At the Villa Rose
by A.E.W. Mason
CHAPTER II. A
CRY FOR HELP
CHAPTER IV. AT
CHAPTER V. IN
CHAPTER VII. A
THE CAPTAIN OF
CHAPTER IX. MME.
CHAPTER X. NEWS
CHAPTER XI. THE
CHAPTER XII. THE
CHAPTER XIII. IN
THE HOUSE AT
CHAPTER XIV. MR.
CHAPTER XVI. THE
THE AFTERNOON OF
CHAPTER XX. THE
CHAPTER I. SUMMER LIGHTNING
It was Mr. Ricardo's habit as soon as the second week of August
came round to travel to Aix-les-Bains, in Savoy, where for five or
six weeks he lived pleasantly. He pretended to take the waters in the
morning, he went for a ride in his motor-car in the afternoon, he
dined at the Cercle in the evening, and spent an hour or two
afterwards in the baccarat-rooms at the Villa des Fleurs. An
enviable, smooth life without a doubt, and it is certain that his
acquaintances envied him. At the same time, however, they laughed at
him and, alas with some justice; for he was an exaggerated person. He
was to be construed in the comparative. Everything in his life was a
trifle overdone, from the fastidious arrangement of his neckties to
the feminine nicety of his little dinner-parties. In age Mr. Ricardo
was approaching the fifties; in condition he was a widower—a state
greatly to his liking, for he avoided at once the irksomeness of
marriage and the reproaches justly levelled at the bachelor; finally,
he was rich, having amassed a fortune in Mincing Lane, which he had
invested in profitable securities.
Ten years of ease, however, had not altogether obliterated in him
the business look. Though he lounged from January to December, he
lounged with the air of a financier taking a holiday; and when he
visited, as he frequently did, the studio of a painter, a stranger
would have hesitated to decide whether he had been drawn thither by a
love of art or by the possibility of an investment. His
"acquaintances" have been mentioned, and the word is suitable. For
while he mingled in many circles, he stood aloof from all. He
affected the company of artists, by whom he was regarded as one
ambitious to become a connoisseur; and amongst the younger business
men, who had never dealt with him, he earned the disrespect reserved
for the dilettante. If he had a grief, it was that he had discovered
no great man who in return for practical favours would engrave his
memory in brass. He was a Maecenas without a Horace, an Earl of
Southampton without a Shakespeare. In a word, Aix-les-Bains in the
season was the very place for him; and never for a moment did it occur
to him that he was here to be dipped in agitations, and hurried from
excitement to excitement. The beauty of the little town, the crowd of
well-dressed and agreeable people, the rose-coloured life of the
place, all made their appeal to him. But it was the Villa des Fleurs
which brought him to Aix. Not that he played for anything more than an
occasional louis; nor, on the other hand, was he merely a cold
looker-on. He had a bank-note or two in his pocket on most evenings
at the service of the victims of the tables. But the pleasure to his
curious and dilettante mind lay in the spectacle of the battle which
was waged night after night between raw nature and good manners. It
was extraordinary to him how constantly manners prevailed. There were,
For instance. On the first evening of this particular visit he
found the rooms hot, and sauntered out into the little semicircular
garden at the back. He sat there for half an hour under a flawless sky
of stars watching the people come and go in the light of the electric
lamps, and appreciating the gowns and jewels of the women with the eye
of a connoisseur; and then into this starlit quiet there came suddenly
a flash of vivid life. A girl in a soft, clinging frock of white satin
darted swiftly from the rooms and flung herself nervously upon a
bench. She could not, to Ricardo's thinking, be more than twenty years
of age. She was certainly quite young. The supple slenderness of her
figure proved it, and he had moreover caught a glimpse, as she rushed
out, of a fresh and very pretty face; but he had lost sight of it now.
For the girl wore a big black satin hat with a broad brim, from which
a couple of white ostrich feathers curved over at the back, and in
the shadow of that hat her face was masked. All that he could see was
a pair of long diamond eardrops, which sparkled and trembled as she
moved her head—and that she did constantly. Now she stared moodily at
the ground; now she flung herself back; then she twisted nervously to
the right, and then a moment afterwards to the left; and then again
she stared in front of her, swinging a satin slipper backwards and
forwards against the pavement with the petulance of a child. All her
movements were spasmodic; she was on the verge of hysteria. Ricardo
was expecting her to burst into tears, when she sprang up and as
swiftly as she had come she hurried back into the rooms. "Summer
lightning," thought Mr. Ricardo.
Near to him a woman sneered, and a man said, pityingly: "She was
pretty, that little one. It is regrettable that she has lost."
A few minutes afterwards Ricardo finished his cigar and strolled
back into the rooms, making his way to the big table just on the
right hand of the entrance, where the play as a rule runs high. It
was clearly running high tonight. For so deep a crowd thronged about
the table that Ricardo could only by standing on tiptoe see the faces
of the players. Of the banker he could not catch a glimpse. But though
the crowd remained, its units were constantly changing, and it was not
long before Ricardo found himself standing in the front rank of the
spectators, just behind the players seated in the chairs. The oval
green table was spread out beneath him littered with bank-notes.
Ricardo turned his eyes to the left, and saw seated at the middle of
the table the man who was holding the bank. Ricardo recognised him
with a start of surprise. He was a young Englishman, Harry Wethermill,
who, after a brilliant career at Oxford and at Munich, had so turned
his scientific genius to account that he had made a fortune for
himself at the age of twenty-eight.
He sat at the table with the indifferent look of the habitual
player upon his cleanly chiselled face. But it was plain that his
good fortune stayed at his elbow tonight, for opposite to him the
croupier was arranging with extraordinary deftness piles of bank-
notes in the order of their value. The bank was winning heavily. Even
as Ricardo looked Wethermill turned up "a natural," and the croupier
swept in the stakes from either side.
"Faites vos jeux, messieurs. Le jeu est fait?" the croupier cried,
all in a breath, and repeated the words. Wethermill waited with his
hand upon the wooden frame in which the cards were stacked. He glanced
round the table while the stakes were being laid upon the cloth, and
suddenly his face flashed from languor into interest. Almost opposite
to him a small, white-gloved hand holding a five- louis note was
thrust forward between the shoulders of two men seated at the table.
Wethermill leaned forward and shook his head with a smile. With a
gesture he refused the stake. But he was too late. The fingers of the
hand had opened, the note fluttered down on to the cloth, the money
At once he leaned back in his chair.
"Il y a une suite," he said quietly. He relinquished the bank
rather than play against that five-louis note. The stakes were taken
up by their owners.
The croupier began to count Wethermill's winnings, and Ricardo,
curious to know whose small, delicately gloved hand it was which had
brought the game to so abrupt a termination, leaned forward. He
recognised the young girl in the white satin dress and the big black
hat whose nerves had got the better of her a few minutes since in the
garden. He saw her now clearly, and thought her of an entrancing
loveliness. She was moderately tall, fair of skin, with a fresh
colouring upon her cheeks which she owed to nothing but her youth. Her
hair was of a light brown with a sheen upon it, her forehead broad,
her eyes dark and wonderfully clear. But there was something more than
her beauty to attract him. He had a strong belief that somewhere, some
while ago, he had already seen her. And this belief grew and haunted
him. He was still vaguely puzzling his brains to fix the place when
the croupier finished his reckoning.
"There are two thousand louis in the bank," he cried. "Who will
take on the bank for two thousand louis?"
No one, however, was willing. A fresh bank was put up for sale,
and Wethermill, still sitting in the dealer's chair, bought it. He
spoke at once to an attendant, and the man slipped round the table,
and, forcing his way through the crowd, carried a message to the girl
in the black hat. She looked towards Wethermill and smiled; and the
smile made her face a miracle of tenderness. Then she disappeared, and
in a few moments Ricardo saw a way open in the throng behind the
banker, and she appeared again only a yard or two away, just behind
Wethermill. He turned, and taking her hand into his, shook it
"I couldn't let you play against me, Celia," he said, in English;
"my luck's too good tonight. So you shall be my partner instead. I'll
put in the capital and we'll share the winnings."
The girl's face flushed rosily. Her hand still lay clasped in his.
She made no effort to withdraw it.
"I couldn't do that," she exclaimed.
"Why not?" said he. "See!" and loosening her fingers he took from
them the five-louis note and tossed it over to the croupier to be
added to his bank. "Now you can't help yourself. We're partners."
The girl laughed, and the company at the table smiled, half in
sympathy, half with amusement. A chair was brought for her, and she
sat down behind Wethermill, her lips parted, her face joyous with
excitement. But all at once Wethermill's luck deserted him. He renewed
his bank three times, and had lost the greater part of his winnings
when he had dealt the cards through. He took a fourth bank, and rose
from that, too, a loser.
"That's enough, Celia," he said. "Let us go out into the garden;
it will be cooler there,"
"I have taken your good luck away," said the girl remorsefully.
Wethermill put his arm through hers.
"You'll have to take yourself away before you can do that," he
answered, and the couple walked together out of Ricardo's hearing.
Ricardo was left to wonder about Celia. She was just one of those
problems which made Aix-les-Bains so unfailingly attractive to him.
She dwelt in some street of Bohemia; so much was clear. The frankness
of her pleasure, of her excitement, and even of her distress proved
it. She passed from one to the other while you could deal a pack of
cards. She was at no pains to wear a mask. Moreover, she was a young
girl of nineteen or twenty, running about those rooms alone, as
unembarrassed as if she had been at home. There was the free use, too,
of Christian names. Certainly she dwelt in Bohemia. But it seemed to
Ricardo that she could pass in any company and yet not be overpassed.
She would look a little more picturesque than most girls of her age,
and she was certainly a good deal more soignee than many, and she had
the Frenchwoman's knack of putting on her clothes. But those would be
all the differences, leaving out the frankness. Ricardo wondered in
what street of Bohemia she dwelt. He wondered still more when he saw
her again half an hour afterwards at the entrance to the Villa des
Fleurs. She came down the long hall with Harry Wethermill at her
side. The couple were walking slowly, and talking as they walked with
so complete an absorption in each other that they were unaware of
their surroundings. At the bottom of the steps a stout woman of
fifty-five over-jewelled, and over-dressed and raddled with paint,
watched their approach with a smile of good-humoured amusement. When
they came near enough to hear she said in French:
"Well, Celie, are you ready to go home?"
The girl looked up with a start.
"Of course, madame," she said, with a certain submissiveness which
surprised Ricardo. "I hope I have not kept you waiting."
She ran to the cloak-room, and came back again with her cloak.
"Good-bye, Harry," she said, dwelling upon his name and looking
out upon him with soft and smiling eyes.
"I shall see you tomorrow evening," he said, holding her hand.
Again she let it stay within his keeping, but she frowned, and a
sudden gravity settled like a cloud upon her face. She turned to the
elder woman with a sort of appeal.
"No, I do not think we shall be here, tomorrow, shall we, madame?"
she said reluctantly.
"Of course not," said madame briskly. "You have not forgotten what
we have planned? No, we shall not be here tomorrow; but the night
Celia turned back again to Wethermill.
"Yes, we have plans for tomorrow," she said, with a very wistful
note of regret in her voice; and seeing that madame was already at
the door, she bent forward and said timidly, "But the night after I
shall want you."
"I shall thank you for wanting me," Wethermill rejoined; and the
girl tore her hand away and ran up the steps.
Harry Wethermill returned to the rooms. Mr. Ricardo did not follow
him. He was too busy with the little problem which had been presented
to him that night. What could that girl, he asked himself, have in
common with the raddled woman she addressed so respectfully? Indeed,
there had been a note of more than respect in her voice. There had
been something of affection. Again Mr. Ricardo found himself wondering
in what street in Bohemia Celia dwelt—and as he walked up to the
hotel there came yet other questions to amuse him.
"Why," he asked, "could neither Celia nor madame come to the Villa
des Fleurs tomorrow night? What are the plans they have made? And
what was it in those plans which had brought the sudden gravity and
reluctance into Celia's face?"
Ricardo had reason to remember those questions during the next few
days, though he only idled with them now.
CHAPTER II. A CRY FOR HELP
It was on a Monday evening that Ricardo saw Harry Wethermill and
the girl Celia together. On the Tuesday he saw Wethermill in the
rooms alone and had some talk with him.
Wethermill was not playing that night, and about ten o'clock the
two men left the Villa des Fleurs together.
"Which way do you go?" asked Wethermill.
"Up the hill to the Hotel Majestic," said Ricardo.
"We go together, then. I, too, am staying there," said the young
man, and they climbed the steep streets together. Ricardo was dying
to put some questions about Wethermill's young friend of the night
before, but discretion kept him reluctantly silent. They chatted for a
few moments in the hall upon indifferent topics and so separated for
the night. Mr. Ricardo, however, was to learn something more of Celia
the next morning; for while he was fixing his tie before the mirror
Wethermill burst into his dressing-room. Mr. Ricardo forgot his
curiosity in the surge of his indignation. Such an invasion was an
unprecedented outrage upon the gentle tenor of his life. The business
of the morning toilette was sacred. To interrupt it carried a subtle
suggestion of anarchy. Where was his valet? Where was Charles, who
should have guarded the door like the custodian of a chapel?
"I cannot speak to you for at least another half-hour," said Mr.
But Harry Wethermill was out of breath and shaking with agitation.
"I can't wait," he cried, with a passionate appeal. "I have got to
see you. You must help me, Mr. Ricardo—you must, indeed!"
Ricardo spun round upon his heel. At first he had thought that the
help wanted was the help usually wanted at Aix-les-Bains. A glance at
Wethermills face, however, and the ringing note of anguish in his
voice, told him that the thought was wrong. Mr. Ricardo slipped out of
his affectations as out of a loose coat. "What has happened?" he asked
"Something terrible." With shaking fingers Wethermill held out a
newspaper. "Read it," he said.
It was a special edition of a local newspaper, Le Journal de
Savoie, and it bore the date of that morning.
"They are crying it in the streets," said Wethermill. "Read!"
A short paragraph was printed in large black letters on the first
page, and leaped to the eyes.
"Late last night," it ran, "an appalling murder was committed at
the Villa Rose, on the road to Lac Bourget. Mme. Camille Dauvray, an
elderly, rich woman who was well known at Aix, and had occupied the
villa every summer for the last few years, was discovered on the floor
of her salon, fully dressed and brutally strangled, while upstairs,
her maid, Helene Vauquier, was found in bed, chloroformed, with her
hands tied securely behind her back. At the time of going to press she
had not recovered consciousness, but the doctor, Emile Peytin, is in
attendance upon her, and it is hoped that she will be able shortly to
throw some light on this dastardly affair. The police are properly
reticent as to the details of the crime, but the following statement
may be accepted without hesitation:
"The murder was discovered at twelve o'clock at night by the
sergent-de-ville Perrichet, to whose intelligence more than a word of
praise is due, and it is obvious from the absence of all marks upon
the door and windows that the murderer was admitted from within the
villa. Meanwhile Mme. Dauvray's motor-car has disappeared, and with it
a young Englishwoman who came to Aix with her as her companion. The
motive of the crime leaps to the eyes. Mme. Dauvray was famous in Aix
for her jewels, which she wore with too little prudence. The condition
of the house shows that a careful search was made for them, and they
have disappeared. It is anticipated that a description of the young
Englishwoman, with a reward for her apprehension, will be issued
immediately. And it is not too much to hope that the citizens of Aix,
and indeed of Prance, will be cleared of all participation in so cruel
and sinister a crime."
Ricardo read through the paragraph with a growing consternation,
and laid the paper upon his dressing-table.
"It is infamous," cried Wethermill passionately.
"The young Englishwoman is, I suppose, your friend Miss Celia?"
said Ricardo slowly.
Wethermill started forward.
"You know her, then?" he cried in amazement.
"No; but I saw her with you in the rooms. I heard you call her by
"You saw us together?" exclaimed Wethermill. "Then you can
understand how infamous the suggestion is."
But Ricardo had seen the girl half an hour before he had seen her
with Harry Wethermill. He could not but vividly remember the picture
of her as she flung herself on to the bench in the garden in a moment
of hysteria, and petulantly kicked a satin slipper backwards and
forwards against the stones. She was young, she was pretty, she had a
charm of freshness, but—but—strive against it as he would, this
picture in the recollection began more and more to wear a sinister
aspect. He remembered some words spoken by a stranger. "She is pretty,
that little one. It is regrettable that she has lost."
Mr. Ricardo arranged his tie with even a greater deliberation than
he usually employed.
"And Mme. Dauvray?" he asked. "She was the stout woman with whom
your young friend went away?"
"Yes," said Wethermill.
Ricardo turned round from the mirror.
"What do you want me to do?"
"Hanaud is at Aix. He is the cleverest of the French detectives.
You know him. He dined with you once."
It was Mr. Ricardo's practice to collect celebrities round his
dinner-table, and at one such gathering Hanaud and Wethermill had
been present together.
"You wish me to approach him?"
"It is a delicate position," said Ricardo. "Here is a man in
charge of a case of murder, and we are quietly to go to him—"
To his relief Wethermill interrupted him.
"No, no," he cried; "he is not in charge of the case. He is on his
holiday. I read of his arrival two days ago in the newspaper. It was
stated that he came for rest. What I want is that he should take
charge of the case."
The superb confidence of Wethermill shook Mr. Ricardo for a
moment, but his recollections were too clear.
"You are going out of your way to launch the acutest of French
detectives in search of this girl. Are you wise, Wethermill?"
Wethermill sprang up from his chair in desperation.
"You, too, think her guilty! You have seen her. You think her
guilty—like this detestable newspaper, like the police."
"Like the police?" asked Ricardo sharply.
"Yes," said Harry Wethermill sullenly. "As soon as I saw that rag
I ran down to the villa. The police are in possession. They would not
let me into the garden. But I talked with one of them. They, too,
think that she let in the murderers."
Ricardo took a turn across the room. Then he came to a stop in
front of Wethermill.
"Listen to me," he said solemnly. "I saw this girl half an hour
before I saw you. She rushed out into the garden. She flung herself
on to a bench. She could not sit still. She was hysterical. You know
what that means. She had been losing. That's point number one."
Mr. Ricardo ticked it off upon his finger.
"She ran back into the rooms. You asked her to share the winnings
of your bank. She consented eagerly. And you lost. That's point
number two. A little later, as she was going away, you asked her
whether she would be in the rooms the next night—yesterday night-
-the night when the murder was committed. Her face clouded over. She
hesitated. She became more than grave. There was a distinct impression
as though she shrank from the contemplation of what it was proposed
she should do on the next night. And then she answered you, 'No, we
have other plans.' That's number three." And Mr. Ricardo ticked off
his third point.
"Now," he asked, "do you still ask me to launch Hanaud upon the
"Yes, and at once," cried Wethermill.
Ricardo called for his hat and his stick.
"You know where Hanaud is staying?" he asked.
"Yes," replied Wethermill, and he led Ricardo to an unpretentious
little hotel in the centre of the town. Ricardo sent in his name, and
the two visitors were immediately shown into a small sitting- room,
where M. Hanaud was enjoying his morning chocolate. He was stout and
broad-shouldered, with a full and almost heavy face. In his morning
suit at his breakfast-table he looked like a prosperous comedian.
He came forward with a smile of welcome, extending both his hands
to Mr. Ricardo.
"Ah, my good friend," he said, "it is pleasant to see you. And Mr.
Wethermill," he exclaimed, holding a hand out to the young inventor.
"You remember me, then?" said Wethermill gladly.
"It is my profession to remember people," said Hanaud, with a
laugh. "You were at that amusing dinner-party of Mr. Ricardo's in
"Monsieur," said Wethermill, "I have come to ask your help."
The note of appeal in his voice was loud. M. Hanaud drew up a
chair by the window and motioned to Wethermill to take it. He pointed
to another, with a bow of invitation to Mr. Ricardo.
"Let me hear," he said gravely.
"It is the murder of Mme. Dauvray," said Wethermill.
"And in what way, monsieur," he asked, "are you interested in the
murder of Mme. Dauvray?"
"Her companion," said Wethermill, "the young English girl—she is
a great friend of mine."
Hanaud's face grew stern. Then came a sparkle of anger in his
"And what do you wish me to do, monsieur?" he asked coldly.
"You are upon your holiday, M. Hanaud. I wish you—no, I implore
you," Wethermill cried, his voice ringing with passion, "to take up
this case, to discover the truth, to find out what has become of
Hanaud leaned back in his chair with his hands upon the arms. He
did not take his eyes from Harry Wethermill, but the anger died out
"Monsieur," he said, "I do not know what your procedure is in
England. But in France a detective does not take up a case or leave
it alone according to his pleasure. We are only servants. This affair
is in the hands of M. Fleuriot, the Juge d'lnstruction of Aix."
"But if you offered him your help it would be welcomed," cried
Wethermill. "And to me that would mean so much. There would be no
bungling. There would be no waste of time. Of that one would be
Hanaud shook his head gently. His eyes were softened now by a look
of pity. Suddenly he stretched out a forefinger.
"You have, perhaps, a photograph of the young lady in that card-
case in your breast-pocket."
Wethermill flushed red, and, drawing out the card-case, handed the
portrait to Hanaud. Hanaud looked at it carefully for a few moments.
"It was taken lately, here?" he asked.
"Yes; for me," replied Wethermill quietly.
"And it is a good likeness?"
"How long have you known this Mlle. Celie?" he asked.
Wethermill looked at Hanaud with a certain defiance.
"For a fortnight."
Hanaud raised his eyebrows.
"You met her here?"
"In the rooms, I suppose? Not at the house of one of your
"That is so," said Wethermill quietly. "A friend of mine who had
met her in Paris introduced me to her at my request."
Hanaud handed back the portrait and drew forward his chair nearer
to Wethermill. His face had grown friendly. He spoke with a tone of
"Monsieur, I know something of you. Our friend, Mr. Ricardo, told
me your history; I asked him for it when I saw you at his dinner. You
are of those about whom one does ask questions, and I know that you
are not a romantic boy, but who shall say that he is safe from the
appeal of beauty? I have seen women, monsieur, for whose purity of
soul I would myself have stood security, condemned for complicity in
brutal crimes on evidence that could not be gainsaid; and I have known
them turn foul-mouthed, and hideous to look upon, the moment after
their just sentence has been pronounced." "No doubt, monsieur," said
Wethermill, with perfect quietude. "But Celia Harland is not one of
"I do not now say that she is," said Hanaud. "But the Juge
d'lnstruction here has already sent to me to ask for my assistance,
and I refused. I replied that I was just a good bourgeois enjoying his
holiday. Still it is difficult quite to forget one's profession. It
was the Commissaire of Police who came to me, and naturally I talked
with him for a little while. The case is dark, monsieur, I warn you."
"How dark?" asked Harry Wethermill.
"I will tell you," said Hanaud, drawing his chair still closer to
the young man. "Understand this in the first place. There was an
accomplice within the villa. Some one let the murderers in. There is
no sign of an entrance being forced; no lock was picked, there is no
mark of a thumb on any panel, no sign of a bolt being forced. There
was an accomplice within the house. We start from that."
Wethermill nodded his head sullenly. Ricardo drew his chair up
towards the others. But Hanaud was not at that moment interested in
"Well, then, let us see who there are in Mme. Dauvray's household.
The list is not a long one. It was Mme. Dauvray's habit to take her
luncheon and her dinner at the restaurants, and her maid was all that
she required to get ready her 'petit dejeuner' in the morning and her
'sirop' at night. Let us take the members of the household one by one.
There is first the chauffeur, Henri Servettaz. He was not at the villa
last night. He came back to it early this morning."
"Ah!" said Ricardo, in a significant exclamation. Wethermill did
not stir. He sat still as a stone, with a face deadly white and eyes
burning upon Hanaud's face.
"But wait," said Hanaud, holding up a warning hand to Ricardo.
"Servettaz was in Chambery, where his parents live. He travelled to
Chambery by the two o'clock train yesterday. He was with them in the
afternoon. He went with them to a cafe in the evening. Moreover, early
this morning the maid, Helene Vauquier, was able to speak a few words
in answer to a question. She said Servettaz was in Chambery. She gave
his address. A telephone message was sent to the police in that town,
and Servettaz was found in bed. I do not say that it is impossible
that Servettaz was concerned in the crime. That we shall see. But it
is quite clear, I think, that it was not he who opened the house to
the murderers, for he was at Chambery in the evening, and the murder
was already discovered here by midnight. Moreover—it is a small
point—he lives, not in the house, but over the garage in a corner of
the garden. Then besides the chauffeur there was a charwoman, a woman
of Aix, who came each morning at seven and left in the evening at
seven or eight. Sometimes she would stay later if the maid was alone
in the house, for the maid is nervous. But she left last night before
nine—there is evidence of that—and the murder did not take place
until afterwards. That is also a fact, not a conjecture. We can leave
the charwoman, who for the rest has the best of characters, out of our
calculations. There remain then, the maid, Helene Vauquier, and"—he
shrugged his shoulders—"Mlle. Celie."
Hanaud reached out for the matches and lit a cigarette.
