The Mystery of the Yellow Room
Part 2 out of 5
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
"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
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
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
"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,
"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
"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
"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.
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
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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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?
"Q. You understand, mademoiselle, that these precautions are
calculated to cause surprise?
"M. Stangerson. Evidently, my child, such precautions are very
"A. No;--because I have told you that I had been uneasy for two
"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
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.
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
"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 shook his head and said he was sure of the
chambermaid's fidelity, and that she was a thoroughly honest and
"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
"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,
"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
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
"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
"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
"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.
"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
"I'm not afraid of the police--I'm not afraid of anyone!" replied
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
"I know," said my friend slowly; "I know--We shall have to eat red
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
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
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,
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
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
"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.
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
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
"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
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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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 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
"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 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
"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
"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
"That's a handkerchief astonishingly like the one found in The
"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
"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
"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.
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