Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Mystère de la chambre jaune. English - Mystery of the Yellow Room
Author: Leroux, Gaston, 1868-1927
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 "Mystère de la chambre jaune. English - Mystery of the Yellow Room" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM

By Gaston Leroux



CHAPTER I. In Which We Begin Not to Understand


It is not without a certain emotion that I begin to recount here the
extraordinary adventures of Joseph Rouletabille. Down to the present
time he had so firmly opposed my doing it that I had come to despair of
ever publishing the most curious of police stories of the past fifteen
years. I had even imagined that the public would never know the whole
truth of the prodigious case known as that of The Yellow Room, out of
which grew so many mysterious, cruel, and sensational dramas, with which
my friend was so closely mixed up, if, propos of a recent nomination of
the illustrious Stangerson to the grade of grandcross of the Legion of
Honour, an evening journal--in an article, miserable for its ignorance,
or audacious for its perfidy--had not resuscitated a terrible adventure
of which Joseph Rouletabille had told me he wished to be for ever
forgotten.

The Yellow Room! Who now remembers this affair which caused so much ink
to flow fifteen years ago? Events are so quickly forgotten in Paris.
Has not the very name of the Nayves trial and the tragic history of the
death of little Menaldo passed out of mind? And yet the public attention
was so deeply interested in the details of the trial that the occurrence
of a ministerial crisis was completely unnoticed at the time. Now The
Yellow Room trial, which, preceded that of the Nayves by some years,
made far more noise. The entire world hung for months over this obscure
problem--the most obscure, it seems to me, that has ever challenged the
perspicacity of our police or taxed the conscience of our judges. The
solution of the problem baffled everybody who tried to find it. It was
like a dramatic rebus with which old Europe and new America alike became
fascinated. That is, in truth--I am permitted to say, because there
cannot be any author's vanity in all this, since I do nothing more than
transcribe facts on which an exceptional documentation enables me to
throw a new light--that is because, in truth, I do not know that, in
the domain of reality or imagination, one can discover or recall to mind
anything comparable, in its mystery, with the natural mystery of The
Yellow Room.

That which nobody could find out, Joseph Rouletabille, aged eighteen,
then a reporter engaged on a leading journal, succeeded in discovering.
But when, at the Assize Court, he brought in the key to the whole case,
he did not tell the whole truth. He only allowed so much of it to appear
as sufficed to ensure the acquittal of an innocent man. The reasons
which he had for his reticence no longer exist. Better still, the time
has come for my friend to speak out fully. You are going to know all;
and, without further preamble, I am going to place before your eyes
the problem of The Yellow Room as it was placed before the eyes of the
entire world on the day following the enactment of the drama at the
Chateau du Glandier.

On the 25th of October, 1892, the following note appeared in the latest
edition of the "Temps":

"A frightful crime has been committed at the Glandier, on the border of
the forest of Sainte-Genevieve, above Epinay-sur-Orge, at the house of
Professor Stangerson. On that night, while the master was working in his
laboratory, an attempt was made to assassinate Mademoiselle Stangerson,
who was sleeping in a chamber adjoining this laboratory. The doctors do
not answer for the life of Mdlle. Stangerson."

The impression made on Paris by this news may be easily imagined.
Already, at that time, the learned world was deeply interested in the
labours of Professor Stangerson and his daughter. These labours--the
first that were attempted in radiography--served to open the way for
Monsieur and Madame Curie to the discovery of radium. It was expected
the Professor would shortly read to the Academy of Sciences a
sensational paper on his new theory,--the Dissociation of Matter,--a
theory destined to overthrow from its base the whole of official
science, which based itself on the principle of the Conservation of
Energy. On the following day, the newspapers were full of the tragedy.
The "Matin," among others, published the following article, entitled: "A
Supernatural Crime":

"These are the only details," wrote the anonymous writer in the
"Matin"--"we have been able to obtain concerning the crime of the
Chateau du Glandier. The state of despair in which Professor Stangerson
is plunged, and the impossibility of getting any information from
the lips of the victim, have rendered our investigations and those of
justice so difficult that, at present, we cannot form the least idea of
what has passed in The Yellow Room in which Mdlle. Stangerson, in her
night-dress, was found lying on the floor in the agonies of death. We
have, at least, been able to interview Daddy Jacques--as he is called
in the country--a old servant in the Stangerson family. Daddy Jacques
entered The Room at the same time as the Professor. This chamber adjoins
the laboratory. Laboratory and Yellow Room are in a pavilion at the
end of the park, about three hundred metres (a thousand feet) from the
chateau.

"'It was half-past twelve at night,' this honest old man told us, 'and I
was in the laboratory, where Monsieur Stangerson was still working, when
the thing happened. I had been cleaning and putting instruments in order
all the evening and was waiting for Monsieur Stangerson to go to bed.
Mademoiselle Stangerson had worked with her father up to midnight; when
the twelve strokes of midnight had sounded by the cuckoo-clock in
the laboratory, she rose, kissed Monsieur Stangerson and bade him
good-night. To me she said "bon soir, Daddy Jacques" as she passed into
The Yellow Room. We heard her lock the door and shoot the bolt, so that
I could not help laughing, and said to Monsieur: "There's Mademoiselle
double-locking herself in,--she must be afraid of the 'Bete du bon
Dieu!'" Monsieur did not even hear me, he was so deeply absorbed in what
he was doing. Just then we heard the distant miawing of a cat. "Is that
going to keep us awake all night?" I said to myself; for I must tell
you, Monsieur, that, to the end of October, I live in an attic of the
pavilion over The Yellow Room, so that Mademoiselle should not be
left alone through the night in the lonely park. It was the fancy of
Mademoiselle to spend the fine weather in the pavilion; no doubt, she
found it more cheerful than the chateau and, for the four years it had
been built, she had never failed to take up her lodging there in the
spring. With the return of winter, Mademoiselle returns to the chateau,
for there is no fireplace in The Yellow Room.

"'We were staying in the pavilion, then--Monsieur Stangerson and me. We
made no noise. He was seated at his desk. As for me, I was sitting on
a chair, having finished my work and, looking at him, I said to myself:
"What a man!--what intelligence!--what knowledge!" I attach importance
to the fact that we made no noise; for, because of that, the assassin
certainly thought that we had left the place. And, suddenly, while the
cuckoo was sounding the half after midnight, a desperate clamour
broke out in The Yellow Room. It was the voice of Mademoiselle, crying
"Murder!--murder!--help!" Immediately afterwards revolver shots rang out
and there was a great noise of tables and furniture being thrown to
the ground, as if in the course of a struggle, and again the voice of
Mademoiselle calling, "Murder!--help!--Papa!--Papa!--"

"'You may be sure that we quickly sprang up and that Monsieur Stangerson
and I threw ourselves upon the door. But alas! it was locked, fast
locked, on the inside, by the care of Mademoiselle, as I have told you,
with key and bolt. We tried to force it open, but it remained firm.
Monsieur Stangerson was like a madman, and truly, it was enough to make
him one, for we heard Mademoiselle still calling "Help!--help!" Monsieur
Stangerson showered terrible blows on the door, and wept with rage and
sobbed with despair and helplessness.

"'It was then that I had an inspiration. "The assassin must have entered
by the window!" I cried;--"I will go to the window!" and I rushed from
the pavilion and ran like one out of his mind.

"'The inspiration was that the window of The Yellow Room looks out in
such a way that the park wall, which abuts on the pavilion, prevented my
at once reaching the window. To get up to it one has first to go out
of the park. I ran towards the gate and, on my way, met Bernier and his
wife, the gate-keepers, who had been attracted by the pistol reports and
by our cries. In a few words I told them what had happened, and directed
the concierge to join Monsieur Stangerson with all speed, while his wife
came with me to open the park gate. Five minutes later she and I were
before the window of The Yellow Room.

"'The moon was shining brightly and I saw clearly that no one had
touched the window. Not only were the bars that protect it intact, but
the blinds inside of them were drawn, as I had myself drawn them early
in the evening, as I did every day, though Mademoiselle, knowing that
I was tired from the heavy work I had been doing, had begged me not to
trouble myself, but leave her to do it; and they were just as I had
left them, fastened with an iron catch on the inside. The assassin,
therefore, could not have passed either in or out that way; but neither
could I get in.

"'It was unfortunate,--enough to turn one's brain! The door of the room
locked on the inside and the blinds on the only window also fastened on
the inside; and Mademoiselle still calling for help!--No! she had ceased
to call. She was dead, perhaps. But I still heard her father, in the
pavilion, trying to break down the door.

"'With the concierge I hurried back to the pavilion. The door, in spite
of the furious attempts of Monsieur Stangerson and Bernier to burst
it open, was still holding firm; but at length, it gave way before our
united efforts,--and then what a sight met our eyes! I should tell you
that, behind us, the concierge held the laboratory lamp--a powerful
lamp, that lit the whole chamber.

"'I must also tell you, monsieur, that The Yellow Room is a very small
room. Mademoiselle had furnished it with a fairly large iron bedstead,
a small table, a night-commode; a dressing-table, and two chairs. By
the light of the big lamp we saw all at a glance. Mademoiselle, in
her night-dress, was lying on the floor in the midst of the greatest
disorder. Tables and chairs had been overthrown, showing that there had
been a violent struggle. Mademoiselle had certainly been dragged
from her bed. She was covered with blood and had terrible marks of
finger-nails on her throat,--the flesh of her neck having been almost
torn by the nails. From a wound on the right temple a stream of
blood had run down and made a little pool on the floor. When Monsieur
Stangerson saw his daughter in that state, he threw himself on his knees
beside her, uttering a cry of despair. He ascertained that she still
breathed. As to us, we searched for the wretch who had tried to kill our
mistress, and I swear to you, monsieur, that, if we had found him, it
would have gone hard with him!

"'But how to explain that he was not there, that he had already escaped?
It passes all imagination!--Nobody under the bed, nobody behind the
furniture!--All that we discovered were traces, blood-stained marks of
a man's large hand on the walls and on the door; a big handkerchief red
with blood, without any initials, an old cap, and many fresh footmarks
of a man on the floor,--footmarks of a man with large feet whose
boot-soles had left a sort of sooty impression. How had this man got
away? How had he vanished? Don't forget, monsieur, that there is no
chimney in The Yellow Room. He could not have escaped by the door, which
is narrow, and on the threshold of which the concierge stood with the
lamp, while her husband and I searched for him in every corner of the
little room, where it is impossible for anyone to hide himself. The
door, which had been forced open against the wall, could not conceal
anything behind it, as we assured ourselves. By the window, still in
every way secured, no flight had been possible. What then?--I began to
believe in the Devil.

"'But we discovered my revolver on the floor!--Yes, my revolver! Oh!
that brought me back to the reality! The Devil would not have needed to
steal my revolver to kill Mademoiselle. The man who had been there had
first gone up to my attic and taken my revolver from the drawer where
I kept it. We then ascertained, by counting the cartridges, that the
assassin had fired two shots. Ah! it was fortunate for me that Monsieur
Stangerson was in the laboratory when the affair took place and had seen
with his own eyes that I was there with him; for otherwise, with this
business of my revolver, I don't know where we should have been,--I
should now be under lock and bar. Justice wants no more to send a man to
the scaffold!'"

The editor of the "Matin" added to this interview the following lines:

"We have, without interrupting him, allowed Daddy Jacques to recount
to us roughly all he knows about the crime of The Yellow Room. We have
reproduced it in his own words, only sparing the reader the continual
lamentations with which he garnished his narrative. It is quite
understood, Daddy Jacques, quite understood, that you are very fond of
your masters; and you want them to know it, and never cease repeating
it--especially since the discovery of your revolver. It is your right,
and we see no harm in it. We should have liked to put some further
questions to Daddy Jacques--Jacques--Louis Moustier--but the inquiry
of the examining magistrate, which is being carried on at the chateau,
makes it impossible for us to gain admission at the Glandier; and, as
to the oak wood, it is guarded by a wide circle of policemen, who are
jealously watching all traces that can lead to the pavilion, and that
may perhaps lead to the discovery of the assassin. "We have also wished
to question the concierges, but they are invisible. Finally, we have
waited in a roadside inn, not far from the gate of the chateau, for
the departure of Monsieur de Marquet, the magistrate of Corbeil. At
half-past five we saw him and his clerk and, before he was able to enter
his carriage, had an opportunity to ask him the following question:

"'Can you, Monsieur de Marquet, give us any information as to this
affair, without inconvenience to the course of your inquiry?'

"'It is impossible for us to do it,' replied Monsieur de Marquet. 'I can
only say that it is the strangest affair I have ever known. The more we
think we know something, the further we are from knowing anything!'

"We asked Monsieur de Marquet to be good enough to explain his last
words; and this is what he said,--the importance of which no one will
fail to recognise:

"'If nothing is added to the material facts so far established, I
fear that the mystery which surrounds the abominable crime of which
Mademoiselle Stangerson has been the victim will never be brought to
light; but it is to be hoped, for the sake of our human reason, that
the examination of the walls, and of the ceiling of The Yellow
Room--an examination which I shall to-morrow intrust to the builder who
constructed the pavilion four years ago--will afford us the proof that
may not discourage us. For the problem is this: we know by what way the
assassin gained admission,--he entered by the door and hid himself under
the bed, awaiting Mademoiselle Stangerson. But how did he leave? How did
he escape? If no trap, no secret door, no hiding place, no opening
of any sort is found; if the examination of the walls--even to the
demolition of the pavilion--does not reveal any passage practicable--not
only for a human being, but for any being whatsoever--if the ceiling
shows no crack, if the floor hides no underground passage, one must
really believe in the Devil, as Daddy Jacques says!'"

And the anonymous writer in the "Matin" added in this article--which I
have selected as the most interesting of all those that were published
on the subject of this affair--that the examining magistrate appeared
to place a peculiar significance to the last sentence: "One must really
believe in the Devil, as Jacques says."

The article concluded with these lines: "We wanted to know what Daddy
Jacques meant by the cry of the Bete Du Bon Dieu." The landlord of the
Donjon Inn explained to us that it is the particularly sinister cry
which is uttered sometimes at night by the cat of an old woman,--Mother
Angenoux, as she is called in the country. Mother Angenoux is a sort of
saint, who lives in a hut in the heart of the forest, not far from the
grotto of Sainte-Genevieve.

"The Yellow Room, the Bete Du Bon Dieu, Mother Angenoux, the Devil,
Sainte-Genevieve, Daddy Jacques,--here is a well entangled crime which
the stroke of a pickaxe in the wall may disentangle for us to-morrow.
Let us at least hope that, for the sake of our human reason, as the
examining magistrate says. Meanwhile, it is expected that Mademoiselle
Stangerson--who has not ceased to be delirious and only pronounces
one word distinctly, 'Murderer! Murderer!'--will not live through the
night."

In conclusion, and at a late hour, the same journal announced that the
Chief of the Surete had telegraphed to the famous detective, Frederic
Larsan, who had been sent to London for an affair of stolen securities,
to return immediately to Paris.



CHAPTER II. In Which Joseph Roultabille Appears for the First Time


I remember as well as if it had occurred yesterday, the entry of young
Rouletabille into my bedroom that morning. It was about eight o'clock
and I was still in bed reading the article in the "Matin" relative to
the Glandier crime.

But, before going further, it is time that I present my friend to the
reader.

I first knew Joseph Rouletabille when he was a young reporter. At that
time I was a beginner at the Bar and often met him in the corridors of
examining magistrates, when I had gone to get a "permit to communicate"
for the prison of Mazas, or for Saint-Lazare. He had, as they say, "a
good nut." He seemed to have taken his head--round as a bullet--out of
a box of marbles, and it is from that, I think, that his comrades of
the press--all determined billiard-players--had given him that nickname,
which was to stick to him and be made illustrious by him. He was always
as red as a tomato, now gay as a lark, now grave as a judge. How, while
still so young--he was only sixteen and a half years old when I saw him
for the first time--had he already won his way on the press? That was
what everybody who came into contact with him might have asked, if they
had not known his history. At the time of the affair of the woman cut in
pieces in the Rue Oberskampf--another forgotten story--he had taken to
one of the editors of the "Epoque,"--a paper then rivalling the "Matin"
for information,--the left foot, which was missing from the basket
in which the gruesome remains were discovered. For this left foot the
police had been vainly searching for a week, and young Rouletabille had
found it in a drain where nobody had thought of looking for it. To
do that he had dressed himself as an extra sewer-man, one of a number
engaged by the administration of the city of Paris, owing to an overflow
of the Seine.

When the editor-in-chief was in possession of the precious foot and
informed as to the train of intelligent deductions the boy had been
led to make, he was divided between the admiration he felt for such
detective cunning in a brain of a lad of sixteen years, and delight at
being able to exhibit, in the "morgue window" of his paper, the left
foot of the Rue Oberskampf.

"This foot," he cried, "will make a great headline."

Then, when he had confided the gruesome packet to the medical lawyer
attached to the journal, he asked the lad, who was shortly to become
famous as Rouletabille, what he would expect to earn as a general
reporter on the "Epoque"?

"Two hundred francs a month," the youngster replied modestly, hardly
able to breathe from surprise at the proposal.

"You shall have two hundred and fifty," said the editor-in-chief; "only
you must tell everybody that you have been engaged on the paper for a
month. Let it be quite understood that it was not you but the 'Epoque'
that discovered the left foot of the Rue Oberskampf. Here, my young
friend, the man is nothing, the paper everything."

Having said this, he begged the new reporter to retire, but before the
youth had reached the door he called him back to ask his name. The other
replied:

"Joseph Josephine."

"That's not a name," said the editor-in-chief, "but since you will not
be required to sign what you write it is of no consequence."

The boy-faced reporter speedily made himself many friends, for he
was serviceable and gifted with a good humour that enchanted the most
severe-tempered and disarmed the most zealous of his companions. At
the Bar cafe, where the reporters assembled before going to any of the
courts, or to the Prefecture, in search of their news of crime, he began
to win a reputation as an unraveller of intricate and obscure affairs
which found its way to the office of the Chief of the Surete. When a
case was worth the trouble and Rouletabille--he had already been given
his nickname--had been started on the scent by his editor-in-chief, he
often got the better of the most famous detective.

It was at the Bar cafe that I became intimately acquainted with him.
Criminal lawyers and journalists are not enemies, the former need
advertisement, the latter information. We chatted together, and I soon
warmed towards him. His intelligence was so keen, and so original!--and
he had a quality of thought such as I have never found in any other
person.

Some time after this I was put in charge of the law news of the "Cri du
Boulevard." My entry into journalism could not but strengthen the ties
which united me to Rouletabille. After a while, my new friend being
allowed to carry out an idea of a judicial correspondence column, which
he was allowed to sign "Business," in the "Epoque," I was often able to
furnish him with the legal information of which he stood in need.

Nearly two years passed in this way, and the better I knew him, the more
I learned to love him; for, in spite of his careless extravagance, I
had discovered in him what was, considering his age, an extraordinary
seriousness of mind. Accustomed as I was to seeing him gay and, indeed,
often too gay, I would many times find him plunged in the deepest
melancholy. I tried then to question him as to the cause of this change
of humour, but each time he laughed and made me no answer. One day,
having questioned him about his parents, of whom he never spoke, he left
me, pretending not to have heard what I said.

While things were in this state between us, the famous case of The
Yellow Room took place. It was this case which was to rank him as the
leading newspaper reporter, and to obtain for him the reputation of
being the greatest detective in the world. It should not surprise us to
find in the one man the perfection of two such lines of activity if we
remember that the daily press was already beginning to transform itself
and to become what it is to-day--the gazette of crime.

Morose-minded people may complain of this; for myself I regard it a
matter for congratulation. We can never have too many arms, public or
private, against the criminal. To this some people may answer that,
by continually publishing the details of crimes, the press ends by
encouraging their commission. But then, with some people we can never do
right. Rouletabille, as I have said, entered my room that morning of the
26th of October, 1892. He was looking redder than usual, and his eyes
were bulging out of his head, as the phrase is, and altogether he
appeared to be in a state of extreme excitement. He waved the "Matin"
with a trembling hand, and cried:

"Well, my dear Sainclair,--have you read it?"

"The Glandier crime?"

"Yes; The Yellow Room!--What do you think of it?"

"I think that it must have been the Devil or the Bete du Bon Dieu that
committed the crime."

"Be serious!"

"Well, I don't much believe in murderers* who make their escape through
walls of solid brick. I think Daddy Jacques did wrong to leave behind
him the weapon with which the crime was committed and, as he occupied
the attic immediately above Mademoiselle Stangerson's room, the
builder's job ordered by the examining magistrate will give us the key
of the enigma and it will not be long before we learn by what natural
trap, or by what secret door, the old fellow was able to slip in and
out, and return immediately to the laboratory to Monsieur Stangerson,
without his absence being noticed. That, of course, is only an
hypothesis."

   *Although the original English translation often uses the words
   "murder" and "murderer," the reader may substitute "attack" and
   "attacker" since no murder is actually committed.

Rouletabille sat down in an armchair, lit his pipe, which he was never
without, smoked for a few minutes in silence--no doubt to calm the
excitement which, visibly, dominated him--and then replied:

"Young man," he said, in a tone the sad irony of which I will not
attempt to render, "young man, you are a lawyer and I doubt not your
ability to save the guilty from conviction; but if you were a magistrate
on the bench, how easy it would be for you to condemn innocent
persons!--You are really gifted, young man!"

He continued to smoke energetically, and then went on:

"No trap will be found, and the mystery of The Yellow Room will become
more and more mysterious. That's why it interests me. The examining
magistrate is right; nothing stranger than this crime has ever been
known."

"Have you any idea of the way by which the murderer escaped?" I asked.

"None," replied Rouletabille--"none, for the present. But I have an idea
as to the revolver; the murderer did not use it."

"Good Heavens! By whom, then, was it used?"

"Why--by Mademoiselle Stangerson."

"I don't understand,--or rather, I have never understood," I said.

Rouletabille shrugged his shoulders.

"Is there nothing in this article in the 'Matin' by which you were
particularly struck?"

"Nothing,--I have found the whole of the story it tells equally
strange."

"Well, but--the locked door--with the key on the inside?"

"That's the only perfectly natural thing in the whole article."

"Really!--And the bolt?"

"The bolt?"

"Yes, the bolt--also inside the room--a still further protection against
entry? Mademoiselle Stangerson took quite extraordinary precautions!
It is clear to me that she feared someone. That was why she took such
precautions--even Daddy Jacques's revolver--without telling him of it.
No doubt she didn't wish to alarm anybody, and least of all, her father.
What she dreaded took place, and she defended herself. There was a
struggle, and she used the revolver skilfully enough to wound the
assassin in the hand--which explains the impression on the wall and on
the door of the large, blood-stained hand of the man who was searching
for a means of exit from the chamber. But she didn't fire soon enough to
avoid the terrible blow on the right temple."

"Then the wound on the temple was not done with the revolver?"

"The paper doesn't say it was, and I don't think it was; because
logically it appears to me that the revolver was used by Mademoiselle
Stangerson against the assassin. Now, what weapon did the murderer use?
The blow on the temple seems to show that the murderer wished to stun
Mademoiselle Stangerson,--after he had unsuccessfully tried to strangle
her. He must have known that the attic was inhabited by Daddy Jacques,
and that was one of the reasons, I think, why he must have used a quiet
weapon,--a life-preserver, or a hammer."

"All that doesn't explain how the murderer got out of The Yellow Room,"
I observed.

"Evidently," replied Rouletabille, rising, "and that is what has to be
explained. I am going to the Chateau du Glandier, and have come to see
whether you will go with me."

"I?--"

"Yes, my boy. I want you. The 'Epoque' has definitely entrusted this
case to me, and I must clear it up as quickly as possible."

"But in what way can I be of any use to you?"

"Monsieur Robert Darzac is at the Chateau du Glandier."

"That's true. His despair must be boundless."

"I must have a talk with him."

Rouletabille said it in a tone that surprised me.

"Is it because--you think there is something to be got out of him?" I
asked.

"Yes."

That was all he would say. He retired to my sitting-room, begging me to
dress quickly.

I knew Monsieur Robert Darzac from having been of great service to him
in a civil action, while I was acting as secretary to Maitre Barbet
Delatour. Monsieur Robert Darzac, who was at that time about forty years
of age, was a professor of physics at the Sorbonne. He was intimately
acquainted with the Stangersons, and, after an assiduous seven years'
courtship of the daughter, had been on the point of marrying her. In
spite of the fact that she has become, as the phrase goes, "a person
of a certain age," she was still remarkably good-looking. While I was
dressing I called out to Rouletabille, who was impatiently moving about
my sitting-room:

"Have you any idea as to the murderer's station in life?"

"Yes," he replied; "I think if he isn't a man in society, he is, at
least, a man belonging to the upper class. But that, again, is only an
impression."

"What has led you to form it?"

"Well,--the greasy cap, the common handkerchief, and the marks of the
rough boots on the floor," he replied.

"I understand," I said; "murderers don't leave traces behind them which
tell the truth."

"We shall make something out of you yet, my dear Sainclair," concluded
Rouletabille.



CHAPTER III. "A Man Has Passed Like a Shadow Through the Blinds"


Half an hour later Rouletabille and I were on the platform of the
Orleans station, awaiting the departure of the train which was to take
us to Epinay-sur-Orge.

On the platform we found Monsieur de Marquet and his Registrar, who
represented the Judicial Court of Corbeil. Monsieur Marquet had spent
the night in Paris, attending the final rehearsal, at the Scala, of a
little play of which he was the unknown author, signing himself simply
"Castigat Ridendo."

Monsieur de Marquet was beginning to be a "noble old gentleman."
Generally he was extremely polite and full of gay humour, and in all
his life had had but one passion,--that of dramatic art. Throughout
his magisterial career he was interested solely in cases capable of
furnishing him with something in the nature of a drama. Though he might
very well have aspired to the highest judicial positions, he had
never really worked for anything but to win a success at the romantic
Porte-Saint-Martin, or at the sombre Odeon.

Because of the mystery which shrouded it, the case of The Yellow
Room was certain to fascinate so theatrical a mind. It interested him
enormously, and he threw himself into it, less as a magistrate eager
to know the truth, than as an amateur of dramatic embroglios, tending
wholly to mystery and intrigue, who dreads nothing so much as the
explanatory final act.

So that, at the moment of meeting him, I heard Monsieur de Marquet say
to the Registrar with a sigh:

"I hope, my dear Monsieur Maleine, this builder with his pickaxe will
not destroy so fine a mystery."

"Have no fear," replied Monsieur Maleine, "his pickaxe may demolish the
pavilion, perhaps, but it will leave our case intact. I have sounded the
walls and examined the ceiling and floor and I know all about it. I am
not to be deceived."

Having thus reassured his chief, Monsieur Maleine, with a discreet
movement of the head, drew Monsieur de Marquet's attention to us. The
face of that gentleman clouded, and, as he saw Rouletabille approaching,
hat in hand, he sprang into one of the empty carriages saying, half
aloud to his Registrar, as he did so, "Above all, no journalists!"

Monsieur Maleine replied in the same tone, "I understand!" and then
tried to prevent Rouletabille from entering the same compartment with
the examining magistrate.

"Excuse me, gentlemen,--this compartment is reserved."

"I am a journalist, Monsieur, engaged on the 'Epoque,'" said my young
friend with a great show of gesture and politeness, "and I have a word
or two to say to Monsieur de Marquet."

"Monsieur is very much engaged with the inquiry he has in hand."

"Ah! his inquiry, pray believe me, is absolutely a matter of
indifference to me. I am no scavenger of odds and ends," he went on,
with infinite contempt in his lower lip, "I am a theatrical reporter;
and this evening I shall have to give a little account of the play at
the Scala."

"Get in, sir, please," said the Registrar.

Rouletabille was already in the compartment. I went in after him
and seated myself by his side. The Registrar followed and closed the
carriage door.

Monsieur de Marquet looked at him.

"Ah, sir," Rouletabille began, "You must not be angry with Monsieur de
Maleine. It is not with Monsieur de Marquet that I desire to have the
honour of speaking, but with Monsieur 'Castigat Ridendo.' Permit me to
congratulate you--personally, as well as the writer for the 'Epoque.'"
And Rouletabille, having first introduced me, introduced himself.

Monsieur de Marquet, with a nervous gesture, caressed his beard into a
point, and explained to Rouletabille, in a few words, that he was too
modest an author to desire that the veil of his pseudonym should be
publicly raised, and that he hoped the enthusiasm of the journalist for
the dramatist's work would not lead him to tell the public that Monsieur
"Castigat Ridendo" and the examining magistrate of Corbeil were one and
the same person.

"The work of the dramatic author may interfere," he said, after a slight
hesitation, "with that of the magistrate, especially in a province where
one's labours are little more than routine."

"Oh, you may rely on my discretion!" cried Rouletabille.

The train was in motion.

"We have started!" said the examining magistrate, surprised at seeing us
still in the carriage.

"Yes, Monsieur,--truth has started," said Rouletabile, smiling
amiably,--"on its way to the Chateau du Glandier. A fine case, Monsieur
de Marquet,--a fine case!"

"An obscure--incredible, unfathomable, inexplicable affair--and there is
only one thing I fear, Monsieur Rouletabille,--that the journalists will
be trying to explain it."

My friend felt this a rap on his knuckles.

"Yes," he said simply, "that is to be feared. They meddle in everything.
As for my interest, monsieur, I only referred to it by mere chance,--the
mere chance of finding myself in the same train with you, and in the
same compartment of the same carriage."

"Where are you going, then?" asked Monsieur de Marquet.

"To the Chateau du Glandier," replied Rouletabille, without turning.

"You'll not get in, Monsieur Rouletabille!"

"Will you prevent me?" said my friend, already prepared to fight.

"Not I!--I like the press and journalists too well to be in any way
disagreeable to them; but Monsieur Stangerson has given orders for
his door to be closed against everybody, and it is well guarded. Not a
journalist was able to pass through the gate of the Glandier yesterday."

Monsieur de Marquet compressed his lips and seemed ready to relapse into
obstinate silence. He only relaxed a little when Rouletabille no longer
left him in ignorance of the fact that we were going to the Glandier for
the purpose of shaking hands with an "old and intimate friend," Monsieur
Robert Darzac--a man whom Rouletabille had perhaps seen once in his
life.

"Poor Robert!" continued the young reporter, "this dreadful affair may
be his death,--he is so deeply in love with Mademoiselle Stangerson."

"His sufferings are truly painful to witness," escaped like a regret
from the lips of Monsieur de Marquet.

"But it is to be hoped that Mademoiselle Stangerson's life will be
saved."

"Let us hope so. Her father told me yesterday that, if she does not
recover, it will not be long before he joins her in the grave. What an
incalculable loss to science his death would be!"

"The wound on her temple is serious, is it not?"

"Evidently; but, by a wonderful chance, it has not proved mortal. The
blow was given with great force."

"Then it was not with the revolver she was wounded," said Rouletabille,
glancing at me in triumph.

Monsieur de Marquet appeared greatly embarrassed.

"I didn't say anything--I don't want to say anything--I will not say
anything," he said. And he turned towards his Registrar as if he no
longer knew us.

But Rouletabille was not to be so easily shaken off. He moved nearer
to the examining magistrate and, drawing a copy of the "Matin" from his
pocket, he showed it to him and said:

"There is one thing, Monsieur, which I may enquire of you without
committing an indiscretion. You have, of course, seen the account given
in the 'Matin'? It is absurd, is it not?"

"Not in the slightest, Monsieur."

"What! The Yellow Room has but one barred window--the bars of which have
not been moved--and only one door, which had to be broken open--and the
assassin was not found!"

"That's so, monsieur,--that's so. That's how the matter stands."

Rouletabille said no more but plunged into thought. A quarter of an hour
thus passed.

Coming back to himself again he said, addressing the magistrate:

"How did Mademoiselle Stangerson wear her hair on that evening?"

"I don't know," replied Monsieur de Marquet.

"That's a very important point," said Rouletabille. "Her hair was done
up in bands, wasn't it? I feel sure that on that evening, the evening of
the crime, she had her hair arranged in bands."

"Then you are mistaken, Monsieur Rouletabille," replied the magistrate;
"Mademoiselle Stangerson that evening had her hair drawn up in a knot
on the top of her head,--her usual way of arranging it--her forehead
completely uncovered. I can assure you, for we have carefully examined
the wound. There was no blood on the hair, and the arrangement of it has
not been disturbed since the crime was committed."

"You are sure! You are sure that, on the night of the crime, she had not
her hair in bands?"

"Quite sure," the magistrate continued, smiling, "because I remember the
Doctor saying to me, while he was examining the wound, 'It is a great
pity Mademoiselle Stangerson was in the habit of drawing her hair back
from her forehead. If she had worn it in bands, the blow she received
on the temple would have been weakened.' It seems strange to me that you
should attach so much importance to this point."

"Oh! if she had not her hair in bands, I give it up," said Rouletabille,
with a despairing gesture.

"And was the wound on her temple a bad one?" he asked presently.

"Terrible."

"With what weapon was it made?"

"That is a secret of the investigation."

"Have you found the weapon--whatever it was?"

The magistrate did not answer.

"And the wound in the throat?"

Here the examining magistrate readily confirmed the decision of the
doctor that, if the murderer had pressed her throat a few seconds
longer, Mademoiselle Stangerson would have died of strangulation.

"The affair as reported in the 'Matin,'" said Rouletabille eagerly,
"seems to me more and more inexplicable. Can you tell me, Monsieur, how
many openings there are in the pavilion? I mean doors and windows."

"There are five," replied Monsieur de Marquet, after having coughed
once or twice, but no longer resisting the desire he felt to talk of
the whole of the incredible mystery of the affair he was investigating.
"There are five, of which the door of the vestibule is the only entrance
to the pavilion,--a door always automatically closed, which cannot be
opened, either from the outer or inside, except with the two special
keys which are never out of the possession of either Daddy Jacques or
Monsieur Stangerson. Mademoiselle Stangerson had no need for one, since
Daddy Jacques lodged in the pavilion and because, during the daytime,
she never left her father. When they, all four, rushed into The Yellow
Room, after breaking open the door of the laboratory, the door in the
vestibule remained closed as usual and, of the two keys for opening it,
Daddy Jacques had one in his pocket, and Monsieur Stangerson the other.
As to the windows of the pavilion, there are four; the one window of The
Yellow Room and those of the laboratory looking out on to the country;
the window in the vestibule looking into the park."

"It is by that window that he escaped from the pavilion!" cried
Rouletabille.

"How do you know that?" demanded Monsieur de Marquet, fixing a strange
look on my young friend.

"We'll see later how he got away from The Yellow Room," replied
Rouletabille, "but he must have left the pavilion by the vestibule
window."

"Once more,--how do you know that?"

"How? Oh, the thing is simple enough! As soon as he found he could not
escape by the door of the pavilion his only way out was by the window in
the vestibule, unless he could pass through a grated window. The window
of The Yellow Room is secured by iron bars, because it looks out upon
the open country; the two windows of the laboratory have to be protected
in like manner for the same reason. As the murderer got away, I conceive
that he found a window that was not barred,--that of the vestibule,
which opens on to the park,--that is to say, into the interior of the
estate. There's not much magic in all that."

"Yes," said Monsieur de Marquet, "but what you have not guessed is that
this single window in the vestibule, though it has no iron bars, has
solid iron blinds. Now these iron blinds have remained fastened by their
iron latch; and yet we have proof that the murderer made his escape from
the pavilion by that window! Traces of blood on the inside wall and on
the blinds as well as on the floor, and footmarks, of which I have taken
the measurements, attest the fact that the murderer made his escape
that way. But then, how did he do it, seeing that the blinds remained
fastened on the inside? He passed through them like a shadow. But what
is more bewildering than all is that it is impossible to form any idea
as to how the murderer got out of The Yellow Room, or how he got across
the laboratory to reach the vestibule! Ah, yes, Monsieur Rouletabille,
it is altogether as you said, a fine case, the key to which will not be
discovered for a long time, I hope."

"You hope, Monsieur?"

Monsieur de Marquet corrected himself.

"I do not hope so,--I think so."

"Could that window have been closed and refastened after the flight of
the assassin?" asked Rouletabille.

"That is what occurred to me for a moment; but it would imply an
accomplice or accomplices,--and I don't see--"

After a short silence he added:

"Ah--if Mademoiselle Stangerson were only well enough to-day to be
questioned!"

Rouletabille following up his thought, asked:

"And the attic?--There must be some opening to that?"

"Yes; there is a window, or rather skylight, in it, which, as it looks
out towards the country, Monsieur Stangerson has had barred, like the
rest of the windows. These bars, as in the other windows, have remained
intact, and the blinds, which naturally open inwards, have not been
unfastened. For the rest, we have not discovered anything to lead us to
suspect that the murderer had passed through the attic."

"It seems clear to you, then, Monsieur, that the murderer
escaped--nobody knows how--by the window in the vestibule?"

"Everything goes to prove it."

"I think so, too," confessed Rouletabille gravely.

After a brief silence, he continued:

"If you have not found any traces of the murderer in the attic, such as
the dirty footmarks similar to those on the floor of The Yellow Room,
you must come to the conclusion that it was not he who stole Daddy
Jacques's revolver."

"There are no footmarks in the attic other than those of Daddy Jacques
himself," said the magistrate with a significant turn of his head. Then,
after an apparent decision, he added: "Daddy Jacques was with Monsieur
Stangerson in the laboratory--and it was lucky for him he was."

"Then what part did his revolver play in the tragedy?--It seems very
clear that this weapon did less harm to Mademoiselle Stangerson than it
did to the murderer."

The magistrate made no reply to this question, which doubtless
embarrassed him. "Monsieur Stangerson," he said, "tells us that the two
bullets have been found in The Yellow Room, one embedded in the wall
stained with the impression of a red hand--a man's large hand--and the
other in the ceiling."

"Oh! oh! in the ceiling!" muttered Rouletabille. "In the ceiling! That's
very curious!--In the ceiling!"

He puffed awhile in silence at his pipe, enveloping himself in the
smoke. When we reached Savigny-sur-Orge, I had to tap him on the
shoulder to arouse him from his dream and come out on to the platform of
the station.

There, the magistrate and his Registrar bowed to us, and by rapidly
getting into a cab that was awaiting them, made us understand that they
had seen enough of us.

"How long will it take to walk to the Chateau du Glandier?" Rouletabille
asked one of the railway porters.

"An hour and a half or an hour and three quarters--easy walking," the
man replied.

Rouletabille looked up at the sky and, no doubt, finding its appearance
satisfactory, took my arm and said:

"Come on!--I need a walk."

"Are things getting less entangled?" I asked.

"Not a bit of it!" he said, "more entangled than ever! It's true, I have
an idea--"

"What's that?" I asked.

"I can't tell you what it is just at present--it's an idea involving the
life or death of two persons at least."

"Do you think there were accomplices?"

"I don't think it--"

We fell into silence. Presently he went on:

"It was a bit of luck, our falling in with that examining magistrate and
his Registrar, eh? What did I tell you about that revolver?" His head
was bent down, he had his hands in his pockets, and he was whistling.
After a while I heard him murmur:

"Poor woman!"

"Is it Mademoiselle Stangerson you are pitying?"

"Yes; she's a noble woman and worthy of being pitied!--a woman of a
great, a very great character--I imagine--I imagine."

"You know her then?"

"Not at all. I have never seen her."

"Why, then, do you say that she is a woman of great character?"

"Because she bravely faced the murderer; because she courageously
defended herself--and, above all, because of the bullet in the ceiling."

I looked at Rouletabille and inwardly wondered whether he was not
mocking me, or whether he had not suddenly gone out of his senses. But I
saw that he had never been less inclined to laugh, and the brightness of
his keenly intelligent eyes assured me that he retained all his reason.
Then, too, I was used to his broken way of talking, which only left me
puzzled as to his meaning, till, with a very few clear, rapidly uttered
words, he would make the drift of his ideas clear to me, and I saw
that what he had previously said, and which had appeared to me void of
meaning, was so thoroughly logical that I could not understand how it
was I had not understood him sooner.



CHAPTER IV. "In the Bosom of Wild Nature"


The Chateau du Glandier is one of the oldest chateaux in the Ile de
France, where so many building remains of the feudal period are still
standing. Built originally in the heart of the forest, in the reign of
Philip le Bel, it now could be seen a few hundred yards from the road
leading from the village of Sainte-Genevieve to Monthery. A mass of
inharmonious structures, it is dominated by a donjon. When the visitor
has mounted the crumbling steps of this ancient donjon, he reaches a
little plateau where, in the seventeenth century, Georges Philibert de
Sequigny, Lord of the Glandier, Maisons-Neuves and other places, built
the existing town in an abominably rococo style of architecture.

It was in this place, seemingly belonging entirely to the past, that
Professor Stangerson and his daughter installed themselves to lay the
foundations for the science of the future. Its solitude, in the depths
of woods, was what, more than all, had pleased them. They would have
none to witness their labours and intrude on their hopes, but the aged
stones and grand old oaks. The Glandier--ancient Glandierum--was so
called from the quantity of glands (acorns) which, in all times, had
been gathered in that neighbourhood. This land, of present mournful
interest, had fallen back, owing to the negligence or abandonment of
its owners, into the wild character of primitive nature. The buildings
alone, which were hidden there, had preserved traces of their strange
metamorphoses. Every age had left on them its imprint; a bit of
architecture with which was bound up the remembrance of some terrible
event, some bloody adventure. Such was the chateau in which science had
taken refuge--a place seemingly designed to be the theatre of mysteries,
terror, and death.

Having explained so far, I cannot refrain from making one further
reflection. If I have lingered a little over this description of the
Glandier, it is not because I have reached the right moment for creating
the necessary atmosphere for the unfolding of the tragedy before the
eyes of the reader. Indeed, in all this matter, my first care will be
to be as simple as is possible. I have no ambition to be an author. An
author is always something of a romancer, and God knows, the mystery of
The Yellow Room is quite full enough of real tragic horror to require
no aid from literary effects. I am, and only desire to be, a faithful
"reporter." My duty is to report the event; and I place the event in its
frame--that is all. It is only natural that you should know where the
things happened.

I return to Monsieur Stangerson. When he bought the estate, fifteen
years before the tragedy with which we are engaged occurred, the Chateau
du Glandier had for a long time been unoccupied. Another old chateau in
the neighbourhood, built in the fourteenth century by Jean de Belmont,
was also abandoned, so that that part of the country was very little
inhabited. Some small houses on the side of the road leading to
Corbeil, an inn, called the "Auberge du Donjon," which offered passing
hospitality to waggoners; these were about all to represent civilisation
in this out-of-the-way part of the country, but a few leagues from the
capital.

But this deserted condition of the place had been the determining reason
for the choice made by Monsieur Stangerson and his daughter. Monsieur
Stangerson was already celebrated. He had returned from America, where
his works had made a great stir. The book which he had published at
Philadelphia, on the "Dissociation of Matter by Electric Action," had
aroused opposition throughout the whole scientific world. Monsieur
Stangerson was a Frenchman, but of American origin. Important matters
relating to a legacy had kept him for several years in the United
States, where he had continued the work begun by him in France, whither
he had returned in possession of a large fortune. This fortune was a
great boon to him; for, though he might have made millions of dollars
by exploiting two or three of his chemical discoveries relative to new
processes of dyeing, it was always repugnant to him to use for his
own private gain the wonderful gift of invention he had received from
nature. He considered he owed it to mankind, and all that his genius
brought into the world went, by this philosophical view of his duty,
into the public lap.