"Let us take first the maid, Helene Vauquier. Forty years old, a
Normandy peasant woman—they are not bad people, the Normandy
peasants, monsieur—avaricious, no doubt, but on the whole honest and
most respectable. We know something of Helene Vauquier, monsieur.
See!" and he took up a sheet of paper from the table. The paper was
folded lengthwise, written upon only on the inside. "I have some
details here. Our police system is, I think, a little more complete
than yours in England. Helene Vauquier has served Mme. Dauvray for
seven years. She has been the confidential friend rather than the
maid. And mark this, M. Wethermill! During those seven years how many
opportunities has she had of conniving at last night's crime? She was
found chloroformed and bound. There is no doubt that she was
chloroformed. Upon that point Dr. Peytin is quite, quite certain. He
saw her before she recovered consciousness. She was violently sick on
awakening. She sank again into unconsciousness. She is only now in a
natural sleep. Besides those people, there is Mlle. Celie. Of her,
monsieur, nothing is known. You yourself know nothing of her. She
comes suddenly to Aix as the companion of Mme. Dauvray—a young and
pretty English girl. How did she become the companion of Mme.
Wethermill stirred uneasily in his seat. His face flushed. To Mr.
Ricardo that had been from the beginning the most interesting problem
of the case. Was he to have the answer now?
"I do not know," answered Wethermill, with some hesitation, and
then it seemed that he was at once ashamed of his hesitation. His
accent gathered strength, and in a low but ringing voice, he added:
"But I say this. You have told me, M. Hanaud, of women who looked
innocent and were guilty. But you know also of women and girls who can
live untainted and unspoilt amidst surroundings which are suspicious."
Hanaud listened, but he neither agreed nor denied. He took up a
second slip of paper.
"I shall tell you something now of Mme. Dauvray," he said. "We
will not take up her early history. It might not be edifying and,
poor woman, she is dead. Let us not go back beyond her marriage
seventeen years ago to a wealthy manufacturer of Nancy, whom she had
met in Paris. Seven years ago M. Dauvray died, leaving his widow a
very rich woman. She had a passion for jewellery, which she was now
able to gratify. She collected jewels. A famous necklace, a well-known
stone—she was not, as you say, happy till she got it. She had a
fortune in precious stones—oh, but a large fortune! By the
ostentation of her jewels she paraded her wealth here, at Monte Carlo,
in Paris. Besides that, she was kind-hearted and most impressionable.
Finally, she was, like so many of her class, superstitious to the
degree of folly."
Suddenly Mr. Ricardo started in his chair. Superstitious! The word
was a sudden light upon his darkness. Now he knew what had perplexed
him during the last two days. Clearly—too clearly—he remembered
where he had seen Celia Harland, and when. A picture rose before his
eyes, and it seemed to strengthen like a film in a developing-dish as
"Very well! take Mme. Dauvray as we find her—rich, ostentatious,
easily taken by a new face, generous, and foolishly superstitious-
-and you have in her a living provocation to every rogue. By a
hundred instances she proclaimed herself a dupe. She threw down a
challenge to every criminal to come and rob her. For seven years
Helene Vauquier stands at her elbow and protects her from serious
trouble. Suddenly there is added to her—your young friend, and she
is robbed and murdered. And, follow this, M. Wethermill, our thieves
are, I think, more brutal to their victims than is the case with you."
Wethermill shut his eyes in a spasm of pain and the pallor of his
"Suppose that Celia were one of the victims?" he cried in a
Hanaud glanced at him with a look of commiseration.
"That perhaps we shall see," he said. "But what I meant was this.
A stranger like Mlle. Celie might be the accomplice in such a crime
as the crime of the Villa Rose, meaning only robbery. A stranger might
only have discovered too late that murder would be added to the
Meanwhile, in strong, clear colours, Ricardo's picture stood out
before his eyes. He was startled by hearing Wethermill say, in a firm
"My friend Ricardo has something to add to what you have said."
"I!" exclaimed Ricardo. How in the world could Wethermill know of
that clear picture in his mind?
"Yes. You saw Celia Harland on the evening before the murder."
Ricardo stared at his friend. It seemed to him that Harry
Wethermill had gone out of his mind. Here he was corroborating the
suspicions of the police by facts—damning and incontrovertible
"On the night before the murder," continued Wethermill quietly,
"Celia Harland lost money at the baccarat-table. Ricardo saw her in
the garden behind the rooms, and she was hysterical. Later on that
same night he saw her again with me, and he heard what she said. I
asked her to come to the rooms on the next evening— yesterday, the
night of the crime—and her face changed, and she said, 'No, we have
other plans for tomorrow. But the night after I shall want you.'"
Hanaud sprang up from his chair.
"And YOU tell me these two things!" he cried.
"Yes," said Wethermill. "You were kind enough to say to me I was
not a romantic boy. I am not. I can face facts."
Hanaud stared at his companion for a few moments. Then, with a
remarkable air of consideration, he bowed.
"You have won, monsieur," he said. "I will take up this case.
But," and his face grew stern and he brought his fist down upon the
table with a bang, "I shall follow it to the end now, be the
consequences bitter as death to you."
"That is what I wish, monsieur," said Wethermill.
Hanaud locked up the slips of paper in his lettercase. Then he
went out of the room and returned in a few minutes.
"We will begin at the beginning," he said briskly. "I have
telephoned to the Depot. Perrichet, the sergent-de-ville who
discovered the crime, will be here at once. We will walk down to the
villa with him, and on the way he shall tell us exactly what he
discovered and how he discovered it. At the villa we shall find
Monsieur Fleuriot, the Juge d'lnstruction, who has already begun his
examination, and the Commissaire of Police. In company with them we
will inspect the villa. Except for the removal of Mme. Dauvray's body
from the salon to her bedroom and the opening of the windows, the
house remains exactly as it was."
"We may come with you?" cried Harry Wethermill eagerly.
"Yes, on one condition—that you ask no questions, and answer none
unless I put them to you. Listen, watch, examine—but no
Hanaud's manner had altogether changed. It was now authoritative
and alert. He turned to Ricardo.
"You will swear to what you saw in the garden and to the words you
heard?" he asked. "They are important."
"Yes," said Ricardo.
But he kept silence about that clear picture in his mind which to
him seemed no less important, no less suggestive.
The Assembly Hall at Leamington, a crowded audience chiefly of
ladies, a platform at one end on which a black cabinet stood. A man,
erect and with something of the soldier in his bearing, led forward a
girl, pretty and fair-haired, who wore a black velvet dress with a
long, sweeping train. She moved like one in a dream. Some half-dozen
people from the audience climbed on to the platform, tied thy girl's
hands with tape behind her back, and sealed the tape. She was led to
the cabinet, and in full view of the audience fastened to a bench.
Then the door of the cabinet was closed, the people upon the platform
descended into the body of the hall, and the lights were turned very
low. The audience sat in suspense, and then abruptly in the silence
and the darkness there came the rattle of a tambourine from the empty
platform. Rappings and knockings seemed to flicker round the panels of
the hall, and in the place where the door of the cabinet should be
there appeared a splash of misty whiteness. The whiteness shaped
itself dimly into the figure of a woman, a face dark and Eastern
became visible, and a deep voice spoke in a chant of the Nile and
Antony. Then the vision faded, the tambourines and cymbals rattled
again. The lights were turned up, the door of the cabinet thrown open,
and the girl in the black velvet dress was seen fastened upon the
It was a spiritualistic performance at which Julius Ricardo had
been present two years ago. The young, fair-haired girl in black
velvet, the medium, was Celia Harland.
That was the picture which was in Ricardo's mind, and Hanaud's
description of Mme. Dauvray made a terrible commentary upon it.
"Easily taken by a new face, generous, and foolishly superstitious, a
living provocation to every rogue." Those were the words, and here was
a beautiful girl of twenty versed in those very tricks of imposture
which would make Mme. Dauvray her natural prey!
Ricardo looked at Wethermill, doubtful whether he should tell what
he knew of Celia Harland or not. But before he had decided a knock
came upon the door.
"Here is Perrichet," said Hanaud, taking up his hat. "We will go
down to the Villa Rose."
CHAPTER III. PERRICHET'S STORY
Perrichet was a young, thick-set man, with, a red, fair face, and
a moustache and hair so pale in colour that they were almost silver.
He came into the room with an air of importance.
"Aha!" said Hanaud, with a malicious smile. "You went to bed late
last night, my friend. Yet you were up early enough to read the
newspaper. Well, I am to have the honour of being associated with you
in this case."
Perrichet twirled his cap awkwardly and blushed.
"Monsieur is pleased to laugh at me," he said. "But it was not I
who called myself intelligent. Though indeed I would like to be so,
for the good God knows I do not look it."
Hanaud clapped him on the shoulder.
"Then congratulate yourself! It is a great advantage to be
intelligent and not to look it. We shall get on famously. Come!"
The four men descended the stairs, and as they walked towards the
villa Perrichet related, concisely and clearly, his experience of the
"I passed the gate of the villa about half-past nine," he said.
"The gate was dosed. Above the wall and bushes of the garden I saw a
bright light in the room upon the first floor which faces the road at
the south-western comer of the villa. The lower windows I could not
see. More than an hour afterwards I came back, and as I passed the
villa again I noticed that there was now no light in the room upon the
first floor, but that the gate was open. I thereupon went into the
garden, and, pulling the gate, let it swing to and latch. But it
occurred to me as I did so that there might be visitors at the villa
who had not yet left, and for whom the gate had been set open. I
accordingly followed the drive which winds round to the front door.
The front door is not on the side of the villa which faces the road,
but at the back. When I came to the open space where the carriages
turn, I saw that the house was in complete darkness. There were wooden
latticed doors to the long windows on the ground floor, and these were
closed. I tried one to make certain, and found the fastenings secure.
The other windows upon that floor were shuttered. No light gleamed
anywhere. I then left the garden, closing the gate behind me. I heard
a clock strike the hour a few minutes afterwards, so that I can be
sure of the time. It was now eleven o'clock. I came round a third time
an hour after, and to my astonishment I found the gate once more
open. I had left it closed and the house shut up and dark. Now it
stood open! I looked up to the windows and I saw that in a room on
the second floor, close beneath the roof, a light was burning
brightly. That room had been dark an hour before. I stood and watched
the light for a few minutes, thinking that I should see it suddenly go
out. But it did not: it burned quite steadily. This light and the gate
opened and reopened aroused my suspicions. I went again into the
garden, but this time with greater caution. It was a clear night, and,
although there was no moon, I could see without the aid of my lantern.
I stole quietly along the drive. When I came round to the front door,
I noticed immediately that the shutters of one of the ground-floor
windows were swung back, and that the inside glass window which
descended to the ground stood open. The sight gave me a shock. Within
the house those shutters had been opened. I felt the blood turn to ice
in my veins and a chill crept along my spine. I thought of that
solitary light burning steadily under the roof. I was convinced that
something terrible had happened."
"Yes, yes. Quite so," said Hanaud. "Go on, my friend."
"The interior of the room gaped black," Perrichet resumed. "I
crept up to the window at the side of the wall and dashed my lantern
into the room. The window, however, was in a recess which opened into
the room through an arch, and at each side of the arch curtains were
draped. The curtains were not closed, but between them I could see
nothing but a strip of the room. I stepped carefully in, taking heed
not to walk on the patch of grass before the window. The light of my
lantern showed me a chair overturned upon the floor, and to my right,
below the middle one of the three windows in the right-hand side wall,
a woman lying huddled upon the floor. It was Mme. Dauvray. She was
dressed. There was a little mud upon her shoes, as though she had
walked after the rain had ceased. Monsieur will remember that two
heavy showers fell last evening between six and eight."
"Yes," said Hanaud, nodding his approval.
"She was quite dead. Her face was terribly swollen and black, and
a piece of thin strong cord was knotted so tightly about her neck and
had sunk so deeply into her flesh that at first I did not see it. For
Mme. Dauvray was stout."
"Then what did you do?" asked Hanaud.
"I went to the telephone which was in the hall and rang up the
police. Then I crept upstairs very cautiously, trying the doors. I
came upon no one until I reached the room under the roof where the
light was burning; there I found Helene Vauquier, the maid, snoring
in bed in a terrible fashion."
The four men turned a bend in the road. A few paces away a knot of
people stood before a gate which a sergent-de-ville guarded.
"But here we are at the villa," said Hanaud.
They all looked up and, from a window at the corner upon the first
floor a man looked out and drew in his head.
"That is M. Besnard, the Commissaire of our police in Aix," said
"And the window from which he looked," said Hanaud, "must be the
window of that room in which you saw the bright light at half-past
nine on your first round?"
"Yes, m'sieur," said Perrichet; "that is the window."
They stopped at the gate. Perrichet spoke to the sergent-de-ville,
who at once held the gate open. The party passed into the garden of
CHAPTER IV. AT THE VILLA
The drive curved between trees and high bushes towards the back of
the house, and as the party advanced along it a small, trim,
soldier-like man, with a pointed beard, came to meet them. It was the
man who had looked out from the window, Louis Besnard, the Commissaire
"You are coming, then, to help us, M. Hanaud!" he cried, extending
his hands. "You will find no jealousy here; no spirit amongst us of
anything but good will; no desire except one to carry out your
suggestions. All we wish is that the murderers should be discovered.
Mon Dieu, what a crime! And so young a girl to be involved in it! But
what will you?"
"So you have already made your mind up on that point!" said Hanaud
The Commissaire shrugged his shoulders.
"Examine the villa and then judge for yourself whether any other
explanation is conceivable," he said; and turning, he waved his hand
towards the house. Then he cried, "Ah!" and drew himself into an
attitude of attention. A tall, thin man of about forty-five years,
dressed in a frock coat and a high silk hat, had just come round an
angle of the drive and was moving slowly towards them. He wore the
soft, curling brown beard of one who has never used a razor on his
chin, and had a narrow face with eyes of a very light grey, and a
round bulging forehead.
"This is the Juge d'Instruction?" asked Hanaud.
"Yes; M. Fleuriot," replied Louis Besnard in a whisper.
M. Fleuriot was occupied with his own thoughts, and it was not
until Besnard stepped forward noisily on the gravel that he became
aware of the group in the garden.
"This is M. Hanaud, of the Surete in Paris," said Louis Besnard.
M. Fleuriot bowed with cordiality.
"You are very welcome, M. Hanaud. You will find that nothing at
the villa has been disturbed. The moment the message arrived over the
telephone that you were willing to assist us I gave instructions that
all should be left as we found it. I trust that you, with your
experience, will see a way where our eyes find none."
Hanaud bowed in reply.
"I shall do my best, M. Fleuriot. I can say no more," he said.
"But who are these gentlemen?" asked Fleuriot, waking, it seemed,
now for the first time to the presence of Harry Wethermill and Mr.
"They are both friends of mine," replied Hanaud. "If you do not
object I think their assistance may be useful. Mr. Wethermill, for
instance, was acquainted with Celia Harland."
"Ah!" cried the judge; and his face took on suddenly a keen and
eager look. "You can tell me about her perhaps?"
"All that I know I will tell readily," said Harry Wethermill.
Into the light eyes of M. Fleuriot there came a cold, bright
gleam. He took a step forward. His face seemed to narrow to a greater
sharpness. In a moment, to Mr. Ricardo's thought, he ceased to be the
judge; he dropped from his high office; he dwindled into a fanatic.
"She is a Jewess, this Celia Harland?" he cried.
"No, M. Fleuriot, she is not," replied Wethermill. "I do not speak
in disparagement of that race, for I count many friends amongst its
members. But Celia Harland is not one of them."
"Ah!" said Fleuriot; and there was something of disappointment,
something, too, of incredulity, in his voice. "Well, you will come
and report to me when you have made your investigation." And he
passed on without another question or remark.
The group of men watched him go, and it was not until he was out
of earshot that Besnard turned with a deprecating gesture to Hanaud.
"Yes, yes, he is a good judge, M. Hanaud—quick, discriminating,
sympathetic; but he has that bee in his bonnet, like so many others.
Everywhere he must see l'affaire Dreyfus. He cannot get it out of his
head. No matter how insignificant a woman is murdered, she must have
letters in her possession which would convict Dreyfus. But you know!
There are thousands like that—good, kindly, just people in the
ordinary ways of life, but behind every crime they see the Jew."
Hanaud nodded his head.
"I know; and in a Juge d'Instruction it is very embarrassing. Let
us walk on."
Half-way between the gate and the villa a second carriage-road
struck off to the left, and at the entrance to it stood a young,
stout man in black leggings.
"The chauffeur?" asked Hanaud. "I will speak to him."
The Commissaire called the chauffeur forward.
"Servettaz," he said, "you will answer any questions which
monsieur may put to you."
"Certainly, M. le Commissaire," said the chauffeur. His manner was
serious, but he answered readily. There was no sign of fear upon his
"How long have you been with Mme. Dauvray?" Hanaud asked.
"Four months, monsieur. I drove her to Aix from Paris."
"And since your parents live at Chambery you wished to seize the
opportunity of spending a day with them while you were so near?"
"When did you ask for permission?"
"On Saturday, monsieur."
"Did you ask particularly that you should have yesterday, the
"No, monsieur; I asked only for a day whenever it should be
convenient to madame."
"Quite so," said Hanaud. "Now, when did Mme. Dauvray tell you that
you might have Tuesday?"
Servettaz hesitated. His face became troubled. When he spoke, he
"It was not Mme. Dauvray, monsieur, who told me that I might go on
Tuesday," he said.
"Not Mme. Dauvray! Who was it, then?" Hanaud asked sharply.
Servettaz glanced from one to another of the grave faces which
"It was Mlle. Celie," he said, "who told me."
"Oh!" said Hanaud, slowly. "It was Mlle. Celie. When did she tell
"On Monday morning, monsieur. I was cleaning the car. She came to
the garage with some flowers in her hand which she had been cutting
in the garden, and she said: 'I was right, Alphonse. Madame has a kind
heart. You can go to-morrow by the train which leaves Aix at 1.52 and
arrives at Chambery at nine minutes after two.'"
"'I was right, Alphonse.' Were those her words? And 'Madame has a
kind heart.' Come, come, what is all this?" He lifted a warning
finger and said gravely, "Be very careful, Servettaz."
"Those were her words, monsieur."
"'I was right, Alphonse. Madame has a kind heart'?"
"Then Mlle. Celie had spoken to you before about this visit of
yours to Chambery," said Hanaud, with his eyes fixed steadily upon
the chauffeur's face. The distress upon Servettaz's face increased.
Suddenly Hanaud's voice rang sharply. "You hesitate. Begin at the
beginning. Speak the truth, Servettaz!"
"Monsieur, I am speaking the truth," said the chauffeur. "It is
true I hesitate ... I have heard this morning what people are saying
... I do not know what to think. Mlle. Celie was always kind and
thoughtful for me ... But it is true"—and with a kind of desperation
he went on—"yes, it is true that it was Mlle. Celie who first
suggested to me that I should ask for a day to go to Chambery."
"When did she suggest it?"
"On the Saturday."
To Mr. Ricardo the words were startling. He glanced with pity
towards Wethermill. Wethermill, however, had made up his mind for
good and all. He stood with a dogged look upon his face, his chin
thrust forward, his eyes upon the chauffeur. Besnard, the
Commissaire, had made up his mind, too. He merely shrugged his
shoulders. Hanaud stepped forward and laid his hand gently on the
"Come, my friend," he said, "let us hear exactly how this
"Mlle. Celie," said Servettaz, with genuine compunction in his
voice, "came to the garage on Saturday morning and ordered the car
for the afternoon. She stayed and talked to me for a little while, as
she often did. She said that she had been told that my parents lived
at Chambery, and since I was so near I ought to ask for a holiday. For
it would not be kind if I did not go and see them."
"That was all?"
"Very well." And the detective resumed at once his brisk voice and
alert manner. He seemed to dismiss Servettaz's admission from his
mind. Ricardo had the impression of a man tying up an important
document which for the moment he has done with, and putting it away
ticketed in some pigeon-hole in his desk. "Let us see the garage!"
They followed the road between the bushes until a turn showed them
the garage with its doors open.
"The doors were found unlocked?"
"Just as you see them."
Hanaud nodded. He spoke again to Servettaz. "What did you do with
the key on Tuesday?"
"I gave it to Helene Vauquier, monsieur, after I had locked up the
garage. And she hung it on a nail in the kitchen."
"I see," said Hanaud. "So any one could easily, have found it last
"Yes, monsieur—if one knew where to look for it."
At the back of the garage a row of petrol-tins stood against the
"Was any petrol taken?" asked Hanaud.
"Yes, monsieur; there was very little petrol in the car when I
went away. More was taken, but it was taken from the middle tins—
these." And he touched the tins.
"I see," said Hanaud, and he raised his eyebrows thoughtfully. The
Commissaire moved with impatience.
"From the middle or from the end—what does it matter?" he
exclaimed. "The petrol was taken."
Hanaud, however, did not dismiss the point so lightly.
"But it is very possible that it does matter," he said gently.
"For example, if Servettaz had had no reason to examine his tins it
might have been some while before he found out that the petrol had
"Indeed, yes," said Servettaz. "I might even have forgotten that I
had not used it myself."
"Quite so," said Hanaud, and he turned to Besnard.
"I think that may be important. I do not know," he said.
"But since the car is gone," cried Besnard, "how could the
chauffeur not look immediately at his tins?"
The question had occurred to Ricardo, and he wondered in what way
Hanaud meant to answer it. Hanaud, however, did not mean to answer
it. He took little notice of it at all. He put it aside with a superb
indifference to the opinion which his companions might form of him.
"Ah, yes," he said, carelessly. "Since the car is gone, as you
say, that is so." And he turned again to Servettaz.
"It was a powerful car?" he asked.
"Sixty horse-power," said Servettaz.
Hanaud turned to the Commissaire.
"You have the number and description, I suppose? It will be as
well to advertise for it. It may have been seen; it must be
The Commissaire replied that the description had already been
printed, and Hanaud, with a nod of approval, examined the ground. In
front of the garage there was a small stone courtyard, but on its
surface there was no trace of a footstep.
"Yet the gravel was wet," he said, shaking his head. "The man who
fetched that car fetched it carefully."
He turned and walked back with his eyes upon the ground. Then he
ran to the grass border between the gravel and the bushes.
"Look!" he said to Wethermill; "a foot has pressed the blades of
grass down here, but very lightly—yes, and there again. Some one ran
along the border here on his toes. Yes, he was very careful."
They turned again into the main drive, and, following it for a few
yards, came suddenly upon a space in front of the villa. It was a
small toy pleasure-house, looking on to a green lawn gay with
flower-beds. It was built of yellow stone, and was almost square in
shape. A couple of ornate pillars flanked the door, and a gable roof,
topped by a gilt vane, surmounted it. To Ricardo it seemed impossible
that so sordid and sinister a tragedy had taken place within its walls
during the last twelve hours. It glistened so gaudily in the blaze of
sunlight. Here and there the green outer shutters were closed; here
and there the windows stood open to let in the air and light. Upon
each side of the door there was a window lighting the hall, which was
large; beyond those windows again, on each side, there were glass
doors opening to the ground and protected by the ordinary green
latticed shutters of wood, which now stood hooked back against the
wall. These glass doors opened into rooms oblong in shape, which ran
through towards the back of the house, and were lighted in addition by
side windows. The room upon the extreme left, as the party faced the
villa, was the dining-room, with the kitchen at the back; the room on
the right was the salon in which the murder had been committed. In
front of the glass door to this room a strip of what had once been
grass stretched to the gravel drive. But the grass had been worn away
by constant use, and the black mould showed through. This strip was
about three yards wide, and as they approached they saw, even at a
distance, that since the rain of last night it had been trampled down.
"We will go round the house first," said Hanaud, and he turned
along the side of the villa and walked in the direction of the road.
There were four windows just above his head, of which three lighted
the salon, and the fourth a small writing-room behind it. Under these
windows there was no disturbance of the ground, and a careful
investigation showed conclusively that the only entrance used had been
the glass doors of the salon facing the drive. To that spot, then,
they returned. There were three sets of footmarks upon the soil. One
set ran in a distinct curve from the drive to the side of the door,
and did not cross the others.
"Those," said Hanaud, "are the footsteps of my intelligent friend,
Perrichet, who was careful not to disturb the ground."
Perrichet beamed all over his rosy face, and Besnard nodded at him
with condescending approval.
"But I wish, M. le Commissaire"—and Hanaud pointed to a blur of
marks—"that your other officers had been as intelligent. Look! These
run from the glass door to the drive, and, for all the use they are to
us, a harrow might have been dragged across them."
Besnard drew himself up.
"Not one of my officers has entered the room by way of this door.
The strictest orders were given and obeyed. The ground, as you see
it, is the ground as it was at twelve o'clock last night."
Hanaud's face grew thoughtful.
"Is that so?" he said, and he stooped to examine the second set of
marks. They were at the righthand side of the door. "A woman and a
man," he said. "But they are mere hints rather than prints. One might
almost think—" He rose up without finishing his sentence, and he
turned to the third set and a look of satisfaction gleamed upon his
face. "Ah! here is something more interesting," he said.
