, as usual. I got her out. I hailed a taxi. I first took her
home. Then I turned my attention to Essarès, to Vacherot the porter;
and, when I had discovered our enemy's plans, I went and made my
arrangements with Dr. Géradec. Lastly, I had you moved to the private
hospital on the Boulevard de Montmorency and gave orders for Coralie to
be taken there too. And there you are, captain! All done in three hours.
When the doctor's car brought me back to the hospital, Essarès arrived
at the same time, to have his injuries seen to. I had him safe."
Don Luis ceased speaking. There were no words necessary between the two
men. One had done the other the greatest services which a man has it in
his power to render; and the other knew that these were services for
which no thanks are adequate. And he also knew that he would never have
an opportunity to prove his gratitude. Don Luis was in a manner above
those proofs, owing to the mere fact that they were impossible. There
was no service to be rendered to a man like him, disposing of his
resources and performing miracles with the same ease with which we
perform the trivial actions of everyday life.
Patrice once again pressed his hand warmly, without a word. Don Luis
accepted the homage of this silent emotion and said:
"If ever people talk of Arsène Lupin before you, captain, say a good
word for him, won't you? He deserves it." And he added, with a laugh,
"It's funny, but, as I get on in life, I find myself caring about my
reputation. The devil was old, the devil a monk would be!"
He pricked up his ears and, after a moment, said:
"Captain, it is time for us to part. Present my respects to Little
Mother Coralie. I shall not have known her, so to speak, and she will
not know me. It is better so. Good-by, captain."
"Then we are taking leave of each other?"
"Yes, I hear M. Masseron. Go to him, will you, and have the kindness to
bring him here?"
Patrice hesitated. Why was Don Luis sending him to meet M. Masseron? Was
it so that he, Patrice, might intervene in his favor?
The idea appealed to him; and he ran up the companion-way.
Then a thing happened which Patrice was destined never to understand,
something very quick and quite inexplicable. It was as though a long and
gloomy adventure were to finish suddenly with melodramatic
Patrice met M. Masseron on the deck of the barge.
"Is your friend here?" asked the magistrate.
"Yes. But one word first: you don't mean to . . . ?"
"Have no fear. We shall do him no harm, on the contrary."
The answer was so definite that the officer could find nothing more to
say. M. Masseron went down first, with Patrice following him.
"Hullo!" said Patrice. "I left the cabin-door open!"
He pushed the door. It opened. But Don Luis was no longer in the cabin.
Immediate enquiries showed that no one had seen him go, neither the men
remaining on the wharf nor those who had already crossed the gangway.
"When you have time to examine this barge thoroughly," said Patrice,
"I've no doubt you will find it pretty nicely faked."
"So your friend has probably escaped through some trap-door and swum
away?" asked M. Masseron, who seemed greatly annoyed.
"I expect so," said Patrice, laughing. "Unless he's gone off on a
"A submarine in the Seine?"
"Why not? I don't believe that there's any limit to my friend's
resourcefulness and determination."
But what completely dumbfounded M. Masseron was the discovery, on the
table, of a letter directed to himself, the letter which Don Luis had
placed there at the beginning of his interview with Patrice.
"Then he knew that I should come here? He foresaw, even before we met,
that I should ask him to fulfil certain formalities?"
The letter ran as follows:
"Forgive my departure and believe that I, on my side,
quite understand the reason that brings you here. My
position is not in fact regular; and you are entitled
to ask me for an explanation. I will give you that
explanation some day or other. You will then see that,
if I serve France in a manner of my own, that manner
is not a bad one and that my country will owe me some
gratitude for the immense services, if I may venture
to use the word, which I have done her during this
war. On the day of our interview, I should like you to
thank me, sir. You will then--for I know your secret
ambition--be prefect of police. Perhaps I shall even
be able personally to forward a nomination which I
consider well-deserved. I will exert myself in that
direction without delay.
"I have the honor to be, etc."
M. Masseron remained silent for a time.
"A strange character!" he said, at last. "Had he been willing, we should
have given him great things to do. That was what I was instructed to
"You may be sure, sir," said Patrice, "that the things which he is
actually doing are greater still." And he added, "A strange character,
as you say. And stranger still, more powerful and more extraordinary
than you can imagine. If each of the allied nations had had three or
four men of his stamp at its disposal, the war would have been over in
"I quite agree," said M. Masseron. "Only those men are usually solitary,
intractable people, who act solely upon their own judgment and refuse to
accept any authority. I'll tell you what: they're something like that
famous adventurer who, a few years ago, compelled the Kaiser to visit
him in prison and obtain his release . . . and afterwards, owing to a
disappointment in love, threw himself into the sea from the cliffs at
"Who was that?"
"Oh, you know the fellow's name as well as I do! . . . Lupin, that's it:
Transcriber's Note: The following typographical errors present in the
original edition have been corrected.
In Chapter II, a missing quotation mark was added before "Why, what's
In Chapter III, "never uttered a compaint" was changed to "never uttered
In Chapter V, "Bourney turned this fifth rose" was changed to "Bournef
turned this fifth rose", and "bending over her huband" was changed to
"bending over her husband".
In Chapter VI, "Is Mmme. Essarès ill" was changed to "Is Mme. Essarès
In Chapter VIII, missing quotation marks were added after "Oh, Patrice!
. . . Patrice! . . ." and "Help! . . . Help! . . .".
In Chapter X, "They do, howover, throw" was changed to "They do,
however, throw", "Siméon keeps his own council" was changed to "Siméon
keeps his own counsel", and a quotation mark was removed after "And who
could defend her?".
In Chapter XIII, a quotation mark was removed after "what could they do
to ward it off?", and "he shook his first at the invisible enemy" was
changed to "he shook his fist at the invisible enemy".
In Chapter XV, a quotation mark was removed before "There was a brief
In Chapter XVI, "your're trembling" was changed to "you're trembling".
In Chapter XVII, "and then, above all, the gold! . ." was changed to
"and then, above all, the gold! . . .", "How indeed could it be
otherwise? . ." was changed to "How indeed could it be otherwise?
. . .", and a missing quotation mark was added before "But what a state
In Chapter XVIII, "Gray hair . . ." was changed to "Gray hair. . . .",
"Grégoire had the money in his keeping" was changed to "Grégoire had the
money in her keeping", and "suddenly leapt backwords" was changed to
"suddenly leapt backwards".
In Chapter XIX, "Rue Guimart" was changed to "Rue Guimard", "which
stoppd at twenty-three minutes past twelve" was changed to "which
stopped at twenty-three minutes past twelve", and "to discovered the
hiding-place" was changed to "to discover the hiding-place".
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