The Mystery of the Yellow Room
Part 5 out of 5
"Proofs, Monsieur?--Do you want proofs? Well, here is one," cried
Rouletabille shrilly. "Let Frederic Larsan be called!"
"Usher, call Frederic Larsan."
The usher hurried to the side door, opened it, and disappeared. The
door remained open, while all eyes turned expectantly towards it.
The clerk re-appeared and, stepping forward, said:
"Monsieur President, Frederic Larsan is not here. He left at about
four o'clock and has not been seen since."
"That is my proof!" cried Rouletabille, triumphantly.
"Explain yourself?" demanded the President.
"My proof is Larsan's flight," said the young reporter. "He will
not come back. You will see no more of Frederic Larsan."
"Unless you are playing with the court, Monsieur, why did you not
accuse him when he was present? He would then have answered you."
"He could give no other answer than the one he has now given by his
"We cannot believe that Larsan has fled. There was no reason for
his doing so. Did he know you'd make this charge?"
"He did. I told him I would."
"Do you mean to say that knowing Larsan was the murderer you gave
him the opportunity to escape?"
"Yes, Monsieur President, I did," replied Rouletabille, proudly.
"I am not a policeman, I am a journalist; and my business is not
to arrest people. My business is in the service of truth, and is
not that of an executioner. If you are just, Monsieur, you will
see that I am right. You can now understand why I refrained until
this hour to divulge the name. I gave Larsan time to catch the
4:17 train for Paris, where he would know where to hide himself,
and leave no traces. You will not find Frederic Larsan," declared
Rouletabille, fixing his eyes on Monsieur Robert Darzac. "He is
too cunning. He is a man who has always escaped you and whom you
have long searched for in vain. If he did not succeed in
outwitting me, he can yet easily outwit any police. This man who,
four years ago, introduced himself to the Surete, and became
celebrated as Frederic Larsan, is notorious under another name--a
name well known to crime. Frederic Larsan, Monsieur President,
"Ballmeyer!" cried the President.
"Ballmeyer!" exclaimed Robert Darzac, springing to his feet.
"Ballmeyer!--It was true, then!"
"Ah! Monsieur Darzac; you don't think I am mad, now!" cried
Ballmeyer! Ballmeyer! No other word could be heard in the
courtroom. The President adjourned the hearing.
Those of my readers who may not have heard of Ballmeyer will wonder
at the excitement the name caused. And yet the doings of this
remarkable criminal form the subject-matter of the most dramatic
narratives of the newspapers and criminal records of the past twenty
years. It had been reported that he was dead, and thus had eluded
the police as he had eluded them throughout the whole of his career.
Ballmeyer was the best specimen of the high-class "gentleman
swindler." He was adept at sleight of hand tricks, and no bolder
or more ruthless crook ever lived. He was received in the best
society, and was a member of some of the most exclusive clubs. On
many of his depredatory expeditions he had not hesitated to use
the knife and the mutton-bone. No difficulty stopped him and no
"operation" was too dangerous. He had been caught, but escaped
on the very morning of his trial, by throwing pepper into the
eyes of the guards who were conducting him to Court. It was known
later that, in spite of the keen hunt after him by the most expert
of detectives, he had sat that same evening at a first performance
in the Theatre Francais, without the slightest disguise.
He left France, later, to "work" America. The police there
succeeded in capturing him once, but the extraordinary man escaped
the next day. It would need a volume to recount the adventures of
this master-criminal. And yet this was the man Rouletabille had
allowed to get away! Knowing all about him and who he was, he
afforded the criminal an opportunity for another laugh at the
society he had defied! I could not help admiring the bold stroke
of the young journalist, because I felt certain his motive had been
to protect both Mademoiselle Stangerson and rid Darzac of an enemy
at the same time.
The crowd had barely recovered from the effect of the astonishing
revelation when the hearing was resumed. The question in everybody's
mind was: Admitting that Larsan was the murderer, how did he get out
of The Yellow Room?
Rouletabille was immediately called to the bar and his examination
"You have told us," said the President, "that it was impossible to
escape from the end of the court. Since Larsan was leaning out of
his window, he had left the court. How did he do that?"
"He escaped by a most unusual way. He climbed the wall, sprang
onto the terrace, and, while we were engaged with the keeper's body,
reached the gallery by the window. He then had little else to do
than to open the window, get in and call out to us, as if he had
just come from his own room. To a man of Ballmeyer's strength all
that was mere child's play. And here, Monsieur, is the proof of
what I say."
Rouletabille drew from his pocket a small packet, from which he
produced a strong iron peg.
"This, Monsieur," he said, "is a spike which perfectly fits a hole
still to be seen in the cornice supporting the terrace. Larsan,
who thought and prepared for everything in case of any emergency,
had fixed this spike into the cornice. All he had to do to make
his escape good was to plant one foot on a stone which is placed
at the corner of the chateau, another on this support, one hand
on the cornice of the keeper's door and the other on the terrace,
and Larsan was clear of the ground. The rest was easy. His acting
after dinner as if he had been drugged was make believe. He was
not drugged; but he did drug me. Of course he had to make it
appear as if he also had been drugged so that no suspicion should
fall on him for my condition. Had I not been thus overpowered,
Larsan would never have entered Mademoiselle Stangerson's chamber
that night, and the attack on her would not have taken place."