There were just three impressions; and, whereas the blurred marks
were at the side, these three pointed straight from the middle of the
glass doors to the drive. They were quite clearly defined, and all
three were the impressions made by a woman's small, arched,
high-heeled shoe. The position of the marks was at first sight a
little peculiar. There was one a good yard from the window, the
impression of the right foot, and the pressure of the sole of the
shoe was more marked than that of the heel. The second, the
impression of the left foot, was not quite so far from the first as
the first was from the window, and here again the heel was the more
lightly defined. But there was this difference—the mark of the toe,
which was pointed in the first instance, was, in this, broader and a
trifle blurred. Close beside it the right foot was again visible; only
now the narrow heel was more clearly defined than the ball of the
foot. It had, indeed, sunk half an inch into the soft ground. There
were no further imprints. Indeed, these two were not merely close
together, they were close to the gravel of the drive and on the very
border of the grass.
Hanaud looked at the marks thoughtfully. Then he turned to the
"Are there any shoes in the house which fit those marks?"
"Yes. We have tried the shoes of all the women—Celie Harland, the
maid, and even Mme. Dauvray. The only ones which fit at all are those
taken from Celie Harland's bedroom."
He called to an officer standing in the drive, and a pair of grey
suede shoes were brought to him from the hall.
"See, M. Hanaud, it is a pretty little foot which made those clear
impressions," he said, with a smile; "a foot arched and slender. Mme.
Dauvray's foot is short and square, the maid's broad and flat. Neither
Mme. Dauvray nor Helene Vauquier could have worn these shoes. They
were lying, one here, one there, upon the floor of Celie Harland's
room, as though she had kicked them off in a hurry. They are almost
new, you see. They have been worn once, perhaps, no more, and they fit
with absolute precision into those footmarks, except just at the toe
of that second one."
Hanaud took the shoes and, kneeling down, placed them one after
the other over the impressions. To Ricardo it was extraordinary how
exactly they covered up the marks and filled the indentations.
"I should say," said the Commissaire, "that Celie Harland went
away wearing a new pair of shoes made on the very same last as
As those she had left carelessly lying on the floor of her room
for the first person to notice, thought Ricardo! It seemed as if the
girl had gone out of her way to make the weight of evidence against
her as heavy as possible. Yet, after all, it was just through
inattention to the small details, so insignificant at the red moment
of crime, so terribly instructive the next day, that guilt was
generally brought home.
Hanaud rose to his feet and handed the shoes back to the officer.
"Yes," he said, "so it seems. The shoemaker can help us here. I
see the shoes were made in Aix."
Besnard looked at the name stamped in gold letters upon the lining
of the shoes.
"I will have inquiries made," he said.
Hanaud nodded, took a measure from his pocket and measured the
ground between the window and the first footstep, and between the
first footstep and the other two.
"How tall is Mlle. Celie?" he asked, and he addressed the question
to Wethermill. It struck Ricardo as one of the strangest details in
all this strange affair that the detective should ask with confidence
for information which might help to bring Celia Harland to the
guillotine from the man who had staked his happiness upon her
"About five feet seven," he answered.
Hanaud replaced his measure in his pocket. He turned with a grave
face to Wethermill.
"I warned you fairly, didn't I?" he said.
Wethermill's white face twitched.
"Yes," he said. "I am not afraid." But there was more of anxiety
in his voice than there had been before.
Hanaud pointed solemnly to the ground.
"Read the story those footprints write in the mould there. A young
and active girl of about Mlle. Celie's height, and wearing a new pair
of Mlle. Celie's shoes, springs from that room where the murder was
committed, where the body of the murdered woman lies. She is running.
She is wearing a long gown. At the second step the hem of the gown
catches beneath the point of her shoe. She stumbles. To save herself
from falling she brings up the other foot sharply and stamps the heel
down into the ground. She recovers her balance. She steps on to the
drive. It is true the gravel here is hard and takes no mark, but you
will see that some of the mould which has clung to her shoes has
dropped off. She mounts into the motor-car with the man and the other
woman and drives off—some time between eleven and twelve."
"Between eleven and twelve? Is that sure?" asked Besnard.
"Certainly," replied Hanaud. "The gate is open at eleven, and
Perrichet closes it. It is open again at twelve. Therefore the
murderers had not gone before eleven. No; the gate was open for them
to go, but they had not gone. Else why should the gate again be open
Besnard nodded in assent, and suddenly Perrichet started forward,
with his eyes full of horror.
"Then, when I first closed the gate," he cried, "and came into the
garden and up to the house they were here—in that room? Oh, my God!"
He stared at the window, with his mouth open.
"I am afraid, my friend, that is so," said Hanaud gravely.
"But I knocked upon the wooden door, I tried the bolts; and they
were within—in the darkness within, holding their breath not three
yards from me."
He stood transfixed.
"That we shall see," said Hanaud.
He stepped in Perrichet's footsteps to the sill of the room. He
examined the green wooden doors which opened outwards, and the glass
doors which opened inwards, taking a magnifying-glass from his pocket.
He called Besnard to his side.
"See!" he said, pointing to the woodwork.
"Finger-marks!" asked Besnard eagerly.
"Yes; of hands in gloves," returned Hanaud. "We shall learn
nothing from these marks except that the assassins knew their trade."
Then he stooped down to the sill, where some traces of steps were
visible. He rose with a gesture of resignation.
"Rubber shoes," he said, and so stepped into the room, followed by
Wethermill and the others. They found themselves in a small recess
which was panelled with wood painted white, and here and there
delicately carved into festoons of flowers. The recess ended in an
arch, supported by two slender pillars, and on the inner side of the
arch thick curtains of pink silk were hung. These were drawn back
carelessly, and through the opening between them the party looked down
the length of the room beyond. They passed within.
CHAPTER V. IN THE SALON
Julius Ricardo pushed aside the curtains with a thrill of
excitement. He found himself standing within a small oblong room
which was prettily, even daintily, furnished. On his left, close by
the recess, was a small fireplace with the ashes of a burnt-out fire
in the grate. Beyond the grate a long settee covered in pink damask,
with a crumpled cushion at each end, stood a foot or two away from the
wall, and beyond the settee the door of the room opened into the hall.
At the end a long mirror was let into the panelling, and a
writing-table stood by the mirror. On the right were the three
windows, and between the two nearest to Mr. Ricardo was the switch of
the electric light. A chandelier hung from the ceiling, an electric
lamp stood upon the writing-table, a couple of electric candles on the
mantel-shelf. A round satinwood table stood under the windows, with
three chairs about it, of which one was overturned, one was placed
with its back to the electric switch, and the third on the opposite
side facing it.
Ricardo could hardly believe that he stood actually upon the spot
where, within twelve hours, a cruel and sinister tragedy had taken
place. There was so little disorder. The three windows on his right
showed him the blue sunlit sky and a glimpse of flowers and trees;
behind him the glass doors stood open to the lawn, where birds piped
cheerfully and the trees murmured of summer. But he saw Hanaud
stepping quickly from place to place, with an extraordinary lightness
of step for so big a man, obviously engrossed, obviously reading here
and there some detail, some custom of the inhabitants of that room.
Ricardo leaned with careful artistry against the wall.
"Now, what has this room to say to me?" he asked importantly.
Nobody paid the slightest attention to his question, and it was just
as well. For the room had very little information to give him. He ran
his eye over the white Louis Seize furniture, the white panels of the
wall, the polished floor, the pink curtains. Even the delicate tracery
of the ceiling did not escape his scrutiny. Yet he saw nothing likely
to help him but an overturned chair and a couple of crushed cushions
on a settee. It was very annoying, all the more annoying because M.
Hanaud was so uncommonly busy. Hanaud looked carefully at the long
settee and the crumpled cushions, and he took out his measure and
measured the distance between the cushion at one end and the cushion
at the other. He examined the table, he measured the distance between
the chairs. He came to the fireplace and raked in the ashes of the
burnt-out fire. But Ricardo noticed a singular thing. In the midst of
his search Hanaud's eyes were always straying back to the settee, and
always with a look of extreme perplexity, as if he read there
something, definitely something, but something which he could not
explain. Finally he went back to it; he drew it farther away from the
wall, and suddenly with a little cry he stooped and went down on his
knees. When he rose he was holding some torn fragments of paper in his
hand. He went over to the writing-table and opened the blotting-book.
Where it fell open there were some sheets of note-paper, and one
particular sheet of which half had been torn off. He compared the
pieces which he held with that torn sheet, and seemed satisfied.
There was a rack for note-paper upon the table, and from it he
took a stiff card.
"Get me some gum or paste, and quickly," he said. His voice had
become brusque, the politeness had gone from his address. He carried
the card and the fragments of paper to the round table. There he sat
down and, with infinite patience, gummed the fragments on to the card,
fitting them together like the pieces of a Chinese puzzle.
The others over his shoulders could see spaced words, written in
pencil, taking shape as a sentence upon the card. Hanaud turned
abruptly in his seat toward Wethermill.
"You have, no doubt, a letter written by Mlle. Celie?"
Wethermill took his letter-case from his pocket and a letter out
of the case. He hesitated for a moment as he glanced over what was
written. The four sheets were covered. He folded back the letter, so
that only the two inner sheets were visible, and handed it to Hanaud.
Hanaud compared it with the handwriting upon the card.
"Look!" he said at length, and the three men gathered behind him.
On the card the gummed fragments of paper revealed a sentence:
"Je ne sais pas."
"'I do not know,'" said Ricardo; "now this is very important."
Beside the card Celia's letter to Wethermill was laid.
"What do you think?" asked Hanaud.
Besnard, the Commissaire of Police, bent over Hanaud's shoulder.
"There are strong resemblances," he said guardedly.
Ricardo was on the look-out for deep mysteries. Resemblances were
not enough for him; they were inadequate to the artistic needs of the
"Both were written by the same hand," he said definitely; "only in
the sentence written upon the card the handwriting is carefully
"Ah!" said the Commissaire, bending forward again. "Here is an
idea! Yes, yes, there are strong differences."
Ricardo looked triumphant.
"Yes, there are differences," said Hanaud. "Look how long the up
stroke of the 'p' is, how it wavers! See how suddenly this 's'
straggles off, as though some emotion made the hand shake. Yet this,"
and touching Wethermill's letter he smiled ruefully, "this is where
the emotion should have affected the pen." He looked up at
Wethermill's face and then said quietly:
"You have given us no opinion, monsieur. Yet your opinion should
be the most valuable of all. Were these two papers written by the
"I do not know," answered Wethermill.
"And I, too," cried Hanaud, in a sudden exasperation, "je ne sais
pas. I do not know. It may be her hand carelessly counterfeited. It
may be her hand disguised. It may be simply that she wrote in a hurry
with her gloves on."
"It may have been written some time ago," said Mr. Ricardo,
encouraged by his success to another suggestion.
"No; that is the one thing it could not have been," said Hanaud.
"Look round the room. Was there ever a room better tended? Find me a
little pile of dust in any one corner if you can! It is all as clean
as a plate. Every morning, except this one morning, this room has been
swept and polished. The paper was written and torn up yesterday."
He enclosed the card in an envelope as he spoke, and placed it in
his pocket. Then he rose and crossed again to the settee. He stood at
the side of it, with his hands clutching the lapels of his coat and
his face gravely troubled. After a few moments of silence for himself,
of suspense for all the others who watched him, he stooped suddenly.
Slowly, and with extraordinary care, he pushed his hands under the
head-cushion and lifted it up gently, so that the indentations of its
surface might not be disarranged. He carried it over to the light of
the open window. The cushion was covered with silk, and as he held it
to the sunlight all could see a small brown stain.
Hanaud took his magnifying-glass from his pocket and bent his head
over the cushion. But at that moment, careful though he had been, the
down swelled up within the cushion, the folds and indentations
disappeared, the silk covering was stretched smooth.
"Oh!" cried Besnard tragically. "What have you done?"
Hanaud's face flushed. He had been guilty of a clumsiness—even
Mr. Ricardo took up the tale.
"Yes," he exclaimed, "what have you done?"
Hanaud looked at Ricardo in amazement at his audacity.
"Well, what have I done?" he asked. "Come! tell me!"
"You have destroyed a clue," replied Ricardo impressively.
The deepest dejection at once overspread Hanaud's burly face.
"Don't say that, M. Ricardo, I beseech you!" he implored. "A clue!
and I have destroyed it! But what kind of a clue? And how have I
destroyed it? And to what mystery would it be a clue if I hadn't
destroyed it? And what will become of me when I go back to Paris, and
say in the Rue de Jerusalem, 'Let me sweep the cellars, my good
friends, for M. Ricardo knows that I destroyed a clue. Faithfully he
promised me that he would not open his mouth, but I destroyed a clue,
and his perspicacity forced him into speech.'"
It was the turn of M. Ricardo to grow red.
Hanaud turned with a smile to Besnard.
"It does not really matter whether the creases in this cushion
remain," he said, "we have all seen them." And he replaced the glass
in his pocket.
He carried that cushion back and replaced it. Then he took the
other, which lay at the foot of the settee, and carried it in its
turn to the window. This was indented too, and ridged up, and just at
the marks the nap of the silk was worn, and there was a slit where it
had been cut. The perplexity upon Hanaud's face greatly increased. He
stood with the cushion in his hands, no longer looking at it, but
looking out through the doors at the footsteps so clearly defined—the
foot-steps of a girl who had run from this room and sprung into a
motor-car and driven away. He shook his head, and, carrying back the
cushion, laid it carefully down. Then he stood erect, gazed about the
room as though even yet he might force its secrets out from its
silence, and cried, with a sudden violence:
"There is something here, gentlemen, which I do not understand."
Mr. Ricardo heard some one beside him draw a deep breath, and
turned. Wethermill stood at his elbow. A faint colour had come back
to his cheeks, his eyes were fixed intently upon Hanaud's face.
"What do you think?" he asked; and Hanaud replied brusquely:
"It's not my business to hold opinions, monsieur; my business is
to make sure."
There was one point, and only one, of which he had made every one
in that room sure. He had started confident. Here was a sordid crime,
easily understood. But in that room he had read something which had
troubled him, which had raised the sordid crime on to some higher and
"Then M. Fleuriot after all might be right?" asked the Commissaire
Hanaud stared at him for a second, then smiled.
"L'affaire Dreyfus?" he cried. "Oh la, la, la! No, but there is
What was that something? Ricardo asked himself. He looked once
more about the room. He did not find his answer, but he caught sight
of an ornament upon the wall which drove the question from his mind.
The ornament, if so it could be called, was a painted tambourine with
a bunch of bright ribbons tied to the rim; and it was hung upon the
wall between the settee and the fireplace at about the height of a
man's head. Of course it might be no more than it seemed to be—a
rather gaudy and vulgar toy, such as a woman like Mme. Dauvray would
be very likely to choose in order to dress her walls. But it swept
Ricardo's thoughts back of a sudden to the concert-hall at Leamington
and the apparatus of a spiritualistic show. After all, he reflected
triumphantly, Hanaud had not noticed everything, and as he made the
reflection Hanaud's voice broke in to corroborate him.
"We have seen everything here; let us go upstairs," he said. "We
will first visit the room of Mlle. Celie. Then we will question the
maid, Helene Vauquier."
The four men, followed by Perrichet, passed out by the door into
the hall and mounted the stairs. Celia's room was in the southwest
angle of the villa, a bright and airy room, of which one window
overlooked the road, and two others, between which stood the
dressing-table, the garden. Behind the room a door led into a little
white-tiled bathroom. Some towels were tumbled upon the floor beside
the bath. In the bedroom a dark-grey frock of tussore and a petticoat
were flung carelessly on the bed; a big grey hat of Ottoman silk was
lying upon a chest of drawers in the recess of a window; and upon a
chair a little pile of fine linen and a pair of grey silk stockings,
which matched in shade the grey suede shoes, were tossed in a heap.
"It was here that you saw the light at half-past nine?" Hanaud
said, turning to Perrichet.
"Yes, monsieur," replied Perrichet.
"We may assume, then, that Mlle. Celie was changing her dress at
Besnard was looking about him, opening a drawer here, a wardrobe
"Mlle. Celie," he said, with a laugh, "was a particular young
lady, and fond of her fine clothes, if one may judge from the room
and the order of the cupboards. She must have changed her dress last
night in an unusual hurry."
There was about the whole room a certain daintiness, almost, it
seemed to Mr. Ricardo, a fragrance, as though the girl had impressed
something of her own delicate self upon it. Wethermill stood upon the
threshold watching with a sullen face the violation of this chamber by
the officers of the police.
No such feelings, however, troubled Hanaud. He went over to the
dressing-room and opened a few small leather cases which held Celia's
ornaments. In one or two of them a trinket was visible; others were
empty. One of these latter Hanaud held open in his hand, and for so
long that Besnard moved impatiently.
"You see it is empty, monsieur," he said, and suddenly Wethermill
moved forward into the room.
"Yes, I see that," said Hanaud dryly.
It was a case made to hold a couple of long ear-drops—those
diamond ear-drops, doubtless, which Mr. Ricardo had seen twinkling in
"Will monsieur let me see?" asked Wethermill, and he took the case
in his hands. "Yes," he said. "Mlle. Celie's ear-drops," and he
handed the case back with a thoughtful air.
It was the first time he had taken a definite part in the
investigation. To Ricardo the reason was clear. Harry Wethermill had
himself given those ear-drops to Celia. Hanaud replaced the case and
"There is nothing more for us to see here," he said. "I suppose
that no one has been allowed to enter the room?" And he opened the
"No one except Helene Vauquier," replied the Commissaire.
Ricardo felt indignant at so obvious a piece of carelessness. Even
Wethermill looked surprised. Hanaud merely shut the door again.
"Oho, the maid!" he said. "Then she has recovered!"
"She is still weak," said the Commissaire. "But I thought it was
necessary that we should obtain at once a description of what Celie
Harland wore when she left the house. I spoke to M. Fleuriot about it,
and he gave me permission to bring Helene Vauquier here, who alone
could tell us. I brought her here myself just before you came. She
looked through the girl's wardrobe to see what was missing."
"Was she alone in the room?"
"Not for a moment," said M. Besnard haughtily. "Really, monsieur,
we are not so ignorant of how an affair of this kind should be
conducted. I was in the room myself the whole time, with my eye upon
"That was just before I came," said Hanaud. He crossed carelessly
to the open window which overlooked the road and, leaning out of it,
looked up the road to the corner round which he and his friends had
come, precisely as the Commissaire had done. Then he turned back into
"Which was the last cupboard or drawer that Helene Vauquier
touched?" he asked.
Besnard stooped and pulled open the bottom drawer of a chest which
stood in the embrasure of the window. A light-coloured dress was
lying at the bottom.
"I told her to be quick," said Besnard, "since I had seen that you
were coming. She lifted this dress out and said that nothing was
missing there. So I took her back to her room and left her with the
Hanaud lifted the light dress from the drawer, shook it out in
front of the window, twirled it round, snatched up a corner of it and
held it to his eyes, and then, folding it quickly, replaced it in the
"Now show me the first drawer she touched." And this time he
lifted out a petticoat, and, taking it to the window, examined it
with a greater care. When he had finished with it he handed it to
Ricardo to put away, and stood for a moment or two thoughtful and
absorbed. Ricardo in his turn examined the petticoat. But he could
see nothing unusual. It was an attractive petticoat, dainty with
frills and lace, but it was hardly a thing to grow thoughtful over.
He looked up in perplexity and saw that Hanaud was watching his
investigations with a smile of amusement.
"When M. Ricardo has put that away," he said, "we will hear what
Helene Vauquier has to tell us."
He passed out of the door last, and, locking it, placed the key in
"Helene Vauquier's room is, I think, upstairs," he said. And he
moved towards the staircase.
But as he did so a man in plain clothes, who had been waiting upon
the landing, stepped forward. He carried in his hand a piece of thin,
"Ah, Durette!" cried Besnard. "Monsieur Hanaud, I sent Durette
this morning round the shops of Aix with the cord which was found
knotted round Mme. Dauvray's neck."
Hanaud advanced quickly to the man.
"Well! Did you discover anything?"
"Yes, monsieur," said Durette. "At the shop of M. Corval, in the
Rue du Casino, a young lady in a dark-grey frock and hat bought some
cord of this kind at a few minutes after nine last night. It was just
as the shop was being closed. I showed Corval the photograph of Celie
Harland which M. le Commissaire gave me out of Mme. Dauvray's room,
and he identified it as the portrait of the girl who had bought the
Complete silence followed upon Durette's words. The whole party
stood like men stupefied. No one looked towards Wethermill; even
Hanaud averted his eyes.
"Yes, that is very important," he said awkwardly. He turned away
and, followed by the others, went up the stairs to the bedroom of
CHAPTER VI. HELENE VAUQUIER'S
A nurse opened the door. Within the room Helene Vauquier was
leaning back in a chair. She looked ill, and her face was very white.
On the appearance of Hanaud, the Commissaire, and the others, however,
she rose to her feet. Ricardo recognised the justice of Hanaud's
description. She stood before them a hard- featured, tall woman of
thirty-five or forty, in a neat black stuff dress, strong with the
strength of a peasant, respectable, reliable. She looked what she had
been, the confidential maid of an elderly woman. On her face there was
now an aspect of eager appeal.
"Oh, monsieur!" she began, "let me go from here—anywhere—into
prison if you like. But to stay here—where in years past we were so
happy—and with madame lying in the room below. No, it is
She sank into her chair, and Hanaud came over to her side.
"Yes, yes," he said, in a soothing voice. "I can understand your
feelings, my poor woman. We will not keep you here. You have,
perhaps, friends in Aix with whom you could stay?"
"Oh yes, monsieur!" Helene cried gratefully. "Oh, but I thank you!
That I should have to sleep here tonight! Oh, how the fear of that
has frightened me!"
"You need have had no such fear. After all, we are not the
visitors of last night," said Hanaud, drawing a chair close to her
and patting her hand sympathetically. "Now, I want you to tell these
gentlemen and myself all that you know of this dreadful business. Take
your time, mademoiselle! We are human."
"But, monsieur, I know nothing," she cried. "I was told that I
might go to bed as soon as I had dressed Mlle. Celie for the seance."
"Seance!" cried Ricardo, startled into speech. The picture of the
Assembly Hall at Leamington was again before his mind. But Hanaud
turned towards him, and, though Hanaud's face retained its benevolent
expression, there was a glitter in his eyes which sent the blood into
"Did you speak again, M. Ricardo?" the detective asked. "No? I
thought it was not possible." He turned back to Helene Vauquier. "So
Mlle. Celie practised seances. That is very strange. We will hear
about them. Who knows what thread may lead us to the truth?"
Helene Vauquier shook her head.
"Monsieur, it is not right that you should seek the truth from me.
For, consider this! I cannot speak with justice of Mlle. Celie. No, I
cannot! I did not like her. I was jealous—yes, jealous, Monsieur, you
want the truth—I hated her!" And the woman's face flushed and she
clenched her hand upon the arm of her chair. "Yes, I hated her. How
could I help it?" she asked.
"Why?" asked Hanaud gently. "Why could you not help it?"
Helene Vauquier leaned back again, her strength exhausted, and
"I will tell you. But remember it is a woman speaking to you, and
things which you will count silly and trivial mean very much to her.
There was one night last June—only last June! To think of it! So
little while ago there was no Mlle. Celie—" and, as Hanaud raised his
hand, she said hurriedly, "Yes, yes; I will control myself. But to
think of Mme. Dauvray now!"
And thereupon she blurted out her story and explained to Mr.
Ricardo the question which had so perplexed him: how a girl of so
much distinction as Celia Harland came to be living with a woman of
so common a type as Mme. Dauvray.
"Well, one night in June," said Helene Vauquier, "madame went with
a party to supper at the Abbaye Restaurant in Montmartre. And she
brought home for the first time Mlle. Celie. But you should have seen
her! She had on a little plaid skirt and a coat which was falling to
pieces, and she was starving—yes, starving. Madame told me the story
that night as I undressed her. Mlle. Celie was there dancing amidst
the tables for a supper with any one who would be kind enough to dance
The scorn of her voice rang through the room. She was the rigid,
respectable peasant woman, speaking out her contempt. And Wethermill
must needs listen to it. Ricardo dared not glance at him.
"But hardly any one would dance with her in her rags, and no one
would give her supper except madame. Madame did. Madame listened to
her story of hunger and distress. Madame believed it, and brought her
home. Madame was so kind, so careless in her kindness. And now she
lies murdered for a reward!" An hysterical sob checked the woman's
utterances, her face began to work, her hands to twitch.
"Come, come!" said Hanaud gently, "calm yourself, mademoiselle."
Helene Vauquier paused for a moment or two to recover her
composure. "I beg your pardon, monsieur, but I have been so long with
madame—oh, the poor woman! Yes, yes, I will calm myself. Well, madame
brought her home, and in a week there was nothing too good for Mlle.