If he did not try to conceal his satisfaction at coming into possession
of this fortune, which enabled him to give himself up to his passion for
pure science, he had equally to rejoice, it seemed to him, for another
cause. Mademoiselle Stangerson was, at the time when her father returned
from America and bought the Glandier estate, twenty years of age. She
was exceedingly pretty, having at once the Parisian grace of her mother,
who had died in giving her birth, and all the splendour, all the
riches of the young American blood of her parental grandfather, William
Stangerson. A citizen of Philadelphia, William Stangerson had been
obliged to become naturalised in obedience to family exigencies at the
time of his marriage with a French lady, she who was to be the mother
of the illustrious Stangerson. In that way the professor's French
nationality is accounted for.

Twenty years of age, a charming blonde, with blue eyes, milk-white
complexion, and radiant with divine health, Mathilde Stangerson was one
of the most beautiful marriageable girls in either the old or the new
world. It was her father's duty, in spite of the inevitable pain which
a separation from her would cause him, to think of her marriage; and he
was fully prepared for it. Nevertheless, he buried himself and his child
at the Glandier at the moment when his friends were expecting him to
bring her out into society. Some of them expressed their astonishment,
and to their questions he answered: "It is my daughter's wish. I can
refuse her nothing. She has chosen the Glandier."

Interrogated in her turn, the young girl replied calmly: "Where could
we work better than in this solitude?" For Mademoiselle Stangerson had
already begun to collaborate with her father in his work. It could not
at the time be imagined that her passion for science would lead her so
far as to refuse all the suitors who presented themselves to her for
over fifteen years. So secluded was the life led by the two, father and
daughter, that they showed themselves only at a few official
receptions and, at certain times in the year, in two or three friendly
drawing-rooms, where the fame of the professor and the beauty of
Mathilde made a sensation. The young girl's extreme reserve did not at
first discourage suitors; but at the end of a few years, they tired of
their quest.

One alone persisted with tender tenacity and deserved the name of
"eternal fiance," a name he accepted with melancholy resignation; that
was Monsieur Robert Darzac. Mademoiselle Stangerson was now no longer
young, and it seemed that, having found no reason for marrying at
five-and-thirty, she would never find one. But such an argument
evidently found no acceptance with Monsieur Robert Darzac. He continued
to pay his court--if the delicate and tender attention with which he
ceaselessly surrounded this woman of five-and-thirty could be called
courtship--in face of her declared intention never to marry.

Suddenly, some weeks before the events with which we are occupied, a
report--to which nobody attached any importance, so incredible did it
sound--was spread about Paris, that Mademoiselle Stangerson had at
last consented to "crown" the inextinguishable flame of Monsieur Robert
Darzac! It needed that Monsieur Robert Darzac himself should not deny
this matrimonial rumour to give it an appearance of truth, so unlikely
did it seem to be well founded. One day, however, Monsieur Stangerson,
as he was leaving the Academy of Science, announced that the marriage
of his daughter and Monsieur Robert Darzac would be celebrated in the
privacy of the Chateau du Glandier, as soon as he and his daughter had
put the finishing touches to their report summing up their labours on
the "Dissociation of Matter." The new household would install itself in
the Glandier, and the son-in-law would lend his assistance in the work
to which the father and daughter had dedicated their lives.

The scientific world had barely had time to recover from the effect
of this news, when it learned of the attempted assassination of
Mademoiselle under the extraordinary conditions which we have detailed
and which our visit to the chateau was to enable us to ascertain with
yet greater precision. I have not hesitated to furnish the reader
with all these retrospective details, known to me through my business
relations with Monsieur Robert Darzac. On crossing the threshold of The
Yellow Room he was as well posted as I was.



CHAPTER V. In Which Joseph Rouletabille Makes a Remark to Monsieur
Robert Darzac Which Produces Its Little Effect

Rouletabille and I had been walking for several minutes, by the side of
a long wall bounding the vast property of Monsieur Stangerson and had
already come within sight of the entrance gate, when our attention was
drawn to an individual who, half bent to the ground, seemed to be so
completely absorbed in what he was doing as not to have seen us coming
towards him. At one time he stooped so low as almost to touch the
ground; at another he drew himself up and attentively examined the wall;
then he looked into the palm of one of his hands, and walked away with
rapid strides. Finally he set off running, still looking into the palm
of his hand. Rouletabille had brought me to a standstill by a gesture.

"Hush! Frederic Larsan is at work! Don't let us disturb him!"

Rouletabille had a great admiration for the celebrated detective. I had
never before seen him, but I knew him well by reputation. At that time,
before Rouletabille had given proof of his unique talent, Larsan was
reputed as the most skilful unraveller of the most mysterious and
complicated crimes. His reputation was world-wide, and the police of
London, and even of America, often called him in to their aid when their
own national inspectors and detectives found themselves at the end of
their wits and resources.

No one was astonished, then, that the head of the Surete had, at the
outset of the mystery of The Yellow Room, telegraphed his precious
subordinate to London, where he had been sent on a big case of stolen
securities, to return with all haste. Frederic who, at the Surete, was
called the "great Frederic," had made all speed, doubtless knowing by
experience that, if he was interrupted in what he was doing, it was
because his services were urgently needed in another direction; so, as
Rouletabille said, he was that morning already "at work." We soon found
out in what it consisted.

What he was continually looking at in the palm of his right hand was
nothing but his watch, the minute hand of which he appeared to be noting
intently. Then he turned back still running, stopping only when he
reached the park gate, where he again consulted his watch and then
put it away in his pocket, shrugging his shoulders with a gesture of
discouragement. He pushed open the park gate, reclosed and locked it,
raised his head and, through the bars, perceived us. Rouletabille rushed
after him, and I followed. Frederic Larsan waited for us.

"Monsieur Fred," said Rouletabille, raising his hat and showing the
profound respect, based on admiration, which the young reporter felt
for the celebrated detective, "can you tell me whether Monsieur Robert
Darzac is at the chateau at this moment? Here is one of his friends, of
the Paris Bar, who desires to speak with him."

"I really don't know, Monsieur Rouletabille," replied Fred, shaking
hands with my friend, whom he had several times met in the course of his
difficult investigations. "I have not seen him."

"The concierges will be able to inform us no doubt?" said Rouletabille,
pointing to the lodge the door and windows of which were close shut.

"The concierges will not be able to give you any information, Monsieur
Rouletabille."

"Why not?"

"Because they were arrested half an hour ago."

"Arrested!" cried Rouletabille; "then they are the murderers!"

Frederic Larsan shrugged his shoulders.

"When you can't arrest the real murderer," he said with an air of
supreme irony, "you can always indulge in the luxury of discovering
accomplices."

"Did you have them arrested, Monsieur Fred?"

"Not I!--I haven't had them arrested. In the first place, I am pretty
sure that they have not had anything to do with the affair, and then
because--"

"Because of what?" asked Rouletabille eagerly.

"Because of nothing," said Larsan, shaking his head.

"Because there were no accomplices!" said Rouletabille.

"Aha!--you have an idea, then, about this matter?" said Larsan, looking
at Rouletabille intently, "yet you have seen nothing, young man--you
have not yet gained admission here!"

"I shall get admission."

"I doubt it. The orders are strict."

"I shall gain admission, if you let me see Monsieur Robert Darzac. Do
that for me. You know we are old friends. I beg of you, Monsieur Fred.
Do you remember the article I wrote about you on the gold bar case?"

The face of Rouletabille at the moment was really funny to look at. It
showed such an irresistible desire to cross the threshold beyond
which some prodigious mystery had occurred; it appealed with so much
eloquence, not only of the mouth and eyes, but with all its features,
that I could not refrain from bursting into laughter. Frederic Larsan,
no more than myself, could retain his gravity. Meanwhile, standing
on the other side of the gate, he calmly put the key in his pocket. I
closely scrutinised him.

He might be about fifty years of age. He had a fine head, his hair
turning grey; a colourless complexion, and a firm profile. His forehead
was prominent, his chin and cheeks clean shaven. His upper lip, without
moustache, was finely chiselled. His eyes were rather small and round,
with a look in them that was at once searching and disquieting. He was
of middle height and well built, with a general bearing elegant and
gentlemanly. There was nothing about him of the vulgar policeman. In
his way, he was an artist, and one felt that he had a high opinion of
himself. The sceptical tone of his conversation was that of a man who
had been taught by experience. His strange profession had brought him
into contact with so many crimes and villanies that it would have been
remarkable if his nature had not been a little hardened.

Larsan turned his head at the sound of a vehicle which had come from the
chateau and reached the gate behind him. We recognised the cab which had
conveyed the examining magistrate and his Registrar from the station at
Epinay.

"Ah!" said Frederic Larsan, "if you want to speak with Monsieur Robert
Darzac, he is here."

The cab was already at the park gate and Robert Darzac was begging
Frederic Larsan to open it for him, explaining that he was pressed
for time to catch the next train leaving Epinay for Paris. Then he
recognised me. While Larsan was unlocking the gate, Monsieur Darzac
inquired what had brought me to the Glandier at such a tragic moment. I
noticed that he was frightfully pale, and that his face was lined as if
from the effects of some terrible suffering.

"Is Mademoiselle getting better?" I immediately asked.

"Yes," he said. "She will be saved perhaps. She must be saved!"

He did not add "or it will be my death"; but I felt that the phrase
trembled on his pale lips.

Rouletabille intervened:

"You are in a hurry, Monsieur; but I must speak with you. I have
something of the greatest importance to tell you."

Frederic Larsan interrupted:

"May I leave you?" he asked of Robert Darzac. "Have you a key, or do you
wish me to give you this one."

"Thank you. I have a key and will lock the gate."

Larsan hurried off in the direction of the chateau, the imposing pile of
which could be perceived a few hundred yards away.

Robert Darzac, with knit brow, was beginning to show impatience. I
presented Rouletabille as a good friend of mine, but, as soon as
he learnt that the young man was a journalist, he looked at me very
reproachfully, excused himself, under the necessity of having to
reach Epinay in twenty minutes, bowed, and whipped up his horse. But
Rouletabille had seized the bridle and, to my utter astonishment,
stopped the carriage with a vigorous hand. Then he gave utterance to a
sentence which was utterly meaningless to me.

"The presbytery has lost nothing of its charm, nor the garden its
brightness."

The words had no sooner left the lips of Rouletabille than I saw Robert
Darzac quail. Pale as he was, he became paler. His eyes were fixed on
the young man in terror, and he immediately descended from the vehicle
in an inexpressible state of agitation.

"Come!--come in!" he stammered.

Then, suddenly, and with a sort of fury, he repeated:

"Let us go, monsieur."

He turned up by the road he had come from the chateau, Rouletabille
still retaining his hold on the horse's bridle. I addressed a few
words to Monsieur Darzac, but he made no answer. My looks questioned
Rouletabille, but his gaze was elsewhere.



CHAPTER VI. In the Heart of the Oak Grove


We reached the chateau, and, as we approached it, saw four gendarmes
pacing in front of a little door in the ground floor of the donjon. We
soon learned that in this ground floor, which had formerly served as
a prison, Monsieur and Madame Bernier, the concierges, were confined.
Monsieur Robert Darzac led us into the modern part of the chateau by
a large door, protected by a projecting awning--a "marquise" as it is
called. Rouletabille, who had resigned the horse and the cab to the care
of a servant, never took his eyes off Monsieur Darzac. I followed his
look and perceived that it was directed solely towards the gloved hands
of the Sorbonne professor. When we were in a tiny sitting-room fitted
with old furniture, Monsieur Darzac turned to Rouletabille and said
sharply:

"What do you want?"

The reporter answered in an equally sharp tone:

"To shake you by the hand."

Darzac shrank back.

"What does that mean?"

Evidently he understood, what I also understood, that my friend
suspected him of the abominable attempt on the life of Mademoiselle
Stangerson. The impression of the blood-stained hand on the walls of The
Yellow Room was in his mind. I looked at the man closely. His haughty
face with its expression ordinarily so straightforward was at this
moment strangely troubled. He held out his right hand and, referring to
me, said:

"As you are a friend of Monsieur Sainclair who has rendered me
invaluable services in a just cause, monsieur, I see no reason for
refusing you my hand--"

Rouletabille did not take the extended hand. Lying with the utmost
audacity, he said:

"Monsieur, I have lived several years in Russia, where I have acquired
the habit of never taking any but an ungloved hand."

I thought that the Sorbonne professor would express his anger openly,
but, on the contrary, by a visibly violent effort, he calmed himself,
took off his gloves, and showed his hands; they were unmarked by any
cicatrix.

"Are you satisfied?"

"No!" replied Rouletabille. "My dear friend," he said, turning to me, "I
am obliged to ask you to leave us alone for a moment."

I bowed and retired; stupefied by what I had seen and heard. I could not
understand why Monsieur Robert Darzac had not already shown the door to
my impertinent, insulting, and stupid friend. I was angry myself with
Rouletabille at that moment, for his suspicions, which had led to this
scene of the gloves.


For some twenty minutes I walked about in front of the chateau, trying
vainly to link together the different events of the day. What was in
Rouletabille's mind? Was it possible that he thought Monsieur Robert
Darzac to be the murderer? How could it be thought that this man, who
was to have married Mademoiselle Stangerson in the course of a few days,
had introduced himself into The Yellow Room to assassinate his fiancee?
I could find no explanation as to how the murderer had been able to
leave The Yellow Room; and so long as that mystery, which appeared to me
so inexplicable, remained unexplained, I thought it was the duty of
all of us to refrain from suspecting anybody. But, then, that seemingly
senseless phrase--"The presbytery has lost nothing of its charm, nor the
garden its brightness"--still rang in my ears. What did it mean? I was
eager to rejoin Rouletabille and question him.

At that moment the young man came out of the chateau in the company
of Monsieur Robert Darzac, and, extraordinary to relate, I saw, at a
glance, that they were the best of friends. "We are going to The Yellow
Room. Come with us," Rouletabille said to me. "You know, my dear boy, I
am going to keep you with me all day. We'll breakfast together somewhere
about here--"

"You'll breakfast with me, here, gentlemen--"

"No, thanks," replied the young man. "We shall breakfast at the Donjon
Inn."

"You'll fare very badly there; you'll not find anything--"

"Do you think so? Well, I hope to find something there," replied
Rouletabille. "After breakfast, we'll set to work again. I'll write my
article and if you'll be so good as to take it to the office for me--"

"Won't you come back with me to Paris?"

"No; I shall remain here."

I turned towards Rouletabille. He spoke quite seriously, and Monsieur
Robert Darzac did not appear to be in the least degree surprised.

We were passing by the donjon and heard wailing voices. Rouletabille
asked:

"Why have these people been arrested?"

"It is a little my fault," said Monsieur Darzac. "I happened to remark
to the examining magistrate yesterday that it was inexplicable that the
concierges had had time to hear the revolver shots, to dress themselves,
and to cover so great a distance as that which lies between their lodge
and the pavilion, in the space of two minutes; for not more than that
interval of time had elapsed after the firing of the shots when they
were met by Daddy Jacques."

"That was suspicious evidently," acquiesced Rouletabille. "And were they
dressed?"

"That is what is so incredible--they were dressed--completely--not one
part of their costume wanting. The woman wore sabots, but the man had on
laced boots. Now they assert that they went to bed at half-past nine.
On arriving this morning, the examining magistrate brought with him from
Paris a revolver of the same calibre as that found in the room (for he
couldn't use the one held for evidence), and made his Registrar fire
two shots in The Yellow Room while the doors and windows were closed. We
were with him in the lodge of the concierges, and yet we heard nothing,
not a sound. The concierges have lied, of that there can be no doubt.
They must have been already waiting, not far from the pavilion, waiting
for something! Certainly they are not to be accused of being the authors
of the crime, but their complicity is not improbable. That was why
Monsieur de Marquet had them arrested at once."

"If they had been accomplices," said Rouletabille, "they would not have
been there at all. When people throw themselves into the arms of justice
with the proofs of complicity on them, you can be sure they are not
accomplices. I don't believe there are any accomplices in this affair."

"Then, why were they abroad at midnight? Why don't they say?"

"They have certainly some reason for their silence. What that reason is,
has to be found out; for, even if they are not accomplices, it may be of
importance. Everything that took place on such a night is important."

We had crossed an old bridge thrown over the Douve and were entering the
part of the park called the Oak Grove, The oaks here were centuries
old. Autumn had already shrivelled their tawny leaves, and their high
branches, black and contorted, looked like horrid heads of hair, mingled
with quaint reptiles such as the ancient sculptors have made on the head
of Medusa. This place, which Mademoiselle found cheerful and in which
she lived in the summer season, appeared to us as sad and funereal now.
The soil was black and muddy from the recent rains and the rotting of
the fallen leaves; the trunks of the trees were black and the sky above
us was now, as if in mourning, charged with great, heavy clouds.

And it was in this sombre and desolate retreat that we saw the white
walls of the pavilion as we approached. A queer-looking building without
a window visible on the side by which we neared it. A little door alone
marked the entrance to it. It might have passed for a tomb, a vast
mausoleum in the midst of a thick forest. As we came nearer, we were
able to make out its disposition. The building obtained all the light it
needed from the south, that is to say, from the open country. The little
door closed on the park. Monsieur and Mademoiselle Stangerson must have
found it an ideal seclusion for their work and their dreams.


   ___________________________________________________
                        ditch                         |
   ________________________________________________   |
    enclosing wall      ||            ||           |  |
                        ||            ||           |  |
                        ||___   1                  |d |
                        ||bed|        ||           |i |
         PARK           ||___|________||           |t |
                        ||:::::|  4   ||           |c |
                        ||::5::|      ||    2      |h |
   oo  oo               ||::::|___  _||            |  |
   Traces   oo          ||            ||           |  |
            of  oo oo oo                           |  |
               Footsteps||            ||           |  |
                        ||            ||           |  |
                        ||   3        ||___________|  |______________
                        ||            ||    6      |      ditch
                        ||____    ____||___________|_________________
                              door                    enclosing wall



Here is the ground plan of the pavilion. It had a ground-floor which was
reached by a few steps, and above it was an attic, with which we need
not concern ourselves. The plan of the ground-floor only, sketched
roughly, is what I here submit to the reader.

  1. The Yellow Room, with its one window and its one door opening
     into the laboratory.

  2. Laboratory, with its two large, barred windows and its doors,
     one serving for the vestibule, the other for The Yellow Room.

  3. Vestibule, with its unbarred window and door opening into the
     park.

  4. Lavatory.

  5. Stairs leading to the attic.

  6. Large and the only chimney in the pavilion, serving for the
      experiments of the laboratory.

The plan was drawn by Rouletabille, and I assured myself that there was
not a line in it that was wanting to help to the solution of the
problem then set before the police. With the lines of this plan and the
description of its parts before them, my readers will know as much as
Rouletabille knew when he entered the pavilion for the first time. With
him they may now ask: How did the murderer escape from The Yellow Room?
Before mounting the three steps leading up to the door of the pavilion,
Rouletabille stopped and asked Monsieur Darzac point blank:

"What was the motive for the crime?"

"Speaking for myself, Monsieur, there can be no doubt on the matter,"
said Mademoiselle Stangerson's fiance, greatly distressed. "The nails of
the fingers, the deep scratches on the chest and throat of Mademoiselle
Stangerson show that the wretch who attacked her attempted to commit a
frightful crime. The medical experts who examined these traces yesterday
affirm that they were made by the same hand as that which left its red
imprint on the wall; an enormous hand, Monsieur, much too large to go
into my gloves," he added with an indefinable smile.

"Could not that blood-stained hand," I interrupted, "have been the hand
of Mademoiselle Stangerson who, in the moment of falling, had pressed it
against the wall, and, in slipping, enlarged the impression?"

"There was not a drop of blood on either of her hands when she was
lifted up," replied Monsieur Darzac.

"We are now sure," said I, "that it was Mademoiselle Stangerson who was
armed with Daddy Jacques's revolver, since she wounded the hand of the
murderer. She was in fear, then, of somebody or something."

"Probably."

"Do you suspect anybody?"

"No," replied Monsieur Darzac, looking at Rouletabille. Rouletabille
then said to me:

"You must know, my friend, that the inquiry is a little more advanced
than Monsieur de Marquet has chosen to tell us. He not only knows that
Mademoiselle Stangerson defended herself with the revolver, but he knows
what the weapon was that was used to attack her. Monsieur Darzac tells
me it was a mutton-bone. Why is Monsieur de Marquet surrounding
this mutton-bone with so much mystery? No doubt for the purpose of
facilitating the inquiries of the agents of the Surete? He imagines,
perhaps, that the owner of this instrument of crime, the most terrible
invented, is going to be found amongst those who are well-known in the
slums of Paris who use it. But who can ever say what passes through the
brain of an examining magistrate?" Rouletabille added with contemptuous
irony.

"Has a mutton-bone been found in The Yellow Room?" I asked him.

"Yes, Monsieur," said Robert Darzac, "at the foot of the bed; but I beg
of you not to say anything about it." (I made a gesture of assent.) "It
was an enormous mutton-bone, the top of which, or rather the joint, was
still red with the blood of the frightful wound. It was an old bone,
which may, according to appearances, have served in other crimes. That's
what Monsieur de Marquet thinks. He has had it sent to the municipal
laboratory at Paris to be analysed. In fact, he thinks he has detected
on it, not only the blood of the last victim, but other stains of dried
blood, evidences of previous crimes."

"A mutton-bone in the hand of a skilled assassin is a frightful weapon,"
said Rouletabille, "a more certain weapon than a heavy hammer."

"The scoundrel has proved it to be so," said Monsieur Robert Darzac,
sadly. "The joint of the bone found exactly fits the wound inflicted.

"My belief is that the wound would have been mortal, if the murderer's
blow had not been arrested in the act by Mademoiselle Stangerson's
revolver. Wounded in the hand, he dropped the mutton-bone and fled.
Unfortunately, the blow had been already given, and Mademoiselle was
stunned after having been nearly strangled. If she had succeeded
in wounding the man with the first shot of the revolver, she would,
doubtless, have escaped the blow with the bone. But she had certainly
employed her revolver too late; the first shot deviated and lodged in
the ceiling; it was the second only that took effect."

Having said this, Monsieur Darzac knocked at the door of the pavilion. I
must confess to feeling a strong impatience to reach the spot where the
crime had been committed. It was some time before the door was opened by
a man whom I at once recognised as Daddy Jacques.

He appeared to be well over sixty years of age. He had a long white
beard and white hair, on which he wore a flat Basque cap. He was dressed
in a complete suit of chestnut-coloured velveteen, worn at the sides;
sabots were on his feet. He had rather a waspish-looking face, the
expression of which lightened, however, as soon as he saw Monsieur
Darzac.

"Friends," said our guide. "Nobody in the pavilion, Daddy Jacques?"

"I ought not to allow anybody to enter, Monsieur Robert, but of course
the order does not apply to you. These gentlemen of justice have seen
everything there is to be seen, and made enough drawings, and drawn up
enough reports--"

"Excuse me, Monsieur Jacques, one question before anything else," said
Rouletabille.

"What is it, young man? If I can answer it--"

"Did your mistress wear her hair in bands, that evening? You know what I
mean--over her forehead?"

"No, young man. My mistress never wore her hair in the way you suggest,
neither on that day nor on any other. She had her hair drawn up, as
usual, so that her beautiful forehead could be seen, pure as that of an
unborn child!"

Rouletabille grunted and set to work examining the door, finding that it
fastened itself automatically. He satisfied himself that it could never
remain open and needed a key to open it. Then we entered the vestibule,
a small, well-lit room paved with square red tiles.

"Ah! This is the window by which the murderer escaped!" said
Rouletabille.

"So they keep on saying, monsieur, so they keep on saying! But if he had
gone off that way, we should have been sure to have seen him. We are not
blind, neither Monsieur Stangerson nor me, nor the concierges who are
in prison. Why have they not put me in prison, too, on account of my
revolver?"

Rouletabille had already opened the window and was examining the
shutters.

"Were these closed at the time of the crime?"

"And fastened with the iron catch inside," said Daddy Jacques, "and I am
quite sure that the murderer did not get out that way."

"Are there any blood stains?"

"Yes, on the stones outside; but blood of what?"

"Ah!" said Rouletabille, "there are footmarks visible on the path--the
ground was very moist. I will look into that presently."

"Nonsense!" interrupted Daddy Jacques; "the murderer did not go that
way."

"Which way did he go, then?"

"How do I know?"

Rouletabille looked at everything, smelled everything. He went down
on his knees and rapidly examined every one of the paving tiles. Daddy
Jacques went on:

"Ah!--you can't find anything, monsieur. Nothing has been found. And now
it is all dirty; too many persons have tramped over it. They wouldn't
let me wash it, but on the day of the crime I had washed the floor
thoroughly, and if the murderer had crossed it with his hobnailed boots,
I should not have failed to see where he had been; he has left marks
enough in Mademoiselle's chamber."

Rouletabille rose.

"When was the last time you washed these tiles?" he asked, and he fixed
on Daddy Jacques a most searching look.

"Why--as I told you--on the day of the crime, towards half-past
five--while Mademoiselle and her father were taking a little walk before
dinner, here in this room: they had dined in the laboratory. The next
day, the examining magistrate came and saw all the marks there were on
the floor as plainly as if they had been made with ink on white paper.
Well, neither in the laboratory nor in the vestibule, which were both
as clean as a new pin, were there any traces of a man's footmarks. Since
they have been found near this window outside, he must have made his way
through the ceiling of The Yellow Room into the attic, then cut his way
through the roof and dropped to the ground outside the vestibule window.
But--there's no hole, neither in the ceiling of The Yellow Room nor
in the roof of my attic--that's absolutely certain! So you see we know
nothing--nothing! And nothing will ever be known! It's a mystery of the
Devil's own making."

Rouletabille went down upon his knees again almost in front of a small
lavatory at the back of the vestibule. In that position he remained for
about a minute.

"Well?" I asked him when he got up.

"Oh! nothing very important,--a drop of blood," he replied, turning
towards Daddy Jacques as he spoke. "While you were washing the
laboratory and this vestibule, was the vestibule window open?" he asked.

"No, Monsieur, it was closed; but after I had done washing the floor, I
lit some charcoal for Monsieur in the laboratory furnace, and, as I lit
it with old newspapers, it smoked, so I opened both the windows in the
laboratory and this one, to make a current of air; then I shut those in
the laboratory and left this one open when I went out. When I
returned to the pavilion, this window had been closed and Monsieur and
Mademoiselle were already at work in the laboratory."

"Monsieur or Mademoiselle Stangerson had, no doubt, shut it?"

"No doubt."

"You did not ask them?"

After a close scrutiny of the little lavatory and of the staircase
leading up to the attic, Rouletabille--to whom we seemed no longer to
exist--entered the laboratory. I followed him. It was, I confess, in
a state of great excitement. Robert Darzac lost none of my friend's
movements. As for me, my eyes were drawn at once to the door of
The Yellow Room. It was closed and, as I immediately saw, partially
shattered and out of commission.

My friend, who went about his work methodically, silently studied
the room in which we were. It was large and well-lighted. Two big
windows--almost bays--were protected by strong iron bars and looked out
upon a wide extent of country. Through an opening in the forest, they
commanded a wonderful view through the length of the valley and across
the plain to the large town which could be clearly seen in fair weather.
To-day, however, a mist hung over the ground--and blood in that room!

The whole of one side of the laboratory was taken up with a large
chimney, crucibles, ovens, and such implements as are needed for
chemical experiments; tables, loaded with phials, papers, reports,
an electrical machine,--an apparatus, as Monsieur Darzac informed me,
employed by Professor Stangerson to demonstrate the Dissociation of
Matter under the action of solar light--and other scientific implements.

Along the walls were cabinets, plain or glass-fronted, through which
were visible microscopes, special photographic apparatus, and a large
quantity of crystals.

Rouletabille, who was ferreting in the chimney, put his fingers into one
of the crucibles. Suddenly he drew himself up, and held up a piece of
half-consumed paper in his hand. He stepped up to where we were talking
by one of the windows.

"Keep that for us, Monsieur Darzac," he said.

I bent over the piece of scorched paper which Monsieur Darzac took
from the hand of Rouletabille, and read distinctly the only words that
remained legible:

"Presbytery--lost nothing--charm, nor the gar--its brightness."

Twice since the morning these same meaningless words had struck me, and,
for the second time, I saw that they produced on the Sorbonne professor
the same paralysing effect. Monsieur Darzac's first anxiety showed
itself when he turned his eyes in the direction of Daddy Jacques.
But, occupied as he was at another window, he had seen nothing. Then
tremblingly opening his pocket-book he put the piece of paper into it,
sighing: "My God!"

During this time, Rouletabille had mounted into the opening of the
fire-grate--that is to say, he had got upon the bricks of a furnace--and
was attentively examining the chimney, which grew narrower towards the
top, the outlet from it being closed with sheets of iron, fastened into
the brickwork, through which passed three small chimneys.

"Impossible to get out that way," he said, jumping back into the
laboratory. "Besides, even if he had tried to do it, he would have
brought all that ironwork down to the ground. No, no; it is not on that
side we have to search."

Rouletabille next examined the furniture and opened the doors of the
cabinet. Then he came to the windows, through which he declared no one
could possibly have passed. At the second window he found Daddy Jacques
in contemplation.

"Well, Daddy Jacques," he said, "what are you looking at?"

"That policeman who is always going round and round the lake. Another of
those fellows who think they can see better than anybody else!"

"You don't know Frederic Larsan, Daddy Jacques, or you wouldn't speak of
him in that way," said Rouletabille in a melancholy tone. "If there
is anyone who will find the murderer, it will be he." And Rouletabille
heaved a deep sigh.

"Before they find him, they will have to learn how they lost him," said
Daddy Jacques, stolidly.

At length we reached the door of The Yellow Room itself.

"There is the door behind which some terrible scene took place," said
Rouletabille, with a solemnity which, under any other circumstances,
would have been comical.



CHAPTER VII. In Which Rouletabille Sets Out on an Expedition Under the
Bed


Rouletabille having pushed open the door of The Yellow Room paused on
the threshold saying, with an emotion which I only later understood,
"Ah, the perfume of the lady in black!"

The chamber was dark. Daddy Jacques was about to open the blinds when
Rouletabille stopped him.

"Did not the tragedy take place in complete darkness?" he asked.

"No, young man, I don't think so. Mademoiselle always had a nightlight
on her table, and I lit it every evening before she went to bed. I was
a sort of chambermaid, you must understand, when the evening came. The
real chambermaid did not come here much before the morning. Mademoiselle
worked late--far into the night."

"Where did the table with the night-light stand,--far from the bed?"

"Some way from the bed."

"Can you light the burner now?"

"The lamp is broken and the oil that was in it was spilled when the
table was upset. All the rest of the things in the room remain just as
they were. I have only to open the blinds for you to see."

"Wait."

Rouletabille went back into the laboratory, closed the shutters of the
two windows and the door of the vestibule.

When we were in complete darkness, he lit a wax vesta, and asked Daddy
Jacques to move to the middle of the chamber with it to the place where
the night-light was burning that night.

Daddy Jacques who was in his stockings--he usually left his sabots
in the vestibule--entered The Yellow Room with his bit of a vesta. We
vaguely distinguished objects overthrown on the floor, a bed in one
corner, and, in front of us, to the left, the gleam of a looking-glass
hanging on the wall, near to the bed.

"That will do!--you may now open the blinds," said Rouletabille.

"Don't come any further," Daddy Jacques begged, "you may make marks
with your boots, and nothing must be deranged; it's an idea of the
magistrate's--though he has nothing more to do here."

And he pushed open the shutter. The pale daylight entered from without,
throwing a sinister light on the saffron-coloured walls. The floor--for
though the laboratory and the vestibule were tiled, The Yellow Room had
a flooring of wood--was covered with a single yellow mat which was
large enough to cover nearly the whole room, under the bed and under the
dressing-table--the only piece of furniture that remained upright. The
centre round table, the night-table and two chairs had been overturned.
These did not prevent a large stain of blood being visible on the mat,
made, as Daddy Jacques informed us, by the blood which had flowed from
the wound on Mademoiselle Stangerson's forehead. Besides these stains,
drops of blood had fallen in all directions, in line with the visible
traces of the footsteps--large and black--of the murderer. Everything
led to the presumption that these drops of blood had fallen from the
wound of the man who had, for a moment, placed his red hand on the wall.
There were other traces of the same hand on the wall, but much less
distinct.

"See!--see this blood on the wall!" I could not help exclaiming.
"The man who pressed his hand so heavily upon it in the darkness must
certainly have thought that he was pushing at a door! That's why
he pressed on it so hard, leaving on the yellow paper the terrible
evidence. I don't think there are many hands in the world of that sort.
It is big and strong and the fingers are nearly all one as long as the
other! The thumb is wanting and we have only the mark of the palm; but
if we follow the trace of the hand," I continued, "we see that, after
leaving its imprint on the wall, the touch sought the door, found it,
and then felt for the lock--"

"No doubt," interrupted Rouletabille, chuckling,--"only there is no
blood, either on the lock or on the bolt!"

"What does that prove?" I rejoined with a good sense of which I was
proud; "he might have opened the lock with his left hand, which would
have been quite natural, his right hand being wounded."

"He didn't open it at all!" Daddy Jacques again exclaimed. "We are not
fools; and there were four of us when we burst open the door!"

"What a queer hand!--Look what a queer hand it is!" I said.

"It is a very natural hand," said Rouletabille, "of which the shape has
been deformed by its having slipped on the wall. The man dried his hand
on the wall. He must be a man about five feet eight in height."

"How do you come at that?"

"By the height of the marks on the wall."

My friend next occupied himself with the mark of the bullet in the wall.
It was a round hole.

"This ball was fired straight, not from above, and consequently, not
from below."

Rouletabille went back to the door and carefully examined the lock and
the bolt, satisfying himself that the door had certainly been burst open
from the outside, and, further, that the key had been found in the lock
on the inside of the chamber. He finally satisfied himself that with the
key in the lock, the door could not possibly be opened from without with
another key. Having made sure of all these details, he let fall these
words: "That's better!"--Then sitting down on the ground, he hastily
took off his boots and, in his socks, went into the room.

The first thing he did was to examine minutely the overturned furniture.
We watched him in silence.

"Young fellow, you are giving yourself a great deal of trouble," said
Daddy Jacques ironically.

Rouletabille raised his head and said:

"You have spoken the simple truth, Daddy Jacques; your mistress did not
have her hair in bands that evening. I was a donkey to have believed she
did."

Then, with the suppleness of a serpent, he slipped under the bed.
Presently we heard him ask:

"At what time, Monsieur Jacques, did Monsieur and Mademoiselle
Stangerson arrive at the laboratory?"

"At six o'clock."

The voice of Rouletabille continued:

"Yes,--he's been under here,--that's certain; in fact, there was no
where else where he could have hidden himself. Here, too, are the marks
of his hobnails. When you entered--all four of you--did you look under
the bed?"

"At once,--we drew it right out of its place--"

"And between the mattresses?"

"There was only one on the bed, and on that Mademoiselle was placed; and
Monsieur Stangerson and the concierge immediately carried it into the
laboratory. Under the mattress there was nothing but the metal netting,
which could not conceal anything or anybody. Remember, monsieur, that
there were four of us and we couldn't fail to see everything--the
chamber is so small and scantily furnished, and all was locked behind in
the pavilion."

I ventured on a hypothesis:

"Perhaps he got away with the mattress--in the mattress!--Anything
is possible, in the face of such a mystery! In their distress of mind
Monsieur Stangerson and the concierge may not have noticed they were
bearing a double weight; especially if the concierge were an accomplice!
I throw out this hypothesis for what it is worth, but it explains many
things,--and particularly the fact that neither the laboratory nor the
vestibule bear any traces of the footmarks found in the room. If,
in carrying Mademoiselle on the mattress from the laboratory of the
chateau, they rested for a moment, there might have been an opportunity
for the man in it to escape.

"And then?" asked Rouletabille, deliberately laughing under the bed.

I felt rather vexed and replied:

"I don't know,--but anything appears possible"--

"The examining magistrate had the same idea, monsieur," said Daddy
Jacques, "and he carefully examined the mattress. He was obliged to
laugh at the idea, monsieur, as your friend is doing now,--for whoever
heard of a mattress having a double bottom?"

I was myself obliged to laugh, on seeing that what I had said was
absurd; but in an affair like this one hardly knows where an absurdity
begins or ends.

My friend alone seemed able to talk intelligently. He called out from
under the bed.

"The mat here has been moved out of place,--who did it?"

"We did, monsieur," explained Daddy Jacques. "When we could not find
the assassin, we asked ourselves whether there was not some hole in the
floor--"

"There is not," replied Rouletabille. "Is there a cellar?"

"No, there's no cellar. But that has not stopped our searching, and has
not prevented the examining magistrate and his Registrar from studying
the floor plank by plank, as if there had been a cellar under it."

The reporter then reappeared. His eyes were sparkling and his nostrils
quivered. He remained on his hands and knees. He could not be better
likened than to an admirable sporting dog on the scent of some unusual
game. And, indeed, he was scenting the steps of a man,--the man whom he
has sworn to report to his master, the manager of the "Epoque." It must
not be forgotten that Rouletabille was first and last a journalist.

Thus, on his hands and knees, he made his way to the four corners of the
room, so to speak, sniffing and going round everything--everything that
we could see, which was not much, and everything that we could not see,
which must have been infinite.

The toilette table was a simple table standing on four legs; there was
nothing about it by which it could possibly be changed into a temporary
hiding-place. There was not a closet or cupboard. Mademoiselle
Stangerson kept her wardrobe at the chateau.

Rouletabille literally passed his nose and hands along the walls,
constructed of solid brickwork. When he had finished with the walls, and
passed his agile fingers over every portion of the yellow paper covering
them, he reached to the ceiling, which he was able to touch by mounting
on a chair placed on the toilette table, and by moving this ingeniously
constructed stage from place to place he examined every foot of it. When
he had finished his scrutiny of the ceiling, where he carefully examined
the hole made by the second bullet, he approached the window, and, once
more, examined the iron bars and blinds, all of which were solid and
intact. At last, he gave a grunt of satisfaction and declared "Now I am
at ease!"

"Well,--do you believe that the poor dear young lady was shut up when
she was being murdered--when she cried out for help?" wailed Daddy
Jacques.

"Yes," said the young reporter, drying his forehead, "The Yellow Room
was as tightly shut as an iron safe."

"That," I said, "is why this mystery is the most surprising I know.
Edgar Allan Poe, in 'The Murders in the Rue Morgue,' invented nothing
like it. The place of that crime was sufficiently closed to prevent the
escape of a man; but there was that window through which the monkey, the
perpetrator of the murder, could slip away! But here, there can be no
question of an opening of any sort. The door was fastened, and through
the window blinds, secure as they were, not even a fly could enter or
get out."

"True, true," assented Rouletabille as he kept on drying his forehead,
which seemed to be perspiring less from his recent bodily exertion than
from his mental agitation. "Indeed, it's a great, a beautiful, and a
very curious mystery."

"The Bete du bon Dieu," muttered Daddy Jacques, "the Bete du bon Dieu
herself, if she had committed the crime, could not have escaped. Listen!
Do you hear it? Hush!"

Daddy Jacques made us a sign to keep quiet and, stretching his arm
towards the wall nearest the forest, listened to something which we
could not hear.

"It's answering," he said at length. "I must kill it. It is too wicked,
but it's the Bete du bon Dieu, and, every night, it goes to pray on the
tomb of Sainte-Genevieve and nobody dares to touch her, for fear that
Mother Angenoux should cast an evil spell on them."

"How big is the Bete du bon Dieu?"

"Nearly as big as a small retriever,--a monster, I tell you. Ah!--I have
asked myself more than once whether it was not her that took our poor
Mademoiselle by the throat with her claws. But the Bete du bon Dieu does
not wear hobnailed boots, nor fire revolvers, nor has she a hand like
that!" exclaimed Daddy Jacques, again pointing out to us the red mark
on the wall. "Besides, we should have seen her as well as we would have
seen a man--"

"Evidently," I said. "Before we had seen this Yellow Room, I had also
asked myself whether the cat of Mother Angenoux--"

"You also!" cried Rouletabille.

"Didn't you?" I asked.

"Not for a moment. After reading the article in the 'Matin,' I knew
that a cat had nothing to do with the matter. But I swear now that
a frightful tragedy has been enacted here. You say nothing about the
Basque cap, or the handkerchief, found here, Daddy Jacques?"

"Of course, the magistrate has taken them," the old man answered,
hesitatingly.

"I haven't seen either the handkerchief or the cap, yet I can tell you
how they are made," the reporter said to him gravely.

"Oh, you are very clever," said Daddy Jacques, coughing and embarrassed.

"The handkerchief is a large one, blue with red stripes and the cap is
an old Basque cap, like the one you are wearing now."

"You are a wizard!" said Daddy Jacques, trying to laugh and not quite
succeeding. "How do you know that the handkerchief is blue with red
stripes?"

"Because, if it had not been blue with red stripes, it would not have
been found at all."

Without giving any further attention to Daddy Jacques, my friend took a
piece of paper from his pocket, and taking out a pair of scissors, bent
over the footprints. Placing the paper over one of them he began to cut.
In a short time he had made a perfect pattern which he handed to me,
begging me not to lose it.

He then returned to the window and, pointing to the figure of Frederic
Larsan, who had not quitted the side of the lake, asked Daddy Jacques
whether the detective had, like himself, been working in The Yellow
Room?

"No," replied Robert Darzac, who, since Rouletabille had handed him the
piece of scorched paper, had not uttered a word, "He pretends that he
does not need to examine The Yellow Room. He says that the murderer
made his escape from it in quite a natural way, and that he will, this
evening, explain how he did it."

As he listened to what Monsieur Darzac had to say, Rouletabille turned
pale.

"Has Frederic Larsan found out the truth, which I can only guess at?" he
murmured. "He is very clever--very clever--and I admire him. But what
we have to do to-day is something more than the work of a policeman,
something quite different from the teachings of experience. We have to
take hold of our reason by the right end."

The reporter rushed into the open air, agitated by the thought that
the great and famous Fred might anticipate him in the solution of the
problem of The Yellow Room.

I managed to reach him on the threshold of the pavilion. "Calm yourself,
my dear fellow," I said. "Aren't you satisfied?"

"Yes," he confessed to me, with a deep sigh. "I am quite satisfied. I
have discovered many things."

"Moral or material?"

"Several moral,--one material. This, for example."

And rapidly he drew from his waistcoat pocket a piece of paper in which
he had placed a light-coloured hair from a woman's head.



CHAPTER VIII. The Examining Magistrate Questions Mademoiselle Stangerson


Two minutes later, as Rouletabille was bending over the footprints
discovered in the park, under the window of the vestibule, a man,
evidently a servant at the chateau, came towards us rapidly and called
out to Monsieur Darzac then coming out of the pavilion:

"Monsieur Robert, the magistrate, you know, is questioning
Mademoiselle."

Monsieur Darzac uttered a muttered excuse to us and set off running
towards the chateau, the man running after him.

"If the corpse can speak," I said, "it would be interesting to be
there."

"We must know," said my friend. "Let's go to the chateau." And he drew
me with him. But, at the chateau, a gendarme placed in the vestibule
denied us admission up the staircase of the first floor. We were obliged
to wait down stairs.

This is what passed in the chamber of the victim while we were waiting
below.

The family doctor, finding that Mademoiselle Stangerson was much
better, but fearing a relapse which would no longer permit of her being
questioned, had thought it his duty to inform the examining magistrate
of this, who decided to proceed immediately with a brief examination.
At this examination, the Registrar, Monsieur Stangerson, and the
doctor were present. Later, I obtained the text of the report of the
examination, and I give it here, in all its legal dryness:

"Question. Are you able, mademoiselle, without too much fatiguing
yourself, to give some necessary details of the frightful attack of
which you have been the victim?