A groan came from Darzac, who appeared to be unable to control
"You can understand," added Rouletabille, "that Larsan would feel
himself hampered from the fact that my room was so close to his, and
from a suspicion that I would be on the watch that night. Naturally,
he could not for a moment believe that I suspected him! But I might
see him leaving his room when he was about to go to Mademoiselle
Stangerson. He waited till I was asleep, and my friend Sainclair
was busy trying to rouse me. Ten minutes after that Mademoiselle
was calling out, "Murder!"
"How did you come to suspect Larsan?" asked the President.
"My pure reason pointed to him. That was why I watched him. But
I did not foresee the drugging. He is very cunning. Yes, my pure
reason pointed to him; but I required tangible proof so that my
eyes could see him as my pure reason saw him."
"What do you mean by your pure reason?"
"That power of one's mind which admits of no disturbing elements
to a conclusion. The day following the incident of 'the
inexplicable gallery,' I felt myself losing control of it. I had
allowed myself to be diverted by fallacious evidence; but I
recovered and again took hold of the right end. I satisfied myself
that the murderer could not have left the gallery, either naturally
or supernaturally. I narrowed the field of consideration to that
small circle, so to speak. The murderer could not be outside that
circle. Now who was in it? There was, first, the murderer. Then
there were Daddy Jacques, Monsieur Stangerson, Frederic Larsan, and
myself. Five persons in all, counting in the murderer. And yet,
in the gallery, there were but four. Now since it had been
demonstrated to me that the fifth could not have escaped, it was
evident that one of the four present in the gallery must be a double
--he must be himself and the murderer also. Why had I not seen
this before? Simply because the phenomenon of the double personality
had not occurred before in this inquiry.
"Now who of the four persons in the gallery was both that person
and the assassin? I went over in my mind what I had seen. I had
seen at one and the same time, Monsieur Stangerson and the murderer,
Daddy Jacques and the murderer, myself and the murderer; so that
the murderer, then, could not be either Monsieur Stangerson, Daddy
Jacques, or myself. Had I seen Frederic Larsan and the murderer
at the same time?--No!--Two seconds had passed, during which I
lost sight of the murderer; for, as I have noted in my papers, he
arrived two seconds before Monsieur Stangerson, Daddy Jacques, and
myself at the meeting-point of the two galleries. That would have
given Larsan time to go through the 'off-turning' gallery, snatch
off his false beard, return, and hurry with us as if, like us, in
pursuit of the murderer. I was sure now I had got hold of the
right end in my reasoning. With Frederic Larsan was now always
associated, in my mind, the personality of the unknown of whom I
was in pursuit--the murderer, in other words.
"That revelation staggered me. I tried to regain my balance by
going over the evidences previously traced, but which had diverted
my mind and led me away from Frederic Larsan. What were these
"1st. I had seen the unknown in Mademoiselle Stangerson's chamber.
On going to Frederic Larsan's room, I had found Larsan sound asleep.
"2nd. The ladder.
"3rd. I had placed Frederic Larsan at the end of the 'off-turning'
gallery and had told him that I would rush into Mademoiselle
Stangerson's room to try to capture the murderer. Then I returned
to Mademoiselle Stangerson's chamber where I had seen the unknown.
"The first evidence did not disturb me much. It is likely that,
when I descended from my ladder, after having seen the unknown in
Mademoiselle Stangerson's chamber, Larsan had already finished what
he was doing there. Then, while I was re-entering the chateau,
Larsan went back to his own room and, undressing himself, went to
"Nor did the second evidence trouble me. If Larsan were the
murderer, he could have no use for a ladder; but the ladder might
have been placed there to give an appearance to the murderer's
entrance from without the chateau; especially as Larsan had accused
Darzac and Darzac was not in the chateau that night. Further, the
ladder might have been placed there to facilitate Larsan's flight
in case of absolute necessity.
"But the third evidence puzzled me altogether. Having placed Larsan
at the end of the 'off-turning gallery,' I could not explain how he
had taken advantage of the moment when I had gone to the left wing
of the chateau to find Monsieur Stangerson and Daddy Jacques, to
return to Mademoiselle Stangerson's room. It was a very dangerous
thing to do. He risked being captured,--and he knew it. And he
was very nearly captured. He had not had time to regain his post,
as he had certainly hoped to do. He had then a very strong reason
for returning to his room. As for myself, when I sent Daddy Jacques
to the end of the 'right gallery,' I naturally thought that Larsan
was still at his post. Daddy Jacques, in going to his post, had not
looked, when he passed, to see whether Larsan was at his post or not.
"What, then, was the urgent reason which had compelled Larsan to
go to the room a second time? I guessed it to be some evidence of
his presence there. He had left something very important in that
room. What was it? And had he recovered it? I begged Madame
Bernier who was accustomed to clean the room to look, and she found
a pair of eye-glasses--this pair, Monsieur President!"
And Rouletabille drew the eye-glasses, of which we know, from his
"When I saw these eye-glasses," he continued, "I was utterly
nonplussed. I had never seen Larsan wear eye-glasses. What did
they mean? Suddenly I exclaimed to myself: 'I wonder if he is
long-sighted?' I had never seen Larsan write. He might, then, be
long-sighted. They would certainly know at the Surete, and also
know if the glasses were his. Such evidence would be damning.
That explained Larsan's return. I know now that Larsan, or
Ballmeyer, is long-sighted and that these glasses belonged to him.
"I now made one mistake. I was not satisfied with the evidence I
had obtained. I wished to see the man's face. Had I refrained
from this, the second terrible attack would not have occurred."
"But," asked the President, "why should Larsan go to Mademoiselle
Stangerson's room, at all? Why should he twice attempt to murder
"Because he loves her, Monsieur President."