Celie. Madame was like a child. Always she was being deceived and
imposed upon. Never she learnt prudence. But no one so quickly made
her way to madame's heart as Mlle. Celie. Mademoiselle must live with
her. Mademoiselle must be dressed by the first modistes. Mademoiselle
must have lace petticoats and the softest linen, long white gloves,
and pretty ribbons for her hair, and hats from Caroline Reboux at
twelve hundred francs. And madame's maid must attend upon her and deck
her out in all these dainty things. Bah!"
Vauquier was sitting erect in her chair, violent, almost rancorous
with anger. She looked round upon the company and shrugged her
"I told you not to come to me!" she said, "I cannot speak
impartially, or even gently of mademoiselle. Consider! For years I
had been more than madame's maid—her friend; yes, so she was kind
enough to call me. She talked to me about everything, consulted me
about everything, took me with her everywhere. Then she brings home,
at two o'clock in the morning, a young girl with a fresh, pretty face,
from a Montmartre restaurant, and in a week I am nothing at all—oh,
but nothing—and mademoiselle is queen."
"Yes, it is quite natural," said Hanaud sympathetically. "You
would not have been human, mademoiselle, if you had not felt some
anger. But tell us frankly about these seances. How did they begin?"
"Oh, monsieur," Vauquier answered, "it was not difficult to begin
them. Mme. Dauvray had a passion for fortune-tellers and rogues of
that kind. Any one with a pack of cards and some nonsense about a
dangerous woman with black hair or a man with a limp—Monsieur knows
the stories they string together in dimly lighted rooms to deceive the
credulous—any one could make a harvest out of madame's superstitions.
But monsieur knows the type."
"Indeed I do," said Hanaud, with a laugh.
"Well, after mademoiselle had been with us three weeks, she said
to me one morning when I was dressing her hair that it was a pity
madame was always running round the fortune-tellers, that she herself
could do something much more striking and impressive, and that if only
I would help her we could rescue madame from their clutches. Sir, I
did not think what power I was putting into Mlle. Celie's hands, or
assuredly I would have refused. And I did not wish to quarrel with
Mlle. Celie; so for once I consented, and, having once consented, I
could never afterwards refuse, for, if I had, mademoiselle would have
made some fine excuse about the psychic influence not being en
rapport, and meanwhile would have had me sent away. While if I had
confessed the truth to madame, she would have been so angry that I had
been a party to tricking her that again I would have lost my place.
And so the seances went on."
"Yes," said Hanaud. "I understand that your position was very
difficult. We shall not, I think," and he turned to the Commissaire
confidently for corroboration of his words, "be disposed to blame
"Certainly not," said the Commissaire. "After all, life is not so
"Thus, then, the seances began," said Hanaud, leaning forward with
a keen interest. "This is a strange and curious story you are telling
me, Mlle. Vauquier. Now, how were they conducted? How did you assist?
What did Mlle. Celie do? Rap on the tables in the dark and rattle
tambourines like that one with the knot of ribbons which hangs upon
the wall of the salon?"
There was a gentle and inviting irony in Hanaud's tone. M. Ricardo
was disappointed. Hanaud had after all not overlooked the tambourine.
Without Ricardo's reason to notice it, he had none the less observed
it and borne it in his memory.
"Well?" he asked.
"Oh, monsieur, the tambourines and the rapping on the table!"
cried Helene. "That was nothing—oh, but nothing at all. Mademoiselle
Celie would make spirits appear and speak!"
"Really! And she was never caught out! But Mlle. Celie must have
been a remarkably clever girl."
"Oh, she was of an address which was surprising. Sometimes madame
and I were alone. Sometimes there were others, whom madame in her
pride had invited. For she was very proud, monsieur, that her
companion could introduce her to the spirits of dead people. But
never was Mlle. Celie caught out. She told me that for many years,
even when quite a child, she had travelled through England giving
"Oho!" said Hanaud, and he turned to Wethermill. "Did you know
that?" he asked in English.
"I did not," he said. "I do not now."
Hanaud shook his head.
"To me this story does not seem invented," he replied. And then he
spoke again in French to Helene Vauquier. "Well, continue,
mademoiselle! Assume that the company is assembled for our seance."
"Then Mlle. Celie, dressed in a long gown of black velvet, which
set off her white arms and shoulders well—oh, mademoiselle did not
forget those little trifles," Helene Vauquier interrupted her story,
with a return of her bitterness, to interpolate— "mademoiselle would
sail into the room with her velvet train flowing behind her, and
perhaps for a little while she would say there was a force working
against her, and she would sit silent in a chair while madame gaped at
her with open eyes. At last mademoiselle would say that the powers
were favourable and the spirits would manifest themselves to night.
Then she would be placed in a cabinet, perhaps with a string tied
across the door outside—you will understand it was my business to see
after the string—and the lights would be turned down, or perhaps out
altogether. Or at other times we would sit holding hands round a
table, Mlle. Celie between Mme. Dauvray and myself. But in that case
the lights would be turned out first, and it would be really my hand
which held Mme. Dauvray's. And whether it was the cabinet or the
chairs, in a moment mademoiselle would be creeping silently about the
room in a little pair of soft-soled slippers without heels, which she
wore so that she might not be heard, and tambourines would rattle as
you say, and fingers touch the forehead and the neck, and strange
voices would sound from corners of the room, and dim apparitions would
appear—the spirits of great ladies of the past, who would talk with
Mme. Dauvray. Such ladies as Mme. de Castiglione, Marie Antoinette,
Mme. de Medici—I do not remember all the names, and very likely I do
not pronounce them properly. Then the voices would cease and the
lights be turned up, and Mlle. Celie would be found in a trance just
in the same place and attitude as she had been when the lights were
turned out. Imagine, messieurs, the effect of such seances upon a
woman like Mme. Dauvray. She was made for them. She believed in them
implicitly. The words of the great ladies from the past—she would
remember and repeat them, and be very proud that such great ladies had
come back to the world merely to tell her—Mme. Dauvray—about their
lives. She would have had seances all day, but Mlle. Celie pleaded
that she was left exhausted at the end of them. But Mlle. Celie was of
an address! For instance—it will seem very absurd and ridiculous to
you, gentlemen, but you must remember what Mme. Dauvray was—for
instance, madame was particularly anxious to speak with the spirit of
Mme. de Montespan. Yes, yes! She had read all the memoirs about that
lady. Very likely Mlle. Celie had put the notion into Mme. Dauvray's
head, for madame was not a scholar. But she was dying to hear that
famous woman's voice and to catch a dim glimpse of her face. Well,
she was never gratified. Always she hoped. Always Mlle. Celie
tantalised her with the hope. But she would not gratify it. She would
not spoil her fine affairs by making these treats too common. And she
acquired—how should she not?—a power over Mme. Dauvray which was
unassailable. The fortune-tellers had no more to say to Mme. Dauvray.
She did nothing but felicitate herself upon the happy chance which had
sent her Mlle. Celie. And now she lies in her room murdered!"
Once more Helene's voice broke upon the words. But Hanaud poured
her out a glass of water and held it to her lips. Helene drank it
"There, that is better, is it not?" he said.
"Yes, monsieur," said Helene Vauquier, recovering herself.
"Sometimes, too," she resumed, "messages from the spirits would
flutter down in writing on the table."
"In writing?" exclaimed Hanaud quickly.
"Yes; answers to questions. Mlle. Celie had them ready. Oh, but
she was of an address altogether surprising.
"I see," said Hanaud slowly; and he added, "But sometimes, I
suppose, the questions were questions which Mlle. Celie could not
"Sometimes," Helene Vauquier admitted, "when visitors were
present. When Mme. Dauvray was alone—well, she was an ignorant
woman, and any answer would serve. But it was not so when there were
visitors whom Mlle. Celie did not know, or only knew slightly. These
visitors might be putting questions to test her, of which they knew
the answers, while Mlle. Celie did not."
"Exactly," said Hanaud. "What happened then?"
All who were listening understood to what point he was leading
Helene Vauquier. All waited intently for her answer.
"It was all one to Mlle. Celie."
"She was prepared with an escape from the difficulty?"
Hanaud looked puzzled.
"I can think of no way out of it except the one," and he looked
round to the Commissaire and to Ricardo as though he would inquire of
them how many ways they had discovered. "I can think of no escape
except that a message in writing should flutter down from the spirit
appealed to saying frankly," and Hanaud shrugged his shoulders, "'I do
"Oh no no, monsieur," replied Helene Vauquier in pity for Hanaud's
misconception, "I see that you are not in the habit of attending
seances. It would never do for a spirit to admit that it did not
know. At once its authority would be gone, and with it Mlle. Celie's
as well. But on the other hand, for inscrutable reasons the spirit
might not be allowed to answer."
"I understand," said Hanaud, meekly accepting the correction. "The
spirit might reply that it was forbidden to answer, but never that it
did not know."
"No, never that," [agreed] Helene. So it seemed that Hanaud must
look elsewhere for the explanation of that sentence. "I do not know."
Helene continued: "Oh, Mlle. Celie—it was not easy to baffle her, I
can tell you. She carried a lace scarf which she could drape about her
head, and in a moment she would be, in the dim light, an old, old
woman, with a voice so altered that no one could know it. Indeed, you
said rightly, monsieur—she was clever."
To all who listened Helene Vauquier's story carried its
conviction. Mme. Dauvray rose vividly before their minds as a living
woman. Celie's trickeries were so glibly described that they could
hardly have been invented, and certainly not by this poor
peasant-woman whose lips so bravely struggled with Medici, and
Montespan, and the names of the other great ladies. How, indeed,
should she know of them at all? She could never have had the
inspiration to concoct the most convincing item of her story— the
queer craze of Mme. Dauvray for an interview with Mme. de Montespan.
These details were assuredly the truth.
Ricardo, indeed, knew them to be true. Had he not himself seen the
girl in her black velvet dress shut up in a cabinet, and a great lady
of the past dimly appear in the darkness? Moreover, Helene Vauquier's
jealousy was so natural and inevitable a thing. Her confession of it
corroborated all her story.
"Well, then," said Hanaud, "we come to last night. There was a
seance held in the salon last night."
"No, monsieur," said Vauquier, shaking her head; "there was no
seance last night."
"But already you have said—" interrupted the Commissaire; and
Hanaud held up his hand.
"Let her speak, my friend."
"Yes, monsieur shall hear," said Vauquier.
It appeared that at five o'clock in the afternoon Mme. Dauvray and
Mlle. Celie prepared to leave the house on foot. It was their custom
to walk down at this hour to the Villa des Fleurs, pass an hour or so
there, dine in a restaurant, and return to the Rooms to spend the
evening. On this occasion, however, Mme. Dauvray informed Helene that
they should be back early and bring with them a friend who was
interested in, but entirely sceptical of, spiritualistic
manifestations. "But we shall convince her tonight, Celie, "she said
confidently; and the two women then went out. Shortly before eight
Helene closed the shutters both of the upstair and the downstair
windows and of the glass doors into the garden, and returned to the
kitchen, which was at the back of the house—that is, on the side
facing the road. There had been a fall of rain at seven which had
lasted for the greater part of the hour, and soon after she had shut
the windows the rain fell again in a heavy shower, and Helene, knowing
that madame felt the chill, lighted a small fire in the salon. The
shower lasted until nearly nine, when it ceased altogether and the
night cleared up.
It was close upon half-past nine when the bell rang from the
salon. Vauquier was sure of the hour, for the charwoman called her
attention to the clock.
"I found Mme. Dauvray, Mlle Celie, and another woman in the
salon," continued Helene Vauquier.
"Madame had let them in with her latchkey."
"Ah, the other woman!" cried Besnard. "Had you seen her before?"
"What was she like?"
"She was sallow, with black hair and bright eyes like beads. She
was short and about forty-five years old, though it is difficult to
judge of these things. I noticed her hands, for she was taking her
gloves off, and they seemed to me to be unusually muscular for a
"Ah!" cried Louis Besnard. "That is important."
"Mme. Dauvray was, as she always was before a seance, in a
feverish flutter. 'You will help Mlle. Celie to dress, Helene, and be
very quick,' she said; and with an extraordinary longing she added,
'Perhaps we shall see her tonight.' Her, you understand, was Mme. de
Montespan. And she turned to the stranger and said, "You will believe,
Adele, after tonight."
"Adele!" said the Commissaire wisely. "Then Adele was the strange
"Perhaps," said Hanaud dryly.
Helene Vauquier reflected.
"I think Adele was the name," she said in a more doubtful tone.
"It sounded like Adele."
The irrepressible Mr. Ricardo was impelled to intervene.
"What Monsieur Hanaud means," he explained, with the pleasant air
of a man happy to illuminate the dark intelligence of a child, "is
that Adele was probably a pseudonym."
Hanaud turned to him with a savage grin.
"Now that is sure to help her!" he cried. "A pseudonym! Helene
Vauquier is sure to understand that simple and elementary word. How
bright this M. Ricardo is! Where shall we find a new pin more bright?
I ask you," and he spread out his hands in a despairing admiration.
Mr. Ricardo flushed red, but he answered never a word. He must
endure gibes and humiliations like a schoolboy in a class. His one
constant fear was lest he should be turned out of the room. The
Commissaire diverted wrath from him however.
"What he means by pseudonym," he said to Helene Vauquier,
explaining Mr. Ricardo to her as Mr. Ricardo had presumed to explain
Hanaud, "is a false name. Adele may have been, nay, probably was, a
false name adopted by this strange woman."
"Adele, I think, was the name used," replied Helene, the doubt in
her voice diminishing as she searched her memory. "I am almost sure."
"Well, we will call her Adele," said Hanaud impatiently. "What
does it matter? Go on, Mademoiselle Vauquier."
"The lady sat upright and squarely upon the edge of a chair, with
a sort of defiance, as though she was determined nothing should
convince her, and she laughed incredulously."
Here, again, all who heard were able vividly to conjure up the
scene—the defiant sceptic sitting squarely on the edge of her chair,
removing her gloves from her muscular hands; the excited Mme. Dauvray,
so absorbed in the determination to convince; and Mlle. Celie running
from the room to put on the black gown which would not be visible in
the dim light.
"Whilst I took off mademoiselle's dress," Vauquier continued, "she
said: 'When I have gone down to the salon you can go to bed, Helene.
Mme. Adele'—yes, it was Adele—'will be fetched by a friend in a
motorcar, and I can let her out and fasten the door again. So if you
hear the car you will know that it has come for her.'"
"Oh, she said that!" said Hanaud quickly.
Hanaud looked gloomily towards Wethermill. Then he exchanged a
sharp glance with the Commissaire, and moved his shoulders in an
almost imperceptible shrug. But Mr. Ricardo saw it, and construed it
into one word. He imagined a jury uttering the word "Guilty."
Helene Vauquier saw the movement too.
"Do not condemn her too quickly, monsieur," she, said, with an
impulse of remorse. "And not upon my words. For, as I say, I— hated
Hanaud nodded reassuringly, and she resumed:
"I was surprised, and I asked mademoiselle what she would do
without her confederate. But she laughed, and said there would be no
difficulty. That is partly why I think there was no seance held last
night. Monsieur, there was a note in her voice that evening which I
did not as yet understand. Mademoiselle then took her bath while I
laid out her black dress and the slippers with the soft, noiseless
soles. And now I tell you why I am sure there was no seance last
night—why Mlle. Celie never meant there should be one."
"Yes, let us hear that," said Hanaud curiously, and leaning
forward with his hands upon his knees.
"You have here, monsieur, a description of how mademoiselle was
dressed when she went away." Helene Vauquier picked up a sheet of
paper from the table at her side. "I wrote it out at the request of
M. le Commissaire." She handed the paper to Hanaud, who glanced
through it as she continued. "Well, except for the white lace coat,
monsieur, I dressed Mlle. Celie just in that way. She would have none
of her plain black robe. No, Mlle. Celie must wear her fine new
evening frock of pale reseda-green chiffon over soft clinging satin,
which set off her fair beauty so prettily. It left her white arms and
shoulders bare, and it had a long train, and it rustled as she moved.
And with that she must put on her pale green silk stockings, her new
little satin slippers to match, with the large paste buckles—and a
sash of green satin looped through another glittering buckle at the
side of the waist, with long ends loosely knotted together at the
knee. I must tie her fair hair with a silver ribbon, and pin upon her
curls a large hat of reseda green with a golden-brown ostrich feather
drooping behind. I warned mademoiselle that there was a tiny fire
burning in the salon. Even with the fire-screen in front of it there
would still be a little light upon the floor, and the glittering
buckles on her feet would betray her, even if the rustle of her dress
did not. But she said she would kick her slippers off. Ah, gentlemen,
it is, after all, not so that one dresses for a seance," she cried,
shaking her head. "But it is just so—is it not?—that one dresses to
go to meet a lover."
The suggestion startled every one who heard it. It fairly took Mr.
Ricardo's breath away. Wethermill stepped forward with a cry of
revolt. The Commissaire exclaimed, admiringly, "But here is an idea!"
Even Hanaud sat back in his chair, though his expression lost nothing
of its impassivity, and his eyes never moved from Helene Vauquier's
"Listen!" she continued, "I will tell you what I think. It was my
habit to put out some sirop and lemonade and some little cakes in the
dining-room, which, as you know, is at the other side of the house
across the hall. I think it possible, messieurs, that while Mlle.
Celie was changing her dress Mme. Dauvray and the stranger, Adele,
went into the dining-room. I know that Mlle. Celie, as soon as she was
dressed, ran downstairs to the salon. Well, then, suppose Mlle. Celie
had a lover waiting with whom she meant to run away. She hurries
through the empty salon, opens the glass doors, and is gone, leaving
the doors open. And the thief, an accomplice of Adele, finds the doors
open and hides himself in the salon until Mme. Dauvray returns from
the dining-room. You see, that leaves Mlle. Celie innocent."
Vauquier leaned forward eagerly, her white face flushing. There
was a moment's silence, and then Hanaud said:
"That is all very well, Mlle. Vauquier. But it does not account
for the lace coat in which the girl went away. She must have returned
to her room to fetch that after you had gone to bed."
Helene Vauquier leaned back with an air of disappointment.
"That is true. I had forgotten the coat. I did not like Mlle.
Celie, but I am not wicked—"
"Nor for the fact that the sirop and the lemonade had not been
touched in the dining-room," said the Commissaire, interrupting her.
Again the disappointment overspread Vauquier's face.
"Is that so?" she asked. "I did not know—I have been kept a
The Commissaire cut her short with a cry of satisfaction.
"Listen! listen!" he exclaimed excitedly. "Here is a theory which
accounts for all, which combines Vauquier's idea with ours, and
Vauquier's idea is, I think, very just, up to a point. Suppose, M.
Hanaud, that the girl was going to meet her lover, but the lover is
the murderer. Then all becomes clear. She does not run away to him;
she opens the door for him and lets him in."
Both Hanaud and Ricardo stole a glance at Wethermill. How did he
take the theory? Wethermill was leaning against the wall, his eyes
closed, his face white and contorted with a spasm of pain. But he had
the air of a man silently enduring an outrage rather than struck down
by the conviction that the woman he loved was worthless.
"It is not for me to say, monsieur," Helene Vauquier continued. "I
only tell you what I know. I am a woman, and it would be very
difficult for a girl who was eagerly expecting her lover so to act
that another woman would not know it. However uncultivated and
ignorant the other woman was, that at all events she would know. The
knowledge would spread to her of itself, without a word. Consider,
gentlemen!" And suddenly Helene Vauquier smiled. "A young girl
tingling with excitement from head to foot, eager that her beauty just
at this moment should be more fresh, more sweet than ever it was,
careful that her dress should set it exquisitely off. Imagine it! Her
lips ready for the kiss! Oh, how should another woman not know? I saw
Mlle. Celie, her cheeks rosy, her eyes bright. Never had she looked so
lovely. The pale-green hat upon her fair head heavy with its curls!
From head to foot she looked herself over, and then she sighed—she
sighed with pleasure because she looked so pretty. That was Mlle.
Celie last night, monsieur. She gathered up her train, took her long
white gloves in the other hand, and ran down the stairs, her heels
clicking on the wood, her buckles glittering. At the bottom she turned
and said to me:
"'Remember, Helene, you can go to bed.' That was it monsieur."
And now violently the rancour of Helene Vauquier's feelings burst
out once more.
"For her the fine clothes, the pleasure, and the happiness. For
me—I could go to bed!"
Hanaud looked again at the description which Helene Vauquier had
written out, and read it through carefully. Then he asked a question,
of which Ricardo did not quite see the drift.
"So," he said, "when this morning you suggested to Monsieur the
Commissaire that it would be advisable for you to go through Mlle.
Celie's wardrobe, you found that nothing more had been taken away
except the white lace coat?"
"That is so."
"Very well. Now, after Mlle. Celie had gone down the stairs—"
"I put the lights out in her room and, as she had ordered me to
do, I went to bed. The next thing that I remember—but no! It
terrifies me too much to think of it."
Helene shuddered and covered her face spasmodically with her
hands. Hanaud drew her hands gently down.
"Courage! You are safe now, mademoiselle. Calm yourself!"
She lay back with her eyes closed.
"Yes, yes; it is true. I am safe now. But oh! I feel I shall never
dare to sleep again!" And the tears swam in her eyes. "I woke up with
a feeling of being suffocated. Mon Dieu! There was the light burning
in the room, and a woman, the strange woman with the strong hands, was
holding me down by the shoulders, while a man with his cap drawn over
his eyes and a little black moustache pressed over my lips a pad from
which a horribly sweet and sickly taste filled my mouth. Oh, I was
terrified! I could not scream. I struggled. The woman told me roughly
to keep quiet. But I could not. I must struggle. And then with a
brutality unheard of she dragged me up on to my knees while the man
kept the pad right over my mouth. The man, with the arm which was
free, held me close to him, and she bound my hands with a cord behind
She held out her wrists. They were terribly bruised. Red and angry
lines showed where the cord had cut deeply into her flesh.
"Then they flung me down again upon my back, and the next thing I
remember is the doctor standing over me and this kind nurse
She sank back exhausted in her chair and wiped her forehead with
her handkerchief. The sweat stood upon it in beads.
"Thank you, mademoiselle," said Hanaud gravely. "This has been a
trying ordeal for you. I understand that. But we are coming to the
end. I want you to read this description of Mlle. Celie through again
to make sure that nothing is omitted." He gave the paper into the
maid's hands. "It will be advertised, so it is important that it
should be complete. See that you have left out nothing."
Helene Vauquier bent her head over the paper.
"No," said Helene at last. "I do not think I have omitted
anything." And she handed the paper back.
"I asked you," Hanaud continued suavely, "because I understand
that Mlle. Celie usually wore a pair of diamond ear-drops, and they
are not mentioned here."
A faint colour came into the maid's face.
"That is true, monsieur. I had forgotten. It is quite true."
"Any one might forget," said Hanaud, with a reassuring smile. "But
you will remember now. Think! think! Did Mlle. Celie wear them last
night?" He leaned forward, waiting for her reply. Wethermill too, made
a movement. Both men evidently thought the point of great importance.
The maid looked at Hanaud for a few moments without speaking.
"It is not from me, mademoiselle, that you will get the answer,"
said Hanaud quietly.
"No, monsieur. I was thinking," said the maid, her face flushing
at the rebuke.
"Did she wear them when she went down the stairs last night?" he
"I think she wore them," she said doubtfully. Ye-es—yes," and the
words came now firm and clear. "I remember well. Mlle. Celie had
taken them off before her bath, and they lay on the dressing- table.
She put them into her ears while I dressed her hair and arranged the
bow of ribbon in it."
"Then we will add the earrings to your description," said Hanaud,
as he rose from his chair with the paper in his hand, "and for the
moment we need not trouble you any more about Mademoiselle Celie." He
folded the paper up, slipped it into his letter-case, and put it away
in his pocket. "Let us consider that poor Madame Dauvray! Did she keep
much money in the house?"
"No, monsieur; very little. She was well known in Aix and her
cheques were everywhere accepted without question. It was a high
pleasure to serve madame, her credit was so good," said Helene
Vauquier, raising her head as though she herself had a share in the
pride of that good credit.
"No doubt," Hanaud agreed. "There are many fine households where
the banking account is overdrawn, and it cannot be pleasant for the
"They are put to so many shifts to hide it from the servants of
their neighbours," said Helene. "Besides," and she made a little
grimace of contempt, "a fine household and an overdrawn banking
account—it is like a ragged petticoat under a satin dress. That was
never the case with Madame Dauvray."
"So that she was under no necessity to have ready money always in
her pocket," said Hanaud. "I understand that. But at times perhaps
she won at the Villa des Fleurs?"
Helene Vauquier shook her head.
"She loved the Villa des Fleurs, but she never played for high
sums and often never played at all. If she won a few louis, she was
as delighted with her gains and as afraid to lose them again at the
tables as if she were of the poorest, and she stopped at once. No,
monsieur; twenty or thirty louis—there was never more than that in
"Then it was certainly for her famous collection of jewellery that
Madame Dauvray was murdered?"
"Now, where did she keep her jewellery?"
