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Title: The Crime of the Boulevard
Author: Claretie, Jules, 1840-1913
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Crime of the Boulevard" ***

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                             _The Crime of
                             The Boulevard_


                             [Decoration]


                           By JULES CLARETIE
                      Member of the French Academy


                             [Decoration]


                             Translated by
                       MRS. CARLTON A. KINGSBURY


                             [Decoration]


                         R. F. FENNO & COMPANY
              Eighteen East Seventeenth Street :: NEW YORK



                            Copyright, 1897
                                   BY
                         R. F. FENNO & COMPANY



                       The Crime of the Boulevard



                                  THE
                         CRIME OF THE BOULEVARD.

                               CHAPTER I.


"WHERE does Bernardet live?"

"At the passage to the right--Yes, that house which you see with the
grating and the garden behind it."

The man to whom a passer-by had given this information hurried away in
the direction pointed out; although gasping for breath, he tried to run,
in order to more quickly reach the little house at the end of the
passage of the Elysée des Beaux Arts. This passage, a sort of
cul-de-sac, on either side of which were black buildings, strange old
houses, and dilapidated storehouses, opened upon a boulevard filled with
life and movement; with people promenading; with the noise of tramways;
with gaiety and light.

The man wore the dress and had the bearing of a workman. He was very
short, very fat, and his bald head was bared to the warm October rain.
He was a workman, in truth, who labored in his concierge lodge, making
over and mending garments for his neighbors, while his wife looked after
the house, swept the staircases, and complained of her lot.

Mme. Moniche found life hard and disagreeable, and regretted that it had
not given her what it promised when, at eighteen, and very pretty, she
had expected something better than to watch beside a tailor bent over
his work in a concierge's lodge. Into her life a tragedy had suddenly
precipitated itself, and Mme. Moniche found, that day, something to
brighten up her afternoon. Entering a moment before, the apartment
occupied by M. Rovère, she had found her lodger lying on his back, his
eyes fixed, his arms flung out, with a gash across his throat!

M. Rovère had lived alone in the house for many years, receiving a few
mysterious persons. Mme. Moniche looked after his apartment, entering by
using her own key whenever it was necessary; and her lodger had given
her permission to come there at any time to read the daily papers.

Mme. Moniche hurried down the stairs.

"M. Rovère is dead! M. Rovère has been murdered! His throat has been
cut! He has been assassinated!" And, pushing her husband out of the
door, she exclaimed:

"The police! Go for the police!"

This word "police" awakened in the tailor's mind, not the thought of the
neighboring Commissary, but the thought of the man to whom he felt that
he ought to appeal, whom he ought to consult. This man was the good
little M. Bernardet, who passed for a man of genius of his kind, at the
Sureté, and for whom Moniche had often repaired coats and rehemmed
trousers.

From the mansion in the Boulevard de Clichy, where Moniche lived, to M.
Bernardet's house, was but a short distance, and the concierge knew the
way very well, as he had often been there. But the poor man was so
stupefied, so overwhelmed, by the sudden appearance of his wife in his
room, by the brutal revelation which came to him as the blow of a fist,
by the horrible manner of M. Rovère's death, that he lost his head.
Horrified, breathless, he asked the first passer-by where Bernardet
lived, and he ran as fast as he could in the direction pointed out.

Arrived at the grating, the worthy man, a little confused, stopped
short. He was very strongly moved. It seemed to him that he had been
cast into the agony of a horrible nightmare. An assassination in the
house! A murder in the Boulevard de Clichy in broad daylight, just over
his head, while he was quietly repairing a vest!

He stood looking at the house without ringing. M. Bernardet was, no
doubt, breakfasting with his family, for it was Sunday, and the police
officer, meeting Moniche the evening before, had said to him:
"To-morrow is my birthday."

Moniche hesitated a moment, then he rang the bell. He was not kept
waiting; the sudden opening of the grating startled him; he pushed back
the door and entered. He crossed a little court, at the end of which was
a pavilion; he mounted the three steps and was met on the threshold by a
little woman, as rosy and fresh as an apple, who, napkin in hand, gayly
saluted him.

"Eh, Monsieur Moniche!"

It was Mme. Bernardet, a Burgundian woman, about thirty-five years of
age, trim and coquettish, who stepped back so that the tailor could
enter.

"What is the matter, M. Moniche?"

Poor Moniche rolled his frightened eyes around and gasped out: "I must
speak to M. Bernardet."

"Nothing easier," said the little woman. "M. Bernardet is in the garden.
Yes, he is taking advantage of the beautiful day; he is taking a
group"----

"What group?"

"You know very well, photography is his passion. Come with me."

And Mme. Bernardet pointed to the end of the corridor, where an open
door gave a glimpse of the garden at the rear of the house. M.
Bernardet, the Inspector, had posed his three daughters with their
mother about a small table, on which coffee had been served.

"I had just gone in to get my napkin, when I heard you ring," Mme.
Bernardet said.

Bernardet made a sign to Moniche not to advance. He was as plump and as
gay as his wife. His moustache was red, his double chin smooth-shaven
and rosy, his eyes had a sharp, cunning look, his head was round and
closely cropped.

The three daughters, clothed alike in Scotch plaid, were posing in front
of a photographic apparatus which stood on a tripod. The eldest was
about twelve years of age; the youngest a child of five. They were all
three strangely alike.

M. Bernardet, in honor of his birthday, was taking a picture of his
daughters. The ferret who, from morning till night, tracked robbers and
malefactors into their hiding places, was taking his recreation in his
damp garden. The sweet idyl of this hidden life repaid him for his
unceasing investigations, for his trouble and fatiguing man-hunts
through Paris.

"There!" he said, clapping the cap over the lens. "That is all! Go and
play now, my dears. I am at your service, Moniche."

He shut up his photographic apparatus, pulling out the tripod from the
deep soil in which it was imbedded, while his daughters joyously ran to
their mother. The young girls stood gazing at Moniche with their great
blue eyes, piercing and clear. Bernardet turned to look at him, and at
once divined that something had happened.

"You are as white as your handkerchief, Moniche," he said.

"Ah! Monsieur Bernardet! It is enough to terrify one! There has been a
murder in the house."

"A murder?"

His face, which had been so gay and careless, suddenly took on a strange
expression, at once tense and serious; the large blue eyes shone as with
an inward fire.

"A murder, yes, Monsieur Bernardet. M. Rovère--you did not know him?"

"No."

"He was an original--a recluse. And now he has been assassinated. My
wife went to his room to read the papers"----

Bernardet interrupted him brusquely:

"When did it happen?"

"Ah! _Dame!_ Monsieur, I do not know. All I know is my wife found the
body still warm. She was not afraid; she touched it."

"Still warm!"

These words struck Bernardet. He reflected a moment, then he said:

"Come; let us go to your house."

Then, struck with a sudden idea, he added: "Yes, I will take it."

He unfastened his camera from the tripod. "I have three plates left
which I can use," he said.

Mme. Bernardet, who was standing at a little distance, with the children
clinging to her skirts, perceived that the concierge had brought
important news. Bernardet's smiling face had suddenly changed; the
expression became serious, his glance fixed and keen.

"Art thou going with him?" Mme. Bernardet asked, as she saw her husband
buckle on a leather bandolier.

"Yes!" he answered.

"Ah! Mon Dieu! my poor Sunday, and this evening--can we not go to the
little theatre at Montmartre this evening?"

"I do not know," he replied.

"You promised! The poor children! You promised to take them to see
Closerie des Genets!"

"I cannot tell; I do not know--I will see," the little man said. "My
dear Moniche, to-day is my fortieth birthday. I promised to take them to
the theatre--but I must go with you." Turning to his wife, he added:
"But I will come back as soon as I can. Come, Moniche, let us hasten to
your M. Rovère."

He kissed his wife on the forehead, and each little girl on both cheeks,
and, strapping the camera in the bandolier, he went out, followed by the
tailor. As they walked quickly along Moniche kept repeating: "Still
warm; yes, Monsieur Bernardet, still warm!"



                              CHAPTER II.


BERNARDET was quite an original character. Among the agents, some of
whom were very odd, and among the devoted subalterns, this little man,
with his singular mind, with his insatiable curiosity, reading anything
he could lay his hands on, passed for a literary person. His chief
sometimes laughingly said to him:

"Bernardet, take care! You have literary ambitions. You will begin to
dream of writing for the papers."

"Oh, no, Monsieur Morel--but what would you?--I am simply amusing
myself."

This was true. Bernardet was a born hunter. With a superior education,
he might have become a savant, a frequenter of libraries, passing his
life in working on documents and in deciphering manuscripts. The son of
a dairyman; brought up in a Lancastrian school; reading with avidity all
the daily papers; attracted by everything mysterious which happened in
Paris; having accomplished his military duty, he applied for admission
to the Police Bureau, as he would have embarked for the New World, for
Mexico, or for Tonquin, in order to travel in a new country. Then he
married, so that he might have, in his checkered existence, which was
dangerous and wearying,--a haven of rest, a fireside of peaceful joy.

So he lived a double life--tracking malefactors like a bloodhound, and
cultivating his little garden. There he devoured old books, for which he
had paid a few sous at some book stall; he read and pasted in old, odd
leaves, re-bound them himself, and cut clippings from papers. He filled
his round, bald head with a mass of facts which he investigated,
classified, put into their proper place, to be brought forth as occasion
demanded.

He was an inquisitive person, a very inquisitive person, indeed.
Curiosity filled his life. He performed with pleasure the most fatiguing
and repulsive tasks that fall to a police officer's lot. They satisfied
the original need of his nature, and permitted him to see everything, to
hear everything, to penetrate into the most curious mysteries. To-day,
in a dress suit with white tie, carelessly glancing over the crowds at
the opera, to discover the thieves who took opera glasses, which they
sent to accomplices in Germany to be sold; to-morrow, going in ragged
clothes to arrest a murderer in some cutthroat den in the Glacière.

M. Bernardet had taken possession of the office of the most powerful
bankers, seized their books and made them go away with him in a cab. He
had followed, by order, the intrigues of more than one fine lady, who
owed to him her salvation. What if M. Bernardet had thought fit to
speak? But he never spoke, and reporters came out worsted from any
attempt at an interview with him. "An interview is silver, but silence
is gold," he was wont to say, for he was not a fool.

He had assisted at spiritual séances and attended secret meetings of
Anarchists. He had occupied himself with occult matters, consulting the
magicians of chance, and he had at his tongue's end the list of
conspirators. He knew the true names of the famous Greeks who shuffled
cards as one scouts about under an assumed name. The gambling hells were
all familiar to him; he knew the churches in whose dark corners
associates assembled to talk of _affairs_, who did not wish to be seen
in beer shops nor spied upon in cabarets.

Of the millions in Paris, he knew the secrets of this whirlpool of
humanity.

Oh! if he had ever become prefect of police, he would have studied his
Paris, not at a distance, looking up statistics in books, or from the
windows of a police bureau, but in the streets, in wretched lodgings, in
hovels, in the asylums of misery and of crime. But Bernardet was not
ambitious. Life suited him very well as he found it. His good wife had
brought to him a small dower, and Bernardet, content with this poor
little fortune, found that he had all the power he wanted--the power,
when occasion demanded, of putting his hand on the shoulder of a former
Minister and of taking a murderer by the throat.

One day a financier, threatened with imprisonment in Mazas, pleased him
very much. Bernardet entered his office to arrest him. He did not wish
to have a row in the bank. The police officer and banker found
themselves alone, face to face, in a very small room, a private office,
with heavy curtains and a thick carpet, which stifled all noise.

"Fifty thousand francs if you will let me escape," said the banker.

"Monsieur le Comte jests"----

"A hundred thousand!"

"The pleasantry is very great, but it is a pleasantry."

Then the Count, very pale, said: "And what if I crack your head?"

"My brother officers are waiting for me," Bernardet simply replied.
"They know that our interview does not promise to be a long one, and
this last proposition, which I wish to forget like the others, would
only aggravate, I believe, if it became known, M. le Comte's case."

Two minutes afterward the banker went out, preceding Bernardet, who
followed him with bared head. The banker said to his employés, in an
easy tone: "Good-by for the moment, Messieurs, I will return soon."

It was also Bernardet who, visiting the Bank Hauts-Plateaux, said to his
chief: "Monsieur Morel, something very serious is taking place there."

"What is it, Bernardet?"

"I do not know, but there is a meeting of the bank directors, and
to-day, I saw two servants carry a man in there in an invalid's chair.
It was the Baron de Cheylard."

"Well?"

"Baron Cheylard, in his quality of ex-Senator of the Second Empire, of
ex-President of the Council, an ex-Commissioner of Industrial
Expositions, is Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor. Grand Cross--that is
to say, that he cannot be pursued only after a decision of the Council
of the Order. And then, you understand--if the Bank of Hauts-Plateaux
demands the presence of its Vice-president, the Baron of Cheylard,
paralyzed, half dead"----

"It means that it has need of a thunderbolt?"

"The Grand Cross, Monsieur. They would hesitate to deliver up to us the
Grand Cross."

"You are right, Bernardet. The bank must be in a bad fix. And you are a
very keen observer. The mind of a literary man, Bernardet."

"Oh, rather a photographic eye, Monsieur Morel. The habit of using a
kodak."

Thus Bernardet passed his life in Paris. Capable of amassing a fortune
in some Tricoche Agency if he had wished to exploit, for his own
benefit, his keen observing powers, he thought only of doing his duty,
bringing up his little girls and loving his wife. Mme. Bernardet was
amazed at the astonishing stories which her husband often related to
her, and very proud that he was such an able man.

M. Bernardet hurried toward M. Rovère's lodgings and Moniche trotted
along beside him. As they neared the house they saw that a crowd had
begun to collect.

"It is known already," Moniche said. "Since I left they have begun"----

"If I enter there," interrupted the officer, "it is all right. You have
a right to call any one you choose to your aid. But I am not a
Magistrate. You must go for a Commissary of Police."

"Oh, M. Bernardet," Moniche exclaimed. "You are worth more than all the
Commissaries put together."

"That does not make it so. A Commissary is a Commissary. Go and hunt for
one."

"But since you are here"----

"But I am nothing. We must have a magistrate."

"You are not a magistrate, then?"

"I am simply a police spy."

Then he crossed the street.

The neighbors had gathered about the door like a swarm of flies around a
honey-comb. A rumor had spread about which brought together a crowd
animated by the morbid curiosity which is aroused in some minds of the
hint of a mystery, and attracted by that strange magnetism which that
sinister thing, "a crime," arouses. The women talked in shrill tones,
inventing strange stories and incredible theories. Some of the common
people hurried up to learn the news.

At the moment Bernardet came up, followed by the concierge, a coupé
stopped at the door and a tall man got out, asking:

"Where is M. Morel? I wish to see M. Morel."

The Chief had not yet been advised, and he was not there. But the tall
young man suddenly recognized Bernardet, and laid hold of him, pulling
him after him through the half-open door, which Moniche hastened to shut
against the crowd.

"We must call some officers," Bernardet said to the concierge, "or the
crowd will push in."

Mme. Moniche was standing at the foot of the staircase, surrounded by
the lodgers, men and women, to whom she was recounting, for the
twentieth time, the story of how she had found M. Rovère with his throat
cut.

"I was going in to read the paper--the story--it is very interesting,
that story. The moment had come when the Baron had insulted the
American colonel. M. Rovère said to me only yesterday, poor man: 'I am
anxious to find out which one will be killed--the colonel or the baron.'
He will never know! And it is he"----

"Mme. Moniche," interrupted Bernardet, "have you any one whom you can
send for a Commissary?"

"Any one?"

"Yes," added Moniche. "M. Bernardet needs a magistrate. It is not
difficult to understand."

"A Commissary?" repeated Mme. Moniche. "That is so. A Commissary; and
what if I go for the Commissary myself, M. Bernardet?"

"All right, provided you do not let the crowd take the house by assault
when you open the door."

"Fear nothing," the woman said, happy in having something important to
do, in relating the horrible news to the Commissary how, when she was
about to enter the room for the purpose of reading, the----

While she was going toward the door Bernardet slowly mounted the two
flights of stairs, followed by Moniche and the tall young man who had
arrived in his coupé at a gallop, in order to get the first news of the
murder and make a "scoop" for his paper.

The news had traveled fast, and his paper had sent him in haste to get
all the details of the affair which could be obtained.

The three men reached M. Rovère's door. Moniche unlocked it and stepped
back, Bernardet, with the reporter at his heels, note book in hand,
entered the room.



                              CHAPTER III.


NOTHING in the ante-chamber indicated that a tragedy had taken place
there. There were pictures on the walls, pieces of faïence, some arms of
rare kinds, Japanese swords and a Malay creese. Bernardet glanced at
them as he passed by.

"He is in the salon," said the concierge, in a low tone.

One of the folding doors stood open, and, stopping on the threshold, in
order to take in the entire aspect of the place, Bernardet saw in the
centre of the room, lying on the floor in a pool of blood, the body of
M. Rovère, clothed in a long, blue dressing gown, bound at the waist
with a heavy cord, which lay in coils on the floor, like a serpent. The
corpse was extended between the two windows, which opened on the
Boulevard de Clichy, and Bernardet's first thought was that it was a
miracle that the victim could have met his death in such a horrible
manner, two steps from the passers-by on the street.

"Whoever struck the blow did it quickly," thought the police officer. He
advanced softly toward the body, casting his eye upon the inert mass and
taking in at a glance the smallest objects near it and the most minute
details. He bent over and studied it thoroughly.

M. Rovère seemed living in his tragic pose. The pale face, with its
pointed and well-trimmed gray beard, expressed in its fierce immobility
a sort of menacing anger. This man of about fifty years had evidently
died cursing some one in his supreme agony. The frightful wound seemed
like a large red cravat, which harmonized strangely with the
half-whitened beard, the end of which was wet with blood.

But what struck Bernardet above everything else, arrested his attention,
and glued him to the spot, was the look, the extraordinary expression in
the eyes. The mouth was open, as if to cry out, the eyes seemed to
menace some one, and the lips about to speak.

They were frightful. Those tragic eyes were wide open, as if transfixed
by fear or fury.

They seemed fathomless, staring, ready to start from their sockets. The
eyebrows above them were black and bristling. They seemed living eyes in
that dead face. They told of a final struggle, of some atrocious duel of
looks and of words. They appeared, in their ferocious immobility, as
when they gazed upon the murderer, eye to eye, face to face.

Bernardet looked at the hands.

They were contracted and seemed, in some obstinate resistance, to have
clung to the neck or the clothing of the assassin.

"There ought to be blood under the nails, since he made a struggle,"
said Bernardet, thinking aloud.

And Paul Rodier, the reporter, hurriedly wrote, "There was blood under
the nails."

Bernardet returned again and again to the eyes--those wide-open eyes,
frightful, terrible eyes, which, in their fierce depths, retained
without doubt the image or phantom of some nightmare of death.

He touched the dead man's hand. The flesh had become cold and _rigor
mortis_ was beginning to set in.

The reporter saw the little man take from his pocket a sort of rusty
silver ribbon and unroll it, and heard him ask Moniche to take hold of
one end of it; this ribbon or thread looked to Paul Rodier like brass
wire. Bernardet prepared his kodak.

"Above everything else," murmured Bernardet, "let us preserve the
expression of those eyes."

"Close the shutters. The darkness will be more complete."

The reporter assisted Moniche in order to hasten the work. The shutters
closed, the room was quite dark, and Bernardet began his task. Counting
off a few steps, he selected the best place from which to take the
picture.

"Be kind enough to light the end of the magnesium wire," he said to the
concierge. "Have you any matches?"

"No, M. Bernardet."

The police office indicated by a sign of the head, a match safe which he
had noticed on entering the room.

"There are some there."

Bernardet had with one sweeping glance of the eye taken in everything in
the room; the fauteuils, scarcely moved from their places; the pictures
hanging on the walls; the mirrors; the bookcases; the cabinets, etc.

Moniche went to the mantelpiece and took a match from the box. It was M.
Rovère himself who furnished the light by which a picture of his own
body was taken.

"We could obtain no picture in this room without the magnesium wire,"
said the agent, as calm while taking a photograph of the murdered man,
as he had been a short time ago in his garden. "The light is
insufficient. When I say: 'Go!' Moniche you must light the wire, and I
will take three or four negatives. Do you understand? Stand there to my
left. Now! Attention!"

Bernardet took his position and the porter stood ready, match and wire
in hand, like a gunner who awaits the order to fire.

"Go!" said the agent.

A rapid, clear flame shot up; and suddenly lighted the room.
The pale face seemed livid, the various objects in the room
took on a fantastic appearance, in this sort of tempestuous
apotheosis, and Paul Rodier hastily inscribed on his writing pad:
"Picturesque--bizarre--marvelous--devilish--suggestive."

"Let us try it again," said M. Bernardet.

For the third time in this weird light the visage of the dead man
appeared, whiter, more sinister, frightful; the wound deeper, the gash
redder; and the eyes, those wide-open, fixed, tragic, menacing, speaking
eyes--eyes filled with scorn, with hate, with terror, with the ferocious
resistance of a last struggle for life; immovable, eloquent--seemed
under the fantastic light to glitter, to be alive, to menace some one.

"That is all," said Bernardet, very softly. "If with these three
negatives"----

He stopped to look around toward the door, which was closed. Someone was
raining ringing blows on the door, loud and imperative.

"It is the Commissary; open the door, Moniche."

The reporter was busy taking notes, describing the salon, sketching it,
drawing a plan for his journal.

It was, in fact, the Commissary, who was followed by Mme. Moniche and a
number of curious persons who had forced their way in when the front
door was opened.

The Commissary, before entering, took a comprehensive survey of the
room, and said in a short tone: "Every one must go out. Madame, make all
these people go out. No one must enter."

There arose an uproar--each one tried to explain his right to be there.
They were all possessed with an irresistible desire to assist at this
sinister investigation.

"But we belong to the press!"

"The reporters may enter when they have showed their cards," the
Commissary replied. "The others--no!" There was a murmur from the crowd.

"The others--no!" repeated the Commissary. He made a sign to two
officers who accompanied him, and they demanded the reporters' cards of
identification. The concourse of curious ones rebelled, protested,
growled and declaimed against the representatives of the press, who took
precedence everywhere.

"The Fourth Power!" shouted an old man from the foot of the staircase.
He lived in the house and passed for a correspondent of the Institute.
He shouted furiously: "When a crime is committed under my very roof, I
am not even allowed to write an account of it, and strangers, because
they are reporters, can have the exclusive privilege of writing it up!"

The Commissary did not listen to him, but those who were his
fellow-sufferers applauded him to the echo. The Commissary shrugged his
shoulders at the hand-clappings.

"It is but right," he said to the reporter, "that the agents of the
press should be admitted in preference to any one else. Do you think
that it is easy to discover a criminal? I have been a journalist, too.
Yes, at times. In the Quartier, occasionally. I have even written a
piece for the theatre. But we will not talk of that. Enter! Enter, I beg
of you--and we shall see"--and elegant, amiable, polished, smiling, he
looked toward M. Bernardet, and his eyes asked the question: "Where is
it?"

"Here! M. le Commissaire."

Bernardet stood respectfully in front of his superior officer, as a
soldier carrying arms, and the Commissary, in his turn, approached the
body, while the curious ones, quietly kept back by Moniche, formed a
half circle around the pale and bloody corpse. The Commissary, like
Bernardet, was struck by the haughty expression of that livid face.

"Poor man!" he said, shaking his head. "He is superb! superb! He reminds
me of the dead Duke de Guise, in Paul Delaroche's picture. I have seen
it also at Chantilly, in Gérôme's celebrated picture of _Le Duel de
Pierrot_."

Possibly in speaking aloud his thoughts, the Commissary was talking so
that the reporters might hear him. They stood, notebooks in hand,
taking notes, and Paul Rodier, catching the names, wrote rapidly in his
book: "M. Desbrière, the learned Commissary, so artistic, so well
disposed toward the press, was at one time a journalist. He noticed that
the victim's pale face, with its strong personal characteristics,
resembled the dead Duke de Guise, in Gérôme's celebrated picture, which
hangs in the galleries at Chantilly."



                              CHAPTER IV.


M. DESBRIÈRE now began the investigation. He questioned the porter and
portress, while he studied the salon in detail. Bernardet roamed about,
examining at very close range each and every object in the room, as a
dog sniffs and scents about for a trail.

"What kind of a man was your lodger?" was the first question.

Moniche replied in a tone which showed that he felt that his tenant had
been accused of something.

"Oh! Monsieur le Commissaire, a very worthy man, I swear it!"

"The best man in the world," added his wife, wiping her eyes.

"I am not inquiring about his moral qualities," M. Desbrière said. "What
I want to know is, how did he live and whom did he receive?"

"Few people. Very few," the porter answered. "The poor man liked
solitude. He lived here eight years. He received a few friends, but, I
repeat, a very small number."

M. Rovère had rented the apartment in 1888, he installed himself in his
rooms, with his pictures and books. The porter was much astonished at
the number of pictures and volumes which the new lodger brought. It
took a long time to settle, as M. Rovère was very fastidious and
personally superintended the hanging of his canvases and the placing of
his books. He thought that he must have been an artist, although he said
that he was a retired merchant. He had heard him say one day that he had
been Consul to some foreign country--Spain or South America.

He lived quite simply, although they thought that he must be rich. Was
he a miser? Not at all. Very generous, on the contrary. But, plainly, he
shunned the world. He had chosen their apartment because it was in a
retired spot, far from the Parisian boulevards. Four or five years
before a woman, clothed in black, had come there. A woman who seemed
still young--he had not seen her face, which was covered with a heavy
black veil--she had visited M. Rovère quite often. He always accompanied
her respectfully to the door when she went away. Once or twice he had
gone out with her in a carriage. No, he did not know her name. M.
Rovère's life was regulated with military precision. He usually held
himself upright--of late sickness had bowed him somewhat; he went out
whenever he was able, going as far as the Bois and back. Then, after
breakfasting, he shut himself up in his library and read and wrote. He
passed nearly all of his evenings at home.

"He never made us wait up for him, as he never went to the theatre,"
said Moniche.

The malady from which he suffered, and which puzzled the physicians, had
seized him on his return from a Summer sojourn at Aix-les-Bains for his
health. The neighbors had at once noticed the effect produced by the
cure. When he went away he had been somewhat troubled with rheumatism,
but when he returned he was a confirmed sufferer. Since the beginning of
September he had not been out, receiving no visits, except from his
doctor, and spending whole days in his easy chair or upon his lounge,
while Mme. Moniche read the daily papers to him.

"When I say that he saw no one," said the porter, "I make a mistake.
There was that gentleman"----

And he looked at his wife.

"What gentleman?"

Mme. Moniche shook her head, as if he ought not to answer.

"Of whom do you speak?" repeated the Commissary, looking at both of
them.

At this moment, Bernardet, standing on the threshold of the library
adjoining the salon, looked searchingly about the room in which M.
Rovère ordinarily spent his time, and which he had probably left to meet
his fate. His ear was as quick to hear as his eye to see, and as he
heard the question he softly approached and listened for the answer.

"What gentleman? and what did he do?" asked the Commissary, a little
brusquely, for he noticed a hesitation to reply in both Moniche and his
wife.

"Well, and what does this mean?"

"Oh, well, Monsieur le Commissaire, it is this--perhaps it means
nothing," and the concierge went on to tell how, one evening, a very
fine gentleman, and very polished, moreover, had come to the house and
asked to see M. Rovère; he had gone to his apartment, and had remained a
long time. It was, he thought, about the middle of October, and Mme.
Moniche, who had gone upstairs to light the gas, met the man as he was
coming out of M. Rovère's rooms, and had noticed at the first glance the
troubled air of the individual. (Moniche already called the gentleman
_the 'individual,'_) who was very pale and whose eyes were red.

Then, at some time or other, the individual had made another visit to M.
Rovère. More than once the portress had tried to learn his name. Up to
this moment she had not succeeded. One day she asked M. Rovère who it
was, and he very shortly asked her what business it was of hers. She did
not insist, but she watched the individual with a vague doubt.

"Instinct. Monsieur; my instinct told me"----

"Enough," interrupted M. Desbrière; "if we had only instinct to guide us
we should make some famous blunders."

"Oh, it was not only by instinct, Monsieur."

"Ah! ah! let us hear it"----

Bernardet, with his eyes fastened upon Mme. Moniche, did not lose a
syllable of her story, which her husband occasionally interrupted to
correct her or to complete a statement, or to add some detail. The
corpse, with mouth open and fiery, ferocious eyes, seemed also to
listen.

Mme. Moniche, as we already know, entered M. Rovère's apartment whenever
she wished. She was his landlady, his reader, his friend. Rovère was
brusque, but he was good. So it was nothing strange when the woman,
urged by curiosity, suddenly appeared in his rooms, for him to say: "Ah,
you here? Is that you? I did not call you." An electric bell connected
the rooms with the concierge lodge. Usually she would reply: "I thought
I heard the bell." And she would profit by the occasion to fix up the
fire, which M. Rovère, busy with his reading or writing, had forgotten
to attend to. She was much attached to him. She did not wish to have him
suffer from the cold, and recently had entered as often as possible,
under one pretext or another, knowing that he was ill, and desiring to
be at hand in case of need. When, one evening, about eight days before,
she had entered the room while the visitor, whom Moniche called the
individual, was there, the portress had been astonished to see the two
men standing before Rovère's iron safe, the door wide open and both
looking at some papers spread out on the desk.

Rovère, with his sallow, thin face, was holding some papers in his hand,
and the other was bent over, looking with eager eyes at--Mme. Moniche
had seen them well--some rent rolls, bills and deeds. Perceiving Mme.
Moniche, who stood hesitating on the threshold, M. Rovère frowned,
mechanically made a move as if to gather up the scattered papers. But
the portress said, "Pardon!" and quickly withdrew. Only--ah! only--she
had time to see, to see plainly the iron safe, the heavy doors standing
open, the keys hanging from the lock, and M. Rovère in his dressing
gown; the official papers, yellow and blue, others bearing seals and a
ribbon, lying there before him. He seemed in a bad humor, but said
nothing. Not a word.

"And the other one?"

The other man was as pale as M. Rovère. He resembled him, moreover. It
was, perhaps, a relative. Mme. Moniche had noticed the expression with
which he contemplated those papers and the fierce glance which he cast
at her when she pushed open the door without knowing what sight awaited
her. She had gone downstairs, but she did not at once tell her husband
about what she had seen. It was some time afterward. The individual had
come again. He remained closeted with M. Rovère for some hours. The
sick man was lying on the lounge. The portress had heard them through
the door talking in low tones. She did not know what they said. She
could hear only a murmur. And she had very good ears, too. But she heard
only confused sounds, not one plain word. When, however, the visitor was
going away she heard Rovère say to him: "I ought to have told all
earlier."

Did the dead man possess a secret which weighed heavily upon him, and
which he shared with that other? And the other? Who was he? Perhaps an
accomplice. Everything she had said belonged to the Commissary of Police
and to the press. She had told her story with omissions, with timorous
looks, with sighs of doubts and useless gestures. Bernardet listened,
noting each word, the purposes of this portress, the melodramatic gossip
in certain information in which he verified the precision--all this was
engraven on his brain, as earlier in the day the expression of the dead
man's eyes had been reflected in the kodak.

He tried to distinguish, as best he could, the undeniable facts in this
first deposition, when a woman of the people, garrulous, indiscreet,
gossiping and zealous, has the joy of playing a rôle. He mentally
examined her story, with the interruptions which her husband made when
she accused the individual. He stopped her with a look, placing his hand
on her arm and said: "One must wait! One does not know. He had the
appearance of a worthy man." The woman, pointing out with a grand
gesture, the body lying upon the floor, said: "Oh, well! And did not M.
Rovère have the appearance of a worthy man also? And did it hinder him
from coming to that?"

Over Bernardet's face a mocking little smile passed.

"He always had the appearance of a worthy man," he said, looking at the
dead man, "and he even seemed like a worthy man who looked at rascals
with courage. I am certain," slowly added the officer, "that if one
could know the last thought in that brain which thinks no more, could
see in those unseeing eyes the last image upon which they looked, one
would learn all that need be known about that individual of whom you
speak and the manner of his death."

"Possibly he killed himself," said the Commissary.

But the hypothesis of suicide was not possible, as Bernardet remarked to
him, much to the great contempt of the reporters who were covering their
notebooks with a running handwriting and with hieroglyphics. The wound
was too deep to have been made by the man's own hand. And, besides, they
would find the weapon with which that horrible gash had been made, near
at hand. There was no weapon of any kind near the body. The murderer
had either carried it away with him in his flight or he had thrown it
away in some other part of the apartment. They would soon know.

They need not even wait for an autopsy to determine that it was an
assassination. "That is evident," interrupted the Commissary; "the
autopsy will be made, however."

And, with an insistence which surprised the Commissary a little,
Bernardet, in courteous tones, evidently haunted by one particular idea,
begged and almost supplicated M. Desbrière to send for the Attorney for
the Republic, so that the corpse could be taken as soon as possible to
the Morgue.