"Answer. I feel much better, monsieur, and I will tell you all I know.
When I entered my chamber I did not notice anything unusual there.

"Q. Excuse me, mademoiselle,--if you will allow me, I will ask you some
questions and you will answer them. That will fatigue you less than
making a long recital.

"A. Do so, monsieur.

"Q. What did you do on that day?--I want you to be as minute and precise
as possible. I wish to know all you did that day, if it is not asking
too much of you.

"A. I rose late, at ten o'clock, for my father and I had returned home
late on the night previously, having been to dinner at the reception
given by the President of the Republic, in honour of the Academy of
Science of Philadelphia. When I left my chamber, at half-past ten, my
father was already at work in the laboratory. We worked together
till midday. We then took half-an-hour's walk in the park, as we were
accustomed to do, before breakfasting at the chateau. After breakfast,
we took another walk for half an hour, and then returned to the
laboratory. There we found my chambermaid, who had come to set my room
in order. I went into The Yellow Room to give her some slight orders and
she directly afterwards left the pavilion, and I resumed my work with
my father. At five o'clock, we again went for a walk in the park and
afterward had tea.

"Q. Before leaving the pavilion at five o'clock, did you go into your
chamber?

"A. No, monsieur, my father went into it, at my request to bring me my
hat.

"Q. And he found nothing suspicious there?

"A. Evidently no, monsieur.

"Q. It is, then, almost certain that the murderer was not yet concealed
under the bed. When you went out, was the door of the room locked?

"A. No, there was no reason for locking it.

"Q. You were absent from the pavilion some length of time, Monsieur
Stangerson and you?

"A. About an hour.

"Q. It was during that hour, no doubt, that the murderer got into the
pavilion. But how? Nobody knows. Footmarks have been found in the park,
leading away from the window of the vestibule, but none has been found
going towards it. Did you notice whether the vestibule window was open
when you went out?

"A. I don't remember.

"Monsieur Stangerson. It was closed.

"Q. And when you returned?

"Mademoiselle Stangerson. I did not notice.

"M. Stangerson. It was still closed. I remember remarking aloud: 'Daddy
Jacques must surely have opened it while we were away.'

"Q. Strange!--Do you recollect, Monsieur Stangerson, if during your
absence, and before going out, he had opened it? You returned to the
laboratory at six o'clock and resumed work?

"Mademoiselle Stangerson. Yes, monsieur.

"Q. And you did not leave the laboratory from that hour up to the moment
when you entered your chamber?

"M. Stangerson. Neither my daughter nor I, monsieur. We were engaged on
work that was pressing, and we lost not a moment,--neglecting everything
else on that account.

"Q. Did you dine in the laboratory?

"A. For that reason.

"Q. Are you accustomed to dine in the laboratory?

"A. We rarely dine there.

"Q. Could the murderer have known that you would dine there that
evening?

"M. Stangerson. Good Heavens!--I think not. It was only when we returned
to the pavilion at six o'clock, that we decided, my daughter and I,
to dine there. At that moment I was spoken to by my gamekeeper, who
detained me a moment, to ask me to accompany him on an urgent tour of
inspection in a part of the woods which I had decided to thin. I put
this off until the next day, and begged him, as he was going by the
chateau, to tell the steward that we should dine in the laboratory.
He left me, to execute the errand and I rejoined my daughter, who was
already at work.

"Q. At what hour, mademoiselle, did you go to your chamber while your
father continued to work there?

"A. At midnight.

"Q. Did Daddy Jacques enter The Yellow Room in the course of the
evening?

"A. To shut the blinds and light the night-light.

"Q. He saw nothing suspicious?

"A. He would have told us if he had seen. Daddy Jacques is an honest man
and very attached to me.

"Q. You affirm, Monsieur Stangerson, that Daddy Jacques remained with
you all the time you were in the laboratory?

"M. Stangerson. I am sure of it. I have no doubt of that.

"Q. When you entered your chamber, mademoiselle, you immediately shut
the door and locked and bolted it? That was taking unusual precautions,
knowing that your father and your servant were there? Were you in fear
of something, then?

"A. My father would be returning to the chateau and Daddy Jacques would
be going to his bed. And, in fact, I did fear something.

"Q. You were so much in fear of something that you borrowed Daddy
Jacques's revolver without telling him you had done so?

"A. That is true. I did not wish to alarm anybody,--the more, because my
fears might have proved to have been foolish.

"Q. What was it you feared?

"A. I hardly know how to tell you. For several nights, I seemed to
hear, both in the park and out of the park, round the pavilion, unusual
sounds, sometimes footsteps, at other times the cracking of branches.
The night before the attack on me, when I did not get to bed before
three o'clock in the morning, on our return from the Elysee, I stood for
a moment before my window, and I felt sure I saw shadows.

"Q. How many?

"A. Two. They moved round the lake,--then the moon became clouded and
I lost sight of them. At this time of the season, every year, I have
generally returned to my apartment in the chateau for the winter; but
this year I said to myself that I would not quit the pavilion before
my father had finished the resume of his works on the 'Dissociation of
Matter' for the Academy. I did not wish that that important work, which
was to have been finished in the course of a few days, should be delayed
by a change in our daily habit. You can well understand that I did not
wish to speak of my childish fears to my father, nor did I say anything
to Daddy Jacques who, I knew, would not have been able to hold his
tongue. Knowing that he had a revolver in his room, I took advantage of
his absence and borrowed it, placing it in the drawer of my night-table.

   "Q. You know of no enemies you have?

   "A. None.

   "Q. You understand, mademoiselle, that these precautions are
        calculated to cause surprise?

   "M. Stangerson. Evidently, my child, such precautions are very
        surprising.

   "A. No;--because I have told you that I had been uneasy for two
        nights.

   "M. Stangerson. You ought to have told me of that! This misfortune
        would have been avoided.

   "Q. The door of The Yellow Room locked, did you go to bed?

   "A. Yes, and, being very tired, I at once went to sleep.

   "Q. The night-light was still burning?

   "A. Yes, but it gave a very feeble light.

   "Q. Then, mademoiselle, tell us what happened.

   "A. I do not know whether I had been long asleep, but suddenly I
        awoke--and uttered a loud cry.

   "M. Stangerson. Yes--a horrible cry--'Murder!'--It still rings
        in my ears.

   "Q. You uttered a loud cry?

   "A. A man was in my chamber. He sprang at me and tried to strangle
        me.  I was nearly stifled when suddenly I was able to reach the
        drawer of my night-table and grasp the revolver which I had
        placed in it.  At that moment the man had forced me to the foot
        of my bed and brandished in over my head a sort of mace.  But
        I had fired.  He immediately struck a terrible blow at my head.
        All that, monsieur, passed more rapidly than I can tell it, and
        I know nothing more.

   "Q. Nothing?--Have you no idea as to how the assassin could
        escape from your chamber?

   "A. None whatever--I know nothing more. One does not know what
        is passing around one, when one is unconscious.

   "Q. Was the man you saw tall or short, little or big?

   "A. I only saw a shadow which appeared to me formidable.

   "Q. You cannot give us any indication?

   "A. I know nothing more, monsieur, than that a man threw himself
        upon me and that I fired at him.  I know nothing more."

Here the interrogation of Mademoiselle Stangerson concluded.

Rouletabille waited patiently for Monsieur Robert Darzac, who soon
appeared.

From a room near the chamber of Mademoiselle Stangerson, he had heard
the interrogatory and now came to recount it to my friend with great
exactitude, aided by an excellent memory. His docility still surprised
me. Thanks to hasty pencil-notes, he was able to reproduce, almost
textually, the questions and the answers given.

It looked as if Monsieur Darzac were being employed as the secretary of
my young friend and acted as if he could refuse him nothing; nay, more,
as if under a compulsion to do so.

The fact of the closed window struck the reporter as it had struck the
magistrate. Rouletabille asked Darzac to repeat once more Mademoiselle
Stangerson's account of how she and her father had spent their time
on the day of the tragedy, as she had stated it to the magistrate. The
circumstance of the dinner in the laboratory seemed to interest him in
the highest degree; and he had it repeated to him three times. He also
wanted to be sure that the forest-keeper knew that the professor and his
daughter were going to dine in the laboratory, and how he had come to
know it.

When Monsieur Darzac had finished, I said: "The examination has not
advanced the problem much."

"It has put it back," said Monsieur Darzac.

"It has thrown light upon it," said Rouletabille, thoughtfully.



CHAPTER IX. Reporter and Detective


The three of us went back towards the pavilion. At some distance from
the building the reporter made us stop and, pointing to a small clump of
trees to the right of us, said:

"That's where the murderer came from to get into the pavilion."

As there were other patches of trees of the same sort between the great
oaks, I asked why the murderer had chosen that one, rather than any of
the others. Rouletabille answered me by pointing to the path which ran
quite close to the thicket to the door of the pavilion.

"That path is as you see, topped with gravel," he said; "the man must
have passed along it going to the pavilion, since no traces of his
steps have been found on the soft ground. The man didn't have wings;
he walked; but he walked on the gravel which left no impression of his
tread. The gravel has, in fact, been trodden by many other feet, since
the path is the most direct way between the pavilion and the chateau.
As to the thicket, made of the sort of shrubs that don't flourish in the
rough season--laurels and fuchsias--it offered the murderer a sufficient
hiding-place until it was time for him to make his way to the pavilion.
It was while hiding in that clump of trees that he saw Monsieur and
Mademoiselle Stangerson, and then Daddy Jacques, leave the pavilion.
Gravel has been spread nearly, very nearly, up to the windows of the
pavilion. The footprints of a man, parallel with the wall--marks which
we will examine presently, and which I have already seen--prove that he
only needed to make one stride to find himself in front of the vestibule
window, left open by Daddy Jacques. The man drew himself up by his hands
and entered the vestibule."

"After all it is very possible," I said.

"After all what? After all what?" cried Rouletabille.

I begged of him not to be angry; but he was too much irritated to listen
to me and declared, ironically, that he admired the prudent doubt
with which certain people approached the most simple problems, risking
nothing by saying "that is so, or 'that is not so." Their intelligence
would have produced about the same result if nature had forgotten to
furnish their brain-pan with a little grey matter. As I appeared vexed,
my young friend took me by the arm and admitted that he had not meant
that for me; he thought more of me than that.

"If I did not reason as I do in regard to this gravel," he went on, "I
should have to assume a balloon!--My dear fellow, the science of the
aerostation of dirigible balloons is not yet developed enough for me to
consider it and suppose that a murderer would drop from the clouds! So
don't say a thing is possible, when it could not be otherwise. We know
now how the man entered by the window, and we also know the moment at
which he entered,--during the five o'clock walk of the professor and his
daughter. The fact of the presence of the chambermaid--who had come to
clean up The Yellow Room--in the laboratory, when Monsieur Stangerson
and his daughter returned from their walk, at half-past one, permits
us to affirm that at half-past one the murderer was not in the chamber
under the bed, unless he was in collusion with the chambermaid. What do
you say, Monsieur Darzac?"

Monsieur Darzac shook his head and said he was sure of the chambermaid's
fidelity, and that she was a thoroughly honest and devoted servant.

"Besides," he added, "at five o'clock Monsieur Stangerson went into the
room to fetch his daughter's hat."

"There is that also," said Rouletabille.

"That the man entered by the window at the time you say, I admit,"
I said; "but why did he shut the window? It was an act which would
necessarily draw the attention of those who had left it open."

"It may be the window was not shut at once," replied the young reporter.
"But if he did shut the window, it was because of the bend in the gravel
path, a dozen yards from the pavilion, and on account of the three oaks
that are growing at that spot."

"What do you mean by that?" asked Monsieur Darzac, who had followed us
and listened with almost breathless attention to all that Rouletabille
had said.

"I'll explain all to you later on, Monsieur, when I think the moment
to be ripe for doing so; but I don't think I have anything of more
importance to say on this affair, if my hypothesis is justified."

"And what is your hypothesis?"

"You will never know if it does not turn out to be the truth. It is of
much too grave a nature to speak of it, so long as it continues to be
only a hypothesis."

"Have you, at least, some idea as to who the murderer is?"

"No, monsieur, I don't know who the murderer is; but don't be afraid,
Monsieur Robert Darzac--I shall know."

I could not but observe that Monsieur Darzac was deeply moved; and I
suspected that Rouletabille's confident assertion was not pleasing to
him. Why, I asked myself, if he was really afraid that the murderer
should be discovered, was he helping the reporter to find him? My
young friend seemed to have received the same impression, for he said,
bluntly:

"Monsieur Darzac, don't you want me to find out who the murderer was?"

"Oh!--I should like to kill him with my own hand!" cried Mademoiselle
Stangerson's fiance, with a vehemence that amazed me.

"I believe you," said Rouletabille gravely; "but you have not answered
my question."

We were passing by the thicket, of which the young reporter had spoken
to us a minute before. I entered it and pointed out evident traces of a
man who had been hidden there. Rouletabille, once more, was right.

"Yes, yes!" he said. "We have to do with a thing of flesh and blood, who
uses the same means that we do. It'll all come out on those lines."

Having said this, he asked me for the paper pattern of the footprint
which he had given me to take care of, and applied it to a very clear
footmark behind the thicket. "Aha!" he said, rising.

I thought he was now going to trace back the track of the murderer's
footmarks to the vestibule window; but he led us instead, far to the
left, saying that it was useless ferreting in the mud, and that he was
sure, now, of the road taken by the murderer.

"He went along the wall to the hedge and dry ditch, over which he
jumped. See, just in front of the little path leading to the lake, that
was his nearest way to get out."

"How do you know he went to the lake?"--

"Because Frederic Larsan has not quitted the borders of it since this
morning. There must be some important marks there."

A few minutes later we reached the lake.

It was a little sheet of marshy water, surrounded by reeds, on which
floated some dead water-lily leaves. The great Fred may have seen us
approaching, but we probably interested him very little, for he took
hardly any notice of us and continued to be stirring with his cane
something which we could not see.

"Look!" said Rouletabille, "here again are the footmarks of the escaping
man; they skirt the lake here and finally disappear just before this
path, which leads to the high road to Epinay. The man continued his
flight to Paris."

"What makes you think that?" I asked, "since these footmarks are not
continued on the path?"

"What makes me think that?--Why these footprints, which I expected to
find!" he cried, pointing to the sharply outlined imprint of a neat
boot. "See!"--and he called to Frederic Larsan.

"Monsieur Fred, these neat footprints seem to have been made since the
discovery of the crime."

"Yes, young man, yes, they have been carefully made," replied Fred
without raising his head. "You see, there are steps that come, and steps
that go back."

"And the man had a bicycle!" cried the reporter.

Here, after looking at the marks of the bicycle, which followed, going
and coming, the neat footprints, I thought I might intervene.

"The bicycle explains the disappearance of the murderer's big
foot-prints," I said. "The murderer, with his rough boots, mounted a
bicycle. His accomplice, the wearer of the neat boots, had come to wait
for him on the edge of the lake with the bicycle. It might be supposed
that the murderer was working for the other."

"No, no!" replied Rouletabille with a strange smile. "I have expected
to find these footmarks from the very beginning. These are not the
footmarks of the murderer!"

"Then there were two?"

"No--there was but one, and he had no accomplice."

"Very good!--Very good!" cried Frederic Larsan.

"Look!" continued the young reporter, showing us the ground where it had
been disturbed by big and heavy heels; "the man seated himself there,
and took off his hobnailed boots, which he had worn only for the purpose
of misleading detection, and then no doubt, taking them away with him,
he stood up in his own boots, and quietly and slowly regained the high
road, holding his bicycle in his hand, for he could not venture to ride
it on this rough path. That accounts for the lightness of the impression
made by the wheels along it, in spite of the softness of the ground. If
there had been a man on the bicycle, the wheels would have sunk deeply
into the soil. No, no; there was but one man there, the murderer on
foot."

"Bravo!--bravo!" cried Fred again, and coming suddenly towards us and,
planting himself in front of Monsieur Robert Darzac, he said to him:

"If we had a bicycle here, we might demonstrate the correctness of the
young man's reasoning, Monsieur Robert Darzac. Do you know whether there
is one at the chateau?"

"No!" replied Monsieur Darzac. "There is not. I took mine, four days
ago, to Paris, the last time I came to the chateau before the crime."

"That's a pity!" replied Fred, very coldly. Then, turning to
Rouletabille, he said: "If we go on at this rate, we'll both come to the
same conclusion. Have you any idea, as to how the murderer got away from
The Yellow Room?"

"Yes," said my young friend; "I have an idea."

"So have I," said Fred, "and it must be the same as yours. There are no
two ways of reasoning in this affair. I am waiting for the arrival of my
chief before offering any explanation to the examining magistrate."

"Ah! Is the Chief of the Surete coming?"

"Yes, this afternoon. He is going to summon, before the magistrate, in
the laboratory, all those who have played any part in this tragedy. It
will be very interesting. It is a pity you won't be able to be present."

"I shall be present," said Rouletabille confidently.

"Really--you are an extraordinary fellow--for your age!" replied the
detective in a tone not wholly free from irony. "You'd make a wonderful
detective--if you had a little more method--if you didn't follow your
instincts and that bump on your forehead. As I have already several
times observed, Monsieur Rouletabille, you reason too much; you do not
allow yourself to be guided by what you have seen. What do you say to
the handkerchief full of blood, and the red mark of the hand on the
wall? You have seen the stain on the wall, but I have only seen the
handkerchief."

"Bah!" cried Rouletabille, "the murderer was wounded in the hand by
Mademoiselle Stangerson's revolver!"

"Ah!--a simply instinctive observation! Take care!--You are becoming too
strictly logical, Monsieur Rouletabille; logic will upset you if you
use it indiscriminately. You are right, when you say that Mademoiselle
Stangerson fired her revolver, but you are wrong when you say that she
wounded the murderer in the hand."

"I am sure of it," cried Rouletabille.

Fred, imperturbable, interrupted him:

"Defective observation--defective observation!--the examination of the
handkerchief, the numberless little round scarlet stains, the impression
of drops which I found in the tracks of the footprints, at the moment
when they were made on the floor, prove to me that the murderer was not
wounded at all. Monsieur Rouletabille, the murderer bled at the nose!"

The great Fred spoke quite seriously. However, I could not refrain from
uttering an exclamation.

The reporter looked gravely at Fred, who looked gravely at him. And Fred
immediately concluded:

"The man allowed the blood to flow into his hand and handkerchief, and
dried his hand on the wall. The fact is highly important," he added,
"because there is no need of his being wounded in the hand for him to be
the murderer."

Rouletabille seemed to be thinking deeply. After a moment he said:

"There is something--a something, Monsieur Frederic Larsan, much graver
than the misuse of logic the disposition of mind in some detectives
which makes them, in perfect good faith, twist logic to the necessities
of their preconceived ideas. You, already, have your idea about the
murderer, Monsieur Fred. Don't deny it; and your theory demands that the
murderer should not have been wounded in the hand, otherwise it comes
to nothing. And you have searched, and have found something else. It's
dangerous, very dangerous, Monsieur Fred, to go from a preconceived idea
to find the proofs to fit it. That method may lead you far astray Beware
of judicial error, Monsieur Fred, it will trip you up!"

And laughing a little, in a slightly bantering tone, his hands in his
pockets, Rouletabille fixed his cunning eyes on the great Fred.

Frederic Larsan silently contemplated the young reporter who pretended
to be as wise as himself. Shrugging his shoulders, he bowed to us and
moved quickly away, hitting the stones on his path with his stout cane.

Rouletabille watched his retreat, and then turned toward us, his face
joyous and triumphant.

"I shall beat him!" he cried. "I shall beat the great Fred, clever as he
is; I shall beat them all!"

And he danced a double shuffle. Suddenly he stopped. My eyes followed
his gaze; they were fixed on Monsieur Robert Darzac, who was looking
anxiously at the impression left by his feet side by side with the
elegant footmarks. There was not a particle of difference between them!

We thought he was about to faint. His eyes, bulging with terror, avoided
us, while his right hand, with a spasmodic movement, twitched at the
beard that covered his honest, gentle, and now despairing face. At
length regaining his self-possession, he bowed to us, and remarking, in
a changed voice, that he was obliged to return to the chateau, left us.

"The deuce!" exclaimed Rouletabille.

He, also, appeared to be deeply concerned. From his pocket-book he
took a piece of white paper as I had seen him do before, and with his
scissors, cut out the shape of the neat bootmarks that were on the
ground. Then he fitted the new paper pattern with the one he had
previously made--the two were exactly alike. Rising, Rouletabille
exclaimed again: "The deuce!" Presently he added: "Yet I believe
Monsieur Robert Darzac to be an honest man." He then led me on the road
to the Donjon Inn, which we could see on the highway, by the side of a
small clump of trees.



CHAPTER X. "We Shall Have to Eat Red Meat--Now"


The Donjon Inn was of no imposing appearance; but I like these
buildings with their rafters blackened with age and the smoke of their
hearths--these inns of the coaching-days, crumbling erections that will
soon exist in the memory only. They belong to the bygone days, they are
linked with history. They make us think of the Road, of those days when
highwaymen rode.

I saw at once that the Donjon Inn was at least two centuries
old--perhaps older. Under its sign-board, over the threshold, a man with
a crabbed-looking face was standing, seemingly plunged in unpleasant
thought, if the wrinkles on his forehead and the knitting of his brows
were any indication.

When we were close to him, he deigned to see us and asked us, in a tone
anything but engaging, whether we wanted anything. He was, no doubt,
the not very amiable landlord of this charming dwelling-place. As we
expressed a hope that he would be good enough to furnish us with a
breakfast, he assured us that he had no provisions, regarding us, as he
said this, with a look that was unmistakably suspicious.

"You may take us in," Rouletabille said to him, "we are not policemen."

"I'm not afraid of the police--I'm not afraid of anyone!" replied the
man.

I had made my friend understand by a sign that we should do better not
to insist; but, being determined to enter the inn, he slipped by the man
on the doorstep and was in the common room.

"Come on," he said, "it is very comfortable here."

A good fire was blazing in the chimney, and we held our hands to the
warmth it sent out; it was a morning in which the approach of winter
was unmistakable. The room was a tolerably large one, furnished with two
heavy tables, some stools, a counter decorated with rows of bottles of
syrup and alcohol. Three windows looked out on to the road. A coloured
advertisement lauded the many merits of a new vermouth. On the
mantelpiece was arrayed the innkeeper's collection of figured
earthenware pots and stone jugs.

"That's a fine fire for roasting a chicken," said Rouletabille. "We have
no chicken--not even a wretched rabbit," said the landlord.

"I know," said my friend slowly; "I know--We shall have to eat red
meat--now."

I confess I did not in the least understand what Rouletabille meant
by what he had said; but the landlord, as soon as he heard the words,
uttered an oath, which he at once stifled, and placed himself at our
orders as obediently as Monsieur Robert Darzac had done, when he heard
Rouletabille's prophetic sentence--"The presbytery has lost nothing of
its charm, nor the garden its brightness." Certainly my friend knew
how to make people understand him by the use of wholly incomprehensible
phrases. I observed as much to him, but he merely smiled. I should have
proposed that he give me some explanation; but he put a finger to his
lips, which evidently signified that he had not only determined not to
speak, but also enjoined silence on my part.

Meantime the man had pushed open a little side door and called to
somebody to bring him half a dozen eggs and a piece of beefsteak. The
commission was quickly executed by a strongly-built young woman with
beautiful blonde hair and large, handsome eyes, who regarded us with
curiosity.

The innkeeper said to her roughly:

"Get out!--and if the Green Man comes, don't let me see him."

She disappeared. Rouletabille took the eggs, which had been brought to
him in a bowl, and the meat which was on a dish, placed all carefully
beside him in the chimney, unhooked a frying-pan and a gridiron, and
began to beat up our omelette before proceeding to grill our beefsteak.
He then ordered two bottles of cider, and seemed to take as little
notice of our host as our host did of him. The landlord let us do our
own cooking and set our table near one of the windows.

Suddenly I heard him mutter:

"Ah!--there he is."

His face had changed, expressing fierce hatred. He went and glued
himself to one of the windows, watching the road. There was no need for
me to draw Rouletabille's attention; he had already left our omelette
and had joined the landlord at the window. I went with him.

A man dressed entirely in green velvet, his head covered with a
huntsman's cap of the same colour, was advancing leisurely, lighting
a pipe as he walked. He carried a fowling-piece slung at his back. His
movements displayed an almost aristocratic ease. He wore eye-glasses and
appeared to be about five and forty years of age. His hair as well as
his moustache were salt grey. He was remarkably handsome. As he passed
near the inn, he hesitated, as if asking himself whether or no he should
enter it; gave a glance towards us, took a few whiffs at his pipe, and
then resumed his walk at the same nonchalant pace.

Rouletabille and I looked at our host. His flashing eyes, his clenched
hands, his trembling lips, told us of the tumultuous feelings by which
he was being agitated.

"He has done well not to come in here to-day!" he hissed.

"Who is that man?" asked Rouletabille, returning to his omelette.

"The Green Man," growled the innkeeper. "Don't you know him? Then all
the better for you. He is not an acquaintance to make.--Well, he is
Monsieur Stangerson's forest-keeper."

"You don't appear to like him very much?" asked the reporter, pouring
his omelette into the frying-pan.

"Nobody likes him, monsieur. He's an upstart who must once have had a
fortune of his own; and he forgives nobody because, in order to live, he
has been compelled to become a servant. A keeper is as much a servant as
any other, isn't he? Upon my word, one would say that he is the master
of the Glandier, and that all the land and woods belong to him. He'll
not let a poor creature eat a morsel of bread on the grass his grass!"

"Does he often come here?"

"Too often. But I've made him understand that his face doesn't please
me, and, for a month past, he hasn't been here. The Donjon Inn has never
existed for him!--he hasn't had time!--been too much engaged in paying
court to the landlady of the Three Lilies at Saint-Michel. A bad
fellow!--There isn't an honest man who can bear him. Why, the concierges
of the chateau would turn their eyes away from a picture of him!"

"The concierges of the chateau are honest people, then?"

"Yes, they are, as true as my name's Mathieu, monsieur. I believe them
to be honest."

"Yet they've been arrested?"

"What does that prove?--But I don't want to mix myself up in other
people's affairs."

"And what do you think of the murder?"

"Of the murder of poor Mademoiselle Stangerson?--A good girl much loved
everywhere in the country. That's what I think of it--and many things
besides; but that's nobody's business."

"Not even mine?" insisted Rouletabille.

The innkeeper looked at him sideways and said gruffly:

"Not even yours."

The omelette ready, we sat down at table and were silently eating, when
the door was pushed open and an old woman, dressed in rags, leaning on
a stick, her head doddering, her white hair hanging loosely over her
wrinkled forehead, appeared on the threshold.

"Ah!--there you are, Mother Angenoux!--It's long since we saw you last,"
said our host.

"I have been very ill, very nearly dying," said the old woman. "If ever
you should have any scraps for the Bete du Bon Dieu--?"

And she entered, followed by a cat, larger than any I had ever believed
could exist. The beast looked at us and gave so hopeless a miau that I
shuddered. I had never heard so lugubrious a cry.

As if drawn by the cat's cry a man followed the old woman in. It was the
Green Man. He saluted by raising his hand to his cap and seated himself
at a table near to ours.

"A glass of cider, Daddy Mathieu," he said.

As the Green Man entered, Daddy Mathieu had started violently; but
visibly mastering himself he said:

"I've no more cider; I served the last bottles to these gentlemen."

"Then give me a glass of white wine," said the Green Man, without
showing the least surprise.

"I've no more white wine--no more anything," said Daddy Mathieu,
surlily.

"How is Madame Mathieu?"

"Quite well, thank you."

So the young Woman with the large, tender eyes, whom we had just seen,
was the wife of this repugnant and brutal rustic, whose jealousy seemed
to emphasise his physical ugliness.

Slamming the door behind him, the innkeeper left the room. Mother
Angenoux was still standing, leaning on her stick, the cat at her feet.

"You've been ill, Mother Angenoux?--Is that why we have not seen you for
the last week?" asked the Green Man.

"Yes, Monsieur keeper. I have been able to get up but three times, to
go to pray to Sainte-Genevieve, our good patroness, and the rest of the
time I have been lying on my bed. There was no one to care for me but
the Bete du bon Dieu!"

"Did she not leave you?"

"Neither by day nor by night."

"Are you sure of that?"

"As I am of Paradise."

"Then how was it, Madame Angenoux, that all through the night of the
murder nothing but the cry of the Bete du bon Dieu was heard?"

Mother Angenoux planted herself in front of the forest-keeper and struck
the floor with her stick.

"I don't know anything about it," she said. "But shall I tell you
something? There are no two cats in the world that cry like that. Well,
on the night of the murder I also heard the cry of the Bete du bon Dieu
outside; and yet she was on my knees, and did not mew once, I swear. I
crossed myself when I heard that, as if I had heard the devil."

I looked at the keeper when he put the last question, and I am much
mistaken if I did not detect an evil smile on his lips. At that moment,
the noise of loud quarrelling reached us. We even thought we heard a
dull sound of blows, as if some one was being beaten. The Green Man
quickly rose and hurried to the door by the side of the fireplace; but
it was opened by the landlord who appeared, and said to the keeper:

"Don't alarm yourself, Monsieur--it is my wife; she has the toothache."
And he laughed. "Here, Mother Angenoux, here are some scraps for your
cat."

He held out a packet to the old woman, who took it eagerly and went out
by the door, closely followed by her cat.

"Then you won't serve me?" asked the Green Man.

Daddy Mathieu's face was placid and no longer retained its expression of
hatred.

"I've nothing for you--nothing for you. Take yourself off."

The Green Man quietly refilled his pipe, lit it, bowed to us, and went
out. No sooner was he over the threshold than Daddy Mathieu slammed
the door after him and, turning towards us, with eyes bloodshot, and
frothing at the mouth, he hissed to us, shaking his clenched fist at the
door he had just shut on the man he evidently hated:

"I don't know who you are who tell me 'We shall have to eat red
meat--now'; but if it will interest you to know it--that man is the
murderer!"

With which words Daddy Mathieu immediately left us. Rouletabille
returned towards the fireplace and said:

"Now we'll grill our steak. How do you like the cider?--It's a little
tart, but I like it."

We saw no more of Daddy Mathieu that day, and absolute silence reigned
in the inn when we left it, after placing five francs on the table in
payment for our feast.

Rouletabille at once set off on a three mile walk round Professor
Stangerson's estate. He halted for some ten minutes at the corner of a
narrow road black with soot, near to some charcoal-burners' huts in the
forest of Sainte-Genevieve, which touches on the road from Epinay to
Corbeil, to tell me that the murderer had certainly passed that way,
before entering the grounds and concealing himself in the little clump
of trees.

"You don't think, then, that the keeper knows anything of it?" I asked.

"We shall see that, later," he replied. "For the present I'm not
interested in what the landlord said about the man. The landlord hates
him. I didn't take you to breakfast at the Donjon Inn for the sake of
the Green Man."

Then Rouletabille, with great precaution glided, followed by me, towards
the little building which, standing near the park gate, served for the
home of the concierges, who had been arrested that morning. With the
skill of an acrobat, he got into the lodge by an upper window which had
been left open, and returned ten minutes later. He said only, "Ah!"--a
word which, in his mouth, signified many things.

We were about to take the road leading to the chateau, when a
considerable stir at the park gate attracted our attention. A carriage
had arrived and some people had come from the chateau to meet it.
Rouletabille pointed out to me a gentleman who descended from it.

"That's the Chief of the Surete" he said. "Now we shall see what
Frederic Larsan has up his sleeve, and whether he is so much cleverer
than anybody else."

The carriage of the Chief of the Surete was followed by three other
vehicles containing reporters, who were also desirous of entering the
park. But two gendarmes stationed at the gate had evidently received
orders to refuse admission to anybody. The Chief of the Surete calmed
their impatience by undertaking to furnish to the press, that evening,
all the information he could give that would not interfere with the
judicial inquiry.



CHAPTER XI. In Which Frederic Larsan Explains How the Murderer Was Able
to Get Out of The Yellow Room


Among the mass of papers, legal documents, memoirs, and extracts from
newspapers, which I have collected, relating to the mystery of The
Yellow Room, there is one very interesting piece; it is a detail of the
famous examination which took place that afternoon, in the laboratory of
Professor Stangerson, before the Chief of the Surete. This narrative is
from the pen of Monsieur Maleine, the Registrar, who, like the examining
magistrate, had spent some of his leisure time in the pursuit of
literature. The piece was to have made part of a book which, however,
has never been published, and which was to have been entitled: "My
Examinations." It was given to me by the Registrar himself, some time
after the astonishing denouement to this case, and is unique in judicial
chronicles.

Here it is. It is not a mere dry transcription of questions and answers,
because the Registrar often intersperses his story with his own personal
comments.


                     THE REGISTRAR'S NARRATIVE

The examining magistrate and I (the writer relates) found ourselves in
The Yellow Room in the company of the builder who had constructed the
pavilion after Professor Stangerson's designs. He had a workman with
him. Monsieur de Marquet had had the walls laid entirely bare; that is
to say, he had had them stripped of the paper which had decorated them.
Blows with a pick, here and there, satisfied us of the absence of any
sort of opening. The floor and the ceiling were thoroughly sounded.
We found nothing. There was nothing to be found. Monsieur de Marquet
appeared to be delighted and never ceased repeating:

"What a case! What a case! We shall never know, you'll see, how the
murderer was able to get out of this room!"

Then suddenly, with a radiant face, he called to the officer in charge
of the gendarmes.

"Go to the chateau," he said, "and request Monsieur Stangerson and
Monsieur Robert Darzac to come to me in the laboratory, also Daddy
Jacques; and let your men bring here the two concierges."

Five minutes later all were assembled in the laboratory. The Chief of
the Surete, who had arrived at the Glandier, joined us at that moment.
I was seated at Monsieur Stangerson's desk ready for work, when Monsieur
de Marquet made us the following little speech--as original as it was
unexpected:

"With your permission, gentlemen--as examinations lead to nothing--we
will, for once, abandon the old system of interrogation. I will not
have you brought before me one by one, but we will all remain here as we
are,--Monsieur Stangerson, Monsieur Robert Darzac, Daddy Jacques and the
two concierges, the Chief of the Surete, the Registrar, and myself. We
shall all be on the same footing. The concierges may, for the moment,
forget that they have been arrested. We are going to confer together. We
are on the spot where the crime was committed. We have nothing else to
discuss but the crime. So let us discuss it freely--intelligently or
otherwise, so long as we speak just what is in our minds. There need be
no formality or method since this won't help us in any way."

Then, passing before me, he said in a low voice:

"What do you think of that, eh? What a scene! Could you have thought
of that? I'll make a little piece out of it for the Vaudeville." And he
rubbed his hands with glee.

I turned my eyes on Monsieur Stangerson. The hope he had received from
the doctor's latest reports, which stated that Mademoiselle Stangerson
might recover from her wounds, had not been able to efface from his
noble features the marks of the great sorrow that was upon him. He
had believed his daughter to be dead, and he was still broken by that
belief. His clear, soft, blue eyes expressed infinite sorrow. I had had
occasion, many times, to see Monsieur Stangerson at public ceremonies,
and from the first had been struck by his countenance, which seemed as
pure as that of a child--the dreamy gaze with the sublime and mystical
expression of the inventor and thinker.

On those occasions his daughter was always to be seen either following
him or by his side; for they never quitted each other, it was said, and
had shared the same labours for many years. The young lady, who was
then five and thirty, though she looked no more than thirty, had devoted
herself entirely to science. She still won admiration for her imperial
beauty which had remained intact, without a wrinkle, withstanding time
and love. Who would have dreamed that I should one day be seated by her
pillow with my papers, and that I should see her, on the point of death,
painfully recounting to us the most monstrous and most mysterious crime
I have heard of in my career? Who would have thought that I should be,
that afternoon, listening to the despairing father vainly trying to
explain how his daughter's assailant had been able to escape from him?
Why bury ourselves with our work in obscure retreats in the depths of
woods, if it may not protect us against those dangerous threats to life
which meet us in the busy cities?

"Now, Monsieur Stangerson," said Monsieur de Marquet, with somewhat
of an important air, "place yourself exactly where you were when
Mademoiselle Stangerson left you to go to her chamber."

Monsieur Stangerson rose and, standing at a certain distance from the
door of The Yellow Room, said, in an even voice and without the least
trace of emphasis--a voice which I can only describe as a dead voice:

"I was here. About eleven o'clock, after I had made a brief chemical
experiment at the furnaces of the laboratory, needing all the space
behind me, I had my desk moved here by Daddy Jacques, who spent the
evening in cleaning some of my apparatus. My daughter had been working
at the same desk with me. When it was her time to leave she rose, kissed
me, and bade Daddy Jacques goodnight. She had to pass behind my desk
and the door to enter her chamber, and she could do this only with some
difficulty. That is to say, I was very near the place where the crime
occurred later."

"And the desk?" I asked, obeying, in thus mixing myself in the
conversation, the express orders of my chief, "as soon as you heard
the cry of 'murder' followed by the revolver shots, what became of the
desk?"

Daddy Jacques answered.

"We pushed it back against the wall, here--close to where it is at the
present moment-so as to be able to get at the door at once."

I followed up my reasoning, to which, however, I attached but little
importance, regarding it as only a weak hypothesis, with another
question.

"Might not a man in the room, the desk being so near to the door, by
stooping and slipping under the desk, have left it unobserved?"

"You are forgetting," interrupted Monsieur Stangerson wearily, "that
my daughter had locked and bolted her door, that the door had remained
fastened, that we vainly tried to force it open when we heard the noise,
and that we were at the door while the struggle between the murderer and
my poor child was going on--immediately after we heard her stifled cries
as she was being held by the fingers that have left their red mark
upon her throat. Rapid as the attack was, we were no less rapid in our
endeavors to get into the room where the tragedy was taking place."

I rose from my seat and once more examined the door with the greatest
care. Then I returned to my place with a despairing gesture.

"If the lower panel of the door," I said, "could be removed without the
whole door being necessarily opened, the problem would be solved. But,
unfortunately, that last hypothesis is untenable after an examination
of the door--it's of oak, solid and massive. You can see that quite
plainly, in spite of the injury done in the attempt to burst it open."

"Ah!" cried Daddy Jacques, "it is an old and solid door that was brought
from the chateau--they don't make such doors now. We had to use this bar
of iron to get it open, all four of us--for the concierge, brave woman
she is, helped us. It pains me to find them both in prison now."

Daddy Jacques had no sooner uttered these words of pity and protestation
than tears and lamentations broke out from the concierges. I never saw
two accused people crying more bitterly. I was extremely disgusted. Even
if they were innocent, I could not understand how they could behave like
that in the face of misfortune. A dignified bearing at such times is
better than tears and groans, which, most often, are feigned.

"Now then, enough of that sniveling," cried Monsieur de Marquet; "and,
in your interest, tell us what you were doing under the windows of the
pavilion at the time your mistress was being attacked; for you were
close to the pavilion when Daddy Jacques met you."

"We were coming to help!" they whined.

"If we could only lay hands on the murderer, he'd never taste bread
again!" the woman gurgled between her sobs.

As before we were unable to get two connecting thoughts out of them.
They persisted in their denials and swore, by heaven and all the saints,
that they were in bed when they heard the sound of the revolver shot.

"It was not one, but two shots that were fired!--You see, you are lying.
If you had heard one, you would have heard the other."

"Mon Dieu! Monsieur--it was the second shot we heard. We were asleep
when the first shot was fired."

"Two shots were fired," said Daddy Jacques. "I am certain that all the
cartridges were in my revolver. We found afterward that two had been
exploded, and we heard two shots behind the door. Was not that so,
Monsieur Stangerson?"

"Yes," replied the Professor, "there were two shots, one dull, and the
other sharp and ringing."

"Why do you persist in lying?" cried Monsieur de Marquet, turning to the
concierges. "Do you think the police are the fools you are? Everything
points to the fact that you were out of doors and near the pavilion
at the time of the tragedy. What were you doing there? So far as I am
concerned," he said, turning to Monsieur Stangerson, "I can only explain
the escape of the murderer on the assumption of help from these two
accomplices. As soon as the door was forced open, and while you,
Monsieur Stangerson, were occupied with your unfortunate child, the
concierge and his wife facilitated the flight of the murderer, who,
screening himself behind them, reached the window in the vestibule, and
sprang out of it into the park. The concierge closed the window after
him and fastened the blinds, which certainly could not have closed and
fastened of themselves. That is the conclusion I have arrived at. If
anyone here has any other idea, let him state it."

Monsieur Stangerson intervened:

"What you say was impossible. I do not believe either in the guilt or
in the connivance of my concierges, though I cannot understand what
they were doing in the park at that late hour of the night. I say it was
impossible, because Madame Bernier held the lamp and did not move from
the threshold of the room; because I, as soon as the door was forced
open, threw myself on my knees beside my daughter, and no one could have
left or entered the room by the door, without passing over her body and
forcing his way by me! Daddy Jacques and the concierge had but to cast
a glance round the chamber and under the bed, as I had done on entering,
to see that there was nobody in it but my daughter lying on the floor."

"What do you think, Monsieur Darzac?" asked the magistrate.

Monsieur Darzac replied that he had no opinion to express. Monsieur Dax,
the Chief of the Surete who, so far, had been listening and examining
the room, at length deigned to open his lips:

"While search is being made for the criminal, we had better try to find
out the motive for the crime; that will advance us a little," he
said. Turning towards Monsieur Stangerson, he continued, in the even,
intelligent tone indicative of a strong character, "I understand that
Mademoiselle was shortly to have been married?"

The professor looked sadly at Monsieur Robert Darzac.

"To my friend here, whom I should have been happy to call my son--to
Monsieur Robert Darzac."

"Mademoiselle Stangerson is much better and is rapidly recovering
from her wounds. The marriage is simply delayed, is it not, Monsieur?"
insisted the Chief of the Surete.

"I hope so.

"What! Is there any doubt about that?"

Monsieur Stangerson did not answer. Monsieur Robert Darzac seemed
agitated. I saw that his hand trembled as it fingered his watchchain.
Monsieur Dax coughed, as did Monsieur de Marquet. Both were evidently
embarrassed.

"You understand, Monsieur Stangerson," he said, "that in an affair so
perplexing as this, we cannot neglect anything; we must know all,
even the smallest and seemingly most futile thing concerning the
victim--information apparently the most insignificant. Why do you doubt
that this marriage will take place? You expressed a hope; but the hope
implies a doubt. Why do you doubt?"

Monsieur Stangerson made a visible effort to recover himself.

"Yes, Monsieur," he said at length, "you are right. It will be best that
you should know something which, if I concealed it, might appear to be
of importance; Monsieur Darzac agrees with me in this."

Monsieur Darzac, whose pallor at that moment seemed to me to be
altogether abnormal, made a sign of assent. I gathered he was unable to
speak.

"I want you to know then," continued Monsieur Stangerson, "that my
daughter has sworn never to leave me, and adheres firmly to her oath,
in spite of all my prayers and all that I have argued to induce her
to marry. We have known Monsieur Robert Darzac many years. He loves
my child; and I believed that she loved him; because she only recently
consented to this marriage which I desire with all my heart. I am an old
man, Monsieur, and it was a happy hour to me when I knew that, after I
had gone, she would have at her side, one who loved her and who would
help her in continuing our common labours. I love and esteem Monsieur
Darzac both for his greatness of heart and for his devotion to science.
But, two days before the tragedy, for I know not what reason, my
daughter declared to me that she would never marry Monsieur Darzac."