"In a safe in her bedroom, monsieur. Every night she took off what
she had been wearing and locked it up with the rest. She was never
too tired for that."
"And what did she do with the keys?"
"That I cannot tell you. Certainly she locked her rings and
necklaces away whilst I undressed her. And she laid the keys upon the
dressing-table or the mantel-shelf—anywhere. But in the morning the
keys were no longer where she had left them. She had put them secretly
Hanaud turned to another point.
"I suppose that Mademoiselle Celie knew of the safe and that the
jewels were kept there?"
"Oh yes! Mademoiselle indeed was often in Madame Dauvray's room
when she was dressing or undressing. She must often have seen madame
take them out and lock them up again. But then, monsieur, so did I."
Hanaud nodded to her with a friendly smile.
"Thank you once more, mademoiselle," he said. "The torture is
over. But of course Monsieur Fleuriot will require your presence."
Helene Vauquier looked anxiously towards him.
"But meanwhile I can go from this villa, monsieur?" she pleaded,
with a trembling voice.
"Certainly; you shall go to your friends at once."
"Oh, monsieur, thank you!" she cried, and suddenly she gave way.
The tears began to flow from her eyes. She buried her face in her
hands and sobbed. "It is foolish of me, but what would you?" She
jerked out the words between her sobs. "It has been too terrible."
"Yes, yes," said Hanaud soothingly. "The nurse will put a few
things together for you in a bag. You will not leuve Aix, of course,
and I will send some one with you to your friends."
The maid started violently.
"Oh, not a sergent-de-ville, monsieur, I beg of you. I should be
"No. It shall be a man in plain clothes, to see that you are not
hindered by reporters on the way."
Hanaud turned towards the door. On the dressing-table a cord was
lying. He took it up and spoke to the nurse.
"Was this the cord with which Helene Vauquier's hands were tied?"
"Yes, monsieur," she replied.
Hanaud handed it to the Commissaire.
"It will be necessary to keep that," he said.
It was a thin piece of strong whipcord. It was the same kind of
cord as that which had been found tied round Mme. Dauvray's throat.
Hanaud opened the door and turned back to the nurse.
"We will send for a cab for Mlle. Vauquier. You will drive with
her to her door. I think after that she will need no further help.
Pack up a few things and bring them down. Mlle. Vauquier can follow,
no doubt, now without assistance." And, with a friendly nod, he left
Ricardo had been wondering, through the examination, in what light
Hanaud considered Helene Vauquier. He was sympathetic, but the
sympathy might merely have been assumed to deceive. His questions
betrayed in no particular the colour of his mind. Now, however, he
made himself clear. He informed the nurse, in the plainest possible
way, that she was no longer to act as jailer. She was to bring
Vauquier's things down; but Vauquier could follow by herself.
Evidently Helene Vauquier was cleared.
CHAPTER VII. A STARTLING DISCOVERY
Harry Wethermill, however, was not so easily satisfied.
"Surely, monsieur, it would be well to know whither she is going,"
he said, "and to make sure that when she has gone there she will stay
there—until we want her again?"
Hanaud looked at the young man pityingly.
"I can understand, monsieur, that you hold strong views about
Helene Vauquier. You are human, like the rest of us. And what she has
said to us just now would not make you more friendly. But— but—" and
he preferred to shrug his shoulders rather than to finish in words his
sentence. "However," he said, "we shall take care to know where Helene
Vauquier is staying. Indeed, if she is at all implicated in this
affair we shall learn more if we leave her free than if we keep her
under lock and key. You see that if we leave her quite free, but watch
her very, very carefully, so as to awaken no suspicion, she may be
emboldened to do something rash—or the others may."
Mr. Ricardo approved of Hanaud's reasoning.
"That is quite true," he said. "She might write a letter."
"Yes, or receive one," added Hanaud, "which would be still more
satisfactory for us—supposing, of course, that she has anything to
do with this affair"; and again he shrugged his shoulders. He turned
towards the Commissaire.
"You have a discreet officer whom you can trust?" he asked.
"Certainly. A dozen."
"I want only one."
"And here he is," said the Commissaire.
They were descending the stairs. On the landing of the first floor
Durette, the man who had discovered where the cord was bought, was
still waiting. Hanaud took Durette by the sleeve in the familiar way
which he so commonly used and led him to the top of the stairs, where
the two men stood for a few moments apart. It was plain that Hanaud
was giving, Durette receiving, definite instructions. Durette
descended the stairs; Hanaud came back to the others.
"I have told him to fetch a cab," he said, "and convey Helene
Vauquier to her friends." Then he looked at Ricardo, and from Ricardo
to the Commissaire, while he rubbed his hand backwards and forwards
across his shaven chin.
"I tell you," he said, "I find this sinister little drama very
interesting to me. The sordid, miserable struggle for mastery in this
household of Mme. Dauvray—eh? Yes, very interesting. Just as much
patience, just as much effort, just as much planning for this small
end as a general uses to defeat an army—and, at the last, nothing
gained. What else is politics? Yes, very interesting."
His eyes rested upon Wethermill's face for a moment, but they gave
the young man no hope. He took a key from his pocket
"We need not keep this room locked," he said. "We know all that
there is to be known." And he inserted the key into the lock of
Celia's room and turned it.
"But is that wise, monsieur?" said Besnard.
Hanaud shrugged his shoulders.
"Why not?" he asked.
"The case is in your hands," said the Commissaire. To Ricardo the
proceedings seemed singularly irregular. But if the Commissaire was
content, it was not for him to object.
"And where is my excellent friend Perrichet?" asked Hanaud; and
leaning over the balustrade he called him up from the hall.
"We will now," said Hanaud, "have a glance into this poor murdered
The room was opposite to Celia's. Besnard produced the key and
unlocked the door. Hanaud took off his hat upon the threshold and
then passed into the room with his companions. Upon the bed, outlined
under a sheet, lay the rigid form of Mme. Dauvray. Hanaud stepped
gently to the bedside and reverently uncovered the face. For a moment
all could see it—livid, swollen, unhuman.
"A brutal business," he said in a low voice, and when he turned
again to his companions his face was white and sickly. He replaced
the sheet and gazed about the room.
It was decorated and furnished in the same style as the salon
downstairs, yet the contrast between the two rooms was remarkable.
Downstairs, in the salon, only a chair had been overturned. Here
there was every sign of violence and disorder. An empty safe stood
open in one corner; the rugs upon the polished floor had been tossed
aside; every drawer had been torn open, every wardrobe burst; the very
bed had been moved from its position.
"It was in this safe that Madame Dauvray hid her jewels each
night," said the Commissaire as Hanaud gazed about the room.
"Oh, was it so?" Hanaud asked slowly. It seemed to Ricardo that he
read something in the aspect of this room too, which troubled his
mind and increased his perplexity.
"Yes," said Besnard confidently. "Every night Mme. Dauvray locked
her jewels away in this safe. Vauquier told us so this morning. Every
night she was never too tired for that. Besides, here"—and putting
his hand into the safe he drew out a paper—" here is the list of Mme.
Plainly, however, Hanaud was not satisfied. He took the list and
glanced through the items. But his thoughts were not concerned with
"If that is so," he said slowly, "Mme Dauvray kept her jewels in
this safe, why has every drawer been ransacked, why was the bed
moved? Perrichet, lock the door—quietly—from the inside. That is
right. Now lean your back against it."
Hanaud waited until he saw Perrichet's broad back against the
door. Then he went down upon his knees, and, tossing the rugs here
and there, examined with the minutest care the inlaid floor. By the
side of the bed a Persian mat of blue silk was spread. This in its
turn he moved quickly aside. He bent his eyes to the ground, lay
prone, moved this way and that to catch the light upon the floor, then
with a spring he rose upon his knees. He lifted his finger to his
lips. In a dead silence he drew a pen-knife quickly from his pocket
and opened it. He bent down again and inserted the blade between the
cracks of the blocks. The three men in the room watched him with an
intense excitement. A block of wood rose from the floor, he pulled it
out, laid it noiselessly down, and inserted his hand into the opening.
Wethermill at Ricardo's elbow uttered a stifled cry. "Hush!"
whispered Hanaud angrily. He drew out his hand again. It was holding
a green leather jewel-case. He opened it, and a diamond necklace
flashed its thousand colours in their faces. He thrust in his hand
again and again and again, and each time that be withdrew it, it held
a jewel-case. Before the astonished eyes of his companions he opened
them. Ropes of pearls, collars of diamonds, necklaces of emeralds,
rings of pigeon-blood rubies, bracelets of gold studded with
opals-Mme. Dauvray's various jewellery was disclosed.
"But that is astounding," said Besnard, in an awe-struck voice.
"Then she was never robbed after all?" cried Ricardo.
Hanaud rose to his feet.
"What a piece of irony!" he whispered. "The poor woman is murdered
for her jewels, the room's turned upside down, and nothing is found.
For all the while they lay safe in this cache. Nothing is taken except
what she wore. Let us see what she wore."
"Only a few rings, Helene Vauquier thought," said Besnard. "But
she was not sure."
"Ah!" said Hanaud. "Well, let us make sure!" and, taking the list
from the safe, he compared it with the jewellery in the cases on the
floor, ticking off the items one by one. When he had finished he knelt
down again, and, thrusting his hand into the hole, felt carefully
"There is a pearl necklace missing," he said. "A valuable
necklace, from the description in the list and some rings. She must
have been wearing them;" and he sat back upon his heels. "We will send
the intelligent Perrichet for a bag," he said, "and we will counsel
the intelligent Perrichet not to breathe a word to any living soul of
what he has seen in this room. Then we will seal up in the bag the
jewels, and we will hand it over to M. le Commissaire, who will convey
it with the greatest secrecy out of this villa. For the list—I will
keep it," and he placed it carefully in his pocket-book.
He unlocked the door and went out himself on to the landing. He
looked down the stairs and up the stairs; then he beckoned Perrichet
"Go!" he whispered. "Be quick, and when you come back hide the bag
carefully under your coat."
Perrichet went down the stairs with pride written upon his face.
Was he not assisting the great M. Hanaud from the Surete in Paris?
Hanaud returned into Mme. Dauvray's room and closed the door. He
looked into the eyes of his companions.
"Can't you see the scene?" he asked with a queer smile of
excitement. He had forgotten Wethermill; he had forgotten even the
dead woman shrouded beneath the sheet. He was absorbed. His eyes were
bright, his whole face vivid with life. Ricardo saw the real man at
this moment—and feared for the happiness of Harry Wethermill. For
nothing would Hanaud now turn aside until he had reached the truth and
set his hands upon the quarry. Of that Ricardo felt sure. He was
trying now to make his companions visualise just what he saw and
"Can't you see it? The old woman locking up her jewels in this
safe every night before the eyes of her maid or her companion, and
then, as soon as she was alone, taking them stealthily out of the
safe and hiding them in this secret place. But I tell you—this is
human. Yes, it is interesting just because it is so human. Then
picture to yourselves last night, the murderers opening this safe and
finding nothing—oh, but nothing!—and ransacking the room in deadly
haste, kicking up the rugs, forcing open the drawers, and always
finding nothing—nothing—nothing. Think of their rage, their
stupefaction, and finally their fear! They must go, and with one pearl
necklace, when they had hoped to reap a great fortune. Oh, but this is
interesting—yes, I tell you—I, who have seen many strange
things—this is interesting."
Perrichet returned with a canvas bag, into which Hanaud placed the
jewel-cases. He sealed the bag in the presence of the four men and
handed it to Besnard. He replaced the block of wood in the floor,
covered it over again with the rug, and rose to his feet.
"Listen!" he said, in a low voice, and with a gravity which
impressed them all. "There is something in this house which I do not
understand. I have told you so. I tell you something more now. I am
afraid—I am afraid." And the word startled his hearers like a
thunderclap, though it was breathed no louder than a whisper, "Yes, my
friends," he repeated, nodding his head, "terribly afraid." And upon
the others fell a discomfort, an awe, as though something sinister and
dangerous were present in the room and close to them. So vivid was the
feeling, instinctively they drew nearer together. "Now, I warn you
solemnly. There must be no whisper that these jewels have been
discovered; no newspaper must publish a hint of it; no one must
suspect that here in this room we have found them. Is that
"Certainly," said the Commissaire.
"Yes," said Mr. Ricardo.
"To be sure, monsieur," said Perrichet.
As for Harry Wethermill, he made no reply. His burning eyes were
fixed upon Hanaud's face, and that was all. Hanaud, for his part,
asked for no reply from him. Indeed, he did not look towards Harry
Wethermill's face at all. Ricardo understood. Hanaud did not mean to
be deterred by the suffering written there.
He went down again into the little gay salon lit with flowers and
August sunlight, and stood beside the couch gazing at it with
troubled eyes. And, as he gazed, he closed his eyes and shivered. He
shivered like a man who has taken a sudden chill. Nothing in all this
morning's investigations, not even the rigid body beneath the sheet,
nor the strange discovery of the jewels, had so impressed Ricardo. For
there he had been confronted with facts, definite and complete; here
was a suggestion of unknown horrors, a hint, not a fact, compelling
the imagination to dark conjecture. Hanaud shivered. That he had no
idea why Hanaud shivered made the action still more significant, still
more alarming. And it was not Ricardo alone who was moved by it. A
voice of despair rang through the room. The voice was Harry
Wethermill's, and his face was ashy white.
"Monsieur!" he cried, "I do not know what makes you shudder; but I
am remembering a few words you used this morning."
Hanaud turned upon his heel. His face was drawn and grey and his
"My friend, I also am remembering those words," he said. Thus the
two men stood confronting one another, eye to eye, with awe and fear
in both their faces.
Ricardo was wondering to what words they both referred, when the
sound of wheels broke in upon the silence. The effect upon Hanaud was
magical. He thrust his hands in his pockets.
"Helene Vauquier's cab," he said lightly. He drew out his
cigarette-case and lighted a cigarette.
"Let us see that poor woman safely off. It is a closed cab I
It was a closed landau. It drove past the open door of the salon
to the front door of the house. In Hanaud's wake they all went out
into the hall. The nurse came down alone carrying Helene Vauquier's
bag. She placed it in the cab and waited in the doorway.
"Perhaps Helene Vauquier has fainted," she said anxiously: "she
does not come." And she moved towards the stairs.
Hanaud took a singularly swift step forward and stopped her.
"Why should you think that?" he asked, with a queer smile upon his
face, and as he spoke a door closed gently upstairs. "See," he
continued, "you are wrong: she is coming."
Ricardo was puzzled. It had seemed to him that the door which had
closed so gently was nearer than Helene Vauquier's door. It seemed to
him that the door was upon the first, not the second landing. But
Hanaud had noticed nothing strange; so it could not be. He greeted
Helene Vauquier with a smile as she came down the stairs.
"You are better, mademoiselle," he said politely.
"One can see that. There is more colour in your cheeks. A day or
two, and you will be yourself again."
He held the door open while she got into the cab. The nurse took
her seat beside her; Durette mounted on the box. The cab turned and
went down the drive.
"Goodbye, mademoiselle," cried Hanaud, and he watched until the
high shrubs hid the cab from his eyes. Then he behaved in an
extraordinary way. He turned and sprang like lightning up the stairs.
His agility amazed Ricardo. The others followed upon his heels. He
flung himself at Celia's door and opened it He burst into the room,
stood for a second, then ran to the window. He hid behind the curtain,
looking out. With his hand he waved to his companions to keep back.
The sound of wheels creaking and rasping rose to their ears. The cab
had just come out into the road. Durette upon the box turned and
looked towards the house. Just for a moment Hanaud leaned from the
window, as Besnard, the Commissaire, had done, and, like Besnard
again, he waved his hand. Then he came back into the room and saw,
standing in front of him, with his mouth open and his eyes starting
out of his head, Perrichet—the intelligent Perrichet.
"Monsieur," cried Perrichet, "something has been taken from this
Hanaud looked round the room and shook his head.
"No," he said.
"But yes, monsieur," Perrichet insisted. "Oh, but yes. See! Upon
this dressing-table there was a small pot of cold cream. It stood
here, where my finger is, when we were in this room an hour ago. Now
it is gone."
Hanaud burst into a laugh.
"My friend Perrichet," he said ironically, "I will tell you the
newspaper did not do you justice. You are more intelligent. The
truth, my excellent friend, lies at the bottom of a well; but you
would find it at the bottom of a pot of cold cream. Now let us go.
For in this house, gentlemen, we have nothing more to do."
He passed out of the room. Perrichet stood aside, his face
crimson, his attitude one of shame. He had been rebuked by the great
M. Hanaud, and justly rebuked. He knew it now. He had wished to
display his intelligence—yes, at all costs he must show how
intelligent he was. And he had shown himself a fool. He should have
kept silence about that pot of cream.
CHAPTER VIII. THE CAPTAIN OF THE SHIP
Hanaud walked away from the Villa Rose in the company of
Wethermill and Ricardo.
"We will go and lunch," he said.
"Yes; come to my hotel," said Harry Wethermill. But Hanaud shook
"No; come with me to the Villa des Fleurs," he replied. "We may
learn something there; and in a case like this every minute is of
importance. We have to be quick."
"I may come too?" cried Mr. Ricardo eagerly.
"By all means," replied Hanaud, with a smile of extreme courtesy.
"Nothing could be more delicious than monsieur's suggestions"; and
with that remark he walked on silently.
Mr. Ricardo was in a little doubt as to the exact significance of
the words. But he was too excited to dwell long upon them. Distressed
though he sought to be at his friend's grief, he could not but assume
an air of importance. All the artist in him rose joyfully to the
occasion. He looked upon himself from the outside. He fancied without
the slightest justification that people were pointing him out. "That
man has been present at the investigation at the Villa Rose," he
seemed to hear people say. "What strange things he could tell us if he
And suddenly, Mr. Ricardo began to reflect. What, after all, could
he have told them?
And that question he turned over in his mind while he ate his
luncheon. Hanaud wrote a letter between the courses. They were
sitting at a corner table, and Hanaud was in the corner with his back
to the wall. He moved his plate, too, over the letter as he wrote it.
It would have been impossible for either of his guests to see what he
had written, even if they had wished. Ricardo, indeed, did wish. He
rather resented the secrecy with which the detective, under a show of
openness, shrouded his thoughts and acts. Hanaud sent the waiter out
to fetch an officer in plain clothes, who was in attendance at the
door, and he handed the letter to this man. Then he turned with an
apology to his guests.
"It is necessary that we should find out," he explained, "as soon
as possible, the whole record of Mlle. Celie."
He lighted a cigar, and over the coffee he put a question to
"Now tell me what you make of the case. What M. Wethermill thinks-
-that is clear, is it not? Helene Vauquier is the guilty one. But
you, M. Ricardo? What is your opinion?"
Ricardo took from his pocket-book a sheet of paper and from his
pocket a pencil. He was intensely flattered by the request of Hanaud,
and he proposed to do himself justice. "I will make a note here of
what I think the salient features of the mystery"; and he proceeded to
tabulate the points in the following way:
(1) Celia Harland made her entrance into Mme. Dauvray's household
under very doubtful circumstances.
(2) By methods still more doubtful she accquired an extraordinary
ascendency over Mme. Dauvray's mind.
(3) If proof were needed how complete that ascendency was, a
glance at Celia Harland's wardrobe would suffice; for she wore the
most expensive clothes.
(4) It was Celia Harland who arranged that Servettaz, the
chauffeur, should be absent at Chambery on the Tuesday night—the
night of the murder.
(5) It was Celia Harland who bought the cord with which Mme.
Dauvray was strangled and Helene Vauquier bound.
(6) The footsteps outside the salon show that Celia Harland ran
from the salon to the motor-car.
(7) Celia Harland pretended that there should be a seance on the
Tuesday, but she dressed as though she had in view an appointment
with a lover, instead of a spiritualistic stance.
(8) Celia Harland has disappeared.
These eight points are strongly suggestive of Celia Harland's
complicity in the murder. But I have no clue which will enable me to
answer the following questions:
(a) Who was the man who took part in the crime? (b) Who was the
woman who came to the villa on the evening of the murder with Mme.
Dauvray and Celia Harland?
(c) What actually happened in the salon? How was the murder
(d) Is Helene Vauquier's story true?
(e) What did the torn-up scrap of writing mean? (Probably spirit
writing in Celia Harland's hand.)
(f) Why has one cushion on the settee a small, fresh, brown stain,
which is probably blood? Why is the other cushion torn?
Mr. Ricardo had a momentary thought of putting down yet another
question. He was inclined to ask whether or no a pot of cold cream
had disappeared from Celia Harland's bedroom; but he remembered that
Hanaud had set no store upon that incident, and he refrained.
Moreover, he had come to the end of his sheet of paper. He handed it
across the table to Hanaud and leaned back in his chair, watching the
detective with all the eagerness of a young author submitting his
first effort to a critic.
Hanaud read it through slowly. At the end he nodded his head in
"Now we will see what M. Wethermill has to say," he said, and he
stretched out the paper towards Harry Wethermill, who throughout the
luncheon had not said a word.
"No, no," cried Ricardo.
But Harry Wethermill already held the written sheet in his hand.
He smiled rather wistfully at his friend.
"It is best that I should know just what you both think," he said,
and in his turn he began to read the paper through. He read the first
eight points, and then beat with his fist upon the table.
"No no," he cried; "it is not possible! I don't blame you,
Ricardo. These are facts, and, as I said, I can face facts. But there
will be an explanation—if only we can discover it."
He buried his face for a moment in his hands. Then he took up the
"As for the rest, Helene Vauquier lied," he cried violently, and
he tossed the paper to Hanaud. "What do you make of it?"
Hanaud smiled and shook his head.
"Did you ever go for a voyage on a ship?" he asked.
"Because every day at noon three officers take an observation to
determine the ship's position—the captain, the first officer, and
the second officer. Each writes his observation down, and the captain
takes the three observations and compares them. If the first or second
officer is out in his reckoning, the captain tells him so, but he does
not show his own. For at times, no doubt, he is wrong too. So,
gentlemen, I critcise your observations, but I do not show you mine."
He took up Ricardo's paper and read it through again.
"Yes," he said pleasantly. "But the two questions which are most
important, which alone can lead us to the truth—how do they come to
be omitted from your list, Mr. Ricardo?"
Hanaud put the question with his most serious air. But Ricardo was
none the less sensible of the raillery behind the solemn manner. He
flushed and made no answer.
"Still," continued Hanaud, "here are undoubtedly some questions.
Let us consider them! Who was the man who took a part in the crime?
Ah, if we only knew that, what a lot of trouble we should save
ourselves! Who was the woman? What a good thing it would be to know
that too! How clearly, after all, Mr. Ricardo puts his finger on the
important points! What did actually happen in the salon?" And as he
quoted that question the raillery died out of his voice. He leaned his
elbows on the table and bent forward.
"What did actually happen in that little pretty room, just twelve
hours ago?" he repeated. "When no sunlight blazed upon the lawn, and
all the birds were still, and all the windows shuttered and the world
dark, what happened? What dreadful things happened? We have not much
to go upon. Let us formulate what we know. We start with this. The
murder was not the work of a moment. It was planned with great care
and cunning, and carried out to the letter of the plan. There must be
no noise, no violence. On each side of the Villa Rose there are other
villas; a few yards away the road runs past. A scream, a cry, the
noise of a struggle—these sounds, or any one of them, might be fatal
to success. Thus the crime was planned; and there WAS no scream, there
WAS no struggle. Not a chair was broken, and only a chair upset. Yes,
there were brains behind that murder. We know that. But what do we
know of the plan? How far can we build it up? Let us see. First, there
was an accomplice in the house—perhaps two."
"No!" cried Harry Wethermill.
Hanaud took no notice of the interruption.
"Secondly the woman came to the house with Mme. Dauvray and Mlle.
Celie between nine and half-past nine. Thirdly, the man came
afterwards, but before eleven, set open the gate, and was admitted
into the salon, unperceived by Mme. Dauvray. That also we can safely
assume. But what happened in the salon? Ah! There is the question."
Then he shrugged his shoulders and said with the note of raillery once
more in his voice:
"But why should we trouble our heads to puzzle out this mystery,
since M. Ricardo knows?"
"I?" cried Ricardo in amazement.
"To be sure," replied Hanaud calmly. "For I look at another of
your questions. 'WHAT DID THE TORN-UP SCRAP OF WRITING MEAN?' and you
add: 'Probably spirit-writing.' Then there was a seance held last
night in the little salon! Is that so?"
Harry Wethermill started. Mr. Ricardo was at a loss.
"I had not followed my suggestion to its conclusion," he admitted
"No," said Hanaud. "But I ask myself in sober earnest, 'Was there
a seance held in the salon last night?' Did the tambourine rattle in
the darkness on the wall?"
"But if Helene Vauquier's story is all untrue?" cried Wethermill,
again in exasperation.
"Patience, my friend. Her story was not all untrue. I say there
were brains behind this crime; yes, but brains, even the cleverest,
would not have invented this queer, strange story of the seances and
of Mme. de Montespan. That is truth. But yet, if there were a seance
held, if the scrap of paper were spirit- writing in answer to some
awkward question, why—and here I come to my first question, which M.