"Poor man!" exclaimed Mme. Moniche. "To the Morgue! To the Morgue!"
Bernardet calmed her with a word.

"It is necessary. It is the law. Oh, Monsieur le Commissaire, let us do
it quickly, quickly. I will tell you why. Time will be gained--I mean to
say, saved--and the criminal found."

Then, while M. Desbrière sent an officer to the telephone office to ask
for the Attorney for the Republic to come as quickly as possible to the
Boulevard de Clichy, Mme. Moniche freed her mind to the reporters in
regard to some philosophical considerations upon human destiny, which
condemned in so unforeseen, so odiously brutal a manner, a good lodger,
as respectable as M. Rovère, to be laid upon a slab at the Morgue, like
a thief or a vagabond--he who went out but seldom, and who "loved his
home so much."

"The everlasting antithesis of life!" replied Paul Rodier, who made a
note of his reflection.



                               CHAPTER V.


SOME time passed before the arrival of the Attorney, and through the
closed Venetian blinds the murmurs of the crowd collected below could be
heard. The Commissary wrote his report on the corner of a table, by the
light of a single candle, and now and then asked for some detail of
Bernardet, who seemed very impatient. A heavy silence had fallen on the
room; those who a short time before had exchanged observations in loud
tones, since the Commissary had finished with Mme. Moniche had dropped
their voices and spoke in hushed tones, as if they were in a sick room.
Suddenly a bell rang, sending shrill notes through the silent room.
Bernardet remarked that no doubt, the Attorney had arrived. He looked at
his watch, a simple, silver Geneva watch, but which he prized highly--a
present from his wife--and murmured:

"There is yet time." It was, in fact, the Attorney for the Republic, who
came in, accompanied by the Examining Magistrate, M. Ginory, whom
criminals called "the vise," because he pressed them so hard when he got
hold of them. M. Ginory was in the Attorney's office when the officer
had telephoned to M. Jacquelin des Audrays, and the latter had asked
him to accompany him to the scene of the murder. Bernardet knew them
both well. He had more than once been associated with M. Audrays. He
also knew M. Ginory as a very just, a very good man, although he was
much feared, for, while searching for the truth of a matter he reserved
judgment of those whom he had fastened in his vise. M. Audrays was still
a young man, slender and correct, tightly buttoned up in his redingote,
smooth-shaven, wearing eyeglasses.

The red ribbon in his buttonhole seemed a little too large, like a
rosette worn there through coquetry. M. Ginory, on the contrary, wore
clothes too large for him; his necktie was tied as if it was a black
cord; his hat was half brushed; he was short, stout and sanguine, with
his little snub nose and his mouth, with its heavy jaws. He seemed,
beside the worldly magistrate, like a sort of professor, or savant, or
collector, who, with a leather bag stuffed with books, seemed more
fitted to pore over some brochures or precious old volumes than to spend
his time over musty law documents. Robust and active, with his
fifty-five years, he entered that house of crime as an expert
topographist makes a map, and who scarcely needs a guide, even in an
unknown country. He went straight to the body, which, as we have said,
lay between the two front windows, and both he and M. Audrays stood a
moment looking at it, taking in, as had the others, all the details
which might serve to guide them in their researches. The Attorney for
the Republic asked the Commissary if he had made his report, and the
latter handed it to him. He read it with satisfied nods of his head;
during this time Bernardet had approached M. Ginory, saluted him and
asked for a private interview with a glance of his eye; the Examining
Magistrate understood what he meant.

"Ah! Is it you, Bernardet? You wish to speak to me?"

"Yes, Monsieur Ginory. I beg of you to get the body to the dissecting
room for the autopsy as soon as possible." He had quietly and almost
imperceptibly drawn the Magistrate away toward a window, away from the
reporters, who wished to hear every word that was uttered, where he had
him quite by himself, in a corner of the room near the library door.

"There is an experiment which must be tried, Monsieur, and it ought to
tempt a man like you," he said.

Bernardet knew very well that, painstaking even to a fault, taken with
any new scientific discoveries, with a receptive mind, eager to study
and to learn, M. Ginory would not refuse him any help which would aid
justice. Had not the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences crowned,
the year before, M. Ginory's book on "The Duties of a Magistrate to the
Discoveries of Science?"

The word "experiment" was not said in order to frighten M. Ginory.

"What do you mean by that, Bernardet?" the Magistrate asked. Bernardet
shook his head as if to intimate that the explanation was too long to
give him there. They were not alone. Some one might hear them. And if a
journal should publish the strange proposition which he wished to----

"Ah! Ah!" exclaimed the Examining Magistrate, "then it is something
strange, your experiment?"

"Any Magistrate but you would think it wild, unreasonable, or
ridiculous, which is worse. But you--oh! I do not say it to flatter you,
Monsieur," quickly added the police officer, seeing that the praise
troubled this man, who always shrank from it. "I speak thus because it
is the very truth, and any one else would treat me as crack-brained. But
you--no!"

M. Ginory looked curiously at the little man, whose attitude was humble
and even supplicating, and seemed to seek a favorable response, and
whose eyes sparkled and indicated that his idea was no common one.

"What is that room there?" asked M. Ginory, pointing to the half-open
library door.

"It is the study of M. Rovère--the victim"----

"Let us go in there," said M. Ginory.

In this room no one could hear them; they could speak freely. On
entering, the Examining Magistrate mechanically cast his eye over the
books, stopping at such and such a title of a rare work, and, seating
himself in a low, easy chair, covered with Caramanie, he made a sign to
the police officer to speak. Bernardet stood, hat in hand, in front of
him.

"M. le Juge," Bernardet began, "I beg your pardon for asking you to
grant me an interview. But, allowing for the difference in our
positions, which is very great, I am, like you, a scholar; very curious.
I shall never belong to the Institute, and you will"----

"Go on, Bernardet."

"And you will belong to it, M. Ginory, but I strive also, in my lower
sphere, to keep myself _au courant_ with all that is said and with all
that is written. I was in the service of the Academy when your beautiful
work was crowned, and when the perpetual secretary spoke of those
Magistrates who knew how to unite the love of letters with a study of
justice; I thought that lower down, much lower down on the ladder, M. le
Juge, he might have also searched for and found some men who studied to
learn and to do their best in doing their duty."

"Ah! I know you, Bernardet. Your chief has often spoken of you."

"I know that M. Leriche is very good to me. But it is not for me to
boast of that. I wish only to inspire confidence in you, because what I
wish to say to you is so strange--so very strange"----

Bernardet suddenly stopped. "I know," he began, "that if I were to say
to a physician what I am about to say to you he would think I ought to
be shut up in Sainte-Anne. And yet I am not crazy, I beg of you to
believe. No! but I have searched and searched. It seems to me that there
is a mass of inventions, of discoveries, which we police officers ought
to make use of. And, although I am a sub-Inspector"----

"Go on! Go on!" said the Magistrate, quickly, with a movement of the
head toward the open door of the salon, where the Attorney for the
Republic was conducting the investigation, and his nod seemed to say:
"They are at work in there--let us make haste."

"I will be as brief as possible," said Bernardet, who understood what he
meant.

"Monsieur," (and his tone became rapid, precise, running up and down
like a ball), "thirty years, or, rather, to be exact, twenty-six years
ago, some American journals, not political, but scientific, published
the fact that the daguerrotype--we have made long strides since then in
photography--had permitted them to find in the retina of a murdered
man's eye the image of the one who struck him."

"Yes, I know," said M. Ginory.

"In 1860, I was too young, and I had no desire to prove the truth of
this discovery. I adore photography as I adore my profession. I pass my
leisure hours in taking instantaneous pictures, in developing them,
printing, and finishing them. The idea of what I am about to propose to
you came to me by chance. I bought upon one of the quays a volume of the
Societé de Medicine Legale of 1869, in which Dr. Vernois gives an
account of a communication sent to the society by a physician, who also
sent photographic proofs, thus indorsed: 'Photographs taken of the
retina of a woman assassinated the 14th of June, 1868.'"

"Yes," again said M. Ginory. "It was a communication from Dr. Bourion,
of Darnez."

"Precisely."

"And the proof sent by the Doctor showed the instant when, after
striking the mother, the assassin killed the child, while the dog sprang
toward the little carriage in which the little one lay."

"Yes, Monsieur Ginory."

"Oh, well, but my poor Bernardet, Dr. Vernois, since you have read his
report"----

"By chance, Monsieur, I found it on a book stall and it has kept running
in my head ever since, over and over and over again."

"Dr. Vernois, my poor fellow, made many experiments. At first the proof
sent was so confused, so hazy, that no one who had not seen what
Bourion had written could have told what it was. If Vernois, who was a
very scientific man, could find nothing--nothing, I repeat--which
justified Dr. Bourion's declarations, what do you expect that any one
else could make of those researches? Do not talk any more or even think
any more about it."

"I beg your pardon, Monsieur Ginory; one can and ought to think about
it. In any case, I am thinking about it."

A smile of doubt crossed M. Ginory's lips. Bernardet quickly added:
"Photography of the invisible has been proven. Are not the Roentgen
Rays, the famous X Rays, as incredible as that photography can find the
image of a murderer on the retina of a dead person's eye? They invent
some foolish things, those Americans, but they often presage the truth.
Do they not catch, by photography, the last sighs of the dying? Do they
not fix upon the film or on plates that mysterious thing which haunts
us, the occult? They throw bridges across unknown abysses as over great
bodies of water or from one precipice to another, and they reach the
other side. I beg your pardon, Monsieur," and the police officer stopped
short in his enthusiastic defence as he caught sight of M. Ginory's
astonished face; "I seem to have been making a speech, a thing I
detest."

"Why do you say that to me? Because I looked astonished at what you have
told me? I am not only surprised, I am charmed. Go on! Go on!"

"Oh! well, what seemed folly yesterday will be an established fact
to-morrow. A fact is a fact. Dr. Vernois had better have tested again
and again his contradictory experiments. Dr. Bourion's experiments had
preceded his own. If Dr. Vernois saw nothing in the picture taken of the
retina of the eye of the woman assassinated June 14, 1868, I have seen
something--yes, I have seen with a magnifying glass, while studying
thoroughly the proof given to the society and reproduced in the bulletin
of Volume I., No. 2, of 1870; I have seen deciphered the image which Dr.
Bourion saw, and which Dr. Vernois did not see. Ah! it was confused, the
proof was hazy. It was scarcely recognizable, I confess. But there are
mirrors which are not very clear and which reflect clouded vision;
nevertheless, the image is there. And I have seen, or what one calls
seen, the phantom of the murderer which Dr. Bourion saw, and which
escaped the eyes of the member of the Academy of Medicine and of the
Hygiene Council, Honorary Physician of the Hospital, if you please."

M. Ginory, who had listened to the officer with curiosity, began to
laugh, and remarked to Bernardet that, according to this reasoning,
illustrated medical science would find itself sacrificed to the
instinct, the divination of a provincial physician, and that it was only
too easy to put the Academicians in the wrong and the Independents in
the right.

"Oh, Monsieur, pardon; I put no one in the right or wrong. Dr. Bourion
believed that he had made a discovery. Dr. Vernois was persuaded that
Dr. Bourion had discovered nothing at all. Each had the courage of his
conviction. What I contest is that, for twenty-six years, no one has
experimented, no one has made any researches, since the first
experiment, and that Dr. Bourion's communication has been simply dropped
and forgotten."

"I ask your pardon in my turn, Bernardet," replied M. Ginory, a little
quizzically. "I have also studied the question, which seems to me a
curious"----

"Have you photographed any yourself, M. Ginory?"

"No."

"Ah! There is where the proof is."

"But in 1877, the very learned Doyen of the Academy of Medicine, M.
Brouardel, whose great wisdom, and whose sovereign opinion was law, one
of those men who is an honor to his country, told me that when he was in
Heidelberg he had heard Professor Kuhne say that he had studied this
same question; he had made impressions of the retina of the eye in the
following cases: After the death of a dog or a wolf, he had taken out
the eye and replaced it with the back part of the eye in front; then he
took a very strong light and placed it in front of the eye and between
the eye and the light he placed a small grating. This grating, after an
exposure of a quarter of an hour, was visible upon the retina. But those
are very different experiments from the ones one hears of in America."

"They could see the bars in the grating? If that was visible, why could
not the visage of the murderer be found there?"

"Eh! Other experiments have been attempted, even after those of which
Professor Kuhne told our compatriot. Every one, you understand, has
borne only negative results, and M. Brouardel could tell you, better
than I, that in the physiological and oculistic treatises, published
during the last ten years, no allusion has been made to the preservation
of the image on the retina after death. It is an _affair classé_,
Bernardet."

"Ah! Monsieur, yet"--and the police officer hesitated. Shaking his head,
he again repeated: "Yet--yet!"

"You are not convinced?"

"No, Monsieur Ginory, and shall I tell you why? You, yourself, in spite
of the testimony of illustrious savants, still doubt. I pray you to
pardon me, but I see it in your eyes."

"That is still another way to use the retina," said Ginory, laughing.
"You read one's thoughts."

"No, Monsieur, but you are a man of too great intelligence to say to
yourself that there is nothing in this world _classé_, that every matter
can be taken up again. The idea has come to me to try the experiment if
I am permitted. Yes, Monsieur, those eyes, did you see them, the eyes of
the dead man? They seemed to speak; they seemed to see. Their expression
is of lifelike intensity. They see, I tell you, they see! They perceive
something which we cannot see, and which is frightful. They bear--and no
one can convince me to the contrary--they bear on the retina the
reflection of the last being whom the murdered man saw before he died.
They keep it still, they still retain that image. They are going to hold
an autopsy; they will tell us that the throat is cut. Eh! Parbleu! We
know it well. We see it for ourselves. Moniche, the porter, knows it as
well as any doctor. But when one questions those eyes, when one searches
in that black chamber where the image appears as on a plate, when one
demands of those eyes their secret, I am convinced that one will find
it."

"You are obstinate, Bernardet."

"Yes, very obstinate, Monsieur Ginory, and very patient. The pictures
which I took with my kodak will give us the expression, the interior, so
to speak; those which we would take of the retina would reveal to us the
secret of the agony. And, moreover, unless I deceive myself, what
danger attends such an experiment? One opens the poor eyes, and that is
sinister, certainly, but when one holds an autopsy at the Morgue, when
one enlarges the gash in the throat in order to study it, when one
dissects the body, is it any more respectful or proper? Ah! Monsieur, if
I but had your power"----

M. Ginory seemed quite struck with all that the police officer had said
to him, but while he still held to his convictions, he did not seem
quite averse to trying the experiment. Who can say to science "Halt!"
and impose upon it limits which cannot be passed? No one!

"We will see, Bernardet."

And in that "we will see" there was already a half promise.

"Ah! if you only will, and what would it cost you?" added Bernardet,
still urgent; indeed, almost suppliant.

"Let us finish this now. They are waiting for me," said the Examining
Magistrate.

As he left M. Rovère's study, he instinctively cast a glance at the rare
volumes, with their costly bindings, and he reentered the salon where M.
Jacquelin des Audrays had, without doubt, finished his examination.



                              CHAPTER VI.


THE attorney for the Republic called in the Examining Magistrate.
Nothing more was to be done. The Magistrate had studied the position of
the corpse, examined the wound, and now, having told M. Ginory his
impressions, he did not hide from him his belief that the crime had been
committed by a professional, as the stroke of the knife across the
throat had been given neatly, scientifically, according to all the
established rules.

"One might well take it for the work of a professional butcher."

"Yes, without doubt, M. Ginory; but one does not know. Brute force--a
strong blow--can produce exactly what science can."

More agitated than he wished to appear by the strange conversation
between the Agent of Sureté and himself, the Examining Magistrate stood
at the foot of the corpse and gazed, with a fixity almost fierce, not at
the gaping wound of which M. Jacquelin des Audrays had spoken to him,
but at those eyes,--those fixed eyes, those eyes which no opacity had
yet invaded, which, open, frightful, seemingly burning with anger,
menacing, full of accusations of some sort and animated with vengeance,
gave him a look, immovable, most powerful.

It was true! it was true! They lived! those eyes spoke. They cried to
him for justice. They retained the expression of some atrocious vision:
the expression of violent rage. They menaced some one--who? If the
picture of some one was graven there, was it not the last image
reflected on the little mirror of the retina? What if a face was
reflected there! What if it was still retained in the depths of those
wide-open eyes! That strange creature, Bernardet, half crazy, enthused
with new ideas, with the mysteries which traverse chimerical brains,
troubled him--Ginory, a man of statistics and of facts.

But truly those dead eyes seemed to appeal, to speak, to designate some
one. What more eloquent, what more terrible witness could there be than
the dead man himself, if it was possible for his eyes to speak; if that
organ of life should contain, shut up within it, preserved, the secret
of death? Bernardet, whose eyes never left the magistrate's face, ought
to have been content, for it plainly expressed doubt, a hesitation, and
the police officer heard him cursing under his breath.

"Folly! Stupidity! Bah! we shall see!"

Bernardet was filled with hope. M. Ginory, the Examining Magistrate,
was, moreover, convinced that, for the present, and the sooner the
better, the corpse should be sent to the Morgue. There, only, could a
thorough and scientific examination be made. The reporter listened
intently to the conversation, and Mme. Moniche clasped her hands, more
and more agonized by that word Morgue, which, among the people, produces
the same terror that that other word, which means, however, careful
attendance, scientific treatment and safety,--hospital, does.

Nothing was now to be done except to question some of the neighbors and
to take a sketch of the salon. Bernardet said to the Magistrate: "My
photograph will give you that!" While some one went out to get a hearse,
the Magistrates went away, the police officer placed a guard in front of
the house. The crowd was constantly increasing and becoming more and
more curious, violently excited and eager to see the spectacle--the
murdered man borne from his home.

Bernardet did not allow M. Ginory to go away without asking respectfully
if he would be allowed to photograph the dead man's eye. Without giving
him a formal answer, M. Ginory simply told him to be present at the
autopsy at the Morgue. Evidently if the Magistrate had not been already
full of doubt his reply would have been different. Why did that inferior
officer have the audacity to give his opinion on the subject of
conducting a judicial investigation? M. Ginory would long before this
have sent him about his business if he had not become suddenly
interested in him. In his quality of Judge he had come to know
Bernardet's history and his exploits in the service. No more capable
man, in his line, could be found. He was perfectly and utterly devoted
to his profession. Some strange tales were told of his methods. It was
he who once passed an entire night on a bench, pretending intoxication,
in order to gain sufficient information to enable him to arrest a
murderer in the morning in a wretched hovel at La Vilette--a murderer
armed to the teeth. It was Bernardet who, without arms--as all those
agents--caught the famous bandit, the noted Taureau de la Glacière, a
foreign Hercules, who had strangled his mistress. Bernardet arrested him
by holding to his temple the cold neck of a bottle and saying, "Hands up
or I fire!" Now what the bandit took for the cold muzzle of a pistol was
a vial containing some medicine which Bernardet had purchased of a
pharmacist for his liver.

Deeds of valor against thieves, malefactors and insurrectionists
abounded in Bernardet's life; and M. Ginory had just discovered in this
man, whom he believed simply endowed with the activity and keenness of a
hunting dog, an intelligence singularly watchful, deep and complicated.
Bernardet, who had nothing more to do until the body should be taken to
the Morgue, left the house directly after the Magistrates.

"Where are you going?" asked Paul Rodier, the reporter.

"Home. A few steps from here."

"May I go along with you?" asked the journalist.

"To find an occasion to make me speak? But I know nothing! I suspect
nothing; I shall say nothing!"

"Do you believe that it is the work of a thief, or revenge?"

"I am certain that it was no thief. Nothing in the apartment was
touched. As for the rest, who knows?"

"M. Bernardet," laughingly said the reporter, as he walked along by the
officer's side, "you do not wish to speak."

"What good will that do?" Bernardet replied, also laughingly; "it will
not prevent you from publishing an interview."

"You think so. _Au revoir!_ I must hurry and make my copy. And you?"

"I? A photograph."

They separated, and Bernardet entered his house. His daughters had
grieved over his sudden departure on Sunday on his fête day. They met
him with joyous shouts when he appeared, and threw themselves upon him.
"Papa! Here is papa!"

Mme. Bernardet was also happy. They could go then to the garden and
finish the picture. But their joy subsided, night had fallen, and
Bernardet, preoccupied, wished to shut himself up so that he might
reflect on all that had happened, and perhaps to work a little, even
to-day.

"It is thy fête day, Bernardet. Wilt thou not rest to-day?"

"I can rest at dinner, dear. Until then, I must use the time reading
over a mass of evidence."

"Then thou wilt need a lamp?" asked Mme. Bernardet.

"Yes, my dear; light the lamp."

Next to their bedchamber M. Bernardet had fitted up a little room for
his private use. It was a tiny den, in which was a mahogany table loaded
with books and papers, and at which he worked when he had time, reading,
annotating, copying from the papers, and collecting extracts for hours
at a time. No one was allowed to enter this room, filled with old
papers. Mme. Bernardet well called it "a nest of microbes." Bernardet
found pleasure in this sporadic place, which in Summer was stifling. In
Winter he worked without a fire.

Mme. Bernardet was unhappy as she saw that their holiday was spoiled.
But she very well knew that when her husband was devoured with
curiosity, carried away by a desire to elucidate a puzzle, there was
nothing to be said. He listened to no remonstrances, and the daughters
knew that when they asked if their father was not coming to renew his
games with them they were obliged to content themselves with the excuse
which they knew so well from having heard it so often: "Papa is studying
out a crime!"

Bernardet was anxious to read over his notes, the verification of his
hopes, of those so-called certainties of to-day. That is why he wished
to be alone. As soon as he had closed the door he at once, from among
the enormous piles of dust-laden books and files of old newspapers, with
the unerring instinct of the habitual searcher who rummages through book
stalls, drew forth a gray-covered pamphlet in which he had read, with
feverish astonishment, the experiments and report of Dr. Vernois upon
the application of photography in criminal researches. He quickly seated
himself, and with trembling fingers eagerly turned over the leaves of
the book so often read and studied, and came to the report of the member
of the Academy of Medicine; he compared it with the proof submitted by
Dr. Bourion, of the Medical Society, in which it was stated that the
most learned savants had seen nothing.

"Seen nothing, or wished to see nothing, perhaps!" he murmured.

The light fell upon the photograph which had been sent, a long time
before, to the Society, and Bernardet set himself to study out the old
crime with the most careful attention; with the passion of a
paleographer deciphering a palimpsest. This poor devil of a police
officer, in his ardent desire to solve the vexing problem, brought to it
the same ardor and the same faith as a bibliophile. He went over and
over with the method of an Examining Magistrate all that old forgotten
affair, and in the solitude and silence of his little room the last
reflections of the setting sun falling on his papers and making pale the
light of his lamp, he set himself the task of solving, like a
mathematical problem, that question which he had studied, but which he
wished to know from the very beginning, without any doubts, before
seeing M. Ginory again at the Morgue, beside the body of M. Rovère. He
took his pamphlet and read: "The photograph sent to the Society of
Medical Jurisprudence by Dr. Bourion taken upon the retina of the eye of
a woman who had been murdered the 14th of June, 1868, represents the
moment when the assassin, after having struck the mother, kills the
infant, and the dog belonging to the house leaps toward the unfortunate
little victim to save it."

Then studying, turn by turn, the photograph yellowed by time, and the
article which described it, Bernardet satisfied himself, and learned the
history by heart.

M. Gallard, General Secretary of the Society, after having carefully
hidden the back part of the photograph, had circulated it about among
the members with this note: "Enigma of Medical Jurisprudence." And no
one had solved the tragic enigma. Even when he had explained, no one
could see in the photograph what Dr. Bourion saw there. Some were able
on examining that strange picture to see in the black and white haze
some figures as singular and dissimilar as those which the amiable
Polonius perceived in the clouds under the suggestion of Hamlet.

Dr. Vernois, appointed to write a report on Dr. Bourion's communication,
asked him then how the operation had been conducted, and Dr. Bourion had
given him these details, which Bernardet was now reading and studying:
The assassination had taken place on Sunday between noon and 4 o'clock;
the extraction of the eyes from their orbits had not been made until the
following day at 6 o'clock in the evening.

The experiment on the eyes, those terribly accusing eyes of this dead
man, could be made twenty-four hours earlier than that other experiment.
The image--if there was any image--ought to be, in consequence, more
clearly defined than in Dr. Bourion's experiment.

"About 6 o'clock in the evening," thought Bernardet, "and the
photographic light was sufficient."

Dr. Bourion had taken pictures of both of the child's eyes as well as
both of the mother's eyes. The child's eyes showed nothing but hazy
clouds. But the mother's eyes were different. Upon the left eye, next to
a circular section back of the iris, a delicately marked image of a
dog's head appeared. On the same section of the right eye, another
picture; one could see the assassin raising his arm to strike and the
dog leaping to protect his little charge.

"With much good will, it must be confessed," thought Bernardet, looking
again and again at the photograph, "and with much imagination, too. But
it was between fifty and fifty-two hours after the murder that the proof
was taken, while this time it will be while the body is still warm that
the experiment will be tried."

Seventeen times already had Dr. Vernois experimented on animals;
sometimes just after he had strangled them, again when they had died
from Prussic acid. He had held in front of their eyes a simple object
which could be easily recognized. He had taken out the eyes and hurried
with them to the photographer. He had, in order to better expose the
retina to photographic action, made a sort of Maltese cross, by making
four incisions on the edge of the sclerotic. He removed the vitreous
humor, fixed it on a piece of card with four pins and submitted the
retina as quickly as possible to the camera.

In re-reading the learned man's report, Bernardet studied, pored over,
carefully scrutinized the text, investigated the dozen proofs submitted
to the Society of Medical Jurisprudence by Dr. Vernois:

Retina of a cat's eye killed by Prussic acid; Vernois had held the
animal in front of the bars of the cage in which it was confined. No
result!

Retina of a strangled dog's eye. A watch was held in front of its eyes.
No result!

Retina of a dog killed by a strangulation. A bunch of shining keys was
held in front of his eyes. No result!

Retina of the eye of a strangled dog. An eyeglass held in front of its
eyes. Photograph made two hours after death. Nothing! In all Dr.
Vernois's experiments--nothing! Nothing!

Bernardet repeated the word angrily. Still he kept on; he read page
after page. But all this was twenty-six years ago--photography has made
great strides since then. What wonderful results have been obtained! The
skeleton of the human body seen through the flesh! The instantaneous
photograph! The kinetoscopic views! Man's voice registered for eternity
in the phonograph! The mysterious dragged forth into the light of day!
Many hitherto unknown secrets become common property! The invisible,
even the invisible, the occult, placed before our eyes, as a spectacle!

"One does not know all that may be done with a kodak," murmured
Bernardet.

As he ascertained, in re-reading Dr. Vernois's report on "The
Application of Photography to Medical Jurisprudence," the savant
himself, even while denying the results of which Dr. Bourion spoke in
his communication, devoted himself to the general consideration upon the
rôle which photography ought to play in medical jurisprudence. Yes, in
1869, he asked that in the researches on poisonous substances, where the
microscope alone had been used, photography should be applied. He
advocated what in our day is so common, the photographing of the
features of criminals, their deformities, their scars, their tattooings.
He demanded that pictures should be taken of an accused person in many
ways, without wigs and with them, with and without beards, in diverse
costumes.

"These propositions," thought Bernardet, "seem hardly new; it is
twenty-six years since they were discovered, and now they seem as
natural as that two and two make four. In twenty-six years from now, who
knows what science will have done?

"Vernois demanded that wounds be reproduced, their size, the instruments
with which the crime was committed, the leaves of plants in certain
cases of poisoning, the shape of the victim's garments, the prints of
their hands and feet, the interior view of their rooms, the signature
of certain accused affected with nervous disorders, parts of bodies and
of bones, and, in fact, everything in any way connected with the crime.
It was said that he asked too much. Did he expect judges to make
photographs? To-day, everything that Vernois demanded in 1869, has been
done, and, in truth, the instantaneous photograph has almost superseded
the minutes of an investigation.

"We photograph a spurious bank note. It is magnified, and, by the
absence of a tiny dot the proof of the alteration is found. On account
of the lack of a dot the forger is detected. The savant, Helmholtz, was
the discoverer of this method of detecting these faults. Two bank notes,
one authentic, the other a forgery, were placed side by side in a
stereoscope of strong magnifying power, when the faults were at once
detected. Helmholtz's experiment probably seemed fantastic to the forger
condemned by a stereoscope. Oh, well, to-day ought not a like experiment
on the retina of a dead man's eye give a like result?

"Instruments have been highly perfected since the time when Dr. Bourion
made his experiments, and if the law of human physiology has not changed
the seekers of invisible causes must have rapidly advanced in their
mysterious pursuits. Who knows whether, at the instant of the last
agony, that the dying person does not put all the intensity of life
into the retina, giving a hundredfold power to that last supreme look?"

At this point of his reflections Bernardet experienced some hesitation.
While he was not thoroughly acquainted with physiology and philosophy,
yet he had seen so much, so many things; had known so many strange
occurrences, and had studied many men. He knew--for he had closely
questioned wretches who had been saved from drowning at the very last
possible moment, some of whom had attempted suicide, others who had been
almost drowned through accident, and each one had told him that his
whole life, from his earliest recollection, had flashed through his mind
in the instant of mortal agony. Yes, a whole lifetime in one instant of
cerebral excitement!

Had savants been able to solve this wonderful mystery? The _resumé_ of
an existence in one vibration! Was it possible? Yet--Bernardet still
used the word.

And why, in an analogous sensation, could not the look of a dying man be
seized in an intensity lasting an instant, as memory brought in a single
flash so many diverse remembrances?

"I know, since it is the imagination, and that the dead cannot see,
while the image on the retina is a fact, a fact contradicted by wiser
men than I." Bernardet thought on these mysteries until his head began
to ache.

"I shall make myself ill over it," he thought. "And there is something
to be done."

Then in his dusty little room, his brain overexcited, he became enthused
with one idea. His surroundings fell away from him, he saw
nothing--everything disappeared--the books, the papers, the walls, the
visible objects, as did also the objections, the denials, the
demonstrative impossibilities. And absolute conviction seized him to the
exclusion of all extraneous surroundings. This conviction was absolute,
instinctive, irresistible, powerful, filling him with entire faith.

"This unknown thing I will find. What is to be done I will do," he
declared to himself.

He threw the pamphlet on the table, arose from his chair and descended
to the dining-room, where his wife and children were waiting for him. He
rubbed his hands with glee, and his face looked joyous.

"Didst thou discover the trail?" Mme. Bernardet asked very simply, as a
working woman would ask her husband if he had had a good day. The eldest
of the little girls rushed toward him.

"Papa, my dear little papa!"

"My darling!"

The child asked her father in a sweet voice: "Art thou satisfied with
thy crime, papa?"

"We will not talk about that," Bernardet replied. "To table! After
dinner I will develop the pictures which I have taken with my kodak, but
let us amuse ourselves now; it is my fête day; I wish to forget all
about business. Let us dine now and be as happy as possible."



                              CHAPTER VII.


THE murder of M. Rovère, committed in broad daylight, in a quarter of
Paris filled with life and movement, caused a widespread sensation.
There was so much mystery mixed in the affair. What could be ascertained
about the dead man's life was very dramatically written up by Paul
Rodier in a sketch, and this, republished everywhere and enlarged upon,
soon gave to the crime of the Boulevard de Clichy the interest of a
judicial romance. All that there was of vulgar curiosity in man awoke,
as atavistic bestiality at the smell of blood.

What was this M. Rovère, former Consul to Buenos Ayres or Havana,
amateur collector of objects of virtu, member of the Society of
Bibliophiles, where he had not been seen for a long time? What enemy had
entered his room for the purpose of cutting his throat? Might he not
have been assassinated by some thief who knew that his rooms contained a
collection of works of art? The fête at Montmartre was often in full
blast in front of the house where the murder had been committed, and
among the crowd of ex-prison birds and malefactors who are always
attendant upon foreign kirmesses might not some one of them have
returned and committed the crime? The papers took advantage of the
occasion to moralize upon permitting these fêtes to be held in the
outlying boulevards, where vice and crime seemed to spring spontaneously
from the soil.

But no one, not one journal--perhaps by order--spoke of that unknown
visitor whom Moniche called _the individual_, and whom the portress had
seen standing beside M. Rovère in front of the open safe. Paul Rodier in
his sketch scarcely referred to the fact that justice had a clew
important enough to penetrate the mystery of the crime, and in the end
arrest the murderer. And the readers while awaiting developments asked
what mystery was hidden in this murder. Moniche at times, wore a
frightened yet important air. He felt that he was an object of curiosity
to many, the centre of prejudices. The porter and his wife possessed a
terrible secret. They were raised in their own estimation.

"We shall appear at the trial," said Moniche, seeing himself already
before the red robes, and holding up his hand to swear that he would
tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

And as they sat together in their little lodge they talked the matter
over and over, and brought up every incident in M. Rovère's life which
might have a bearing on the case.