A dead silence followed Monsieur Stangerson's words. It was a moment
fraught with suspense.

"Did Mademoiselle give you any explanation,--did she tell you what her
motive was?" asked Monsieur Dax.

"She told me she was too old to marry--that she had waited too long. She
said she had given much thought to the matter and while she had a great
esteem, even affection, for Monsieur Darzac, she felt it would be better
if things remained as they were. She would be happy, she said, to see
the relations between ourselves and Monsieur Darzac become closer, but
only on the understanding that there would be no more talk of marriage."

"That is very strange!" muttered Monsieur Dax.

"Strange!" repeated Monsieur de Marquet.

"You'll certainly not find the motive there, Monsieur Dax," Monsieur
Stangerson said with a cold smile.

"In any case, the motive was not theft!" said the Chief impatiently.

"Oh! we are quite convinced of that!" cried the examining magistrate.

At that moment the door of the laboratory opened and the officer in
charge of the gendarmes entered and handed a card to the examining
magistrate. Monsieur de Marquet read it and uttered a half angry
exclamation:

"This is really too much!" he cried.

"What is it?" asked the Chief.

"It's the card of a young reporter engaged on the 'Epoque,' a Monsieur
Joseph Rouletabille. It has these words written on it: 'One of the
motives of the crime was robbery.'"

The Chief smiled.

"Ah,--young Rouletabille--I've heard of him he is considered rather
clever. Let him come in."

Monsieur Joseph Rouletabille was allowed to enter. I had made his
acquaintance in the train that morning on the way to Epinay-sur-Orge.
He had introduced himself almost against my wish into our compartment. I
had better say at once that his manners, and the arrogance with which
he assumed to know what was incomprehensible even to us, impressed him
unfavourably on my mind. I do not like journalists. They are a class
of writers to be avoided as the pest. They think that everything is
permissible and they respect nothing. Grant them the least favour, allow
them even to approach you, and you never can tell what annoyance they
may give you. This one appears to be scarcely twenty years old, and the
effrontery with which he dared to question us and discuss the matter
with us made him particularly obnoxious to me. Besides, he had a way of
expressing himself that left us guessing as to whether he was mocking us
or not. I know quite well that the 'Epoque' is an influential paper with
which it is well to be on good terms, but the paper ought not to allow
itself to be represented by sneaking reporters.

Monsieur Joseph Rouletabille entered the laboratory, bowed to us, and
waited for Monsieur de Marquet to ask him to explain his presence.

"You pretend, Monsieur, that you know the motive for the crime, and
that that motive--in the face of all the evidence that has been
forthcoming--was robbery?"

"No, Monsieur, I do not pretend that. I do not say that robbery was the
motive for the crime, and I don't believe it was."

"Then, what is the meaning of this card?"

"It means that robbery was one of the motives for the crime."

"What leads you to think that?"

"If you will be good enough to accompany me, I will show you."

The young man asked us to follow him into the vestibule, and we did.
He led us towards the lavatory and begged Monsieur de Marquet to kneel
beside him. This lavatory is lit by the glass door, and, when the
door was open, the light which penetrated was sufficient to light it
perfectly. Monsieur de Marquet and Monsieur Joseph Rouletabille knelt
down on the threshold, and the young man pointed to a spot on the
pavement.

"The stones of the lavatory have not been washed by Daddy Jacques for
some time," he said; "that can be seen by the layer of dust that covers
them. Now, notice here, the marks of two large footprints and the black
ash they left where they have been. That ash is nothing else than the
charcoal dust that covers the path along which you must pass through the
forest, in order to get directly from Epinay to the Glandier. You know
there is a little village of charcoal-burners at that place, who make
large quantities of charcoal. What the murderer did was to come here at
midday, when there was nobody at the pavilion, and attempt his robbery."

"But what robbery?--Where do you see any signs of robbery? What proves
to you that a robbery has been committed?" we all cried at once. "What
put me on the trace of it," continued the journalist...

"Was this?" interrupted Monsieur de Marquet, still on his knees.

"Evidently," said Rouletabille.

And Monsieur de Marquet explained that there were on the dust of
the pavement marks of two footsteps, as well as the impression,
freshly-made, of a heavy rectangular parcel, the marks of the cord with
which it had been fastened being easily distinguished.

"You have been here, then, Monsieur Rouletabille? I thought I had given
orders to Daddy Jacques, who Was left in charge of the pavilion, not to
allow anybody to enter."

"Don't scold Daddy Jacques, I came here with Monsieur Robert Darzac."

"Ah,--Indeed!" exclaimed Monsieur de Marquet, disagreeably, casting a
side-glance at Monsieur Darzac, who remained perfectly silent.

"When I saw the mark of the parcel by the side of the footprints, I had
no doubt as to the robbery," replied Monsieur Rouletabille. "The thief
had not brought a parcel with him; he had made one here--a parcel with
the stolen objects, no doubt; and he put it in this corner intending
to take it away when the moment came for him to make his escape. He had
also placed his heavy boots beside the parcel,--for, see--there are no
marks of steps leading to the marks left by the boots, which were placed
side by side. That accounts for the fact that the murderer left no
trace of his steps when he fled from The Yellow Room, nor any in the
laboratory, nor in the vestibule. After entering The Yellow Room in his
boots, he took them off, finding them troublesome, or because he wished
to make as little noise as possible. The marks made by him in going
through the vestibule and the laboratory were subsequently washed out
by Daddy Jacques. Having, for some reason or other, taken off his boots,
the murderer carried them in his hand and placed them by the side of the
parcel he had made,--by that time the robbery had been accomplished. The
man then returned to The Yellow Room and slipped under the bed, where
the mark of his body is perfectly visible on the floor and even on the
mat, which has been slightly moved from its place and creased. Fragments
of straw also, recently torn, bear witness to the murderer's movements
under the bed."

"Yes, yes,--we know all about that," said Monsieur de Marquet.

"The robber had another motive for returning to hide under the bed,"
continued the astonishing boy-journalist. "You might think that he was
trying to hide himself quickly on seeing, through the vestibule window,
Monsieur and Mademoiselle Stangerson about to enter the pavilion. It
would have been much easier for him to have climbed up to the attic and
hidden there, waiting for an opportunity to get away, if his purpose had
been only flight.--No! No!--he had to be in The Yellow Room."

Here the Chief intervened.

"That's not at all bad, young man. I compliment you. If we do not know
yet how the murderer succeeded in getting away, we can at any rate see
how he came in and committed the robbery. But what did he steal?"

"Something very valuable," replied the young reporter.

At that moment we heard a cry from the laboratory. We rushed in and
found Monsieur Stangerson, his eyes haggard, his limbs trembling,
pointing to a sort of bookcase which he had opened, and which, we saw,
was empty. At the same instant he sank into the large armchair that was
placed before the desk and groaned, the tears rolling down his cheeks,
"I have been robbed again! For God's sake, do not say a word of this to
my daughter. She would be more pained than I am." He heaved a deep sigh
and added, in a tone I shall never forget: "After all, what does it
matter,--so long as she lives!"

"She will live!" said Monsieur Darzac, in a voice strangely touching.

"And we will find the stolen articles," said Monsieur Dax. "But what was
in the cabinet?"

"Twenty years of my life," replied the illustrious professor sadly, "or
rather of our lives--the lives of myself and my daughter! Yes, our
most precious documents, the records of our secret experiments and our
labours of twenty years were in that cabinet. It is an irreparable loss
to us and, I venture to say, to science. All the processes by which I
had been able to arrive at the precious proof of the destructibility of
matter were there--all. The man who came wished to take all from me,--my
daughter and my work--my heart and my soul."

And the great scientist wept like a child.

We stood around him in silence, deeply affected by his great distress.
Monsieur Darzac pressed closely to his side, and tried in vain to
restrain his tears--a sight which, for the moment, almost made me like
him, in spite of an instinctive repulsion which his strange demeanour
and his inexplicable anxiety had inspired me.

Monsieur Rouletabille alone,--as if his precious time and mission
on earth did not permit him to dwell in the contemplation on human
suffering--had, very calmly, stepped up to the empty cabinet and,
pointing at it, broke the almost solemn silence. He entered into
explanations, for which there was no need, as to why he had been led
to believe that a robbery had been committed, which included the
simultaneous discovery he had made in the lavatory, and the empty
precious cabinet in the laboratory. The first thing that had struck him,
he said, was the unusual form of that piece of furniture. It was very
strongly built of fire-proof iron, clearly showing that it was intended
for the keeping of most valuable objects. Then he noticed that the key
had been left in the lock. "One does not ordinarily have a safe and
leave it open!" he had said to himself. This little key, with its brass
head and complicated wards, had strongly attracted him,--its presence
had suggested robbery.

Monsieur de Marquet appeared to be greatly perplexed, as if he did
not know whether he ought to be glad of the new direction given to the
inquiry by the young reporter, or sorry that it had not been done by
himself. In our profession and for the general welfare, we have to put
up with such mortifications and bury selfish feelings. That was why
Monsieur de Marquet controlled himself and joined his compliments with
those of Monsieur Dax. As for Monsieur Rouletabille, he simply shrugged
his shoulders and said: "There's nothing at all in that!" I should have
liked to box his ears, especially when he added: "You will do well,
Monsieur, to ask Monsieur Stangerson who usually kept that key?"

"My daughter," replied Monsieur Stangerson, "she was never without it.

"Ah! then that changes the aspect of things which no longer corresponds
with Monsieur Rouletabille's ideas!" cried Monsieur de Marquet. "If that
key never left Mademoiselle Stangerson, the murderer must have waited
for her in her room for the purpose of stealing it; and the robbery
could not have been committed until after the attack had been made on
her. But after the attack four persons were in the laboratory! I can't
make it out!"

"The robbery," said the reporter, "could only have been committed before
the attack upon Mademoiselle Stangerson in her room. When the murderer
entered the pavilion he already possessed the brass-headed key."

"That is impossible," said Monsieur Stangerson in a low voice.

"It is quite possible, Monsieur, as this proves."

And the young rascal drew a copy of the "Epoque" from his pocket, dated
the 21st of October (I recall the fact that the crime was committed on
the night between the 24th and 25th), and showing us an advertisement,
he read:

"'Yesterday a black satin reticule was lost in the Grands Magasins de
la Louvre. It contained, amongst other things, a small key with a brass
head. A handsome reward will be given to the person who has found it.
This person must write, poste restante, bureau 40, to this address: M.
A. T. H. S. N.' Do not these letters suggest Mademoiselle Stangerson?"
continued the reporter. "The 'key with a brass head'--is not this
the key? I always read advertisements. In my business, as in yours,
Monsieur, one should always read the personals.' They are often the keys
to intrigues, that are not always brass-headed, but which are none the
less interesting. This advertisement interested me specially; the woman
of the key surrounded it with a kind of mystery. Evidently she valued
the key, since she promised a big reward for its restoration! And I
thought on these six letters: M. A. T. H. S. N. The first four at once
pointed to a Christian name; evidently I said Math is Mathilde. But I
could make nothing of the two last letters. So I threw the journal
aside and occupied myself with other matters. Four days later, when the
evening paper appeared with enormous head-lines announcing the murder of
Mademoiselle Stangerson, the letters in the advertisement mechanically
recurred to me. I had forgotten the two last letters, S. N. When I saw
them again I could not help exclaiming, 'Stangerson!' I jumped into
a cab and rushed into the bureau No. 40, asking: 'Have you a letter
addressed to M. A. T. H. S. N.?' The clerk replied that he had not. I
insisted, begged and entreated him to search. He wanted to know if I
were playing a joke on him, and then told me that he had had a letter
with the initials M. A. T. H. S. N, but he had given it up three days
ago, to a lady who came for it. 'You come to-day to claim the letter,
and the day before yesterday another gentleman claimed it! I've had
enough of this,' he concluded angrily. I tried to question him as to the
two persons who had already claimed the letter; but whether he wished to
entrench himself behind professional secrecy,--he may have thought that
he had already said too much,--or whether he was disgusted at the joke
that had been played on him--he would not answer any of my questions."

Rouletabille paused. We all remained silent. Each drew his own
conclusions from the strange story of the poste restante letter. It
seemed, indeed, that we now had a thread by means of which we should be
able to follow up this extraordinary mystery.

"Then it is almost certain," said Monsieur Stangerson, "that my daughter
did lose the key, and that she did not tell me of it, wishing to spare
any anxiety, and that she begged whoever had found it to write to
the poste restante. She evidently feared that, by giving our address,
inquiries would have resulted that would have apprised me of the loss of
the key. It was quite logical, quite natural for her to have taken that
course--for I have been robbed once before."

"Where was that, and when?" asked the Chief of the Surete.

"Oh! many years ago, in America, in Philadelphia. There were stolen from
my laboratory the drawings of two inventions that might have made the
fortune of a man. Not only have I never learnt who the thief was, but
I have never heard even a word of the object of the robbery, doubtless
because, in order to defeat the plans of the person who had robbed me,
I myself brought these two inventions before the public, and so rendered
the robbery of no avail. From that time on I have been very careful to
shut myself in when I am at work. The bars to these windows, the
lonely situation of this pavilion, this cabinet, which I had specially
constructed, this special lock, this unique key, all are precautions
against fears inspired by a sad experience."

"Most interesting!" remarked Monsieur Dax.

Monsieur Rouletabille asked about the reticule. Neither Monsieur
Stangerson nor Daddy Jacques had seen it for several days, but a few
hours later we learned from Mademoiselle Stangerson herself that the
reticule had either been stolen from her, or she had lost it. She
further corroborated all that had passed just as her father had stated.
She had gone to the poste restante and, on the 23rd of October, had
received a letter which, she affirmed, contained nothing but a vulgar
pleasantry, which she had immediately burned.

To return to our examination, or rather to our conversation. I
must state that the Chief of the Surete having inquired of Monsieur
Stangerson under what conditions his daughter had gone to Paris on the
20th of October, we learned that Monsieur Robert Darzac had accompanied
her, and Darzac had not been again seen at the chateau from that time
to the day after the crime had been committed. The fact that Monsieur
Darzac was with her in the Grands Magasins de la Louvre when the
reticule disappeared could not pass unnoticed, and, it must be said,
strongly awakened our interest.

This conversation between magistrates, accused, victim, witnesses and
journalist, was coming to a close when quite a theatrical sensation--an
incident of a kind displeasing to Monsieur de Marquet--was produced. The
officer of the gendarmes came to announce that Frederic Larsan requested
to be admitted,--a request that was at once complied with. He held in
his hand a heavy pair of muddy boots, which he threw on the pavement of
the laboratory.

"Here," he said, "are the boots worn by the murderer. Do you recognise
them, Daddy Jacques?"

Daddy Jacques bent over them and, stupefied, recognised a pair of old
boots which he had, some time back, thrown into a corner of his attic.
He was so taken aback that he could not hide his agitation.

Then pointing to the handkerchief in the old man's hand, Frederic Larsan
said:

"That's a handkerchief astonishingly like the one found in The Yellow
Room."

"I know," said Daddy Jacques, trembling, "they are almost alike."

"And then," continued Frederic Larsan, "the old Basque cap also found
in The Yellow Room might at one time have been worn by Daddy Jacques
himself. All this, gentlemen, proves, I think, that the murderer wished
to disguise his real personality. He did it in a very clumsy way--or,
at least, so it appears to us. Don't be alarmed, Daddy Jacques; we are
quite sure that you were not the murderer; you never left the side of
Monsieur Stangerson. But if Monsieur Stangerson had not been working
that night and had gone back to the chateau after parting with his
daughter, and Daddy Jacques had gone to sleep in his attic, no one would
have doubted that he was the murderer. He owes his safety, therefore, to
the tragedy having been enacted too soon,--the murderer, no doubt, from
the silence in the laboratory, imagined that it was empty, and that
the moment for action had come. The man who had been able to introduce
himself here so mysteriously and to leave so many evidences against
Daddy Jacques, was, there can be no doubt, familiar with the house.
At what hour exactly he entered, whether in the afternoon or in the
evening, I cannot say. One familiar with the proceedings and persons of
this pavilion could choose his own time for entering The Yellow Room."

"He could not have entered it if anybody had been in the laboratory,"
said Monsieur de Marquet.

"How do we know that?" replied Larsan. "There was the dinner in the
laboratory, the coming and going of the servants in attendance. There
was a chemical experiment being carried on between ten and eleven
o'clock, with Monsieur Stangerson, his daughter, and Daddy Jacques
engaged at the furnace in a corner of the high chimney. Who can say that
the murderer--an intimate!--a friend!--did not take advantage of that
moment to slip into The Yellow Room, after having taken off his boots in
the lavatory?"

"It is very improbable," said Monsieur Stangerson.

"Doubtless--but it is not impossible. I assert nothing. As to the escape
from the pavilion--that's another thing, the most natural thing in the
world."

For a moment Frederic Larsan paused,--a moment that appeared to us a
very long time. The eagerness with which we awaited what he was going to
tell us may be imagined.

"I have not been in The Yellow Room," he continued, "but I take it for
granted that you have satisfied yourselves that he could have left the
room only by way of the door; it is by the door, then, that the murderer
made his way out. At what time? At the moment when it was most easy
for him to do so; at the moment when it became most explainable--so
completely explainable that there can be no other explanation. Let us
go over the moments which followed after the crime had been committed.
There was the first moment, when Monsieur Stangerson and Daddy Jacques
were close to the door, ready to bar the way. There was the second
moment, during which Daddy Jacques was absent and Monsieur Stangerson
was left alone before the door. There was a third moment, when Monsieur
Stangerson was joined by the concierge. There was a fourth moment,
during which Monsieur Stangerson, the concierge and his wife and Daddy
Jacques were before the door. There was a fifth moment, during which the
door was burst open and The Yellow Room entered. The moment at which the
flight is explainable is the very moment when there was the least number
of persons before the door. There was one moment when there was but one
person,--Monsieur Stangerson. Unless a complicity of silence on the part
of Daddy Jacques is admitted--in which I do not believe--the door was
opened in the presence of Monsieur Stangerson alone and the man escaped.

"Here we must admit that Monsieur Stangerson had powerful reasons for
not arresting, or not causing the arrest of the murderer, since he
allowed him to reach the window in the vestibule and closed it after
him!--That done, Mademoiselle Stangerson, though horribly wounded, had
still strength enough, and no doubt in obedience to the entreaties of
her father, to refasten the door of her chamber, with both the bolt and
the lock, before sinking on the floor. We do not know who committed
the crime; we do not know of what wretch Monsieur and Mademoiselle
Stangerson are the victims, but there is no doubt that they both know!
The secret must be a terrible one, for the father had not hesitated
to leave his daughter to die behind a door which she had shut upon
herself,--terrible for him to have allowed the assassin to escape. For
there is no other way in the world to explain the murderer's flight from
The Yellow Room!"

The silence which followed this dramatic and lucid explanation was
appalling. We all of us felt grieved for the illustrious professor,
driven into a corner by the pitiless logic of Frederic Larsan, forced
to confess the whole truth of his martyrdom or to keep silent, and thus
make a yet more terrible admission. The man himself, a veritable statue
of sorrow, raised his hand with a gesture so solemn that we bowed our
heads to it as before something sacred. He then pronounced these words,
in a voice so loud that it seemed to exhaust him:

"I swear by the head of my suffering child that I never for an instant
left the door of her chamber after hearing her cries for help; that
that door was not opened while I was alone in the laboratory; and that,
finally, when we entered The Yellow Room, my three domestics and I, the
murderer was no longer there! I swear I do not know the murderer!"

Must I say it,--in spite of the solemnity of Monsieur Stangerson's
words, we did not believe in his denial. Frederic Larsan had shown us
the truth and it was not so easily given up.

Monsieur de Marquet announced that the conversation was at an end, and
as we were about to leave the laboratory, Joseph Rouletabille approached
Monsieur Stangerson, took him by the hand with the greatest respect, and
I heard him say:

"I believe you, Monsieur."

I here close the citation which I have thought it my duty to make from
Monsieur Maleine's narrative. I need not tell the reader that all that
passed in the laboratory was immediately and faithfully reported to me
by Rouletabille.



CHAPTER XII. Frederic Larsan's Cane


It was not till six o'clock that I left the chateau, taking with me the
article hastily written by my friend in the little sitting-room which
Monsieur Robert Darzac had placed at our disposal. The reporter was
to sleep at the chateau, taking advantage of the to me inexplicable
hospitality offered him by Monsieur Robert Darzac, to whom Monsieur
Stangerson, in that sad time, left the care of all his domestic affairs.
Nevertheless he insisted on accompanying me to the station at Epinay. In
crossing the park, he said to me:

"Frederic is really very clever and has not belied his reputation. Do
you know how he came to find Daddy Jacques's boots?--Near the spot where
we noticed the traces of the neat boots and the disappearance of the
rough ones, there was a square hole, freshly made in the moist ground,
where a stone had evidently been removed. Larsan searched for that stone
without finding it, and at once imagined that it had been used by the
murderer with which to sink the boots in the lake. Fred's calculation
was an excellent one, as the success of his search proves. That escaped
me; but my mind was turned in another direction by the large number
of false indications of his track which the murderer left, and by
the measure of the black foot-marks corresponding with that of Daddy
Jacques's boots, which I had established without his suspecting it, on
the floor of The Yellow Room. All which was a proof, in my eyes, that
the murderer had sought to turn suspicion on to the old servant. Up to
that point, Larsan and I are in accord; but no further. It is going to
be a terrible matter; for I tell you he is working on wrong lines, and
I--I, must fight him with nothing!"

I was surprised at the profoundly grave accent with which my young
friend pronounced the last words.

He repeated:

"Yes terrible!--terrible! For it is fighting with nothing, when you have
only an idea to fight with."

At that moment we passed by the back of the chateau. Night had come. A
window on the first floor was partly open. A feeble light came from it
as well as some sounds which drew our attention. We approached until we
had reached the side of a door that was situated just under the window.
Rouletabille, in a low tone, made me understand, that this was the
window of Mademoiselle Stangerson's chamber. The sounds which had
attracted our attention ceased, then were renewed for a moment, and then
we heard stifled sobs. We were only able to catch these words, which
reached us distinctly: "My poor Robert!"--Rouletabille whispered in my
ear:

"If we only knew what was being said in that chamber, my inquiry would
soon be finished."

He looked about him. The darkness of the evening enveloped us; we could
not see much beyond the narrow path bordered by trees, which ran behind
the chateau. The sobs had ceased.

"If we can't hear we may at least try to see," said Rouletabille.

And, making a sign to me to deaden the sound of my steps, he led me
across the path to the trunk of a tall beech tree, the white bole of
which was visible in the darkness. This tree grew exactly in front of
the window in which we were so much interested, its lower branches being
on a level with the first floor of the chateau. From the height of
those branches one might certainly see what was passing in Mademoiselle
Stangerson's chamber. Evidently that was what Rouletabille thought, for,
enjoining me to remain hidden, he clasped the trunk with his vigorous
arms and climbed up. I soon lost sight of him amid the branches, and
then followed a deep silence. In front of me, the open window remained
lighted, and I saw no shadow move across it. I listened, and presently
from above me these words reached my ears:

"After you!"

"After you, pray!"

Somebody was overhead, speaking,--exchanging courtesies. What was my
astonishment to see on the slippery column of the tree two human forms
appear and quietly slip down to the ground. Rouletabille had mounted
alone, and had returned with another.

"Good evening, Monsieur Sainclair!"

It was Frederic Larsan. The detective had already occupied the post of
observation when my young friend had thought to reach it alone. Neither
noticed my astonishment. I explained that to myself by the fact that
they must have been witnesses of some tender and despairing scene
between Mademoiselle Stangerson, lying in her bed, and Monsieur Darzac
on his knees by her pillow. I guessed that each had drawn different
conclusions from what they had seen. It was easy to see that the scene
had strongly impressed Rouletabille in favour of Monsieur Robert Darzac;
while, to Larsan, it showed nothing but consummate hypocrisy, acted with
finished art by Mademoiselle Stangerson's fiance.

As we reached the park gate, Larsan stopped us.

"My cane!" he cried. "I left it near the tree."

He left us, saying he would rejoin us presently.

"Have you noticed Frederic Larsan's cane?" asked the young reporter, as
soon as we were alone. "It is quite a new one, which I have never seen
him use before. He seems to take great care of it--it never leaves him.
One would think he was afraid it might fall into the hands of strangers.
I never saw it before to-day. Where did he find it? It isn't natural
that a man who had never before used a walking-stick should, the day
after the Glandier crime, never move a step without one. On the day of
our arrival at the chateau, as soon as he saw us, he put his watch in
his pocket and picked up his cane from the ground--a proceeding to which
I was perhaps wrong not to attach some importance."

We were now out of the park. Rouletabille had dropped into silence. His
thoughts were certainly still occupied with Frederic Larsan's new cane.
I had proof of that when, as we came near to Epinay, he said:

"Frederic Larsan arrived at the Glandier before me; he began his
inquiry before me; he has had time to find out things about which I know
nothing. Where did he find that cane?" Then he added: "It is probable
that his suspicion--more than that, his reasoning--has led him to lay
his hand on something tangible. Has this cane anything to do with it?
Where the deuce could he have found it?"

As I had to wait twenty minutes for the train at Epinay, we entered a
wine shop. Almost immediately the door opened and Frederic Larsan made
his appearance, brandishing his famous cane.

"I found it!" he said laughingly.

The three of us seated ourselves at a table. Rouletabille never took
his eyes off the cane; he was so absorbed that he did not notice a sign
Larsan made to a railway employe, a young man with a chin decorated by a
tiny blond and ill-kept beard. On the sign he rose, paid for his drink,
bowed, and went out. I should not myself have attached any importance
to the circumstance, if it had not been recalled to my mind, some months
later, by the reappearance of the man with the beard at one of the most
tragic moments of this case. I then learned that the youth was one of
Larsan's assistants and had been charged by him to watch the going and
coming of travellers at the station of Epinay-sur-Orge. Larsan neglected
nothing in any case on which he was engaged.

I turned my eyes again on Rouletabille.

"Ah,--Monsieur Fred!" he said, "when did you begin to use a
walking-stick? I have always seen you walking with your hands in your
pockets!"

"It is a present," replied the detective.

"Recent?" insisted Rouletabille.

"No, it was given to me in London."

"Ah, yes, I remember--you have just come from London. May I look at it?"

"Oh!--certainly!"

Fred passed the cane to Rouletabille. It was a large yellow bamboo with
a crutch handle and ornamented with a gold ring. Rouletabille,
after examining it minutely, returned it to Larsan, with a bantering
expression on his face, saying:

"You were given a French cane in London!"

"Possibly," said Fred, imperturbably.

"Read the mark there, in tiny letters: Cassette, 6a, Opera."

"Cannot English people buy canes in Paris?"

When Rouletabille had seen me into the train, he said:

"You'll remember the address?"

"Yes,--Cassette, 6a, Opera. Rely on me; you shall have word tomorrow
morning."

That evening, on reaching Paris, I saw Monsieur Cassette, dealer in
walking-sticks and umbrellas, and wrote to my friend:

"A man unmistakably answering to the description of Monsieur Robert
Darzac--same height, slightly stooping, putty-coloured overcoat, bowler
hat--purchased a cane similar to the one in which we are interested, on
the evening of the crime, about eight o'clock. Monsieur Cassette had not
sold another such cane during the last two years. Fred's cane is new.
It is quite clear that it's the same cane. Fred did not buy it, since
he was in London. Like you, I think that he found it somewhere near
Monsieur Robert Darzac. But if, as you suppose, the murderer was in The
Yellow Room for five, or even six hours, and the crime was not
committed until towards midnight, the purchase of this cane proves an
incontestable alibi for Darzac."



CHAPTER XIII. "The Presbytery Has Lost Nothing of Its Charm, Nor the
Garden Its Brightness"


A week after the occurrence of the events I have just recounted--on
the 2nd of November, to be exact--I received at my home in Paris the
following telegraphic message: "Come to the Glandier by the earliest
train. Bring revolvers. Friendly greetings. Rouletabille."

I have already said, I think, that at that period, being a young
barrister with but few briefs, I frequented the Palais de Justice rather
for the purpose of familiarising myself with my professional duties than
for the defence of the widow and orphan. I could, therefore, feel no
surprise at Rouletabille disposing of my time. Moreover, he knew how
keenly interested I was in his journalistic adventures in general and,
above all, in the murder at the Glandier. I had not heard from him for a
week, nor of the progress made with that mysterious case, except by the
innumerable paragraphs in the newspapers and by the very brief notes
of Rouletabille in the "Epoque." Those notes had divulged the fact that
traces of human blood had been found on the mutton-bone, as well as
fresh traces of the blood of Mademoiselle Stangerson--the old stains
belonged to other crimes, probably dating years back.

It may be easily imagined that the crime engaged the attention of the
press throughout the world. No crime known had more absorbed the minds
of people. It appeared to me, however, that the judicial inquiry was
making but very little progress; and I should have been very glad, if,
on the receipt of my friend's invitation to rejoin him at the Glandier,
the despatch had not contained the words, "Bring revolvers."

That puzzled me greatly. Rouletabille telegraphing for revolvers meant
that there might be occasion to use them. Now, I confess it without
shame, I am not a hero. But here was a friend, evidently in danger,
calling on me to go to his aid. I did not hesitate long; and after
assuring myself that the only revolver I possessed was properly loaded,
I hurried towards the Orleans station. On the way I remembered that
Rouletabille had asked for two revolvers; I therefore entered a
gunsmith's shop and bought an excellent weapon for my friend.

I had hoped to find him at the station at Epinay; but he was not there.
However, a cab was waiting for me and I was soon at the Glandier. Nobody
was at the gate, and it was only on the threshold of the chateau that I
met the young man. He saluted me with a friendly gesture and threw his
arms about me, inquiring warmly as to the state of my health.

When we were in the little sitting-room of which I have spoken,
Rouletabille made me sit down.

"It's going badly," he said.

"What's going badly?" I asked.

"Everything."

He came nearer to me and whispered:

"Frederic Larsan is working with might and main against Darzac."

This did not astonish me. I had seen the poor show Mademoiselle
Stangerson's fiance had made at the time of the examination of the
footprints. However, I immediately asked:

"What about that cane?"

"It is still in the hands of Frederic Larsan. He never lets go of it."

"But doesn't it prove the alibi for Monsieur Darzac?"

"Not at all. Gently questioned by me, Darzac denied having, on that
evening, or on any other, purchased a cane at Cassette's. However,"
said Rouletabille, "I'll not swear to anything; Monsieur Darzac has such
strange fits of silence that one does not know exactly what to think of
what he says."

"To Frederic Larsan this cane must mean a piece of very damaging
evidence. But in what way? The time when it was bought shows it could
not have been in the murderer's possession."

"The time doesn't worry Larsan. He is not obliged to adopt my theory
which assumes that the murderer got into The Yellow Room between five
and six o'clock. But there's nothing to prevent him assuming that the
murderer got in between ten and eleven o'clock at night. At that hour
Monsieur and Mademoiselle Stangerson, assisted by Daddy Jacques, were
engaged in making an interesting chemical experiment in the part of the
laboratory taken up by the furnaces. Larsan says, unlikely as that may
seem, that the murderer may have slipped behind them. He has already got
the examining magistrate to listen to him. When one looks closely into
it, the reasoning is absurd, seeing that the 'intimate'--if there
is one--must have known that the professor would shortly leave the
pavilion, and that the 'friend' had only to put off operating till
after the professor's departure. Why should he have risked crossing the
laboratory while the professor was in it? And then, when he had got into
The Yellow Room?

"There are many points to be cleared up before Larsan's theory can be
admitted. I sha'n't waste my time over it, for my theory won't allow me
to occupy myself with mere imagination. Only, as I am obliged for the
moment to keep silent, and Larsan sometimes talks, he may finish by
coming out openly against Monsieur Darzac,--if I'm not there," added the
young reporter proudly. "For there are surface evidences against Darzac,
much more convincing than that cane, which remains incomprehensible
to me, all the more so as Larsan does not in the least hesitate to let
Darzac see him with it!--I understand many things in Larsan's theory,
but I can't make anything of that cane.

"Is he still at the chateau?"

"Yes; he hardly ever leaves it!--He sleeps there, as I do, at the
request of Monsieur Stangerson, who has done for him what Monsieur
Robert Darzac has done for me. In spite of the accusation made by Larsan
that Monsieur Stangerson knows who the murderer is he yet affords him
every facility for arriving at the truth,--just as Darzac is doing for
me."

"But you are convinced of Darzac's innocence?"

"At one time I did believe in the possibility of his guilt. That was
when we arrived here for the first time. The time has come for me to
tell you what has passed between Monsieur Darzac and myself."

Here Rouletabille interrupted himself and asked me if I had brought the
revolvers. I showed him them. Having examined both, he pronounced them
excellent, and handed them back to me.

"Shall we have any use for them?" I asked.

"No doubt; this evening. We shall pass the night here--if that won't
tire you?"

"On the contrary," I said with an expression that made Rouletabille
laugh.

"No, no," he said, "this is no time for laughing. You remember the
phrase which was the 'open sesame' of this chateau full of mystery?"

"Yes," I said, "perfectly,--'The presbytery has lost nothing of its
charm, nor the garden its brightness.' It was the phrase which you found
on the half-burned piece of paper amongst the ashes in the laboratory."

"Yes; at the bottom of the paper, where the flame had not reached, was
this date: 23rd of October. Remember this date, it is highly important.
I am now going to tell you about that curious phrase. On the evening
before the crime, that is to say, on the 23rd, Monsieur and Mademoiselle
Stangerson were at a reception at the Elysee. I know that, because I was
there on duty, having to interview one of the savants of the Academy of
Philadelphia, who was being feted there. I had never before seen either
Monsieur or Mademoiselle Stangerson. I was seated in the room which
precedes the Salon des Ambassadeurs, and, tired of being jostled by so
many noble personages, I had fallen into a vague reverie, when I scented
near me the perfume of the lady in black.

"Do you ask me what is the 'perfume of the lady in black'? It must
suffice for you to know that it is a perfume of which I am very fond,
because it was that of a lady who had been very kind to me in my
childhood,--a lady whom I had always seen dressed in black. The lady
who, that evening, was scented with the perfume of the lady in black,
was dressed in white. She was wonderfully beautiful. I could not help
rising and following her. An old man gave her his arm and, as they
passed, I heard voices say: 'Professor Stangerson and his daughter.' It
was in that way I learned who it was I was following.

"They met Monsieur Robert Darzac, whom I knew by sight. Professor
Stangerson, accosted by Mr. Arthur William Rance, one of the American
savants, seated himself in the great gallery, and Monsieur Robert Darzac
led Mademoiselle Stangerson into the conservatory. I followed. The
weather was very mild that evening; the garden doors were open.
Mademoiselle Stangerson threw a fichu shawl over her shoulders and I
plainly saw that it was she who was begging Monsieur Darzac to go with
her into the garden. I continued to follow, interested by the agitation
plainly exhibited by the bearing of Monsieur Darzac. They slowly passed
along the wall abutting on the Avenue Marigny. I took the central alley,
walking parallel with them, and then crossed over for the purpose of
getting nearer to them. The night was dark, and the grass deadened the
sound of my steps. They had stopped under the vacillating light of a gas
jet and appeared to be both bending over a paper held by Mademoiselle
Stangerson, reading something which deeply interested them. I stopped in
the darkness and silence.

"Neither of them saw me, and I distinctly heard Mademoiselle Stangerson
repeat, as she was refolding the paper: 'The presbytery has lost nothing
of its charm, nor the garden its brightness!'--It was said in a tone at
once mocking and despairing, and was followed by a burst of such nervous
laughter that I think her words will never cease to sound in my ears.
But another phrase was uttered by Monsieur Robert Darzac: 'Must I commit
a crime, then, to win you?' He was in an extraordinarily agitated state.
He took the hand of Mademoiselle Stangerson and held it for a long time
to his lips, and I thought, from the movement of his shoulders, that he
was crying. Then they went away.

"When I returned to the great gallery," continued Rouletabille, "I saw
no more of Monsieur Robert Darzac, and I was not to see him again until
after the tragedy at the Glandier. Mademoiselle was near Mr. Rance,
who was talking with much animation, his eyes, during the conversation,
glowing with a singular brightness. Mademoiselle Stangerson, I thought,
was not even listening to what he was saying, her face expressing
perfect indifference. His face was the red face of a drunkard. When
Monsieur and Mademoiselle Stangerson left, he went to the bar and
remained there. I joined him, and rendered him some little service
in the midst of the pressing crowd. He thanked me and told me he was
returning to America three days later, that is to say, on the 26th (the
day after the crime). I talked with him about Philadelphia; he told me
he had lived there for five-and-twenty years, and that it was there he
had met the illustrious Professor Stangerson and his daughter. He drank
a great deal of champagne, and when I left him he was very nearly drunk.

"Such were my experiences on that evening, and I leave you to imagine
what effect the news of the attempted murder of Mademoiselle Stangerson
produced on me,--with what force those words pronounced by Monsieur
Robert Darzac, 'Must I commit a crime, then, to win you?' recurred to
me. It was not this phrase, however, that I repeated to him, when we met
here at Glandier. The sentence of the presbytery and the bright garden
sufficed to open the gate of the chateau. If you ask me if I believe
now that Monsieur Darzac is the murderer, I must say I do not. I do not
think I ever quite thought that. At the time I could not really think
seriously of anything. I had so little evidence to go on. But I needed
to have at once the proof that he had not been wounded in the hand.

"When we were alone together, I told him how I had chanced to overhear
a part of his conversation with Mademoiselle Stangerson in the garden
of the Elysee; and when I repeated to him the words, 'Must I commit a
crime, then, to win you?' he was greatly troubled, though much less so
than he had been by hearing me repeat the phrase about the presbytery.
What threw him into a state of real consternation was to learn from me
that the day on which he had gone to meet Mademoiselle Stangerson at the
Elysee, was the very day on which she had gone to the Post Office for
the letter. It was that letter, perhaps, which ended with the words:
'The presbytery has lost nothing of its charm, nor the garden its
brightness.' My surmise was confirmed by my finding, if you remember,
in the ashes of the laboratory, the fragment of paper dated October the
23rd. The letter had been written and withdrawn from the Post Office on
the same day.

"There can be no doubt that, on returning from the Elysee that night,
Mademoiselle Stangerson had tried to destroy that compromising paper.
It was in vain that Monsieur Darzac denied that that letter had anything
whatever to do with the crime. I told him that in an affair so filled
with mystery as this, he had no right to hide this letter; that I was
persuaded it was of considerable importance; that the desperate tone in
which Mademoiselle Stangerson had pronounced the prophetic phrase,--that
his own tears, and the threat of a crime which he had professed after
the letter was read--all these facts tended to leave no room for me to
doubt. Monsieur Darzac became more and more agitated, and I determined
to take advantage of the effect I had produced on him. 'You were on
the point of being married, Monsieur,' I said negligently and without
looking at him, 'and suddenly your marriage becomes impossible because
of the writer of that letter; because as soon as his letter was read,
you spoke of the necessity for a crime to win Mademoiselle Stangerson.
Therefore there is someone between you and her someone who has attempted
to kill her, so that she should not be able to marry!' And I concluded
with these words: 'Now, monsieur, you have only to tell me in confidence
the name of the murderer!'--The words I had uttered must have struck
him ominously, for when I turned my eyes on him, I saw that his face was
haggard, the perspiration standing on his forehead, and terror showing
in his eyes.

"'Monsieur,' he said to me, 'I am going to ask of you something which
may appear insane, but in exchange for which I place my life in your
hands. You must not tell the magistrates of what you saw and heard in
the garden of the Elysee,--neither to them nor to anybody. I swear to
you, that I am innocent, and I know, I feel, that you believe me; but I
would rather be taken for the guilty man than see justice go astray
on that phrase, "The presbytery has lost nothing of its charm, nor the
garden its brightness." The judges must know nothing about that phrase.
All this matter is in your hands. Monsieur, I leave it there; but forget
the evening at the Elysee. A hundred other roads are open to you in your
search for the criminal. I will open them for you myself. I will help
you. Will you take up your quarters here?--You may remain here to do as
you please.--Eat--sleep here--watch my actions--the actions of all here.
You shall be master of the Glandier, Monsieur; but forget the evening at
the Elysee.'"

Rouletabille here paused to take breath. I now understood what had
appeared so unexplainable in the demeanour of Monsieur Robert Darzac
towards my friend, and the facility with which the young reporter had
been able to install himself on the scene of the crime. My curiosity
could not fail to be excited by all I had heard. I asked Rouletabille to
satisfy it still further. What had happened at the Glandier during
the past week?--Had he not told me that there were surface indications
against Monsieur Darzac much more terrible than that of the cane found
by Larsan?

"Everything seems to be pointing against him," replied my friend, "and
the situation is becoming exceedingly grave. Monsieur Darzac appears not
to mind it much; but in that he is wrong. I was interested only in
the health of Mademoiselle Stangerson, which was daily improving, when
something occurred that is even more mysterious than--than the mystery
of The Yellow Room!"

"Impossible!" I cried, "What could be more mysterious than that?"

"Let us first go back to Monsieur Robert Darzac," said Rouletabille,
calming me. "I have said that everything seems to be pointing against
him. The marks of the neat boots found by Frederic Larsan appear to be
really the footprints of Mademoiselle Stangerson's fiance. The marks
made by the bicycle may have been made by his bicycle. He had usually
left it at the chateau; why did he take it to Paris on that particular
occasion? Was it because he was not going to return again to the
chateau? Was it because, owing to the breaking off of his marriage, his
relations with the Stangersons were to cease? All who are interested in
the matter affirm that those relations were to continue unchanged.

"Frederic Larsan, however, believes that all relations were at an end.
From the day when Monsieur Darzac accompanied Mademoiselle Stangerson to
the Grands Magasins de la Louvre until the day after the crime, he had
not been at the Glandier. Remember that Mademoiselle Stangerson lost
her reticule containing the key with the brass head while she was in
his company. From that day to the evening at the Elysee, the Sorbonne
professor and Mademoiselle Stangerson did not see one another; but they
may have written to each other. Mademoiselle Stangerson went to the Post
Office to get a letter, which Larsan says was written by Robert Darzac;
for knowing nothing of what had passed at the Elysee, Larsan believes
that it was Monsieur Darzac himself who stole the reticule with the key,
with the design of forcing her consent, by getting possession of the
precious papers of her father--papers which he would have restored to
him on condition that the marriage engagement was to be fulfilled.

"All that would have been a very doubtful and almost absurd hypothesis,
as Larsan admitted to me, but for another and much graver circumstance.
In the first place here is something which I have not been able to
explain--Monsieur Darzac had himself, on the 24th, gone to the Post
Office to ask for the letter which Mademoiselle had called for and
received on the previous evening. The description of the man who made
application tallies in every respect with the appearance of Monsieur
Darzac, who, in answer to the questions put to him by the examining
magistrate, denies that he went to the Post Office. Now even admitting
that the letter was written by him--which I do not believe--he knew that
Mademoiselle Stangerson had received it, since he had seen it in her
hands in the garden at the Elysee. It could not have been he, then, who
had gone to the Post Office, the day after the 24th, to ask for a letter
which he knew was no longer there.