Ricardo has omitted—why did Mlle. Celie dress herself with so much
elegance last night? What Vauquier said is true. Her dress was not
suited to a seance. A light-coloured, rustling frock, which would be
visible in a dim light, or even in the dark, which would certainly be
heard at every movement she made, however lightly she stepped, and a
big hat—no no! I tell you, gentlemen, we shall not get to the bottom
of this mystery until we know why Mlle. Celie dressed herself as she
did last night." "Yes," Ricardo admitted. "I overlooked that point."
"Did she—" Hanaud broke off and bowed to Wethermill with a grace and
a respect which condoned his words. "You must bear with me, my young
friend, while I consider all these points. Did she expect to join that
night a lover—a man with the brains to devise this crime? But if
so—and here I come to the second question omitted from M. Ricardo's
list—why, on the patch of grass outside the door of the salon, were
the footsteps of the man and woman so carefully erased, and the
footsteps of Mlle. Celie— those little footsteps so easily
identified—left for all the world to see and recognise?"
Ricardo felt like a child in the presence of his schoolmaster. He
was convicted of presumption. He had set down his questions with the
belief that they covered the ground. And here were two of the utmost
importance, not forgotten, but never even thought of.
"Did she go, before the murder, to join a lover? Or after it? At
some time, you will remember, according to Vauquier's story, she must
have run upstairs to fetch her coat. Was the murder committed during
the interval when she was upstairs? Was the salon dark when she came
down again? Did she run through it quickly, eagerly, noticing nothing
amiss? And, indeed, how should she notice anything if the salon were
dark, and Mme. Dauvray's body lay under the windows at the side?"
Ricardo leaned forward eagerly.
"That must be the truth," he cried; and Wethermill's voice broke
"It is not the truth and I will tell you why. Celia Harland was to
have married me this week."
There was so much pain and misery in his voice that Ricardo was
moved as he had seldom been. Wethermill buried his face in his hands.
Hanaud shook his head and gazed across the table at Ricardo with an
expression which the latter was at no loss to understand. Lovers were
impracticable people. But he—Hanaud—he knew the world. Women had
fooled men before today.
Wethermill snatched his hands away from before his face.
"We talk theories," he cried desperately, "of what may have
happened at the villa. But we are not by one inch nearer to the man
and woman who committed the crime. It is for them we have to search."
"Yes; but except by asking ourselves questions, how shall we find
them, M. Wethermill?" said Hanaud. "Take the man! We know nothing of
him. He has left no trace. Look at this town of Aix, where people come
and go like a crowd about the baccarat-table! He may be at Marseilles
today. He may be in this very room where we are taking our luncheon.
How shall we find him?"
Wethermill nodded his head in a despairing assent.
"I know. But it is so hard to sit still and do nothing," he cried.
"Yes, but we are not sitting still," said Hanaud; and Wethermill
looked up with a sudden interest. "All the time that we have been
lunching here the intelligent Perrichet has been making inquiries.
Mme. Dauvray and Mlle. Celie left the Villa Rose at five, and
returned on foot soon after nine with the strange woman. And there I
see Perrichet himself waiting to be summoned."
Hanaud beckoned towards the sergent-de-ville.
"Perrichet will make an excellent detective," he said; "for he
looks more bovine and foolish in plain clothes than he does in
Perrichet advanced in his mufti to the table.
"Speak, my friend," said Hanaud.
"I went to the shop of M. Corval. Mlle. Celie was quite alone when
she bought the cord. But a few minutes later, in the Rue du Casino,
she and Mme. Dauvray were seen together, walking slowly in the
direction of the villa. No other woman was with them."
"That is a pity," said Hanaud quietly, and with a gesture he
"You see, we shall find out nothing—nothing," said Wethermill,
with a groan.
"We must not yet lose heart, for we know a little more about the
woman than we do about the man," said Hanaud consolingly.
"True," exclaimed Ricardo. "We have Helene Vauquier's description
of her. We must advertise it."
"But that is a fine suggestion," he cried. "We must think over
that," and he clapped his hand to his forehead with a gesture of
self-reproach. "Why did not such a fine idea occur to me, fool that I
am! However, we will call the head waiter."
The head waiter was sent for and appeared before them.
"You knew Mme. Dauvray?" Hanaud asked.
"Yes, monsieur—oh, the poor woman! And he flung up his hands.
"And you knew her young companion?"
"Oh yes, monsieur. They generally had their meals here. See, at
that little table over there! I kept it for them. But monsieur knows
well"—and the waiter looked towards Harry Wethermill—"for monsieur
was often with them."
"Yes," said Hanaud. "Did Mme. Dauvray dine at that little table
"No, monsieur. She was not here last night."
"Nor Mlle. Celie?"
"No, monsieur! I do not think they were in the Villa des Fleurs at
"We know they were not," exclaimed Ricardo. "Wethermill and I were
in the rooms and we did not see them."
"But perhaps you left early," objected Hanaud.
"No," said Ricardo. "It was just ten o'clock when we reached the
"You reached your hotel at ten," Hanaud repeated. "Did you walk
straight from here?"
"Then you left here about a quarter to ten. And we know that Mme.
Dauvray was back at the villa soon after nine. Yes—they could not
have been here last night," Hanaud agreed, and sat for a moment
silent. Then he turned to the head waiter.
"Have you noticed any woman with Mme. Dauvray and her companion
"No, monsieur. I do not think so."
"Think! A woman, for instance, with red hair."
Harry Wethermill started forward. Mr. Ricardo stared at Hanaud in
amazement. The waiter reflected.
"No, monsieur. I have seen no woman with red hair."
"Thank you," said Hanaud, and the waiter moved away.
"A woman with red hair!" cried Wethermill. "But Helene Vauquier
described her. She was sallow; her eyes, her hair, were dark."
Hanaud turned with a smile to Harry Wethermill.
"Did Helene Vauquier, then, speak the truth?" he asked. "No; the
woman who was in the salon last night, who returned home with Mme.
Dauvray and Mlle. Celie, was not a woman with black hair and bright
black eyes. Look!" And, fetching his pocket-book from his pocket, he
unfolded a sheet of paper and showed them, lying upon its white
surface a long red hair.
"I picked that up on the table-the round satinwood table in the
salon. It was easy not to see it, but I did see it. Now, that is not
Mlle. Celie's hair, which is fair; nor Mme. Dauvray's, which is dyed
brown; nor Helene Vauquier's, which is black; nor the charwoman's,
which, as I have taken the trouble to find out, is grey. It is
therefore from the head of our unknown woman. And I will tell you
more. This woman with the red hair—she is in Geneva."
A startled exclamation burst from Ricardo. Harry Wethermill sat
slowly down. For the first time that day there had come some colour
into his cheeks, a sparkle into his eye.
"But that is wonderful!" he cried. "How did you find that out?"
Hanaud leaned back in his chair and took a pull at his cigar. He
was obviously pleased with Wethermill's admiration.
"Yes, how did you find it out?" Ricardo repeated.
"As to that," he said, "remember I am the captain of the ship, and
I do not show you my observation." Ricardo was disappointed. Harry
Wethermill, however, started to his feet.
"We must search Geneva, then," he cried. "It is there that we
should be, not here drinking our coffee at the Villa des Fleurs."
Hanaud raised his hand.
"The search is not being overlooked. But Geneva is a big city. It
is not easy to search Geneva and find, when we know nothing about the
woman for whom we are searching, except that her hair is red, and that
probably a young girl last night was with her. It is rather here, I
think—in Aix—that we must keep our eyes wide open."
"Here!" cried Wethermill in exasperation. He stared at Hanaud as
though he were mad.
"Yes, here; at the post office—at the telephone exchange. Suppose
that the man is in Aix, as he may well be; some time he will wish to
send a letter, or a telegram, or a message over the telephone. That, I
tell you, is our chance. But here is news for us."
Hanaud pointed to a messenger who was walking towards them. The
man handed Hanaud an envelope.
"From M. le Commissaire," he said; and he saluted and retired.
"From M. le Commissaire?" cried Ricardo excitedly.
But before Hanaud could open the envelope Harry Wethermill laid a
hand upon his sleeve.
"Before we pass to something new, M. Hanaud," he said, "I should
be very glad if you would tell me what made you shiver in the salon
this morning. It has distressed me ever since. What was it that those
two cushions had to tell you?"
There was a note of anguish in his voice difficult to resist. But
Hanaud resisted it. He shook his head.
"Again," he said gravely, "I am to remind you that I am captain of
the ship and do not show my observation."
He tore open the envelope and sprang up from his seat.
"Mme. Dauvray's motor-car has been found," he cried. "Let us go!"
Hanaud called for the bill and paid it. The three men left the
Villa des Fleurs together.
CHAPTER IX. MME. DAUVRAY'S MOTOR-CAR
They got into a cab outside the door. Perrichet mounted the box,
and the cab was driven along the upward-winding road past the Hotel
Bernascon. A hundred yards beyond the hotel the cab stopped opposite
to a villa. A hedge separated the garden of the villa from the road,
and above the hedge rose a board with the words "To Let" upon it. At
the gate a gendarme was standing, and just within the gate Ricardo saw
Louis Besnard, the Commissaire, and Servettaz, Mme. Dauvray's
"It is here," said Besnard, as the party descended from the cab,
"in the coach-house of this empty villa."
"Here?" cried Ricardo in amazement.
The discovery upset all his theories. He had expected to hear that
it had been found fifty leagues away; but here, within a couple of
miles of the Villa Rose itself—the idea seemed absurd! Why take it
away at all—unless it was taken away as a blind? That supposition
found its way into Ricardo's mind, and gathered strength as he thought
upon it; for Hanaud had seemed to lean to the belief that one of the
murderers might be still in Aix. Indeed, a glance at him showed that
he was not discomposed by their discovery.
"When was it found?" Hanaud asked.
"This morning. A gardener comes to the villa on two days a week to
keep the grounds in order. Fortunately Wednesday is one of his days.
Fortunately, too, there was rain yesterday evening. He noticed the
tracks of the wheels which you can see on the gravel, and since the
villa is empty he was surprised. He found the coach- house door forced
and the motor-car inside it. When he went to his luncheon he brought
the news of his discovery to the depot."
The party followed the Commissaire along the drive to the coach-
"We will have the car brought out," said Hanaud to Servettaz.
It was a big and powerful machine with a limousine body,
luxuriously fitted and cushioned in the shade of light grey. The
outside panels of the car were painted a dark grey. The car had
hardly been brought out into the sunlight before a cry of
stupefaction burst from the lips of Perrichet.
"Oh!" he cried, in utter abasement. "I shall never forgive myself-
"Why?" Hanaud asked, turning sharply as he spoke.
Perrichet was standing with his round eyes staring and his mouth
"Because, monsieur, I saw that car—at four o'clock this morning—
at the corner of the road—not fifty yards from the Villa Rose."
"What!" cried Ricardo.
"You saw it!" exclaimed Wethermill.
Upon their faces was reflected now the stupefaction of Perrichet.
"But you must have made a mistake," said the Commissaire.
"No, no, monsieur," Perrichet insisted. "It was that car. It was
that number. It was just after daylight. I was standing outside the
gate of the villa on duty where M. le Commissaire had placed me. The
car appeared at the corner and slackened speed. It seemed to me that
it was going to turn into the road and come down past me. But instead
the driver, as if he were now sure of his way, put the car at its top
speed and went on into Aix."
"Was any one inside the car?" asked Hanaud.
"No, monsieur; it was empty."
"But you saw the driver!" exclaimed Wethermill.
"Yes; what was he like?" cried the Commissaire.
Perrichet shook his head mournfully.
"He wore a talc mask over the upper part of his face, and had a
little black moustache, and was dressed in a heavy great-coat of blue
with a white collar."
"That is my coat, monsieur," said Servettaz, and as he spoke he
lifted it up from the chauffeur's seat. "It is Mme. Dauvray's
Harry Wethermill groaned aloud.
"We have lost him. He was within our grasp—he, the murderer!—and
he was allowed to go!"
Perrichet's grief was pitiable.
"Monsieur," he pleaded, "a car slackens its speed and goes on
again—it is not so unusual a thing. I did not know the number of
Mme. Dauvray's car. I did not even know that it had disappeared"; and
suddenly tears of mortification filled his eyes. "But why do I make
these excuses?" he cried. "It is better, M. Hanaud, that I go back to
my uniform and stand at the street corner. I am as foolish as I look."
"Nonsense, my friend," said Hanaud, clapping the disconsolate man
upon the shoulder. "You remembered the car and its number. That is
something—and perhaps a great deal," he added gravely. "As for the
talc mask and the black moustache, that is not much to help us, it is
true." He looked at Ricardo's crestfallen face and smiled. "We might
arrest our good friend M. Ricardo upon that evidence, but no one else
that I know."
Hanaud laughed immoderately at his joke. He alone seemed to feel
no disappointment at Perrichet's oversight. Ricardo was a little
touchy on the subject of his personal appearance, and bridled
visibly. Hanaud turned towards Servettaz.
"Now," he said, "you know how much petrol was taken from the
"Can you tell me, by the amount which has been used, how far that
car was driven last night?" Hanaud asked.
Servettaz examined the tank.
"A long way, monsieur. From a hundred and thirty to a hundred and
fifty kilometers, I should say."
"Yes, just about that distance, I should say," cried Hanaud.
His eyes brightened, and a smile, a rather fierce smile, came to
his lips. He opened the door, and examined with a minute scrutiny the
floor of the carriage, and as he looked, the smile faded from his
face. Perplexity returned to it. He took the cushions, looked them
over and shook them out.
"I see no sign—" he began, and then he uttered a little shrill
cry of satisfaction. From the crack of the door by the hinge he
picked off a tiny piece of pale green stuff, which he spread out upon
the back of his hand.
"Tell me, what is this?" he said to Ricardo.
"It is a green fabric," said Ricardo very wisely.
"It is green chiffon," said Hanaud. "And the frock in which Mlle.
Celie went away was of green chiffon over satin. Yes, Mlle. Celie
travelled in this car."
He hurried to the driver's seat. Upon the floor there was some
dark mould. Hanaud cleaned it off with his knife and held some of it
in the palm of his hand. He turned to Servettaz.
"You drove the car on Tuesday morning before you went to
"Where did you take up Mme. Dauvray and Mlle. Celie?"
"At the front door of the Villa Rose."
"Did you get down from the seat at all?"
"No, monsieur; not after I left the garage."
Hanaud returned to his companions.
"See!" And he opened his hand. "This is black soil—moist from
last night's rain—soil like the soil in front of Mme. Dauvray's
salon. Look, here is even a blade or two of the grass"; and he turned
the mould over in the palm of his hand. Then he took an empty envelope
from his pocket and poured the soil into it and gummed the flap down.
He stood and frowned at the motor-car.
"Listen," he said, "how I am puzzled! There was a man last night
at the Villa Rose. There were a man's blurred footmarks in the mould
before the glass door. That man drove madame's car for a hundred and
fifty kilometers, and he leaves the mould which clung to his boots
upon the floor of his seat. Mlle. Celie and another woman drove away
inside the car. Mlle. Celie leaves a fragment of the chiffon tunic of
her frock which caught in the hinge. But Mlle. Celie made much clearer
impressions in the mould than the man. Yet on the floor of the
carriage there is no trace of her shoes. Again I say there is
something here which I do not understand." And he spread out his hands
with an impulsive gesture of despair
"It looks as if they had been careful and he careless," said Mr.
Ricardo, with the air of a man solving a very difficult problem.
"What a mind!" cried Hanaud, now clasping his hands together in
admiration. "How quick and how profound!"
There was at times something elphantinely elfish in M. Hanaud's
demeanour, which left Mr. Ricardo at a loss. But he had come to
notice that these undignified manifestations usually took place when
Hanaud had reached a definite opinion upon some point which had
"Yet there is perhaps, another explanation," Hanaud continued.
"For observe, M. Ricardo. We have other evidence to show that the
careless one was Mlle. Celie. It was she who left her footsteps so
plainly visible upon the grass, not the man. However, we will go back
to M. Wethermill's room at the Hotel Majestic and talk this matter
over. We know something now. Yes, we know—what do we know, monsieur?"
he asked, suddenly turning with a smile to Ricardo, and, as Ricardo
paused: "Think it over while we walk down to M. Wethermill's apartment
in the Hotel Majestic."
"We know that the murderer has escaped," replied Ricardo hotly.
"The murderer is not now the most important object of our search.
He is very likely at Marseilles by now. We shall lay our hands on
him, never fear," replied Hanaud, with a superb gesture of disdain.
"But it was thoughtful of you to remind me of him. I might so easily
have clean forgotten him, and then indeed my reputation would have
suffered an eclipse." He made a low, ironical bow to Ricardo and
walked quickly down the road.
"For a cumbersome man he is extraordinarily active," said Mr.
Ricardo to Harry Wethermill, trying to laugh, without much success.
"A heavy, clever, middle-aged man, liable to become a little
gutter-boy at a moment's notice."
Thus he described the great detective, and the description is
quoted. For it was Ricardo's best effort in the whole of this
The three men went straight to Harry Wethermill's apartment, which
consisted of a sitting-room and a bedroom on the first floor. A
balcony ran along outside. Hanaud stepped out on to it, looked about
him, and returned.
"It is as well to know that we cannot be overheard," he said.
Harry Wethermill meanwhile had thrown himself into a chair. The
mask he had worn had slipped from its fastenings for a moment. There
was a look of infinite suffering upon his face. It was the face of a
man tortured by misery to the snapping-point.
Hanaud, on the other hand, was particularly alert. The discovery
of the motor-car had raised his spirits. He sat at the table.
"I will tell you what we have learnt," he said, "and it is of
importance. The three of them—the man, the woman with the red hair,
and Mlle. Celie—all drove yesterday night to Geneva. That is only one
thing we have learnt."
"Then you still cling to Geneva?" said Ricardo.
"More than ever," said Hanaud.
He turned in his chair towards Wethermill.
"Ah, my poor friend!" he said, when he saw the young man's
Harry Wethermill sprang up with a gesture as though to sweep the
need of sympathy away.
"What can I do for you?" he asked.
"You have a road map, perhaps?" said Hanaud.
"Yes," said Wethermill, "mine is here. There it is"; and crossing
the room he brought it from a sidetable and placed it in front of
Hanaud. Hanaud took a pencil from his pocket.
"One hundred and fifty kilometers was about the distance which the
car had travelled. Measure the distances here, and you will see that
Geneva is the likely place. It is a good city to hide in. Moreover the
car appears at the corner at daylight. How does it appear, there? What
road is it which comes out at that corner? The road from Geneva. I am
not sorry that it is Geneva, for the Chef de la Surete is a friend of
"And what else do we know?" asked Ricardo.
"This," said Hanaud. He paused impressively. "Bring up your chair
to the table, M. Wethermill, and consider whether I am right or
wrong"; and he waited until Harry Wethermill had obeyed. Then he
laughed in a friendly way at himself.
"I cannot help it," he said; "I have an eye for dramatic effects.
I must prepare for them when I know they are coming. And one, I tell
you, is coming now."
He shook his finger at his companions. Ricardo shifted and
shuffled in his chair. Harry Wethermill kept his eyes fixed on
Hanaud's face, but he was quiet, as he had been throughout the long
Hanaud lit a cigarette and took his time.
"What I think is this. The man who drove the car into Geneva drove
it back, because—he meant to leave it again in the garage of the
"Good heavens!" cried Ricardo, flinging himself back. The theory
so calmly enunciated took his breath away.
"Would he have dared?" asked Harry Wethermill.
Hanaud leaned across and tapped his fingers on the table to
emphasise his answer.
"All through this crime there are two things visible—brains and
daring; clever brains and extraordinary daring. Would he have dared?
He dared to be at the corner close to the Villa Rose at daylight. Why
else should he have returned except to put back the car? Consider! The
petrol is taken from tins which Servettaz might never have touched for
a fortnight, and by that time he might, as he said, have forgotten
whether he had not used them himself. I had this possibility in my
mind when I put the questions to Servettaz about the petrol which the
Commissaire thought so stupid. The utmost care is taken that there
shall be no mould left on the floor of the carriage. The scrap of
chiffon was torn off, no doubt, when the women finally left the car,
and therefore not noticed, or that, too, would have been removed. That
the exterior of the car was dirty betrayed nothing, for Servettaz had
left it uncleaned."
Hanaud leaned back and, step by step, related the journey of the
"The man leaves the gate open; he drives into Geneva the two
women, who are careful that their shoes shall leave no marks upon the
floor. At Geneva they get out. The man returns. If he can only leave
the car in the garage he covers all traces of the course he and his
friends have taken. No one would suspect that the car had ever left
the garage. At the corner of the road, just as he is turning down to
the villa, he sees a sergent-de-ville at the gate. He knows that the
murder is discovered. He puts on full speed and goes straight out of
the town. What is he to do? He is driving a car for which the police
in an hour or two, if not now already, will be surely watching. He is
driving it in broad daylight. He must get rid of it, and at once,
before people are about to see it, and to see him in it. Imagine his
feelings! It is almost enough to make one pity him. Here he is in a
car which convicts him as a murderer, and he has nowhere to leave it.
He drives through Aix. Then on the outskirts of the town he finds an
empty villa. He drives in at the gate, forces the door of the coach-
house, and leaves his car there. Now, observe! It is no longer any
use for him to pretend that he and his friends did not disappear in
that car. The murder is already discovered, and with the murder the
disappearance of the car. So he no longer troubles his head about it.
He does not remove the traces of mould from the place where his feet
rested, which otherwise, no doubt, he would have done. It no longer
matters. He has to run to earth now before he is seen. That is all his
business. And so the state of the car is explained. It was a bold step
to bring that car back—yes, a bold and desperate step. But a clever
one. For, if it had succeeded, we should have known nothing of their
movements—oh, but nothing— nothing. Ah! I tell you this is no
ordinary blundering affair. They are clever people who devised this
crime—clever, and of an audacity which is surprising."
Then Hanaud lit another cigarette.
Mr. Ricardo, on the other hand, could hardly continue to smoke for
"I cannot understand your calmness," he exclaimed.
"No?" said Hanaud. "Yet it is so obvious. You are the amateur, I
am the professional—that is all."
He looked at his watch and rose to his feet.
"I must go" he said and as he turned towards the door a cry sprang
from Mr. Ricardo's lips "It is true. I am the amateur. Yet I have
knowledge, Monsieur Hanaud which the professional would do well to
Hanaud turned a guarded face towards Ricardo. There was no longer
any raillery in his manner. He spoke slowly, coldly.
"Let me have it then!"
"I have driven in my motor-car from Geneva to Aix," Ricardo cried
excitedly. "A bridge crosses a ravine high up amongst the mountains.
At the bridge there is a Custom House. There—at the Pont de la
Caille—your car is stopped. It is searched. You must sign your name
in a book. And there is no way round. You would find sure and certain
proof whether or no Madame Dauvray's car travelled last night to
Geneva. Not so many travellers pass along that road at night. You
would find certain proof too of how many people were in the car. For
they search carefully at the Pont de la Caille."
A dark flush overspread Hanaud's face. Ricardo was in the seventh
Heaven. He had at last contributed something to the history of this
crime. He had repaired an omission. He had supplied knowledge to the
omniscient. Wethermill looked up drearily like one who has lost heart.
"Yes, you must not neglect that clue," he said.
Hanaud replied testily:
"It is not a clue. M. Ricardo tells that he travelled from Geneva
into France and that his car was searched. Well, we know already that
the officers are particular at the Custom Houses of France. But
travelling from France into Switzerland is a very different affair. In
Switzerland, hardly a glance, hardly a word." That was true. M.
Ricardo crestfallen recognized the truth. But his spirits rose again
at once. "But the car came back from Geneva into France!" he cried.
"Yes, but when the car came back, the man was alone in it," Hanaud
answered. "I have more important things to attend to. For instance I
must know whether by any chance they have caught our man at
Marseilles." He laid his hand on Wethermill's shoulder. "And you, my
friend, I should counsel you to get some sleep. We may need all our
strength tomorrow. I hope so." He was speaking very bravely. "Yes, I
"I shall try," he said.
"That's better," said Hanaud cheerfully. "You will both stay here
this evening; for if I have news, I can then ring you up."
Both men agreed, and Hanaud went away. He left Mr. Ricardo
profoundly disturbed. "That man will take advice from no one," he
declared. "His vanity is colossal. It is true they are not particular
at the Swiss Frontier. Still the car would have to stop there. At the
Custom House they would know something. Hanaud ought to make
inquiries." But neither Ricardo nor Harry Wethermill heard a word more
from Hanaud that night.
CHAPTER X. NEWS FROM GENEVA
The next morning, however, before Mr. Ricardo was out of his bed,
M. Hanaud was announced. He came stepping gaily into the room, more
elephantinely elfish than ever.
"Send your valet away," he said. And as soon as they were alone he
produced a newspaper, which he flourished in Mr. Ricardo's face and
then dropped into his hands.