"Do you remember the young man who came one day and insisted on seeing
Monsieur le Consul?"

"Ah! Very well, indeed," said Moniche. "I had forgotten that one. A felt
hat, his face bronzed, and a droll accent. He had come from away off
somewhere. He was probably a Spaniard."

"Some beggar, likely. A poor devil whom the Consul had known in America,
in the Colonies, one knows not where."

"A bad face!" said Moniche. "M. Rovère received him, however, and gave
him aid, I remember. If the young man had come often, I should think
that he struck the blow. And also, I ought to add, if there was not the
other."

"Yes, but there is the other," his wife replied. "There is the one whom
I saw standing in front of the coupons, and who was looking at those
other papers with flashing eyes, I give my word. There is that one,
Moniche, and I am willing to put my hand into the fire and yours, too,
Moniche, if it is not he."

"If he is the one, he will be found."

"Oh! but if he has disappeared? One disappears very quickly in these
days."

"We shall see! we shall see! Justice reigns, and we are here!" He said
that "we are here!" as a grenadier of the guard before an important
engagement.

They had taken the body to the Morgue. At the hour fixed for the autopsy
Bernardet arrived. He seemed much excited, and asked M. Ginory if,
since their conversation in M. Rovère's library, he had reflected and
decided to permit him to make the experiment--the famous experiment
reported for so many years as useless, absurd, almost ridiculous.

"With any one but M. Ginory I should not dare to hope," thought the
police officer, "but he does not sneer at strange discoveries."

He had brought his photographic apparatus, that kodak which he declared
was more dangerous to the criminal than a loaded weapon. He had
developed the negatives which he had taken, and of the three, two had
come out in good condition. The face of the murdered man appeared with a
clearness which, in the proofs, rendered it formidable as in the
reality; and the eyes, those tragic, living eyes, retained their
terrible, accusing expression which the supreme agony had left in them.
The light had struck full on the eyes--and they spoke. Bernardet showed
the proofs to M. Ginory. They examined them with a magnifying glass, but
they showed only the emotion, the agony, the anger of that last moment.
Bernardet hoped to convince M. Ginory that Bourion's experiment was not
a failure.

Eleven o'clock was the hour named for the autopsy. Twenty minutes
before, Bernardet was at the Morgue. He walked restlessly about outside
among the spectators--some were women, young girls, students, and
children who were hovering about the place, hoping that some chance
would permit them to satisfy their morbid curiosity and to enter and
gaze on those slabs whereon lay--swollen, livid, disfigured--the bodies.

Never, perhaps, in his life had the police officer been so strongly
moved with a desire to succeed. He brought to his tragic task all the
ardor of an apostle. It was not the idea of success, the renown, or the
possibility of advancement which urged him on; it was the joy, the glory
of aiding progress, of attaching his name to a new discovery. He worked
for art and the love of art. As he wandered about, his sole thought was
of his desire to test Dr. Bourion's experiment; of the realization of
his dream. "Ah! if M. Ginory will only permit it," he thought.

As he formulated that hope in his mind, he saw M. Ginory descend from
the fiacre; he hurried up to him and saluted him respectfully. Seeing
Bernardet so moved and the first one on the spot, he could not repress a
smile.

"I see you are still enthused."

"I have thought of nothing else all night, Monsieur Ginory."

"Well, but," said Monsieur Ginory in a tone which seemed to Bernardet to
imply hope, "no idea must be rejected, and I do not see why we should
not try the experiment. I have reflected upon it. Where is the
unsuitableness?"

"Ah, Monsieur le Juge," cried the agent, "if you permit it who knows but
that we may revolutionize medical jurisprudence?"

"Revolutionize, revolutionize!" Would the Examining Magistrate yet find
it an idiotic idea?

M. Ginory passed around the building and entered by a small door opening
on the Seine. The registrar followed him, and behind him came the police
agent. Bernardet wished to wait until the doctors delegated to perform
the autopsy should arrive, and the head keeper of the Morgue advised him
to possess himself with patience, and while he was waiting to look
around and see the latest cadavers which had been brought there.

"We have had, in eight days, a larger number of women than men, which is
rare. And these women were nearly all habitués of the public balls and
race tracks."

"And how can you tell that?"

"Because they have pretty feet."

Professor Morin arrived with a confrère, a young Pasteurian doctor, with
a singular mind, broad and receptive, and who passed among his
companions for a man fond of chimeras, a little retiring, however, and
giving over to making experiments and to vague dreams. Monsieur Morin
saluted M. Ginory and presented to him the young doctor, Erwin by name,
and said to the Magistrate that the house students had probably begun
the autopsy to gain time.

The body, stripped of its clothing, lay upon the dissecting table, and
three young men, in velvet skull caps, with aprons tied about their
waists, were standing about the corpse; they had already begun the
autopsy. The mortal wound looked redder than ever in the whiteness of
the naked body.

Bernardet glided into the room, trying to keep out of sight, listening
and looking, and, above everything, not losing sight of M. Ginory's
face. A face in which the look was keen, penetrating, sharp as a knife,
as he bent over the pale face of the murdered man, regarding it as
searchingly as the surgeons' scalpels were searching the wound and the
flesh. Among those men in their black clothes, some with bared heads, in
order to work better; others with hats on, the stretched-out corpse
seemed like a wax figure upon a marble slab. Bernardet thought of those
images which he had seen copied from Rembrandt's pictures--the poet with
the anatomical pincers and the shambles. The surgeons bent over the
body, their hands busy and their scissors cutting the muscles. That
wound, which had let out his life, that large wound, like a monstrous
and grimacing mouth, they enlarged still more; the head oscillated from
side to side, and they were obliged to prop it with some mats. The eyes
remained the same, and, in spite of the hours which had passed, seemed
as living, as menacing and eloquent as the night before; they were,
however, veiled with something vitreous over the pupils, like the
amaurosis of death, yet full of that anger, of that fright, or that
ferocious malediction which was reproduced in a startling manner in the
negatives taken by Bernardet.

"The secret of the crime is in that look," thought the police agent.
"Those eyes see, those eyes speak; they tell what they know, they accuse
some one."

Then, while the professor, his associates and his students went on with
the autopsy, exchanging observations, following in the mutilated body,
their researches for the truth, trying to be very accurate as to the
nature of the wound, the form even of the knife with which it was made,
Bernardet softly approached the Examining Magistrate and in a low tone,
timidly, respectfully, he spoke some words, which were insistent,
however, and pressing, urging the Magistrate to quickly interfere.

"Ah! Monsieur le Juge, this is the moment; you who can do
everything"----

The Examining Magistrate has, with us, absolute power. He does whatever
seems to him best. And he wishes to do a thing, because he wishes to do
it. M. Ginory, curious by nature and because it was his duty,
hesitated, scratched his ear, rubbed his nose, bit his lips, listened to
the supplicating murmur of the police officer; but decided not to speak
just then, and continued gazing with a fixed stare at the dead man.

This thought came to him, moreover, insistent and imperious, that he was
there to testify in all things in favor of that truth, the discovery of
which imposed upon him--and suddenly, his sharp voice interrupted the
surgeon's work.

"Messieurs, does not the expression of the open eyes strike you?"

"Yes; they express admirably the most perfect agony," M. Morin replied.

"And does it not seem," asked the Examining Magistrate, "as if they were
fixed with that expression on the murderer?"

"Without doubt! The mouth seems to curse and the eyes to menace."

"And what if the last image seen, in fact, that of the murderer, still
remains upon the retina of the eyes?"

M. Morin looked at the Magistrate in astonishment, his air was slightly
mocking and the lips and eyes assumed a quizzical expression. But
Bernardet was very much surprised when he heard one remark. Dr. Erwin
raised his head and while he seemed to approve of that which M. Ginory
had advanced, he said: "That image must have disappeared from the
retina some time ago."

"Who knows?" said M. Ginory.

Bernardet experienced a profound emotion. He felt that this time the
problem would be officially settled. M. Ginory had not feared ridicule
when he spoke, and a discussion arose there, in that dissecting room, in
the presence of the corpse. What had existed only in a dream, in
Bernardet's little study, became here, in the presence of the Examining
Magistrate, a member of the Institute, and the young students, almost
full fledged doctors, a question frankly discussed in all its bearings.
And it was he, standing back, he, a poor devil of a police officer, who
had urged this Examining Magistrate to question this savant.

"At the back of the eyes," said the Professor, touching the eyes with
his scalpel, "there is nothing, believe me. It is elsewhere that you
must look for your proof."

"But"--and M. Ginory repeated his "Who knows?"--"What if we try it this
time; will it inconvenience you, my dear Master?" M. Morin made a
movement with his lips which meant _peuh!_ and his whole countenance
expressed his scorn. "But, I see no inconvenience." At the end of a
moment he said in a sharp tone: "It will be lost time."

"A little more, a little less," replied M. Ginory, "the experiment is
worth the trouble to make it."

M. Ginory had proved without doubt that he, like Bernardet, wished to
satisfy his curiosity, and in looking at the open eyes of the corpse,
although in his duties he never allowed himself to be influenced by the
sentimental or the dramatic, yet it seemed to him that those eyes urged
him to insist, nay, even supplicated him.

"I know, I know," said M. Morin, "what you dream of in your magistrate's
brain is as amusing as a tale of Edgar Poe's. But to find in those eyes
the image of the murderer--come now, leave that to the inventive genius
of a Rudyard Kipling, but do not mix the impossible with our researches
in medical jurisprudence. Let us not make romance; let us make, you the
examinations and I the dissection."

The short tone in which the Professor had spoken did not exactly please
M. Ginory, who now, a little through self-conceit (since he had made the
proposition), a little through curiosity, decided that he would not beat
a retreat. "Is there anything to risk?" he asked. "And it might be one
chance in a thousand."

"But there is no chance," quickly answered M. Morin. "None--none!"

Then, relenting a little, he entered the discussion, explaining why he
had no faith.

"It is not I, M. Ginory, who will deny the possibility of such a result.
But it would be miraculous. Do you believe in miracles, the impressions
of heat, of the blood, of light, on our tissues are not catalogueable,
if I may be allowed the expression. The impression on the retina is
produced by the refraction which is called ethereal, phosphorescent, and
which is almost as difficult to seize as to weigh the imponderable. To
think to find on the retina a luminous impression after a certain number
of hours and days would be, as Vernois has very well said, to think one
can find in the organs of hearing the last sound which reverberated
through them. _Peuh!_ Seize the air-bubble at the end of a tube and
place it in a museum as a curiosity. Is there anything left of it but a
drop of water which is burst, while of the fleeting vision or the
passing sound nothing remains."

The unfortunate Bernardet suffered keenly when he heard this. He wished
to answer. The words came to his lips. Ah! if he was only in M. Ginory's
place. The latter, with bowed head, listened and seemed to weigh each
word as it dropped from M. Morin's lips.

"Let us reason it, but," the Professor went on, "since the
ophthalmoscope does not show to the oculist on the retina, any of the
objects or beings which a sick man sees--you understand, not one of
them--how can you think that photography can find that object or being
on the retina of a dead man's eye?"

He waited for objections from the Examining Magistrate and Bernardet
hoped that M. Ginory would combat some of the Professor's arguments. He
had only to say: "What of it? Let us see! Let us experiment!" And
Bernardet had longed for just these words from him; but the Magistrate
remained silent, his head still bent. The police agent felt, with
despair, his chance slipping, slipping away from him, and that never,
never again would he find a like opportunity to test the experiment.
Suddenly, the strident tones of Dr. Erwin's voice rung out sharply, like
an electric bell, and Bernardet experienced a sensation like that of a
sudden unexpected illumination.

"My dear Master," he respectfully began, "I saw at home in Denmark, a
poor devil, picked up dying, half devoured by a wolf; and who, when
taken from the very jaws of the beast, still retained in the eye a very
visible image in which one could see the nose and teeth of the brute. A
vision! Imagination, perhaps! But the fact struck me at the time and we
made a note of it."

"And?" questioned M. Morin, in a tone of raillery.

Bernardet cocked his ears as a dog does when he hears an unusual sound.
M. Ginory looked at this slender young man with his long blond hair, his
eyes as blue as the waters of a lake, his face pale and wearing the
peculiar look common to searchers after the mysterious. The students and
the others gathered about their master, remained motionless and listened
intently as to a lecture.

"And," Dr. Erwin went on frigidly, "if we had found absolutely nothing
we would, at least, have kept silent about an unsuccessful research, it
is useless to say. Think, then, my dear Master, the exterior objects
must have imprinted themselves on the retina, did they not? reduced in
size, according to the size of the place wherein they were reflected;
they appeared there, they certainly appeared there! There is--I beg your
pardon for referring to it, but it is to these others (and Dr. Erwin
designated M. Ginory, his registrar, and Bernardet)--there is in the
retina a substance of a red color, the _pourpre retinien_, very
sensitive to the light. Upon the deep red of this membrane objects are
seen white. And one can fix the image. M. Edmond Perrier, professor in
the Museum of Natural History, reports (you know it better than I, my
dear Master), in a work on animal anatomy and physiology which our
students are all familiar with, that he made an experiment. After
removing a rabbit's eye, a living rabbit's eye--yes, science is
cruel--he placed it in a dark room, so that he could obtain upon the
retina the image of some object, a window for instance, and plunged it
immediately into a solution of alum and prevented the decomposition of
the _pourpre retinien_, and the window could plainly be seen, fixed on
the eye. In that black chamber which we have under our eyebrows, in the
orbit, is a storehouse, a storehouse of images which are retained, like
the image which the old Dane's eye held of the wolf's nose and teeth.
And who knows? Perhaps it is possible to ask of a dead man's eye the
secret of what it saw when living."

This was, put in more scientific terms by the young Danish doctor, the
substance of what Bernardet believed possible. The young men had
listened with the attractive sympathy, which is displayed when anything
novel is explained. Rigid, upon the marble slab, the victim seemed to
wait for the result of the discussion, deaf to all the confused sounds
about him; his eye fixed upon the infinite, upon the unknowable which he
now knew.

It was, however, this insensible body which had caused the discussion of
what was an enigma to savants. What was the secret of his end? The last
word of his agony? Who made that wound which had ended his life? And
like a statue lying on its stone couch, the murdered man seemed to wait.
What they knew not, he knew. What they wished to know, he still knew,
perhaps! This doubt alone, rooted deep in M. Ginory's mind, was enough
to urge him to have the experiment tried, and, excusing himself for his
infatuation, he begged M. Morin to grant permission to try the
experiment, which some of the doctors had thought would be successful.

"We shall be relieved even if we do not succeed, and we can but add our
defeat to the others."

M. Morin's face still bore its sceptical smile. But after all, the
Examining Magistrate was master of the situation, and since young Dr.
Erwin brought the result of the Denmark experiment--a contribution new
in these researches--to add weight to the matter, the Professor
requested that he should not be asked to lend himself to an experiment
which he declared in advance would be a perfectly useless one.

There was a photographic apparatus at the Morgue as at the Préfecture,
used for anthropometry. Bernardet, moreover, had his kodak in his hand.
One could photograph the retina as soon as the membrane was separated
from the eye by the autopsy, and when, like the wing of a butterfly, it
had been fastened to a piece of cork. And while Bernardet was accustomed
to all the horrors of crime, yet he felt his heart beat almost to
suffocation during this operation. He noticed that M. Ginory became very
pale, and that he bit his lips, casting occasional pitying glances
toward the dead man. On the contrary, the young men bent over the body
and studied it with the admiration and joy of treasure seekers digging
in a mine. Each human fibre seemed to reveal to them some new truth.
They were like jewelers before a casket full of gems, and what they
studied, weighed, examined, was a human corpse. And when those eyes,
living, terrible, accusing, were removed, leaving behind them two empty
orbits, the Professor suddenly spoke with marvelous eloquence, flowing
and picturesque, as if he were speaking of works of art. And it was, in
truth, a work of art, this wonderful mechanism which he explained to his
students, who listened eagerly to each word. It was a work of art, this
eye, with its sclerotic, its transparent cornea, its aqueous and
vitreous humor, its crystalline lens, and the retina, like a
photographic plate in that black chamber in which the luminous rays
reflect, reversed, the objects seen. And M. Morin, holding between his
fingers the object which he was demonstrating, spoke of the membrane
formed of fibres and of the terminal elements of the optic nerve, as a
professor of painting or of sculpture speaks of a gem chased by a
Benvenuto.

"The human body is a marvel," cried M. Morin, "a marvel, Messieurs," and
he held forth for several minutes upon the wonderful construction of
this marvel. His enthusiasm was shared, moreover, by the young men and
Dr. Erwin, who listened intently. Bernardet, ignorant and respectful,
felt troubled in the presence of this renowned physiologist, and
congratulated himself that it was he who had insisted on this experiment
and caused a member of the Institute to hold forth thus. As for M.
Ginory, he left the room a moment, feeling the need of air. The
operation, which the surgeons prolonged with joy, made him ill, and he
felt very faint. He quickly recovered, however, and returned to the
dissecting room, so as not to lose any of the explanation which M. Morin
was giving as he stood with the eye in his hand. And in that eye an
image remained, perhaps. He was anxious to search for it, to find it.

"I will take it upon myself," Bernardet said.



                             CHAPTER VIII.


THE police officer did not follow the autopsical operations closely. He
was eager to know--he was impatient for the moment when, having taken
the picture, he might develop the negatives and study them to see if he
could discover anything, could decipher any image. He had used
photography in the service of anthropometry; he had taken the pictures
at the Morgue with his kodak, and now, at home in his little room, which
he was able to darken completely, he was developing his plates.

Mme. Bernardet and the children were much struck with the expression of
his face. It was not troubled, but preoccupied and as if he were
completely absorbed. He was very quiet, eating very little, and seemed
thoughtful. His wife asked him, "Art thou ill?" He responded, "No, I
think not." And his little girls said to each other in low tones, "Papa
is on a trail!"

He was, in truth! The hunting dog smelled the scent! The pictures which
he had taken of the retina and had developed showed a result
sufficiently clear for Bernardet to feel confident enough to tell his
chief that he distinctly saw a visage, the face of a man, confused, no
doubt, but clear enough to recognize not only a type, but a distinct
type. As from the depths of a cloud, in a sort of white halo, a human
face appeared whose features could be distinctly seen with a magnifying
glass! The face of a man with a pointed black beard, the forehead a
little bald, and blackish spots which indicated the eyes. It was only a
phantom, evidently, and the photographer at the Préfecture seemed more
moved than Bernardet by the proofs obtained. Clearer than in spirit
photographs, which so many credulous people believe in, the image showed
plainly, and in studying it one could distinctly follow the contours. A
spectre, perhaps, but the spectre of a man who was still young and
resembled, with his pointed beard, some trooper of the sixteenth
century, a phantom of some Seigneur Clouet.

"For example," said the official photographer, "if one could discover a
murderer by photographing a dead man's eyes, this would be miraculous.
It is incredible!"

"Not more incredible," Bernardet replied, "than what the papers publish:
Edison is experimenting on making the blind see by using the Roentgen
Rays. There is a miracle!"

Then Bernardet took his proofs to M. Ginory. The police officer felt
that the magistrate, the sovereign power in criminal researches, ought,
above everything, to collaborate with him, to consent to these
experiments which so many others had declared useless and absurd. The
taste for researches, which was with M. Ginory a matter of temperament
as well as a duty to his profession, was, fortunately, keen on this
scent. Criminals call in their argot, the judges, "the pryers."
Curiosity in this man was combined with a knowledge of profound
researches.

When Bernardet spread out on M. Ginory's desk the four photographs which
he had brought with him, the first remark which the examining Magistrate
made was: "But I see nothing--a cloud, a mist, and then after?"
Bernardet drew a magnifying glass from his pocket and pointed out as he
would have explained an enigmatical design, the lineaments, moving his
finger over the contour of the face which his nail outlined, that human
face which he had seen and studied in his little room in the passage of
the Elysée des Beaux-Arts. He made him see--after some moments of minute
examination--he made him see that face. "It is true--there is an image
there," exclaimed M. Ginory. He added: "Is it plain enough for me to see
it so that I can from it imagine a living being? I see the form, divined
it at first, saw it clearly defined afterward. At first it seemed very
vague, but I find it sufficiently well defined so that I can see each
feature, but without any special character. Oh!" continued M. Ginory,
excitedly, rubbing his plump little hands, "if it was only possible, if
it was only possible! What a marvel!"

"It is possible, Monsieur le Juge! have faith," Bernardet replied.
"I swear to you that it is possible." This enthusiasm gained over
the Examining Magistrate. Bernardet had found a fellow-sympathizer
in his fantastic ideas. M. Ginory was now--if only to try the
experiment--resolved to direct the investigation on this plan. He was
anxious to first show the proofs to those who would be apt to recognize
in them a person whom they might have once seen in the flesh. "To
Moniche first and then to his wife," said Bernardet.

"Who is Moniche?"

"The concierge in the Boulevard de Clichy."

Ordered to come to the court, M. and Mme. Moniche were overjoyed. They
were summoned to appear before the Judges. They had become important
personages. Perhaps their pictures would be published in the papers.
They dressed themselves as for a fête. Mme. Moniche in her Sunday best
strove to do honor to M. Rovère. She said to Moniche in all sincerity:
"Our duty is to avenge him."

While sitting on a bench in one of the long, cold corridors, the porter
and his wife saw pass before them prisoners led by their jailers; some
looked menacing, while others had a cringing air and seemed to try to
escape notice. These two persons felt that they were playing rôles as
important as those in a melodrama at the Ambigu. The time seemed long
to them, and M. Ginory did not call them as soon as they wished that he
would. They thought of their home, which, while they were detained
there, would be invaded by the curious, the gossips and reporters.

"How slow these Judges are," growled Moniche.

When he was conducted into the presence of M. Ginory and his registrar,
and seated upon a chair, he was much confused and less bitter. He felt a
vague terror of all the paraphernalia of justice which surrounded him.
He felt that he was running some great danger, and to the Judge's
questions he replied with extreme prudence. Thanks to him and his wife
M. Ginory found out a great deal about M. Rovère's private life; he
penetrated into that apparently hidden existence, he searched to see if
he could discover, among the people who had visited the old ex-Consul
the one among all others who might have committed the deed.

"You never saw the woman who visited Rovère?"

"Yes. The veiled lady. The Woman in Black. But I do not know her. No one
knew her."

The story told by the portress about the time when she surprised the
stranger and Rovère with the papers in his hand in front of the open
safe made quite an impression on the Examining Magistrate.

"Do you know the name of the visitor?"

"No, Monsieur," the portress replied.

"But if you should see him again would you recognize him?"

"Certainly! I see his face there, before me!"

She made haste to return to her home so that she might relate her
impressions to her fellow gossips. The worthy couple left the court
puffed up with self-esteem because of the rôle which they had been
called upon to play. The obsequies were to be held the next day, and the
prospect of a dramatic day in which M. and Mme. Moniche would still play
this important rôle, created in them an agony which was almost joyous.
The crowd around the house of the crime was always large. Some few
passers-by stopped--stopped before the stone façade behind which a
murder had been committed. The reporters returned again and again for
news, and the couple, greedy for glory, could not open a paper without
seeing their names printed in large letters. One journal had that
morning even published an especial article: "Interviews with M. and Mme.
Moniche."

The crowd buzzed about the lodge like a swarm of flies. M. Rovère's body
had been brought back from the Morgue. The obsequies would naturally
attract an enormous crowd; all the more, as the mystery was still as
deep as ever. Among his papers had been found a receipt for a tomb in
the cemetery at Montmartre, bought by him about a year before. In
another paper, not dated, were found directions as to how his funeral
was to be conducted. M. Rovère, after having passed a wandering life,
wished to rest in his native country. But no other indications of his
wishes, nothing about his relatives, had been found. It seemed as if he
was a man without a family, without any place in society, or any claim
on any one to bury him. And this distressing isolation added to the
morbid curiosity which was attached to the house, now all draped in
black, with the letter "R" standing out in white against its silver
escutcheon.

Who would be chief mourner? M. Rovère had appointed no one. He had asked
in that paper that a short notice should be inserted in the paper giving
the hour and date of the services, and giving him the simple title
ex-Consul. "I hope," went on the writer, "to be taken to the cemetery
quietly and followed by intimate friends, if any remain."

Intimate friends were scarce in that crowd, without doubt, but the dead
man's wish could hardly be carried out. Those obsequies which he had
wished to be quiet became a sort of fête, funereal and noisy; where the
thousands of people crowding the Boulevard crushed each other in their
desire to see, and pressed almost upon the draped funeral car which the
neighbors had covered with flowers.

Everything is a spectacle for Parisians. The guardians of the peace
strove to keep back the crowds; some gamins climbed into the branches of
the trees. The bier had been placed at the foot of the staircase in the
narrow corridor opening upon the street. Mme. Moniche had placed upon a
table in the lodge some loose leaves, where Rovère's unknown friends
could write their names.

Bernardet, alert, with his eyes wide open, studying the faces, searching
the eyes, mingled with the crowd, looked at the file of people,
scrutinized, one by one, the signatures; Bernardet, in mourning, wearing
black gloves, seemed more like an undertaker's assistant than a police
spy. Once he found himself directly in front of the open door of the
lodge and the table where the leaves lay covered with signatures; when
in the half light of the corridor draped with black, where the bier lay,
he saw a man of about fifty, pale and very sad looking. He had arrived,
in his turn in the line, at the table, where he signed his name. Mme.
Moniche, clothed in black, with a white handkerchief in her hand,
although she was not weeping, found herself side by side with Bernardet;
in fact, their elbows touched. When the man reached the table, coming
from the semi-darkness of the passage, and stepped into the light which
fell full on him from the window, the portress involuntarily exclaimed,
"Ah!" She was evidently much excited, and caught the police officer by
the hand and said:

"I am afraid!"

She spoke in such a low tone that Bernardet divined rather than heard
what she meant in that stifled cry. He looked at her from the corner of
his eye. He saw that she was ghastly, and again she spoke in a low tone:
"He! he whom I saw with M. Rovère before the open safe!"

Bernardet gave the man one sweeping glance of the eye. He fairly pierced
him through with his sharp look. The unknown, half bent over the table
whereon lay the papers, showed a wide forehead, slightly bald, and a
pointed beard, a little gray, which almost touched the white paper as he
wrote his name.

Suddenly the police officer experienced a strange sensation; it seemed
to him that this face, the shape of the head, the pointed beard, he had
recently seen somewhere, and that this human silhouette recalled to him
an image which he had recently studied. The perception of a possibility
of a proof gave him a shock. This man who was there made him think
suddenly of that phantom discernible in the photographs taken of the
retina of the murdered man's eye.

"Who is that man?"

Bernardet shivered with pleasurable excitement, and, insisting upon his
own impression that this unknown strongly recalled the image obtained,
and mentally he compared this living man, bending over the table,
writing his name, with that spectre which had the air of a trooper which
appeared in the photograph. The contour was the same, not only of the
face, but the beard. This man reminded one of a Seigneur of the time of
Henry III., and Bernardet found in that face something formidable. The
man had signed his name. He raised his head, and his face, of a dull
white, was turned full toward the police officer; their looks crossed,
keen on Bernardet's side, veiled in the unknown. But before the fixity
of the officer's gaze the strange man dropped his head for a moment;
then, in his turn, he fixed a piercing, almost menacing, gaze on
Bernardet. Then the latter slowly dropped his eyes and bowed; the
unknown went out quickly and was lost in the crowd before the house.

"It is he! it is he!" repeated the portress, who trembled as if she had
seen a ghost.

Scarcely had the unknown disappeared than the police officer took but
two steps to reach the table, and bending over it in his turn, he read
the name written by that man:

"Jacques Dantin."

The name awakened no remembrance in Bernardet's mind, and now it was a
living problem that he had to solve.

"Tell no one that you have seen that man," he hastily said to Mme.
Moniche. "No one! Do you hear?" And he hurried out into the Boulevard,
picking his way through the crowd and watching out to find that Jacques
Dantin, whom he wished to follow.



                              CHAPTER IX.


JACQUES DANTIN, moreover, was not difficult to find in the crowd. He
stood near the funeral car; his air was very sad. Bernardet had a fine
opportunity to examine him at his ease. He was an elegant looking man,
slender, with a resolute air, and frowning eyebrows which gave his face
a very energetic look. His head bared to the cold wind, he stood like a
statue while the bearers placed the casket in the funeral car, and
Bernardet noticed the shaking of the head--a distressed shaking. The
longer the police officer looked at him, studied him, the stronger grew
the resemblance to the image in the photograph. Bernardet would soon
know who this Jacques Dantin was, and even at this moment he asked a
question or two of some of the assistants.

"Do you know who that gentleman is standing near the hearse?"

"No."

"Do you know what Jacques Dantin does? Was he one of M. Rovère's
intimate friends?"

"Jacques Dantin?"

"Yes; see, there, with the pointed beard."

"I do not know him."

Bernardet thought that if he addressed the question to M. Dantin himself
he might learn all he wished to know at once, and he approached him at
the moment the procession started, and walked along with him almost to
the cemetery, striving to enter into conversation with him. He spoke of
the dead man, sadly lamenting M. Rovère's sad fate. But he found his
neighbor very silent. Upon the sidewalk of the Boulevard the dense crowd
stood in respectful silence and uncovered as the cortège passed, and the
officer noticed that some loose petals from the flowers dropped upon the
roadway.

"There are a great many flowers," he remarked to his neighbor. "It is
rather surprising, as M. Rovère seemed to have so few friends."

"He has had many," the man brusquely remarked. His voice was hoarse, and
quivered with emotion. Bernardet saw that he was strongly moved. Was it
sorrow? Was it bitterness of spirit? Remorse, perhaps! The man did not
seem, moreover, in a very softened mood. He walked along with his eyes
upon the funeral car, his head uncovered in spite of the cold, and
seemed to be in deep thought. The police officer studied him from a
corner of his eye. His wrinkled face was intelligent, and bore an
expression of weariness, but there was something hard about the set of
the mouth and insolent in the turned-up end of his mustache.

As they approached the cemetery at Montmartre--the journey was not a
long one in which to make conversation--Bernardet ventured a decisive
question: "Did you know M. Rovère very well?"

The other replied: "Very well."

"And whom do you think could have had any interest in this matter?" The
question was brusque and cut like a knife. Jacques Dantin hesitated in
his reply, looking keenly as they walked along at this little man with
his smiling aspect, whose name he did not know and who had questioned
him.

"It is because I have a great interest in at once commencing my
researches," said Bernardet, measuring his words in order to note the
effect which they would produce on this unknown man. "I am a police
detective."

Oh! This time Bernardet saw Dantin shiver. There was no doubt of it;
this close contact with a police officer troubled him, and he turned
pale and a quick spasm passed over his face. His anxious eyes searched
Bernardet's face, but, content with stealing an occasional glance of
examination toward his neighbor, the little man walked along with eyes
cast toward the ground. He studied Jacques Dantin in sudden, quick turns
of the eye.

The car advanced slowly, turned the corner of the Boulevard and passed
into the narrow avenue which led to God's Acre. The arch of the iron
bridge led to the Campo-Santo like a viaduct of living beings, over to
the Land of Sleep, for it was packed with a curious crowd; it was a
scene for a melodrama, the cortège and the funeral car covered with
wreaths. Bernardet, still walking by Dantin's side, continued to
question him. The agent noticed that these questions seemed to embarrass
M. Rovère's pretended friend.

"Is it a long time since M. Rovère and Jacques Dantin have known each
other?"

"We have been friends since childhood."

"And did you see him often?"

"No. Life had separated us."

"Had you seen him recently? Mme. Moniche said that you had."

"Who is Mme. Moniche?"

"The concierge of the house, and a sort of housekeeper for M. Rovère."

"Ah! Yes!" said Jacques Dantin, as if he had just remembered some
forgotten sight. Bernardet, by instinct, read this man's thoughts; saw
again with him also the tragic scene when the portress, suddenly
entering M. Rovère's apartments, had seen him standing, face to face
with Dantin, in front of the open safe, with a great quantity of papers
spread out.

"Do you believe that he had many enemies?" asked the police agent, with
deliberate calculation.

"No," Dantin sharply replied, without hesitation. Bernardet waited a
moment, then in a firm voice he said: "M. Ginory will no doubt count a
good deal on you in order to bring about the arrest of the assassin."

"M. Ginory?"

"The Examining Magistrate."

"Then he will have to make haste with his investigation," Jacques Dantin
replied. "I shall soon be obliged to leave Paris." This reply astonished
Bernardet. This departure, of which the motive was probably a simple
one, seemed to him strange under the tragic circumstances. M. Dantin,
moreover, did not hesitate to give him, without his asking for it, his
address, adding that he would hold himself in readiness from his return
from the cemetery at the disposition of the Examining Magistrate.

"The misfortune is that I can tell nothing, as I know nothing. I do not
even suspect who could have any interest in killing that unfortunate
man. A professional criminal, without doubt."

"I do not believe so."