"To me it appears clear that somebody, strongly resembling him, stole
Mademoiselle Stangerson's reticule and in that letter, had demanded of
her something which she had not sent him. He must have been surprised at
the failure of his demand, hence his application at the Post Office, to
learn whether his letter had been delivered to the person to whom it had
been addressed. Finding that it had been claimed, he had become furious.
What had he demanded? Nobody but Mademoiselle Stangerson knows. Then, on
the day following, it is reported that she had been attacked during the
night, and, the next day, I discovered that the Professor had, at the
same time, been robbed by means of the key referred to in the poste
restante letter. It would seem, then, that the man who went to the Post
Office to inquire for the letter must have been the murderer. All these
arguments Larsan applies as against Monsieur Darzac. You may be sure
that the examining magistrate, Larsan, and myself, have done our best
to get from the Post Office precise details relative to the singular
personage who applied there on the 24th of October. But nothing has been
learned. We don't know where he came from--or where he went. Beyond the
description which makes him resemble Monsieur Darzac, we know nothing.

"I have announced in the leading journals that a handsome reward will be
given to a driver of any public conveyance who drove a fare to No. 40,
Post Office, about ten o'clock on the morning of the 24th of October.
Information to be addressed to 'M. R.,' at the office of the 'Epoque';
but no answer has resulted. The man may have walked; but, as he was most
likely in a hurry, there was a chance that he might have gone in a cab.
Who, I keep asking myself night and day, is the man who so strongly
resembles Monsieur Robert Darzac, and who is also known to have bought
the cane which has fallen into Larsan's hands?

"The most serious fact is that Monsieur Darzac was, at the very same
time that his double presented himself at the Post Office, scheduled for
a lecture at the Sorbonne. He had not delivered that lecture, and one
of his friends took his place. When I questioned him as to how he had
employed the time, he told me that he had gone for a stroll in the Bois
de Boulogne. What do you think of a professor who, instead of giving
his lecture, obtains a substitute to go for a stroll in the Bois de
Boulogne? When Frederic Larsan asked him for information on this point,
he quietly replied that it was no business of his how he spent his time
in Paris. On which Fred swore aloud that he would find out, without
anybody's help.

"All this seems to fit in with Fred's hypothesis, namely, that Monsieur
Stangerson allowed the murderer to escape in order to avoid a scandal.
The hypothesis is further substantiated by the fact that Darzac was in
The Yellow Room and was permitted to get away. That hypothesis I believe
to be a false one.--Larsan is being misled by it, though that would
not displease me, did it not affect an innocent person. Now does that
hypothesis really mislead Frederic Larsan? That is the question--that is
the question."

"Perhaps he is right," I cried, interrupting Rouletabille. "Are you
sure that Monsieur Darzac is innocent?--It seems to me that these are
extraordinary coincidences--"

"Coincidences," replied my friend, "are the worst enemies to truth."

"What does the examining magistrate think now of the matter?"

"Monsieur de Marquet hesitates to accuse Monsieur Darzac, in the absence
of absolute proofs. Not only would he have public opinion wholly against
him, to say nothing of the Sorbonne, but Monsieur and Mademoiselle
Stangerson. She adores Monsieur Robert Darzac. Indistinctly as she saw
the murderer, it would be hard to make the public believe that she could
not have recognised him, if Darzac had been the criminal. No doubt The
Yellow Room was very dimly lit; but a night-light, however small, gives
some light. Here, my boy, is how things stood when, three days, or
rather three nights ago, an extraordinarily strange incident occurred."



CHAPTER XIV. "I Expect the Assassin This Evening"


"I must take you," said Rouletabille, "so as to enable you to
understand, to the various scenes. I myself believe that I have
discovered what everybody else is searching for, namely, how the
murderer escaped from The Yellow Room, without any accomplice, and
without Mademoiselle Stangerson having had anything to do with it. But
so long as I am not sure of the real murderer, I cannot state the theory
on which I am working. I can only say that I believe it to be correct
and, in any case, a quite natural and simple one. As to what happened in
this place three nights ago, I must say it kept me wondering for a whole
day and a night. It passes all belief. The theory I have formed from
the incident is so absurd that I would rather matters remained as yet
unexplained."

Saying which the young reporter invited me to go and make the tour of
the chateau with him. The only sound to be heard was the crunching of
the dead leaves beneath our feet. The silence was so intense that one
might have thought the chateau had been abandoned. The old stones, the
stagnant water of the ditch surrounding the donjon, the bleak ground
strewn with the dead leaves, the dark, skeleton-like outlines of the
trees, all contributed to give to the desolate place, now filled with
its awful mystery, a most funereal aspect. As we passed round the
donjon, we met the Green Man, the forest-keeper, who did not greet us,
but walked by as if we had not existed. He was looking just as I had
formerly seen him through the window of the Donjon Inn. He had still
his fowling-piece slung at his back, his pipe was in his mouth, and his
eye-glasses on his nose.

"An odd kind of fish!" Rouletabille said to me, in a low tone.

"Have you spoken to him?" I asked.

"Yes, but I could get nothing out of him. His only answers are grunts
and shrugs of the shoulders. He generally lives on the first floor of
the donjon, a big room that once served for an oratory. He lives like
a bear, never goes out without his gun, and is only pleasant with the
girls. The women, for twelve miles round, are all setting their caps for
him. For the present, he is paying attention to Madame Mathieu, whose
husband is keeping a lynx eye upon her in consequence."

After passing the donjon, which is situated at the extreme end of the
left wing, we went to the back of the chateau. Rouletabille, pointing
to a window which I recognised as the only one belonging to Mademoiselle
Stangerson's apartment, said to me:

"If you had been here, two nights ago, you would have seen your humble
servant at the top of a ladder, about to enter the chateau by that
window."

As I expressed some surprise at this piece of nocturnal gymnastics, he
begged me to notice carefully the exterior disposition of the chateau.
We then went back into the building.

"I must now show you the first floor of the chateau, where I am living,"
said my friend.

To enable the reader the better to understand the disposition of these
parts of the dwelling, I annex a plan of the first floor of the right
wing, drawn by Rouletabille the day after the extraordinary phenomenon
occurred, the details of which I am about to relate.


                         boudoir
  ___ ____ ___________ _______\___ ________4________ _______ _________ __
  |             |            |   |             |           |
  |             |  Mlle.     |   |    Mlle.    |___ ___ ___|    Mr.
     Lumber     |Strangerson's    Strangerson's|___ ___ ___|Strangerson's
  |   Room      | Sitting    |   |   Bed Room  |___ ___ ___|   Room
  |             |  Room      |   |__  __  _____|stair-case |
                |            |   |bath|anteroom|           |
  |_____  ______|____  ______|___|____|___  ___|           |______  _____
  |
   2 ------ Right Gallery  Right Wing--------- 3            Right Gallery
                                                             Left Wing
  |_________    _____ _________ ______ _______ __ __   __ _________ _____

  |Roulet-   | W G |
  |tabille's | I A |        Right Wing                         Left Wing
  | Room       N L           of the
  |_________ | D L |         Chateau
   Frederic  | I E |
  |Larsan's    N R
  |  Room    | G Y |
             |     |
  |____ ____ | _1_ |
  .           5 .
   .     6     .
    .        .
      . . .


Rouletabille motioned me to follow him up a magnificent flight of stairs
ending in a landing on the first floor. From this landing one could pass
to the right or left wing of the chateau by a gallery opening from it.
This gallery, high and wide, extended along the whole length of the
building and was lit from the front of the chateau facing the north.
The rooms, the windows of which looked to the south, opened out of the
gallery. Professor Stangerson inhabited the left wing of the building.
Mademoiselle Stangerson had her apartment in the right wing.

We entered the gallery to the right. A narrow carpet, laid on the
waxed oaken floor, which shone like glass, deadened the sound of our
footsteps. Rouletabille asked me, in a low tone, to walk carefully, as
we were passing the door of Mademoiselle Stangerson's apartment. This
consisted of a bed-room, an ante-room, a small bath-room, a boudoir,
and a drawing-room. One could pass from one to another of these rooms
without having to go by way of the gallery. The gallery continued
straight to the western end of the building, where it was lit by a high
window (window 2 on the plan). At about two-thirds of its length this
gallery, at a right angle, joined another gallery following the course
of the right wing.

The better to follow this narrative, we shall call the gallery leading
from the stairs to the eastern window, the "right" gallery and the
gallery quitting it at a right angle, the "off-turning" gallery (winding
gallery in the plan). It was at the meeting point of the two galleries
that Rouletabille had his chamber, adjoining that of Frederic Larsan,
the door of each opening on to the "off-turning" gallery, while the
doors of Mademoiselle Stangerson's apartment opened into the "right"
gallery. (See the plan.)

Rouletabille opened the door of his room and after we had passed in,
carefully drew the bolt. I had not had time to glance round the place
in which he had been installed, when he uttered a cry of surprise and
pointed to a pair of eye-glasses on a side-table.

"What are these doing here?" he asked.

I should have been puzzled to answer him.

"I wonder," he said, "I wonder if this is what I have been searching
for. I wonder if these are the eye-glasses from the presbytery!"

He seized them eagerly, his fingers caressing the glass. Then looking at
me, with an expression of terror on his face, he murmured, "Oh!--Oh!"

He repeated the exclamation again and again, as if his thoughts had
suddenly turned his brain.

He rose and, putting his hand on my shoulder, laughed like one demented
as he said:

"Those glasses will drive me silly! Mathematically speaking the thing
is possible; but humanly speaking it is impossible--or afterwards--or
afterwards--"

Two light knocks struck the door. Rouletabille opened it. A figure
entered. I recognised the concierge, whom I had seen when she was being
taken to the pavilion for examination. I was surprised, thinking she was
still under lock and key. This woman said in a very low tone:

"In the grove of the parquet."

Rouletabille replied: "Thanks."--The woman then left. He again turned
to me, his look haggard, after having carefully refastened the door,
muttering some incomprehensible phrases.

"If the thing is mathematically possible, why should it not be
humanly!--And if it is humanly possible, the matter is simply awful." I
interrupted him in his soliloquy:

"Have they set the concierges at liberty, then?" I asked.

"Yes," he replied, "I had them liberated, I needed people I could trust.
The woman is thoroughly devoted to me, and her husband would lay down
his life for me."

"Oho!" I said, "when will he have occasion to do it?"

"This evening,--for this evening I expect the murderer."

"You expect the murderer this evening? Then you know him?"

"I shall know him; but I should be mad to affirm, categorically, at this
moment that I do know him. The mathematical idea I have of the murderer
gives results so frightful, so monstrous, that I hope it is still
possible that I am mistaken. I hope so, with all my heart!"

"Five minutes ago, you did not know the murderer; how can you say that
you expect him this evening?"

"Because I know that he must come."

Rouletabille very slowly filled his pipe and lit it. That meant an
interesting story. At that moment we heard some one walking in the
gallery and passing before our door. Rouletabille listened. The sound of
the footstep died away in the distance.

"Is Frederic Larsan in his room?" I asked, pointing to the partition.

"No," my friend answered. "He went to Paris this morning,--still on
the scent of Darzac, who also left for Paris. That matter will turn out
badly. I expect that Monsieur Darzac will be arrested in the course of
the next week. The worst of it is that everything seems to be in league
against him,--circumstances, things, people. Not an hour passes without
bringing some new evidence against him. The examining magistrate is
overwhelmed by it--and blind."

"Frederic Larsan, however, is not a novice," I said.

"I thought so," said Rouletabille, with a slightly contemptuous turn
of his lips, "I fancied he was a much abler man. I had, indeed, a great
admiration for him, before I got to know his method of working. It's
deplorable. He owes his reputation solely to his ability; but he lacks
reasoning power,--the mathematics of his ideas are very poor."

I looked closely at Rouletabille and could not help smiling, on hearing
this boy of eighteen talking of a man who had proved to the world that
he was the finest police sleuth in Europe.

"You smile," he said? "you are wrong! I swear I will outwit him--and in
a striking way! But I must make haste about it, for he has an enormous
start on me--given him by Monsieur Robert Darzac, who is this evening
going to increase it still more. Think of it!--every time the murderer
comes to the chateau, Monsieur Darzac, by a strange fatality, absents
himself and refuses to give any account of how he employs his time."

"Every time the assassin comes to the chateau!" I cried. "Has he
returned then--?"

"Yes, during that famous night when the strange phenomenon occurred."

I was now going to learn about the astonishing phenomenon to which
Rouletabille had made allusion half an hour earlier without giving me
any explanation of it. But I had learned never to press Rouletabille in
his narratives. He spoke when the fancy took him and when he judged it
to be right. He was less concerned about my curiosity than he was for
making a complete summing up for himself of any important matter in
which he was interested.

At last, in short rapid phrases, he acquainted me with things which
plunged me into a state bordering on complete bewilderment. Indeed, the
results of that still unknown science known as hypnotism, for example,
were not more inexplicable than the disappearance of the "matter" of
the murderer at the moment when four persons were within touch of him. I
speak of hypnotism as I would of electricity, for of the nature of both
we are ignorant and we know little of their laws. I cite these examples
because, at the time, the case appeared to me to be only explicable by
the inexplicable,--that is to say, by an event outside of known natural
laws. And yet, if I had had Rouletabille's brain, I should, like him,
have had a presentiment of the natural explanation; for the most curious
thing about all the mysteries of the Glandier case was the natural
manner in which he explained them.

I have among the papers that were sent me by the young man, after the
affair was over, a note-book of his, in which a complete account is
given of the phenomenon of the disappearance of the "matter" of the
assassin, and the thoughts to which it gave rise in the mind of my young
friend. It is preferable, I think, to give the reader this account,
rather than continue to reproduce my conversation with Rouletabille; for
I should be afraid, in a history of this nature, to add a word that was
not in accordance with the strictest truth.



CHAPTER XV. The Trap


(EXTRACT FROM THE NOTE-BOOK OF JOSEPH ROULETABILLE)

"Last night--the night between the 29th and 30th of October--" wrote
Joseph Rouletabille, "I woke up towards one o'clock in the morning. Was
it sleeplessness, or noise without?--The cry of the Bete du Bon Dieu
rang out with sinister loudness from the end of the park. I rose and
opened the window. Cold wind and rain; opaque darkness; silence. I
reclosed my window. Again the sound of the cat's weird cry in the
distance. I partly dressed in haste. The weather was too bad for even
a cat to be turned out in it. What did it mean, then--that imitating
of the mewing of Mother Angenoux' cat so near the chateau? I seized a
good-sized stick, the only weapon I had, and, without making any noise,
opened the door.

"The gallery into which I went was well lit by a lamp with a reflector.
I felt a keen current of air and, on turning, found the window open, at
the extreme end of the gallery, which I call the 'off-turning' gallery,
to distinguish it from the 'right' gallery, on to which the apartment of
Mademoiselle Stangerson opened. These two galleries cross each other at
right angles. Who had left that window open? Or, who had come to open
it? I went to the window and leaned out. Five feet below me there was
a sort of terrace over the semi-circular projection of a room on the
ground-floor. One could, if one wanted, jump from the window on to
the terrace, and allow oneself to drop from it into the court of the
chateau. Whoever had entered by this road had, evidently, not had a
key to the vestibule door. But why should I be thinking of my previous
night's attempt with the ladder?--Because of the open window--left open,
perhaps, by the negligence of a servant? I reclosed it, smiling at
the ease with which I built a drama on the mere suggestion of an open
window.

"Again the cry of the Bete du Bon Dieu!--and then silence. The rain
ceased to beat on the window. All in the chateau slept. I walked with
infinite precaution on the carpet of the gallery. On reaching the corner
of the 'right' gallery, I peered round it cautiously. There was another
lamp there with a reflector which quite lit up the several objects in
it,--three chairs and some pictures hanging on the wall. What was I
doing there? Perfect silence reigned throughout. Everything was sunk
in repose. What was the instinct that urged me towards Mademoiselle
Stangerson's chamber? Why did a voice within me cry: 'Go on, to the
chamber of Mademoiselle Stangerson!' I cast my eyes down upon the
carpet on which I was treading and saw that my steps were being directed
towards Mademoiselle Stangerson's chamber by the marks of steps that
had already been made there. Yes, on the carpet were traces of footsteps
stained with mud leading to the chamber of Mademoiselle Stangerson.
Horror! Horror!--I recognised in those footprints the impression of
the neat boots of the murderer! He had come, then, from without in this
wretched night. If you could descend from the gallery by way of the
window, by means of the terrace, then you could get into the chateau by
the same means.

"The murderer was still in the chateau, for here were marks as of
returning footsteps. He had entered by the open window at the extremity
of the 'off-turning' gallery; he had passed Frederic Larsan's door and
mine, had turned to the right, and had entered Mademoiselle Stangerson's
room. I am before the door of her ante-room--it is open. I push it,
without making the least noise. Under the door of the room itself I see
a streak of light. I listen--no sound--not even of breathing! Ah!--if
I only knew what was passing in the silence that is behind that door!
I find the door locked and the key turned on the inner side. And the
murderer is there, perhaps. He must be there! Will he escape this
time?--All depends on me!--I must be calm, and above all, I must make no
false steps. I must see into that room. I can enter it by Mademoiselle
Stangerson's drawing-room; but, to do that I should have to cross her
boudoir; and while I am there, the murderer may escape by the gallery
door--the door in front of which I am now standing.

"I am sure that no other crime is being committed, on this night; for
there is complete silence in the boudoir, where two nurses are taking
care of Mademoiselle Stangerson until she is restored to health.

"As I am almost sure that the murderer is there, why do I not at once
give the alarm? The murderer may, perhaps, escape; but, perhaps, I may
be able to save Mademoiselle Stangerson's life. Suppose the murderer on
this occasion is not here to murder? The door has been opened to
allow him to enter; by whom?--And it has been refastened--by
whom?--Mademoiselle Stangerson shuts herself up in her apartment with
her nurses every night. Who turned the key of that chamber to allow
the murderer to enter?--The nurses,--two faithful domestics? The old
chambermaid, Sylvia? It is very improbable. Besides, they slept in the
boudoir, and Mademoiselle Stangerson, very nervous and careful, Monsieur
Robert Darzac told me, sees to her own safety since she has been well
enough to move about in her room, which I have not yet seen her leave.
This nervousness and sudden care on her part, which had struck Monsieur
Darzac, had given me, also, food for thought. At the time of the
crime in The Yellow Room, there can be no doubt that she expected the
murderer. Was he expected this night?--Was it she herself who had opened
her door to him? Had she some reason for doing so? Was she obliged to
do it?--Was it a meeting for purposes of crime?--Certainly it was not a
lover's meeting, for I believe Mademoiselle Stangerson adores Monsieur
Darzac.

"All these reflections ran through my brain like a flash of lightning.
What would I not give to know!

"It is possible that there was some reason for the awful silence. My
intervention might do more harm than good. How could I tell? How could I
know I might not any moment cause another crime? If I could only see and
know, without breaking that silence!

"I left the ante-room and descended the central stairs to the vestibule
and, as silently as possible, made my way to the little room on the
ground-floor where Daddy Jacques had been sleeping since the attack made
at the pavilion.

"I found him dressed, his eyes wide open, almost haggard. He did not
seem surprised to see me. He told me that he had got up because he
had heard the cry of the Bete du bon Dieu, and because he had heard
footsteps in the park, close to his window, out of which he had looked
and, just then, had seen a black shadow pass by. I asked him whether
he had a firearm of any kind. No, he no longer kept one, since the
examining magistrate had taken his revolver from him. We went out
together, by a little back door, into the park, and stole along the
chateau to the point which is just below Mademoiselle Stangerson's
window.

"I placed Daddy Jacques against the wall, ordering him not to stir from
the spot, while I, taking advantage of a moment when the moon was hidden
by a cloud, moved to the front of the window, out of the patch of light
which came from it,--for the window was half-open! If I could only know
what was passing in that silent chamber! I returned to Daddy Jacques and
whispered the word 'ladder' in his ear. At first I had thought of the
tree which, a week ago, served me for an observatory; but I immediately
saw that, from the way the window was half-opened, I should not be able
to see from that point of view anything that was passing in the room;
and I wanted, not only to see, but to hear, and--to act.

"Greatly agitated, almost trembling, Daddy Jacques disappeared for a
moment and returned without the ladder, but making signs to me with his
arms, as signals to me to come quickly to him. When I got near him he
gasped: 'Come!'

"'I went to the donjon in search of my ladder, and in the lower part of
the donjon which serves me and the gardener for a lumber room, I found
the door open and the ladder gone. On coming out, that's what I caught
sight of by the light of the moon.

"And he pointed to the further end of the chateau, where a ladder stood
resting against the stone brackets supporting the terrace, under
the window which I had found open. The projection of the terrace had
prevented my seeing it. Thanks to that ladder, it was quite easy to get
into the 'off-turning' gallery of the first floor, and I had no doubt of
it having been the road taken by the unknown.

"We ran to the ladder, but at the moment of reaching it, Daddy Jacques
drew my attention to the half-open door of the little semi-circular
room, situated under the terrace, at the extremity of the right wing of
the chateau, having the terrace for its roof. Daddy Jacques pushed the
door open a little further and looked in.

"'He's not there!" he whispered.

"Who is not there?"

"The forest--keeper."

With his lips once more to my ear, he added:

"'Do you know that he has slept in the upper room of the donjon ever
since it was restored?' And with the same gesture he pointed to
the half-open door, the ladder, the terrace, and the windows in the
'off-turning' gallery which, a little while before, I had re-closed.

"What were my thoughts then? I had no time to think. I felt more than I
thought.

"Evidently, I felt, if the forest-keeper is up there in the chamber (I
say, if, because at this moment, apart from the presence of the ladder
and his vacant room, there are no evidences which permit me even to
suspect him)--if he is there, he has been obliged to pass by the ladder,
and the rooms which lie behind his, in his new lodging, are occupied by
the family of the steward and by the cook, and by the kitchens, which
bar the way by the vestibule to the interior of the chateau. And if he
had been there during the evening on any pretext, it would have been
easy for him to go into the gallery and see that the window could be
simply pushed open from the outside. This question of the unfastened
window easily narrowed the field of search for the murderer. He must
belong to the house, unless he had an accomplice, which I do not believe
he had; unless--unless Mademoiselle Stangerson herself had seen that
that window was not fastened from the inside. But, then,--what could
be the frightful secret which put her under the necessity of doing away
with obstacles that separated her from the murderer?

"I seized hold of the ladder, and we returned to the back of the chateau
to see if the window of the chamber was still half-open. The blind was
drawn but did not join and allowed a bright stream of light to escape
and fall upon the path at our feet. I planted the ladder under the
window. I am almost sure that I made no noise; and while Daddy Jacques
remained at the foot of the ladder, I mounted it, very quietly, my stout
stick in my hand. I held my breath and lifted my feet with the greatest
care. Suddenly a heavy cloud discharged itself at that moment in a fresh
downpour of rain.

"At the same instant the sinister cry of the Bete du bon Dieu arrested
me in my ascent. It seemed to me to have come from close by me--only a
few yards away. Was the cry a signal?--Had some accomplice of the
man seen me on the ladder!--Would the cry bring the man to the
window?--Perhaps! Ah, there he was at the window! I felt his head above
me. I heard the sound of his breath! I could not look up towards him;
the least movement of my head, and--I might be lost. Would he see
me?--Would he peer into the darkness? No; he went away. He had seen
nothing. I felt, rather than heard, him moving on tip-toe in the room;
and I mounted a few steps higher. My head reached to the level of the
window-sill; my forehead rose above it; my eyes looked between
the opening in the blinds--and I saw--A man seated at Mademoiselle
Stangerson's little desk, writing. His back was turned toward me. A
candle was lit before him, and he bent over the flame, the light from
it projecting shapeless shadows. I saw nothing but a monstrous, stooping
back.

"Mademoiselle Stangerson herself was not there!--Her bed had not been
lain on! Where, then, was she sleeping that night? Doubtless in the
side-room with her women. Perhaps this was but a guess. I must content
myself with the joy of finding the man alone. I must be calm to prepare
my trap.

"But who, then, is this man writing there before my eyes, seated at the
desk, as if he were in his own home? If there had not been that ladder
under the window; if there had not been those footprints on the carpet
in the gallery; if there had not been that open window, I might have
been led to think that this man had a right to be there, and that he was
there as a matter of course and for reasons about which as yet I knew
nothing. But there was no doubt that this mysterious unknown was the
man of The Yellow Room,--the man to whose murderous assault Mademoiselle
Stangerson--without denouncing him--had had to submit. If I could but
see his face! Surprise and capture him!

"If I spring into the room at this moment, he will escape by the
right-hand door opening into the boudoir,--or crossing the drawing-room,
he will reach the gallery and I shall lose him. I have him now and in
five minutes more he'll be safer than if I had him in a cage.--What is
he doing there, alone in Mademoiselle Stangerson's room?--What is he
writing? I descend and place the ladder on the ground. Daddy Jacques
follows me. We re-enter the chateau. I send Daddy Jacques to wake
Monsieur Stangerson, and instruct him to await my coming in Mademoiselle
Stangerson's room and to say nothing definite to him before my arrival.
I will go and awaken Frederic Larsan. It's a bore to have to do it, for
I should have liked to work alone and to have carried off all the
honors of this affair myself, right under the very nose of the sleeping
detective. But Daddy Jacques and Monsieur Stangerson are old men, and I
am not yet fully developed. I might not be strong enough. Larsan is used
to wrestling and putting on the handcuffs. He opened his eyes swollen
with sleep, ready to send me flying, without in the least believing in
my reporter's fancies. I had to assure him that the man was there!

"'That's strange!' he said; 'I thought I left him this afternoon in
Paris.'

"He dressed himself in haste and armed himself with a revolver. We stole
quietly into the gallery.

"'Where is he?' Larsan asked.

"'In Mademoiselle Stangerson's room.

"'And--Mademoiselle Stangerson?'

"'She is not in there.'

"'Let's go in.'

"'Don't go there! On the least alarm the man will escape. He has four
ways by which to do it--the door, the window, the boudoir, or the room
in which the women are sleeping.'

"'I'll draw him from below.'

"'And if you fail?--If you only succeed in wounding him--he'll escape
again, without reckoning that he is certainly armed. No, let me direct
the expedition, and I'll answer for everything.'

"'As you like,' he replied, with fairly good grace.

"Then, after satisfying myself that all the windows of the two galleries
were thoroughly secure, I placed Frederic Larsan at the end of the
'off-turning' gallery, before the window which I had found open and had
reclosed.

"'Under no consideration,' I said to him, 'must you stir from this post
till I call you. The chances are even that the man, when he is pursued,
will return to this window and try to save himself that way; for it is
by that way he came in and made a way ready for his flight. You have a
dangerous post.'

"'What will be yours?' asked Fred.

"'I shall spring into the room and knock him over for you.'

"'Take my revolver,' said Fred, 'and I'll take your stick.'

"'Thanks,' I said; 'You are a brave man.'

"I accepted his offer. I was going to be alone with the man in the room
writing and was really thankful to have the weapon.

"I left Fred, having posted him at the window (No. 5 on the plan),
and, with the greatest precaution, went towards Monsieur Stangerson's
apartment in the left wing of the chateau. I found him with Daddy
Jacques, who had faithfully obeyed my directions, confining himself
to asking his master to dress as quickly as possible. In a few words I
explained to Monsieur Stangerson what was passing. He armed himself with
a revolver, followed me, and we were all three speedily in the gallery.
Since I had seen the murderer seated at the desk ten minutes had
elapsed. Monsieur Stangerson wished to spring upon the assassin at once
and kill him. I made him understand that, above all, he must not, in his
desire to kill him, miss him.

"When I had sworn to him that his daughter was not in the room, and
in no danger, he conquered his impatience and left me to direct the
operations. I told them that they must come to me the moment I called
to them, or when I fired my revolver. I then sent Daddy Jacques to place
himself before the window at the end of the 'right' gallery. (No. 2 on
my plan.) I chose that position 'for Daddy Jacques because I believed
that the murderer, tracked, on leaving the room, would run through the
gallery towards the window which he had left open, and, instantly seeing
that it was guarded by Larsan, would pursue his course along the 'right'
gallery. There he would encounter Daddy Jacques, who would prevent his
springing out of the window into the park. Under that window there was
a sort of buttress, while all the other windows in the galleries were at
such a height from the ground that it was almost impossible to jump from
them without breaking one's neck. All the doors and windows, including
those of the lumber-room at the end of the 'right' gallery--as I had
rapidly assured myself--were strongly secured.

"Having indicated to Daddy Jacques the post he was to occupy, and having
seen him take up his position, I placed Monsieur Stangerson on
the landing at the head of the stairs not far from the door of his
daughter's ante-room, rather than the boudoir, where the women were,
and the door of which must have been locked by Mademoiselle Stangerson
herself if, as I thought, she had taken refuge in the boudoir for the
purpose of avoiding the murderer who was coming to see her. In any case,
he must return to the gallery where my people were awaiting him at every
possible exit.

"On coming there, he would see on his left, Monsieur Stangerson; he
would turn to the right, towards the 'off-turning' gallery--the way
he had pre-arranged for flight, where, at the intersection of the two
galleries, he would see at once, as I have explained, on his left,
Frederic Larsan at the end of the 'off-turning' gallery, and in front,
Daddy Jacques, at the end of the 'right' gallery. Monsieur Stangerson
and myself would arrive by way of the back of the chateau.--He is
ours!--He can no longer escape us! I was sure of that.

"The plan I had formed seemed to me the best, the surest, and the most
simple. It would, no doubt, have been simpler still, if we had been able
to place some one directly behind the door of Mademoiselle's boudoir,
which opened out of her bedchamber, and, in that way, had been in a
position to besiege the two doors of the room in which the man was. But
we could not penetrate the boudoir except by way of the drawing-room,
the door of which had been locked on the inside by Mademoiselle
Stangerson. But even if I had had the free disposition of the boudoir,
I should have held to the plan I had formed; because any other plan of
attack would have separated us at the moment of the struggle with the
man, while my plan united us all for the attack, at a spot which I had
selected with almost mathematical precision,--the intersection of the
two galleries.

"Having so placed my people, I again left the chateau, hurried to my
ladder, and, replacing it, climbed up, revolver in hand.

"If there be any inclined to smile at my taking so many precautionary
measures, I refer them to the mystery of The Yellow Room, and to all the
proofs we have of the weird cunning of the murderer. Further, if there
be some who think my observations needlessly minute at a moment when
they ought to be completely held by rapidity of movement and decision
of action, I reply that I have wished to report here, at length and
completely, all the details of a plan of attack conceived so rapidly
that it is only the slowness of my pen that gives an appearance
of slowness to the execution. I have wished, by this slowness and
precision, to be certain that nothing should be omitted from the
conditions under which the strange phenomenon was produced, which, until
some natural explanation of it is forthcoming, seems to me to prove,
even better than the theories of Professor Stangerson, the Dissociation
of Matter--I will even say, the instantaneous Dissociation of Matter."



CHAPTER XVI. Strange Phenomenon of the Dissociation of Matter


(EXTRACT FROM THE NOTE-BOOK OF JOSEPH ROULETABILLE, continued)

"I am again at the window-sill," continues Rouletabille, "and once
more I raise my head above it. Through an opening in the curtains, the
arrangement of which has not been changed, I am ready to look, anxious
to note the position in which I am going to find the murderer,--whether
his back will still be turned towards me!--whether he is still seated at
the desk writing! But perhaps--perhaps--he is no longer there!--Yet
how could he have fled?--Was I not in possession of his ladder? I force
myself to be cool. I raise my head yet higher. I look--he is still
there. I see his monstrous back, deformed by the shadow thrown by the
candle. He is no longer writing now, and the candle is on the parquet,
over which he is bending--a position which serves my purpose.

"I hold my breath. I mount the ladder. I am on the uppermost rung of it,
and with my left hand seize hold of the window-sill. In this moment of
approaching success, I feel my heart beating wildly. I put my revolver
between my teeth. A quick spring, and I shall be on the window-ledge.
But--the ladder! I had been obliged to press on it heavily, and my foot
had scarcely left it, when I felt it swaying beneath me. It grated on
the wall and fell. But, already, my knees were touching the window-sill,
and, by a movement quick as lightning, I got on to it.

"But the murderer had been even quicker than I had been. He had heard
the grating of the ladder on the wall, and I saw the monstrous back of
the man raise itself. I saw his head. Did I really see it?--The candle
on the parquet lit up his legs only. Above the height of the table
the chamber was in darkness. I saw a man with long hair, a full beard,
wild-looking eyes, a pale face, framed in large whiskers,--as well as
I could distinguish, and, as I think--red in colour. I did not know the
face. That was, in brief, the chief sensation I received from that
face in the dim half-light in which I saw it. I did not know it--or, at
least, I did not recognise it.

"Now for quick action! It was indeed time for that, for as I was about
to place my legs through the window, the man had seen me, had bounded
to his feet, had sprung--as I foresaw he would--to the door of the
ante-chamber, had time to open it, and fled. But I was already behind
him, revolver in hand, shouting 'Help!'

"Like an arrow I crossed the room, but noticed a letter on the table
as I rushed. I almost came up with the man in the ante-room, for he had
lost time in opening the door to the gallery. I flew on wings, and in
the gallery was but a few feet behind him. He had taken, as I supposed
he would, the gallery on his right,--that is to say, the road he had
prepared for his flight. 'Help, Jacques!--help, Larsan!' I cried. He
could not escape us! I raised a shout of joy, of savage victory. The man
reached the intersection of the two galleries hardly two seconds before
me for the meeting which I had prepared--the fatal shock which
must inevitably take place at that spot! We all rushed to the
crossing-place--Monsieur Stangerson and I coming from one end of the
right gallery, Daddy Jacques coming from the other end of the same
gallery, and Frederic Larsan coming from the 'off-turning' gallery.

"The man was not there!

"We looked at each other stupidly and with eyes terrified. The man had
vanished like a ghost. 'Where is he--where is he?' we all asked.

"'It is impossible he can have escaped!' I cried, my terror mastered by
my anger.

"'I touched him!' exclaimed Frederic Larsan.

"'I felt his breath on my face!' cried Daddy Jacques.

"'Where is he?'--where is he?' we all cried.

"We raced like madmen along the two galleries; we visited doors and
windows--they were closed, hermetically closed. They had not been
opened. Besides, the opening of a door or window by this man whom we
were hunting, without our having perceived it, would have been more
inexplicable than his disappearance.

"Where is he?--where is he?--He could not have got away by a door or
a window, nor by any other way. He could not have passed through our
bodies!

"I confess that, for the moment, I felt 'done for.' For the gallery was
perfectly lighted, and there was neither trap, nor secret door in the
walls, nor any sort of hiding-place. We moved the chairs and lifted the
pictures. Nothing!--nothing! We would have looked into a flower-pot, if
there had been one to look into!"

When this mystery, thanks to Rouletabille, was naturally explained, by
the help alone of his masterful mind, we were able to realise that the
murderer had got away neither by a door, a window, nor the stairs--a
fact which the judges would not admit.



CHAPTER XVII. The Inexplicable Gallery


"Mademoiselle Stangerson appeared at the door of her ante-room,"
continues Rouletabille's note-book. "We were near her door in the
gallery where this incredible phenomenon had taken place. There are
moments when one feels as if one's brain were about to burst. A bullet
in the head, a fracture of the skull, the seat of reason shattered--with
only these can I compare the sensation which exhausted and left me void
of sense.

"Happily, Mademoiselle Stangerson appeared on the threshold of her
ante-room. I saw her, and that helped to relieve my chaotic state of
mind. I breathed her--I inhaled the perfume of the lady in black, whom I
should never see again. I would have given ten years of my life--half my
life--to see once more the lady in black! Alas! I no more meet her
but from time to time,--and yet!--and yet! how the memory of that
perfume--felt by me alone--carries me back to the days of my childhood.*
It was this sharp reminder from my beloved perfume, of the lady in
black, which made me go to her--dressed wholly in white and so pale--so
pale and so beautiful!--on the threshold of the inexplicable gallery.
Her beautiful golden hair, gathered into a knot on the back of her neck,
left visible the red star on her temple which had so nearly been the
cause of her death. When I first got on the right track of the mystery
of this case I had imagined that, on the night of the tragedy in The
Yellow Room, Mademoiselle Stangerson had worn her hair in bands. But
then, how could I have imagined otherwise when I had not been in
The Yellow Room!

     * When I wrote these lines, Joseph Rouletabille was eighteen
     years of age,--and he spoke of his "youth." I have kept the
     text of my friend, but I inform the reader here that the
     episode of the mystery of The Yellow Room has no connection
     with that of the perfume of the lady in black. It is not my
     fault if, in the document which I have cited, Rouletabille
     thought fit to refer to his childhood.

"But now, since the occurrence of the inexplicable gallery, I did not
reason at all. I stood there, stupid, before the apparition--so pale
and so beautiful--of Mademoiselle Stangerson. She was clad in a
dressing-gown of dreamy white. One might have taken her to be a
ghost--a lovely phantom. Her father took her in his arms and kissed her
passionately, as if he had recovered her after being long lost to him.
I dared not question her. He drew her into the room and we followed
them,--for we had to know!--The door of the boudoir was open. The
terrified faces of the two nurses craned towards us. Mademoiselle
Stangerson inquired the meaning of all the disturbance. That she was
not in her own room was quite easily explained--quite easily. She had
a fancy not to sleep that night in her chamber, but in the boudoir with
her nurses, locking the door on them. Since the night of the crime she
had experienced feelings of terror, and fears came over her that are
easily to be comprehended.

"But who could imagine that on that particular night when he was to
come, she would, by a mere chance, determine to shut herself in with her
women? Who would think that she would act contrary to her father's wish
to sleep in the drawing-room? Who could believe that the letter which
had so recently been on the table in her room would no longer be there?
He who could understand all this, would have to assume that Mademoiselle
Stangerson knew that the murderer was coming--she could not prevent
his coming again--unknown to her father, unknown to all but to Monsieur
Robert Darzac. For he must know it now--perhaps he had known it before!
Did he remember that phrase in the Elysee garden: 'Must I commit a
crime, then, to win you?' Against whom the crime, if not against the
obstacle, against the murderer? 'Ah, I would kill him with my own hand!'
And I replied, 'You have not answered my question.' That was the very
truth. In truth, in truth, Monsieur Darzac knew the murderer so well
that--while wishing to kill him himself--he was afraid I should find
him. There could be but two reasons why he had assisted me in my
investigation. First, because I forced him to do it; and, second,
because she would be the better protected.

"I am in the chamber--her room. I look at her, also at the place where
the letter had just now been. She has possessed herself of it; it was
evidently intended for her--evidently. How she trembles!--Trembles at
the strange story her father is telling her, of the presence of the
murderer in her chamber, and of the pursuit. But it is plainly to be
seen that she is not wholly satisfied by the assurance given her until
she had been told that the murderer, by some incomprehensible means, had
been able to elude us.

"Then follows a silence. What a silence! We are all there--looking at
her--her father, Larsan, Daddy Jacques and I. What were we all thinking
of in the silence? After the events of that night, of the mystery of
the inexplicable gallery, of the prodigious fact of the presence of the
murderer in her room, it seemed to me that all our thoughts might have
been translated into the words which were addressed to her. 'You who
know of this mystery, explain it to us, and we shall perhaps be able
to save you. How I longed to save her--for herself, and, from the
other!--It brought the tears to my eyes.

"She is there, shedding about her the perfume of the lady in black. At
last, I see her, in the silence of her chamber. Since the fatal hour of
the mystery of The Yellow Room, we have hung about this invisible and
silent woman to learn what she knows. Our desires, our wish to know must
be a torment to her. Who can tell that, should we learn the secret of
her mystery, it would not precipitate a tragedy more terrible than that
which had already been enacted here? Who can tell if it might not mean
her death? Yet it had brought her close to death,--and we still knew
nothing. Or, rather, there are some of us who know nothing. But I--if I
knew who, I should know all. Who?--Who?--Not knowing who, I must remain
silent, out of pity for her. For there is no doubt that she knows how he
escaped from The Yellow Room, and yet she keeps the secret. When I know
who, I will speak to him--to him!"

"She looked at us now--with a far-away look in her eyes--as if we were
not in the chamber. Monsieur Stangerson broke the silence. He declared
that, henceforth, he would no more absent himself from his daughter's
apartments. She tried to oppose him in vain. He adhered firmly to his
purpose. He would install himself there this very night, he said. Solely
concerned for the health of his daughter, he reproached her for having
left her bed. Then he suddenly began talking to her as if she were a
little child. He smiled at her and seemed not to know either what
he said or what he did. The illustrious professor had lost his
head. Mademoiselle Stangerson in a tone of tender distress said:
'Father!--father!' Daddy Jacques blows his nose, and Frederic Larsan
himself is obliged to turn away to hide his emotion. For myself, I am
able neither to think or feel. I felt an infinite contempt for myself.

"It was the first time that Frederic Larsan, like myself, found himself
face to face with Mademoiselle Stangerson since the attack in The Yellow
Room. Like me, he had insisted on being allowed to question the unhappy
lady; but he had not, any more than had I, been permitted. To him, as to
me, the same answer had always been given: Mademoiselle Stangerson was
too weak to receive us. The questionings of the examining magistrate
had over-fatigued her. It was evidently intended not to give us any
assistance in our researches. I was not surprised; but Frederic Larsan
had always resented this conduct. It is true that he and I had a totally
different theory of the crime.

"I still catch myself repeating from the depths of my heart: 'Save
her!--save her without his speaking!' Who is he--the murderer? Take him
and shut his mouth. But Monsieur Darzac made it clear that in order to
shut his mouth he must be killed. Have I the right to kill Mademoiselle
Stangerson's murderer? No, I had not. But let him only give me the
chance! Let me find out whether he is really a creature of flesh and
blood!--Let me see his dead body, since it cannot be taken alive.

"If I could but make this woman, who does not even look at us,
understand! She is absorbed by her fears and by her father's distress of
mind. And I can do nothing to save her. Yes, I will go to work once more
and accomplish wonders.

"I move towards her. I would speak to her. I would entreat her to
have confidence in me. I would, in a word, make her understand--she
alone--that I know how the murderer escaped from The Yellow Room--that
I have guessed the motives for her secrecy--and that I pity her with
all my heart. But by her gestures she begged us to leave her alone,
expressing weariness and the need for immediate rest. Monsieur
Stangerson asked us to go back to our rooms and thanked us. Frederic
Larsan and I bowed to him and, followed by Daddy Jacques, we regained
the gallery. I heard Larsan murmur: 'Strange! strange!' He made a sign
to me to go with him into his room. On the threshold he turned towards
Daddy Jacques.

"'Did you see him distinctly?' he asked.

"'Who?'

"'The man?'

"'Saw him!--why, he had a big red beard and red hair.'

"'That's how he appeared to me,' I said.

"'And to me,' said Larsan.

"The great Fred and I were alone in his chamber, now, to talk over this
thing. We talked for an hour, turning the matter over and viewing it
from every side. From the questions put by him, from the explanation
which he gives me, it is clear to me that--in spite of all our
senses--he is persuaded the man disappeared by some secret passage in
the chateau known to him alone.

"'He knows the chateau,' he said to me; 'he knows it well.'

"'He is a rather tall man--well-built,' I suggested.

"'He is as tall as he wants to be,' murmured Fred.

"'I understand,' I said; 'but how do you account for his red hair and
beard?'

"'Too much beard--too much hair--false,' says Fred.

"'That's easily said. You are always thinking of Robert Darzac. You
can't get rid of that idea? I am certain that he is innocent.'

"'So much the better. I hope so; but everything condemns him. Did you
notice the marks on the carpet?--Come and look at them.'

"'I have seen them; they are the marks of the neat boots, the same as
those we saw on the border of the lake.'

"'Can you deny that they belong to Robert Darzac?'

"'Of course, one may be mistaken.'