Ricardo saw staring him in the face a full description of Celia
Harland, of her appearance and her dress, of everything except her
name, coupled with an intimation that a reward of four thousand
francs would be paid to any one who could give information leading to
the discovery of her whereabouts to Mr. Ricardo, the Hotel Majestic,
Mr. Ricardo sat up in his bed with a sense of outrage.
"You have done this?" he asked.
"Why have you done it?" Mr. Ricardo cried.
Hanaud advanced to the bed mysteriously on the tips of his toes.
"I will tell you," he said, in his most confidential tones. "Only
it must remain a secret between you and me. I did it—because I have
a sense of humour."
"I hate publicity," said Mr. Ricardo acidly.
"On the other hand you have four thousand francs," protested the
detective. "Besides, what else should I do? If I name myself, the
very people we are seeking to catch—who, you may be sure, will be
the first to read this advertisement—will know that I, the great,
the incomparable Hanaud, am after them; and I do not want them to
know that. Besides"—and he spoke now in a gentle and most serious
voice—"why should we make life more difficult for Mlle. Celie by
telling the world that the police want her? It will be time enough
for that when she appears before the Juge d'Instruction."
Mr. Ricardo grumbled inarticulately, and read through the
"Besides, your description is incomplete," he said. "There is no
mention of the diamond earrings which Celia Harland was wearing when
she went away."
"Ah! so you noticed that!" exclaimed Hanaud. "A little more
experience and I should be looking very closely to my laurels. But as
for the earrings—I will tell you, Mlle. Celie was not wearing them
when she went away from the Villa Rose."
"But—but," stammered Ricardo, "the case upon the dressing-room
table was empty."
"Still, she was not wearing them, I know," said Hanaud decisively.
"How do you know?" cried Ricardo, gazing at Hanaud with awe in his
eyes. "How could you know?"
"Because"—and Hanaud struck a majestic attitude, like a king in a
play—"because I am the captain of the ship."
Upon that Mr. Ricardo suffered a return of his ill-humour.
"I do not like to be trifled with," he remarked, with as much
dignity as his ruffled hair and the bed-clothes allowed him. He
looked sternly at the newspaper, turning it over, and then he uttered
a cry of surprise.
"But this is yesterday's paper!" he said.
"Yesterday evening's paper," Hanaud corrected.
"Printed at Geneva!"
"Printed, and published and sold at Geneva," said Hanaud.
"When did you send the advertisement in, then?"
"I wrote a letter while we were taking our luncheon," Hanaud
explained. "The letter was to Besnard, asking him to telegraph the
advertisement at once."
"But you never said a word about it to us," Ricardo grumbled.
"No. And was I not wise?" said Hanaud, with complacency. "For you
would have forbidden me to use your name."
"Oh, I don't go so far as that," said Ricardo reluctantly. His
indignation was rapidly evaporating. For there was growing up in his
mind a pleasant perception that the advertisement placed him in the
He rose from his bed.
"You will make yourself comfortable in the sitting-room while I
have my bath."
"I will, indeed," replied Hanaud cheerily. "I have already ordered
my morning chocolate. I have hopes that you may have a telegram very
soon. This paper was cried last night through the streets of Geneva."
Ricardo dressed for once in a way with some approach to ordinary
celerity, and joined Hanaud.
"Has nothing come?" he asked.
"No. This chocolate is very good; it is better than that which I
get in my hotel."
"Good heavens!" cried Ricardo, who was fairly twittering with
excitement. "You sit there talking about chocolate while my cup
shakes in my fingers."
"Again I must remind you that you are the amateur, I the
professional, my friend."
As the morning drew on, however, Hanaud's professional quietude
deserted him. He began to start at the sound of footsteps in the
corridor, to glance every other moment from the window, to eat his
cigarettes rather than to smoke them. At eleven o'clock Ricardo's
valet brought a telegram into the room. Ricardo seized it.
"Calmly, my friend," said Hanaud.
With trembling fingers Ricardo tore it open. He jumped in his
chair. Speechless, he handed the telegram to Hanaud. It had been sent
from Geneva, and it ran thus:
"Expect me soon after three.—MARTHE GOBIN."
Hanaud nodded his head.
"I told you I had hopes." All his levity had gone in an instant
from his manner. He spoke very quietly.
"I had better send for Wethermill?" asked Ricardo.
Hanaud shrugged his shoulders.
"As you like. But why raise hopes in that poor man's breast which
an hour or two may dash for ever to the ground? Consider! Marthe
Gobin has something to tell us. Think over those eight points of
evidence which you drew up yesterday in the Villa des Fleurs, and say
whether what she has to tell us is more likely to prove Mlle. Celie's
innocence than her guilt. Think well, for I will be guided by you, M.
Ricardo," said Hanaud solemnly. "If you think it better that your
friend should live in torture until Marthe Gobin comes, and then
perhaps suffer worse torture from the news she brings, be it so. You
shall decide. If, on the other hand, you think it will be best to
leave M. Wethermill in peace until we know her story, be it so. You
Ricardo moved uneasily. The solemnity of Hanaud's manner impressed
him. He had no wish to take the responsibility of the decision upon
himself. But Hanaud sat with his eyes strangely fixed upon Ricardo,
waiting for his answer.
"Well," said Ricardo, at length, "good news will be none the worse
for waiting a few hours. Bad news will be a little the better."
"Yes," said Hanaud; "so I thought you would decide." He took up a
Continental Bradshaw from a bookshelf in the room. "From Geneva she
will come through Culoz. Let us see!" He turned over the pages. "There
is a train from Culoz which reaches Aix at seven minutes past three.
It is by that train she will come. You have a motor-car?"
"Very well. Will you pick me up in it at three at my hotel? We
will drive down to the station and see the arrivals by that train. It
may help us to get some idea of the person with whom we have to deal.
That is always an advantage. Now I will leave you, for I have much to
do. But I will look in upon M. Wethermill as I go down and tell him
that there is as yet no news."
He took up his hat and stick, and stood for a moment staring out
of the window. Then he roused himself from his reverie with a start.
"You look out upon Mont Revard, I see. I think M. Wethermill's
view over the garden and the town is the better one," he said, and
went out of the room.
At three o'clock Ricardo called in his car, which was an open car
of high power, at Hanaud's hotel, and the two men went to the
station. They waited outside the exit while the passengers gave up
their tickets. Amongst them a middle-aged, short woman, of a
plethoric tendency, attracted their notice. She was neatly but
shabbily dressed in black; her gloves were darned, and she was
obviously in a hurry. As she came out she asked a commissionaire:
"How far is it to the Hotel Majestic?"
The man told her the hotel was at the very top of the town, and
the way was steep.
"But madame can go up in the omnibus of the hotel," he suggested.
Madame, however, was in too much of a hurry. The omnibus would have
to wait for luggage. She hailed a closed cab and drove off inside it.
"Now, if we go back in the car, we shall be all ready for her when
she arrives," said Hanaud.
They passed the cab, indeed, a few yards up the steep hill which
leads from the station. The cab was moving at a walk.
"She looks honest," said Hanaud, with a sigh of relief. "She is
some good bourgeoise anxious to earn four thousand francs."
They reached the hotel in a few minutes.
"We may need your car again the moment Marthe Gobin has gone,"
"It shall wait here," said Ricardo.
"No," said Hanaud; "let it wait in the little street at the back
of my hotel. It will not be so noticeable there. You have petrol for
a long journey?"
Ricardo gave the order quietly to his chauffeur, and followed
Hanaud into the hotel. Through a glass window they could see
Wethermill smoking a cigar over his coffee.
"He looks as if he had not slept," said Ricardo.
Hanaud nodded sympathetically, and beckoned Ricardo past the
"But we are nearing the end. These two days have been for him days
of great trouble; one can see that very clearly. And he has done
nothing to embarrass us. Men in distress are apt to be a nuisance. I
am grateful to M. Wethermill. But we are nearing the end. Who knows?
Within an hour or two we may have news for him."
He spoke with great feeling, and the two men ascended the stairs
to Ricardo's rooms. For the second time that day Hanaud's
professional calm deserted him. The window overlooked the main
entrance to the hotel. Hanaud arranged the room, and, even while he
arranged it, ran every other second and leaned from the window to
watch for the coming of the cab.
"Put the bank-notes upon the table," he said hurriedly. "They will
persuade her to tell us all that she has to tell. Yes, that will do.
She is not in sight yet? No."
"She could not be. It is a long way from the station," said
Ricardo, "and the whole distance is uphill."
"Yes, that is true," Hanaud replied. "We will not embarrass her by
sitting round the table like a tribunal. You will sit in that arm-
Ricardo took his seat, crossed his knees, and joined the tips of
"So! not too judicial!" said Hanaud; "I will sit here at the
table. Whatever you do, do not frighten her." Hanaud sat down in the
chair which he had placed for himself. "Marthe Gobin shall sit
opposite, with the light upon her face. So!" And, springing up, he
arranged a chair for her. "Whatever you do, do not frighten her," he
repeated. "I am nervous. So much depends upon this interview." And in
a second he was back at the window.
Ricardo did not move. He arranged in his mind the interrogatory
which was to take place. He was to conduct it. He was the master of
the situation. All the limelight was to be his. Startling facts would
come to light elicited by his deft questions. Hanaud need not fear. He
would not frighten her. He would be gentle, he would be cunning.
Softly and delicately he would turn this good woman inside out, like a
glove. Every artistic fibre in his body vibrated to the dramatic
Suddenly Hanaud leaned out of the window.
"It comes! it comes!" he said in a quick, feverish whisper. "I can
see the cab between the shrubs of the drive."
"Let it come!" said Mr. Ricardo superbly.
Even as he sat he could hear the grating of wheels upon the drive.
He saw Hanaud lean farther from the window and stamp impatiently upon
"There it is at the door," he said; and for a few seconds he spoke
no more. He stood looking downwards, craning his head, with his back
Then, with a wild and startled cry, he staggered back into the
room. His face was white as wax, his eyes full of horror, his mouth
"What is the matter?" exclaimed Ricardo, springing to his feet.
"They are lifting her out! She doesn't move! They are lifting her
For a moment he stared into Ricardo's face—paralysed by fear.
Then he sprang down the stairs. Ricardo followed him.
There was confusion in the corridor. Men were running, voices were
crying questions. As they passed the window they saw Wethermill start
up, aroused from his lethargy. They knew the truth before they reached
the entrance of the hotel. A cab had driven up to the door from the
station; in the cab was an unknown woman stabbed to the heart.
"She should have come by the omnibus," Hanaud repeated and
repeated stupidly. For the moment he was off his balance.
CHAPTER XI. THE UNOPENED LETTER
The hall of the hotel had been cleared of people. At the entrance
from the corridor a porter barred the way.
"No one can pass," said he.
"I think that I can," said Hanaud, and he produced his card. "From
the Surete at Paris."
He was allowed to enter, with Ricardo at his heels. On the ground
lay Marthe Gobin; the manager of the hotel stood at her side; a
doctor was on his knees. Hanaud gave his card to the manager.
"You have sent word to the police?"
"Yes," said the manager.
"And the wound?" asked Hanaud, kneeling on the ground beside the
doctor. It was a very small wound, round and neat and clean, and
there was very little blood. "It was made by a bullet," said
Hanaud—"some tiny bullet from an air-pistol."
"No," answered the doctor.
"No knife made it," Hanaud asserted.
"That is true," said the doctor. "Look!" and he took up from the
floor by his knee the weapon which had caused Marthe Gobin's death.
It was nothing but an ordinary skewer with a ring at one end and a
sharp point at the other, and a piece of common white firewood for a
handle. The wood had been split, the ring inserted and spliced in
position with strong twine. It was a rough enough weapon, but an
effective one. The proof of its effectiveness lay stretched upon the
floor beside them.
Hanaud gave it to the manager of the hotel.
"You must be very careful of this, and give it as it is to the
Then he bent once more over Marthe Gobin.
"Did she suffer?" he asked in a low voice.
"No; death must have been instantaneous," said the doctor.
"I am glad of that," said Hanaud, as he rose again to his feet.
In the doorway the driver of the cab was standing.
"What has he to say?" Hanaud asked.
The man stepped forward instantly. He was an old, red-faced, stout
man, with a shiny white tall hat, like a thousand drivers of cabs.
"What have I to say, monsieur?" he grumbled in a husky voice. "I
take up the poor woman at the station and I drive her where she bids
me, and I find her dead, and my day is lost. Who will pay my fare,
"I will," said Hanaud. "There it is," and he handed the man a
five-franc piece. "Now, answer me! Do you tell me that this woman was
murdered in your cab and that you knew nothing about it?"
"But what should I know? I take her up at the station, and all the
way up the hill her head is every moment out of the window, crying,
'Faster, faster!' Oh, the good woman was in a hurry! But for me I take
no notice. The more she shouts, the less I hear; I bury my head
between my shoulders, and I look ahead of me and I take no notice. One
cannot expect cab-horses to run up these hills; it is not reasonable."
"So you went at a walk," said Hanaud. He beckoned to Ricardo, and said
to the manager: "M. Besnard will, no doubt, be here in a few minutes,
and he will send for the Juge d'Instruction. There is nothing that we
He went back to Ricardo's sitting-room and flung himself into a
chair. He had been calm enough downstairs in the presence of the
doctor and the body of the victim. Now, with only Ricardo for a
witness, he gave way to distress.
"It is terrible," he said. "The poor woman! It was I who brought
her to Aix. It was through my carelessness. But who would have
thought—?" He snatched his hands from his face and stood up. "I
should have thought," he said solemnly. "Extraordinary daring— that
was one of the qualities of my criminal. I knew it, and I disregarded
it. Now we have a second crime."
"The skewer may lead you to the criminal," said Mr. Ricardo.
"The skewer!" cried Hanaud. "How will that help us? A knife, yes—
perhaps. But a skewer!"
"At the shops—there will not be so many in Aix at which you can
buy skewers—they may remember to whom they sold one within the last
day or so."
"How do we know it was bought in the last day or so?" cried Hanaud
scornfully. "We have not to do with a man who walks into a shop and
buys a single skewer to commit a murder with, and so hands himself
over to the police. How often must I say it!"
The violence of his contempt nettled Ricardo.
"If the murderer did not buy it, how did he obtain it?" he asked
"Oh, my friend, could he not have stolen it? From this or from any
hotel in Aix? Would the loss of a skewer be noticed, do you think?
How many people in Aix today have had rognons a la brochette for
their luncheon! Besides, it is not merely the death of this poor
woman which troubles me. We have lost the evidence which she was
going to bring to us. She had something to tell us about Celie
Harland which now we shall never hear. We have to begin all over
again, and I tell you we have not the time to begin all over again.
No, we have not the time. Time will be lost, and we have no time to
lose." He buried his face again in his hands and groaned aloud. His
grief was so violent and so sincere that Ricardo, shocked as he was by
the murder of Marthe Gobin, set himself to console him.
"But you could not have foreseen that at three o'clock in the
afternoon at Aix—"
Hanaud brushed the excuse aside.
"It is no extenuation. I OUGHT to have foreseen. Oh, but I will
have no pity now," he cried, and as he ended the words abruptly his
face changed. He lifted a trembling forefinger and pointed. There came
a sudden look of life into his dull and despairing eyes.
He was pointing to a side-table on which were piled Mr. Ricardo's
"You have not opened them this morning?" he asked.
"No. You came while I was still in bed. I have not thought of them
Hanaud crossed to the table, and, looking down at the letters,
uttered a cry.
"There's one, the big envelope," he said, his voice shaking like
his hand. "It has a Swiss stamp."
He swallowed to moisten his throat. Ricardo sprang across the room
and tore open the envelope. There was a long letter enclosed in a
handwriting unknown to him. He read aloud the first lines of the
"I write what I saw and post it tonight, so that no one may be
before me with the news. I will come over tomorrow for the money."
A low exclamation from Hanaud interrupted the words.
"The signature! Quick!"
Ricardo turned to the end of the letter.
"She speaks, then! After all she speaks!" Hanaud whispered in a
voice of awe. He ran to the door of the room, opened it suddenly,
and, shutting it again, locked it. "Quick! We cannot bring that poor
woman back to life; but we may still—" He did not finish his
sentence. He took the letter unceremoniously from Ricardo's hand and
seated himself at the table. Over his shoulder Mr. Ricardo, too, read
Marthe Gobin's letter.
It was just the sort of letter, which in Ricardo's view, Marthe
Gobin would have written—a long, straggling letter which never kept
to the point, which exasperated them one moment by its folly and fired
them to excitement the next.
It was dated from a small suburb of Geneva, on the western side of
the lake, and it ran as follows:
"The suburb is but a street close to the lake-side, and a tram
runs into the city. It is quite respectable, you understand,
monsieur, with a hotel at the end of it, and really some very good
houses. But I do not wish to deceive you about the social position of
myself or my husband. Our house is on the wrong side of the
street—definitely—yes. It is a small house, and we do not see the
water from any of the windows because of the better houses opposite.
M. Gobin, my husband, who was a clerk in one of the great banks in
Geneva, broke down in health in the spring, and for the last three
months has been compelled to keep indoors. Of course, money has not
been plentiful, and I could not afford a nurse. Consequently I myself
have been compelled to nurse him. Monsieur, if you were a woman, you
would know what men are when they are ill—how fretful, how difficult.
There is not much distraction for the woman who nurses them. So, as I
am in the house most of the day, I find what amusement I can in
watching the doings of my neighbours. You will not blame me.
"A month ago the house almost directly opposite to us was taken
furnished for the summer by a Mme. Rossignol. She is a widow, but
during the last fortnight a young gentleman has come several times in
the afternoon to see her, and it is said in the street that he is
going to marry her. But I cannot believe it myself. Monsieur is a
young man of perhaps thirty, with smooth, black hair. He wears a
moustache, a little black moustache, and is altogether captivating.
Mme. Rossignol is five or six years older, I should think—a tall
woman, with red hair and a bold sort of coarse beauty. I was not
attracted by her. She seemed not quite of the same world as that
charming monsieur who was said to be going to marry her. No; I was not
attracted by Adele Rossignol."
And when he had come to that point Hanaud looked up with a start.
"So the name was Adele," he whispered.
"Yes," said Ricardo. "Helene Vauquier spoke the truth."
Hanaud nodded with a queer smile upon his lips.
"Yes, there she spoke the truth. I thought she did."
"But she said Adele's hair was black," interposed Mr. Ricardo.
"Yes, there she didn't," said Hanaud drily, and his eyes dropped
again to the paper.
"I knew her name was Adele, for often I have heard her servant
calling her so, and without any 'Madame' in front of the name. That
is strange, is it not, to hear an elderly servant-woman calling after
her mistress, 'Adele,' just simple 'Adele'? It was that which made me
think monsieur and madame were not of the same world. But I do not
believe that they are going to be married. I have an instinct about
it. Of course, one never knows with what extraordinary women the
nicest men will fall in love. So that after all these two may get
married. But if they do, I do not think they will be happy.
"Besides the old woman there was another servant, a man,
Hippolyte, who served in the house and drove the carriage when it was
wanted—a respectable man. He always touched his hat when Mme.
Rossignol came out of the house. He slept in the house at night,
although the stable was at the end of the street. I thought he was
probably the son of Jeanne, the servant-woman. He was young, and his
hair was plastered down upon his forehead, and he was altogether
satisfied with himself and a great favorite amongst the servants in
the street. The carriage and the horse were hired from Geneva. That is
the household of Mme. Rossignol."
So far, Mr. Ricardo read in silence. Then he broke out again.
"But we have them! The red-haired woman called Adele; the man with
the little black moustache. It was he who drove the motor-car!"
Hanaud held up his hand to check the flow of words, and both read
"At three o'clock on Tuesday afternoon madame was driven away in
the carriage, and I did not see it return all that evening. Of
course, it may have returned to the stables by another road. But it
was not unusual for the carriage to take her into Geneva and wait a
long time. I went to bed at eleven, but in the night M. Gobin was
restless, and I rose to get him some medicine. We slept in the front
of the house, monsieur, and while I was searching for the matches upon
the table in the middle of the room I heard the sound of carriage
wheels in the silent street. I went to the window, and, raising a
corner of the curtains, looked out. M. Gobin called to me fretfully
from the bed to know why I did not light the candle and get him what
he wanted. I have already told you how fretful sick men can be, always
complaining if just for a minute one distracts oneself by looking out
of the window. But there! One can do nothing to please them. Yet how
right I was to raise the blind and look out of the window! For if I
had obeyed my husband I might have lost four thousand francs. And four
thousand francs are not to be sneezed at by a poor woman whose husband
lies in bed.
"I saw the carriage stop at Mme. Rossignol's house. Almost at once
the house door was opened by the old servant, although the hall of
the house and all the windows in the front were dark. That was the
first thing that surprised me. For when madame came home late and the
house was dark, she used to let herself in with a latchkey. Now, in
the dark house, in the early morning, a servant was watching for them.
It was strange.
"As soon as the door of the house was opened the door of the
carriage opened too, and a young lady stepped quickly out on to the
pavement. The train of her dress caught in the door, and she turned
round, stooped, freed it with her hand, and held it up off the ground.
The night was clear, and there was a lamp in the street close by the
door of Mme. Rossignol's house. As she turned I saw her face under the
big green hat. It was very pretty and young, and the hair was fair.
She wore a white coat, but it was open in front and showed her evening
frock of pale green. When she lifted her skirt I saw the buckles
sparkling on her satin shoes. It was the young lady for whom you are
advertising, I am sure. She remained standing just for a moment
without moving, while Mme. Rossignol got out. I was surprised to see a
young lady of such distinction in Mme. Rossignol's company. Then,
still holding her skirt up, she ran very lightly and quickly across
the pavement into the dark house. I thought, monsieur, that she was
very anxious not to be seen. So when I saw your advertisement I was
certain that this was the young lady for whom you are searching. "I
waited for a few moments and saw the carriage drive off towards the
stable at the end of the street. But no light went up in any of the
rooms in front of the house. And M. Gobin was so fretful that I
dropped the corner of the blind, lit the candle, and gave him his
cooling drink. His watch was on the table at the bedside, and I saw
that it was five minutes to three. I will send you a telegram
tomorrow, as soon as I am sure at what hour I can leave my husband.
Accept, monsieur, I beg you, my most distinguished salutations.
Hanaud leant back with an extraordinary look of perplexity upon
his face. But to Ricardo the whole story was now clear. Here was an
independent witness, without the jealousy or rancours of Helene
Vauquier. Nothing could be more damning than her statement; it
corroborated those footmarks upon the soil in front of the glass door
of the salon. There was nothing to be done except to set about
arresting Mlle. Celie at once.
"The facts work with your theory, M. Hanaud. The young man with
the black moustache did not return to the house at Geneva. For
somewhere upon the road close to Geneva he met the carriage. He was
driving back the car to Aix—" And then another thought struck him:
"But no!" he cried. "We are altogether wrong. See! They did not reach
home until five minutes to three."
Five minutes to three! But this demolished the whole of Hanaud's
theory about the motor-car. The murderers had left the villa between
eleven and twelve, probably before half-past eleven. The car was a
machine of sixty horse-power, and the roads were certain to be clear.
Yet the travellers only reached their home at three. Moreover, the car
was back in Aix at four. It was evident they did not travel by the
"Geneva time is an hour later than French time," said Hanaud
shortly. It seemed as if the corroboration of this letter
disappointed him. "A quarter to three in Mme. Gobin's house would be
a quarter to two by our watches here."
Hanaud folded up the letter, and rose to his feet.
"We will go now, and we will take this letter with us." Hanaud
looked about the room, and picked up a glove lying upon a table. "I
left this behind me," he said, putting it into his pocket. "By the
way, where is the telegram from Marthe Gobin?"
"You put it in your letter-case."
"Oh, did I?"
Hanaud took out his letter-case and found the telegram within it.
His face lightened.
"Good!" he said emphatically. "For, since we have this telegram,
there must have been another message sent from Adele Rossignol to Aix
saying that Marthe Gobin, that busybody, that inquisitive neighbour,
who had no doubt seen M. Ricardo's advertisement, was on her way
hither. Oh it will not be put as crudely as that, but that is what the
message will mean. We shall have him." And suddenly his face grew very
stern. "I MUST catch him, for Marthe Gobin's death I cannot forgive. A
poor woman meaning no harm, and murdered like a sheep under our noses.
No, that I cannot forgive."
Ricardo wondered whether it was the actual murder of Marthe Gobin
or the fact that he had been beaten and outwitted which Hanaud could
not forgive. But discretion kept him silent.
"Let us go," said Hanaud. "By the lift, if you please; it will
They descended into the hall close by the main door. The body of
Marthe Gobin had been removed to the mortuary of the town. The life
of the hotel had resumed its course.
"M. Besnard has gone, I suppose?" Hanaud asked of the porter; and,
receiving an assent, he walked quickly out of the front door.
"But there is a shorter way," said Ricardo, running after him:
"across the garden at the back and down the steps."
"It will make no difference now," said Hanaud.
