The Mystery of the Yellow Room
Part 3 out of 5
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.
"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, 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
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
"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
"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
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
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
"The Presbytery Has Lost Nothing of Its Charm, Nor the Garden
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,
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.
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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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."
"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
"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
___ ____ ___________ _______\___ ________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
|_________ _____ _________ ______ _______ __ __ __ _________ _____
|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,
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
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
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
"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.
(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
"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
"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
"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?"
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
"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.
"'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
"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."
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
"'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.
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
"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.
"'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
"'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
"'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
"'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
"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.'"
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.
"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."
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
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
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
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
"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
"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?"
"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?"
"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
"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,
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