"That is certainly a reason, but-"
"It is the only reason. He was madly in love, and because of that,
and--other things, he was capable of committing any crime."
"Did Mademoiselle Stangerson know this?"
"Yes, Monsieur; but she was ignorant of the fact that the man who
was pursuing her was Frederic Larsan, otherwise, of course, he
would not have been allowed to be at the chateau. I noticed, when
he was in her room after the incident in the gallery, that he kept
himself in the shadow, and that he kept his head bent down. He was
looking for the lost eye-glasses. Mademoiselle Stangerson knew
Larsan under another name."
"Monsieur Darzac," asked the President, "did Mademoiselle Stangerson
in any way confide in you on this matter? How is it that she has
never spoken about it to anyone? If you are innocent, she would
have wished to spare you the pain of being accused."
"Mademoiselle Stangerson told me nothing," replied Monsieur Darzac.
"Does what this young man says appear probable to you?" the
"Mademoiselle Stangerson has told me nothing," he replied stolidly.
"How do you explain that, on the night of the murder of the keeper,"
the President asked, turning to Rouletabille, "the murderer brought
back the papers stolen from Monsieur Stangerson?--How do you explain
how the murderer gained entrance into Mademoiselle Stangerson's
"The last question is easily answered. A man like Larsan, or
Ballmeyer, could have had made duplicate keys. As to the documents,
I think Larsan had not intended to steal them, at first. Closely
watching Mademoiselle with the purpose of preventing her marriage
with Monsieur Robert Darzac, he one day followed her and Monsieur
into the Grands Magasins de la Louvre. There he got possession of
the reticule which she lost, or left behind. In that reticule was
a key with a brass head. He did not know there was any value
attached to the key till the advertisement in the newspapers revealed
it. He then wrote to Mademoiselle, as the advertisement requested.
No doubt he asked for a meeting, making known to her that he was
also the person who had for some time pursued her with his love.
He received no answer. He went to the Post Office and ascertained
that his letter was no longer there. He had already taken complete
stock of Monsieur Darzac, and, having decided to go to any lengths
to gain Mademoiselle Stangerson, he had planned that, whatever might
happen, Monsieur Darzac, his hated rival, should be the man to be
"I do not think that Larsan had as yet thought of murdering
Mademoiselle Stangerson; but whatever he might do, he made sure that
Monsieur Darzac should suffer for it. He was very nearly of the
same height as Monsieur Darzac and had almost the same sized feet.
It would not be difficult, to take an impression of Monsieur Darzac's
footprints, and have similar boots made for himself. Such tricks
were mere child's play for Larsan, or Ballmeyer.
"Receiving no reply to his letter, he determined, since Mademoiselle
Stangerson would not come to him, that he would go to her. His plan
had long been formed. He had made himself master of the plans of
the chateau and the pavilion. So that, one afternoon, while Monsieur
and Mademoiselle Stangerson were out for a walk, and while Daddy
Jacques was away, he entered the latter by the vestibule window. He
was alone, and, being in no hurry, he began examining the furniture.
One of the pieces, resembling a safe, had a very small keyhole.
That interested him! He had with him the little key with the brass
head, and, associating one with the other, he tried the key in the
lock. The door opened. He saw nothing but papers. They must be
very valuable to have been put away in a safe, and the key to which
to be of so much importance. Perhaps a thought of blackmail occurred
to him as a useful possibility in helping him in his designs on
Mademoiselle Stangerson. He quickly made a parcel of the papers and
took it to the lavatory in the vestibule. Between the time of his
first examination of the pavilion and the night of the murder of the
keeper, Larsan had had time to find out what those papers contained.
He could do nothing with them, and they were rather compromising.
That night he took them back to the chateau. Perhaps he hoped that,
by returning the papers he might obtain some gratitude from
Mademoiselle Stangerson. But whatever may have been his reasons,
he took the papers back and so rid himself of an encumbrance."
Rouletabille coughed. It was evident to me that he was embarrassed.
He had arrived at a point where he had to keep back his knowledge of
Larsan's true motive. The explanation he had given had evidently
been unsatisfactory. Rouletabille was quick enough to note the bad
impression he had made, for, turning to the President, he said:
"And now we come to the explanation of the Mystery of The Yellow
A movement of chairs in the court with a rustling of dresses and an
energetic whispering of "Hush!" showed the curiosity that had been
"It seems to me," said the President, "that the Mystery of The
Yellow Room, Monsieur Rouletabille, is wholly explained by your
hypothesis. Frederic Larsan is the explanation. We have merely
to substitute him for Monsieur Robert Darzac. Evidently the door
of The Yellow Room was open at the time Monsieur Stangerson was
alone, and that he allowed the man who was coming out of his
daughter's chamber to pass without arresting him--perhaps at her
entreaty to avoid all scandal."
"No, Monsieur President," protested the young man. "You forget
that, stunned by the attack made on her, Mademoiselle Stangerson
was not in a condition to have made such an appeal. Nor could she
have locked and bolted herself in her room. You must also remember
that Monsieur Stangerson has sworn that the door was not open."
"That, however, is the only way in which it can be explained. The
Yellow Room was as closely shut as an iron safe. To use your own
expression, it was impossible for the murderer to make his escape
either naturally or supernaturally. When the room was broken into
he was not there! He must, therefore, have escaped."
"That does not follow."
"What do you mean?"
"There was no need for him to escape--if he was not there!"