"'Have you noticed that those footprints only go in one direction?--that
there are no return marks? When the man came from the chamber, pursued
by all of us, his footsteps left no traces behind them.'

"'He had, perhaps, been in the chamber for hours. The mud from his boots
had dried, and he moved with such rapidity on the points of his toes--We
saw him running, but we did not hear his steps.'

"I suddenly put an end to this idle chatter--void of any logic, and made
a sign to Larsan to listen.

"'There--below; some one is shutting a door.'

"I rise; Larsan follows me; we descend to the ground-floor of the
chateau. I lead him to the little semi-circular room under the terrace
beneath the window of the 'off-turning' gallery. I point to the door,
now closed, open a short time before, under which a shaft of light is
visible.

"'The forest-keeper!' says Fred.

"'Come on!' I whisper.

"Prepared--I know not why--to believe that the keeper is the guilty
man--I go to the door and rap smartly on it. Some might think that we
were rather late in thinking of the keeper, since our first business,
after having found that the murderer had escaped us in the gallery,
ought to have been to search everywhere else,--around the chateau,--in
the park--

"Had this criticism been made at the time, we could only have answered
that the assassin had disappeared from the gallery in such a way that we
thought he was no longer anywhere! He had eluded us when we all had our
hands stretched out ready to seize him--when we were almost touching
him. We had no longer any ground for hoping that we could clear up the
mystery of that night.

"As soon as I rapped at the door it was opened, and the keeper asked us
quietly what we wanted. He was undressed and preparing to go to bed. The
bed had not yet been disturbed.

"We entered and I affected surprise.

"'Not gone to bed yet?'

"'No,' he replied roughly. 'I have been making a round of the park and
in the woods. I am only just back--and sleepy. Good-night!'

"'Listen,' I said. 'An hour or so ago, there was a ladder close by your
window.'

"'What ladder?--I did not see any ladder. Good-night!'

"And he simply put us out of the room. When we were outside I looked at
Larsan. His face was impenetrable.

"'Well?' I said.

"'Well?' he repeated.

"'Does that open out any new view to you?'

"There was no mistaking Larsan's bad temper. On re-entering the chateau,
I heard him mutter:

"'It would be strange--very strange--if I had deceived myself on that
point!'

"He seemed to be talking to me rather than to himself. He added: 'In
any case, we shall soon know what to think. The morning will bring light
with it.'"



CHAPTER XVIII. Rouletabille Has Drawn a Circle Between the Two Bumps on
His Forehead


(EXTRACT FROM THE NOTE-BOOK OF JOSEPH ROULETABILLE, continued)

"We separated on the thresholds of our rooms, with a melancholy shake of
the hands. I was glad to have aroused in him a suspicion of error. His
was an original brain, very intelligent but--without method. I did not
go to bed. I awaited the coming of daylight and then went down to
the front of the chateau, and made a detour, examining every trace of
footsteps coming towards it or going from it. These, however, were so
mixed and confusing that I could make nothing of them. Here I may make
a remark,--I am not accustomed to attach an exaggerated importance to
exterior signs left in the track of a crime.

"The method which traces the criminal by means of the tracks of his
footsteps is altogether primitive. So many footprints are identical.
However, in the disturbed state of my mind, I did go into the deserted
court and did look at all the footprints I could find there, seeking for
some indication, as a basis for reasoning.

"If I could but find a right starting-point! In despair I seated myself
on a stone. For over an hour I busied myself with the common, ordinary
work of a policeman. Like the least intelligent of detectives I went on
blindly over the traces of footprints which told me just no more than
they could.

"I came to the conclusion that I was a fool, lower in the scale of
intelligence than even the police of the modern romancer. Novelists
build mountains of stupidity out of a footprint on the sand, or from
an impression of a hand on the wall. That's the way innocent men are
brought to prison. It might convince an examining magistrate or the head
of a detective department, but it's not proof. You writers forget that
what the senses furnish is not proof. If I am taking cognisance of what
is offered me by my senses I do so but to bring the results within the
circle of my reason. That circle may be the most circumscribed, but if
it is, it has this advantage--it holds nothing but the truth! Yes, I
swear that I have never used the evidence of the senses but as servants
to my reason. I have never permitted them to become my master. They have
not made of me that monstrous thing,--worse than a blind man,--a man
who sees falsely. And that is why I can triumph over your error and your
merely animal intelligence, Frederic Larsan.

"Be of good courage, then, friend Rouletabille; it is impossible that
the incident of the inexplicable gallery should be outside the circle
of your reason. You know that! Then have faith and take thought with
yourself and forget not that you took hold of the right end when you
drew that circle in your brain within which to unravel this mysterious
play of circumstance.

"To it, once again! Go--back to the gallery. Take your stand on your
reason and rest there as Frederic Larsan rests on his cane. You will
then soon prove that the great Fred is nothing but a fool.

--30th October. Noon.

JOSEPH ROULETABILLE."


"I acted as I planned. With head on fire, I retraced my way to the
gallery, and without having found anything more than I had seen on
the previous night, the right hold I had taken of my reason drew me to
something so important that I was obliged to cling to it to save myself
from falling.

"Now for the strength and patience to find sensible traces to fit in
with my thinking--and these must come within the circle I have drawn
between the two bumps on my forehead!

--30th of October. Midnight."

"JOSEPH ROULETABILLE."



CHAPTER XIX. Rouletabille Invites Me to Breakfast at the Donjon Inn


It was not until later that Rouletabille sent me the note-book in which
he had written at length the story of the phenomenon of the inexplicable
gallery. On the day I arrived at the Glandier and joined him in his
room, he recounted to me, with the greatest detail, all that I have now
related, telling me also how he had spent several hours in Paris where
he had learned nothing that could be of any help to him.

The event of the inexplicable gallery had occurred on the night between
the 29th and 30th of October, that is to say, three days before my
return to the chateau. It was on the 2nd of November, then, that I went
back to the Glandier, summoned there by my friend's telegram, and taking
the revolvers with me.

I am now in Rouletabille's room and he has finished his recital.

While he had been telling me the story I noticed him continually rubbing
the glass of the eyeglasses he had found on the side table. From the
evident pleasure he was taking in handling them I felt they must be one
of those sensible evidences destined to enter what he had called the
circle of the right end of his reason. That strange and unique way of
his, to express himself in terms wonderfully adequate for his thoughts,
no longer surprised me. It was often necessary to know his thought to
understand the terms he used; and it was not easy to penetrate into
Rouletabille's thinking.

This lad's brain was one of the most curious things I have ever
observed. Rouletabille went on the even tenor of his way without
suspecting the astonishment and even bewilderment he roused in others. I
am sure he was not himself in the least conscious of the originality of
his genius. He was himself and at ease wherever he happened to be.

When he had finished his recital he asked me what I thought of it. I
replied that I was much puzzled by his question. Then he begged me to
try, in my turn, to take my reason in hand "by the right end."

"Very well," I said. "It seems to me that the point of departure of
my reason would be this--there can be no doubt that the murderer you
pursued was in the gallery." I paused.

"After making so good a start, you ought not to stop so soon," he
exclaimed. "Come, make another effort."

"I'll try. Since he disappeared from the gallery without passing through
any door or window, he must have escaped by some other opening."

Rouletabille looked at me pityingly, smiled carelessly, and remarked
that I was reasoning like a postman, or--like Frederic Larsan.

Rouletabille had alternate fits of admiration and disdain for the great
Fred. It all depended as to whether Larsan's discoveries tallied with
Rouletabille's reasoning or not. When they did he would exclaim: "He
is really great!" When they did not he would grunt and mutter, "What an
ass!" It was a petty side of the noble character of this strange youth.

We had risen, and he led me into the park. When we reached the court and
were making towards the gate, the sound of blinds thrown back against
the wall made us turn our heads, and we saw, at a window on the first
floor of the chateau, the ruddy and clean shaven face of a person I did
not recognise.

"Hullo!" muttered Rouletabille. "Arthur Rance!"--He lowered his head,
quickened his pace, and I heard him ask himself between his teeth: "Was
he in the chateau that night? What is he doing here?"

We had gone some distance from the chateau when I asked him who this
Arthur Rance was, and how he had come to know him. He referred to his
story of that morning and I remembered that Mr. Arthur W. Rance was the
American from Philadelphia with whom he had had so many drinks at the
Elysee reception.

"But was he not to have left France almost immediately?" I asked.

"No doubt; that's why I am surprised to find him here still, and not
only in France, but above all, at the Glandier. He did not arrive this
morning; and he did not get here last night. He must have got here
before dinner, then. Why didn't the concierges tell me?"

I reminded my friend, apropos of the concierges, that he had not yet
told me what had led him to get them set at liberty.

We were close to their lodge. Monsieur and Madame Bernier saw us coming.
A frank smile lit up their happy faces. They seemed to harbour no
ill-feeling because of their detention. My young friend asked them at
what hour Mr. Arthur Rance had arrived. They answered that they did not
know he was at the chateau. He must have come during the evening of the
previous night, but they had not had to open the gate for him, because,
being a great walker, and not wishing that a carriage should be sent
to meet him, he was accustomed to get off at the little hamlet of
Saint-Michel, from which he came to the chateau by way of the forest. He
reached the park by the grotto of Sainte-Genevieve, over the little gate
of which, giving on to the park, he climbed.

As the concierges spoke, I saw Rouletabille's face cloud over and
exhibit disappointment--a disappointment, no doubt, with himself.
Evidently he was a little vexed, after having worked so much on the
spot, with so minute a study of the people and events at the Glandier,
that he had to learn now that Arthur Rance was accustomed to visit the
chateau.

"You say that Monsieur Arthur Rance is accustomed to come to the
chateau. When did he come here last?"

"We can't tell you exactly," replied Madame Bernier--that was the
name of the concierge--"we couldn't know while they were keeping us in
prison. Besides, as the gentleman comes to the chateau without passing
through our gate he goes away by the way he comes."

"Do you know when he came the first time?"

"Oh yes, Monsieur!--nine years ago."

"He was in France nine years ago, then," said Rouletabille, "and,
since that time, as far as you know, how many times has he been at the
Glandier?"

"Three times."

"When did he come the last time, as far as you know?"

"A week before the attempt in The Yellow Room."

Rouletabille put another question--this time addressing himself
particularly to the woman:

"In the grove of the parquet?"

"In the grove of the parquet," she replied.

"Thanks!" said Rouletabille. "Be ready for me this evening."

He spoke the last words with a finger on his lips as if to command
silence and discretion.

We left the park and took the way to the Donjon Inn.

"Do you often eat here?"

"Sometimes."

"But you also take your meals at the chateau?"

"Yes, Larsan and I are sometimes served in one of our rooms."

"Hasn't Monsieur Stangerson ever invited you to his own table?"

"Never."

"Does your presence at the chateau displease him?"

"I don't know; but, in any case, he does not make us feel that we are in
his way."

"Doesn't he question you?"

"Never. He is in the same state of mind as he was in at the door of The
Yellow Room when his daughter was being murdered, and when he broke open
the door and did not find the murderer. He is persuaded, since he
could discover nothing, that there's no reason why we should be able
to discover more than he did. But he has made it his duty, since Larsan
expressed his theory, not to oppose us."

Rouletabille buried himself in thought again for some time. He aroused
himself later to tell me of how he came to set the two concierges free.

"I went recently to see Monsieur Stangerson, and took with me a piece of
paper on which was written: 'I promise, whatever others may say, to
keep in my service my two faithful servants, Bernier and his wife.' I
explained to him that, by signing that document, he would enable me to
compel those two people to speak out; and I declared my own assurance of
their innocence of any part in the crime. That was also his opinion. The
examining magistrate, after it was signed, presented the document to the
Berniers, who then did speak. They said, what I was certain they would
say, as soon as they were sure they would not lose their place.

"They confessed to poaching on Monsieur Stangerson's estates, and it
was while they were poaching, on the night of the crime, that they were
found not far from the pavilion at the moment when the outrage was being
committed. Some rabbits they caught in that way were sold by them to the
landlord of the Donjon Inn, who served them to his customers, or sent
them to Paris. That was the truth, as I had guessed from the first. Do
you remember what I said, on entering the Donjon Inn?--'We shall have
to eat red meat--now!' I had heard the words on the same morning when
we arrived at the park gate. You heard them also, but you did not attach
any importance to them. You recollect, when we reached the park gate,
that we stopped to look at a man who was running by the side of the
wall, looking every minute at his watch. That was Larsan. Well, behind
us the landlord of the Donjon Inn, standing on his doorstep, said to
someone inside: 'We shall have to eat red meat--now.'

"Why that 'now'? When you are, as I am, in search of some hidden secret,
you can't afford to have anything escape you. You've got to know the
meaning of everything. We had come into a rather out-of-the-way part of
the country which had been turned topsy-turvey by a crime, and my reason
led me to suspect every phrase that could bear upon the event of the
day. 'Now,' I took to mean, 'since the outrage.' In the course of my
inquiry, therefore, I sought to find a relation between that phrase and
the tragedy. We went to the Donjon Inn for breakfast; I repeated the
phrase and saw, by the surprise and trouble on Daddy Mathieu's face,
that I had not exaggerated its importance, so far as he was concerned.

"I had just learned that the concierges had been arrested. Daddy Mathieu
spoke of them as of dear friends--people for whom one is sorry. That
was a reckless conjunction of ideas, I said to myself. 'Now,' that
the concierges are arrested, 'we shall have to eat red meat.' No more
concierges, no more game! The hatred expressed by Daddy Mathieu for
Monsieur Stangerson's forest-keeper--a hatred he pretended was shared
by the concierges led me easily to think of poaching. Now as all the
evidence showed the concierges had not been in bed at the time of the
tragedy, why were they abroad that night? As participants in the crime?
I was not disposed to think so. I had already arrived at the conclusion,
by steps of which I will tell you later--that the assassin had had no
accomplice, and that the tragedy held a mystery between Mademoiselle
Stangerson and the murderer, a mystery with which the concierges had
nothing to do.

"With that theory in my mind, I searched for proof in their lodge,
which, as you know, I entered. I found there under their bed, some
springs and brass wire. 'Ah!' I thought, 'these things explain why
they were out in the park at night!' I was not surprised at the dogged
silence they maintained before the examining magistrate, even under the
accusation so grave as that of being accomplices in the crime. Poaching
would save them from the Assize Court, but it would lose them their
places; and, as they were perfectly sure of their innocence of the crime
they hoped it would soon be established, and then their poaching might
go on as usual. They could always confess later. I, however, hastened
their confession by means of the document Monsieur Stangerson signed.
They gave all the necessary 'proofs,' were set at liberty, and have
now a lively gratitude for me. Why did I not get them released sooner?
Because I was not sure that nothing more than poaching was against them.
I wanted to study the ground. As the days went by, my conviction became
more and more certain. The day after the events of the inexplicable
gallery I had need of help I could rely on, so I resolved to have them
released at once."

That was how Joseph Rouletabille explained himself. Once more I could
not but be astonished at the simplicity of the reasoning which had
brought him to the truth of the matter. Certainly this was no big thing;
but I think, myself, that the young man will, one of these days, explain
with the same simplicity, the fearful tragedy in The Yellow Room as well
as the phenomenon of the inexplicable gallery.

We reached the Donjon Inn and entered it.

This time we did not see the landlord, but were received with a pleasant
smile by the hostess. I have already described the room in which we
found ourselves, and I have given a glimpse of the charming blonde woman
with the gentle eyes who now immediately began to prepare our breakfast.

"How's Daddy Mathieu?" asked Rouletabille.

"Not much better--not much better; he is still confined to his bed."

"His rheumatism still sticks to him, then?"

"Yes. Last night I was again obliged to give him morphine--the only drug
that gives him any relief."

She spoke in a soft voice. Everything about her expressed gentleness.
She was, indeed, a beautiful woman; somewhat with an air of indolence,
with great eyes seemingly black and blue--amorous eyes. Was she happy
with her crabbed, rheumatic husband? The scene at which we had once been
present did not lead us to believe that she was; yet there was something
in her bearing that was not suggestive of despair. She disappeared into
the kitchen to prepare our repast, leaving on the table a bottle of
excellent cider. Rouletabille filled our earthenware mugs, loaded his
pipe, and quietly explained to me his reason for asking me to come to
the Glandier with revolvers.

"Yes," he said, contemplatively looking at the clouds of smoke he was
puffing out, "yes, my dear boy, I expect the assassin to-night." A brief
silence followed, which I took care not to interrupt, and then he went
on:

"Last night, just as I was going to bed, Monsieur Robert Darzac knocked
at my room. When he came in he confided to me that he was compelled to
go to Paris the next day, that is, this morning. The reason which made
this journey necessary was at once peremptory and mysterious; it was not
possible for him to explain its object to me. 'I go, and yet,' he added,
'I would give my life not to leave Mademoiselle Stangerson at this
moment.' He did not try to hide that he believed her to be once more in
danger. 'It will not greatly astonish me if something happens to-morrow
night,' he avowed, 'and yet I must be absent. I cannot be back at the
Glandier before the morning of the day after to-morrow.'

"I asked him to explain himself, and this is all he would tell me.
His anticipation of coming danger had come to him solely from the
coincidence that Mademoiselle Stangerson had been twice attacked, and
both times when he had been absent. On the night of the incident of the
inexplicable gallery he had been obliged to be away from the Glandier.
On the night of the tragedy in The Yellow Room he had also not been able
to be at the Glandier, though this was the first time he had declared
himself on the matter. Now a man so moved who would still go away must
be acting under compulsion--must be obeying a will stronger than
his own. That was how I reasoned, and I told him so. He replied
'Perhaps.'--I asked him if Mademoiselle Stangerson was compelling him.
He protested that she was not. His determination to go to Paris had been
taken without any conference with Mademoiselle Stangerson.

"To cut the story short, he repeated that his belief in the possibility
of a fresh attack was founded entirely on the extraordinary coincidence.
'If anything happens to Mademoiselle Stangerson,' he said, 'it would be
terrible for both of us. For her, because her life would be in danger;
for me because I could neither defend her from the attack nor tell of
where I had been. I am perfectly aware of the suspicions cast on me.
The examining magistrate and Monsieur Larsan are both on the point of
believing in my guilt. Larsan tracked me the last time I went to Paris,
and I had all the trouble in the world to get rid of him.'

"'Why do you not tell me the name of the murderer now, if you know it?'
I cried.

"Monsieur Darzac appeared extremely troubled by my question, and replied
to me in a hesitating tone:

"'I?--I know the name of the murderer? Why, how could I know his name?'

"I at once replied: 'From Mademoiselle Stangerson.'

"He grew so pale that I thought he was about to faint, and I saw that I
had hit the nail right on the head. Mademoiselle and he knew the name of
the murderer! When he recovered himself, he said to me: 'I am going to
leave you. Since you have been here I have appreciated your exceptional
intelligence and your unequalled ingenuity. But I ask this service of
you. Perhaps I am wrong to fear an attack during the coming night; but,
as I must act with foresight, I count on you to frustrate any attempt
that may be made. Take every step needful to protect Mademoiselle
Stangerson. Keep a most careful watch of her room. Don't go to sleep,
nor allow yourself one moment of repose. The man we dread is remarkably
cunning--with a cunning that has never been equalled. If you keep watch
his very cunning may save her; because it's impossible that he should
not know that you are watching; and knowing it, he may not venture.'

"'Have you spoken of all this to Monsieur Stangerson?'

"'No. I do not wish him to ask me, as you just now did, for the name of
the murderer. I tell you all this, Monsieur Rouletabille, because I have
great, very great, confidence in you. I know that you do not suspect
me.'

"The poor man spoke in jerks. He was evidently suffering. I pitied him,
the more because I felt sure that he would rather allow himself to
be killed than tell me who the murderer was. As for Mademoiselle
Stangerson, I felt that she would rather allow herself to be murdered
than denounce the man of The Yellow Room and of the inexplicable
gallery. The man must be dominating her, or both, by some inscrutable
power. They were dreading nothing so much as the chance of Monsieur
Stangerson knowing that his daughter was 'held' by her assailant. I made
Monsieur Darzac understand that he had explained himself sufficiently,
and that he might refrain from telling me any more than he had already
told me. I promised him to watch through the night. He insisted that I
should establish an absolutely impassable barrier around Mademoiselle
Stangerson's chamber, around the boudoir where the nurses were sleeping,
and around the drawing-room where, since the affair of the inexplicable
gallery, Monsieur Stangerson had slept. In short, I was to put a cordon
round the whole apartment.

"From his insistence I gathered that Monsieur Darzac intended not only
to make it impossible for the expected man to reach the chamber of
Mademoiselle Stangerson, but to make that impossibility so visibly clear
that, seeing himself expected, he would at once go away. That was how
I interpreted his final words when we parted: 'You may mention your
suspicions of the expected attack to Monsieur Stangerson, to Daddy
Jacques, to Frederic Larsan, and to anybody in the chateau.'

"The poor fellow left me hardly knowing what he was saying. My silence
and my eyes told him that I had guessed a large part of his secret. And,
indeed, he must have been at his wits' end, to have come to me at such a
time, and to abandon Mademoiselle Stangerson in spite of his fixed idea
as to the consequence.

"When he was gone, I began to think that I should have to use even a
greater cunning than his so that if the man should come that night,
he might not for a moment suspect that his coming had been expected.
Certainly! I would allow him to get in far enough, so that, dead or
alive, I might see his face clearly! He must be got rid of. Mademoiselle
Stangerson must be freed from this continual impending danger.

"Yes, my boy," said Rouletabille, after placing his pipe on the table,
and emptying his mug of cider, "I must see his face distinctly, so as to
make sure to impress it on that part of my brain where I have drawn my
circle of reasoning."

The landlady re-appeared at that moment, bringing in the traditional
bacon omelette. Rouletabille chaffed her a little, and she took the
chaff with the most charming good humour.

"She is much jollier when Daddy Mathieu is in bed with his rheumatism,"
Rouletabille said to me.

But I had eyes neither for Rouletabille nor for the landlady's smiles.
I was entirely absorbed over the last words of my young friend and in
thinking over Monsieur Robert Darzac's strange behaviour.

When he had finished his omelette and we were again alone, Rouletabille
continued the tale of his confidences.

"When I sent you my telegram this morning," he said, "I had only
the word of Monsieur Darzac, that 'perhaps' the assassin would come
to-night. I can now say that he will certainly come. I expect him."

"What has made you feel this certainty?"

"I have been sure since half-past ten o'clock this morning that he
would come. I knew that before we saw Arthur Rance at the window in the
court."

"Ah!" I said, "But, again--what made you so sure? And why since
half-past ten this morning?"

"Because, at half-past ten, I had proof that Mademoiselle Stangerson was
making as many efforts to permit of the murderer's entrance as Monsieur
Robert Darzac had taken precautions against it."

"Is that possible!" I cried. "Haven't you told me that Mademoiselle
Stangerson loves Monsieur Robert Darzac?"

"I told you so because it is the truth."

"Then do you see nothing strange--"

"Everything in this business is strange, my friend; but take my word for
it, the strangeness you now feel is nothing to the strangeness that's to
come!"

"It must be admitted, then," I said, "that Mademoiselle Stangerson and
her murderer are in communication--at any rate in writing?"

"Admit it, my friend, admit it! You don't risk anything! I told you
about the letter left on her table, on the night of the inexplicable
gallery affair,--the letter that disappeared into the pocket of
Mademoiselle Stangerson. Why should it not have been a summons to a
meeting? Might he not, as soon as he was sure of Darzac's absence,
appoint the meeting for 'the coming night?"

And my friend laughed silently. There are moments when I ask myself if
he is not laughing at me.

The door of the inn opened. Rouletabille was on his feet so suddenly
that one might have thought he had received an electric shock.

"Mr. Arthur Rance!" he cried.

Mr. Arthur Rance stood before us calmly bowing.



CHAPTER XX. An Act of Mademoiselle Stangerson


"You remember me, Monsieur?" asked Rouletabille.

"Perfectly!" replied Arthur Rance. "I recognise you as the lad at the
bar. [The face of Rouletabille crimsoned at being called a "lad."] I
want to shake hands with you. You are a bright little fellow."

The American extended his hand and Rouletabille, relaxing his frown,
shook it and introduced Mr. Arthur Rance to me. He invited him to share
our meal.

"No thanks. I breakfasted with Monsieur Stangerson."

Arthur Rance spoke French perfectly,--almost without an accent.

"I did not expect to have the pleasure of seeing you again, Monsieur. I
thought you were to have left France the day after the reception at the
Elysee."

Rouletabille and I, outwardly indifferent, listened most intently for
every word the American would say.

The man's purplish red face, his heavy eyelids, the nervous twitchings,
all spoke of his addiction to drink. How came it that so sorry a
specimen of a man should be so intimate with Monsieur Stangerson?

Some days later, I learned from Frederic Larsan--who, like ourselves,
was surprised and mystified by his appearance and reception at the
chateau--that Mr. Rance had been an inebriate for only about fifteen
years; that is to say, since the professor and his daughter left
Philadelphia. During the time the Stangersons lived in America they were
very intimate with Arthur Rance, who was one of the most distinguished
phrenologists of the new world. Owing to new experiments, he had
made enormous strides beyond the science of Gall and Lavater. The
friendliness with which he was received at the Glandier may be explained
by the fact that he had once rendered Mademoiselle Stangerson a great
service by stopping, at the peril of his own life, the runaway horses of
her carriage. The immediate result of that could, however, have been no
more than a mere friendly association with the Stangersons; certainly,
not a love affair.

Frederic Larsan did not tell me where he had picked up this information;
but he appeared to be quite sure of what he said.

Had we known these facts at the time Arthur Rance met us at the Donjon
Inn, his presence at the chateau might not have puzzled us, but they
could not have failed to increase our interest in the man himself. The
American must have been at least forty-five years old. He spoke in a
perfectly natural tone in reply to Rouletabille's question.

"I put off my return to America when I heard of the attack on
Mademoiselle Stangerson. I wanted to be certain the lady had not been
killed, and I shall not go away until she is perfectly recovered."

Arthur Rance then took the lead in talk, paying no heed to some of
Rouletabille's questions. He gave us, without our inviting him, his
personal views on the subject of the tragedy,--views which, as well as
I could make out, were not far from those held by Frederic Larzan. The
American also thought that Robert Darzac had something to do with the
matter. He did not mention him by name, but there was no room to doubt
whom he meant. He told us he was aware of the efforts young Rouletabille
was making to unravel the tangled skein of The Yellow Room mystery. He
explained that Monsieur Stangerson had related to him all that had taken
place in the inexplicable gallery. He several times expressed his regret
at Monsieur Darzac's absence from the chateau on all these occasions,
and thought that Monsieur Darzac had done cleverly in allying himself
with Monsieur Joseph Rouletabille, who could not fail, sooner or later,
to discover the murderer. He spoke the last sentence with unconcealed
irony. Then he rose, bowed to us, and left the inn.

Rouletabille watched him through the window.

"An odd fish, that!" he said.

"Do you think he'll pass the night at the Glandier?" I asked.

To my amazement the young reporter answered that it was a matter of
entire indifference to him whether he did or not.

As to how we spent our time during the afternoon, all I need say is
that Rouletabille led me to the grotto of Sainte-Genevieve, and, all
the time, talked of every subject but the one in which we were most
interested. Towards evening I was surprised to find Rouletabille making
none of the preparations I had expected him to make. I spoke to him
about it when night had come on, and we were once more in his room. He
replied that all his arrangements had already been made, and this time
the murderer would not get away from him.

I expressed some doubt on this, reminding him of his disappearance in
the gallery, and suggested that the same phenomenon might occur again.
He answered that he hoped it would. He desired nothing more. I did not
insist, knowing by experience how useless that would have been. He told
me that, with the help of the concierges, the chateau had since early
dawn been watched in such a way that nobody could approach it without
his knowing it, and that he had no concern for those who might have left
it and remained without.

It was then six o'clock by his watch. Rising, he made a sign to me to
follow him, and, without in the least tying to conceal his movements or
the sound of his footsteps, he led me through the gallery. We reached
the 'right' gallery and came to the landing-place which we crossed.
We then continued our way in the gallery of the left wing, passing
Professor Stangerson's apartment.

At the far end of the gallery, before coming to the donjon, is the room
occupied by Arthur Rance. We knew that, because we had seen him at the
window looking on to the court. The door of the room opens on to the end
of the gallery, exactly facing the east window, at the extremity of
the 'right' gallery, where Rouletabille had placed Daddy Jacques, and
commands an uninterrupted view of the gallery from end to end of the
chateau.

"That 'off-turning' gallery," said Rouletabille, "I reserve for myself;
when I tell you you'll come and take your place here."

And he made me enter a little dark, triangular closet built in a bend
of the wall, to the left of the door of Arthur Rance's room. From this
recess I could see all that occurred in the gallery as well as if I had
been standing in front of Arthur Rance's door, and I could watch
that door, too. The door of the closet, which was to be my place
of observation, was fitted with panels of transparent glass. In the
gallery, where all the lamps had been lit, it was quite light. In the
closet, however, it was quite dark. It was a splendid place from which
to observe and remain unobserved.

I was soon to play the part of a spy--a common policeman. I wonder what
my leader at the bar would have said had he known! I was not altogether
pleased with my duties, but I could not refuse Rouletabille the
assistance he had begged me to give him. I took care not to make him
see that I in the least objected, and for several reasons. I wanted to
oblige him; I did not wish him to think me a coward; I was filled
with curiosity; and it was too late for me to draw back, even had
I determined to do so. That I had not had these scruples sooner was
because my curiosity had quite got the better of me. I might also urge
that I was helping to save the life of a woman, and even a lawyer may do
that conscientiously.

We returned along the gallery. On reaching the door of Mademoiselle
Stangerson's apartment, it opened from a push given by the steward who
was waiting at the dinner-table. (Monsieur Stangerson had, for the last
three days, dined with his daughter in the drawing-room on the first
floor.) As the door remained open, we distinctly saw Mademoiselle
Stangerson, taking advantage of the steward's absence, and while her
father was stooping to pick up something he had let fall, pour the
contents of a phial into Monsieur Stangerson's glass.



CHAPTER XXI. On the Watch


The act, which staggered me, did not appear to affect Rouletabille much.
We returned to his room and, without even referring to what we had seen,
he gave me his final instructions for the night. First we were to go to
dinner; after dinner, I was to take my stand in the dark closet and wait
there as long as it was necessary--to look out for what might happen.

"If you see anything before I do," he explained, "you must let me know.
If the man gets into the 'right' gallery by any other way than the
'off-turning' gallery, you will see him before I shall, because you have
a view along the whole length of the 'right' gallery, while I can only
command a view of the 'off-turning' gallery. All you need do to let
me know is to undo the cord holding the curtain of the 'right' gallery
window, nearest to the dark closet. The curtain will fall of itself and
immediately leave a square of shadow where previously there had been a
square of light. To do this, you need but stretch your hand out of the
closet, I shall understand your signal perfectly."

"And then?"

"Then you will see me coming round the corner of the 'off-turning'
gallery."

"What am I to do then?"

"You will immediately come towards me, behind the man; but I shall
already be upon him, and shall have seen his face."

I attempted a feeble smile.

"Why do you smile? Well, you may smile while you have the chance, but I
swear you'll have no time for that a few hours from now.

"And if the man escapes?"

"So much the better," said Rouletabille, coolly, "I don't want to
capture him. He may take himself off any way he can. I will let
him go--after I have seen his face. That's all I want. I shall know
afterwards what to do so that as far as Mademoiselle Stangerson is
concerned he shall be dead to her even though he continues to live. If
I took him alive, Mademoiselle Stangerson and Robert Darzac would,
perhaps, never forgive me! And I wish to retain their good-will and
respect.

"Seeing, as I have just now seen, Mademoiselle Stangerson pour a
narcotic into her father's glass, so that he might not be awake to
interrupt the conversation she is going to have with her murderer, you
can imagine she would not be grateful to me if I brought the man of
The Yellow Room and the inexplicable gallery, bound and gagged, to her
father. I realise now that if I am to save the unhappy lady, I must
silence the man and not capture him. To kill a human being is no small
thing. Besides, that's not my business, unless the man himself makes it
my business. On the other hand, to render him forever silent without
the lady's assent and confidence is to act on one's own initiative and
assumes a knowledge of everything with nothing for a basis. Fortunately,
my friend, I have guessed, no, I have reasoned it all out. All that I
ask of the man who is coming to-night is to bring me his face, so that
it may enter--"

"Into the circle?"

"Exactly! And his face won't surprise me!"

"But I thought you saw his face on the night when you sprang into the
chamber?"

"Only imperfectly. The candle was on the floor; and, his beard--"

"Will he wear his beard this evening?"

"I think I can say for certain that he will. But the gallery is light
and, now, I know--or--at least, my brain knows--and my eyes will see."

"If we are here only to see him and let him escape, why are we armed?"

"Because, if the man of The Yellow Room and the inexplicable gallery
knows that I know, he is capable of doing anything! We should then have
to defend ourselves."

"And you are sure he will come to-night?"

"As sure as that you are standing there! This morning, at half-past ten
o'clock, Mademoiselle Stangerson, in the cleverest way in the world,
arranged to have no nurses to-night. She gave them leave of absence for
twenty-four hours, under some plausible pretexts, and did not desire
anybody to be with her but her father, while they are away. Her father,
who is to sleep in the boudoir, has gladly consented to the arrangement.
Darzac's departure and what he told me, as well as the extraordinary
precautions Mademoiselle Stangerson is taking to be alone to-night
leaves me no room for doubt. She has prepared the way for the coming of
the man whom Darzac dreads."

"That's awful!"

"It is!"

"And what we saw her do was done to send her father to sleep?"

"Yes."

"Then there are but two of us for to-night's work?"

"Four; the concierge and his wife will watch at all hazards. I don't
set much value on them before--but the concierge may be useful after--if
there's to be any killing!"

"Then you think there may be?"

"If he wishes it."

"Why haven't you brought in Daddy Jacques?--Have you made no use of him
to-day?"

"No," replied Rouletabille sharply.

I kept silence for awhile, then, anxious to know his thoughts, I asked
him point blank:

"Why not tell Arthur Rance?--He may be of great assistance to us?"

"Oh!" said Rouletabille crossly, "then you want to let everybody into
Mademoiselle Stangerson's secrets?--Come, let us go to dinner; it is
time. This evening we dine in Frederic Larsan's room,--at least, if
he is not on the heels of Darzac. He sticks to him like a leech. But,
anyhow, if he is not there now, I am quite sure he will be, to-night!
He's the one I am going to knock over!"

At this moment we heard a noise in the room near us.

"It must be he," said Rouletabille.

"I forgot to ask you," I said, "if we are to make any allusion to
to-night's business when we are with this policeman. I take it we are
not. Is that so?"

"Evidently. We are going to operate alone, on our own personal account."

"So that all the glory will be ours?"

Rouletabille laughed.

We dined with Frederic Larsan in his room. He told us he had just come
in and invited us to be seated at table. We ate our dinner in the best
of humours, and I had no difficulty in appreciating the feelings of
certainty which both Rouletabille and Larsan felt. Rouletabille told the
great Fred that I had come on a chance visit, and that he had asked me
to stay and help him in the heavy batch of writing he had to get through
for the "Epoque." I was going back to Paris, he said, by the eleven
o'clock train, taking his "copy," which took a story form, recounting
the principal episodes in the mysteries of the Glandier. Larsan smiled
at the explanation like a man who was not fooled and politely refrains
from making the slightest remark on matters which did not concern him.

With infinite precautions as to the words they used, and even as to the
tones of their voices, Larsan and Rouletabille discussed, for a long
time, Mr. Arthur Rance's appearance at the chateau, and his past in
America, about which they expressed a desire to know more, at any rate,
so far as his relations with the Stangersons. At one time, Larsan, who
appeared to me to be unwell, said, with an effort:

"I think, Monsieur Rouletabille, that we've not much more to do at the
Glandier, and that we sha'n't sleep here many more nights."

"I think so, too, Monsieur Fred."

"Then you think the conclusion of the matter has been reached?"

"I think, indeed, that we have nothing more to find out," replied
Rouletabille.

"Have you found your criminal?" asked Larsan.

"Have you?"

"Yes."

"So have I," said Rouletabille.

"Can it be the same man?"

"I don't know if you have swerved from your original idea," said the
young reporter. Then he added, with emphasis: "Monsieur Darzac is an
honest man!"

"Are you sure of that?" asked Larsan. "Well, I am sure he is not. So
it's a fight then?"

"Yes, it is a fight. But I shall beat you, Monsieur Frederic Larsan."

"Youth never doubts anything," said the great Fred laughingly, and held
out his hand to me by way of conclusion.

Rouletabille's answer came like an echo:

"Not anything!"

Suddenly Larsan, who had risen to wish us goodnight, pressed both his
hands to his chest and staggered. He was obliged to lean on Rouletabille
for support, and to save himself from falling.

"Oh! Oh!" he cried. "What is the matter with me?--Have I been poisoned?"

He looked at us with haggard eyes. We questioned him vainly; he did not
answer us. He had sunk into an armchair and we could get not a word from
him. We were extremely distressed, both on his account and on our own,
for we had partaken of all the dishes he had eaten. He seemed to be out
of pain; but his heavy head had fallen on his shoulder and his eyelids
were tightly closed. Rouletabille bent over him, listening for the
beatings of the heart.

My friend's face, however, when he stood up, was as calm as it had been
a moment before agitated.

"He is asleep," he said.

He led me to his chamber, after closing Larsan's room.

"The drug?" I asked. "Does Mademoiselle Stangerson wish to put everybody
to sleep, to-night?"

"Perhaps," replied Rouletabille; but I could see he was thinking of
something else.

"But what about us?" I exclaimed. "How do we know that we have not been
drugged?"

"Do you feel indisposed?" Rouletabille asked me coolly.

"Not in the least."

"Do you feel any inclination to go to sleep?"

"None whatever."

"Well, then, my friend, smoke this excellent cigar."

And he handed me a choice Havana, one Monsieur Darzac had given him,
while he lit his briarwood--his eternal briarwood.

We remained in his room until about ten o'clock without a word passing
between us. Buried in an armchair Rouletabille sat and smoked steadily,
his brow in thought and a far-away look in his eyes. On the stroke of
ten he took off his boots and signalled to me to do the same. As we
stood in our socks he said, in so low a tone that I guessed, rather than
heard, the word:

"Revolver."

I drew my revolver from my jacket pocket.

"Cock it!" he said.

I did as he directed.

Then moving towards the door of his room, he opened it with infinite
precaution; it made no sound. We were in the "off-turning" gallery.
Rouletabille made another sign to me which I understood to mean that I
was to take up my post in the dark closet.

When I was some distance from him, he rejoined me and embraced me; and
then I saw him, with the same precaution, return to his room. Astonished
by his embrace, and somewhat disquieted by it, I arrived at the right
gallery without difficulty, crossing the landing-place, and reaching the
dark closet.

Before entering it I examined the curtain-cord of the window and found
that I had only to release it from its fastening with my fingers for
the curtain to fall by its own weight and hide the square of light from
Rouletabille--the signal agreed upon. The sound of a footstep made me
halt before Arthur Rance's door. He was not yet in bed, then! How was
it that, being in the chateau, he had not dined with Monsieur Stangerson
and his daughter? I had not seen him at table with them, at the moment
when we looked in.

I retired into the dark closet. I found myself perfectly situated. I
could see along the whole length of the gallery. Nothing, absolutely
nothing could pass there without my seeing it. But what was going to
pass there? Rouletabille's embrace came back to my mind. I argued that
people don't part from each, other in that way unless on an important or
dangerous occasion. Was I then in danger?

My hand closed on the butt of my revolver and I waited. I am not a hero;
but neither am I a coward.

I waited about an hour, and during all that time I saw nothing unusual.
The rain, which had begun to come down strongly towards nine o'clock,
had now ceased.

My friend had told me that, probably, nothing would occur before
midnight or one o'clock in the morning. It was not more than half-past
eleven, however, when I heard the door of Arthur Rance's room open very
slowly. The door remained open for a minute, which seemed to me a long
time. As it opened into the gallery, that is to say, outwards, I could
not see what was passing in the room behind the door.

At that moment I noticed a strange sound, three times repeated, coming
from the park. Ordinarily I should not have attached any more importance
to it than I would to the noise of cats on the roof. But the third time,
the mew was so sharp and penetrating that I remembered what I had heard
about the cry of the Bete du bon Dieu. As the cry had accompanied all
the events at the Glandier, I could not refrain from shuddering at the
thought.

Directly afterwards I saw a man appear on the outside of the door, and
close it after him. At first I could not recognise him, for his back was
towards me and he was bending over a rather bulky package. When he had
closed the door and picked up the package, he turned towards the dark
closet, and then I saw who he was. He was the forest-keeper, the Green
Man. He was wearing the same costume that he had worn when I first saw
him on the road in front of the Donjon Inn. There was no doubt about his
being the keeper. As the cry of the Bete du Bon Dieu came for the third
time, he put down the package and went to the second window, counting
from the dark closet. I dared not risk making any movement, fearing I
might betray my presence.

Arriving at the window, he peered out on to the park. The night was
now light, the moon showing at intervals. The Green Man raised his
arms twice, making signs which I did not understand; then, leaving the
window, he again took up his package and moved along the gallery towards
the landing-place.

Rouletabille had instructed me to undo the curtain-cord when I saw
anything. Was Rouletabille expecting this? It was not my business
to question. All I had to do was obey instructions. I unfastened the
window-cord; my heart beating the while as if it would burst. The man
reached the landing-place, but, to my utter surprise--I had expected to
see him continue to pass along the gallery--I saw him descend the stairs
leading to the vestibule.

What was I to do? I looked stupidly at the heavy curtain which had shut
the light from the window. The signal had been given, and I did not see
Rouletabille appear at the corner of the off-turning gallery. Nobody
appeared. I was exceedingly perplexed. Half an hour passed, an age to
me. What was I to do now, even if I saw something? The signal once given
I could not give it a second time. To venture into the gallery might
upset all Rouletabille's plans. After all, I had nothing to reproach
myself for, and if something had happened that my friend had not
expected he could only blame himself. Unable to be of any further
assistance to him by means of a signal, I left the dark closet and,
still in my socks, made my way to the "off-turning" gallery.

There was no one there. I went to the door of Rouletabille's room and
listened. I could hear nothing. I knocked gently. There was no answer. I
turned the door-handle and the door opened. I entered. Rouletabille lay
extended at full length on the floor.



CHAPTER XXII. The Incredible Body


I bent in great anxiety over the body of the reporter and had the joy
to find that he was deeply sleeping, the same unhealthy sleep that I had
seen fall upon Frederic Larsan. He had succumbed to the influence of the
same drug that had been mixed with our food. How was it then, that I,
also, had not been overcome by it? I reflected that the drug must have
been put into our wine; because that would explain my condition. I never
drink when eating. Naturally inclined to obesity, I am restricted to
a dry diet. I shook Rouletabille, but could not succeed in waking him.
This, no doubt, was the work of Mademoiselle Stangerson.

She had certainly thought it necessary to guard herself against this
young man as well as her father. I recalled that the steward, in serving
us, had recommended an excellent Chablis which, no doubt, had come from
the professor's table.

More-than a quarter of an hour passed. I resolved, under the pressing
circumstances, to resort to extreme measures. I threw a pitcher of cold
water over Rouletabille's head. He opened his eyes. I beat his face, and
raised him up. I felt him stiffen in my arms and heard him murmur: "Go
on, go on; but don't make any noise." I pinched him and shook him until
he was able to stand up. We were saved!

"They sent me to sleep," he said. "Ah! I passed an awful quarter of an
hour before giving way. But it is over now. Don't leave me."