The cortège had now reached one of the side avenues; a white fog
enveloped everything, and the marble tombs shone ghostly through it. The
spot chosen by M. Rovère himself was at the end of the Avenue de la
Cloche. The car slowly rolled toward the open grave. Mme. Moniche,
overcome with grief, staggered as she walked along, but her husband,
the tailor, seemed to be equal to the occasion and his rôle. They both
assumed different expressions behind their dead. And Paul Rodier walked
along just in front of them, note book in hand. Bernardet promised
himself to keep close watch of Dantin and see in what manner he carried
himself at the tomb. A pressure of the crowd separated them for a
moment, but the officer was perfectly satisfied. Standing on the other
side of the grave, face to face with him, was Dantin; a row of the most
curious had pushed in ahead of Bernardet, but in this way he could
better see Dantin's face, and not miss the quiver of a muscle. He stood
on tiptoe and peered this way and that, between the heads, and could
thus scrutinize and analyze, without being perceived himself.

Dantin was standing on the very edge of the grave. He held himself very
upright, in a tense, almost aggressive way, and looked, from time to
time, into the grave with an expression of anger and almost defiance. Of
what was he thinking? In that attitude, which seemed to be a revolt
against the destiny which had come to his friend, Bernardet read a kind
of hardening of the will against an emotion which might become excessive
and telltale. He was not, as yet, persuaded of the guiltiness of this
man, but he did not find in that expression of defiance the tenderness
which ought to be shown for a friend--a lifelong friend, as Dantin had
said that Rovère was. And then the more he examined him--there, for
example, seeing his dark silhouette clearly defined in front of the
dense white of a neighboring column--the more the aspect of this man
corresponded with that of the vision transfixed in the dead man's eye.
Yes, it was the same profile of a trooper, his hand upon his hip, as if
resting upon a rapier. Bernardet blinked his eyes in order to better see
that man. He perceived a man who strongly recalled the vague form found
in that retina, and his conviction came to the aid of his instinct,
gradually increased, and became, little by little, invincible,
irresistible. He repeated the address which this man had given him:
"Jacques Dantin, Rue de Richelieu, 114." He would make haste to give
that name to M. Ginory, and have a citation served upon him. Why should
this Dantin leave Paris? What was his manner of living? his means of
existence? What were the passions, the vices, of the man standing there
with the austere mien of a Huguenot, in front of the open grave?

Bernardet saw that, despite his strong will and his wish to stand there
impassive, Jacques Dantin was troubled when, with a heavy sound, the
casket glided over the cords down into the grave. He bit the ends of his
mustache and his gloved hand made several irresistible, nervous
movements. And the look cast into that grave! The look cast at that
casket lying in the bottom of that grave! On that casket was a plate
bearing the inscription: "Louis Pièrre Rovère." That mute look, rapid
and grief-stricken, was cast upon that open casket, which contained the
body--the gash across its throat, dissected, mutilated; the face with
those dreadful eyes, which had been taken from their orbits, and, after
delivering up their secret, replaced!

They now defiled past the grave, and Dantin, the first, with a hand
which trembled, sprinkled upon the casket those drops of water which are
for our dead the last tears. Ah! but he was pale, almost livid; and how
he trembled--this man with a stern face! Bernardet noticed the slightest
trace of emotion. He approached in his turn and took the holy water
sprinkler; then, as he turned away, desirous of catching up with M.
Dantin, he heard his name called, and, turning, saw Paul Rodier, whose
face was all smiles.

"Well! Monsieur Bernardet, what new?" he asked. The tall young man had a
charming air.

"Nothing new," said the agent.

"You know that this murder has aroused a great deal of interest?"

"I do not doubt it."

"Leon Luzarche is enchanted. Yes, Luzarche, the novelist. He had begun a
novel, of which the first instalment was published in the same paper
which brought out the first news of 'The Crime of the Boulevard de
Clichy,' and as the paper has sold, sold, sold, he thinks that it is his
story which has caused the immense and increased sales. No one is
reading 'l'Ange-Gnome,' but the murder. All novelists ought to try to
have a fine assassination published at the same time as their serials,
so as to increase the sales of the paper. What a fine collaboration,
Monsieur! Pleasantry, Monsieur! Have you any unpublished facts?"

"No."

"Not one? Not a trace?"

"Nothing," Bernardet replied.

"Oh, well! I--I have some, Monsieur--but it will surprise you. Read my
paper! Make the papers sell."

"But"--began the officer.

"See here! Professional secret! Only, have you thought of the woman in
black who came occasionally to see the ex-Consul?"

"Certainly."

"Well, she must be made to come back--that woman in black. It is not an
easy thing to do. But I believe that I have ferreted her out. Yes, in
one of the provinces."

"Where?"

"Professional secret," repeated the reporter, laughing.

"And if M. Ginory asks for your professional secret?"

"I will answer him as I answer you. Read my paper! Read _Lutèce_!"

"But the Judge, to him"----

"Professional secret," said Paul Rodier for the third time. "But what a
romance it would make! The Woman in Black!"

While listening, Bernardet had not lost sight of M. Dantin, who, in the
centre of one of the avenues, stood looking at the slowly moving crowd
of curiosity seekers. He seemed to be vainly searching for a familiar
face. He looked haggard. Whether it was grief or remorse, he certainly
showed violent emotion. The police officer divined that a sharp struggle
was taking place within that man's heart, and the sadness was great with
which he watched that crowd in order to discover some familiar face, but
he beheld only those of the curious. What Bernardet considered of the
greatest importance was not to lose sight of this person of whose
existence he was ignorant an hour before; and who, to him, was the
perpetrator of the deed or an accomplice. He followed Dantin at a
distance, who, from the cemetery at Montmartre went on foot directly to
the Rue de Richelieu, and stopped at the number he had given, 114.

Bernardet allowed some minutes to pass after the man on whose track he
was had entered. Then he asked the concierge if M. Jacques Dantin was
at home. He questioned him closely and became convinced that M.
Rovère's friend had really lived there two years and had no profession.

"Then," said the police agent, "it is not this Dantin for whom I am
looking. He is a banker." He excused himself, went out, hailed a fiacre,
and gave the order: "To the Préfecture."

His report to the Chief, M. Morel, was soon made. He listened to him
with attention, for he had absolute confidence in the police officer.
"Never any _gaff_ with Bernardet," M. Morel was wont to say. He, like
Bernardet, soon felt convinced that this man was probably the murderer
of the ex-Consul.

"As to the motive which led to the crime, we shall know it later."

He wished, above everything else, to have strict inquiries made into
Dantin's past life, in regard to his present existence; and the
inquiries would be compared with his answers to the questions which M.
Ginory would ask him when he had been cited as a witness.

"Go at once to M. Ginory's room, Bernardet," said the Chief. "During
this time I would learn a little about what kind of a man this is."

Bernardet had only to cross some corridors and mount a few steps to
reach the gallery upon which M. Ginory's room opened. While waiting to
be admitted he passed up and down; seated on benches were a number of
malefactors, some of whom knew him well, who were waiting examination.
He was accustomed to see this sight daily, and without being moved, but
this time he was overcome by a sort of agony, a spasm which contracted
even his fingers and left his nerves in as quivering a state as does
insomnia. Truly, in the present case he was much more concerned than in
an ordinary manhunt. The officer experienced the fear which an inventor
feels before the perfection of a new discovery. He had undertaken a
formidable problem, apparently insoluble, and he desired to solve it.
Once or twice he took out from the pocket of his redingote an old worn
case and looked at the proofs of the retina which he had pasted on a
card. There could be no doubt. This figure, a little confused, had the
very look of the man who had bent over the grave. M. Ginory would be
struck by it when he had Jacques Dantin before him. Provided the
Examining Magistrate still had the desire which Bernardet had incited in
him, to push the matter to the end. Fortunately M. Ginory was very
curious. With this curiosity anything might happen. The time seemed
long. What if this Dantin, who spoke of leaving Paris, should disappear,
should escape the examination? What miserable little affair occupied M.
Ginory? Would he ever be at liberty?

The door opened, a man in a blouse was led out; the registrar appeared
on the threshold and Bernardet asked if he could not see M. Ginory
immediately, as he had an important communication to make to him.

"I will not detain him long," he said.

Far from appearing annoyed, the Magistrate seemed delighted to see the
officer. He related to him all he knew, how he had seen the man at M.
Rovère's funeral. That Mme. Moniche had recognized him as the one whom
she had surprised standing with M. Rovère before the open safe. That he
had signed his name and took first rank in the funeral cortège, less by
reason of an old friendship which dated from childhood than by that
strange and impulsive sentiment which compels the guilty man to haunt
the scene of his crime, to remain near his victim, as if the murder, the
blood, the corpse, held for him a morbid fascination.

"I shall soon know," said M. Ginory. He dictated to the registrar a
citation to appear before him, rang the bell and gave the order to serve
the notice on M. Dantin at the given address and to bring him to the
Palais.

"Do not lose sight of him," he said to Bernardet, and began some other
examinations. Bernardet bowed and his eyes shone like those of a sleuth
hound on the scent of his prey.



                               CHAPTER X.


BETWEEN the examining Magistrate, who questioned, and the man cited to
appear before him, who replied, it was a duel; a close game, rapid and
tragic, in which each feint might make a mortal wound; in which each
parry and thrust might be decisive. No one in the world has the power of
the man who, in a word, can change to a prisoner the one who enters the
Palais as a passer-by. Behind this inquisitor of the law the prison
stands; the tribunal in its red robes appears; the beams of the scaffold
cast their sinister shadows, and the magistrate's cold chamber already
seems to have the lugubrious humidity of the dungeons where the
condemned await their fate.

Jacques Dantin arrived at the Palais in answer to the Magistrate's
citation, with the apparent alacrity of a man who, regretting a friend
tragically put out of the world, wishes to aid in avenging him. He did
not hesitate a second, and Bernardet, who saw him enter the carriage,
was struck with the seeming eagerness and haste with which he responded
to the Magistrate's order. When M. Ginory was informed that Jacques
Dantin had arrived, he allowed an involuntary "Ah!" to escape him. This
ah! seemed to express the satisfaction of an impatient spectator when
the signal is given which announces that the curtain is about to be
raised. For the Examining Magistrate, the drama in which he was about to
unravel the mystery was to begin. He kept his eyes fixed upon the door,
attributing, correctly, a great importance to the first impression the
comer would make upon him as he entered the room. M. Ginory found that
he was much excited; this was to him a novel thing; but by exercising
his strong will he succeeded in mastering the emotion, and his face and
manner showed no trace of it.

In the open door M. Jacques Dantin appeared. The first view, for the
Magistrate, was favorable. The man was tall, well built; he bowed with
grace and looked straight before him. But at the same time M. Ginory was
struck by the strange resemblance of this haughty face to that image
obtained by means of Bernardet's kodak. It seemed to him that this image
had the same stature, the same form as that man surrounded by the hazy
clouds. Upon a second examination it seemed to the Magistrate that the
face betrayed a restrained violence, a latent brutality. The eyes were
stern, under their bristling brows; the pointed beard, quite thin on the
cheeks, showed the heavy jaws, and under the gray mustache the under lip
protruded like those of certain Spanish cavaliers painted by Velasquez.

"Prognathous," thought M. Ginory, as he noticed this characteristic.
With a gesture he motioned M. Dantin to a chair. The man was there
before the Judge who, with crossed hands, his elbows leaning on his
papers, seemed ready to talk of insignificant things, while the
registrar's bald head was bent over his black table as he rapidly took
notes. The interview took on a grave tone, but as between two men who,
meeting in a salon, speak of the morning or of the première of the
evening before, and M. Ginory asked M. Dantin for some information in
regard to M. Rovère.

"Did you know him intimately?"

"Yes, M. le Juge."

"For how many years?"

"For more than forty. We were comrades at a school in Bordeaux."

"You are a Bordelais?"

"Like Rovère, yes," Dantin replied.

"Of late, have you seen M. Rovère frequently?"

"I beg your pardon, M. le Juge, but what do you mean by of late?"

M. Ginory believed that he had discovered in this question put by a man
who was himself being interrogated--a tactic--a means of finding before
replying, time for reflection. He was accustomed to these manoeuvres
of the accused.

"When I say of late," he replied, "I mean during the past few weeks or
days which preceded the murder--if that suits you."

"I saw him often, in fact, even oftener than formerly."

"Why?"

Jacques Dantin seemed to hesitate. "I do not know--chance. In Paris one
has intimate friends, one does not see them for some months; and
suddenly one sees them again, and one meets them more frequently."

"Have you ever had any reason for the interruptions in your relations
with M. Rovère when you ceased to see him, as you say?"

"None whatever."

"Was there between you any sort of rivalry, any motive for coldness?"

"Any motive--any rivalry. What do you mean?"

"I do not know," said the great man; "I ask you. I am questioning you."

The registrar's pen ran rapidly and noiselessly over the paper, with the
speed of a bird on the wing.

These words, "I am questioning you," seemed to make an unexpected,
disagreeable impression on Dantin, and he frowned.

"When did you visit Rovère the last time?"

"The last time?"

"Yes. Strive to remember."

"Two or three days before the murder."

"It was not two or three days; it was two days exactly before the
assassination."

"You are right, I beg your pardon."

The Examining Magistrate waited a moment, looking the man full in the
eyes. It seemed to him that a slight flush passed over his hitherto pale
face.

"Do you suspect anyone as the murderer of Rovère?" asked M. Ginory after
a moment's reflection.

"No one," said Dantin. "I have tried to think of some one."

"Had Rovère any enemies?"

"I do not know of any."

The Magistrate swung around by a detour habitual with him to Jacques
Dantin's last visit to the murdered man, and begged him to be precise,
and asked him if anything had especially struck him during that last
interview with his friend.

"The idea of suicide having been immediately dropped on the simple
examination of the wound, no doubt exists as to the cause of death.
Rovère was assassinated. By whom? In your last interview was there any
talk between you of any uneasiness which he felt in regard to anything?
Was he occupied with any especial affair? Had he--sometimes one has
presentiments--any presentiment of an impending evil, that he was
running any danger?"

"No," Dantin replied. "Rovère made no allusion to me of any peril which
he feared. I have asked myself who could have any interest in his death.
One might have done the deed for plunder."

"That seems very probable to me," said the Magistrate, "but the
examination made in the apartment proves that not a thing had been
touched. Theft was not the motive."

"Then?" asked Dantin.

The sanguine face of the Magistrate, that robust visage, with its
massive jaws, lighted up with a sort of ironical expression.

"Then we are here to search for the truth and to find it." In this
response, made in a mocking tone, the registrar, who knew every varying
shade of tone in his Chief's voice, raised his head, for in this tone he
detected a menace.

"Will you tell me all that passed in that last interview?"

"Nothing whatever which could in any way put justice on the track of the
criminal."

"But yet can you, or, rather, I should say, ought you not to relate to
me all that was said or done? The slightest circumstance might enlighten
us."

"Rovère spoke to me of private affairs," Dantin replied, but quickly
added: "They were insignificant things."

"What are insignificant things?"

"Remembrances--family matters."

"Family things are not insignificant, above all in a case like this. Had
Rovère any family? No relative assisted at the obsequies."

Jacques Dantin seemed troubled, unnerved rather, and this time it was
plainly visible. He replied in a short tone, which was almost brusque:

"He talked of the past."

"What past?" asked the Judge, quickly.

"Of his youth--of moral debts."

M. Ginory turned around in his chair, leaned back, and said in a caustic
tone: "Truly, Monsieur, you certainly ought to complete your information
and not make an enigma of your deposition. I do not understand this
useless reticence, and moral debts, to use your words; they are only to
gain time. What, then, was M. Rovère's past?"

Dantin hesitated a moment; not very long. Then he firmly said: "That,
Monsieur le Juge, is a secret confided to me by my friend, and as it has
nothing to do with this matter, I ask you to refrain from questioning me
about it."

"I beg your pardon," the magistrate replied. "There is not, there cannot
be a secret for an Examining Magistrate. In Rovère's interests, whose
memory ought to have public vindication, yes, in his interests, and I
ought to say also in your own, it is necessary that you should state
explicitly what you have just alluded to. You tell me that there is a
secret. I wish to know it."

"It is the confidence of a dead person, Monsieur," Dantin replied, in
vibrating tones.

"There are no confidences when justice is in the balance."

"But it is also the secret of a living person," said Jacques Dantin.

"Is it of yourself of whom you speak?"

He gazed keenly at the face, now tortured and contracted.

Dantin replied: "No, I do not speak of myself, but of another."

"That other--who is he?"

"It is impossible to tell you."

"Impossible?"

"Absolutely impossible!"

"I will repeat to you my first question--'Why?'"

"Because I have sworn on my honor to reveal it to no one."

"Ah, ah!" said Ginory, mockingly; "it was a vow? That is perfect!"

"Yes, Monsieur le Juge; it was a vow."

"A vow made to whom?"

"To Rovère."

"Who is no longer here to release you from it. I understand."

"And," asked Dantin, with a vehemence which made the registrar's thin
hand tremble as it flew over the paper, "what do you understand?"

"Pardon," said M. Ginory; "you are not here to put questions, but to
answer those which are asked you. It is certain that a vow which binds
the holder of a secret is a means of defence, but the accused have, by
making common use of it, rendered it useless."

The Magistrate noticed the almost menacing frown with which Dantin
looked at him at the words, "the accused."

"The accused?" said the man, turning in his chair. "Am I one of the
accused?" His voice was strident, almost strangled.

"I do not know that," said M. Ginory, in a very calm tone; "I say that
you wish to keep your secret, and it is a claim which I do not admit."

"I repeat, Monsieur le Juge, that the secret is not mine."

"It is no longer a secret which can remain sacred here. A murder has
been committed, a murderer is to be found, and everything you know you
ought to reveal to justice."

"But if I give you my word of honor that it has not the slightest
bearing on the matter--with the death of Rovère?"

"I shall tell my registrar to write your very words in reply--he has
done it--I shall continue to question you, precisely because you speak
to me of a secret which has been confided to you and which you refuse to
disclose to me. Because you do refuse?"

"Absolutely!"

"In spite of what I have said to you? It is a warning; you know it
well!"

"In spite of your warning!"

"Take care!" M. Ginory softly said. His angry face had lost its wonted
amiability. The registrar quickly raised his head. He felt that a
decisive moment had come. The Examining Magistrate looked directly into
Dantin's eyes and slowly said: "You remember that you were seen by the
portress at the moment when Rovère, standing with you in front of his
open safe, showed you some valuables?"

Dantin waited a moment before he replied, as if measuring these words,
and searching to find out just what M. Ginory was driving at. This
silence, short and momentous, was dramatic. The Magistrate knew it
well--that moment of agony when the question seems like a cord, like a
lasso suddenly thrown, and tightening around one's neck. There was
always, in his examination, a tragic moment.

"I remember very well that I saw a person whom I did not know enter the
room where I was with M. Rovère," Jacques Dantin replied at last.

"A person whom you did not know? You knew her very well, since you had
more than once asked her if M. Rovère was at home. That person is Mme.
Moniche, who has made her deposition."

"And what did she say in her deposition?"

The Magistrate took a paper from the table in front of him and read:
"When I entered, M. Rovère was standing before his safe, and I noticed
that the individual of whom I spoke (the individual is you) cast upon
the coupons a look which made me cold. I thought to myself: 'This man
looks as if he is meditating some bad deed.'"

"That is to say," brusquely said Dantin, who had listened with frowning
brows and with an angry expression, "that Mme. Moniche accuses me of
having murdered M. Rovère!"

"You are in too much haste. Mme. Moniche has not said that precisely.
She was only surprised--surprised and frightened--at your expression as
you looked at the deeds, bills and coupons."

"Those coupons," asked Dantin rather anxiously, "have they, then, been
stolen?"

"Ah, that we know nothing about," and the Magistrate smiled.

"One has found in Rovère's safe in the neighborhood of 460,000 francs in
coupons, city of Paris bonds, shares in mining societies, rent rolls;
but nothing to prove that there was before the assassination more than
that sum."

"Had it been forced open?"

"No; but anyone familiar with the dead man, a friend who knew the secret
of the combination of the safe, the four letters forming the word, could
have opened it without trouble."

Among these words Dantin heard one which struck him full in the
face--"friend." M. Ginory had pronounced it in an ordinary tone, but
Dantin had seized and read in it a menace. For a moment the man who was
being questioned felt a peculiar sensation. It seemed to him one day
when he had been almost drowned during a boating party that same agony
had seized him; it seemed that he had fallen into some abyss, some icy
pool, which was paralyzing him. Opposite to him the Examining Magistrate
experienced a contrary feeling. The caster of a hook and line feels a
similar sensation; but it was intensified a hundred times in the
Magistrate, a fisher of truth, throwing the line into a human sea, the
water polluted, red with blood and mixed with mud.

A friend! A friend could have abused the dead man's secret and opened
that safe! And that friend--what name did he bear? Whom did M. Ginory
wish to designate? Dantin, in spite of his _sang froid_, experienced a
violent temptation to ask the man what he meant by those words. But the
strange sensation which this interview caused him increased. It seemed
to him that he had been there a long time--a very long time since he
had crossed that threshold--and that this little room, separated from
the world like a monk's cell, had walls thick enough to prevent any one
from hearing anything outside. He felt as if hypnotized by that man, who
at first had met him with a pleasant air, and who now bent upon him
those hard eyes. Something doubtful, like vague danger, surrounded him,
menaced him, and he mechanically followed the gesture which M. Ginory
made as he touched the ivory button of an electric bell, as if on this
gesture depended some event of his life. A guard entered. M. Ginory said
to him in a short tone: "Have the notes been brought?"

"M. Bernardet has just brought them to me, Monsieur le Juge."

"Give them to me!" He then added: "Is Monsieur Bernardet here?"

"Yes, Monsieur le Juge."

"Very well."

Jacques Dantin remembered the little man with whom he had talked in the
journey from the house of death to the tomb, where he had heard some one
call "Bernardet." He did not know at the time, but the name had struck
him. Why did his presence seem of so much importance to this Examining
Magistrate? And he looked, in his turn, at M. Ginory, who, a little
near-sighted, was bending his head, with its sandy hair, its bald
forehead, on which the veins stood out like cords, over his notes,
which had been brought to him. Interesting notes--important, without
doubt--for, visibly satisfied, M. Ginory allowed a word or two to escape
him: "Good! Yes--Yes--Fine! Ah! Ah!--Very good!" Then suddenly Dantin
saw Ginory raise his head and look at him--as the saying is--in the
white of the eyes. He waited a moment before speaking, and suddenly put
this question, thrust at Dantin like a knife-blow:

"Are you a gambler, as I find?"

The question made Jacques Dantin fairly bound from his chair. A gambler!
Why did this man ask him if he was a gambler? What had his habits, his
customs, his vices even, to do with this cause for which he had been
cited, to do with Rovère's murder?

"You are a gambler," continued the Examining Magistrate, casting from
time to time a keen glance toward his notes. "One of the inspectors of
gambling dens saw you lose at the Cercle des Publicistes 25,000 francs
in one night."

"It is possible; the only important point is that I paid them!" The
response was short, crisp, showing a little irritation and stupefaction.

"Assuredly," said the Judge. "But you have no fortune. You have recently
borrowed a considerable sum from the usurers in order to pay for some
losses at the Bourse."

Dantin became very pale, his lips quivered, and his hands trembled.
These signs of emotion did not escape the eyes of M. Ginory nor the
registrar's.

"Is it from your little notes that you have learned all that?" he
demanded.

"Certainly," M. Ginory replied. "We have been seeking for some hours for
accurate information concerning you; started a sort of diary or rough
draught of your biography. You are fond of pleasure. You are seen, in
spite of your age--I pray you to pardon me, there is no malice in the
remark: I am older than you--everywhere where is found the famous
Tout-Paris which amuses itself. The easy life is the most difficult for
those who have no fortune. And, according to these notes--I refer to
them again--of fortune you have none."

"That is to say," interrupted Dantin, brusquely, "it would be very
possible that, in order to obtain money for my needs, in order to steal
the funds in his iron safe, I would assassinate my friend?"

M. Ginory did not allow himself to display any emotion at the insolent
tone of these words, which had burst forth, almost like a cry. He looked
Dantin full in the face, and with his hands crossed upon his notes, he
said:

"Monsieur, in a matter of criminal investigation a Magistrate, eager for
the truth ought to admit that anything is possible, even probable, but
in this case I ought to recognize the fact that you have not helped me
in my task. A witness finds you tête-à-tête with the victim and
surprises your trouble at the moment when you are examining Rovère's
papers. I ask what it was that happened between you, you reply that that
is your secret, and for explanation you give me your word of honor that
it had nothing whatever to do with the murder. You would yourself think
that I was very foolish if I insisted any longer. True, there was no
trace of any violence in the apartment, whatever subtraction may have
been made from the safe. It appears that you are in a position to know
the combination; it appears, also, that you are certainly in need of
money; as clearly known as it is possible to learn in a hurried inquiry
such as has been made, while you have been here. I question you. I let
you know what you ought to know, and you fly into a passion. And note
well! it is you yourself, in your anger and your violence, who speaks
first the word of which I have not pronounced a syllable. It is you who
have jumped straight to a logical conclusion of the suppositions which
are still defective, without doubt, but are not the less suppositions;
yes, it is you who say that with a little logic one can certainly accuse
you of the murder of the one whom you called your friend."

Each word brought to Dantin's face an angry or a frightened expression,
and the more slowly M. Ginory spoke, the more measured his words,
emphasizing his verbs, with a sort of professional habit, as a surgeon
touches a wound with a steel instrument, the questioned man, put through
a sharp cross-examination, experienced a frightful anger, a strong
internal struggle, which made the blood rush to his ears and ferocious
lightnings dart through his eyes.

"It is easy, moreover," continued M. Ginory, in a paternal tone, "for
you to reduce to nothingness all these suppositions, and the smallest
expression in regard to the rôle which you played in your last interview
with Rovère would put everything right."

"Ah! must we go back to that?"

"Certainly, we must go back to that! The whole question lies there! You
come to an Examining Magistrate and tell him that there is a secret; you
speak of a third person, of recollections of youth, of moral debts--and
you are astonished that the Judge strives to wrest the truth from you?"

"I have told it."

"The whole truth?"

"It has nothing to do with Rovère's murder, and it would injure some one
who knows nothing about it. I have told you so. I repeat it."

"Yes," said M. Ginory, "you hold to your enigma! Oh, well, I, the
Magistrate, demand that you reveal the truth to me. I command you to
tell it."

The registrar's pen ran over the paper and trembled as if it scented a
storm. The psychological moment approached. The registrar knew it
well--that moment--and the word which the Magistrate would soon
pronounce would be decisive.

A sort of struggle began in Dantin's mind--one saw his face grow
haggard, his eyes change their expression. He looked at the papers upon
which M. Ginory laid his fat and hairy hands; those police notes _which
gossiped_, as peasants say, in speaking of papers or writing which they
cannot read and which denounce them. He asked himself what more would be
disclosed by those notes of the police agents of the scandals of the
club, of the neighbors, of the porters. He passed his hands over his
forehead as if to wipe off the perspiration or to ease away a headache.

"Come, now, it is not very difficult, and I have the right to know,"
said M. Ginory. After a moment Jacques Dantin said in a strong voice: "I
swear to you, Monsieur, that nothing Rovère said to me when I saw him
the last time could assist justice in any whatsoever, and I beg of you
not to question me further about it."

"Will you answer?"

"I cannot, Monsieur."

"The more you hesitate the more reason you give me to think that the
communication would be grave."

"Very grave, but it has nothing to do with your investigation."

"It's not for you to outline the duties of my limits or my rights. Once
more, I order you to reply."

"I cannot."

"You will not."

"I cannot," brusquely said the man run to earth, with accent of
violence.

The duel was finished.

M. Ginory began to laugh, or, rather, there was a nervous contraction of
his mouth, and his sanguine face wore a scoffing look, while a
mechanical movement of his massive jaws made him resemble a bulldog
about to bite.

"Then," said he, "the situation is a very simple one and you force me to
come to the end of my task. You understand?"

"Perfectly," said Jacques Dantin, with the impulsive anger of a man who
stumbles over an article which he has left there himself.

"You still refuse to reply?"

"I refuse. I came here as a witness. I have nothing to reproach myself
with, especially as I have nothing to fear. You must do whatever you
choose to do."

"I can," said the Magistrate, "change a citation for appearance to a
citation for retention. I will ask you once more"----

"It is useless," interrupted Dantin. "An assassin. I! What folly!
Rovère's murderer! It seems as if I were dreaming! It is absurd, absurd,
absurd!"

"Prove to me that it is absurd in truth. Do you not wish to reply?"

"I have told you all I know."

"But you have said nothing of what I have demanded of you."

"It is not my secret."

"Yes; there is your system. It is frequent, it is common. It is that of
all the accused."

"Am I already accused?" asked Dantin, ironically.

M. Ginory was silent a moment, then, slowly taking from the drawer of
his desk some paper upon which Dantin could discern no writing this
time, but some figures, engraved in black--he knew not what they
were--the Magistrate held them between his fingers so as to show them.
He swung them to and fro, and the papers rustled like dry leaves. He
seemed to attach great value to these papers, which the registrar looked
at from a corner of his eye, guessing that they were the photographic
proofs which had been taken.

"I beg of you to examine these proofs," said the Magistrate to Dantin.
He held them out to him, and Dantin spread them on the table (there
were four of them), then he put on his eyeglasses in order to see
better. "What is that?" he asked.

"Look carefully," replied the Magistrate. Dantin bent over the proofs,
examined them one by one, divined, rather than saw, in the picture which
was a little hazy, the portrait of a man; and upon close examination
began to see in the spectre a vague resemblance.

"Do you not see that this picture bears a resemblance to you?"

This time Dantin seemed the prey of some nightmare, and his eyes
searched M. Ginory's face with a sort of agony. The expression struck
Ginory. One would have said that a ghost had suddenly appeared to
Dantin.

"You say that it resembles me?"

"Yes. Look carefully! At first the portrait is vague; on closer
examination it comes out from the halo which surrounds it, and the
person who appears there bears your air, your features, your
characteristics"----

"It is possible," said Dantin. "It seems to resemble me; it seems as if
I were looking at myself in a pocket mirror. But what does that
signify?"

"That signifies--Oh! I am going to astonish you. That signifies"--M.
Ginory turned toward his registrar: "You saw the other evening, Favarel,
the experiment in which Dr. Oudin showed us the heart and lungs
performing their functions in the thorax of a living man, made visible
by the Roentgen Rays. Well! This is not any more miraculous. These
photographs (he turned now toward Dantin) were taken of the retina of
the dead man's eye. They are the reflection, the reproduction of the
image implanted there, the picture of the last living being contemplated
in the agony; the last visual sensation which the unfortunate man
experienced. The retina has given to us--as a witness--the image of the
living person seen by the dead man for the last time!"

A deep silence fell upon the three men in that little room, where one of
them alone, lost his foothold at this strange revelation. For the
Magistrate it was a decisive moment; when all had been said, when the
man having been questioned closely, jumps at the foregone conclusion. As
for the registrar, however blasé he may have become by these daily
experiences, it was the decisive moment! the moment when, the line drawn
from the water, the fish is landed, writhing on the hook!

Jacques Dantin, with an instinctive movement, had rejected, pushed back
on the table those photographs which burned his fingers like the cards
in which some fortune teller has deciphered the signs of death.

"Well?" asked M. Ginory.

"Well!" repeated Dantin in a strangled tone, either not comprehending or
comprehending too much, struggling as if under the oppression of a
nightmare.

"How do you explain how your face, your shadow if you prefer, was found
reflected in Rovère's eyes, and that in his agony, this was probably
what he saw; yes, saw bending over him?"

Dantin cast a frightened glance around the room, and asked himself if he
was not shut up in a maniac's cell; if the question was real; if the
voice he heard was not the voice of a dream!

"How can I explain? but I cannot explain, I do not understand, I do not
know--it is madness, it is frightful, it is foolish!"

"But yet," insisted M. Ginory, "this folly, as you call it, must have
some explanation."

"What do you wish to have me say? I do not understand. I repeat, I do
not understand."

"What if you do not, you cannot deny your presence in the house at the
moment of Rovère's death"----

"Why cannot I deny it?" Dantin interrupted.

"Because the vision is there, hidden, hazy, in the retina; because this
photograph, in which you recognized yourself, denounces, points out,
your presence at the moment of the last agony."

"I was not there! I swear that I was not there!" Dantin fervently
declared.

"Then, explain," said the Magistrate.

Dantin remained silent a moment, as if frightened. Then he stammered: "I
am dreaming!--I dreaming!" and M. Ginory replied in a calm tone:

"Notice that I attribute no exaggerated importance to these proofs. It
is not on them alone that I base the accusation. But they constitute a
strange witness, very disquieting in its mute eloquence. They add to the
doubt which your desire for silence has awakened. You tell me that you
were not near Rovère when he died. These proofs, irrefutable as a fact,
seem to prove at once the contrary. Then, the day Rovère was
assassinated where were you?"