"Evidently, not. He could not have been there, if he were not found
"But, what about the evidences of his presence?" asked the President.
"That, Monsieur President, is where we have taken hold of the wrong
end. From the time Mademoiselle Stangerson shut herself in the room
to the time her door was burst open, it was impossible for the
murderer to escape. He was not found because he was not there during
"But the evidences?"
"They have led us astray. In reasoning on this mystery we must not
take them to mean what they apparently mean. Why do we conclude the
murderer was there?--Because he left his tracks in the room? Good!
But may he not have been there before the room was locked. Nay, he
must have been there before! Let us look into the matter of these
traces and see if they do not point to my conclusion.
"After the publication of the article in the 'Matin' and my
conversation with the examining magistrate on the journey from Paris
to Epinaysur-Orge, I was certain that The Yellow Room had been
hermetically sealed, so to speak, and that consequently the murderer
had escaped before Mademoiselle Stangerson had gone into her chamber
"At the time I was much puzzled. Mademoiselle Stangerson could
not have been her own murderer, since the evidences pointed to some
other person. The assassin, then, had come before. If that were so,
how was it that Mademoiselle had been attacked after? or rather,
that she appeared to have been attacked after? It was necessary for
me to reconstruct the occurrence and make of it two phases--each
separated from the other, in time, by the space of several hours.
One phase in which Mademoiselle Stangerson had really been attacked
--the other phase in which those who heard her cries thought she
was being attacked. I had not then examined The Yellow Room. What
were the marks on Mademoiselle Stangerson? There were marks of
strangulation and the wound from a hard blow on the temple. The
marks of strangulation did not interest me much; they might have
been made before, and Mademoiselle Stangerson could have concealed
them by a collarette, or any similar article of apparel. I had to
suppose this the moment I was compelled to reconstruct the occurrence
by two phases. Mademoiselle Stangerson had, no doubt, her own
reasons for so doing, since she had told her father nothing of it,
and had made it understood to the examining magistrate that the
attack had taken place in the night, during the second phase. She
was forced to say that, otherwise her father would have questioned
her as to her reason for having said nothing about it.
"But I could not explain the blow on the temple. I understood it
even less when I learned that the mutton-bone had been found in her
room. She could not hide the fact that she had been struck on the
head, and yet that wound appeared evidently to have been inflicted
during the first phase, since it required the presence of the
murderer! I thought Mademoiselle Stangerson had hidden the wound
by arranging her hair in bands on her forehead.
"As to the mark of the hand on the wall, that had evidently been
made during the first phase--when the murderer was really there.
All the traces of his presence had naturally been left during the
first phase; the mutton-bone, the black footprints, the Basque cap,
the handkerchief, the blood on the wall, on the door, and on the
floor. If those traces were still all there, they showed that
Mademoiselle Stangerson--who desired that nothing should be known
--had not yet had time to clear them away. This led me to the
conclusion that the two phases had taken place one shortly after
the other. She had not had the opportunity, after leaving her room
and going back to the laboratory to her father, to get back again
to her room and put it in order. Her father was all the time with
her, working. So that after the first phase she did not re-enter
her chamber till midnight. Daddy Jacques was there at ten o'clock,
as he was every night; but he went in merely to close the blinds
and light the night-light. Owing to her disturbed state of mind
she had forgotten that Daddy Jacques would go into her room and
had begged him not to trouble himself. All this was set forth in
the article in the 'Matin.' Daddy Jacques did go, however, and, in
the dim light of the room, saw nothing.
"Mademoiselle Stangerson must have lived some anxious moments while
Daddy Jacques was absent; but I think she was not aware that so
many evidences had been left. After she had been attacked she had
only time to hide the traces of the man's fingers on her neck and
to hurry to the laboratory. Had she known of the bone, the cap,
and the handkerchief, she would have made away with them after she
had gone back to her chamber at midnight. She did not see them, and
undressed by the uncertain glimmer of the night light. She went to
bed, worn-out by anxiety and fear--a fear that had made her remain
in the laboratory as late as possible.
"My reasoning had thus brought me to the second phase of the tragedy,
when Mademoiselle Stangerson was alone in the room. I had now to
explain the revolver shots fired during the second phase. Cries of
'Help!--Murder!' had been heard. How to explain these? As to the
cries, I was in no difficulty; since she was alone in her room these
could result from nightmare only. My explanation of the struggle and
noise that were heard is simply that in her nightmare she was haunted
by the terrible experience she had passed through in the afternoon.
In her dream she sees the murderer about to spring upon her and she
cries, 'Help! Murder!' Her hand wildly seeks the revolver she had
placed within her reach on the night-table by the side of her bed,
but her hand, striking the table, overturns it, and the revolver,
falling to the floor, discharges itself, the bullet lodging in the
ceiling. I knew from the first that the bullet in the ceiling must
have resulted from an accident. Its very position suggested an
accident to my mind, and so fell in with my theory of a nightmare.
I no longer doubted that the attack had taken place before
Mademoiselle had retired for the night. After wakening from her
frightful dream and crying aloud for help, she had fainted.
"My theory, based on the evidence of the shots that were heard at
midnight, demanded two shots--one which wounded the murderer at
the time of his attack, and one fired at the time of the nightmare.