He had no sooner uttered those words than we were thrilled by a
frightful cry that rang through the chateau,--a veritable death cry.

"Malheur!" roared Rouletabille; "we shall be too late!"

He tried to rush to the door, but he was too dazed, and fell against
the wall. I was already in the gallery, revolver in hand, rushing like
a madman towards Mademoiselle Stangerson's room. The moment I arrived at
the intersection of the "off-turning" gallery and the "right" gallery, I
saw a figure leaving her apartment, which, in a few strides had reached
the landing-place.

I was not master of myself. I fired. The report from the revolver made a
deafening noise; but the man continued his flight down the stairs. I
ran behind him, shouting: "Stop!--stop! or I will kill you!" As I rushed
after him down the stairs, I came face to face with Arthur Rance coming
from the left wing of the chateau, yelling: "What is it? What is it?" We
arrived almost at the same time at the foot of the staircase. The window
of the vestibule was open. We distinctly saw the form of a man running
away. Instinctively we fired our revolvers in his direction. He was not
more than ten paces in front of us; he staggered and we thought he was
going to fall. We had sprung out of the window, but the man dashed off
with renewed vigour. I was in my socks, and the American was barefooted.
There being no hope of overtaking him, we fired our last cartridges at
him. But he still kept on running, going along the right side of the
court towards the end of the right wing of the chateau, which had
no other outlet than the door of the little chamber occupied by the
forest-keeper. The man, though he was evidently wounded by our bullets,
was now twenty yards ahead of us. Suddenly, behind us, and above
our heads, a window in the gallery opened and we heard the voice of
Rouletabille crying out desperately:

"Fire, Bernier!--Fire!"

At that moment the clear moonlight night was further lit by a broad
flash. By its light we saw Daddy Bernier with his gun on the threshold
of the donjon door.

He had taken good aim. The shadow fell. But as it had reached the end of
the right wing of the chateau, it fell on the other side of the angle
of the building; that is to say, we saw it about to fall, but not the
actual sinking to the ground. Bernier, Arthur Rance and myself reached
the other side twenty seconds later. The shadow was lying dead at our
feet.

Aroused from his lethargy by the cries and reports, Larsan opened the
window of his chamber and called out to us. Rouletabille, quite awake
now, joined us at the same moment, and I cried out to him:

"He is dead!--is dead!"

"So much the better," he said. "Take him into the vestibule of the
chateau." Then as if on second thought, he said: "No!--no! Let us put
him in his own room."

Rouletabille knocked at the door. Nobody answered. Naturally, this did
not surprise me.

"He is evidently not there, otherwise he would have come out," said the
reporter. "Let us carry him to the vestibule then."

Since reaching the dead shadow, a thick cloud had covered the moon and
darkened the night, so that we were unable to make out the features.
Daddy Jacques, who had now joined us, helped us to carry the body into
the vestibule, where we laid it down on the lower step of the stairs.
On the way, I had felt my hands wet from the warm blood flowing from the
wounds.

Daddy Jacques flew to the kitchen and returned with a lantern. He held
it close to the face of the dead shadow, and we recognised the keeper,
the man called by the landlord of the Donjon Inn the Green Man, whom, an
hour earlier, I had seen come out of Arthur Rance's chamber carrying a
parcel. But what I had seen I could only tell Rouletabille later, when
we were alone.

Rouletabille and Frederic Larsan experienced a cruel disappointment
at the result of the night's adventure. They could only look in
consternation and stupefaction at the body of the Green Man.

Daddy Jacques showed a stupidly sorrowful face and with silly
lamentations kept repeating that we were mistaken--the keeper could not
be the assailant. We were obliged to compel him to be quiet. He could
not have shown greater grief had the body been that of his own son.
I noticed, while all the rest of us were more or less undressed and
barefooted, that he was fully clothed.

Rouletabille had not left the body. Kneeling on the flagstones by the
light of Daddy Jacques's lantern he removed the clothes from the body
and laid bare its breast. Then snatching the lantern from Daddy Jacques,
he held it over the corpse and saw a gaping wound. Rising suddenly he
exclaimed in a voice filled with savage irony:

"The man you believe to have been shot was killed by the stab of a knife
in his heart!"

I thought Rouletabille had gone mad; but, bending over the body, I
quickly satisfied myself that Rouletabille was right. Not a sign of
a bullet anywhere--the wound, evidently made by a sharp blade, had
penetrated the heart.



CHAPTER XXIII. The Double Scent


I had hardly recovered from the surprise into which this new discovery
had plunged me, when Rouletabille touched me on the shoulder and asked
me to follow him into his room.

"What are we going to do there?"

"To think the matter over."

I confess I was in no condition for doing much thinking, nor could
I understand how Rouletabille could so control himself as to be
able calmly to sit down for reflection when he must have known that
Mademoiselle Stangerson was at that moment almost on the point of death.
But his self-control was more than I could explain. Closing the door of
his room, he motioned me to a chair and, seating himself before me,
took out his pipe. We sat there for some time in silence and then I fell
asleep.

When I awoke it was daylight. It was eight o'clock by my watch.
Rouletabille was no longer in the room. I rose to go out when the door
opened and my friend re-entered. He had evidently lost no time.

"How about Mademoiselle Stangerson?" I asked him.

"Her condition, though very alarming, is not desperate."

"When did you leave this room?"

"Towards dawn."

"I guess you have been hard at work?"

"Rather!"

"Have you found out anything?"

"Two sets of footprints!"

"Do they explain anything?"

"Yes."

"Have they anything to do with the mystery of the keeper's body?"

"Yes; the mystery is no longer a mystery. This morning, walking round
the chateau, I found two distinct sets of footprints, made at the same
time, last night. They were made by two persons walking side by side.
I followed them from the court towards the oak grove. Larsan joined me.
They were the same kind of footprints as were made at the time of the
assault in The Yellow Room--one set was from clumsy boots and the other
was made by neat ones, except that the big toe of one of the sets was
of a different size from the one measured in The Yellow Room incident. I
compared the marks with the paper patterns I had previously made.

"Still following the tracks of the prints, Larsan and I passed out of
the oak grove and reached the border of the lake. There they turned off
to a little path leading to the high road to Epinay where we lost the
traces in the newly macadamised highway.

"We went back to the chateau and parted at the courtyard. We met
again, however, in Daddy Jacques's room to which our separate trains of
thinking had led us both. We found the old servant in bed. His clothes
on the chair were wet through and his boots very muddy. He certainly did
not get into that state in helping us to carry the body of the keeper.
It was not raining then. Then his face showed extreme fatigue and he
looked at us out of terror-stricken eyes.

"On our first questioning him he told us that he had gone to bed
immediately after the doctor had arrived. On pressing him, however, for
it was evident to us he was not speaking the truth, he confessed that he
had been away from the chateau. He explained his absence by saying
that he had a headache and went out into the fresh air, but had gone
no further than the oak grove. When we then described to him the whole
route he had followed, he sat up in bed trembling.

"'And you were not alone!' cried Larsan.

"'Did you see it then?' gasped Daddy Jacques.

"'What?' I asked.

"'The phantom--the black phantom!'

"Then he told us that for several nights he had seen what he kept
calling the black phantom. It came into the park at the stroke of
midnight and glided stealthily through the trees; it appeared to him
to pass through the trunks of the trees. Twice he had seen it from his
window, by the light of the moon and had risen and followed the strange
apparition. The night before last he had almost overtaken it; but it had
vanished at the corner of the donjon. Last night, however, he had not
left the chateau, his mind being disturbed by a presentiment that some
new crime would be attempted. Suddenly he saw the black phantom rush out
from somewhere in the middle of the court. He followed it to the lake
and to the high road to Epinay, where the phantom suddenly disappeared.

"'Did you see his face?' demanded Larsan.

"'No!--I saw nothing but black veils.'

"'Did you go out after what passed on the gallery?'

"'I could not!--I was terrified.'

"'Daddy Jacques,' I said, in a threatening voice, 'you did not follow
it; you and the phantom walked to Epinay together--arm in arm!'

"'No!' he cried, turning his eyes away, 'I did not. It came on to pour,
and--I turned back. I don't know what became of the black phantom."

"We left him, and when we were outside I turned to Larsan, looking
him full in the face, and put my question suddenly to take him off his
guard:

"'An accomplice?'

"'How can I tell?' he replied, shrugging his shoulders. 'You can't be
sure of anything in a case like this. Twenty-four hours ago I would have
sworn that there was no accomplice!' He left me saying he was off to
Epinay."

"Well, what do you make of it?" I asked Rouletabille, after he had ended
his recital. "Personally I am utterly in the dark. I can't make anything
out of it. What do you gather?"

"Everything! Everything!" he exclaimed. "But," he said abruptly, "let's
find out more about Mademoiselle Stangerson."



CHAPTER XXIV. Rouletabille Knows the Two Halves of the Murderer


Mademoiselle Stangerson had been almost murdered for the second time.
Unfortunately, she was in too weak a state to bear the severer injuries
of this second attack as well as she had those of the first. She had
received three wounds in the breast from the murderer's knife, and she
lay long between life and death. Her strong physique, however, saved
her; but though she recovered physically it was found that her mind had
been affected. The slightest allusion to the terrible incident sent her
into delirium, and the arrest of Robert Darzac which followed on the
day following the tragic death of the keeper seemed to sink her fine
intelligence into complete melancholia.

Robert Darzac arrived at the chateau towards half-past nine. I saw him
hurrying through the park, his hair and clothes in disorder and his face
a deadly white. Rouletabille and I were looking out of a window in the
gallery. He saw us, and gave a despairing cry: "I'm too late!"

Rouletabille answered: "She lives!"

A minute later Darzac had gone into Mademoiselle Stangerson's room and,
through the door, we could hear his heart-rending sobs.

"There's a fate about this place!" groaned Rouletabille. "Some infernal
gods must be watching over the misfortunes of this family!--If I had not
been drugged, I should have saved Mademoiselle Stangerson. I should have
silenced him forever. And the keeper would not have been killed!"

Monsieur Darzac came in to speak with us. His distress was terrible.
Rouletabille told him everything: his preparations for Mademoiselle
Stangerson's safety; his plans for either capturing or for disposing of
the assailant for ever; and how he would have succeeded had it not been
for the drugging.

"If only you had trusted me!" said the young man, in a low tone. "If
you had but begged Mademoiselle Stangerson to confide in me!--But, then,
everybody here distrusts everybody else, the daughter distrusts her
father, and even her lover. While you ask me to protect her she is doing
all she can to frustrate me. That was why I came on the scene too late!"

At Monsieur Robert Darzac's request Rouletabille described the whole
scene. Leaning on the wall, to prevent himself from falling, he had made
his way to Mademoiselle Stangerson's room, while we were running after
the supposed murderer. The ante-room door was open and when he entered
he found Mademoiselle Stangerson lying partly thrown over the desk.
Her dressing-gown was dyed with the blood flowing from her bosom. Still
under the influence of the drug, he felt he was walking in a horrible
nightmare.

He went back to the gallery automatically, opened a window, shouted his
order to fire, and then returned to the room. He crossed the deserted
boudoir, entered the drawing-room, and tried to rouse Monsieur
Stangerson who was lying on a sofa. Monsieur Stangerson rose stupidly
and let himself be drawn by Rouletabille into the room where, on seeing
his daughter's body, he uttered a heart-rending cry. Both united their
feeble strength and carried her to her bed.

On his way to join us Rouletabille passed by the desk. On the floor,
near it, he saw a large packet. He knelt down and, finding the wrapper
loose, he examined it, and made out an enormous quantity of papers
and photographs. On one of the papers he read: "New differential
electroscopic condenser. Fundamental properties of substance
intermediary between ponderable matter and imponderable ether." Strange
irony of fate that the professor's precious papers should be restored
to him at the very time when an attempt was being made to deprive him of
his daughter's life! What are papers worth to him now?

The morning following that awful night saw Monsieur de Marquet once more
at the chateau, with his Registrar and gendarmes. Of course we were all
questioned. Rouletabille and I had already agreed on what to say. I kept
back any information as to my being in the dark closet and said
nothing about the drugging. We did not wish to suggest in any way that
Mademoiselle Stangerson had been expecting her nocturnal visitor.
The poor woman might, perhaps, never recover, and it was none of our
business to lift the veil of a secret the preservation of which she had
paid for so dearly.

Arthur Rance told everybody, in a manner so natural that it astonished
me, that he had last seen the keeper towards eleven o'clock of that
fatal night. He had come for his valise, he said, which he was to take
for him early next morning to the Saint-Michel station, and had been
kept out late running after poachers. Arthur Rance had, indeed, intended
to leave the chateau and, according to his habit, to walk to the
station.

Monsieur Stangerson confirmed what Rance had said, adding that he had
not asked Rance to dine with him because his friend had taken his final
leave of them both earlier in the evening. Monsieur Rance had had
tea served him in his room, because he had complained of a slight
indisposition.

Bernier testified, instructed by Rouletabille, that the keeper had
ordered him to meet at a spot near the oak grove, for the purpose of
looking out for poachers. Finding that the keeper did not keep his
appointment, he, Bernier, had gone in search of him. He had almost
arrived at the donjon, when he saw a figure running swiftly in a
direction opposite to him, towards the right wing of the chateau. He
heard revolver shots from behind the figure and saw Rouletabille at one
of the gallery windows. He heard Rouletabille call out to him to fire,
and he had fired. He believed he had killed the man until he learned,
after Rouletabille had uncovered the body, that the man had died from a
knife thrust. Who had given it he could not imagine. "Nobody could have
been near the spot without my seeing him." When the examining magistrate
reminded him that the spot where the body was found was very dark and
that he himself had not been able to recognise the keeper before firing,
Daddy Bernier replied that neither had they seen the other body; nor had
they found it. In the narrow court where five people were standing it
would have been strange if the other body, had it been there, could
have escaped. The only door that opened into the court was that of the
keeper's room, and that door was closed, and the key of it was found in
the keeper's pocket.

However that might be, the examining magistrate did not pursue his
inquiry further in this direction. He was evidently convinced that we
had missed the man we were chasing and we had come upon the keeper's
body in our chase. This matter of the keeper was another matter
entirely. He wanted to satisfy himself about that without any further
delay. Probably it fitted in with the conclusions he had already arrived
at as to the keeper and his intrigues with the wife of Mathieu, the
landlord of the Donjon Inn. This Mathieu, later in the afternoon, was
arrested and taken to Corbeil in spite of his rheumatism. He had been
heard to threaten the keeper, and though no evidence against him had
been found at his inn, the evidence of carters who had heard the threats
was enough to justify his retention.

The examination had proceeded thus far when, to our surprise, Frederic
Larsan returned to the chateau. He was accompanied by one of the
employees of the railway. At that moment Rance and I were in the
vestibule discussing Mathieu's guilt or innocence, while Rouletabille
stood apart buried, apparently, in thought. The examining magistrate and
his Registrar were in the little green drawing-room, while Darzac was
with the doctor and Stangerson in the lady's chamber. As Frederic Larsan
entered the vestibule with the railway employed, Rouletabille and I at
once recognised him by the small blond beard. We exchanged meaningful
glances. Larsan had himself announced to the examining magistrate by the
gendarme and entered with the railway servant as Daddy Jacques came out.
Some ten minutes went by during which Rouletabille appeared extremely
impatient. The door of the drawing-room was then opened and we heard the
magistrate calling to the gendarme who entered. Presently he came out,
mounted the stairs and, coming back shortly, went in to the magistrate
and said:

"Monsieur,--Monsieur Robert Darzac will not come!"

"What! Not come!" cried Monsieur de Marquet.

"He says he cannot leave Mademoiselle Stangerson in her present state."

"Very well," said Monsieur de Marquet; "then we'll go to him."

Monsieur de Marquet and the gendarme mounted the stairs. He made a sign
to Larsan and the railroad employe to follow. Rouletabille and I went
along too.

On reaching the door of Mademoiselle Stangerson's chamber, Monsieur de
Marquet knocked. A chambermaid appeared. It was Sylvia, with her hair
all in disorder and consternation showing on her face.

"Is Monsieur Stangerson within?" asked the magistrate.

"Yes, Monsieur."

"Tell him that I wish to speak with him."

Stangerson came out. His appearance was wretched in the extreme.

"What do you want?" he demanded of the magistrate. "May I not be left in
peace, Monsieur?"

"Monsieur," said the magistrate, "it is absolutely necessary that I
should see Monsieur Darzac at once. If you cannot induce him to come, I
shall be compelled to use the help of the law."

The professor made no reply. He looked at us all like a man being led to
execution, and then went back into the room.

Almost immediately after Monsieur Robert Darzac came out. He was very
pale. He looked at us and, his eyes falling on the railway servant, his
features stiffened and he could hardly repress a groan.

We were all much moved by the appearance of the man. We felt that what
was about to happen would decide the fate of Monsieur Robert Darzac.
Frederic Larsan's face alone was radiant, showing a joy as of a dog that
had at last got its prey.

Pointing to the railway servant, Monsieur de Marquet said to Monsieur
Darzac:

"Do you recognise this man, Monsieur?"

"I do," said Monsieur Darzac, in a tone which he vainly tried to make
firm. "He is an employe at the station at Epinay-sur-Orge."

"This young man," went on Monsieur de Marquet, "affirms that he saw you
get off the train at Epinay-sur-Orge--"

"That night," said Monsieur Darzac, interrupting, "at half-past ten--it
is quite true."

An interval of silence followed.

"Monsieur Darzac," the magistrate went on in a tone of deep emotion,
"Monsieur Darzac, what were you doing that night, at Epinay-sur-Orge--at
that time?"

Monsieur Darzac remained silent, simply closing his eyes.

"Monsieur Darzac," insisted Monsieur de Marquet, "can you tell me how
you employed your time, that night?"

Monsieur Darzac opened his eyes. He seemed to have recovered his
self-control.

"No, Monsieur."

"Think, Monsieur! For, if you persist in your strange refusal, I shall
be under the painful necessity of keeping you at my disposition."

"I refuse."

"Monsieur Darzac!--in the name of the law, I arrest you!"

The magistrate had no sooner pronounced the words than I saw
Rouletabille move quickly towards Monsieur Darzac. He would certainly
have spoken to him, but Darzac, by a gesture, held him off. As the
gendarme approached his prisoner, a despairing cry rang through the
room:

"Robert!--Robert!"

We recognised the voice of Mademoiselle Stangerson. We all shuddered.
Larsan himself turned pale. Monsieur Darzac, in response to the cry, had
flown back into the room.

The magistrate, the gendarme, and Larsan followed closely after.
Rouletabille and I remained on the threshold. It was a heart-breaking
sight that met our eyes. Mademoiselle Stangerson, with a face of deathly
pallor, had risen on her bed, in spite of the restraining efforts of two
doctors and her father. She was holding out her trembling arms towards
Robert Darzac, on whom Larsan and the gendarme had laid hands. Her
distended eyes saw--she understood--her lips seemed to form a word, but
nobody made it out; and she fell back insensible.

Monsieur Darzac was hurried out of the room and placed in the vestibule
to wait for the vehicle Larsan had gone to fetch. We were all overcome
by emotion and even Monsieur de Marquet had tears in his eyes.
Rouletabille took advantage of the opportunity to say to Monsieur
Darzac:

"Are you going to put in any defense?"

"No!" replied the prisoner.

"Very well, then I will, Monsieur."

"You cannot do it," said the unhappy man with a faint smile.

"I can--and I will."

Rouletabille's voice had in it a strange strength and confidence.

"I can do it, Monsieur Robert Darzac, because I know more than you do!"

"Come! Come!" murmured Darzac, almost angrily.

"Have no fear! I shall know only what will benefit you."

"You must know nothing, young man, if you want me to be grateful."

Rouletabille shook his head, going close up to Darzac.

"Listen to what I am about to say," he said in a low tone, "and let
it give you confidence. You do not know the name of the murderer.
Mademoiselle Stangerson knows it; but only half of it; but I know his
two halves; I know the whole man!"

Robert Darzac opened his eyes, with a look that showed he had not
understood a word of what Rouletabille had said to him. At that moment
the conveyance arrived, driven by Frederic Larsan. Darzac and the
gendarme entered it, Larsan remaining on the driver's seat. The prisoner
was taken to Corbeil.



CHAPTER XXV. Rouletabille Goes on a Journey


That same evening Rouletabille and I left the Glandier. We were very
glad to get away and there was nothing more to keep us there. I declared
my intention to give up the whole matter. It had been too much for me.
Rouletabille, with a friendly tap on my shoulder, confessed that he had
nothing more to learn at the Glandier; he had learned there all it had
to tell him. We reached Paris about eight o'clock, dined, and then,
tired out, we separated, agreeing to meet the next morning at my rooms.

Rouletabille arrived next day at the hour agreed on. He was dressed in
a suit of English tweed, with an ulster on his arm, and a valise in his
hand. Evidently he had prepared himself for a journey.

"How long shall you be away?" I asked.

"A month or two," he said. "It all depends."

I asked him no more questions.

"Do you know," he asked, "what the word was that Mademoiselle Stangerson
tried to say before she fainted?"

"No--nobody heard it."

"I heard it!" replied Rouletabille. "She said 'Speak!'"

"Do you think Darzac will speak?"

"Never."

I was about to make some further observations, but he wrung my hand
warmly and wished me good-bye. I had only time to ask him one question
before he left.

"Are you not afraid that other attempts may be made while you're away?"

"No! Not now that Darzac is in prison," he answered.

With this strange remark he left. I was not to see him again until
the day of Darzac's trial at the court when he appeared to explain the
inexplicable.



CHAPTER XXVI. In Which Joseph Rouletabille Is Awaited with Impatience


On the 15th of January, that is to say, two months and a half after the
tragic events I have narrated, the "Epoque" printed, as the first column
of the front page, the following sensational article: "The Seine-et-Oise
jury is summoned to-day to give its verdict on one of the most
mysterious affairs in the annals of crime. There never has been a case
with so many obscure, incomprehensible, and inexplicable points. And yet
the prosecution has not hesitated to put into the prisoner's dock a
man who is respected, esteemed, and loved by all who knew him--a young
savant, the hope of French science, whose whole life has been devoted to
knowledge and truth. When Paris heard of Monsieur Robert Darzac's arrest
a unanimous cry of protest arose from all sides. The whole Sorbonne,
disgraced by this act of the examining magistrate, asserted its
belief in the innocence of Mademoiselle Stangerson's fiance. Monsieur
Stangerson was loud in his denunciation of this miscarriage of justice.
There is no doubt in the mind of anybody that could the victim speak she
would claim from the jurors of Seine-et-Oise the man she wishes to make
her husband and whom the prosecution would send to the scaffold. It
is to be hoped that Mademoiselle Stangerson will shortly recover her
reason, which has been temporarily unhinged by the horrible mystery at
the Glandier. The question before the jury is the one we propose to deal
with this very day.

"We have decided not to permit twelve worthy men to commit a disgraceful
miscarriage of justice. We confess that the remarkable coincidences, the
many convicting evidences, and the inexplicable silence on the part of
the accused, as well as a total absence of any evidence for an alibi,
were enough to warrant the bench of judges in assuming that in this
man alone was centered the truth of the affair. The evidences are,
in appearance, so overwhelming against Monsieur Robert Darzac that a
detective so well informed, so intelligent, and generally so successful,
as Monsieur Frederic Larsan, may be excused for having been misled by
them. Up to now everything has gone against Monsieur Robert Darzac in
the magisterial inquiry. To-day, however, we are going to defend him
before the jury, and we are going to bring to the witness stand a light
that will illumine the whole mystery of the Glandier. For we possess the
truth.

"If we have not spoken sooner, it is because the interests of certain
parties in the case demand that we should take that course. Our readers
may remember the unsigned reports we published relating to the 'Left
foot of the Rue Oberkampf,' at the time of the famous robbery of the
Credit Universel, and the famous case of the 'Gold Ingots of the Mint.'
In both those cases we were able to discover the truth long before even
the excellent ingenuity of Frederic Larsan had been able to unravel
it. These reports were written by our youngest reporter, Joseph
Rouletabille, a youth of eighteen, whose fame to-morrow will be
world-wide. When attention was first drawn to the Glandier case, our
youthful reporter was on the spot and installed in the chateau, when
every other representative of the press had been denied admission. He
worked side by side with Frederic Larsan. He was amazed and terrified at
the grave mistake the celebrated detective was about to make, and tried
to divert him from the false scent he was following; but the great Fred
refused to receive instructions from this young journalist. We know now
where it brought Monsieur Robert Darzac.

"But now, France must know--the whole world must know, that, on the
very evening on which Monsieur Darzac was arrested, young Rouletabille
entered our editorial office and informed us that he was about to go
away on a journey. 'How long I shall be away,' he said, 'I cannot say;
perhaps a month--perhaps two--perhaps three perhaps I may never return.
Here is a letter. If I am not back on the day on which Monsieur Darzac
is to appear before the Assize Court, have this letter opened and read
to the court, after all the witnesses have been heard. Arrange it with
Monsieur Darzac's counsel. Monsieur Darzac is innocent. In this letter
is written the name of the murderer; and--that is all I have to say.
I am leaving to get my proofs--for the irrefutable evidence of the
murderer's guilt.' Our reporter departed. For a long time we were
without news from him; but, a week ago, a stranger called upon our
manager and said: 'Act in accordance with the instructions of Joseph
Rouletabille, if it becomes necessary to do so. The letter left by him
holds the truth.' The gentleman who brought us this message would not
give us his name.

"To-day, the 15th of January, is the day of the trial. Joseph
Rouletabille has not returned. It may be we shall never see him again.
The press also counts its heroes, its martyrs to duty. It may be he is
no longer living. We shall know how to avenge him. Our manager will,
this afternoon, be at the Court of Assize at Versailles, with the
letter--the letter containing the name of the murderer!"

Those Parisians who flocked to the Assize Court at Versailles, to be
present at the trial of what was known as the "Mystery of The Yellow
Room," will certainly remember the terrible crush at the Saint-Lazare
station. The ordinary trains were so full that special trains had to be
made up. The article in the "Epoque" had so excited the populace that
discussion was rife everywhere even to the verge of blows. Partisans of
Rouletabille fought with the supporters of Frederic Larsan. Curiously
enough the excitement was due less to the fact that an innocent man was
in danger of a wrongful conviction than to the interest taken in their
own ideas as to the Mystery of The Yellow Room. Each had his explanation
to which each held fast. Those who explained the crime on Frederic
Larsan's theory would not admit that there could be any doubt as to
the perspicacity of the popular detective. Others who had arrived at
a different solution, naturally insisted that this was Rouletabille's
explanation, though they did not as yet know what that was.

With the day's "Epoque" in their hands, the "Larsans" and the
"Rouletabilles" fought and shoved each other on the steps of the Palais
de Justice, right into the court itself. Those who could not get
in remained in the neighbourhood until evening and were, with great
difficulty, kept back by the soldiery and the police. They became hungry
for news, welcoming the most absurd rumours. At one time the rumour
spread that Monsieur Stangerson himself had been arrested in the court
and had confessed to being the murderer. This goes to show to what a
pitch of madness nervous excitement may carry people. Rouletabille was
still expected. Some pretended to know him; and when a young man with a
"pass" crossed the open space which separated the crowd from the
Court House, a scuffle took place. Cries were raised of
"Rouletabille!--there's Rouletabille!" The arrival of the manager of the
paper was the signal for a great demonstration. Some applauded, others
hissed.

The trial itself was presided over by Monsieur de Rocouz, a judge
filled with the prejudice of his class, but a man honest at heart. The
witnesses had been called. I was there, of course, as were all who had,
in any way, been in touch with the mysteries of the Glandier. Monsieur
Stangerson--looking many years older and almost unrecognisable--Larsan,
Arthur Rance, with his face ruddy as ever, Daddy Jacques, Daddy Mathieu,
who was brought into court handcuffed between two gendarmes, Madame
Mathieu, in tears, the two Berniers, the two nurses, the steward, all
the domestics of the chateau, the employe of the Paris Post Office, the
railway employe from Epinay, some friends of Monsieur and Mademoiselle
Stangerson, and all Monsieur Darzac's witnesses. I was lucky enough to
be called early in the trial, so that I was then able to watch and be
present at almost the whole of the proceedings.

The court was so crowded that many lawyers were compelled to find seats
on the steps. Behind the bench of justices were representatives from
other benches. Monsieur Robert Darzac stood in the prisoner's dock
between policemen, tall, handsome, and calm. A murmur of admiration
rather than of compassion greeted his appearance. He leaned forward
towards his counsel, Maitre Henri Robert, who, assisted by his chief
secretary, Maitre Andre Hesse, was busily turning over the folios of his
brief.

Many expected that Monsieur Stangerson, after giving his evidence, would
have gone over to the prisoner and shaken hands with him; but he left
the court without another word. It was remarked that the jurors appeared
to be deeply interested in a rapid conversation which the manager of the
"Epoque" was having with Maitre Henri Robert. The manager, later, sat
down in the front row of the public seats. Some were surprised that he
was not asked to remain with the other witnesses in the room reserved
for them.

The reading of the indictment was got through, as it always is, without
any incident. I shall not here report the long examination to which
Monsieur Darzac was subjected. He answered all the questions quickly
and easily. His silence as to the important matters of which we know was
dead against him. It would seem as if this reticence would be fatal
for him. He resented the President's reprimands. He was told that his
silence might mean death.

"Very well," he said; "I will submit to it; but I am innocent."

With that splendid ability which has made his fame, Maitre Robert took
advantage of the incident, and tried to show that it brought out in
noble relief his client's character; for only heroic natures could
remain silent for moral reasons in face of such a danger. The eminent
advocate however, only succeeded in assuring those who were already
assured of Darzac's innocence. At the adjournment Rouletabille had not
yet arrived. Every time a door opened, all eyes there turned towards it
and back to the manager of the "Epoque," who sat impassive in his place.
When he once was feeling in his pocket a loud murmur of expectation
followed. The letter!

It is not, however, my intention to report in detail the course of
the trial. My readers are sufficiently acquainted with the mysteries
surrounding the Glandier case to enable me to go on to the really
dramatic denouement of this ever-memorable day.

When the trial was resumed, Maitre Henri Robert questioned Daddy Mathieu
as to his complicity in the death of the keeper. His wife was also
brought in and was confronted by her husband. She burst into tears and
confessed that she had been the keeper's mistress, and that her husband
had suspected it. She again, however, affirmed that he had had nothing
to do with the murder of her lover. Maitre Henri Robert thereupon asked
the court to hear Frederic Larsan on this point.

"In a short conversation which I have had with Frederic Larsan, during
the adjournment," declared the advocate, "he has made me understand that
the death of the keeper may have been brought about otherwise than by
the hand of Mathieu. It will be interesting to hear Frederic Larsan's
theory."

Frederic Larsan was brought in. His explanation was quite clear.

"I see no necessity," he said, "for bringing Mathieu in this. I
have told Monsieur de Marquet that the man's threats had biassed
the examining magistrate against him. To me the attempt to murder
Mademoiselle and the death of the keeper are the work of one and the
same person. Mademoiselle Stangerson's murderer, flying through the
court, was fired on; it was thought he was struck, perhaps killed. As
a matter of fact, he only stumbled at the moment of his disappearance
behind the corner of the right wing of the chateau. There he encountered
the keeper who, no doubt, tried to seize him. The murderer had in his
hand the knife with which he had stabbed Mademoiselle Stangerson and
with this he killed the keeper."

This very simple explanation appeared at once plausible and satisfying.
A murmur of approbation was heard.

"And the murderer? What became of him?" asked the President.

"He was evidently hidden in an obscure corner at the end of the court.
After the people had left the court carrying with them the body of the
keeper, the murderer quietly made his escape."

The words had scarcely left Larsan's mouth when from the back of the
court came a youthful voice:

"I agree with Frederic Larsan as to the death of the keeper; but I do
not agree with him as to the way the murderer escaped!"

Everybody turned round, astonished. The clerks of the court sprang
towards the speaker, calling out silence, and the President angrily
ordered the intruder to be immediately expelled. The same clear voice,
however, was again heard:

"It is I, Monsieur President--Joseph Rouletabille!"



CHAPTER XXVII. In Which Joseph Rouletabille Appears in All His Glory


The excitement was extreme. Cries from fainting women were to be heard
amid the extraordinary bustle and stir. The "majesty of the law" was
utterly forgotten. The President tried in vain to make himself heard.
Rouletabille made his way forward with difficulty, but by dint of much
elbowing reached his manager and greeted him cordially. The letter was
passed to him and pocketing it he turned to the witness-box. He was
dressed exactly as on the day he left me even to the ulster over his
arm. Turning to the President, he said:

"I beg your pardon, Monsieur President, but I have only just arrived
from America. The steamer was late. My name is Joseph Rouletabille!"

The silence which followed his stepping into the witness-box was broken
by laughter when his words were heard. Everybody seemed relieved and
glad to find him there, as if in the expectation of hearing the truth at
last.

But the President was extremely incensed:

"So, you are Joseph Rouletabille," he replied; "well, young man, I'll
teach you what comes of making a farce of justice. By virtue of my
discretionary power, I hold you at the court's disposition."

"I ask nothing better, Monsieur President. I have come here for that
purpose. I humbly beg the court's pardon for the disturbance of which
I have been the innocent cause. I beg you to believe that nobody has
a greater respect for the court than I have. I came in as I could." He
smiled.

"Take him away!" ordered the President.

Maitre Henri Robert intervened. He began by apologising for the young
man, who, he said, was moved only by the best intentions. He made the
President understand that the evidence of a witness who had slept at the
Glandier during the whole of that eventful week could not be omitted,
and the present witness, moreover, had come to name the real murderer.

"Are you going to tell us who the murderer was?" asked the President,
somewhat convinced though still sceptical.

"I have come for that purpose, Monsieur President!" replied
Rouletabille.

An attempt at applause was silenced by the usher.

"Joseph Rouletabille," said Maitre Henri Robert, "has not been regularly
subpoenaed as a witness, but I hope, Monsieur President, you will
examine him in virtue of your discretionary powers."

"Very well!" said the President, "we will question him. But we must
proceed in order."

The Advocate-General rose:

"It would, perhaps, be better," he said, "if the young man were to tell
us now whom he suspects."

The President nodded ironically:

"If the Advocate-General attaches importance to the deposition of
Monsieur Joseph Rouletabille, I see no reason why this witness should
not give us the name of the murderer."

A pin drop could have been heard. Rouletabille stood silent looking
sympathetically at Darzac, who, for the first time since the opening of
the trial, showed himself agitated.

"Well," cried the President, "we wait for the name of the murderer."
Rouletabille, feeling in his waistcoat pocket, drew his watch and,
looking at it, said:

"Monsieur President, I cannot name the murderer before half-past six
o'clock!"

Loud murmurs of disappointment filled the room. Some of the lawyers were
heard to say: "He's making fun of us!"

The President in a stern voice, said:

"This joke has gone far enough. You may retire, Monsieur, into the
witnesses' room. I hold you at our disposition."

Rouletabille protested.

"I assure you, Monsieur President," he cried in his sharp, clear voice,
"that when I do name the murderer you will understand why I could not
speak before half-past six. I assert this on my honour. I can, however,
give you now some explanation of the murder of the keeper. Monsieur
Frederic Larsan, who has seen me at work at the Glandier, can tell you
with what care I studied this case. I found myself compelled to differ
with him in arresting Monsieur Robert Darzac, who is innocent. Monsieur
Larsan knows of my good faith and knows that some importance may be
attached to my discoveries, which have often corroborated his own."

Frederic Larsan said:

"Monsieur President, it will be interesting to hear Monsieur Joseph
Rouletabille, especially as he differs from me."

A murmur of approbation greeted the detective's speech. He was a good
sportsman and accepted the challenge. The struggle between the two
promised to be exciting.

As the President remained silent, Frederic Larsan continued:

"We agree that the murderer of the keeper was the assailant of
Mademoiselle Stangerson; but as we are not agreed as to how the murderer
escaped, I am curious to hear Monsieur Rouletabille's explanation."

"I have no doubt you are," said my friend.

General laughter followed this remark. The President angrily declared
that if it was repeated, he would have the court cleared.

"Now, young man," said the President, "you have heard Monsieur Frederic
Larsan; how did the murderer get away from the court?"

Rouletabille looked at Madame Mathieu, who smiled back at him sadly.

"Since Madame Mathieu," he said, "has freely admitted her intimacy with
the keeper--"

"Why, it's the boy!" exclaimed Daddy Mathieu.

"Remove that man!" ordered the President.

Mathieu was removed from the court. Rouletabille went on:

"Since she has made this confession, I am free to tell you that she
often met the keeper at night on the first floor of the donjon, in the
room which was once an oratory. These meetings became more frequent when
her husband was laid up by his rheumatism. She gave him morphine to ease
his pain and to give herself more time for the meetings. Madame Mathieu
came to the chateau that night, enveloped in a large black shawl which
served also as a disguise. This was the phantom that disturbed Daddy
Jacques. She knew how to imitate the mewing of Mother Angenoux' cat
and she would make the cries to advise the keeper of her presence. The
recent repairs of the donjon did not interfere with their meetings in
the keeper's old room, in the donjon, since the new room assigned to him
at the end of the right wing was separated from the steward's room by a
partition only.

"Previous to the tragedy in the courtyard Madame Mathieu and the keeper
left the donjon together. I learnt these facts from my examination of
the footmarks in the court the next morning. Bernier, the concierge,
whom I had stationed behind the donjon--as he will explain
himself--could not see what passed in the court. He did not reach the
court until he heard the revolver shots, and then he fired. When the
woman parted from the man she went towards the open gate of the court,
while he returned to his room.

"He had almost reached the door when the revolvers rang out. He had just
reached the corner when a shadow bounded by. Meanwhile, Madame Mathieu,
surprised by the revolver shots and by the entrance of people into the
court, crouched in the darkness. The court is a large one and, being
near the gate, she might easily have passed out unseen. But she remained
and saw the body being carried away. In great agony of mind she neared
the vestibule and saw the dead body of her lover on the stairs lit up by
Daddy Jacques' lantern. She then fled; and Daddy Jacques joined her.

"That same night, before the murder, Daddy Jacques had been awakened
by the cat's cry, and, looking through his window, had seen the black
phantom. Hastily dressing himself he went out and recognised her. He is
an old friend of Madame Mathieu, and when she saw him she had to tell
him of her relations with the keeper and begged his assistance. Daddy
Jacques took pity on her and accompanied her through the oak grove out
of the park, past the border of the lake to the road to Epinay. From
there it was but a very short distance to her home.

"Daddy Jacques returned to the chateau, and, seeing how important it was
for Madame Mathieu's presence at the chateau to remain unknown, he did
all he could to hide it. I appeal to Monsieur Larsan, who saw me, next
morning, examine the two sets of footprints."

Here Rouletabille turning towards Madame Mathieu, with a bow, said:

"The footprints of Madame bear a strange resemblance to the neat
footprints of the murderer."

Madame Mathieu trembled and looked at him with wide eyes as if in wonder
at what he would say next.

"Madame has a shapely foot, long and rather large for a woman. The
imprint, with its pointed toe, is very like that of the murderer's."

A movement in the court was repressed by Rouletabille. He held their
attention at once.

"I hasten to add," he went on, "that I attach no importance to this.
Outward signs like these are often liable to lead us into error, if we
do not reason rightly. Monsieur Robert Darzac's footprints are also like
the murderer's, and yet he is not the murderer!"

The President turning to Madame Mathieu asked:

"Is that in accordance with what you know occurred?"

"Yes, Monsieur President," she replied, "it is as if Monsieur
Rouletabille had been behind us."

"Did you see the murderer running towards the end of the right wing?"

"Yes, as clearly as I saw them afterwards carrying the keeper's body."

"What became of the murderer?--You were in the courtyard and could
easily have seen.

"I saw nothing of him, Monsieur President. It became quite dark just
then."

"Then Monsieur Rouletabille," said the President, "must explain how the
murderer made his escape."

Rouletabille continued:

"It was impossible for the murderer to escape by the way he had entered
the court without our seeing him; or if we couldn't see him we must
certainly have felt him, since the court is a very narrow one enclosed
in high iron railings."

"Then if the man was hemmed in that narrow square, how is it you did not
find him?--I have been asking you that for the last half hour."

"Monsieur President," replied Rouletabille, "I cannot answer that
question before half-past six!"

By this time the people in the court-room were beginning to believe in
this new witness. They were amused by his melodramatic action in thus
fixing the hour; but they seemed to have confidence in the outcome. As
for the President, it looked as if he also had made up his mind to
take the young man in the same way. He had certainly been impressed by
Rouletabille's explanation of Madame Mathieu's part.

"Well, Monsieur Rouletabille," he said, "as you say; but don't let us
see any more of you before half-past six."

Rouletabille bowed to the President, and made his way to the door of the
witnesses' room.

I quietly made my way through the crowd and left the court almost at the
same time as Rouletabille. He greeted me heartily, and looked happy.

"I'll not ask you, my dear fellow," I said, smiling, "what you've been
doing in America; because I've no doubt you'll say you can't tell me
until after half-past six."

"No, my dear Sainclair, I'll tell you right now why I went to America. I
went in search of the name of the other half of the murderer!"

"The name of the other half?"

"Exactly. When we last left the Glandier I knew there were two halves to
the murderer and the name of only one of them. I went to America for the
name of the other half."

I was too puzzled to answer. Just then we entered the witnesses' room,
and Rouletabille was immediately surrounded. He showed himself very
friendly to all except Arthur Rance to whom he exhibited a marked
coldness of manner. Frederic Larsan came in also. Rouletabille went
up and shook him heartily by the hand. His manner toward the detective
showed that he had got the better of the policeman. Larsan smiled and
asked him what he had been doing in America, Rouletabille began by
telling him some anecdotes of his voyage. They then turned aside
together apparently with the object of speaking confidentially. I,
therefore, discreetly left them and, being curious to hear the evidence,
returned to my seat in the court-room where the public plainly showed
its lack of interest in what was going on in their impatience for
Rouletabille's return at the appointed time.

On the stroke of half-past six Joseph Rouletabille was again brought in.
It is impossible for me to picture the tense excitement which appeared
on every face, as he made his way to the bar. Darzac rose to his feet,
frightfully pale.

The President, addressing Rouletabille, said gravely:

"I will not ask you to take the oath, because you have not been
regularly summoned; but I trust there is no need to urge upon you the
gravity of the statement you are about to make."

Rouletabille looked the President quite calmly and steadily in the face,
and replied:

"Yes, Monsieur."

"At your last appearance here," said the President, "we had arrived at
the point where you were to tell us how the murderer escaped, and also
his name. Now, Monsieur Rouletabille, we await your explanation."

"Very well, Monsieur," began my friend amidst a profound silence. "I
had explained how it was impossible for the murderer to get away without
being seen. And yet he was there with us in the courtyard."

"And you did not see him? At least that is what the prosecution
declares."

"No! We all of us saw him, Monsieur le President!" cried Rouletabille.

"Then why was he not arrested?"

"Because no one, besides myself, knew that he was the murderer. It would
have spoiled my plans to have had him arrested, and I had then no proof
other than my own reasoning. I was convinced we had the murderer before
us and that we were actually looking at him. I have now brought what I
consider the indisputable proof."

"Speak out, Monsieur! Tell us the murderer's name."

"You will find it on the list of names present in the court on the night
of the tragedy," replied Rouletabille.

The people present in the court-room began showing impatience. Some of
them even called for the name, and were silenced by the usher.

"The list includes Daddy Jacques, Bernier the concierge, and Mr. Arthur
Rance," said the President. "Do you accuse any of these?"