"I do not know. At home, without doubt. I will have to think it over. At
what hour was Rovère killed?"

M. Ginory made a gesture of ignorance and in a tone of raillery said:
"That! There are others who know it better than I." And Dantin,
irritated, looked at him.

"Yes," went on the Magistrate, with mocking politeness, "the surgeons
who can tell the hour in which he was killed." He turned over his
papers. "The assassination was about an hour before midday. In Paris, in
broad daylight, at that hour, a murder was committed!"

"At that hour," said Jacques Dantin, "I was just leaving home."

"To go where?"

"For a walk. I had a headache. I was going to walk in the Champs-Elysées
to cure it."

"And did you, in your walk, meet any one whom you knew?"

"No one."

"Did you go into some shop?"

"I did not."

"In short, you have no _alibi_?"

The word made Dantin again tremble. He felt the meshes of the net
closing around him.

"An _alibi_! Ah that! Decidedly. Monsieur, you accuse me of
assassinating my friend," he violently said.

"I do not accuse; I ask a question." And M. Ginory in a dry tone which
gradually became cutting and menacing said: "I question you, but I warn
you that the interview has taken a bad turn. You do not answer; you
pretend to keep secret I know not what information which concerns us.
You are not yet exactly accused. But--but--but--you are going to be"----

The Magistrate waited a moment as if to give the man time to reflect,
and he held his pen suspended, after dipping it in the ink, as an
auctioneer holds his ivory hammer before bringing it down to close a
sale. "I am going to drop the pen," it seemed to say. Dantin, very
angry, remained silent. His look of bravado seemed to say: "Do you
dare? If you dare, do it!"

"You refuse to speak?" asked Ginory for the last time.

"I refuse."

"You have willed it! Do you persist in giving no explanation; do you
entrench yourself behind I know not what scruple or duty to honor; do
you keep to your systematic silence? For the last time, do you still
persist in this?"

"I have nothing--nothing--nothing to tell you!" Dantin cried in a sort
of rage.

"Oh, well! Jacques Dantin," and the Magistrate's voice was grave and
suddenly solemn. "You are from this moment arrested." The pen, uplifted
till this instant, fell upon the paper. It was an order for arrest. The
registrar looked at the man. Jacques Dantin did not move. His expression
seemed vague, the fixed expression of a person who dreams with wide-open
eyes. M. Ginory touched one of the electric buttons above his table and
pointed Dantin out to the guards, whose shakos suddenly darkened the
doorway. "Take away the prisoner," he said shortly and mechanically,
and, overcome, without revolt, Jacques Dantin allowed himself to be led
through the corridors of the Palais, saying nothing, comprehending
nothing, stumbling occasionally, like an intoxicated man or a
somnambulist.



                              CHAPTER XI.


M. BERNARDET was triumphant. He went home to dinner in a jubilant mood.
His three little girls, dressed alike, clasped him round the neck, all
at the same time, while Mme. Bernardet, always fresh, smiling and gay,
held up her face with its soft, round, rosy cheeks to him.

"My little ones," said the officer, "I believe that I have done well,
and that my chief will advance me or give me some acknowledgment. I will
buy you some bracelets, my dears, if that happens. But it is not the
idea of filthy lucre which has urged me on, and I believe that I have
certainly made a great stride in judiciary instruction, all owing to my
kodak. It would be too long an explanation and, perhaps, a perfectly
useless one. Let us go to dinner. I am as hungry as a wolf."

He ate, truly, with a good appetite, scarcely stopped to tell how the
assassin was under lock and key. The man had been measured and had
become a number in the collection, always increasing, of accused persons
in the catalogue continued each day for the Museum of Crime.

"Ah! He is not happy," said Bernardet between two spoonfuls of soup.
"Not happy, not happy at all! Not happy, and astonished--protesting,
moreover, his innocence, as they all do. It is customary."

"But," sweetly asked good little Mme. Bernardet, "what if he is
innocent?" And the three little girls, raising their heads, looked at
their father, as if to repeat their mother's question. The eldest
murmured: "Yes, what if mamma is right?"

Bernardet shrugged his shoulders.

"To hear them, if one listened to them, one would believe them all
innocent, and the crimes would have to commit themselves. If this one is
innocent I shall be astonished, as if I should see snow fall in Paris in
June; he will have to prove that he is innocent. These things prove
themselves. Give me some more soup, Mélanie."

As Mme. Bernardet turned a ladleful of hot soup into her husband's plate
she softly asked: "Are there no innocent ones condemned? Do you never
deceive yourself?" Bernardet did not stop eating. "I cannot say--no one
is infallible, no one--the shrewdest deceive themselves; they are
sometimes duped. But it is rare, very rare. As well to say that it does
not happen--Lesurques, yes (and the three little girls opened wide their
large blue eyes as at a play), the Lesurques of the Courier de Lyon, who
has made you weep so many times at the theatre at Montmartre; one would
like to revise his trial to reinstate him, but no one has been able to
do it. I have studied his trial--by my faith, I swear, I would condemn
him still--ah! what good soup!"

"But this one to-day?" asked Mme. Bernardet; "art thou certain? What is
his name?"

"Dantin--Jacques Dantin. Oh! He is a gentleman. A very fine man,
elegant, indeed. Some Bohemian of the upper class, who evidently needed
money, and who--Rovère had some valuables in his safe. The occasion made
the thief--and there it is."

"Papa," interrupted the eldest of the three little girls, "canst thou
take us to see the trial, when he shall be sworn?"

"That depends! It is not easy! I will try--I will ask. If thou wilt work
hard--Oh, dame!" said Bernardet, "that will be a drama!"

"I will work hard."

At dessert, after he had taken his coffee, he allowed his three little
girls to dip lumps of sugar into his saucer. He threw himself into his
easy chair; he gave a sigh of satisfaction, like a man whose daily,
wearisome tasks are behind him, and who is catching a moment's repose.

"Ah!" he said, opening a paper which his wife had placed on a table near
him, together with a little glass of cordial sent to them by some
cousins in Burgundy; "I am going to see what has happened and what those
good journalists have invented about the affair in the Boulevard de
Clichy. It is true, it is a steeplechase between the reporters and us.
Sometimes they win the race in the mornings. At other times, when they
know nothing--ah! Then they invent, they embroider their histories!"

A petroleum lamp lighted the paper which Bernardet unfolded and began to
read.

"Let us see what _Lutèce_ says."

He suddenly remembered what Paul Rodier had said to him. "Read my
journal!" This woman in black, found in the province, did she really
exist? Had the novelist written a romance in order to follow the example
of his friend? He looked over the paper to see if Paul Rodier had
collaborated, as his friend had. Bernardet skipped over the headlines
and glanced at the theatrical news. "Politics--they are all the same to
me--Ministerial crisis--nothing new about that. That could as well be
published in yesterday's paper as in to-day's! 'The Crime of the
Boulevard de Clichy'--ah! Good! Very good! We shall see." And he began
to read. Had Paul Rodier invented all the information to which he had
treated the public? What was certain was that the police officer frowned
and now gave strict attention to what he was reading, as if weighing the
reporter's words.

Rodier had republished the biography of the ex-Consul. M. Rovère had
been mixed, in South America, in violent dramas. He was a romantic
person, about whom more than one adventure in Buenos Ayres was known.
The reporter had gained his information from an Argentine journal, the
_Prensa_, established in Paris, and whose editor, in South America, had
visited, intimately, the French Consul. The appearance of a woman in
black, those visits made on fixed dates, as on anniversaries, revealed
an intimacy, a relationship perhaps, of the murdered man with that
unknown woman. The woman was young, elegant and did not live in Paris.
Rodier had set himself to discover her retreat, her name; and perhaps,
thanks to her, to unravel the mystery which still enveloped the murder.

"_Heuh!_ That is not very precise information," thought the police
officer. But it at least awoke Bernardet's curiosity and intelligence.
It solved no problem, but it put one. M. de Sartines's famous "_search
for the woman_" came naturally to Paul Rodier's pen. And he finished the
article with some details about Jacques Dantin, the intimate, the only
friend of Louis Pièrre Rovère; and the reporter, when he had written
this, was still ignorant that Dantin was under arrest.

"To-morrow," said Bernardet to himself, "he will give us Dantin's
biography. He tells me nothing new in his report. And yet"----He folded
up the paper and laid it on the table, and while sipping his cordial he
thought of that mysterious visitor--the woman in black--and told
himself that truly the trail must be there. He would see Moniche and his
wife again; he would question them; he would make a thorough search.

"But what for? We have the guilty man. It is a hundred to one that the
assassin is behind bars. The woman might be an accomplice."

Then Bernardet, filled with passion for his profession, rather than
vanity--this artist in a police sense; this lover of art for art's
sake--rubbed his hands and silently applauded himself because he had
insisted, and, as it were, compelled M. Ginory and the doctors to adopt
his idea. He, the humble, unknown sub-officer, standing back and simply
striving to do his duty, had influenced distinguished persons as
powerful as magistrates and members of the Academy. They had obeyed his
suggestion. The little Bernardet felt that he had done a glorious deed.
He had experienced a strong conviction, which would not be denied. He
had proved that what had been considered only a chimera was a reality.
He had accomplished a seeming impossibility. He had evoked the dead
man's secret even from the tomb.

"And M. Ginory thinks that it will not help his candidature at the
Academy? He will wear the green robe, and he will owe it to me. There
are others who owe me something, too."

With his faculty for believing in his dreams, of seeing his visions
appear, realized and living--a faculty which, in such a man, seemed like
the strange hallucination of a poet--Bernardet did not doubt for a
moment the reality of this phantom which had appeared in the retina of
the eye. It was nothing more, that eye removed by the surgeon's scalpel,
than an avenging mirror. It accused, it overwhelmed! Jacques Dantin was
found there in all the atrocity of his crime.

"When I think, when I think that they did not wish to try the
experiment. It is made now!" thought Bernardet.

M. Ginory had strongly recommended that all that part of the examination
should not be made public. Absolute silence was necessary. If the press
could have obtained the slightest information, every detail of the
experiment would have become public property, and the account would have
been embellished and made as fantastic as possible. This would have been
a deep mine for Edgar A. Poe, who would have worked that lode well and
made the Parisians shudder. How the ink would have been mixed with
Rovère's blood! It was well understood that if the suspected man would
in the end confess his guilt, the result of the singular scientifically
incredible experiment should be made known. But until then absolute
silence. Every thing which had been said and done around the dissecting
table at the Morgue, or in the Examining Magistrate's room, would
remain a secret.

But would Dantin confess?

The next day after M. Ginory had put him under arrest Bernardet had gone
to the Palais for news. He wished to consult his chief about the "Woman
in Black," to ask him what he thought of the article which had been
published in the paper by Paul Rodier. M. Leriche attached no great
importance to it.

"A reporter's information. Very vague. There is always a woman,
_parbleu!_ in the life of every man. But did this one know Dantin? She
seems to me simply an old, abandoned friend, and who came occasionally
to ask aid of the old boy"----

"The woman noticed by Moniche is young," said Bernardet.

"Abandoned friends are often young," M. Leriche replied, visibly
enchanted with his observation.

As for Dantin, he still maintained his obstinate silence. He persisted
in finding iniquitous an arrest for which there was no motive, and he
kept the haughty, almost provoking attitude of those whom the Chief
called the greatest culprits.

"Murderers in redingotes believe that they have sprung from Jupiter's
thigh, and will not admit that any one should be arrested except those
who wear smocks and peaked hats. They believe in an aristocracy and its
privileges, and threaten to have us removed--you know that very well,
Bernardet. Then, as time passes, they become, in a measure, calm and
meek as little lambs; then they whimper and confess. Dantin will do as
all the others have done. For the moment he howls about his innocence,
and will threaten us, you will see, with a summons from the Chamber.
That is of no importance."

The Chief then gave the officer some instructions. He need not trouble
himself any more, just now, about the Dantin affair, but attend to
another matter of less importance--a trivial affair. After the murder
and his experiences at the Morgue this matter seemed a low one to
Bernardet. But each duty has its antithesis. The police officer put into
this petty affair of a theft the same zeal, the same sharp attention
with which he had investigated the crime of the Boulevard de Clichy. It
was his profession.

Bernardet started out on his quest. It was near the Halles (markets)
that he had to work this time. The suspected man was probably one of the
rascals who prowl about day and night, living on adventures, and without
any home; sleeping under the bridges, or in one of the hovels on the
outskirts of the Rue de Venise, where vice, distress and crime
flourished. Bernardet first questioned the owner of the stolen property,
obtained all the information which he could about the suspected man,
and, with his keen scent for a criminal aroused, he glanced at
everything--men, things, objects that would have escaped a less
practised eye. He was walking slowly along toward the Permanence,
looking keenly at the passers-by, the articles in the shops, the various
movements in the streets, to see if he could get a hint upon which to
work.

It was his habit to thus make use of his walks. In a promenade he had
more than once met a client, past or future. The boys fled before his
piercing eyes; before this fat, jolly little man with the mocking smile
which showed under his red mustache. This fright which he inspired made
him laugh inwardly. He knew that he was respected, that he was feared.
Among all these passers-by who jostled him, without knowing that he was
watching them, he was a power, an unknown but sovereign power. He walked
along with short, quick steps and watchful eyes, very much preoccupied
with this affair, thinking of the worthless person for whom he was
seeking, but he stopped occasionally to look at the wares spread out in
some bric-a-brac shop or in some book store window. This also was his
habit and his method. He ran his eye over the illustrated papers lying
in a row in front; over the Socialistic placards, the song books. He
kept himself _au courant_ with everything which was thought, seen,
proclaimed and sung.

"When one governs," thought Bernardet, "one ought to have the habit of
going afoot in the street. One can learn nothing from the depths of a
coupé, driven by a coachman wearing a tri-colored cockade." He was going
to the Préfecture, the Permanence, when in the Rue des Bons-Enfants he
was instinctively attracted to a shop window where rusty old arms,
tattered uniforms, worn shakos, garments without value, smoky pictures,
yellowed engravings and chance ornaments, rare old copies of books, old
romances, ancient books, with eaten bindings, a mass of dissimilar
objects--lost keys, belt buckles, abolished medals, battered sous--were
mixed together in an oblong space as in a sort of trough. On either side
of this shop window hung some soiled uniforms, a Zouave's vest, an
Academician's old habit, lugubrious with its embroideries of green, a
soiled costume which had been worn by some Pierrot at the Carnival. It
was, in all its sad irony, the vulgar "hand-me-down that!" which makes
one think of that other Morgue where the clothing has been rejected by
the living or abandoned by the dead.

Bernardet was neither of a melancholy temperament nor a dreamer, and he
did not give much time to the tearful side of the question, but he was
possessed of a ravenous curiosity, and the sight, however frequent, of
that shop window always attracted him. With, moreover, that sort of
magnetism which the searchers, great or small, intuitively feel--a
collector of knick-knacks, discoverers of unknown countries, book worms
bent over the volumes at four sous apiece, or chemists crouched over a
retort--Bernardet had been suddenly attracted by a portrait exposed as
an object rarer than the others, in the midst of this detritus of
abandoned luxury or of past military glory.

Yes, among the tobacco boxes, the belt buckles, the Turkish poniards,
watches with broken cases, commonplace Japanese ornaments, a painting,
oval in form, lay there--a sort of large medallion without a frame, and
at first sight, by a singular attraction, it drew and held the attention
of the police officer.

"Ah!" said Bernardet out loud, "but this is singular."

He leaned forward until his nose touched the cold glass, and peered
fixedly at the picture. This painting, as large as one's hand, was the
portrait of a man, and Bernardet fully believed at the first look he
recognized the person whom the painter had reproduced.

As his shadow fell across the window Bernardet could not distinctly see
the painting, for it was not directly in the front line of articles
displayed, and he stepped to one side to see if he could get a better
view. Assuredly, there could be no doubt, the oval painting was
certainly the portrait of Jacques Dantin, now accused of a crime. There
was the same high forehead, the pointed beard, of the same color; the
black redingote, tightly buttoned up and edged at the neck with the
narrow line of a white linen collar, giving, in resembling a doublet, to
this painting, the air of a trooper, of a swordsman, of a Guisard (a
partisan of the Duke of Guise), of the time of Clouet.

Something of a connoisseur in painting, without doubt, in his quality of
amateur photographer, much accustomed to criticise a portrait if it was
not a perfect likeness, Bernardet found in this picture a startling
resemblance to Jacques Dantin; it was the very man himself! He appeared
there, his thin face standing out from its greenish-black sombre
background; the poise of the head displayed the same vigor as in the
original; the clear-cut features looked energetic, and the skin had the
same pallor which was characteristic of Dantin's complexion. This head,
admirably painted, displayed an astonishing lifelike intensity. It had
been done by a master hand, no doubt of that. And although in this
portrait Jacques Dantin looked somewhat younger--for instance, the hair
and pointed beard showed no silvery streaks in them--the resemblance was
so marvelous that Bernardet immediately exclaimed: "It is he!"

And most certainly it was Jacques Dantin himself. The more the officer
examined it, the more convinced he became that this was a portrait of
the man whom he had accompanied to the cemetery and to prison. But how
could this picture have come into this bric-a-brac shop, and of whom
could the dealer have obtained it? A reply to this would probably not be
very difficult to obtain, and the police officer pushed back the door
and found himself in the presence of a very large woman, with a pale,
puffy face, which was surrounded by a lace cap. Her huge body was
enveloped in a knitted woollen shawl. She wore spectacles.

Bernardet, without stopping to salute her, pointed out the portrait and
asked to see it. When he held it in his hands he found the resemblance
still more startling. It was certainly Jacques Dantin! The painting was
signed "P. B., Bordeaux, 1871." It was oval in shape; the frame was
gone; the edge was marked, scratched, marred, as if the frame had been
roughly torn from the picture.

"Have you had this portrait a long time?" he asked of the shop woman.

"I put it in the window to-day for the first time," the huge woman
answered. "Oh, it is a choice bit. It was painted by a wicked one."

"Who brought it here?"

"Some one who wished to sell it. A passer-by. If it would interest you
to know his name"----

"Yes, certainly, it would interest me to know it," Bernardet replied.

The shop woman looked at Bernardet defiantly and asked this question:

"Do you know the man whose portrait that is?"

"No. I do not know him. But this resembles one of my relatives. It
pleases me. How much is it?"

"A hundred francs," said the big woman.

Bernardet suppressed at the same time a sudden start and a smile.

"A hundred francs! _Diable!_ how fast you go. It is worth sous rather
than francs."

"That!" cried the woman, very indignant. "That? But look at this
material, this background. It is famous, I tell you--I took it to an
expert. At the public sale it might, perhaps, bring a thousand francs.
My idea is that it is the picture of some renowned person. An actor or a
former Minister. In fact, some historic person."

"But one must take one's chance," Bernardet replied in a jeering tone.
"But one hundred francs is one hundred francs. Too much for me. Who sold
you the painting?"

The woman went around behind the counter and opened a drawer, from which
she took a note book, in which she kept a daily record of her sales. She
turned over the leaves.

"November 12, a small oval painting bought"--She readjusted her
spectacles as if to better decipher the name.

"I did not write the name myself; the man wrote it himself." She spelled
out:

"Charles--Charles Breton--Rue de la Condamine, 16"----

"Charles Breton," Bernardet repeated; "who is this Charles Breton? I
would like to know if he painted this portrait, which seems like a
family portrait and has come to sell it"----

"You know," interrupted the woman, "that that often happens. It is
business. One buys or one sells all in good time."

"And this Breton; how old was he?"

"Oh, young. About thirty years old. Very good looking. Dark, with a full
beard."

"Did anything about him especially strike you?"

"Nothing!" The woman shortly replied; she had become tired of these
questions and looked at the little man with a troubled glance.

Bernardet readily understood; and assuming a paternal, a beaming air, he
said with his sweet smile:

"I will not _fence_ any more; I will tell you the truth. I am a Police
Inspector, and I find that this portrait strangely resembles a man whom
we have under lock and key. You understand that it is very important I
should know all that is to be ascertained about this picture."

"But I have told you all I know, Monsieur," said the shopkeeper.
"Charles Breton, Rue de la Condamine, 16; that is the name and address.
I paid 20 francs for it. There is the receipt--read it, I beg. It is all
right. We keep a good shop. Never have we, my late husband and I, been
mixed with anything unlawful. Sometimes the bric-a-brac is soiled, but
our hands and consciences have always been clean. Ask any one along the
street about the Widow Colard. I owe no one and every one esteems
me"----

The Widow Colard would have gone on indefinitely if Bernardet had not
stopped her. She had, at first mention of the police, suddenly turned
pale, but now she was very red, and her anger displayed itself in a
torrent of words. He stemmed the flood of verbs.

"I do not accuse you, Mme. Colard, and I have said only what I wished to
say. I passed by chance your shop; I saw in the window a portrait which
resembled some one I knew. I ask you the price and I question you about
its advent into your shop. There is nothing there which concerns you
personally. I do not suspect you of receiving stolen goods; I do not
doubt your good faith. I repeat my question. How much do you want for
this picture?"

"Twenty francs, if you please. That is what it cost me. I do not wish to
have it draw me into anything troublesome. Take it for nothing, if that
pleases you."

"Not at all! I intend to pay you. Of what are you thinking, Mme.
Colard?"

The shopwoman had, like all people of a certain class, a horror of the
police. The presence of a police inspector in her house seemed at once a
dishonor and a menace. She felt herself vaguely under suspicion, and she
felt an impulse to shout aloud her innocence.

Always smiling, the good man, with a gesture like that of a prelate
blessing his people, endeavored to reassure her, to calm her. But he
could do nothing with her. She would not be appeased. In the long run
this was perhaps as well, for she unconsciously, without any intention
of aiding justice, put some clews into Bernardet's hands which finally
aided him in tracing the man.

Mme. Colard still rebelled. Did they think she was a spy, an informer?
She had never--no, never--played such a part. She did not know the young
man. She had bought the picture as she bought any number of things.

"And what if they should cut off his head because he had confidence in
entering my shop--I should never forgive myself, never!"

"It is not going to bring Charles Breton to the scaffold. Not at all,
not at all. It is only to find out who he is, and of whom he obtained
this portrait. Once more--did nothing in his face strike you?"

"Nothing!" Mme. Colard responded.

She reflected a moment.

"Ah! yes; perhaps. The shape of his hat. A felt hat with wide brim,
something like those worn in South America or Kareros. You know, the
kind they call sombrero. The only thing I said to myself was, 'This is
probably some returned traveler,' and if I had not seen at the bottom of
the picture, Bordeaux, I should have thought that this might be the
portrait of some Spaniard, some Peruvian."

Bernardet looked straight into Mme. Colard's spectacles and listened
intently, and he suddenly remembered what Moniche had said of the odd
appearance of the man who had, like the woman in black, called on M.
Rovère.

"Some accomplice!" thought Bernardet.

He again asked Mme. Colard the price of the picture.

"Anything you please," said the woman, still frightened. Bernardet
smiled.

"Come! come! What do you want for it? Fifty francs, eh? Fifty?"

"Away with your fifty francs! I place it at your disposal for nothing,
if you need it."

Bernardet paid the sum he had named. He had always exactly, as if by
principle, a fifty-franc note in his pocketbook. Very little money; a
few white pieces, but always this note in reserve. One could never tell
what might hinder him in his researches. He paid, then, this note,
adding that in all probability Mme. Colard would soon be cited before
the Examining Magistrate to tell him about this Charles Breton.

"I cannot say anything else, for I do not know anything else," said the
huge widow, whose breast heaved with emotion.

She wrapped up the picture in a piece of silk paper, then in a piece of
newspaper, which chanced to be the very one in which Paul Rodier had
published his famous article on "The Crime of the Boulevard de Clichy."
Bernardet left enchanted with his "find," and repeated over and over to
himself: "It is very precious! It is a tid-bit!"

Should he keep on toward the Préfecture to show this "find" to his
Chief, or should he go at once to hunt up Charles Breton at the address
he had given?

Bernardet hesitated a moment, then he said to himself that, in a case
like this, moments were precious; an hour lost was time wasted, and that
as the address which Breton had given was not far away, he would go
there first. "Rue de la Condamine, 16," that was only a short walk to
such a tramper as he was. He had good feet, a sharp eye and sturdy legs;
he would soon be at the Batignolles. He had taken some famous tramps in
his time, notably one night when he had scoured Paris in pursuit of a
malefactor. This, he admitted, had wearied him a little; but this walk
from the Avenue des Bons-Enfants to the Rue de la Condamine was but a
spurt. Would he find that a false name and a false address had been
given? This was but the infancy of art. If, however, he found that this
Charles Breton really did live at that address and that he had given his
true name, it would probably be a very simple matter to obtain all the
information he desired of Jacques Dantin.

"What do I risk? A short walk," thought Bernardet, "a little
fatigue--that can be charged up to Profit and Loss."

He hurried toward the street and number given. It was a large house,
several stories high. The concierge was sweeping the stairs, having left
a card bearing this inscription tacked on the front door. "The porter is
on the staircase." Bernardet hastened up the stairs, found the man and
questioned him. There was no Charles Breton in the house; there never
had been. The man who sold the portrait had given a false name and
address. Vainly did the police officer describe the individual who had
visited Mme. Colard's shop. The man insisted that he had never seen any
one who in the least resembled this toreador in the big felt hat. It was
useless to insist! Mme. Colard had been deceived. And now, how to find,
in this immense city of Paris, this bird of passage, who had chanced to
enter the bric-a-brac shop. The old adage of "the needle in the
haystack" came to Bernardet's mind and greatly irritated him. But, after
all, there had been others whom he looked for; there had been others
whom he had found, and probably he might still be able to find another
trail. He had a collaborator who seldom failed him--Chance! It was
destiny which often aided him.

Bernardet took an omnibus in his haste to return to his Chief. He was
anxious to show his "find" to M. Leriche. When he reached the Préfecture
he was immediately received. He unwrapped the portrait and showed it to
M. Leriche.

"But that is Dantin!" cried the Chief.

"Is it not?"

"Without doubt! Dantin when younger, but assuredly Dantin! And where did
you dig this up?"

Bernardet related his conversation with Mme. Colard and his fruitless
visit to the Rue de la Condamine.

"Oh, never mind," said M. Leriche. "This discovery is something. The man
who sold this picture and Dantin are accomplices. Bravo, Bernardet! We
must let M. Ginory know."

The Examining Magistrate was, like the Chief and Bernardet, struck with
the resemblance of the portrait to Dantin. His first move would be to
question the prisoner about the picture. He would go at once to Mazas.
M. Leriche and Bernardet should accompany him. The presence of the
police spy might be useful, even necessary.

The Magistrate and the Chief entered a fiacre, while Bernardet mounted
beside the driver. Bernardet said nothing, although the man tried to
obtain some information from him. After one or two monosyllabic answers,
the driver mockingly asked:

"Are you going to the Souricière (trap) to tease some fat rat?"

M. Ginory and M. Leriche talked together of the _Walkyrie_, of Bayreuth;
and the Chief asked, through politeness, for news about his candidature
to the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences.

"Do not let us talk of the Institute," the Magistrate replied. "It is
like the beginning of a hunt; to sigh for the prize that brings
unhappiness."

The sombre pile, the Mazas, opened its doors to the three men. They
traversed the long corridors, with the heavy air which pervaded them in
spite of all efforts to the contrary, to a small room, sparsely
furnished (a table, a few chairs, a glass bookcase), which served as an
office for the Examining Magistrates when they had to hold any
interviews with the prisoners.

The guardian-in-chief walked along with M. Ginory, M. Leriche followed
them, and Bernardet respectfully brought up the rear.

"Bring in Jacques Dantin!" M. Ginory ordered. He seated himself at the
table. M. Leriche took a chair at one side, and Bernardet stood near the
little bookcase, next the only window in the room.

Jacques Dantin soon appeared, led in by two guards in uniform. He was
very pale, but still retained his haughty air and his defiant attitude.
The Magistrate saluted him with a slight movement of the head, and
Dantin bowed, recognizing in Bernardet the man with whom he had walked
and conversed behind Rovère's funeral car.

"Be seated, Dantin," M. Ginory said, "and explain to me, I beg, all you
know about this portrait. You ought to recognize it."

He quickly held the picture before Dantin's eyes, wishing to scrutinize
his face to see what sudden emotion it would display. Seeing the
portrait, Dantin shivered and said in a short tone: "It is a picture
which I gave to Rovère."

"Ah!" said M. Ginory, "you recognize it then?"

"It is my portrait," Jacques Dantin declared. "It was made a long time
ago. Rovère kept it in his salon. How did it come here?"

"Ah!" again said the Magistrate. "Explain that to me!"

M. Ginory seemed to wish to be a little ironical. But Dantin roughly
said:

"M. le Juge, I have nothing to explain to you. I understand nothing, I
know nothing. Or, rather, I know that in your error--an error which you
will bitterly regret some day or other, I am sure--you have arrested me,
shut me up in Mazas; but that which I can assure you of is, that I have
had nothing, do you hear, nothing whatever to do with the murder of my
friend, and I protest with all my powers against your processes."

"I comprehend that!" M. Ginory coldly replied. "Oh! I understand all the
disagreeableness of being shut up within four walls. But then, it is
very simple! In order to go out, one has only to give to the one who has
a right to know the explanations which are asked. Do you still persist
in your system? Do you still insist on keeping, I know not what secret,
which you will not reveal to us?"

"I shall keep it, Monsieur, I have reflected," said Dantin. "Yes, I have
reflected, and in the solitude to which you have forced me I have
examined my conscience." He spoke with firmness, less violently than at
the Palais de Justice, and Bernardet's penetrating little eyes never
left his face; neither did the Magistrate's, nor the Chief's.

"I am persuaded," Dantin continued, "that this miserable mistake cannot
last long, and you will recognize the truth. I shall go out, at least
from here, without having abused a confidence which one has placed in
me and which I intend to preserve."

"Yes," said M. Ginory, "perfectly, I know your system. You will hold to
it. It is well. Now, whose portrait is that?"

"It is mine!"

"By whom do you think it was possible that it could have been sold in
the bric-a-brac shop where it was found."

"I know nothing about it. Probably by the one who found it or stole it
from M. Rovère's apartment, and who is probably, without the least
doubt, his assassin."

"That seems very simple to you?"

"It seems very logical."

"Suppose that this should be the exact truth, that does not detract from
the presumption which implicates you, and from Mme. Moniche's
deposition, which charges you"----

"Yes, yes, I know. The open safe, the papers spread out, the tête-à-tête
with Rovère, when the concierge entered the room--that signifies
nothing!"

"For you, perhaps! For Justice it has a tragic signification. But let us
return to the portrait. It was you, I suppose, who gave it to Rovère?"

"Yes, it was I," Dantin responded. "Rovère was an amateur in art,
moreover, my intimate friend. I had no family, I had an old friend, a
companion of my youth, whom I thought would highly prize that painting.
It is a fine one--it is by Paul Baudry."

"Ah!" said M. Ginory. "P. B. Those are Baudry's initials?"

"Certainly. After the war--when I had done my duty like others, I say
this without any intention of defending myself--Paul Baudry was at
Bordeaux. He was painting some portraits on panels, after
Holbein--Edmond About's among others. He made mine. It is this one which
I gave Rovère--the one you hold in your hands."

The Magistrate looked at the small oval painting and M. Leriche put on
his eyeglasses to examine the quality of the painting. A Baudry!

"What are these scratches around the edge as if nails had been drawn
across the places?" M. Ginory asked. He held out the portrait to Dantin.

"I do not know. Probably where the frame was taken off."

"No, no! They are rough marks; I can see that. The picture has been
literally torn from the frame. You ought to know how this panel was
framed."

"Very simply when I gave it to Rovère. A narrow gilt frame, nothing
more."

"Had Rovère changed the frame?"

"I do not know. I do not remember. When I was at his apartment the last
few times I do not remember to have seen the Baudry. I have thought of
it, but I have no recollection of it."

"Then you cannot furnish any information about the man who sold this
portrait?"

"None whatever!"

"We might bring you face to face with that woman."

"So be it! She certainly would not recognize me."

"In any case, she will tell us about the man who brought the portrait to
her."

"She might describe him to me accurately, and even paint him for me,"
said Dantin quickly. "She can neither insinuate that I know him nor
prove to you that I am his accomplice. I do not know who he is nor from
where he comes. I was even ignorant of his existence myself a quarter of
an hour ago."

"I have only to remand you to your cell," said the Magistrate. "We will
hunt for the other man."

Dantin, in his turn, said in an ironical tone: "And you will do well!"

M. Ginory made a sign. The guards led out their prisoner. Then, looking
at the Chief, while Bernardet still remained standing like a soldier
near the window, the Magistrate said:

"Until there are new developments, Dantin will say nothing. We must look
for the man in the sombrero."

"Necessarily!" said M. Leriche.

"The needle! The needle! And the hay stack!" thought Bernardet.

The Chief, smiling, turned toward him. "That belongs to you, Bernardet."

"I know it well," said the little man, "but it is not easy. Oh! It is
not easy at all."