The evidence given by the Berniers before the examining magistrate
was to the effect that only one shot had been heard. Monsieur
Stangerson testified to hearing a dull sound first followed by a
sharp ringing sound. The dull sound I explained by the falling of
the marble-topped table; the ringing sound was the shot from the
revolver. I was now convinced I was right. The shot that had
wounded the hand of the murderer and had caused it to bleed so that
he left the bloody imprint on the wall was fired by Mademoiselle in
self-defence, before the second phase, when she had been really
attacked. The shot in the ceiling which the Berniers heard was the
accidental shot during the nightmare.
"I had now to explain the wound on the temple. It was not severe
enough to have been made by means of the mutton-bone, and
Mademoiselle had not attempted to hide it. It must have been made
during the second phase. It was to find this out that I went to
The Yellow Room, and I obtained my answer there."
Rouletabille drew a piece of white folded paper from his pocket, and
drew out of it an almost invisible object which he held between his
thumb and forefinger.
"This, Monsieur President," he said, "is a hair--a blond hair
stained with blood;--it is a hair from the head of Mademoiselle
Stangerson. I found it sticking to one of the corners of the
overturned table. The corner of the table was itself stained with
blood--a tiny stain--hardly visible; but it told me that, on
rising from her bed, Mademoiselle Stangerson had fallen heavily
and had struck her head on the corner of its marble top.
"I still had to learn, in addition to the name of the assassin,
which I did later, the time of the original attack. I learned
this from the examination of Mademoiselle Stangerson and her
father, though the answers given by the former were well calculated
to deceive the examining magistrate--Mademoiselle Stangerson had
stated very minutely how she had spent the whole of her time that
day. We established the fact that the murderer had introduced
himself into the pavilion between five and six o'clock. At a
quarter past six the professor and his daughter had resumed their
work. At five the professor had been with his daughter, and since
the attack took place in the professor's absence from his daughter,
I had to find out just when he left her. The professor had stated
that at the time when he and his daughter were about to re-enter
the laboratory he was met by the keeper and held in conversation
about the cutting of some wood and the poachers. Mademoiselle
Stangerson was not with him then since the professor said: 'I left
the keeper and rejoined my daughter who was at work in the
"It was during that short interval of time that the tragedy took
place. That is certain. In my mind's eye I saw Mademoiselle
Stangerson re-enter the pavilion, go to her room to take off her
hat, and find herself faced by the murderer. He had been in the
pavilion for some time waiting for her. He had arranged to pass
the whole night there. He had taken off Daddy Jacques's boots; he
had removed the papers from the cabinet; and had then slipped under
the bed. Finding the time long, he had risen, gone again into the
laboratory, then into the vestibule, looked into the garden, and
had seen, coming towards the pavilion, Mademoiselle Stangerson
--alone. He would never have dared to attack her at that hour, if
he had not found her alone. His mind was made up. He would be
more at ease alone with Mademoiselle Stangerson in the pavilion,
than he would have been in the middle of the night, with Daddy
Jacques sleeping in the attic. So he shut the vestibule window.
That explains why neither Monsieur Stangerson, nor the keeper, who
were at some distance from the pavilion, had heard the revolver shot.
"Then he went back to The Yellow Room. Mademoiselle Stangerson came
in. What passed must have taken place very quickly. Mademoiselle
tried to call for help; but the man had seized her by the throat.
Her hand had sought and grasped the revolver which she had been
keeping in the drawer of her night-table, since she had come to
fear the threats of her pursuer. The murderer was about to strike
her on the head with the mutton-bone--a terrible weapon in the
hands of a Larsan or Ballmeyer; but she fired in time, and the shot
wounded the hand that held the weapon. The bone fell to the floor
covered with the blood of the murderer, who staggered, clutched at
the wall for support--imprinting on it the red marks--and, fearing
another bullet, fled.
"She saw him pass through the laboratory, and listened. He was long
at the window. At length he jumped from it. She flew to it and
shut it. The danger past, all her thoughts were of her father. Had
he either seen or heard? At any cost to herself she must keep this
from him. Thus when Monsieur Stangerson returned, he found the door
of The Yellow Room closed, and his daughter in the laboratory,
bending over her desk, at work!"
Turning towards Monsieur Darzac, Rouletabille cried: "You know the
truth! Tell us, then, if that is not how things happened."
"I don't know anything about it," replied Monsieur Darzac.
"I admire you for your silence," said Rouletabille, "but if
Mademoiselle Stangerson knew of your danger, she would release you
from your oath. She would beg of you to tell all she has confided
to you. She would be here to defend you!"
Monsieur Darzac made no movement, nor uttered a word. He looked
at Rouletabille sadly.
"However," said the young reporter, "since Mademoiselle is not here,
I must do it myself. But, believe me, Monsieur Darzac, the only
means to save Mademoiselle Stangerson and restore her to her reason,
is to secure your acquittal."
"What is this secret motive that compels Mademoiselle Stangerson to
hide her knowledge from her father?" asked the President.
"That, Monsieur, I do not know," said Rouletabille. "It is no
business of mine."
The President, turning to Monsieur Darzac, endeavoured to induce
him to tell what he knew.
"Do you still refuse, Monsieur, to tell us how you employed your
time during the attempts on the life of Mademoiselle Stangerson?"
"I cannot tell you anything, Monsieur."
The President turned to Rouletabille as if appealing for an
"We must assume, Monsieur President, that Monsieur Robert Darzac's
absences are closely connected with Mademoiselle Stangerson's
secret, and that Monsieur Darzac feels himself in honour bound to
remain silent. It may be that Larsan, who, since his three attempts,
has had everything in training to cast suspicion on Monsieur Darzac,
had fixed on just those occasions for a meeting with Monsieur Darzac
at a spot most compromising. Larsan is cunning enough to have done
The President seemed partly convinced, but still curious, he asked:
"But what is this secret of Mademoiselle Stangerson?"