"No, Monsieur!"

"Then I do not understand what you are driving at. There was no other
person at the end of the court."

"Yes, Monsieur, there was, not at the end, but above the court, who was
leaning out of the window."

"Do you mean Frederic Larsan!" exclaimed the President.

"Yes! Frederic Larsan!" replied Rouletabille in a ringing tone.
"Frederic Larsan is the murderer!"

The court-room became immediately filled with loud and indignant
protests. So astonished was he that the President did not attempt to
quiet it. The quick silence which followed was broken by the distinctly
whispered words from the lips of Robert Darzac:

"It's impossible! He's mad!"

"You dare to accuse Frederic Larsan, Monsieur?" asked the President. "If
you are not mad, what are your proofs?"

"Proofs, Monsieur?--Do you want proofs? Well, here is one," cried
Rouletabille shrilly. "Let Frederic Larsan be called!"

"Usher, call Frederic Larsan."

The usher hurried to the side door, opened it, and disappeared. The door
remained open, while all eyes turned expectantly towards it. The clerk
re-appeared and, stepping forward, said:

"Monsieur President, Frederic Larsan is not here. He left at about four
o'clock and has not been seen since."

"That is my proof!" cried Rouletabille, triumphantly.

"Explain yourself?" demanded the President.

"My proof is Larsan's flight," said the young reporter. "He will not
come back. You will see no more of Frederic Larsan."

"Unless you are playing with the court, Monsieur, why did you not accuse
him when he was present? He would then have answered you."

"He could give no other answer than the one he has now given by his
flight."

"We cannot believe that Larsan has fled. There was no reason for his
doing so. Did he know you'd make this charge?"

"He did. I told him I would."

"Do you mean to say that knowing Larsan was the murderer you gave him
the opportunity to escape?"

"Yes, Monsieur President, I did," replied Rouletabille, proudly. "I am
not a policeman, I am a journalist; and my business is not to arrest
people. My business is in the service of truth, and is not that of an
executioner. If you are just, Monsieur, you will see that I am right.
You can now understand why I refrained until this hour to divulge the
name. I gave Larsan time to catch the 4:17 train for Paris, where he
would know where to hide himself, and leave no traces. You will not find
Frederic Larsan," declared Rouletabille, fixing his eyes on Monsieur
Robert Darzac. "He is too cunning. He is a man who has always escaped
you and whom you have long searched for in vain. If he did not succeed
in outwitting me, he can yet easily outwit any police. This man who,
four years ago, introduced himself to the Surete, and became celebrated
as Frederic Larsan, is notorious under another name--a name well known
to crime. Frederic Larsan, Monsieur President, is Ballmeyer!"

"Ballmeyer!" cried the President.

"Ballmeyer!" exclaimed Robert Darzac, springing to his feet.
"Ballmeyer!--It was true, then!"

"Ah! Monsieur Darzac; you don't think I am mad, now!" cried
Rouletabille.

Ballmeyer! Ballmeyer! No other word could be heard in the courtroom. The
President adjourned the hearing.

Those of my readers who may not have heard of Ballmeyer will wonder at
the excitement the name caused. And yet the doings of this remarkable
criminal form the subject-matter of the most dramatic narratives of the
newspapers and criminal records of the past twenty years. It had been
reported that he was dead, and thus had eluded the police as he had
eluded them throughout the whole of his career.

Ballmeyer was the best specimen of the high-class "gentleman swindler."
He was adept at sleight of hand tricks, and no bolder or more ruthless
crook ever lived. He was received in the best society, and was a
member of some of the most exclusive clubs. On many of his depredatory
expeditions he had not hesitated to use the knife and the mutton-bone.
No difficulty stopped him and no "operation" was too dangerous. He had
been caught, but escaped on the very morning of his trial, by throwing
pepper into the eyes of the guards who were conducting him to Court. It
was known later that, in spite of the keen hunt after him by the
most expert of detectives, he had sat that same evening at a first
performance in the Theatre Francais, without the slightest disguise.

He left France, later, to "work" America. The police there succeeded in
capturing him once, but the extraordinary man escaped the next day. It
would need a volume to recount the adventures of this master-criminal.
And yet this was the man Rouletabille had allowed to get away! Knowing
all about him and who he was, he afforded the criminal an opportunity
for another laugh at the society he had defied! I could not help
admiring the bold stroke of the young journalist, because I felt certain
his motive had been to protect both Mademoiselle Stangerson and rid
Darzac of an enemy at the same time.

The crowd had barely recovered from the effect of the astonishing
revelation when the hearing was resumed. The question in everybody's
mind was: Admitting that Larsan was the murderer, how did he get out of
The Yellow Room?

Rouletabille was immediately called to the bar and his examination
continued.

"You have told us," said the President, "that it was impossible to
escape from the end of the court. Since Larsan was leaning out of his
window, he had left the court. How did he do that?"

"He escaped by a most unusual way. He climbed the wall, sprang onto the
terrace, and, while we were engaged with the keeper's body, reached the
gallery by the window. He then had little else to do than to open the
window, get in and call out to us, as if he had just come from his own
room. To a man of Ballmeyer's strength all that was mere child's play.
And here, Monsieur, is the proof of what I say."

Rouletabille drew from his pocket a small packet, from which he produced
a strong iron peg.

"This, Monsieur," he said, "is a spike which perfectly fits a hole still
to be seen in the cornice supporting the terrace. Larsan, who thought
and prepared for everything in case of any emergency, had fixed this
spike into the cornice. All he had to do to make his escape good was to
plant one foot on a stone which is placed at the corner of the chateau,
another on this support, one hand on the cornice of the keeper's door
and the other on the terrace, and Larsan was clear of the ground. The
rest was easy. His acting after dinner as if he had been drugged was
make believe. He was not drugged; but he did drug me. Of course he had
to make it appear as if he also had been drugged so that no suspicion
should fall on him for my condition. Had I not been thus overpowered,
Larsan would never have entered Mademoiselle Stangerson's chamber that
night, and the attack on her would not have taken place."

A groan came from Darzac, who appeared to be unable to control his
suffering.

"You can understand," added Rouletabille, "that Larsan would feel
himself hampered from the fact that my room was so close to his, and
from a suspicion that I would be on the watch that night. Naturally, he
could not for a moment believe that I suspected him! But I might see him
leaving his room when he was about to go to Mademoiselle Stangerson.
He waited till I was asleep, and my friend Sainclair was busy trying to
rouse me. Ten minutes after that Mademoiselle was calling out, "Murder!"

"How did you come to suspect Larsan?" asked the President.

"My pure reason pointed to him. That was why I watched him. But I
did not foresee the drugging. He is very cunning. Yes, my pure reason
pointed to him; but I required tangible proof so that my eyes could see
him as my pure reason saw him."

"What do you mean by your pure reason?"

"That power of one's mind which admits of no disturbing elements to
a conclusion. The day following the incident of 'the inexplicable
gallery,' I felt myself losing control of it. I had allowed myself to be
diverted by fallacious evidence; but I recovered and again took hold of
the right end. I satisfied myself that the murderer could not have left
the gallery, either naturally or supernaturally. I narrowed the field of
consideration to that small circle, so to speak. The murderer could
not be outside that circle. Now who was in it? There was, first, the
murderer. Then there were Daddy Jacques, Monsieur Stangerson, Frederic
Larsan, and myself. Five persons in all, counting in the murderer.
And yet, in the gallery, there were but four. Now since it had been
demonstrated to me that the fifth could not have escaped, it was evident
that one of the four present in the gallery must be a double--he must
be himself and the murderer also. Why had I not seen this before? Simply
because the phenomenon of the double personality had not occurred before
in this inquiry.

"Now who of the four persons in the gallery was both that person and the
assassin? I went over in my mind what I had seen. I had seen at one and
the same time, Monsieur Stangerson and the murderer, Daddy Jacques and
the murderer, myself and the murderer; so that the murderer, then, could
not be either Monsieur Stangerson, Daddy Jacques, or myself. Had I seen
Frederic Larsan and the murderer at the same time?--No!--Two seconds had
passed, during which I lost sight of the murderer; for, as I have noted
in my papers, he arrived two seconds before Monsieur Stangerson, Daddy
Jacques, and myself at the meeting-point of the two galleries. That
would have given Larsan time to go through the 'off-turning' gallery,
snatch off his false beard, return, and hurry with us as if, like us, in
pursuit of the murderer. I was sure now I had got hold of the right end
in my reasoning. With Frederic Larsan was now always associated, in
my mind, the personality of the unknown of whom I was in pursuit--the
murderer, in other words.

"That revelation staggered me. I tried to regain my balance by going
over the evidences previously traced, but which had diverted my mind and
led me away from Frederic Larsan. What were these evidences?

"1st. I had seen the unknown in Mademoiselle Stangerson's chamber. On
going to Frederic Larsan's room, I had found Larsan sound asleep.

"2nd. The ladder.

"3rd. I had placed Frederic Larsan at the end of the 'off-turning'
gallery and had told him that I would rush into Mademoiselle
Stangerson's room to try to capture the murderer. Then I returned to
Mademoiselle Stangerson's chamber where I had seen the unknown.

"The first evidence did not disturb me much. It is likely that, when I
descended from my ladder, after having seen the unknown in Mademoiselle
Stangerson's chamber, Larsan had already finished what he was doing
there. Then, while I was re-entering the chateau, Larsan went back to
his own room and, undressing himself, went to sleep.

"Nor did the second evidence trouble me. If Larsan were the murderer,
he could have no use for a ladder; but the ladder might have been placed
there to give an appearance to the murderer's entrance from without the
chateau; especially as Larsan had accused Darzac and Darzac was not in
the chateau that night. Further, the ladder might have been placed there
to facilitate Larsan's flight in case of absolute necessity.

"But the third evidence puzzled me altogether. Having placed Larsan at
the end of the 'off-turning gallery,' I could not explain how he had
taken advantage of the moment when I had gone to the left wing of the
chateau to find Monsieur Stangerson and Daddy Jacques, to return to
Mademoiselle Stangerson's room. It was a very dangerous thing to do. He
risked being captured,--and he knew it. And he was very nearly captured.
He had not had time to regain his post, as he had certainly hoped to
do. He had then a very strong reason for returning to his room. As for
myself, when I sent Daddy Jacques to the end of the 'right gallery,' I
naturally thought that Larsan was still at his post. Daddy Jacques, in
going to his post, had not looked, when he passed, to see whether Larsan
was at his post or not.

"What, then, was the urgent reason which had compelled Larsan to go to
the room a second time? I guessed it to be some evidence of his presence
there. He had left something very important in that room. What was it?
And had he recovered it? I begged Madame Bernier who was accustomed to
clean the room to look, and she found a pair of eye-glasses--this pair,
Monsieur President!"

And Rouletabille drew the eye-glasses, of which we know, from his
pocket.

"When I saw these eye-glasses," he continued, "I was utterly nonplussed.
I had never seen Larsan wear eye-glasses. What did they mean? Suddenly I
exclaimed to myself: 'I wonder if he is long-sighted?' I had never seen
Larsan write. He might, then, be long-sighted. They would certainly
know at the Surete, and also know if the glasses were his. Such evidence
would be damning. That explained Larsan's return. I know now that
Larsan, or Ballmeyer, is long-sighted and that these glasses belonged to
him.

"I now made one mistake. I was not satisfied with the evidence I had
obtained. I wished to see the man's face. Had I refrained from this, the
second terrible attack would not have occurred."

"But," asked the President, "why should Larsan go to Mademoiselle
Stangerson's room, at all? Why should he twice attempt to murder her?"

"Because he loves her, Monsieur President."

"That is certainly a reason, but-"

"It is the only reason. He was madly in love, and because of that,
and--other things, he was capable of committing any crime."

"Did Mademoiselle Stangerson know this?"

"Yes, Monsieur; but she was ignorant of the fact that the man who was
pursuing her was Frederic Larsan, otherwise, of course, he would not
have been allowed to be at the chateau. I noticed, when he was in her
room after the incident in the gallery, that he kept himself in the
shadow, and that he kept his head bent down. He was looking for the lost
eye-glasses. Mademoiselle Stangerson knew Larsan under another name."

"Monsieur Darzac," asked the President, "did Mademoiselle Stangerson
in any way confide in you on this matter? How is it that she has never
spoken about it to anyone? If you are innocent, she would have wished to
spare you the pain of being accused."

"Mademoiselle Stangerson told me nothing," replied Monsieur Darzac.

"Does what this young man says appear probable to you?" the President
asked.

"Mademoiselle Stangerson has told me nothing," he replied stolidly.

"How do you explain that, on the night of the murder of the keeper," the
President asked, turning to Rouletabille, "the murderer brought back
the papers stolen from Monsieur Stangerson?--How do you explain how the
murderer gained entrance into Mademoiselle Stangerson's locked room?"

"The last question is easily answered. A man like Larsan, or Ballmeyer,
could have had made duplicate keys. As to the documents, I think Larsan
had not intended to steal them, at first. Closely watching Mademoiselle
with the purpose of preventing her marriage with Monsieur Robert Darzac,
he one day followed her and Monsieur into the Grands Magasins de la
Louvre. There he got possession of the reticule which she lost, or left
behind. In that reticule was a key with a brass head. He did not know
there was any value attached to the key till the advertisement in
the newspapers revealed it. He then wrote to Mademoiselle, as the
advertisement requested. No doubt he asked for a meeting, making known
to her that he was also the person who had for some time pursued her
with his love. He received no answer. He went to the Post Office and
ascertained that his letter was no longer there. He had already taken
complete stock of Monsieur Darzac, and, having decided to go to any
lengths to gain Mademoiselle Stangerson, he had planned that, whatever
might happen, Monsieur Darzac, his hated rival, should be the man to be
suspected.

"I do not think that Larsan had as yet thought of murdering Mademoiselle
Stangerson; but whatever he might do, he made sure that Monsieur Darzac
should suffer for it. He was very nearly of the same height as Monsieur
Darzac and had almost the same sized feet. It would not be difficult,
to take an impression of Monsieur Darzac's footprints, and have similar
boots made for himself. Such tricks were mere child's play for Larsan,
or Ballmeyer.

"Receiving no reply to his letter, he determined, since Mademoiselle
Stangerson would not come to him, that he would go to her. His plan had
long been formed. He had made himself master of the plans of the
chateau and the pavilion. So that, one afternoon, while Monsieur and
Mademoiselle Stangerson were out for a walk, and while Daddy Jacques was
away, he entered the latter by the vestibule window. He was alone, and,
being in no hurry, he began examining the furniture. One of the pieces,
resembling a safe, had a very small keyhole. That interested him! He had
with him the little key with the brass head, and, associating one with
the other, he tried the key in the lock. The door opened. He saw nothing
but papers. They must be very valuable to have been put away in a safe,
and the key to which to be of so much importance. Perhaps a thought of
blackmail occurred to him as a useful possibility in helping him in
his designs on Mademoiselle Stangerson. He quickly made a parcel of the
papers and took it to the lavatory in the vestibule. Between the time of
his first examination of the pavilion and the night of the murder of the
keeper, Larsan had had time to find out what those papers contained.
He could do nothing with them, and they were rather compromising.
That night he took them back to the chateau. Perhaps he hoped that, by
returning the papers he might obtain some gratitude from Mademoiselle
Stangerson. But whatever may have been his reasons, he took the papers
back and so rid himself of an encumbrance."

Rouletabille coughed. It was evident to me that he was embarrassed.
He had arrived at a point where he had to keep back his knowledge of
Larsan's true motive. The explanation he had given had evidently been
unsatisfactory. Rouletabille was quick enough to note the bad impression
he had made, for, turning to the President, he said: "And now we come to
the explanation of the Mystery of The Yellow Room!"

A movement of chairs in the court with a rustling of dresses and an
energetic whispering of "Hush!" showed the curiosity that had been
aroused.

"It seems to me," said the President, "that the Mystery of The Yellow
Room, Monsieur Rouletabille, is wholly explained by your hypothesis.
Frederic Larsan is the explanation. We have merely to substitute him for
Monsieur Robert Darzac. Evidently the door of The Yellow Room was open
at the time Monsieur Stangerson was alone, and that he allowed the man
who was coming out of his daughter's chamber to pass without arresting
him--perhaps at her entreaty to avoid all scandal."

"No, Monsieur President," protested the young man. "You forget that,
stunned by the attack made on her, Mademoiselle Stangerson was not in
a condition to have made such an appeal. Nor could she have locked
and bolted herself in her room. You must also remember that Monsieur
Stangerson has sworn that the door was not open."

"That, however, is the only way in which it can be explained. The Yellow
Room was as closely shut as an iron safe. To use your own expression, it
was impossible for the murderer to make his escape either naturally or
supernaturally. When the room was broken into he was not there! He must,
therefore, have escaped."

"That does not follow."

"What do you mean?"

"There was no need for him to escape--if he was not there!"

"Not there!"

"Evidently, not. He could not have been there, if he were not found
there."

"But, what about the evidences of his presence?" asked the President.

"That, Monsieur President, is where we have taken hold of the wrong end.
From the time Mademoiselle Stangerson shut herself in the room to the
time her door was burst open, it was impossible for the murderer to
escape. He was not found because he was not there during that time."

"But the evidences?"

"They have led us astray. In reasoning on this mystery we must not take
them to mean what they apparently mean. Why do we conclude the murderer
was there?--Because he left his tracks in the room? Good! But may he not
have been there before the room was locked. Nay, he must have been there
before! Let us look into the matter of these traces and see if they do
not point to my conclusion.

"After the publication of the article in the 'Matin' and my
conversation with the examining magistrate on the journey from Paris to
Epinaysur-Orge, I was certain that The Yellow Room had been hermetically
sealed, so to speak, and that consequently the murderer had escaped
before Mademoiselle Stangerson had gone into her chamber at midnight.

"At the time I was much puzzled. Mademoiselle Stangerson could not have
been her own murderer, since the evidences pointed to some other person.
The assassin, then, had come before. If that were so, how was it that
Mademoiselle had been attacked after? or rather, that she appeared to
have been attacked after? It was necessary for me to reconstruct the
occurrence and make of it two phases--each separated from the other,
in time, by the space of several hours. One phase in which Mademoiselle
Stangerson had really been attacked--the other phase in which those who
heard her cries thought she was being attacked. I had not then examined
The Yellow Room. What were the marks on Mademoiselle Stangerson? There
were marks of strangulation and the wound from a hard blow on the
temple. The marks of strangulation did not interest me much; they might
have been made before, and Mademoiselle Stangerson could have concealed
them by a collarette, or any similar article of apparel. I had to
suppose this the moment I was compelled to reconstruct the occurrence by
two phases. Mademoiselle Stangerson had, no doubt, her own reasons for
so doing, since she had told her father nothing of it, and had made it
understood to the examining magistrate that the attack had taken place
in the night, during the second phase. She was forced to say that,
otherwise her father would have questioned her as to her reason for
having said nothing about it.

"But I could not explain the blow on the temple. I understood it even
less when I learned that the mutton-bone had been found in her room. She
could not hide the fact that she had been struck on the head, and yet
that wound appeared evidently to have been inflicted during the first
phase, since it required the presence of the murderer! I thought
Mademoiselle Stangerson had hidden the wound by arranging her hair in
bands on her forehead.

"As to the mark of the hand on the wall, that had evidently been made
during the first phase--when the murderer was really there. All the
traces of his presence had naturally been left during the first phase;
the mutton-bone, the black footprints, the Basque cap, the handkerchief,
the blood on the wall, on the door, and on the floor. If those traces
were still all there, they showed that Mademoiselle Stangerson--who
desired that nothing should be known--had not yet had time to clear them
away. This led me to the conclusion that the two phases had taken place
one shortly after the other. She had not had the opportunity, after
leaving her room and going back to the laboratory to her father, to get
back again to her room and put it in order. Her father was all the time
with her, working. So that after the first phase she did not re-enter
her chamber till midnight. Daddy Jacques was there at ten o'clock, as he
was every night; but he went in merely to close the blinds and light the
night-light. Owing to her disturbed state of mind she had forgotten that
Daddy Jacques would go into her room and had begged him not to trouble
himself. All this was set forth in the article in the 'Matin.' Daddy
Jacques did go, however, and, in the dim light of the room, saw nothing.

"Mademoiselle Stangerson must have lived some anxious moments while
Daddy Jacques was absent; but I think she was not aware that so many
evidences had been left. After she had been attacked she had only time
to hide the traces of the man's fingers on her neck and to hurry to the
laboratory. Had she known of the bone, the cap, and the handkerchief,
she would have made away with them after she had gone back to her
chamber at midnight. She did not see them, and undressed by the
uncertain glimmer of the night light. She went to bed, worn-out by
anxiety and fear--a fear that had made her remain in the laboratory as
late as possible.

"My reasoning had thus brought me to the second phase of the tragedy,
when Mademoiselle Stangerson was alone in the room. I had now to
explain the revolver shots fired during the second phase. Cries of
'Help!--Murder!' had been heard. How to explain these? As to the cries,
I was in no difficulty; since she was alone in her room these could
result from nightmare only. My explanation of the struggle and noise
that were heard is simply that in her nightmare she was haunted by the
terrible experience she had passed through in the afternoon. In her
dream she sees the murderer about to spring upon her and she cries,
'Help! Murder!' Her hand wildly seeks the revolver she had placed within
her reach on the night-table by the side of her bed, but her hand,
striking the table, overturns it, and the revolver, falling to the
floor, discharges itself, the bullet lodging in the ceiling. I knew
from the first that the bullet in the ceiling must have resulted from
an accident. Its very position suggested an accident to my mind, and
so fell in with my theory of a nightmare. I no longer doubted that the
attack had taken place before Mademoiselle had retired for the night.
After wakening from her frightful dream and crying aloud for help, she
had fainted.

"My theory, based on the evidence of the shots that were heard at
midnight, demanded two shots--one which wounded the murderer at the time
of his attack, and one fired at the time of the nightmare. The evidence
given by the Berniers before the examining magistrate was to the effect
that only one shot had been heard. Monsieur Stangerson testified to
hearing a dull sound first followed by a sharp ringing sound. The dull
sound I explained by the falling of the marble-topped table; the ringing
sound was the shot from the revolver. I was now convinced I was right.
The shot that had wounded the hand of the murderer and had caused it
to bleed so that he left the bloody imprint on the wall was fired by
Mademoiselle in self-defence, before the second phase, when she had been
really attacked. The shot in the ceiling which the Berniers heard was
the accidental shot during the nightmare.

"I had now to explain the wound on the temple. It was not severe enough
to have been made by means of the mutton-bone, and Mademoiselle had not
attempted to hide it. It must have been made during the second phase. It
was to find this out that I went to The Yellow Room, and I obtained my
answer there."

Rouletabille drew a piece of white folded paper from his pocket, and
drew out of it an almost invisible object which he held between his
thumb and forefinger.

"This, Monsieur President," he said, "is a hair--a blond hair stained
with blood;--it is a hair from the head of Mademoiselle Stangerson. I
found it sticking to one of the corners of the overturned table. The
corner of the table was itself stained with blood--a tiny stain--hardly
visible; but it told me that, on rising from her bed, Mademoiselle
Stangerson had fallen heavily and had struck her head on the corner of
its marble top.

"I still had to learn, in addition to the name of the assassin, which
I did later, the time of the original attack. I learned this from
the examination of Mademoiselle Stangerson and her father, though
the answers given by the former were well calculated to deceive the
examining magistrate--Mademoiselle Stangerson had stated very minutely
how she had spent the whole of her time that day. We established the
fact that the murderer had introduced himself into the pavilion between
five and six o'clock. At a quarter past six the professor and his
daughter had resumed their work. At five the professor had been with
his daughter, and since the attack took place in the professor's
absence from his daughter, I had to find out just when he left her.
The professor had stated that at the time when he and his daughter were
about to re-enter the laboratory he was met by the keeper and held
in conversation about the cutting of some wood and the poachers.
Mademoiselle Stangerson was not with him then since the professor said:
'I left the keeper and rejoined my daughter who was at work in the
laboratory.'

"It was during that short interval of time that the tragedy took place.
That is certain. In my mind's eye I saw Mademoiselle Stangerson re-enter
the pavilion, go to her room to take off her hat, and find herself faced
by the murderer. He had been in the pavilion for some time waiting for
her. He had arranged to pass the whole night there. He had taken off
Daddy Jacques's boots; he had removed the papers from the cabinet; and
had then slipped under the bed. Finding the time long, he had risen,
gone again into the laboratory, then into the vestibule, looked into
the garden, and had seen, coming towards the pavilion, Mademoiselle
Stangerson--alone. He would never have dared to attack her at that hour,
if he had not found her alone. His mind was made up. He would be more at
ease alone with Mademoiselle Stangerson in the pavilion, than he would
have been in the middle of the night, with Daddy Jacques sleeping in
the attic. So he shut the vestibule window. That explains why neither
Monsieur Stangerson, nor the keeper, who were at some distance from the
pavilion, had heard the revolver shot.

"Then he went back to The Yellow Room. Mademoiselle Stangerson came in.
What passed must have taken place very quickly. Mademoiselle tried to
call for help; but the man had seized her by the throat. Her hand had
sought and grasped the revolver which she had been keeping in the
drawer of her night-table, since she had come to fear the threats of
her pursuer. The murderer was about to strike her on the head with the
mutton-bone--a terrible weapon in the hands of a Larsan or Ballmeyer;
but she fired in time, and the shot wounded the hand that held the
weapon. The bone fell to the floor covered with the blood of the
murderer, who staggered, clutched at the wall for support--imprinting on
it the red marks--and, fearing another bullet, fled.

"She saw him pass through the laboratory, and listened. He was long at
the window. At length he jumped from it. She flew to it and shut it. The
danger past, all her thoughts were of her father. Had he either seen
or heard? At any cost to herself she must keep this from him. Thus
when Monsieur Stangerson returned, he found the door of The Yellow Room
closed, and his daughter in the laboratory, bending over her desk, at
work!"

Turning towards Monsieur Darzac, Rouletabille cried: "You know the
truth! Tell us, then, if that is not how things happened."

"I don't know anything about it," replied Monsieur Darzac.

"I admire you for your silence," said Rouletabille, "but if
Mademoiselle Stangerson knew of your danger, she would release you from
your oath. She would beg of you to tell all she has confided to you. She
would be here to defend you!"

Monsieur Darzac made no movement, nor uttered a word. He looked at
Rouletabille sadly.

"However," said the young reporter, "since Mademoiselle is not here, I
must do it myself. But, believe me, Monsieur Darzac, the only means to
save Mademoiselle Stangerson and restore her to her reason, is to secure
your acquittal."

"What is this secret motive that compels Mademoiselle Stangerson to hide
her knowledge from her father?" asked the President.

"That, Monsieur, I do not know," said Rouletabille. "It is no business
of mine."

The President, turning to Monsieur Darzac, endeavoured to induce him to
tell what he knew.

"Do you still refuse, Monsieur, to tell us how you employed your time
during the attempts on the life of Mademoiselle Stangerson?"

"I cannot tell you anything, Monsieur."

The President turned to Rouletabille as if appealing for an explanation.

"We must assume, Monsieur President, that Monsieur Robert Darzac's
absences are closely connected with Mademoiselle Stangerson's secret,
and that Monsieur Darzac feels himself in honour bound to remain silent.
It may be that Larsan, who, since his three attempts, has had everything
in training to cast suspicion on Monsieur Darzac, had fixed on just
those occasions for a meeting with Monsieur Darzac at a spot most
compromising. Larsan is cunning enough to have done that."

The President seemed partly convinced, but still curious, he asked:

"But what is this secret of Mademoiselle Stangerson?"

"That I cannot tell you," said Rouletabille. "I think, however, you
know enough now to acquit Monsieur Robert Darzac! Unless Larsan should
return, and I don't think he will," he added, with a laugh.

"One question more," said the President. "Admitting your explanation, we
know that Larsan wished to turn suspicion on Monsieur Robert Darzac, but
why should he throw suspicion on Daddy Jacques also?"

"There came in the professional detective, Monsieur, who proves himself
an unraveller of mysteries, by annihilating the very proofs he had
accumulated. He's a very cunning man, and a similar trick had often
enabled him to turn suspicion from himself. He proved the innocence of
one before accusing the other. You can easily believe, Monsieur, that so
complicated a scheme as this must have been long and carefully thought
out in advance by Larsan. I can tell you that he had long been
engaged on its elaboration. If you care to learn how he had gathered
information, you will find that he had, on one occasion, disguised
himself as the commissionaire between the 'Laboratory of the Surete' and
Monsieur Stangerson, of whom 'experiments' were demanded. In this way
he had been able before the crime, on two occasions to take stock of the
pavilion. He had 'made up' so that Daddy Jacques had not recognised him.
And yet Larsan had found the opportunity to rob the old man of a pair of
old boots and a cast-off Basque cap, which the servant had tied up in
a handkerchief, with the intention of carrying them to a friend, a
charcoal-burner on the road to Epinay. When the crime was discovered,
Daddy Jacques had immediately recognised these objects as his. They were
extremely compromising, which explains his distress at the time when we
spoke to him about them. Larsan confessed it all to me. He is an
artist at the game. He did a similar thing in the affair of the 'Credit
Universel,' and in that of the 'Gold Ingots of the Mint.' Both these
cases should be revised. Since Ballmeyer or Larsan has been in the
Surete a number of innocent persons have been sent to prison."



CHAPTER XXVIII. In Which It Is Proved That One Does Not Always Think of
Everything


Great excitement prevailed when Rouletabille had finished. The
court-room became agitated with the murmurings of suppressed applause.
Maitre Henri Robert called for an adjournment of the trial and was
supported in his motion by the public prosecutor himself. The case was
adjourned. The next day Monsieur Robert Darzac was released on bail,
while Daddy Jacques received the immediate benefit of a "no cause for
action." Search was everywhere made for Frederic Larsan, but in vain.
Monsieur Darzac finally escaped the awful calamity which, at one time,
had threatened him. After a visit to Mademoiselle Stangerson, he was led
to hope that she might, by careful nursing, one day recover her reason.

Rouletabille, naturally, became the "man of the hour." On leaving the
Palais de Justice, the crowd bore him aloft in triumph. The press of
the whole world published his exploits and his photograph. He, who
had interviewed so many illustrious personages, had himself become
illustrious and was interviewed in his turn. I am glad to say that the
enormous success in no way turned his head.

We left Versailles together, after having dined at "The Dog That
Smokes." In the train I put a number of questions to him which, during
our meal, had been on the tip of my tongue, but which I had refrained
from uttering, knowing he did not like to talk "shop" while eating.

"My friend," I said, "that Larsan case is wonderful. It is worthy of
you."

He begged me to say no more, and humorously pretended an anxiety for
me should I give way to silly praise of him because of a personal
admiration for his ability.

"I'll come to the point, then," I said, not a little nettled. "I am
still in the dark as to your reason for going to America. When you
left the Glandier you had found out, if I rightly understand, all about
Frederic Larsan; you had discovered the exact way he had attempted the
murder?"

"Quite so. And you," he said, turning the conversation, "did you suspect
nothing?"

"Nothing!"

"It's incredible!"

"I don't see how I could have suspected anything. You took great pains
to conceal your thoughts from me. Had you already suspected Larsan when
you sent for me to bring the revolvers?"

"Yes! I had come to that conclusion through the incident of the
'inexplicable gallery.' Larsan's return to Mademoiselle Stangerson's
room, however, had not then been cleared up by the eye-glasses. My
suspicions were the outcome of my reasoning only; and the idea of Larsan
being the murderer seemed so extraordinary that I resolved to wait for
actual evidence before venturing to act. Nevertheless, the suspicion
worried me, and I sometimes spoke to the detective in a way that ought
to have opened your eyes. I spoke disparagingly of his methods. But
until I found the eye-glasses I could but look upon my suspicion of him
in the light of an absurd hypothesis only. You can imagine my elation
after I had explained Larsan's movements. I remember well rushing into
my room like a mad-man and crying to you: 'I'll get the better of
the great Fred. I'll get the better of him in a way that will make a
sensation!'

"I was then thinking of Larsan, the murderer. It was that same evening
that Darzac begged me to watch over Mademoiselle Stangerson. I made no
efforts until after we had dined with Larsan, until ten o'clock. He was
right there before me, and I could afford to wait. You ought to have
suspected, because when we were talking of the murderer's arrival, I
said to you: 'I am quite sure Larsan will be here to-night.'

"But one important point escaped us both. It was one which ought to
have opened our eyes to Larsan. Do you remember the bamboo cane? I was
surprised to find Larsan had made no use of that evidence against Robert
Darzac. Had it not been purchased by a man whose description tallied
exactly with that of Darzac? Well, just before I saw him off at the
train, after the recess during the trial, I asked him why he hadn't used
the cane evidence. He told me he had never had any intention of doing
so; that our discovery of it in the little inn at Epinay had much
embarrassed him. If you will remember, he told us then that the cane had
been given him in London. Why did we not immediately say to ourselves:
'Fred is lying. He could not have had this cane in London. He was not
in London. He bought it in Paris'? Then you found out, on inquiry at
Cassette's, that the cane had been bought by a person dressed very like
Robert Darzac, though, as we learned later, from Darzac himself, it was
not he who had made the purchase. Couple this with the fact we already
knew, from the letter at the poste restante, that there was actually
a man in Paris who was passing as Robert Darzac, why did we not
immediately fix on Fred himself?

"Of course, his position at the Surete was against us; but when we saw
the evident eagerness on his part to find convicting evidence against
Darzac, nay, even the passion he displayed in his pursuit of the man,
the lie about the cane should have had a new meaning for us. If you
ask why Larsan bought the cane, if he had no intention of manufacturing
evidence against Darzac by means of it, the answer is quite simple. He
had been wounded in the hand by Mademoiselle Stangerson, so that the
cane was useful to enable him to close his hand in carrying it. You
remember I noticed that he always carried it?

"All these details came back to my mind when I had once fixed on Larsan
as the criminal. But they were too late then to be of any use to me. On
the evening when he pretended to be drugged I looked at his hand and saw
a thin silk bandage covering the signs of a slight healing wound. Had we
taken a quicker initiative at the time Larsan told us that lie about the
cane, I am certain he would have gone off, to avoid suspicion. All the
same, we worried Larsan or Ballmeyer without our knowing it."

"But," I interrupted, "if Larsan had no intention of using the cane as
evidence against Darzac, why had he made himself up to look like the man
when he went in to buy it?"

"He had not specially 'made up' as Darzac to buy the cane; he had come
straight to Cassette's immediately after he had attacked Mademoiselle
Stangerson. His wound was troubling him and, as he was passing along the
Avenue de l'Opera, the idea of the cane came to his mind and he acted on
it. It was then eight o'clock. And I, who had hit upon the very hour of
the occurrence of the tragedy, almost convinced that Darzac was not the
criminal, and knowing of the cane, I still never suspected Larsan. There
are times..."

"There are times," I said, "when the greatest intellects--..."
Rouletabille shut my mouth. I still continued to chide him, but, finding
he did not reply, I saw he was no longer paying any attention to what I
was saying. I found he was fast asleep.



CHAPTER XXIX. The Mystery of Mademoiselle Stangerson


During the days that followed I had several opportunities to question
him as to his reason for his voyage to America, but I obtained no more
precise answers than he had given me on the evening of the adjournment
of the trial, when we were on the train for Paris. One day, however, on
my still pressing him, he said:

"Can't you understand that I had to know Larsan's true personality?"

"No doubt," I said, "but why did you go to America to find that out?"

He sat smoking his pipe, and made no further reply. I began to see that
I was touching on the secret that concerned Mademoiselle Stangerson.
Rouletabille evidently had found it necessary to go to America to find
out what the mysterious tie was that bound her to Larsan by so strange
and terrible a bond. In America he had learned who Larsan was and
had obtained information which closed his mouth. He had been to
Philadelphia.

And now, what was this mystery which held Mademoiselle Stangerson and
Monsieur Robert Darzac in so inexplicable a silence? After so many years
and the publicity given the case by a curious and shameless press; now
that Monsieur Stangerson knows all and has forgiven all, all may be
told. In every phase of this remarkable story Mademoiselle Stangerson
had always been the sufferer.

The beginning dates from the time when, as a young girl, she was living
with her father in Philadelphia. A visitor at the house, a Frenchman,
had succeeded by his wit, grace and persistent attention, in gaining
her affections. He was said to be rich and had asked her of her father.
Monsieur Stangerson, on making inquiries as to Monsieur Jean Roussel,
found that the man was a swindler and an adventurer. Jean Roussel was
but another of the many names under which the notorious Ballmeyer, a
fugitive from France, tried to hide himself. Monsieur Stangerson did not
know of his identity with Ballmeyer; he learned that the man was simply
undesirable for his daughter. He not only refused to give his consent
to the marriage but denied him admission into the house. Mathilde
Stangerson, however, had fallen in love. To her Jean Roussel was
everything that her love painted him. She was indignant at her father's
attitude, and did not conceal her feelings. Her father sent her to stay
with an aunt in Cincinnati. There she was joined by Jean Roussel and, in
spite of the reverence she felt for her father, ran away with him to get
married.

They went to Louisville and lived there for some time. One morning,
however, a knock came at the door of the house in which they were and
the police entered to arrest Jean Roussel. It was then that Mathilde
Stangerson, or Roussel, learned that her husband was no other than the
notorious Ballmeyer!

The young woman in her despair tried to commit suicide. She failed in
this, and was forced to rejoin her aunt in Cincinnati, The old lady was
overjoyed to see her again. She had been anxiously searching for her and
had not dared to tell Monsieur Stangerson of her disappearance. Mathilde
swore her to secrecy, so that her father should not know she had been
away. A month later, Mademoiselle Stangerson returned to her father,
repentant, her heart dead within her, hoping only one thing: that she
would never again see her husband, the horrible Ballmeyer. A report was
spread, a few weeks later, that he was dead, and she now determined
to atone for her disobedience by a life of labour and devotion for her
father. And she kept her word.

All this she had confessed to Robert Darzac, and, believing Ballmeyer
dead, had given herself to the joy of a union with him. But fate had
resuscitated Jean Roussel--the Ballmeyer of her youth. He had
taken steps to let her know that he would never allow her to marry
Darzac--that he still loved her.

Mademoiselle Stangerson never for one moment hesitated to confide in
Monsieur Darzac. She showed him the letter in which Jean Roussel asked
her to recall the first hours of their union in their beautiful and
charming Louisville home. "The presbytery has lost nothing of its charm,
nor the garden its brightness," he had written. The scoundrel pretended
to be rich and claimed the right of taking her back to Louisville. She
had told Darzac that if her father should know of her dishonour, she
would kill herself. Monsieur Darzac had sworn to silence her persecutor,
even if he had to kill him. He was outwitted and would have succumbed
had it not been for the genius of Rouletabille.

Mademoiselle Stangerson was herself helpless in the hands of such a
villain. She had tried to kill him when he had first threatened and then
attacked her in The Yellow Room. She had, unfortunately, failed, and
felt herself condemned to be for ever at the mercy of this unscrupulous
wretch who was continually demanding her presence at clandestine
interviews. When he sent her the letter through the Post Office, asking
her to meet him, she had refused. The result of her refusal was the
tragedy of The Yellow Room. The second time he wrote asking for a
meeting, the letter reaching her in her sick chamber, she had avoided
him by sleeping with her servants. In that letter the scoundrel had
warned her that, since she was too ill to come to him, he would come
to her, and that he would be in her chamber at a particular hour on
a particular night. Knowing that she had everything to fear from
Ballmeyer, she had left her chamber on that night. It was then that the
incident of the "inexplicable gallery" occurred.

The third time she had determined to keep the appointment. He asked for
it in the letter he had written in her own room, on the night of the
incident in the gallery, which he left on her desk. In that letter he
threatened to burn her father's papers if she did not meet him. It was
to rescue these papers that she made up her mind to see him. She did not
for one moment doubt that the wretch would carry out his threat if she
persisted in avoiding him, and in that case the labours of her father's
lifetime would be for ever lost. Since the meeting was thus inevitable,
she resolved to see her husband and appeal to his better nature. It was
for this interview that she had prepared herself on the night the keeper
was killed. They did meet, and what passed between them may be imagined.
He insisted that she renounce Darzac. She, on her part, affirmed her
love for him. He stabbed her in his anger, determined to convict Darzac
of the crime. As Larsan he could do it, and had so managed things that
Darzac could never explain how he had employed the time of his absence
from the chateau. Ballmeyer's precautions were most cunningly taken.

Larsan had threatened Darzac as he had threatened Mathilde--with the
same weapon, and the same threats. He wrote Darzac urgent letters,
declaring himself ready to deliver up the letters that had passed
between him and his wife, and to leave them for ever, if he would pay
him his price. He asked Darzac to meet him for the purpose of arranging
the matter, appointing the time when Larsan would be with Mademoiselle
Stangerson. When Darzac went to Epinay, expecting to find Ballmeyer or
Larsan there, he was met by an accomplice of Larsan's, and kept waiting
until such time as the "coincidence" could be established.

It was all done with Machiavellian cunning; but Ballmeyer had reckoned
without Joseph Rouletabille.

Now that the Mystery of The Yellow Room has been cleared up, this is not
the time to tell of Rouletabille's adventures in America. Knowing the
young reporter as we do, we can understand with what acumen he had
traced, step by step, the story of Mathilde Stangerson and Jean Roussel.
At Philadelphia he had quickly informed himself as to Arthur William
Rance. There he learned of Rance's act of devotion and the reward
he thought himself entitled to for it. A rumour of his marriage with
Mademoiselle Stangerson had once found its way into the drawing-rooms of
Philadelphia. He also learned of Rance's continued attentions to her and
his importunities for her hand. He had taken to drink, he had said, to
drown his grief at his unrequited love. It can now be understood why
Rouletabille had shown so marked a coolness of demeanour towards Rance
when they met in the witnesses' room, on the day of the trial.

The strange Roussel-Stangerson mystery had now been laid bare. Who was
this Jean Roussel? Rouletabille had traced him from Philadelphia to
Cincinnati. In Cincinnati he became acquainted with the old aunt, and
had found means to open her mouth. The story of Ballmeyer's arrest threw
the right light on the whole story. He visited the "presbytery"--a small
and pretty dwelling in the old colonial style--which had, indeed,
"lost nothing of its charm." Then, abandoning his pursuit of traces of
Mademoiselle Stangerson, he took up those of Ballmeyer. He followed them
from prison to prison, from crime to crime. Finally, as he was about
leaving for Europe, he learned in New York that Ballmeyer had, five
years before, embarked for France with some valuable papers belonging to
a merchant of New Orleans whom he had murdered.

And yet the whole of this mystery has not been revealed. Mademoiselle
Stangerson had a child, by her husband,--a son. The infant was born in
the old aunt's house. No one knew of it, so well had the aunt managed to
conceal the event.

What became of that son?--That is another story which, so far, I am not
permitted to relate.

About two months after these events, I came upon Rouletabille sitting on
a bench in the Palais de Justice, looking very depressed.

"What's the matter, old man?" I asked. "You are looking very down. cast.
How are your friends getting on?"

"Apart from you," he said, "I have no friends."

"I hope that Monsieur Darzac--"

"No doubt."

"And Mademoiselle Stangerson--How is she?"

"Better--much better."

"Then you ought not to be sad."

"I am sad," he said, "because I am thinking of the perfume of the lady
in black--"

"The perfume of the lady in black!--I have heard you often refer to it.
Tell me why it troubles you."

"Perhaps--some day; some day," said Rouletabille.

And he heaved a profound sigh.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mystère de la chambre jaune. English - Mystery of the Yellow Room" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home