"Bah! you have unearthed more difficult things than that. Do it up
brown! There is only one clew--the hat"----

"They are not uncommon, those hats, Monsieur Leriche--they are not very
bad hats. But yet it is a clew--if we live, we shall see."

He stood motionless between the bookcase and the window, like a soldier
carrying arms, while M. Ginory, shaking his head, said to the chief:
"And this Dantin, what impression did he make on you?"

"He is a little crack-brained!" replied the Chief.

"Certainly! But guilty--you believe him guilty?"

"Without doubt!"

"Would you condemn him?" he quickly asked as he gazed searchingly at the
Chief. M. Leriche hesitated.

"Would you condemn him?" M. Ginory repeated, insistently.

The Chief still hesitated a moment, glanced toward the impassive
Bernardet without being able to read his face, and he said:

"I do not know."



                             CHAPTER XIII.


"I DO not know," thought Bernardet as he returned home. "What one knows
very well indeed, what one cannot deny, oh, that would be impossible! is
that on the retina of the dead man's eye, reflected there at the supreme
moment of the agony, is found the image of this Dantin, his face, his
features; this man, in a word, denounced by this witness which is worth
all other witnesses in the world! This assassinated man cast a last look
upon his murderer as he called for aid; a last cry for 'Help!' in the
death rattle!--and this man says: 'I do not know!' But the dead man
knew; and the kodak knows, also. It has no passion, no anger, no hate,
because it registers what passes; fixes that which is fleeting!"

Bernardet was obstinate in his conviction. He was perfectly rooted in
it. What if he had not persisted in believing that photography would
reveal the truth? What weighty reason, what even acceptable one was
there which obliged Dantin to retain silent in the presence of the
Examining Magistrate and his registrar--in the secret interview of an
examination--when in order to escape a prison, an accusation, he had
only to speak two words? But if Dantin said nothing, was it because he
had nothing to say? If he had given no explanation, was it because he
had none to give? An innocent man does not remain silent. If at the
instant when M. Ginory pressed the ivory button the other day, if the
man had been able to defend himself, would he not have done it? One knew
the secret reason of criminals for keeping silent. Their best reason is
their guilt.

Only, it seemed now certain that Dantin, although guilty, had an
accomplice. Yes, without doubt, the man with the sombrero, the seller of
the portrait. Where could he now be in hiding?

"Not easy," Bernardet repeated the words: "Not easy; no, not easy at all
to run him out of his rabbit hutch."

The Woman in Black, the visitor, would be another important clue. On
this side the situation seemed a simple one. Or was this woman also an
accomplice, and would she remain silent, hidden in the Province? Or
would the death of Rovère draw her to Paris, where she might be
recognized and become a witness for Justice?

But the days passed. What was called the mystery of the Boulevard de
Clichy continued to interest and excite the public. Violent and
perplexing Parliamentary discussions could not distract attention from a
crime committed in broad daylight, almost as one might say, in the
street, and which made one doubt the security of the city, the
efficiency of the police. The fall of a Ministry, predicted each morning
and anticipated in advance, could not thrust aside morbid interest in
this murder. The death of the ex-Consul was a grand actuality!

Jacques Dantin thus became a dramatic personage; the reporters created
legends about him; some declared him guilty and brought up in support of
their conviction some anecdotes, some tales from the clubs, given as
proofs; others asked if the suppositions were sufficiently well based to
accuse a man in advance of trial, and these latter ardently took up his
defense. Paul Rodier had even, with much dexterity and eloquence,
diplomatically written two articles, one on either side of the question.

"It is," he said to himself, "the sure way of having told the truth on
one side or the other."

Bernardet did not renounce for an instant the hope of finding the man
who had sold the picture. It was not the first time that he had picked
the needle from a cartful of hay. Paris is large, but this human sea has
its particular currents, as the ocean has special tides, and the police
officer knew it well. Here or there, some day he would meet the man,
cast up by the torrent like a waif.

First of all, the man was probably a stranger from some foreign land.
Wearing a hat like a Spaniard, he had not had time to change the style
of dress of the country from which he had come in search of adventures.
Bernardet haunted the hotels, searched the registers, made conversation
with the lodgers. He found poor persons who had come from foreign
countries, but whose motives for coming to Paris were all right.
Bernardet never stopped searching a moment; he went everywhere, curious
and prying--and it pleased him, when he found a leisure evening, to go
to some of the strange wine shops or ale houses (called cabarets) to
find subjects for observation. These cabarets are very numerous on the
outskirts of Montmartre, in the streets and boulevards at the foot of
the Butte. Bizarre inventions, original and disagreeable creations,
where the ingenuity of the enterprisers sometimes made them hideous in
order to attract; to cater to the idle, and to hold the loungers from
among the higher classes. Cabarets born of the need for novelty, which
might stimulate the blasé; the demand for something eccentric almost to
morbid irony. A _Danse Macabre_ trod to the measures of an operetta;
pleasantries of the bunglers adopting the cure-alls of the saw-bones,
and juggling with their empty heads while dreaming the dreams of a
Hamlet.

Cabaret du Squelette!

The announcement of the droll promises--apparitions, visions,
phantoms--had often made him smile when he passed near there to go to
the Préfecture; this wineshop, the front of which was bordered with
black, like a letter announcing a death, and which bore, grating as it
swung at the end of an iron rod, a red lantern for a sign.

His little girls, when he laughingly spoke of the cabaret where the
waiters were dressed like undertakers' assistants, turned pale, and
plump little Mme. Bernardet, ordinarily smiling, would say with a sigh:
"Is it possible that such sacrilegious things are permitted in the
quarter?"

Bernardet good-naturedly replied: "Ah, my dear, where is the harm?"

"I know what I am talking about," his good wife said; "they are the
pleasure of the unhealthy minded. They mock at death as they mock at
everything else. Where will it all end? We shall see it"----

"Or we shall not see it," interrupted her husband, laughingly.

He went in there one evening, having a little time to himself, as he
would have gone into a theatre. He knew something about this Cabaret du
Squelette (meaning the wine shop of the skeleton). He found the place
very droll.

A small hall which had a few months before been a common wine shop had
been transformed into a lugubrious place. The walls were painted a dead
black, and were hung with a large number of paintings--scenes from
masked balls, gondola parades, serenades with a balcony scene, some of
the lovers' rendezvous of Venice and an ideal view of Granada, with
couples gazing at each other and sighing in the gondolas on the lagoons,
or in the Andalusian courts--and in this strange place with its romantic
pictures, souvenirs of Musset or of Carlo Gozzi, the tables were made in
the form of coffins with lighted candles standing upon them, and the
waiters were dressed as undertakers' assistants, with shiny black hats
trimmed with crape, on their heads.

"What poison will you drink before you die?" asked one of the creatures
of Bernardet.

Bernardet sat and gazed about him. A few "high-flyers" from the other
side of Paris were there. Here and there a thief from that quarter sat
alone at a table. Some elegants in white cravats, who had come there in
correct evening dress, were going later, after the opera, to sup with
some première. The police officer understood very well why the blasé
came there. They wished to jog their jaded appetites; they sought to
find some _piment_, a curry, spice to season the tameness of their daily
existence. The coffin-shaped tables upon which they leaned their elbows
amused them. Several of them had asked for a _bavaroise_, as they were
on milk diet.

They pointed out to each other the gas flaming from the jets fashioned
in the form of a broken shin-bone.

"A little patience, my friends," said a sort of manager, who was dressed
in deep mourning. "Before long we will adjourn to the Cave of Death!"

The drinkers in white cravats shouted. Bernardet experienced, on the
contrary, what Mme. Bernardet would have called a "creepy" sensation.
Seasoned as he was to the bloody and villainous aspect of crime, he felt
the instinctive shrinking of a healthy and level-headed bourgeois
against these drolleries of the brain-diseased upper class and the
pleasantries of the blasé decadents.

At a certain moment, and after an explanation given by the manager, the
gas was turned off, and the lovers in the gondolas, the guitar players,
the singers of Spanish songs, the dancers infatuated with the Moulin
Rouge, changed suddenly in sinister fashion. In place of the blond heads
and rosy cheeks, skulls appeared; the smiles became grins which showed
the teeth in their fleshless gums. The bodies, clothed in doublets, in
velvets and satins, a moment ago, were made by some interior
illumination to change into hideous skeletons. In his mocking tones the
manager explained and commented on the metamorphosis, adding to the
funeral spectacle the pleasantry of a buffoon.

"See! diseased Parisians, what you will be on Sunday!"

The light went out suddenly; the skeletons disappeared; the sighing
lovers in the gondolas on the lagoons of Venice reappeared; the
Andalusian sweethearts again gazed into each other's eyes and sang their
love songs. Some of the women laughed, but the laughs sounded
constrained.

"Droll! this city of Paris," Bernardet thought. He sat there, leaning
back against the wall, where verses about death were printed among the
white tears--as in those lodges of Free Masons where an outsider is shut
up in order to give him time to make his will--when the door opened and
Bernardet saw a tall young man of stalwart and resolute mien enter. A
black, curly beard surrounded his pale face. As he entered he cast a
quick glance around the hall, the air of which was rather thick with
cigar smoke. He seemed to be about thirty years of age, and had the air
of an artist, a sculptor, or a painter, together with something military
in his carriage. But what suddenly struck Bernardet was his hat, a large
gray, felt hat, with a very wide brim, like the sombreros which the bull
fighters wear.

Possibly, a few people passing through Paris might be found wearing such
hats. But they would probably be rare, and in order to find the seller
of Jacques Dantin's portrait, Bernardet had only this one clew.

"Oh! such a mean, little, weak, clew! But one must use it, just the
same!" Bernardet had said.

What if this young man with the strange hat was, by chance, the unknown
for whom he was seeking? It was not at all probable. No, when one
thought of it--not at all probable. But truth is sometimes made up of
improbabilities, and Bernardet again experienced the same shock, the
instinctive feeling that he had struck the trail, which he felt when the
young man entered the wine shop.

"That hat!" murmured Bernardet, sipping his wine and stealing glances
over the rim of his glass at the young man. The unknown seemed to play
directly into the police officer's hand. After standing by the door a
few moments, and looking about the place, he walked over to the
coffin-shaped table at which Bernardet was seated, bringing himself face
to face with the officer. One of the waiters in his mourning dress came
to take his order, and lighted another candle, which he placed where its
rays fell directly on the young man's face. Thus Bernardet was able to
study him at his ease. The pale face, with its expression, uneasy and
slightly intense, struck Bernardet at once. That white face, with its
black beard, with its gleaming eyes, was not to be passed by with a
casual glance. The waiter placed a glass of brandy before him; he placed
his elbows on the table and leaned his chin upon his hands. He was
evidently not a habitué of the place nor a resident of the quarter.
There was something foreign about his appearance. His glance was steady,
as that of one who searches the horizon, looks at running water,
contemplates the sea, asking for some "good luck" of the unknown.

"It would be strange," thought Bernardet, "if a simple hat and no other
clew should put us upon the track of the man for whom we are searching."

At once, with the ingenuity of a master of dramatic art, the agent began
to plot, and to put into action what lawyers, pleading and turning and
twisting a cause this way and that, call _an effect_. He waited until
the manager informed them that they were about to pass into the Cave of
Death, and gave them all an invitation into the adjoining hall; then,
profiting by the general movement, he approached the unknown, and,
almost shoulder to shoulder, he walked along beside him, through a
narrow, dark passage to a little room, where, on a small stage stood,
upright, an empty coffin.

It was a doleful spectacle, which the Cabaret du Squelette (the wine
shop of the skeleton) offered to its clientèle of idle loungers and
morbid curiosity seekers attracted to its halls by these exhibitions.
Bernardet knew it all very well, and he knew by just what play of
lights, what common chemical illuminations, they gave to the lookers on
the sinister illusion of the decomposition of a corpse in its narrow
home. This phantasmagoria, to which the people from the Boulevard came,
in order to be amused, he had seen many times in the little theatres in
the fairs at Neuilly. The proprietor of the cabaret had explained it to
him; he had been curious and very keen about it, and so he followed the
crowd into this little hall, to look once more at the image of a man in
the coffin. He knew well to what purpose he could put it. The place was
full. Men and women were standing about; the black walls made the narrow
place look still smaller. Occasional bizarre pleasantries were heard and
nervous laughs rang out. Why is it, that no matter how sceptical people
may be, the idea, the proximity, the appearance of death gives them an
impression of uneasiness, a singular sensation which is often displayed
in nervous laughs or sepulchral drolleries?

Bernardet had not left the side of the young man with the gray felt hat.
He could see his face distinctly in the light of the little hall, and
could study it at his ease. In the shadows which lurked about them the
young man's face seemed like a white spot. The officer's sharp eyes
never left it for a moment.

The manager now asked if some one would try the experiment. This was to
step into the open coffin--that box, as he said--"from which your
friends, your neighbors, can see you dematerialize and return to
nothingness."

"Come, my friends," he continued, in his ironical tones, "this is a fine
thing; it will permit your best friends to see you deliquesce! Are there
any married people here? It is only a question of tasting, in advance,
the pleasures of a widowhood. Would you like to see your husband
disappear, my sister? My brother, do you wish to see your wife
decompose? Sacrifice yourselves, I beg of you! Come! Come up here! Death
awaits you!"

They laughed, but here and there a laugh sounded strident or hysterical;
the laugh did not ring true, but had the sound of cracked crystal. No
one stirred. This parody of death affected even these hardened
spectators.

"Oh, well, my friends, there is a cadaver belonging to the establishment
which we can use. It is a pity! You may readily understand that we do
not take the dead for companions."

As no one among the spectators would enter the coffin, the manager, with
a gesture, ordered one of the supernumeraries of the cabaret to enter;
from an open door the figurant glided across the stage and entered the
coffin, standing upright. The manager wrapped him about with a shroud,
leaving only the pale face of the pretended dead man exposed above this
whiteness. The man smiled.

"He laughs, Messieurs, he laughs still!" said the manager. "You will
soon see him pay for that laugh. '_Rome rit et mourut!_' as Bossuet
said."

Some of the audience shouted applause to this quotation from a famous
author. Bernardet did not listen; he was studying from a corner of his
eye his neighbor's face. The man gazed with a sort of fascination at
this fantastic performance which was taking place before him. He
frowned, he bit his lips; his eyes were almost ferocious in expression.
The figurant in the coffin continued to laugh.

"Look! look keenly!" went on the manager, "you will see your brother
dematerialize after becoming changed in color. The flesh will disappear
and you will see his skeleton. Think, think, my brothers, this is the
fate which awaits you, perhaps, soon, on going away from here; think of
the various illnesses and deaths by accidents which await you!
Contemplate the magic spectacle offered by the Cabaret du Squelette and
remember that you are dust and that to dust you must return! Make,
wisely, this reflection, which the intoxicated man made to another man
in like condition, but asleep. 'And that is how I shall be on Sunday!'
While waiting, my brothers and sisters, for nothingness, look at the
dematerialization of your contemporary if you please!"

The play of lights, while the man was talking, began to throw a greenish
pallor and to make spots at first transparent upon the orbits of the
eyes, then, little by little, the spots seemed to grow stronger, to
blacken, to enlarge. The features, lightly picked out, appeared to
change gradually, to take on gray and confused tints, to slowly
disappear as under a veil, a damp vapor which covered, devoured that
face, now unrecognizable! It has been said that the manner in which this
phenomenon was managed was a remarkable thing; it is true, for this
human body seemed literally to dissolve before this curious crowd, now
become silent and frightened. The work of death was accomplished there
publicly, thanks to the illusion of lighting. The livid man who smiled a
few moments before was motionless, fixed, then passing through some
singular changes, the flesh seemed to fall from him in----

Suddenly the play of lights made him disappear from the eyes of the
spectators and they saw, thanks to reflections made by mirrors, only a
skeleton. It was the world of spectres and the secret of the tombs
revealed to the crowd by a kind of scientific magic lantern.

Bernardet did not desire to wait longer to strike his blow--this was the
exact moment to do it--the psychological moment!

The eager look of the man in the sombrero revealed a deep trouble. There
was in this look something more than the curiosity excited by a novel
spectacle. The muscles of his pale face twitched as with physical
suffering; in his eyes Bernardet read an internal agony.

"Ah!" thought the police officer, "the living eye is a book which one
can read, as well as a dead man's eye."

Upon the stage the lights were rendering even more sinister the figurant
who was giving to this morbidly curious crowd the comedy of death. One
would have now thought it was one of those atrocious paintings made in
the studios of certain Spanish painters in the _putridero_ of a Valles
Leal. The flesh, by a remarkable scientific combination of lights, was
made to seem as if falling off, and presented the horrible appearance of
a corpse in a state of decomposition. The lugubrious vision made a very
visible shudder pass over the audience. Then Bernardet, drawing himself
up to his full height so as to get a good view of the face of this man
so much taller, and approaching as near to him as possible, in fact, so
that his elbow and upper arm touched the young man's, he slowly,
deliberately dropped, one by one, these words:

"That is about how M. Rovère ought to be now"----

And suddenly the young man's face expressed a sensation of fright, as
one sees in the face of a pedestrian who suddenly finds that he is about
to step upon a viper.

"Or how he will be soon!" added the little man, with an amiable smile.
Bernardet dissimulated under this amiability an intense joy. Holding his
arm and elbow in an apparently careless manner close to his neighbor as
he pronounced Rovère's name, Bernardet felt his neighbor's whole body
tremble, and that he gave a very perceptible start. Why had he been so
quickly moved by an unknown name if it had not recalled to his mind some
frightful thought? The man might, of course, know, as the public did,
all the details of the crime, but, with his strong, energetic face, his
resolute look, he did not appear like a person who would be troubled by
the recital of a murder, the description of a bloody affray, or even by
the frightful scene which had just passed before his eyes in the hall.

"A man of that stamp is not chicken-hearted," thought Bernardet. "No!
no!" Hearing those words evoked the image of the dead man, Rovère; the
man was not able to master his violent emotion, and he trembled, as if
under an electrical discharge. The shudder had been violent, of short
duration, however, as if he had mastered his emotion by his strong will.
In his involuntary movement he had displayed a tragic eloquence.
Bernardet had seen in the look, in the gesture, in the movement of the
man's head, something of trouble, of doubt, of terror, as in a flash of
lightning in the darkness of night one sees the bottom of a pool.

Bernardet smilingly said to him:

"This sight is not a gay one!"

"No," the man answered, and he also attempted to smile.

He looked back to the stage, where the sombre play went on.

"That poor Rovère!" Bernardet said.

The other man now looked at Bernardet as if to read his thoughts and to
learn what signification the repetition of the same name had. Bernardet
sustained, with a naïve look, this mute interrogation. He allowed
nothing of his thoughts to be seen in the clear, childlike depths of his
eyes. He had the air of a good man, frightened by a terrible murder, and
who spoke of the late victim as if he feared for himself. He waited,
hoping that the man would speak.

In some of Bernardet's readings he had come across the magic rule
applicable to love: "Never go! Wait for the other to come!"--"_Nec ire,
fac venire_"--applicable also to hate, to that duel of magnetism between
the hunted man and the police spy, and Bernardet waited for the other to
"come!"

Brusquely, after a silence, while on the little stage the transformation
was still going on, the man asked in a dry tone:

"Why do you speak to me of M. Rovère?"

Bernardet affably replied: "I? Because every one talks of it. It is the
actuality of the moment. I live in that quarter. It was quite near there
that it happened, the affair"----

"I know!" interrupted the other.

The unknown had not pronounced ten words in questioning and replying,
and yet Bernardet found two clues simply insignificant--terrible in
reality. "I know!" was the man's reply, in a short tone, as if he wished
to push aside, to thrust away, a troublesome thought. The tone, the
sound of the words, had struck Bernardet. But one word especially--the
word Monsieur before Rovère's name. "Monsieur Rovère? Why did he speak
to me of Monsieur Rovère?" Bernardet thought.

It seemed, then, that he knew the dead man.

All the people gathered in this little hall, if asked in regard to this
murder would have said: "Rovère!" "The Rovère affair!" "The Rovère
murder!" Not one who had not known the victim would have said:

"Monsieur Rovère!"

The man knew him then. This simple word, in the officer's opinion, meant
much.

The manager now announced that, having become a skeleton, the dear
brother who had lent himself to this experiment would return to his
natural state, "fresher and rosier than before." He added, pleasantly,
"A thing which does not generally happen to ordinary skeletons!"

This vulgar drollery caused a great laugh, which the audience heartily
indulged in. It made an outlet for their pent-up feelings, and they all
felt as if they had awakened from a nightmare. The man in the sombrero,
whose pale face was paler than before, was the only one who did not
smile. He even frowned fiercely (noted by Bernardet) when the manager
added:

"You are not in the habit of seeing a dead man resuscitated the next
day. Between us, it would keep the world pretty full."

"Evidently," thought Bernardet, "my young gentleman is ill at ease."

His only thought was to find out his name, his personality, to establish
his identity and to learn where he had spent his life, and especially
his last days. But how?

He did not hesitate long. He left the place, even before the man in the
coffin had reappeared, smiling at the audience. He glided through the
crowd, repeating, "Pardon!" "I beg pardon!" traversed rapidly the hall
where newcomers were conversing over their beverages, and stepped out
into the street, looked up and down. A light fog enveloped everything,
and the gaslights and lights in the shop windows showed ghostly through
it. The passers-by, the cabs, the tramways, bore a spectral look.

What Bernardet was searching for was a policeman. He saw two chatting
together and walking slowly along under the leafless trees. In three
steps, at each step turning his head to watch the people coming out of
the cabaret, he reached the men. While speaking to them he did not take
his eyes from the door of that place where he had left the young man in
the gray felt hat.

"Dagonin," he said, "you must follow me, if you please, and 'pull me
in!' I am going to pick a drunken quarrel with a particular person.
Interfere and arrest us both. Understand?"

"Perfectly," Dagonin replied.

He looked at his comrade, who carried his hand to his shako and saluted
Bernardet.

The little man who had given his directions in a quick tone, was already
far away. He stood near the door of the cabaret gazing searchingly at
each person who came out. The looks he cast were neither direct,
menacing nor even familiar. He had pulled his hat down to his eyebrows,
and he cast side glances at the crowd pouring from the door of the wine
shop.

He was astonished that the man in the sombrero had not yet appeared.
Possibly he had stopped, on his way out, in the front hall. Glancing
through the open door, Bernardet saw that he was right. The young man
was seated at one of those coffin-shaped oaken tables, with a glass of
greenish liquor before him. "He needs alcohol to brace him up," growled
the officer.

The door was shut again.

"I can wait till he has finished his absinthe," said Bernardet to
himself.

He had not long to wait. After a small number of persons had left the
place, the door opened and the man in the gray felt hat appeared,
stopped on the threshold, and, as Bernardet had done, scanned the
horizon and the street. Bernardet turned his back and seemed to be
walking away from the wine shop, leaving the man free. With a keen
glance or two over his shoulder toward him, Bernardet crossed the street
and hurried along at a rapid pace, in order to gain on the young man,
and by this manoeuvre to find himself directly in front of the
unknown. The man seemed to hesitate, walked quickly down the Boulevard a
few steps toward the Place Pigalle, in the direction where Rovère's
apartments were, but suddenly stopped, turned on his heel, repassed the
Cabaret du Squelette, and went toward the Moulin Rouge, which at first,
Bernardet thought, he was about to enter. As he stood there the vanes of
the Moulin Rouge, turning about, lighted up the windows of the opposite
buildings and made them look as if they were on fire. At last, obeying
another impulse, he suddenly crossed the Boulevard, as if to return
into Paris, leaving Montmartre, the cabarets, and Rovère's house behind
him. He walked briskly along, and ran against a man--a little man--whom
he had not noticed, who seemed to suddenly detach himself from the wall,
and who fell against his breast, hiccoughing and cursing in vicious
tones.

"Imbecile!"

The young man wished to push away the intoxicated man who, with hat over
his eyes, clung to him and kept repeating:

"The street--the street--is it not free--the street?"

Yes, it was certainly a drunken man. Not a man in a smock, but a little
fellow, a bourgeois, with hat askew and thick voice.

"I--I am not stopping you. The street is free--I tell you!"

"Well, if it is free, I want it!"

The voice was vigorous, but showed sudden anger, a strident tone, a
slight foreign accent, Spanish, perhaps.

The drunken man probably thought him insolent for, still hiccoughing, he
answered:

"Oh, you want it, do you? You want it? I want it! The king says 'we
wish!' don't you know?"

With another movement, he lost his equilibrium and half fell, his head
hanging over, and he clutched the man he held in a sudden embrace.

"It is mine also--the street--you know!"

With sudden violence, the man disembarrassed himself of this caressing
creature; he thrust aside his clinging arms with a movement so quick and
strong that the intoxicated man, this time, fell, his hat rolled into
the gutter, and he lay on the sidewalk.

But immediately, with a bound, he was on his feet, and as the man went
calmly on his way, he followed him, seized his coat and clutched him so
tightly that he could not proceed.

"Pardon;" he said, "you cannot go away like that!"

Then, as the light from a gas lamp fell on the little man's face, the
young man recognized his neighbor of the cabaret, who had said to him:

"See, that is how Rovère must look!"

At this moment, Dagonin and his comrade appeared on the scene and laid
vigorous hands on them both; the young man made a quick, instinctive
movement toward his right pocket, where, no doubt, he kept a revolver or
knife. Bernardet seized his wrist, he twisted it and said:

"Do nothing rash!"

The young man was very strong, but the huge Dagonin had Herculean biceps
and the other man did not lack muscles. Fright, moreover, seemed to
paralyze this tall, young gallant, who, as he saw that he was being
hustled toward a police station, demanded:

"Have you arrested me, and why?"

"First for having struck me," Bernardet replied, still bareheaded, and
to whom a gamin now handed his soiled hat, saying to him:

"Is this yours, Monsieur Bernardet?"

Bernardet recognized in his own quarter! That was glory!

The man seemed to wish to defend himself and still struggled, but one
remark of Dagonin's seemed to pacify him:

"No rebellion! There is nothing serious about your arrest. Do not make
it worse."

The young man really believed that it was only a slight matter and he
would be liberated at once. The only thing that disquieted him was that
this intoxicated man, suddenly become sober, had spoken to him as he did
a few moments before in the cabaret.

The four men walked quickly along in the shadow of the buildings,
through the almost deserted streets, where the shopkeepers were putting
out their lights and closing up their shops. Scarcely any one who met
them would have realized that three of these men were taking the fourth
to a police station.

A tri-color flag floated over a door lighted by a red lantern; the four
men entered the place and found themselves in a narrow, warm hall, where
the agents of the police were either sleeping on benches or reading
around the stove by the light of the gas jets above their heads.

Bernardet, looking dolefully at his broken and soiled hat, begged the
young man to give his name and address to the Chief of the Post. The
young man then quickly understood that his questioner of the Cabaret du
Squelette had caught him in a trap. He looked at him with an expression
of violent anger--of concentrated rage.

Then he said:

"My name? What do you want of that? I am an honest man. Why did you
arrest me? What does it mean?"

"Your name?" repeated Bernardet.

The man hesitated.

"Oh, well! I am called Pradès. Does that help you any?"

The man wrote: "Pradès. P-r-a-d-è-s with an accent. Pradès. First name?"

"Charles, if you wish!"

"Oh!" said Bernardet, noticing the slight difference in the tone of his
answer. "We wish nothing. We wish only the truth."

"I have told it."

Charles Pradès furnished some further information in regard to himself.
He was staying at a hotel in the Rue de Paradis-Poissonsière, a small
hotel used by commercial travelers and merchants of the second class. He
had been in Paris only a month.

Where was he from? He said that he came from Sydney, where he was
connected with a commercial house. Or rather he had given up the
situation to come to Paris to seek his fortune. But while speaking of
Sydney he had in his rather rambling answers let fall the name of Buenos
Ayres, and Bernardet remembered that Buenos Ayres was the place where M.
Rovère had been French Consul. The officer paid no attention to this at
the time. For what good? Pradès's real examination would be conducted by
M. Ginory. He, Bernardet, was not an examining magistrate. He was the
ferret who hunted out criminals.

This Pradès was stupefied, then furious, when, the examination over, he
learned that he was not to be immediately set at liberty.

What! An absurd quarrel, a collision without a wound, in a street in
Paris, was sufficient to hold a man and make him pass the night in the
station house, with all the vagabonds of both sexes collected there!

"You may bemoan your fate to yourself to-morrow morning!" said
Bernardet.

In the meantime they searched this man, who, very pale, making visibly
powerful efforts to control himself, biting his lips and his black
beard, while they examined his pocketbook, while they looked at a
Spanish knife with a short blade, which he had (Bernardet had divined it
at the time of his arrest) in his right pocket.

The pocketbook revealed nothing. It contained some receipted weekly
bills of the hotel in the Rue de Paradis, some envelopes without
letters, without stamps and bearing the name, "Charles Pradès,
Merchant," two bank bills of 100 francs--nothing more.

Bernardet very simply asked Pradès how it was that he had upon his
person addressed letters which he evidently had not received, as they
were not stamped. He replied:

"They are not letters. They are addresses which I gave instead of
visiting cards, as I had not had time to procure cards."

"Then the addresses are in your writing?"

"Yes," Pradès answered.

The police officer looked at them again; then, saluting the brigadier
and his men, wished them good-night, and even added a little gesture,
rather mocking, in the direction of the arrested man. Pradès made an
angry, almost menacing, movement toward Bernardet. The guards standing
about pulled him back, while the plump, smiling little man, caressing
his sandy mustache and humming a tune, went out into the street.

As he reached the passage which led to his house this couplet came
merrily from his lips as walked quickly along:

        "Prends ton fusil, Gregoire,
        Prends ta gourde pourboire,
        Nos Messieurs sont partis
        A la chasse aux perdrix."

One would have taken M. Bernardet for a happy little bourgeois, going
home from some theatre through the deserted streets and repeating a
verse from some vaudeville, rather than a police spy who had just
secured a prize. He walked quickly, he walked gaily. He reached his
home, where Mme. Bernardet, always rosy and pleasant, awaited him, and
where his three little girls were sleeping. He felt that, like the Roman
emperor, he had not lost his day.

He again hummed the quatrain, and, although not in a loud tone, still it
sounded like a far off fanfare of victory in the gray fog of this Paris
night.



                              CHAPTER XIV.


M. GINORY was not without uneasiness when he thought of the detention of
Jacques Dantin. Without doubt, all prisoners, all accused persons are
reticent; they try to hide their guilt under voluntary silence. They do
not speak, because they have sworn not to. They are bound, one knows not
by whom, by an oath which they cannot break. It is the ordinary system
of the guilty who cannot defend themselves. Mystery seems to them
safety.

But Dantin, intimately acquainted with Rovère's life, might be
acquainted with some secret which he could not disclose and which did
not pertain to him at all. What secret? Had not an examining magistrate
a right to know everything? Had not an accused man a right to speak?
Either Dantin had nothing to reveal and he was playing a comedy and was
guilty, or, if by a few words, by a confidence made to the magistrate he
could escape an accusation, recover his liberty, without doubt he would
speak after having kept an inexplicable silence. How could one suppose
that an innocent man would hold, for a long time, to this mute system?

The discovery of the portrait in Mme. Colard's shop ought, naturally, to
give to the affair a new turn. The arrest of Charles Pradès brought an
important element to these researches. He would be examined by M. Ginory
the next morning, after having been questioned by the Commissary of
Police.

Bernardet, spruce, freshly shaven, was there, and seemed in his
well-brushed redingote, like a little abbé come to assist at some
curious ceremony.

On the contrary, Pradès, after a sleepless night, a night of agony,
paler than the evening before, his face fierce and its muscles
contracted, had a haggard expression, and he blinked his eyes like a
night bird suddenly brought into glaring sunlight. He repeated before
the Examining Magistrate what he had said to the brigadier. But his
voice, vibrant a few hours before, had become heavy, almost raucous, as
the haughty expression of his face had become sullen and tragic.

The Examining Magistrate had cited Mme. Colard, the shopkeeper, to
appear before him. She instantly recognized in this Pradès the man who
had sold her the little panel by Paul Baudry.

He denied it. He did not know of what they were talking. He had never
seen this woman. He knew nothing about any portrait.

"It belonged to M. Rovère," the magistrate replied, "M. Rovère, the
murdered man; M. Rovère, who was consul at Buenos Ayres, and you spoke,
yesterday, of Buenos Ayres, in the examination at the station house in
the Rue de la Rochefoucauld."

"M. Rovère? Buenos Ayres?" repeated the young man, rolling his sombrero
around his fingers.

He repeated that he did not know the ex-Consul, that he had never been
in South America, that he had come from Sydney.

Bernardet, at this moment, interrupted him by taking his hat from him
without saying a word, and Pradès cast a very angry look at the little
man.

M. Ginory understood Bernardet's move and approved with a smile. He
looked in the inside of the sombrero which Bernardet handed to him.

The hat bore the address of Gordon, Smithson & Co., Berner Street,
London.