"That I cannot tell you," said Rouletabille. "I think, however,
you know enough now to acquit Monsieur Robert Darzac! Unless
Larsan should return, and I don't think he will," he added, with
"One question more," said the President. "Admitting your
explanation, we know that Larsan wished to turn suspicion on Monsieur
Robert Darzac, but why should he throw suspicion on Daddy Jacques
"There came in the professional detective, Monsieur, who proves
himself an unraveller of mysteries, by annihilating the very proofs
he had accumulated. He's a very cunning man, and a similar trick
had often enabled him to turn suspicion from himself. He proved
the innocence of one before accusing the other. You can easily
believe, Monsieur, that so complicated a scheme as this must have
been long and carefully thought out in advance by Larsan. I can
tell you that he had long been engaged on its elaboration. If you
care to learn how he had gathered information, you will find that
he had, on one occasion, disguised himself as the commissionaire
between the 'Laboratory of the Surete' and Monsieur Stangerson, of
whom 'experiments' were demanded. In this way he had been able
before the crime, on two occasions to take stock of the pavilion.
He had 'made up' so that Daddy Jacques had not recognised him. And
yet Larsan had found the opportunity to rob the old man of a pair
of old boots and a cast-off Basque cap, which the servant had tied
up in a handkerchief, with the intention of carrying them to a
friend, a charcoal-burner on the road to Epinay. When the crime
was discovered, Daddy Jacques had immediately recognised these
objects as his. They were extremely compromising, which explains
his distress at the time when we spoke to him about them. Larsan
confessed it all to me. He is an artist at the game. He did a
similar thing in the affair of the 'Credit Universel,' and in that
of the 'Gold Ingots of the Mint.' Both these cases should be
revised. Since Ballmeyer or Larsan has been in the Surete a number
of innocent persons have been sent to prison."
In Which It Is Proved That One Does Not Always Think of Everything
Great excitement prevailed when Rouletabille had finished. The
court-room became agitated with the murmurings of suppressed
applause. Maitre Henri Robert called for an adjournment of the
trial and was supported in his motion by the public prosecutor
himself. The case was adjourned. The next day Monsieur Robert
Darzac was released on bail, while Daddy Jacques received the
immediate benefit of a "no cause for action." Search was
everywhere made for Frederic Larsan, but in vain. Monsieur Darzac
finally escaped the awful calamity which, at one time, had
threatened him. After a visit to Mademoiselle Stangerson, he was
led to hope that she might, by careful nursing, one day recover
Rouletabille, naturally, became the "man of the hour." On leaving
the Palais de Justice, the crowd bore him aloft in triumph. The
press of the whole world published his exploits and his photograph.
He, who had interviewed so many illustrious personages, had himself
become illustrious and was interviewed in his turn. I am glad to
say that the enormous success in no way turned his head.
We left Versailles together, after having dined at "The Dog That
Smokes." In the train I put a number of questions to him which,
during our meal, had been on the tip of my tongue, but which I had
refrained from uttering, knowing he did not like to talk "shop"
"My friend," I said, "that Larsan case is wonderful. It is worthy
He begged me to say no more, and humorously pretended an anxiety
for me should I give way to silly praise of him because of a
personal admiration for his ability.
"I'll come to the point, then," I said, not a little nettled. "I
am still in the dark as to your reason for going to America. When
you left the Glandier you had found out, if I rightly understand,
all about Frederic Larsan; you had discovered the exact way he had
attempted the murder?"
"Quite so. And you," he said, turning the conversation, "did you
"I don't see how I could have suspected anything. You took great
pains to conceal your thoughts from me. Had you already suspected
Larsan when you sent for me to bring the revolvers?"
"Yes! I had come to that conclusion through the incident of the
'inexplicable gallery.' Larsan's return to Mademoiselle Stangerson's
room, however, had not then been cleared up by the eye-glasses. My
suspicions were the outcome of my reasoning only; and the idea of
Larsan being the murderer seemed so extraordinary that I resolved to
wait for actual evidence before venturing to act. Nevertheless, the
suspicion worried me, and I sometimes spoke to the detective in a
way that ought to have opened your eyes. I spoke disparagingly of
his methods. But until I found the eye-glasses I could but look
upon my suspicion of him in the light of an absurd hypothesis only.
You can imagine my elation after I had explained Larsan's movements.
I remember well rushing into my room like a mad-man and crying to
you: 'I'll get the better of the great Fred. I'll get the better
of him in a way that will make a sensation!'
"I was then thinking of Larsan, the murderer. It was that same
evening that Darzac begged me to watch over Mademoiselle Stangerson.
I made no efforts until after we had dined with Larsan, until ten
o'clock. He was right there before me, and I could afford to wait.
You ought to have suspected, because when we were talking of the
murderer's arrival, I said to you: 'I am quite sure Larsan will be
"But one important point escaped us both. It was one which ought
to have opened our eyes to Larsan. Do you remember the bamboo cane?
I was surprised to find Larsan had made no use of that evidence
against Robert Darzac. Had it not been purchased by a man whose
description tallied exactly with that of Darzac? Well, just before
I saw him off at the train, after the recess during the trial, I
asked him why he hadn't used the cane evidence. He told me he had
never had any intention of doing so; that our discovery of it in
the little inn at Epinay had much embarrassed him. If you will
remember, he told us then that the cane had been given him in London.
Why did we not immediately say to ourselves: 'Fred is lying. He
could not have had this cane in London. He was not in London. He
bought it in Paris'? Then you found out, on inquiry at Cassette's,
that the cane had been bought by a person dressed very like Robert
Darzac, though, as we learned later, from Darzac himself, it was
not he who had made the purchase. Couple this with the fact we
already knew, from the letter at the poste restante, that there was
actually a man in Paris who was passing as Robert Darzac, why did
we not immediately fix on Fred himself?
"Of course, his position at the Surete was against us; but when we
saw the evident eagerness on his part to find convicting evidence
against Darzac, nay, even the passion he displayed in his pursuit
of the man, the lie about the cane should have had a new meaning
for us. If you ask why Larsan bought the cane, if he had no
intention of manufacturing evidence against Darzac by means of it,
the answer is quite simple. He had been wounded in the hand by
Mademoiselle Stangerson, so that the cane was useful to enable him
to close his hand in carrying it. You remember I noticed that he
always carried it?
"All these details came back to my mind when I had once fixed on
Larsan as the criminal. But they were too late then to be of any
use to me. On the evening when he pretended to be drugged I looked
at his hand and saw a thin silk bandage covering the signs of a
slight healing wound. Had we taken a quicker initiative at the
time Larsan told us that lie about the cane, I am certain he would
have gone off, to avoid suspicion. All the same, we worried Larsan
or Ballmeyer without our knowing it."
"But," I interrupted, "if Larsan had no intention of using the cane
as evidence against Darzac, why had he made himself up to look like
the man when he went in to buy it?"
"He had not specially 'made up' as Darzac to buy the cane; he had
come straight to Cassette's immediately after he had attacked
Mademoiselle Stangerson. His wound was troubling him and, as he
was passing along the Avenue de l'Opera, the idea of the cane came
to his mind and he acted on it. It was then eight o'clock. And
I, who had hit upon the very hour of the occurrence of the tragedy,
almost convinced that Darzac was not the criminal, and knowing of
the cane, I still never suspected Larsan. There are times ..."
"There are times," I said, "when the greatest intellects--..."
Rouletabille shut my mouth. I still continued to chide him, but,
finding he did not reply, I saw he was no longer paying any
attention to what I was saying. I found he was fast asleep.
The Mystery of Mademoiselle Stangerson
During the days that followed I had several opportunities to question
him as to his reason for his voyage to America, but I obtained no
more precise answers than he had given me on the evening of the
adjournment of the trial, when we were on the train for Paris. One
day, however, on my still pressing him, he said:
"Can't you understand that I had to know Larsan's true personality?"
"No doubt," I said, "but why did you go to America to find that out?"
He sat smoking his pipe, and made no further reply. I began to see
that I was touching on the secret that concerned Mademoiselle
Stangerson. Rouletabille evidently had found it necessary to go to
America to find out what the mysterious tie was that bound her to
Larsan by so strange and terrible a bond. In America he had learned
who Larsan was and had obtained information which closed his mouth.
He had been to Philadelphia.
And now, what was this mystery which held Mademoiselle Stangerson
and Monsieur Robert Darzac in so inexplicable a silence? After so
many years and the publicity given the case by a curious and
shameless press; now that Monsieur Stangerson knows all and has
forgiven all, all may be told. In every phase of this remarkable
story Mademoiselle Stangerson had always been the sufferer.
The beginning dates from the time when, as a young girl, she was
living with her father in Philadelphia. A visitor at the house,
a Frenchman, had succeeded by his wit, grace and persistent
attention, in gaining her affections. He was said to be rich and
had asked her of her father. Monsieur Stangerson, on making
inquiries as to Monsieur Jean Roussel, found that the man was a
swindler and an adventurer. Jean Roussel was but another of the
many names under which the notorious Ballmeyer, a fugitive from
France, tried to hide himself. Monsieur Stangerson did not know
of his identity with Ballmeyer; he learned that the man was simply
undesirable for his daughter. He not only refused to give his
consent to the marriage but denied him admission into the house.
Mathilde Stangerson, however, had fallen in love. To her Jean
Roussel was everything that her love painted him. She was indignant
at her father's attitude, and did not conceal her feelings. Her
father sent her to stay with an aunt in Cincinnati. There she was
joined by Jean Roussel and, in spite of the reverence she felt for
her father, ran away with him to get married.
They went to Louisville and lived there for some time. One morning,
however, a knock came at the door of the house in which they were
and the police entered to arrest Jean Roussel. It was then that
Mathilde Stangerson, or Roussel, learned that her husband was no
other than the notorious Ballmeyer!
The young woman in her despair tried to commit suicide. She failed
in this, and was forced to rejoin her aunt in Cincinnati, The old
lady was overjoyed to see her again. She had been anxiously
searching for her and had not dared to tell Monsieur Stangerson of
her disappearance. Mathilde swore her to secrecy, so that her father
should not know she had been away. A month later, Mademoiselle
Stangerson returned to her father, repentant, her heart dead within
her, hoping only one thing: that she would never again see her
husband, the horrible Ballmeyer. A report was spread, a few weeks
later, that he was dead, and she now determined to atone for her
disobedience by a life of labour and devotion for her father. And
she kept her word.
All this she had confessed to Robert Darzac, and, believing Ballmeyer
dead, had given herself to the joy of a union with him. But fate had
resuscitated Jean Roussel--the Ballmeyer of her youth. He had taken
steps to let her know that he would never allow her to marry Darzac
--that he still loved her.