"But, after all," thought the Magistrate, "Buenos Ayres is one of the
markets for English goods."

"That is a hat bought at Sydney," Pradès (who had understood) explained.

Before the bold, decided, almost violent affirmations which Mme. Colard
made that this was certainly the seller of the portrait, the young man
lost countenance a little. He kept saying over and over: "You deceive
yourself. Madame, I have never spoken to you, I have never seen you."

When M. Ginory asked her if she still persisted in saying that this was
the man who had sold her the picture, she said:

"Do I still persist? With my neck under the guillotine I would persist,"
and she kept repeating: "I am sure of it! I am sure of it!"

This preliminary examination brought about no decisive result. It was
certain that, if this portrait had been in the possession of this young
man and been sold by him, that he, Charles Pradès, was an accomplice of
Dantin's, if not the author of the crime. They ought, then, to be
brought face to face, and, possibly, this might bring about an immediate
result. And why not have this meeting take place at once, before Pradès
was sent where Dantin was, at Mazas?

M. Ginory, who had uttered this word "Mazas," noticed the expression of
terror which flashed across and suddenly transfigured the young man's
face.

Pradès stammered:

"Then--you will hold me? Then--I am not free?"

M. Ginory did not reply. He gave an order that this Pradès should be
guarded until the arrival of Dantin from Mazas.

In Mazas, in that walled prison, in the cell which had already made him
ill, Jacques Dantin sat. This man, with the trooper's air, seemed almost
to be in a state of collapse. When the guard came to his cell he drew
himself up and endeavored to collect all his energy; and when the door
was opened and he was called he appeared quite like himself. When he saw
the prison wagon which had brought him to Mazas and now awaited to take
him to the Palais de Justice he instinctively recoiled; then, recovering
himself, he entered the narrow vehicle.

The idea, the sensation that he was so near all this life--yet so
far--that he was going through these streets, filled with carriages,
with men and women who were free, gave him a desperate, a nervous sense
of irritation.

The air which they breathed, he breathed and felt fan his brow--but
through a grating. They arrived at the Palais and Jacques Dantin
recognized the staircases which he had previously mounted, that led to
the Examining Magistrate's room. He entered the narrow room where M.
Ginory awaited him. Dantin saluted the Magistrate with a gesture which,
though courteous, seemed to have a little bravado in it; as a salutation
with a sword before a duel. Then he glanced around, astonished to see,
between two guards, a man whom he did not recognize.

M. Ginory studied them. If he knew this Pradès, who also curiously
returned his look, Jacques Dantin was a great comedian, because no
indication, not the slightest involuntary shudder, not the faintest
trace of an expression of having seen him before, crossed his face. Even
M. Ginory's keen eyes could detect nothing. He had asked that Bernardet
be present at the meeting, and the little man's face, become serious,
almost severe, was turned, with eager interrogation in its expression,
toward Dantin. Bernardet also was unable to detect the faintest emotion
which could be construed into an acknowledgment of ever having seen this
young man before. Generally prisoners would, unconsciously, permit a
gesture, a glance, a something, to escape them when they were brusquely
confronted, unexpectedly, with some accomplice. This time not a muscle
of Dantin's face moved, not an eyelash quivered.

M. Ginory motioned Jacques Dantin to a seat directly in front of him,
where the light would fall full upon his face. Pointing out Pradès, he
asked:

"Do you recognize this man?"

Dantin, after a second or two, replied:

"No; I have never seen him."

"Never?"

"I believe not; he is unknown to me!"

"And you, Pradès, have you ever seen Jacques Dantin?"

"Never," said Pradès, in his turn. His voice seemed hoarse, compared
with the brief, clear response made by Dantin.

"He is, however, the original of the portrait which you sold to Mme.
Colard."

"The portrait?"

"Look sharply at Dantin. Look at him well," repeated M. Ginory. "You
must recognize that he is the original of the portrait in question."

"Yes;" Pradès replied. His eyes were fixed upon the prisoner.

"Ah!" the Magistrate joyously exclaimed, asking: "And how, tell me, did
you so quickly recognize the original of the portrait which you saw only
an instant in my room?"

"I do not know," stammered Pradès, not comprehending the gravity of a
question put in an insinuating, almost amiable tone.

"Oh, well!" continued M. Ginory, still in a conciliating tone, "I am
going to explain to you. It is certain that you recognize these
features, because you had a long time in which to contemplate them;
because you had it a long time in your hands when you were trying to
pull off the frame."

"The frame? What frame?" asked the young man stupefied, not taking his
eyes from the Magistrate's face, which seemed to him endowed with some
occult power. M. Ginory went on:

"The frame which you had trouble in removing, since the scratches show
in the wood. And what if, after taking the portrait to Mme. Colard's
shop, we should find the frame in question at another place, at some
other shop--that would not be very difficult," and M. Ginory smiled at
Bernardet. "What if we could add another new deposition to that of Mme.
Colard's? Yes; what if to that clear, decisive deposition we could add
another--what would you have to say?"

Silence! Pradès turned his head around, his eyes wandered about, as if
searching to find an outlet or a support; gasping like a man who has
been injured.

Jacques Dantin looked at him at the same moment when the Magistrate,
with a glance keener, more piercing than ever, seemed to search his very
soul. The young man was now pallid and unmanned.

At length Pradès pronounced some words. What did he want of him? What
frame was he talking of? And who was this other dealer of whom the
Magistrate spoke and whom he had called a second time? Where was this
witness with "the new deposition?"

"One is enough!" he said, casting a ferocious look at Mme. Colard, who,
on a sign from M. Ginory, had entered, pale and full of fear.

He added in a menacing tone:

"One is even too much!"

The fingers of his right hand contracted, as if around a knife handle.
At this moment Bernardet, who was studying each gesture which the man
made, was convinced that the murderer of Rovère was there. He saw that
hand armed with the knife, the one which had been found in his pocket,
striking his victim, gashing the ex-Consul's throat.

But then, "Dantin?" An accomplice, without doubt. The head, of which the
adventurer was the arm. Because, in the dead man's eye, Dantin's image
appeared, reflected as clear proof, like an accusation, showing the
person who was last seen in Rovère's supreme agony. Jacques Dantin was
there--the eye spoke.

Mme. Colard's testimony no longer permitted M. Ginory to doubt. This
Charles Pradès was certainly the man who sold the portrait.

Nothing could be proved except that the two men had never met. No sign
of emotion showed that Dantin had ever seen the young man before. The
latter alone betrayed himself when he was going to Mazas with the
original of the portrait painted by Baudry.

But, however, as the Magistrate underlined it with precision, the fact
alone of recognizing Dantin constituted against Pradès a new charge.
Added to the testimony, to the formal affirmation of the shopkeeper,
this charge became grave.

Coldly, M. Ginory said to his registrar:

"An order!"

Then, when Favarel had taken a paper engraved at the top, which Pradès
tried to decipher, the Magistrate began to question him. And as M.
Ginory spoke slowly, Favarel filled in the blank places which made a
free man, a prisoner.

"You are called?" demanded M. Ginory.

"Pradès."

"Your first name?"

"Henri."

"You said Charles to the Commissary of Police."

"Henri-Charles--Charles--Henri."

The Magistrate did not even make a sign to Favarel, seated before the
table, and who wrote very quickly without M. Ginory dictating to him.

"Your profession?" continued the Magistrate.

"Commission merchant."

"Your age?"

"Twenty-eight."

"Your residence?"

"Sydney, Australia."

And, upon this official paper, the replies were filled in, one by one,
in the blank places:

      COURT OF THE FIRST INSTANCE OF THE DEPARTMENT OF THE SEINE:

     Warrant of Commitment against Pradès.

           *       *       *       *       *

     Note.--Write exactly the names, Christian names, professions,
     age, residence and nature of charge.

           *       *       *       *       *

     Description Height metre centimetres

     Forehead Nose

     Eyes Mouth

     Chin Eyebrows

     Hair

     General Appearance

     We, Edmé-Armand-Georges Ginory, Examining Magistrate of the
     Court of the First Instance of the Department of the Seine,
     command and enjoin all officers and guards of the Public Force
     to conduct to the Prison of Detention, called the Mazas, in
     conformity to the Law, Pradès (Charles Henri), aged 28 years,
     Commission Merchant from Sydney. Accused of complicity in the
     murder of Louis-Pièrre Rovère. We direct the Director of said
     house of detention to receive and hold him till further orders.
     We command every man in the Public to lend assistance in order
     to execute the present order, in case such necessity arises, to
     which we attach our name and seal.

     Made at the Palais de Justice, in Paris, the 12th of February,
     1896.

And below, the seal was attached to the order by the registrar. M.
Ginory signed it, saying to Favarel:

"The description must be left blank. They will fill it out after the
measurements are taken."

Then, Pradès, stupefied till now, not seeming to realize half that was
passing around him, gave a sudden, violent start. A cry burst from him.

"Arrested! Have you arrested me?"

M. Ginory leaned over the table. He was calm and held his pen with which
he had signed the order, suspended in the air. The young man rushed
forward wild with anger, and if the guards had not held him back, he
would have seized M. Ginory's fat neck with both hands. The guards held
Pradès back, while the Examining Magistrate, carelessly pricking the
table with his pen, gently said, with a smile:

"All the same, more than one malefactor has betrayed himself in a fit of
anger. I have often thought that it would take very little to get myself
assassinated, when I had before me an accused person whom I felt was
guilty and who would not confess. Take away the man!"

While they were pushing Pradès toward the corridor he shouted:
"_Canailles_." M. Ginory ordered that Dantin should be left alone with
him. "Alone," he said to Bernardet, whose look was a little uneasy. The
registrar half rose from his chair, picking up his papers and pushing
them into the pockets of his much worn paper case.

"No; you may remain, Favarel."

"Well," said the Magistrate in a familiar tone, when he found himself
face to face with Jacques Dantin. "Have you reflected?"

Jacques Dantin, his lips pressed closely together, did not reply.

"It is a counsellor--a counsellor of an especial kind--the cell. He who
invented it"----

"Yes;" Dantin brusquely interrupted. "The brain suffers between those
walls. I have not slept since I went there. Not slept at all. Insomnia
is killing me. It seems as if I should go crazy!"

"Then?" asked M. Ginory.

"Then"----

Jacques Dantin looked fiercely at the registrar, who sat waiting, his
pen over his ear, his elbows on the table, his chin on his hands.

"Then, oh, well! Then, here it is, I wish to tell you all--all. But to
you--to you"----

"To me alone?"

"Yes," said Dantin, with the same fierce expression.

"My dear Favarel," the Magistrate began.

The registrar had already risen. He slowly bowed and went out.

"Now," said the Magistrate to Jacques Dantin, "you can speak."

The man still hesitated.

"Monsieur," he asked, "will any word said here be repeated, ought it or
must it be repeated in a courtroom, at the Assizes, I know not
where--anywhere before the public?"

"That depends," said M. Ginory. "But what you know you owe to justice,
whether it be a revelation, an accusation or a confession, I ask it of
you."

Still Dantin hesitated. Then the Magistrate spoke these words: "I demand
it!"

With a violent effort the prisoner began. "So be it! But it is to a man
of honor, rather than to a Magistrate, to whom I address these words. If
I have hesitated to speak, if I have allowed myself to be suspected and
to be accused, it is because it seemed to me impossible, absolutely
impossible, that this same truth should not be revealed--I do not know
in what way--that it would become known to you without compelling me to
disclose a secret which was not mine."

"To an Examining Magistrate one may tell everything," said M. Ginory.
"We have listened to confessions in our offices which are as inviolable
as those of the confessional made to a priest."

And now, after having accused Dantin of lying, believing that he was
acting a comedy, after smiling disdainfully at that common invention--a
vow which one could not break--the perception of a possibility entered
the Magistrate's mind that this man might be sincere. Hitherto he had
closed his heart against sympathy for this man; they had met in the
mutual hostility.

The manner in which Jacques Dantin approached the question, the
resolution with which he spoke, no longer resembled the obstinate
attitude which he had before assumed in this same room.

Reflection, the prison--the cell, without doubt--a frightful and
stifling cell--had done its work. The man who had been excited to the
point of not speaking now wished to tell all.

"Yes," he said, "since nothing has happened to convince you that I am
not lying."

"I am listening to you," said the Magistrate.

Then, in a long, close conference, Jacques Dantin told M. Ginory his
story. He related how, from early youth, he and Rovère had been close
friends; of the warm affection which had always existed between them; of
the shams and deceptions of which he had been guilty; of the bitterness
of his ruined life; of an existence which ought to have been beautiful,
and which, so useless, the life of a _viveur_, had almost made
him--why?--how?--through need of money and a lack of moral sense--almost
descend to crime.

This Rovère, whom he was accused of killing, he loved, and, to tell the
truth, in that strange and troublous existence which he had lived,
Rovère had been the only true friend whom he had known. Rovère, a sort
of pessimistic philosopher, a recluse, lycanthropic, after a life spent
in feasting, having surfeited himself with pleasure, recognized also in
his last years that disinterested affection is rare in this world, and
his savage misanthropy softened before Jacques Dantin's warm
friendship.

"I continued to search for, in what is called pleasure and what as one's
hair whitens becomes vice; in play; in the uproar of Paris,
forgetfulness of life, of the dull life of a man growing old, alone,
without home or family, an old, stupid fellow, whom the young people
look at with hate and say to each other: 'Why is he still here?' Rovère,
more and more, felt the need of withdrawing into solitude, thinking over
his adventurous life, as bad and as ruined as mine, and he wished to see
no one. A wolf, a wild boar in his lair! Can you understand this
friendship between two old fellows, one of whom tried in every way to
direct his thoughts from himself, and the other, waiting death in a
corner of his fireside, solitary, unsociable?"

"Perfectly! Go on!"

And the magistrate, with eyes riveted upon Jacques Dantin, saw this man,
excited, making light of this recital of the past; evoking remembrances
of forgotten events, of this lost affection; lost, as all his life was.

"This is not a conference; is it not so? You no longer believe that it
is a comedy? I loved Rovère. Life had often separated us. He searched
for fortune at the other end of the world. I made a mess of mine and ate
it in Paris. But we always kept up our relations, and when he returned
to France we were happy in again seeing each other. The grayer turned
the hair, the more tender the heart became. I had always found him
morose--from his twentieth year he always dragged after him a sinister
companion--ennui. He had chosen a Consular career, to live far away, and
in a fashion not at all like ours. I have often laughingly said to him
that he probably had met with unrequited love; that he had experienced
some unhappy passion. He said, no! I feigned to believe it. One is not
sombre and melancholy like that without some secret grief. After all,
there are others who do not feel any gayer with a smile on the lips.
Sadness is no sign. Neither is gayety!"

His face took on a weary, melancholy expression, which at first
astonished the Magistrate; then he experienced a feeling of pity; he
listened, silent and grave.

"I will pass over all the details of our life, shall I not? My monologue
would be too long. The years of youth passed with a rapidity truly
astonishing; we come to the time when we found ourselves--he weary of
life, established in his chosen apartments in the Boulevard de Clichy,
with his paintings and books; sitting in front of his fire and awaiting
death--I continuing to spur myself on like a foundered horse. Rovère
moralized to me; I jeered at his sermons, and I went to sit by his
fireside and talk over the past. One of his joys had been this portrait
of me, painted by Paul Baudry. He had hung it up in his salon, at the
corner of the chimney piece, at the left, and he often said to me:

"'Dost thou know that when thou art not here I talk to it?'

"I was not there very often. Parisian life draws us by its thousand
attractions. The days which seem interminable when one is twenty rush by
as if on wings when one is fifty. One has not even time to stop to see
the friends one loves. At the last moment, if one is right, one ought to
say, 'How I have cast to the winds everything precious which life has
given me. How foolish I have been--how stupid.' Pay no attention to my
philosophisms--the cell! Mazas forces one to think!

"One day--it was one morning--on returning from the club where I had
passed the night stupidly losing sums which would have given joy to
hundreds of families, I found on my desk a message from Rovère. If one
would look through my papers one would find it there--I kept it. Rovère
begged me to come to him immediately. I shivered--a sharp presentiment
of death struck me. The writing was trembling, unlike his own. I struck
my forehead in anger. This message had been waiting for me since the
night before, while I was spending the hours in gambling. If, when I
hurried toward the Boulevard de Clichy, I had found Rovère dead on my
arrival, I could not, believe me, have experienced greater despair. His
assassination seemed to me atrocious; but I was at least able to assure
him that his friendship was returned. I hastily read the telegram, threw
myself into a fiacre, and hastened to his apartments. The woman who
acted as housekeeper for him, Mme. Moniche, the portress, raising her
arms as she opened the door for me, said:

"'Ah! Monsieur, but Monsieur has waited for you. He has repeated your
name all night. He nearly died, but he is better now.'

"Rovère, sitting the night before by his fire, had been stricken by
lateral paralysis, and as soon as he could hold a pen, in spite of the
orders of the physician who had been quickly called, had written and
sent the message to me some hours before.

"As soon as he saw me he--the strong man, the mad misanthrope, silent
and sombre--held me in his arms and burst into tears. His embrace was
that of a man who concentrates in one being all that remains of hope.

"'Thou! thou art here!' he said in a low tone. 'If thou knewest!'

"I was moved to the depths of my heart. That manly face, usually so
energetic, wore an expression of terror which was in some way almost
childish, a timorous fright. The tears rose in his eyes.

"'Oh! how I have waited for thee! how I have longed for thee!'

"He repeated this phrase with anxious obstinacy. Then he seemed to be
suffocating. Emotion! The sight of me recalled to him the long agony of
that night when he thought that he was about to die without parting with
me for the last time.

"'For what I have to tell thee'----

"He shook his head.

"'It is the secret of my life!'

"He was lying on a sort of sick chair or lounge, in the library where he
passed his last days with his books. He made me sit down beside him. He
took my hand and said:

"'I am going to die. I believed that the end had come last night. I
called thee. Oh, well, if I had died there is one being in the world who
would not have had the fortune which--I have'----

"He lowered his voice as if he thought we were spied upon, as if some
one could hear.

"'I have a daughter. Yes, even from thee I have hidden this secret,
which tortures me. A daughter who loves me and who has not the right to
confess this tenderness, no more than I have the right to give her my
name. Ah! our youth, sad youth! I might have had a home to-day, a
fireside of my own, a dear one near me, and instead of that, an
affection of which I am ashamed and which I have hidden even from thee,
Jacques, from thee, dost thou comprehend?'

"I remember each of Rovère's words as if I was hearing them now. This
conversation with my poor friend is among the most poignant yet most
precious of my remembrances. With much emotion, which distressed me, the
poor man revealed to me the secret which he had believed it his duty to
hide from me so many years, and I vowed to him--I swore to him on my
honor, and that is why I hesitated to speak, or rather refused to speak,
not wishing to compromise any one, neither the dead nor living--I swore
to him, Monsieur le Juge, to repeat nothing of what he told me to any
one, to any one but to her"----

"Her?" interrogated M. Ginory.

"His daughter," Dantin replied.

The Examining Magistrate recalled that visitor in black, who had been
seen occasionally at Rovère's apartments, and the little romance of
which Paul Rodier had written in his paper--the romance of the Woman in
Black!

"And this daughter?"

"She bears," said Dantin, with a discouraged gesture, "the name of the
father which the law gives her, and this name is a great name, an
illustrious name, that of a retired general officer, living in one of
the provinces, a widower, and who adores the girl who is another man's
child. The mother is dead. The father has never known. When dying, the
mother revealed the secret to her daughter. She came, by command of the
dead, to see Rovère, but as a Sister of Charity, faithful to the name
which she bears. She does not wish to marry; she will never leave the
crippled old soldier who calls her his daughter, and who adores her."

"Oh!" said M. Ginory, remaining mute a moment before this very simple
drama, and in which, in that moment of reflection, he comprehended, he
analyzed, nearly all of the hidden griefs, the secret tears, the stifled
sobs, the stolen kisses. "And that is why you kept silent?" he asked.

"Yes, Monsieur. Oh! but I could not endure the torture any longer, and
not seeing the expected release any nearer, I would have spoken, I would
have spoken to escape that cell, that sense of suffocation, I endured
there. It seemed to me, however, that I owed it to my dead friend not to
reveal his secret to any one, not even to you. I shall never forget
Rovère's joy, when relieved of the burden, by the confidence which he
had reposed in me, he said to me, that now that she who was his
daughter, and was poor, living at Blois only on the pension of a retired
officer to whom she had appointed herself nurse, knowing that she was
not his daughter, this innocent child, who was paying with a life of
devotion for the sins of two guilty ones, would at least have happiness
at last.

"She is young, and the one for whom she cares cannot live always. My
fortune will give her a dowry. And then!"

"It was to me to whom he confided this fortune. He had very little money
with his notary. Erratic and distrustful, Rovère kept his valuables in
his safe, as he kept his books in his library. It seemed that he was a
collector, picking up all kinds of things. Avaricious? No; but he wished
to have about him, under his hand, everything which belonged to him. He
possibly may have wished to give what he had directly to the one to whom
it seemed good to him to give it, and confide it to me in trust.

"I regret not having asked him directly that day what he counted on
doing with his fortune and how he intended enriching his child, whom he
had not the right to recognize. I dared, or, rather, I did not think of
it. I experienced a strong emotion when I saw my friend enfeebled and
almost dying. I had known him so different, so handsome. Oh! those poor,
sad, restless eyes, that lowered voice, as if he feared an enemy was
listening! Illness had quickly, brutally changed that vigorous man,
suddenly old and timorous.

"I went away from that first interview much distressed, carrying a
secret which seemed to me a heavy and cruel one; and which made me think
of the uselessness, the wickedness, the vain loves of a ruined life. But
I felt that Rovère owed truly his fortune to that girl who, the next
day after the death of the one whom she had piously attended, found
herself poor and isolated in a little house in a steep street, near the
Château, above Blois. I felt that, whatever this unknown father left,
ought not to go to distant relatives, who cared nothing for him; did not
even know him; were ignorant of his sufferings and perhaps even of his
existence, and who by law would inherit.

"A dying man, yes! There could be no question about it, and Dr.
Vilandry, whom I begged to accompany me to see my friend, did not hide
it from me. Rovère was dying of a kidney difficulty, which had made
rapid progress.

"It was necessary, then, since he was not alone in the world, that he
should think of the one of whom he had spoken and whom he loved.

"'For I love her, that child whom I have no right to name. I love her!
She is good, tender, admirable. If I did not see that she resembled
me--for she does resemble me--I should tell thee that she was beautiful.
I would be proud to cry aloud: "This is my daughter!" To promenade with
her on my arm--and I must hide this secret from all the world. That is
my torture! And it is the chastisement of all that has not been right in
my life. Ah! sad, unhappy loves!' That same malediction for the past
came to his lips as it had come to his thoughts. The old workman,
burdened with labor throughout the week, who could promenade on the
Boulevard de Clichy on Sunday, with his daughter on his arm, was happier
than Rovère. And--a strange thing, sentiment of shame and
remorse--feeling himself traveling fast to his last resting-place in the
cemetery, he expressed no wish to see that child, to send for her to
come from Blois under some pretext or other, easy enough to find.

"No, he experienced a fierce desire for solitude, he shrunk from an
interview, in which he feared all his grief would rush to his lips in a
torrent of words. He feared for himself, for his weakness, for the
strange feeling he experienced in his head.

"'It seems as if it oscillated upon my shoulders,' he said. 'If Marthe
came (and he repeated the name as a child would have pronounced it who
was just learning to name the letters of a word) I would give her but
the sad spectacle of a broken-down man, and leave on her mind only the
impression of a human ruin. And then--and then--not to see her! not to
have the right to see her! that is all right--it is my chastisement!'

"Let it be so! I understood. I feared that an interview would be mortal.
He had been so terribly agitated when he had sent for me that other
time.

"But I, at least, wished to recall to him his former wish which he had
expressed of providing for the girl's future. I desired that he should
make up for the past, since money is one of the forms of reparation. But
I dared not speak to him again in regard to it, or of that trust of
which he had spoken.

"He said to me, this strong man whom Death had never frightened, and
whom he had braved many times, he said to me now, weakened by this
illness which was killing him hour by hour:

"If I knew that my end was near I would decide--but I have time."

"Time! Each day brought him a little nearer to that life about which I
feared to say to him: 'The time has come!' The fear, in urging him to a
last resolution, of seeming like an executioner whose presence seemed to
say: 'To-day is the day!' prevented me. You understand, Monsieur? And
why not? I ought to wait no longer. Rovère's confidence had made of me a
second Rovère who possessed the strength and force of will which the
first one now lacked. I felt that I held in my hands, so to speak,
Marthe's fate. I did not know her, but I looked upon her as a martyr in
her vocation of nurse to the old paralytic to whom she was paying, in
love, the debt of the dead wife. I said to myself: 'It is to me, to me
alone, that Rovère must give instructions of what he wishes to leave to
his daughter, and it is for me to urge him to do this, it is for me to
brace his weakened will! I was resolved! It was a duty! Each day the
unhappy man's strength failed. I saw it--this human ruin! One morning,
when I went to his apartments, I found him in a singular state of
terror. He related me a story, I knew not what, of a thief, whose victim
he was; the lock of his door had been forced, his safe opened. Then,
suddenly, interrupting himself, he began to laugh, a feeble laugh, which
made me ill.

"'I am a fool,' he said. 'I am dreaming, awake--I continue in the
daytime the nightmares of the night--a thief here! No one has come--Mme.
Moniche has watched--but my head is so weak, so weak! I have known so
many rascals in my life! Rascals always return, _hein!_'

"He made a sad attempt at a laugh.

"It was delirium! A delirium which soon passed away, but which
frightened me. It returned with increased force each day, and at shorter
intervals.

"Well, I said to myself, during a lucid interview, 'he must do what he
has resolved to do, what he had willed to do--what he wishes to do!' And
I decided--it was the night before the assassination--to bring him to
the point, to aid his hesitation. I found him calmer that day. He was
lying on his lounge, enveloped in his dressing gown, with a traveling
rug thrown across his thin legs. With his black skull-cap and his
grayish beard he looked like a dying Doge.

"He held out his bony hand to me, giving me a sad smile, and said that
he felt better. A period of remission in his disease, a feeling of
comfort pervading his general condition.

"'What if I should recover?' he said, looking me full in the face.

"I comprehended by that ardent look, which was of singular vitality,
that this man, who had never feared death, still clung to life. It was
instinct.

"I replied that certainly he might, and I even said that he would surely
recover, but--with what grievous repugnance did I approach the
subject--I asked him if, experiencing the general feeling of ease and
comfort which pervaded his being, whether he would not be even more
comfortable and happy if he thought of what he ought to do for that
child of whom he had spoken, and for whose future he wished to provide.

"'And since thou art feeling better, my dear Rovère, it is perhaps the
opportunity to put everything in order in that life which thou art about
to recover, and which will be a new life.'

"He looked fixedly at me with his beautiful eyes. It was a profound
regard, and I saw that he divined my thought.

"'Thou art right!' he said firmly; 'no weakness.'

"Then, gathering all his forces, he arose, stood upright, refusing even
the arm which I held out to him, and in his dressing gown, which hung
about him, he seemed to me taller, thinner, even handsomer. He took two
or three steps, at first a little unsteady, then, straightening up, he
walked directly to his safe, turned the letters, and opened it, after
having smiled, and said:

"'I had forgotten the word--four letters; it is, however, a little
thing. My head is empty.'

"Then, the safe opened, he took out papers--of value, without
doubt--papers which he took back to his lounge, spread out on a table
near at hand, and said:

"'Let us see! This which I am going to give thee is for her----A will,
yes, I could make a will----but it would create talk----it would be
asked what I had done----it would be searched out, dug out of the past,
it would open a tomb----I cannot!----What I have shall be hers, thou
wilt give it to her--thou'----

"And his large, haggard eyes searched through the papers.

"'Ah! here!' he said; 'here are some bonds! Egyptian--of a certain value
to the holder, at 3 per cent. I hid that--where did I put it?'

"He picked up the papers, turned them over and over, became alarmed,
turned pale.

"'But,' I said to him, 'is it not among those papers?'

"He shrugged his shoulders, displayed with an ironical smile the
engraved papers.

"'Some certificates of decorations! The bric-a-brac of a Consular life.'

"Then with renewed energy he again went to the safe, opened the till,
pulled it out, and searched again and again.

"Overcome with fright, he exclaimed: 'It is not there!'

"'Why is it not there?'

"And he gave me another look--haggard! terrible! His face was fearfully
contracted. He clasped his head with both hands, and stammered, as if
coming out of a dream.

"'It is true, I remember--I have hidden it! Yes, I hid it! I do not know
where--in some book! In which one?'

"He looked around him with wild eyes. The cerebral anæmia which had made
him fear robbery again seized him, and poor Rovère, my old friend,
plainly showed that he was enduring the agony of a man who is drowning,
and who does not know where to cling in order to save himself.

"He was still standing, but as he turned around, he staggered.

"He repeated in a hoarse, frightened voice: 'Where, where have I hidden
that? Fool! The safe did not seem to me secure enough! Where, where
have I put it?'

"It was then, Monsieur, yes, at that moment, that the concierge entered
and saw us standing face to face before those papers of which she had
spoken. I must have looked greatly embarrassed, very pale, showing the
violent emotion which seized me by the throat. Rovère said to her rather
roughly: 'What are you here for?' and sent her away with a gesture. Mme.
Moniche had had time to see the open safe and the papers spread out,
which she supposed were valuable. I understand how she deceived herself,
and when I think of it, I accuse myself. There was something tragic
taking place between Rovère and me. This woman could not know what it
was, but she felt it.

"And it was more terrible, a hundred times more terrible, when she had
disappeared. There seemed to be a battle raging in Rovère's brain, as
between his will and his weakness. Standing upright, striving not to
give way, struggling to concentrate all his brain power in his effort to
remember, to find some trace of the hidden place where he had foolishly
put his fortune, between the leaves of some huge book. Rovère called
violently, ardently to his aid his last remnant of strength to combat
against this anæmia which took away the memory of what he had done. He
rolled his eyes desperately, found nothing, remembered nothing.

"It was awful--this combat against memory, which disappeared, fled; this
aspect of a panting beast, a hunted boar which seemed to seize this
man--and I shivered when, with a rage, I shall never forget, the dying
man rushed, in two steps, to the table, bent over the papers, snatched
them up with his thin hands, crumpled them up, tore them in two and
threw them under his feet, with an almost maniacal laugh, saying in
strident tones:

"'Ah! Decorations! Brevets, baubles! Childish foolishness! What good are
they? Would they give her a living?'

"And he kept on laughing. He excited himself over the papers, which he
stamped under his feet until he had completely exhausted himself. He
gasped, 'I stifle!' and he half fell over the lounge, upon which I laid
him. I fully believed that he was dying. I experienced a horrible
sensation, which was agonizing. He revived, however. But how, after that
swoon and that crisis, could I speak to him again of his daughter, of
that which he wished to leave her, to give, in trust, to me? He became
preoccupied with childish things, returning to the dreams of a rich man;
he spoke of going out the next day. We would go together in the Bois. We
would dine at the Pavilion. He would like to travel. And thus he rambled
on.

"I said to myself, 'Wait! Let us wait! To-morrow, after a good night's
sleep, he will perhaps remember. I surely have some days before me. To
speak to him to-day would be to provoke a new crisis.'

"And I helped him to put back in the safe the crushed, torn papers,
without his asking me, or even himself questioning how they had come
there, who had thrown them on the floor, or who had opened the safe. His
face wore a slight smile, his gestures were automatic. Very weary, he at
last said:

"'I am very tired. I would like to sleep.' I left him. He had stretched
himself out and covered himself up. He closed his eyes and said:

"'It is so good to sleep!'

"I would see him to-morrow. I would try to again to-morrow awaken in him
the desire which now seemed dulled. To-morrow his memory would have
returned, and in some of his books where he had (like the Arabs who put
their harvests in silos) placed his treasure he would find the fortune
intended for his daughter.

"To-morrow! It is the word one repeats most often, and which one has the
least right to use.

"I saw Rovère only after he was dead, with his throat cut--assassinated
by whom? The man whom you have arrested has traveled much; he comes from
a distance. Rovère was Consul at Buenos Ayres, and you know that he said
to me the last day I saw him: 'I have known many rascals in my life!'
Which seemed very simple when one thinks of the way he had lived.

"This is the truth, Monsieur. I ought to have told you sooner. I repeat
that I had the weakness of wishing to keep the vow given to my dead
friend. I had the name of a woman to betray, the name of a man, too;
innocent of Rovère's fault. And then, again, it seemed to me that this
truth ought to become known of itself. When I was arrested, a sort of
foolish bravado urged me to see how far the absurdity of the charge
could accumulate against me seeming proofs. I am a gambler. That was a
part I played against you, or rather against the foolishness of destiny.
I did not take a second thought that the error could be a lasting one. I
had, moreover, only a word to say, but this word, I repeat, I hesitated
to speak, and I willingly supported the consequence of this hesitation,
even because this word was a name."

"That name," said M. Ginory, "I have not asked you."