Mademoiselle Stangerson never for one moment hesitated to confide
in Monsieur Darzac. She showed him the letter in which Jean Roussel
asked her to recall the first hours of their union in their beautiful
and charming Louisville home. "The presbytery has lost nothing of
its charm, nor the garden its brightness," he had written. The
scoundrel pretended to be rich and claimed the right of taking her
back to Louisville. She had told Darzac that if her father should
know of her dishonour, she would kill herself. Monsieur Darzac had
sworn to silence her persecutor, even if he had to kill him. He
was outwitted and would have succumbed had it not been for the
genius of Rouletabille.
Mademoiselle Stangerson was herself helpless in the hands of such a
villain. She had tried to kill him when he had first threatened and
then attacked her in The Yellow Room. She had, unfortunately,
failed, and felt herself condemned to be for ever at the mercy of
this unscrupulous wretch who was continually demanding her presence
at clandestine interviews. When he sent her the letter through the
Post Office, asking her to meet him, she had refused. The result
of her refusal was the tragedy of The Yellow Room. The second time
he wrote asking for a meeting, the letter reaching her in her sick
chamber, she had avoided him by sleeping with her servants. In that
letter the scoundrel had warned her that, since she was too ill to
come to him, he would come to her, and that he would be in her
chamber at a particular hour on a particular night. Knowing that
she had everything to fear from Ballmeyer, she had left her chamber
on that night. It was then that the incident of the "inexplicable
The third time she had determined to keep the appointment. He
asked for it in the letter he had written in her own room, on the
night of the incident in the gallery, which he left on her desk.
In that letter he threatened to burn her father's papers if she
did not meet him. It was to rescue these papers that she made up
her mind to see him. She did not for one moment doubt that the
wretch would carry out his threat if she persisted in avoiding him,
and in that case the labours of her father's lifetime would be for
ever lost. Since the meeting was thus inevitable, she resolved to
see her husband and appeal to his better nature. It was for this
interview that she had prepared herself on the night the keeper was
killed. They did meet, and what passed between them may be imagined.
He insisted that she renounce Darzac. She, on her part, affirmed
her love for him. He stabbed her in his anger, determined to convict
Darzac of the crime. As Larsan he could do it, and had so managed
things that Darzac could never explain how he had employed the time
of his absence from the chateau. Ballmeyer's precautions were most
Larsan had threatened Darzac as he had threatened Mathilde--with
the same weapon, and the same threats. He wrote Darzac urgent
letters, declaring himself ready to deliver up the letters that had
passed between him and his wife, and to leave them for ever, if he
would pay him his price. He asked Darzac to meet him for the
purpose of arranging the matter, appointing the time when Larsan
would be with Mademoiselle Stangerson. When Darzac went to Epinay,
expecting to find Ballmeyer or Larsan there, he was met by an
accomplice of Larsan's, and kept waiting until such time as the
"coincidence" could be established.
It was all done with Machiavellian cunning; but Ballmeyer had
reckoned without Joseph Rouletabille.
Now that the Mystery of The Yellow Room has been cleared up, this
is not the time to tell of Rouletabille's adventures in America.
Knowing the young reporter as we do, we can understand with what
acumen he had traced, step by step, the story of Mathilde Stangerson
and Jean Roussel. At Philadelphia he had quickly informed himself
as to Arthur William Rance. There he learned of Rance's act of
devotion and the reward he thought himself entitled to for it. A
rumour of his marriage with Mademoiselle Stangerson had once found
its way into the drawing-rooms of Philadelphia. He also learned of
Rance's continued attentions to her and his importunities for her
hand. He had taken to drink, he had said, to drown his grief at
his unrequited love. It can now be understood why Rouletabille
had shown so marked a coolness of demeanour towards Rance when they
met in the witnesses' room, on the day of the trial.
The strange Roussel-Stangerson mystery had now been laid bare. Who
was this Jean Roussel? Rouletabille had traced him from Philadelphia
to Cincinnati. In Cincinnati he became acquainted with the old aunt,
and had found means to open her mouth. The story of Ballmeyer's
arrest threw the right light on the whole story. He visited the
"presbytery"--a small and pretty dwelling in the old colonial style
--which had, indeed, "lost nothing of its charm." Then, abandoning
his pursuit of traces of Mademoiselle Stangerson, he took up those
of Ballmeyer. He followed them from prison to prison, from crime
to crime. Finally, as he was about leaving for Europe, he learned
in New York that Ballmeyer had, five years before, embarked for
France with some valuable papers belonging to a merchant of New
Orleans whom he had murdered.
And yet the whole of this mystery has not been revealed.
Mademoiselle Stangerson had a child, by her husband,--a son. The
infant was born in the old aunt's house. No one knew of it, so
well had the aunt managed to conceal the event.
What became of that son?--That is another story which, so far, I
am not permitted to relate.
About two months after these events, I came upon Rouletabille sitting
on a bench in the Palais de Justice, looking very depressed.
"What's the matter, old man?" I asked. "You are looking very down.
cast. How are your friends getting on?"
"Apart from you," he said, "I have no friends."
"I hope that Monsieur Darzac--"
"And Mademoiselle Stangerson--How is she?"
"Then you ought not to be sad."
"I am sad," he said, "because I am thinking of the perfume of the
lady in black--"
"The perfume of the lady in black!--I have heard you often refer
to it. Tell me why it troubles you."
"Perhaps--some day; some day," said Rouletabille.
And he heaved a profound sigh.
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