"I refused it to the Magistrate," said Jacques Dantin, "but I confide it
to the man of honor!"

"There is only a Magistrate here," M. Ginory replied, "but the legal
inquiry has its secrets, as life has."

And Jacques Dantin gave the name which the one whom Louis-Pièrre Rovère
called, Marthe, bore as her rightful name.



                              CHAPTER XVI.


M. GINORY, M. Leriche, the chief; Bernardet, and, in fact, all the
judiciary, believed that Charles Pradès was guilty of the murder of
Rovère. Bernardet, who had been an actor in this drama, had now become a
spectator.

Paul Rodier, a good reporter, had learned before his confreres of the
arrest of the young man, and, abandoning what he had called his trail of
the Woman in Black, he abruptly whirled about and quickly invented a
sensational biography of the newcomer. Charles-Henri Pradès, or rather
Carlos Pradès, as he called himself, had been a _gaucho_, a buffalo
tamer, a cowboy, using, turn by turn, the American revolver against the
Redskins and the Mexican lasso against the Yankees.

The journalist had obtained a signature, picked up by the lodging-house
keeper where the guilty man had been hunted down, and published in his
paper the autographic characters; he had deduced from them some dramatic
observations. Cooper, of former times; Gustave Aymard, of yesterday;
Rudyard Kipling or Bret Harte, of to-day, had never met a personage more
dreadful, and at the same time more heroic. Carlos Pradès used the
navaja (Spanish knife) with the terrible rapidity of a Catalan. He had
felt since the days of Buenos Ayres a fierce hate for the ex-Consul, and
this crime, which some of his brother reporters, habitually
indifferently informed (it was Paul Rodier who spoke), now attributed
alone to the avarice of this Cambrioleur from over the sea; he, Rodier,
gave this note as the cause of vengeance, and built thereupon a romance
which made his readers shiver. Or, rather, he said nothing outright. He
permitted one a glimpse into, he outlined, one knows not what, dark
history. Soon he made this Carlos Pradès the instrument and the arm of
an association of vengeance. He could even believe that there was
anarchy in the affair. Then he had the young man mixed in some love
affair, a drama of passion, with Argentine Republic for the theatre.

As a result he had succeeded in making interesting the man whom
Bernardet had pushed a few nights before into the station house.

And, what was a singular thing, the reporter had divined part of the
truth. It was still another episode in his past that Rovère expiated
when he found himself one day, in his salon in the Boulevard de Clichy,
face to face with the man who was to be his murderer. At Buenos Ayres,
the ex-Consul had been associated in a large agricultural enterprise
with a man whose hazardous speculations, play and various adventures had
completely ruined him, and who had left two children--a young girl whom
Rovère thought for a moment of marrying, and a son, younger--poor beings
of whom the Consul, paying his partner's debts, seemed the natural
protector. Jean Pradès, in committing suicide--he had killed himself,
frightened at the magnitude of his debts--had commended his children to
Rovère's care.

If Carlotta had lived, without doubt Rovère would have made her his
wife. He loved her with a deep and respectful tenderness. The poor girl
died very suddenly, and there remained to Rovère only his dream. One of
those remembrances of a fireside, one of those spectres which brush the
forehead with their wings or the folds of their winding sheets, when in
the solitude in which he has voluntarily buried himself the searcher
after adventures recalls the past. The past of yesterday. Illusions,
disillusions, old loves, miseries!

Rovère gave to this brother of the dead girl the affection which he had
felt for her. He remembered, also, the father's request. Pradès's son,
passionate, eager to live, tempted in all his appetites, accepted as his
due Rovère's truly paternal devotion, worked on the sympathy of this
man, who, through pity and duty, too, gave to Charles a little of the
affection which he had felt for the sister, almost his fiancee, and for
the father, dead by his own hand.

But, little by little, the solicitations, the unreasonable demands of
Pradès, who, believing that he had a just claim on his father's old
partner, found it very natural that Rovère should devote himself to
him--these continual and pressing demands became for the Consul
irritating obsessions. Rovère seemed to this young man, who was a
spendthrift and a gambler--a gambler possessed with atavistic frenzy--a
sort of living savings bank, from which he could draw without counting.
His importunities at last seemed fatiguing and excessive, and Pradès was
advised one beautiful day that he no longer need count from that moment
on the generosity of his benefactor. All this happened at Buenos Ayres,
and about the time of the Consul's departure for France. Rovère added to
this very curt declaration a last benefit. He gave to the brother of the
dead girl, to the son of Pradès, of the firm of Rovère and Pradès, a sum
sufficient to enable him to live while waiting for better things, and he
told the young man in proper terms that, as he had now no one to depend
upon, that he had better take himself elsewhere to be hung. The word
could not be, with the appetites and habits of Charles Pradès, taken in
a figurative sense, and the young man continued his life of adventures,
as tragic in their reality and as improbable as the reporters'
melodramatic inventions.

Then, at the end of his resources, after having searched for fortune
among miners, weary of tramping about in America, he embarked one
morning for Havre, with the idea that the best gold mine was still that
living placer which he had exploited in Buenos Ayres, and which was
called Pièrre Rovère.

At Paris, where he knew the Consul had retired, Pradès soon found trace
of him, and learned where was the retreat of his brother-in-law. His
brother-in-law! He pronounced the word with a wicked sneer, as if it had
for him a something understood about the sweet and maiden remembrance of
the dead girl. There, in gay Paris, with some resources which allowed
him to pay for his board and lodging in a third-rate hotel, he searched,
asked, discovered, at last, the address of the ex-Consul, and presented
himself to Rovère, who felt, at sight of this spectre, his anger return.

The first time that Charles Pradès had asked at the lodge if M. Rovère
was at home, the Moniches had permitted him to go upstairs, and perhaps
Mme. Moniche would have suspected the man in the sombrero if she had not
surprised Jacques Dantin before the open safe and the papers.

Pradès, moreover, had appeared only three times at Rovère's house, and
on the day of the murder he had entered at the moment when Mme. Moniche
was sweeping the upper floors, and Moniche was working in his shop in
the rear of the lodge, and the staircase was empty. He rang, and
Rovère, with dragging steps, came to open the door. Rovère was ill and
was a little ennuied, and he believed, or instinctively hoped, that it
was the woman in black--his daughter!

Everything served Pradès's projects. He had come not to kill, but by
some means to gain entrance to Rovère's apartments, and, when once
there, to find some resource--a loan, more or less freely given, more or
less forced--and he would leave with it.

Rovère, already worn out, weary of his former supplications, felt
tempted to shut the door in his face, but Pradès pushed it back,
entered, closed it, and said:

"A last interview! You will never see me again! But listen to me!"

Then, Rovère allowed him to enter the salon, and despite the terrible
weakness which he experienced wished to make this a final, decisive
interview; to disembarrass himself once for all of this everlasting
beggar, sometimes whining, sometimes threatening.

"Will you not let me die in peace?" he said. "Have I not paid my debt?"

But Pradès had seated himself in a fauteuil, crossed his legs and hung
over his knee his sombrero, on which he drummed a minstrel march.

"My dear Monsieur Rovère, it is a last appeal for funds. I believe that
America is better than Paris. And in order to return there or to do
what I ought here, I must have what I have not--money!"

"I am tired of giving you money!" Rovère quickly replied.

And between these two men, bound by the remembrance of the dead girl--a
bond burdensome to the one, imposed upon by the other--a storm of bitter
words and harsh sentiments arose and kindled fierce anger in both.

"I tried to let you remain in peace, my dear Consul. But hunger has
driven the wolf out of the woods. I am very hungry. And here I am!"

"I have nothing with which to feed your appetites. You are nothing but a
burden to me."

"Oh! Ingratitude!" and Pradès, with his Argentine accent, spoke his
sister's name.

"My father died and Carlotta herself entrusted me to your care, my dear
brother-in-law!"

It seemed to the sick man, irritated as he was, that this name--which he
had buried deep in his heart with chaste tenderness--was a supreme
insult.

"I forbid you to evoke that memory! You do not see, then, that the
memory of that dear and saintly creature is one of the griefs of my
life!"

"And it is one of my heritages! Brother-in-law of a consul, _Senor mia_,
but it is a title, and I hold it!"

Rovère experienced a strong desire to call, to ring, to give an order to
have this troublesome visitor put out. But energetic and fearless as he
had been but a short time before, now weakened by illness, he trembled
before a possible scandal. Then he, unaided, attempted to push the young
man out of the salon. Pradès resisted, and, at the first touch, gave a
bound, and all that was evil in him suddenly awoke.

A struggle ensued, without a word being pronounced by either; a quick,
brutal struggle. Rovère counted on his past strength, taking by the
collar this Pradès who threatened him, and Pradès, while clutching the
ex-Consul with his left hand, searched in his pocket for a weapon--the
one which Bernardet had taken from him.

This was a sinister moment! Pradès pushed Rovère back; he staggered and
fell against a piece of furniture, while the young man disengaging
himself, stepped back, quickly opened his Spanish knife, then, with a
bound, caught Rovère, shook him, and holding the knife uplifted, said:

"Thou hast willed it!"

It was at this instant that Rovère, whose hands were contracted, dug his
nails into the assassin's neck--the nails which the Commissary Desbrière
and M. Jacquelin Audrays had found still red with blood.

Pradès, who had come there either to supplicate or threaten, now had
only one thought, hideous and ferocious--to kill! He did not reason. It
was no more than an unchained instinct. The noise of the organs upon the
Boulevard, which accompanied with their musical, dragging notes this
savage scene, like a tremulo undertone to a melodrama at the theatre, he
did not hear. The whole intensity of his life seemed to be concentrated
in his fury, in his hand armed with the knife. He threw himself on
Rovère; he struck the flesh, opening the throat, as across the water
among the Gauchos he had been accustomed to kill sheep or cut the throat
of an ox.

Rovère staggered, wavered, freed from the hand which held him, and
Pradès stepping back, looked at him.

Livid, the dying man seemed to live only in his eyes. He had cast upon
the murderer a last meaning look--now, in a sort of supreme agony, he
looked around, his eyes searched for a support, for aid, yes, they
called, while from that throat horrible sounds issued.

Pradès saw with a kind of fright, Rovère, with a superhuman tragic
effort, step back, staggering like a drunken man, pull with his poor
contracted hands from above the chimney piece an object which the
murderer had not noticed and upon which, with an ardent, prayerful
expression he fixed his eyes, stammering some quick inarticulate words
which Pradès could not hear or understand.

It seemed to Pradès that between his victim and himself there was a
witness, and whether he thought of the value of the stones imbedded in
the frame or whether he wished to take from Rovère this last support in
his distress, he went to him and attempted to tear the portrait from his
hands. But an extraordinary strength seemed to come to the dying man and
Rovère resisted, fastening his eyes upon the portrait, casting upon it a
living flame, like the last flare of a dying lamp, and with this last,
despairing, agonizing look the ex-Consul breathed his last. He fell.
Pradès tore the portrait from the fingers which clutched it. That frame,
he could sell it. He picked up here and there some pieces which seemed
to him of value, as if on a pillaging tour on the prairies. He was about
to enter the library where the safe was, when the noise of the opening
of the entrance door awakened his trapper's instinct. Some one was
coming. Who it could be was of little importance. To remain was to
expose himself, to be at once arrested. The corpse once seen, the person
would cry aloud, rush out, close the door and send for the police.

Hesitating between a desire to pillage and the necessity for fright,
Pradès did not wait long to decide. Should he hide? Impossible! Then,
stepping back to the salon door, he flattened himself as much as
possible against the wall and waited until the door should be opened
when he would be completely hidden behind it. As Mme. Moniche stepped
into the room and cried out as she saw Rovère lying on the floor, Pradès
slipped into the ante-chamber, found himself on the landing, closed the
door, rapidly descended the stairs and stepped out upon the Boulevard de
Clichy among the passers-by, even before Mme. Moniche, terrified, had
called for help.



                             CHAPTER XVII.


ALL the details of that murder, M. Ginory had drawn, one by one, from
Pradès in his examination. The murderer denied at first; hesitated;
discussed; then at last, like a cask with the bung out, from which pours
not wine, but blood, the prisoner told all; confessed; recounted;
loosened his tongue; abandoned himself weakened and conquered, weary of
his misery.

"I was so foolish, so stupid," he violently said, "as to keep the
portrait. I believed that the frame was worth a fortune. Fool! I sold it
for a hundred sous!"

He gave the merchant's address, it was on the Quai Saint Michel.
Bernardet found the frame as he had found the painted panel, and this
time, no great credit was due him.

"Now," said he, "the affair is ended, _classé_. My children (he was
relating his adventures to his little girls), we must pass to another.
And why"--

"Why, what?" asked Mme. Bernardet.

"Eh! there it is! Why--it lacks the elucidation of a problem. I will
see! I will know!"

He still remembered the young Danish doctor, whom he had seen with M.
Morin at the autopsy. With his knowledge of men, with the sharp, keen
eye of the police officer, Bernardet had recognized a man of superior
mind; a mind dreamy and mysterious. He knew where Dr. Erwin lived during
his sojourn in Paris, and he went to his apartment one beautiful morning
and rang the bell at the door of a hotel in the Boulevard Saint Martin,
where students and strangers lodge. He might have asked advice of M.
Morin, of the master of French Science, but he, the Inspector of Sureté,
approach these high personages, to question them. He dared not as long
as there was a Danish doctor.

Bernardet's brain whirled. He felt almost certain that Dr. Erwin would
give the same explanation which he, himself, suspected, in regard to the
observed phenomenon.

"The dead man's eye has spoken and can speak," said Bernardet to
himself. "Yes, surely. I am not deceived."

Dr. Erwin met Bernardet cordially and listened to him with profound
attention. The police officer repeated word for word the confession
drawn from Pradès. Then he asked the Danish physician if he really
believed that Jacques Dantin's image had been transfixed on the retina
of the dying man's eye, during the time when he had held and gazed at
the portrait.

"For the proofs which I obtained were very confused," said the officer,
"it is possible, and I say it is quite easy to recognize Jacques
Dantin's features. We have seen it, and, according to your opinion even
the painting was able to be--how shall I express myself--stored up,
retained in the retina."

"You found the proof there," said Dr. Erwin.

"So, according to your opinion, I have not deceived myself?"

"No!"

"I have truly found in the retina of the dead man's eye the last vision
he saw when living?"

"Yes!"

"But the vision of a painting. A painting, Doctor."

"Why not!" Dr. Erwin responded in a sharp tone. "Do you know what
happened? Knowing that he was dying the unhappy man went, urged by a
tragic impulse, to that portrait which represented to him all that was
left, concentrating in one image alone, all his life."

"Then it is possible? It is possible?" Bernardet repeated.

"I believe it," said the Dane. "The man is dying. He has only one
thought--to go directly to the one who, surviving him, guarded his
secrets and his life. He seized his portrait; he tore it from its hook
with all his strength; he devoured it with his eyes; he drank it in with
a look, if I may be allowed the expression. To this picture of the being
whom he loved he spoke; he cried to him; telling him his last wishes;
dictating to him his thoughts of vengeance. At this supreme moment his
energy was increased a hundredfold, I know not what intensity of life
was concentrated on this image, and gathering all his failing forces in
a last look the man who wished to live; the man weakened by illness,
dying, assassinated, put into that last regard the electric force, the
fire which fixed the image (confused, no doubt, but recognizable since
you have traced the resemblance) upon the retina. A phantom, if you
wish, which is reflected in the dead man's eye."

"And," repeated Bernardet, who wished to be perfectly assured in regard
to the question, "it is not only the image of a living being, it is, to
use your words, the phantom even of a painting which was retained on the
retina?"

"I do not reply to you: 'That is possible!' It is you who say to me: 'I
have seen it!' And you have seen it, in truth, and the form, vague
though it may be, the painted figure permits you to find in a passer-by
the man whose picture the retina had already shown you!"

"Oh! well! Doctor," said the little Bernardet, "I shall tell that, but
they will deny it. They will say that it is impossible!"

Dr. Erwin smiled. He seemed to be looking, with his deep blue eyes, at
some invisible perspective, not bounded by the rooms of little room.

"One has said," he began, "that the word _impossible_ is not French. It
would be more exact to affirm that it was not _human_! We attain a
knowledge of the unknowable. The mysterious is approachable. One must
deny nothing _a priori_; one must believe all things possible and not
only a dream. Search for the truth, the _harsh_ truth, as your Stendhal
said. Well! the word is wrong. One ought to say justly, the _exquisite_
truth, for it is a joy for those who search, that daily life where each
movement marks a step advanced, where the heart beats at the thought of
a rendezvous in the laboratory as at a rendezvous of love. Ah! he is
happy who has given his life to science. He lives in a dream. It is the
poetry, in our times of prose. The dream," continued the young doctor as
in an ecstasy, while Bernardet listened, ravished, "the dream is
everywhere. It is impossible to make it tangible. Thought, human
thought, can sometime be deciphered like an open book. An American
physician asked to be permitted to try an experiment upon the cranium of
a condemned man, still living. Through the cranium he studied the man's
brain. Has not Edison undertaken to give sight to the blind! But, in
order to accomplish all these things, it is necessary, as in primitive
times, to believe, to believe always. The twentieth century will see
many others."

"Ah! Doctor! Doctor!" cried poor little Bernardet, much moved. "I do not
wish to be the ignoramus that I am, the father of a family, who has
mouths to feed, and I beg of you to take me as a sweeper in your
laboratory."

He departed, enthused by the interview. Henceforth he could say that,
he, the ignorant one, had, by his seemingly foolish conviction, proved
the leader of an experiment which had been abandoned for some years; and
the humble police officer had reopened the nearly closed door to
criminal instruction.

A scruple, moreover, came to him; a doubt, an agony, and he wished to
share it with M. Ginory.

All the same, with the admirable invention, he had caused an innocent
man to be arrested. This thought made him very uneasy. He had produced a
power which, instead of striking the guilty, had overthrown an unhappy
man, and it was this famous discovery of Dr. Bourion's, persisted in by
him, which had resulted in this mistake.

"It must be," he thought, "that man may be fallible even in the most
marvelous discoveries. It is frightful! It is perhaps done to make us
more prudent. Prudent and modest!"

Doubt now seized him. Must he stop there in these famous experiments
which ended in this lie? Ought he abandon all research on a road which
ended in a cul-de-sac? And he confided that unhappy scruple to the
Examining Magistrate, with whom the chances of the service had put him
in sympathy. M. Ginory not only was interested in strange discoveries,
but he was always indulgent toward the original, little Bernardet.

"Finally, M. le Juge," said the police officer, shaking his head, "I
have thought and thought about the discovery, our discovery--that of Dr.
Bourion. It is subject to errors, our discovery. It would have led us to
put in prison--Jacques Dantin, and Jacques Dantin was not guilty."

"Oh, yes! M. Bernardet," said the Magistrate, who seemed thoughtful, his
heavy chin resting on his hand. "It ought to make us modest. It is the
fate of all human discoveries. To err--to err, is human!"

"It is not the less true," responded Bernardet, "that all which has
passed opens to us the astonishing horizon of the unknown"----

"The unknowable!" murmured the Magistrate.

"A physician who sometimes asks me to his experiments invited me to his
house the other evening and I saw--yes saw, or what one calls seeing, in
a mirror placed before me, by the light of the X-rays--greenish rays
which traversed the body--yes, Monsieur, I saw my heart beat, and my
lungs perform their functions, and I am fat, and a thin person could
better see himself living and breathing. Is it not fantastic, Monsieur
Ginory? Would not a man have been shut up as a lunatic thirty years ago
who would have pretended that he had discovered that? We shall see--we
shall see many others!"

"And will it add to the happiness of man? and will it diminish grief,
wickedness and crime?"

The Magistrate spoke as if to himself, thoughtfully, sadly. Something
Bernardet said brought a smile to his lips.

"This is, Monsieur le Juge, a fine ending of the chapter for the second
part of your work, 'The Duty of a Magistrate Toward Scientific
Discoveries.' And if the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences does
not add"----

M. Ginory suddenly turned red and interrupted Bernardet with a word and
a gesture.

"Monsieur Bernardet!"

"I can only repeat, Monsieur, what public opinion thinks and says," said
Bernardet, bowing low. "There was an illusion to this affair written up.
An amiable fellow--that Paul Rodier."

"Ah! Monsieur Bernardet, Monsieur Bernardet!" laughingly said the
Magistrate, "you have a weakness for reporters. Do you want me to tell
you something? You will finish by becoming a journalist."

"And you will certainly finish in the habit of a member of the Academy,
Monsieur Ginory," said the little Bernardet, with his air of a mocking
abbé.



                             CHAPTER XVIII.


VERY often, after his release from prison, Jacques Dantin went to the
corner of the cemetery at Montmartre, where his friend lay. And he
always carried flowers. It had become to him, since the terrible strain
of his detention, a necessity, a habit. The dead are living! They wait,
they understand, they listen!

It seemed to Dantin that he had but one aim. Alas! What had been the
wish, the last dream of the dead man would never be realized. That
fortune which Rovère had intended for the child whom he had no right to
call his own would go, was going to some far-off cousins of whose
existence the ex-Consul was not even aware perhaps, and whom he
certainly had never known--to some indifferent persons, chance
relatives, strangers.

"I ought not to have waited for him to tell me what his intentions were
regarding his daughter," Dantin often thought. What would become of her,
the poor girl, who knew the secret of her birth and who remained silent,
piously devoting herself to the old soldier whose name she bore?

One day in February a sad, gray day, Jacques Dantin, thinking of the
past Winter so unhappy of the sad secret grave and heavy, strolled
along toward that granite tomb near which Rovère slept. He recalled the
curious crowd which had accompanied his dead friend to its last resting
place: the flowers; the under current of excitement; the cortège.
Silence now filled the place! Dark shadows could be seen here and there
between the tombs at the end of paths. It was not a visiting day nor an
hour usual for funerals. This solitude pleased Jacques. He felt near to
him whom he loved.

Louis-Pièrre Rovère. That name, which Moniche had had engraved, evoked
many remembrances for this man who had for a time been suspected of
assassinating him. All his childhood, all his youth, all the past! How
quickly the years had fled, such ruined years. So much of fever, of
agitation--so many ambitions, deceptions, in order to end here.

"He is at rest at least," thought Dantin, remembering his own life,
without aim, without happiness. And he also would rest soon, having not
even a friend in this great city of Paris whom he could depend upon to
pay him a last visit. A ruined, wicked, useless life!

He again bade Rovère good-bye speaking to him, calling him thee and thou
as of old. Then he went slowly away. But at the end of a walk he turned
around to look once more at the place where his friend lay. He saw,
coming that way, between the tombs, as if by some cross alley, a woman
in black, who was walking directly toward the place he had left. He
stopped, waiting--yes, it was to Rovère's tomb that she was going. Tall,
svelte, and as far as Jacques Dantin could see, she was young. He said
to himself:

"It is his daughter!"

The memory of their last interview came to him. He saw his unhappy
friend, haggard, standing in front of his open safe, searching through
his papers for those which represented his child's fortune. If this was
his friend's daughter, it was to him that Rovère had looked to assure
her future.

He walked slowly back to the tomb. The woman in black was now kneeling
near the gray stone. Bent over, arranging a bouquet of chrysanthemums
which she had brought. Dantin could see only her kneeling form and black
draperies.

She was praying now!

Dantin stood looking at her, and when at last she arose he saw that she
was tall and elegant in her mourning robes. He advanced toward her. The
noise of his footsteps on the gravel caused her to turn her head, and
Dantin saw a beautiful face, young and sad. She had blonde hair and
large eyes, which opened wide in surprise. He saw the same expression of
the eyes which Rovère's had borne.

The young woman instinctively made a movement as if to go away, to give
place to the newcomer. But Dantin stopped her with a gesture.

"Do not go away, Mademoiselle. I am the best friend of the one who
sleeps here."

She stopped, pale and timid.

"I know very well that you loved him," he added.

She unconsciously let a frightened cry escape her and looked helplessly
around.

"He told me all," Dantin slowly said. "I am Jacques Dantin. He has
spoken to you of me, I think"----

"Yes," the young woman answered.

Dantin involuntarily shivered. Her voice had the same _timbre_ as
Rovère's.

In the silence of the cemetery, near the tomb, before that name,
Louis-Pièrre Rovère, which seemed almost like the presence of his dead
friend, Dantin felt the temptation to reveal to this girl what her
father had wished her to know.

They knew each other without ever having met. One word was enough, one
name was sufficient, in order that the secret which united them should
bring them nearer each other. What Dantin was to Rovère, Rovère had told
Marthe again and again.

Then, as if from the depths of the tomb, Rovère had ordered him to
speak. Jacques Dantin, in the solemn silence of that City of the Dead,
confided to the young girl what her father had tried to tell him. He
spoke rapidly, the words, "A legacy--in trust--a fortune" fell from his
lips. But the young girl quickly interrupted him with a grand gesture.

"I do not wish to know what any one has told you of me. I am the
daughter of a man who awaits me at Blois, who is old, who loves only me,
who needs only me, and I need nothing!"

There was in her tone an accent of command, of resolution, which Dantin
recognized as one of Rovère's most remarkable characteristics.

Had Dantin known nothing, this sound in the voice, this ardent look on
the pale face, would have given him a hint or a suspicion, and have
obliged him to think of Rovère. Rovère lived again in this woman in
black whom Jacques Dantin saw for the first time.

"Then?" asked this friend of the dead man, as if awaiting an order.

"Then," said the young girl in her deep voice, "when you meet me near
this tomb do not speak to me of anything. If you should meet me outside
this cemetery, do not recognize me. The secret which was confided to you
by the one who sleeps there, is the secret of a dead one whom I
adored--_my mother_; and of a living person whom I reverence--_my
father!_"

She accented the words with a sort of tender, passionate piety, and
Jacques Dantin saw that her eyes were filled with tears.

"Now, adieu!" she said.

Jacques still wished to speak of that last confidence of the dying man,
but she said again:

"Adieu!"

With her hand, gloved in black, she made the sign of the Cross, smiled
sadly as she looked at the tomb where the chrysanthemums lay, then
lowering her veil she went away, and Dantin, standing near the gray
tomb, saw her disappear at the end of an alley.

The martyr, expiating near the old crippled man, a fault of which she
was innocent, went back to him who was without suspicion; to him who
adored her and to whom she was, in their poor apartment in Blois, his
saint and his daughter.

She would watch, she would lose her youth, near that old soldier whose
robust constitution would endure many, many long years. She would pay
her dead mother's debt; she would pay it by devoting every hour of her
life to this man whose name she bore--an illustrious name, a name
belonging to the victories, to the struggles, to the history of
yesterday--she would be the hostage, the expiatory victim.

With all her life would she redeem the fault of that other!

"And who knows, my poor Rovère," said Jacques Dantin, "thy daughter,
proud of her sacrifice, is perhaps happier in doing this!"

In his turn he left the tomb, he went out of the cemetery, he wished to
walk to his lodging in the Rue Richelieu. He had only taken a few steps
along the Boulevard, where--it seemed but yesterday--he had followed
(talking with Bernardet) behind Rovère's funeral carriage, when he
nearly ran into a little man who was hurrying along the pavement. The
police officer saluted him, with a shaking of the head, which had in it
regret, a little confusion, some excuses.

"Ah! Monsieur Dantin, what a grudge you must have against me!"

"Not at all," said Dantin. "You thought that you were doing your duty,
and it did not displease me to have you try to so quickly avenge my poor
Rovère."

"Avenge him! Yes, he will be! I would not give four sous for Charles
Pradès's head to-morrow, when he is tried. We shall see each other in
court. _Au revoir_, Monsieur Dantin, and all my excuses!"

"_Au revoir_, Monsieur Bernardet, and all my compliments!"

The two men separated. Bernardet was on his way home to breakfast. He
was late. Mme. Bernardet would be waiting, and a little red and
breathless he hurried along. He stopped on hearing a newsboy announce
the last number of _Lutèce_.

"Ask for the account of the trial to-morrow: The inquest by Paul Rodier
on the crime of the Boulevard de Clichy!"

The newsboy saluted Bernardet whom he knew very well.

"Give me a paper!" said the police officer. The boy pulled out a paper
from the package he was carrying, and waved it over his head like a
flag.

"Ah! I understand, that interests you, Monsieur Bernardet!"

And while the little man looked for the heading _Lutèce_ in capital
letters--the title which Paul Rodier had given to a series of interviews
with celebrated physicians, the newsboy, giving Bernardet his change,
said:

"To-morrow is the trial. But there is no doubt, is there, Monsieur
Bernardet? Pradès is condemned in advance!"

"He has confessed, it is an accomplished fact," Bernardet replied,
pocketing his change.

"_Au revoir_ and thanks, Monsieur Bernardet."

And the newsboy, going on his way, cried out:

"Ask for _Lutèce_--The Rovère trial! The affair to-morrow! Paul Rodier's
inquest on the eye of the dead man!" His voice was at last drowned in
the noise of tramways and cabs.

M. Bernardet hurried on. The little ones would have become impatient,
yes, yes, waiting for him, and asking for him around the table at home.
He looked at the paper which he had bought. Paul Rodier, in regard to
the question which he, Bernardet, had raised, had interviewed savants
physiologists, psychologists, and in good journalistic style had
published, the evening before the trial, the result of his inquest.

M. Bernardet read as he hastened along the long titles in capitals in
large head lines.

"A Scientific Problem Àpropos of the Rovère Affair!"

"Questions of Medical Jurisprudence!"

"The Eye of the Dead Man!"

"Interviews and Opinions of MM. Les Docteurs Brouardel, Roux, Duclaux,
Pean, Robin, Pozzi, Blum, Widal, Gilles de la Tourette"----

Bernardet turned the leaves. The interviews filled two pages at least in
solid columns.

"So much the better! So much the better!" said the police officer
enchanted. And hastening along even faster, he said to himself:

"I am going to read all that to the children; yes, all that--it will
amuse them--life is a romance like any other! More incredible than any
other! And these questions; the unknown, the invisible, all these
problems--how interesting they are! And the mystery--so amusing!"

JULES CLARETIE of the French Academy; Mrs. Carlton A. Kingsbury,
Translator.



                          Transcriber's Notes:

For reasons unknown, the chapter headings show no Chapter XII and no
Chapter XV. The chapter headings were left unchanged. I am told that
both a copy of the physical book and the copy at The Interne Archive
have the same Chapter numbering sequence.

Passages in italics are indicated by _underscores_.

Small caps have been replaced with ALL CAPS text.

On page 15, a quotation mark was placed before "But since you".

On page 15, a quotation mark was placed before "But I am nothing".

On page 35, "in so unforseen" was replaced with "in so unforeseen".

On page 38, "the wordly magistrate" was replaced with "the worldly
magistrate".

On page 40, the quotation mark after "which he wished to" was removed.

On page 40, "the study of M. Rovèro" was replaced with "the study of M.
Rovère".

On page 42, "to be exact, thirty-six" was replaced with "to be exact,
twenty-six years".

On page 43, "14th of June, 1848" was replaced with "14th of June, 1868".

On page 46, "devination" was replaced with "divination".

On page 49, "reëntered the salon" was replaced with "reentered the
salon".

On page 50, "des Aubrays" was replaced with "des Audrays".

On page 61, "tatooings" was replaced with "tattooings".

On page 64, a single quotation mark before "Art thou satisfied" was
replaced with a double quotation mark.

On page 82, "acqueous" was replaced with "aqueous".

On page 85, "sixteerth" was replaced with "sixteenth".

On page 91, "Mme. Monchie" was replaced with "Mme. Moniche".

On page 99, "chosen by Mr. Rovère" was replaced with "chosen by M.
Rovère".

On page 101, "mein" was replaced with "mien".

On page 110, the [oe] ligature was replaced with "oe".

On page 111, the period after "he replied" was replaced with a comma.

On page 111, a paragraph marker was placed after "Why?".

On page 121, the quotation mark was removed after "Rovère's murder?".

On page 122, a period was placed after "of your biography".

On page 129, the quotation mark was removed after "of death."

On page 140, "Rovêre's" was replaced with "Rovère's".

On page 146, "charcteristic" was replaced with "characteristic".

On page 150, "portait which resembled" was replaced with "portrait which
resembled".

On page 153, "Bernadet left enchanted" was replaced with "Bernardet left
enchanted".

On page 164, "retain silent" was replaced with "remain silent".

On page 171, "grey" was replaced with "gray".

On page 184, the [oe] ligature was replaced with "oe".

On page 224, "had came there" was replaced with "had come there".

On page 230, "one mornnig" was replaced with "one morning".

On page 230, "Prades, moreover" was replaced with "Pradès, moreover".

On page 232, "my dear brother-in law" was replaced with "my dear
brother-in-law".

On page 235, "necessity for fright" was replaced with "necessity for
flight."

On page 241, "in the labratory" was replaced with "in the laboratory".

On page 250, "chysanthemums" was replaced with "chrysanthemums".

On page 251, "hurring" was replaced with "hurrying".

On page 251, "Prades's" was replaced with "Pradès's".





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