They hurried along the drive and down the road which circled round
the hotel and dipped to the town.
Behind Hanaud's hotel Ricardo's car was waiting.
"We must go first to Besnard's office. The poor man will be at his
wits' end to know who was Mme. Gobin and what brought her to Aix.
Besides, I wish to send a message over the telephone."
Hanaud descended and spent a quarter of an hour with the
Commissaire. As he came out he looked at his watch.
"We shall be in time, I think," he said. He climbed into the car.
"The murder of Marthe Gobin on her way from the station will put our
friends at their ease. It will be published, no doubt, in the evening
papers, and those good people over there in Geneva will read it with
amusement. They do not know that Marthe Gobin wrote a letter yesterday
night. Come, let us go!"
"Where to?" asked Ricardo.
"Where to?" exclaimed Hanaud. "Why, of course, to Geneva."
CHAPTER XII. THE ALUMINIUM FLASK
"I have telephoned to Lemerre, the Chef de la Surete at Geneva,"
said Hanaud, as the car sped out of Aix along the road to Annecy. "He
will have the house watched. We shall be in time. They will do nothing
But though he spoke confidently there was a note of anxiety in his
voice, and he sat forward in the car, as though he were already
straining his eyes to see Geneva.
Ricardo was a trifle disappointed. They were on the great journey
to Geneva. They were going to arrest Mlle. Celie and her accomplices.
And Hanaud had not come disguised. Hanaud, in Ricardo's eyes, was
hardly living up to the dramatic expedition on which they had set out.
It seemed to him that there was something incorrect in the great
detective coming out on the chase without a false beard.
"But, my dear friend, why shouldn't I?" pleaded Hanaud. "We are
going to dine together at the Restaurant du Nord, over the lake,
until it grows dark. It is not pleasant to eat one's soup in a false
beard. Have you tried it? Besides, everybody stares so, seeing
perfectly well that it is false. Now, I do not want tonight that
people should know me for a detective; so I do not go disguised."
"Humorist!" said Mr. Ricardo.
"There! you have found me out!" cried Hanaud, in mock alarm.
"Besides, I told you this morning that that is precisely what I am."
Beyond Annecy, they came to the bridge over the ravine. At the far
end of it, the car stopped. A question, a hurried glance into the
body of the car, and the officers of the Customs stood aside.
"You see how perfunctory it is," said Hanaud and with a jerk the
car moved on. The jerk threw Hanaud against Mr. Ricardo. Something
hard in the detective's pocket knocked against his companion.
"You have got them?" he whispered.
Another disappointment awaited Ricardo. A detective without a
false beard was bad enough, but that was nothing to a detective
without handcuffs. The paraphernalia of justice were sadly lacking.
However, Hanaud consoled Mr. Ricardo by showing him the hard thing; it
was almost as thrilling as the handcuffs, for it was a loaded
"There will be danger, then?" said Ricardo, with a tremor of
excitement. "I should have brought mine."
"There would have been danger, my friend," Hanaud objected
gravely, "if you had brought yours."
They reached Geneva as the dusk was falling, and drove straight to
the restaurant by the side of the lake and mounted to the balcony on
the first floor. A small, stout man sat at a table alone in a corner
of the balcony. He rose and held out his hands.
"My friend, M. Lemerre, the Chef de la Surete of Geneva," said
Hanaud, presenting the little man to his companion.
There were as yet only two couples dining in the restaurant, and
Hanaud spoke so that neither could overhear him. He sat down at the
"What news?" he asked.
"None," said Lemerre. "No one has come out of the house, no one
has gone in."
"And if anything happens while we dine?"
"We shall know," said Lemerre. "Look, there is a man loitering
under the trees there. He will strike a match to light his pipe."
The hurried conversation was ended.
"Good," said Hanaud. "We will dine, then, and be gay."
He called to the waiter and ordered dinner. It was after seven
when they sat down to dinner, and they dined while the dusk deepened.
In the street below the lights flashed out, throwing a sheen on the
foliage of the trees at the water's side. Upon the dark lake the
reflections of lamps rippled and shook. A boat in which musicians sang
to music, passed by with a cool splash of oars. The green and red
lights of the launches glided backwards and forwards. Hanaud alone of
the party on the balcony tried to keep the conversation upon a light
and general level. But it was plain that even he was overdoing his
gaiety. There were moments when a sudden contraction of the muscles
would clench his hands and give a spasmodic jerk to his shoulders. He
was waiting uneasily, uncomfortably, until darkness should come.
"Eat," he cried—"eat, my friends," playing with his own barely
And then, at a sentence from Lemerre, his knife and fork clattered
on his plate, and he sat with a face suddenly grown white.
For Lemerre said, as though it was no more than a matter of
"So Mme. Dauvray's jewels were, after all, never stolen?"
"You know that? How did you know it?"
"It was in this evening's paper. I bought one on the way here.
They were found under the floor of the bedroom."
And even as he spoke a newsboy's voice rang out in the street
below them. Lemerre was alarmed by the look upon his friend's face.
"Does it matter, Hanaud?" he asked, with some solicitude.
"It matters—" and Hanaud rose up abruptly.
The boy's voice sounded louder in the street below. The words
became distinct to all upon that balcony.
"The Aix murder! Discovery of the jewels!"
"We must go," Hanaud whispered hoarsely. "Here are life and death
in the balance, as I believe, and there"—he pointed down to the
little group gathering about the newsboy under the trees—"there is
the command which way to tip the scales."
"It was not I who sent it," said Ricardo eagerly.
He had no precise idea what Hanaud meant by his words; but he
realised that the sooner he exculpated himself from the charge the
"Of course it was not you. I know that very well," said Hanaud. He
called for the bill. "When is that paper published?"
"At seven," said Lemerre.
"They have been crying it in the streets of Geneva, then, for more
than half an hour."
He sat drumming impatiently upon the table until the bill should
"By Heaven, that's clever!" he muttered savagely. "There's a man
who gets ahead of me at every turn. See, Lemerre, I take every care,
every precaution, that no message shall be sent. I let it be known, I
take careful pains to let it be known, that no message can be sent
without detection following, and here's the message sent by the one
channel I never thought to guard against and stop. Look!"
The murder at the Villa Rose and the mystery which hid its
perpetration had aroused interest. This new development had quickened
it. From the balcony Hanaud could see the groups thickening about the
boy and the white sheets of the newspapers in the hands of passers-by.
"Every one in Geneva or near Geneva will know of this message by
"Who could have told?" asked Ricardo blankly, and Hanaud laughed
in his face, but laughed without any merriment.
"At last!" he cried, as the waiter brought the bill, and just as
he had paid it the light of a match flared up under the trees.
"The signal!" said Lemerre.
"Not too quickly," whispered Hanaud.
With as much unconcern as each could counterfeit, the three men
descended the stairs and crossed the road. Under the trees a fourth
man joined them—he who had lighted his pipe.
"The coachman, Hippolyte," he whispered, "bought an evening paper
at the front door of the house from a boy who came down the street
shouting the news. The coachman ran back into the house."
"When was this?" asked Lemerre.
The man pointed to a lad who leaned against the balustrade above
the lake, hot and panting for breath.
"He came on his bicycle. He has just arrived."
"Follow me," said Lemerre.
Six yards from where they stood a couple of steps led down from
the embankment on to a wooden landing-stage, where boats were moored.
Lemerre, followed by the others, walked briskly down on to the
landing-stage. An electric launch was waiting. It had an awning and
was of the usual type which one hires at Geneva. There were two
sergeants in plain clothes on board, and a third man, whom Ricardo
"That is the man who found out in whose shop the cord was bought,"
he said to Hanaud.
"Yes, it is Durette. He has been here since yesterday."
Lemerre and the three who followed him stepped into it, and it
backed away from the stage and, turning, sped swiftly outwards from
Geneva. The gay lights of the shops and the restaurants were left
behind, the cool darkness enveloped them; a light breeze blew over the
lake, a trail of white and tumbled water lengthened out behind and
overhead, in a sky of deepest blue, the bright stars shone like gold.
"If only we are in time!" said Hanaud, catching his breath.
"Yes," answered Lemerre; and in both their voices there was a
strange note of gravity.
Lemerre gave a signal after a while, and the boat turned to the
shore and reduced its speed. They had passed the big villas. On the
bank the gardens of houses—narrow, long gardens of a street of small
houses—reached down to the lake, and to almost each garden there was
a rickety landing-stage of wood projecting into the lake. Again
Lemerre gave a signal, and the boat's speed was so much reduced that
not a sound of its coming could be heard. It moved over the water like
a shadow, with not so much as a curl of white at its bows.
Lemerre touched Hanaud on the shoulder and pointed to a house in a
row of houses. All the windows except two upon the second floor and
one upon the ground floor were in absolute darkness, and over those
upper two the wooden shutters were closed. But in the shutters there
were diamond-shaped holes, and from these holes two yellow beams of
light, like glowing eyes upon the watch, streamed out and melted in
"You are sure that the front of the house is guarded?" asked
"Yes," replied Lemerre.
Ricardo shivered with excitement. The launch slid noiselessly into
the bank and lay hidden under its shadow. Hanaud turned to his
associates with his finger to his lips. Something gleamed darkly in
his hand. It was the barrel of his revolver. Cautiously the men
disembarked and crept up the bank. First came Lemerre, then Hanaud;
Ricardo followed him, and the fourth man, who had struck the match
under the trees, brought up the rear. The other three officers
remained in the boat.
Stooping under the shadow of the side wall of the garden, the
invaders stole towards the house. When a bush rustled or a tree
whispered in the light wind, Ricardo's heart jumped to his throat.
Once Lemerre stopped, as though his ears heard a sound which warned
him of danger. Then cautiously he crept on again. The garden was a
ragged place of unmown lawn and straggling bushes. Behind each one Mr.
Ricardo seemed to feel an enemy. Never had he been in so strait a
predicament. He, the cultured host of Grosvenor Square, was creeping
along under a wall with Continental policemen; he was going to raid a
sinister house by the Lake of Geneva. It was thrilling. Fear and
excitement gripped him in turn and let him go, but always he was
sustained by the pride of the man doing an out-of-the-way thing. "If
only my friends could see me now!" The ancient vanity was loud in his
bosom. Poor fellows, they were upon yachts in the Solent or on
grouse-moors in Scotland, or on golf-links at North Berwick. He alone
of them all was tracking malefactors to their doom by Leman's Lake.
From these agreeable reflections Ricardo was shaken. Lemerre
stopped. The raiders had reached the angle made by the side wall of
the garden and the house. A whisper was exchanged, and the party
turned and moved along the house wall towards the lighted window on
the ground floor. As Lemerre reached it he stooped. Then slowly his
forehead and his eyes rose above the sill and glanced this way and
that into the room. Mr. Ricardo could see his eyes gleaming as the
light from the window caught them. His face rose completely over the
sill. He stared into the room without care or apprehension, and then
dropped again out of the reach of the light. He turned to Hanaud.
"The room is empty," he whispered. Hanaud turned to Ricardo.
"Pass under the sill, or the light from the window will throw your
shadow upon the lawn."
The party came to the back door of the house. Lemerre tried the
handle of the door, and to his surprise it yielded. They crept into
the passage. The last man closed the door noiselessly, locked it, and
removed the key. A panel of light shone upon the wall a few paces
ahead. The door of the lighted room was open. As Ricardo stepped
silently past it, he looked in. It was a parlour meanly furnished.
Hanaud touched him on the arm and pointed to the table.
Ricardo had seen the objects at which Hanaud pointed often enough
without uneasiness; but now, in this silent house of crime, they had
the most sinister and appalling aspect. There was a tiny phial half
full of a dark-brown liquid, beside it a little leather case lay open,
and across the case, ready for use or waiting to be filled, was a
bright morphia needle. Ricardo felt the cold creep along his spine,
"Come," whispered Hanaud.
They reached the foot of a flight of stairs, and cautiously
mounted it. They came out in a passage which ran along the side of
the house from the back to the front. It was unlighted, but they were
now on the level of the street, and a fan-shaped glass window over the
front door admitted a pale light. There was a street lamp near to the
door, Ricardo remembered. For by the light of it Marthe Gobin had seen
Celia Harland run so nimbly into this house.
For a moment the men in the passage held their breath. Some one
strode heavily by on the pavement outside—to Mr. Ricardo's ear a
most companionable sound. Then a clock upon a church struck the
half-hour musically, distantly. It was half-past eight. And a second
afterwards a tiny bright light shone. Hanaud was directing the light
of a pocket electric torch to the next flight of stairs.
Here the steps were carpeted, and once more the men crept up. One
after another they came out upon the next landing. It ran, like those
below it, along the side of the house from the back to the front, and
the doors were all upon their left hand. From beneath the door nearest
to them a yellow line of light streamed out.
They stood in the darkness listening. But not a sound came from
behind the door. Was this room empty, too? In each one's mind was the
fear that the birds had flown. Lemerre carefully took the handle of
the door and turned it. Very slowly and cautiously he opened the door.
A strong light beat out through the widening gap upon his face. And
then, though his feet did not move, his shoulders and his face drew
back. The action was significant enough. This room, at all events, was
not empty. But of what Lemerre saw in the room his face gave no hint.
He opened the door wider, and now Hanaud saw. Ricardo, trembling with
excitement, watched him. But again there was no expression of
surprise, consternation, or delight. He stood stolidly and watched.
Then he turned to Ricardo, placed a finger on his lips, and made room.
Ricardo crept on tiptoe to his side. And now he too could look in. He
saw a brightly lit bedroom with a made bed. On his left were the
shuttered windows overlooking the lake. On his right in the partition
wall a door stood open. Through the door he could see a dark,
windowless closet, with a small bed from which the bedclothes hung and
trailed upon the floor, as though some one had been but now roughly
dragged from it. On a table, close by the door, lay a big green hat
with a brown ostrich feather, and a white cloak. But the amazing
spectacle which kept him riveted was just in front of him. An old hag
of a woman was sitting in a chair with her back towards them. She was
mending with a big needle the holes in an old sack, and while she bent
over her work she crooned to herself some French song. Every now and
then she raised her eyes, for in front of her, under her charge, Mlle.
Celie, the girl of whom Hanaud was in search, lay helpless upon a
sofa. The train of her delicate green frock swept the floor. She was
dressed as Helene Vauquier had described. Her gloved hands were
tightly bound behind her back, her feet were crossed so that she could
not have stood, and her ankles were cruelly strapped together. Over
her face and eyes a piece of coarse sacking was stretched like a mask,
and the ends were roughly sewn together at the back of her head. She
lay so still that, but for the labouring of her bosom and a tremor
which now and again shook her limbs, the watchers would have thought
her dead. She made no struggle of resistance; she lay quiet and still.
Once she writhed, but it was with the uneasiness of one in pain, and
the moment she stirred the old woman's hand went out to a bright
aluminium flask which stood on a little table at her side.
"Keep quiet, little one!" she ordered in a careless, chiding
voice, and she rapped with the flask peremptorily upon the table.
Immediately, as though the tapping had some strange message of terror
for the girl's ear, she stiffened her whole body and lay rigid.
"I am not ready for you yet, little fool," said the old woman, and
she bent again to her work.
Ricardo's brain whirled. Here was the girl whom they had come to
arrest, who had sprung from the salon with so much activity of youth
across the stretch of grass, who had run so quickly and lightly across
the pavement into this very house, so that she should not be seen. And
now she was lying in her fine and delicate attire a captive, at the
mercy of the very people who were her accomplices.
Suddenly a scream rang out in the garden—a shrill, loud scream,
close beneath the windows. The old woman sprang to her feet. The girl
on the sofa raised her head. The old woman took a step towards the
window, and then she swiftly turned towards the door. She saw the men
upon the threshold. She uttered a bellow of rage. There is no other
word to describe the sound. It was not a human cry; it was the bellow
of an angry animal. She reached out her hand towards the flask, but
before she could grasp it Hanaud seized her. She burst into a torrent
of foul oaths. Hanaud flung her across to Lemerre's officer, who
dragged her from the room.
"Quick!" said Hanaud, pointing to the girl, who was now struggling
helplessly upon the sofa. "Mlle. Celie!"
Ricardo cut the stitches of the sacking. Hanaud unstrapped her
hands and feet. They helped her to sit up. She shook her hands in the
air as though they tortured her, and then, in a piteous, whimpering
voice, like a child's, she babbled incoherently and whispered prayers.
Suddenly the prayers ceased. She sat stiff, with eyes fixed and
staring. She was watching Lemerre, and she was watching him fascinated
with terror. He was holding in his hand the large, bright aluminium
flask. He poured a little of the contents very carefully on to a piece
of the sack; and then with an exclamation of anger he turned towards
Hanaud. But Hanaud was supporting Celia; and so, as Lemerre turned
abruptly towards him with the flask in his hand, he turned abruptly
towards Celia too. She wrenched herself from Hanaud's arms, she shrank
violently away. Her white face flushed scarlet and grew white again.
She screamed loudly, terribly; and after the scream she uttered a
strange, weak sigh, and so fell sideways in a swoon. Hanaud caught
her as she fell. A light broke over his face.
"Now I understand!" he cried. "Good God! That's horrible."
CHAPTER XIII. IN THE HOUSE AT GENEVA
It was well, Mr. Ricardo thought, that some one understood. For
himself, he frankly admitted that he did not. Indeed, in his view the
first principles of reasoning seemed to be set at naught. It was
obvious from the solicitude with which Celia Harland was surrounded
that every one except himself was convinced of her innocence. Yet it
was equally obvious that any one who bore in mind the eight points he
had tabulated against her must be convinced of her guilt. Yet again,
if she were guilty, how did it happen that she had been so mishandled
by her accomplices? He was not allowed however, to reflect upon these
remarkable problems. He had too busy a time of it. At one moment he
was running to fetch water wherewith to bathe Celia's forehead. At
another, when he had returned with the water, he was distracted by the
appearance of Durette, the inspector from Aix, in the doorway.
"We have them both," he said—"Hippolyte and the woman. They were
hiding in the garden."
"So I thought," said Hanaud, "when I saw the door open downstairs,
and the morphia-needle on the table."
Lemerre turned to one of the officers.
"Let them be taken with old Jeanne in cabs to the depot."
And when the man had gone upon his errand Lemerre spoke to Hanaud.
"You will stay here tonight to arrange for their transfer to Aix?"
"I will leave Durette behind," said Hanaud. "I am needed at Aix.
We will make a formal application for the prisoners." He was kneeling
by Celia's side and awkwardly dabbing her forehead with a wet
handkerchief. He raised a warning hand. Celia Harland moved and opened
her eyes. She sat up on the sofa, shivering, and looked with dazed and
wondering eyes from one to another of the strangers who surrounded
her. She searched in vain for a familiar face.
"You are amongst good friends. Mlle. Celie," said Hanaud with
"Oh, I wonder! I wonder!" she cried piteously.
"Be very sure of it," he said heartily, and she clung to the
sleeve of his coat with desperate hands.
"I suppose you are friends," she said; "else why—?" and she moved
her numbed limbs to make certain that she was free. She looked about
the room. Her eyes fell upon the sack and widened with terror.
"They came to me a little while ago in that cupboard there—Adele
and the old woman Jeanne. They made me get up. They told me they were
going to take me away. They brought my clothes and dressed me in
everything I wore when I came, so that no single trace of me might be
left behind. Then they tied me." She tore off her gloves and showed
them her lacerated wrists. "I think they meant to kill me—horribly."
And she caught her breath and whimpered like a child. Her spirit was
"My poor girl, all that is over," said Hanaud. And he stood up.
But at the first movement he made she cried incisively, "No," and
tightened the clutch of her fingers upon his sleeve.
"But, mademoiselle, you are safe," he said, with a smile. She
stared at him stupidly. It seemed the words had no meaning for her.
She would not let him go. It was only the feel of his coat within the
clutch of her fingers which gave her any comfort.
"I want to be sure that I am safe," she said, with a wan little
"Tell me, mademoiselle, what have you had to eat and drink during
the last two days?"
"Is it two days?" she asked. "I was in the dark there. I did not
know. A little bread, a little water."
"That's what is wrong," said Hanaud. "Come, let us go from here!"
"Yes, yes!" Celia cried eagerly. She rose to her feet, and
tottered. Hanaud put his arm about her. "You are very kind," she said
in a low voice, and again doubt looked out from her face and
disappeared. "I am sure that I can trust you."
Ricardo fetched her cloak and slipped it on her shoulders. Then he
brought her hat, and she pinned it on. She turned to Hanaud;
unconsciously familiar words rose to her lips.
"Is it straight?" she asked. And Hanaud laughed outright, and in a
moment Celia smiled herself.
Supported by Hanaud she stumbled down the stairs to the garden. As
they passed the open door of the lighted parlour at the back of the
house Hanaud turned back to Lemerre and pointed silently to the
morphia-needle and the phial. Lemerre nodded his head, and going into
the room took them away. They went out again into the garden. Celia
Harland threw back her head to the stars and drew in a deep breath of
the cool night air.
"I did not think," she said in a low voice, "to see the stars
They walked slowly down the length of the garden, and Hanaud
lifted her into the launch. She turned and caught his coat.
"You must come too," she said stubbornly.
Hanaud sprang in beside her.
"For tonight," he said gaily, "I am your papa!"
Ricardo and the others followed, and the launch moved out over the
lake under the stars. The bow was turned towards Geneva, the water
tumbled behind them like white fire, the night breeze blew fresh upon
their faces. They disembarked at the landing-stage, and then Lemerre
bowed to Celia and took his leave. Hanaud led Celia up on to the
balcony of the restaurant and ordered supper. There were people still
dining at the tables.
One party indeed sitting late over their coffee Ricardo recognised
with a kind of shock. They had taken their places, the very places in
which they now sat, before he and Hanaud and Lemerre had left the
restaurant upon their expedition of rescue. Into that short interval
of time so much that was eventful had been crowded.
Hanaud leaned across the table to Celia and said in a low voice:
"Mademoiselle, if I may suggest it, it would be as well if you put
on your gloves; otherwise they may notice your wrists."
Celia followed his advice. She ate some food and drank a glass of
champagne. A little colour returned to her cheeks.
"You are very kind to me, you and monsieur your friend," she said,
with a smile towards Ricardo. "But for you—" and her voice shook.
"Hush!" said Hanaud—"all that is over; we will not speak of it."
Celia looked out across the road on to the trees, of which the
dark foliage was brightened and made pale by the lights of the
restaurant. Out on the water some one was singing.
"It seems impossible to me," she said in a low voice, "that I am
here, in the open air, and free."
Hanaud looked at his watch.
"Mlle. Celie, it is past ten o'clock. M. Ricardo's car is waiting
there under the trees. I want you to drive back to Aix. I have taken
rooms for you at an hotel, and there will be a nurse from the hospital
to look after you."
"Thank you, monsieur," she said; "you have thought of everything.
But I shall not need a nurse."
"But you will have a nurse," said Hanaud firmly. "You feel
stronger now—yes, but when you lay your head upon your pillow,
mademoiselle, it will be a comfort to you to know that you have her
within call. And in a day or two," he added gently, "you will perhaps
be able to tell us what happened on Tuesday night at the Villa Rose?"
Celia covered her face with her hands for a few moments. Then she
drew them away and said simply:
"Yes, monsieur, I will tell you."
Hanaud bowed to her with a genuine deference.
"Thank you, mademoiselle," he said, and in his voice there was a
strong ring of sympathy.
They went downstairs and entered Ricardo's motor car.
"I want to send a telephone message," said Hanaud, "if you will
"No!" cried Celia decisively, and she again laid hold of his coat,
with a pretty imperiousness, as though he belonged to her.
"But I must," said Hanaud with a laugh.
"Then I will come too," said Celia, and she opened the door and
set a foot upon the step.
"You will not, mademoiselle," said Hanaud, with a laugh. "Will you
take your foot back into that car? That is better. Now you will sit
with your friend, M. Ricardo, whom, by the way, I have not yet
introduced to you. He is a very good friend of yours, mademoiselle,
and will in the future be a still better one."
Ricardo felt his conscience rather heavy within him, for he had
come out to Geneva with the fixed intention of arresting her as a
most dangerous criminal. Even now he could not understand how she
could be innocent of a share in Mme. Dauvray's murder. But Hanaud
evidently thought she was. And since Hanaud thought so, why, it was
better to say nothing if one was sensitive to gibes. So Ricardo sat
and talked with her while Hanaud ran back into the restaurant. It
mattered very little, however, what he said, for Celia's eyes were
fixed upon the doorway through which Hanaud had disappeared. And when
he came back she was quick to turn the handle of the door.
"Now, mademoiselle, we will wrap you up in M. Ricardo's spare
motor-coat and cover your knees with a rug and put you between us,
and then you can go to sleep."
The car sped through the streets of Geneva. Celia Harland, with a
little sigh of relief, nestled down between the two men.
"If I knew you better," she said to Hanaud, "I should tell you—
what, of course, I do not tell you now—that I feel as if I had a big
Newfoundland dog with me."
"Mlle. Celie," said Hanaud, and his voice told her that he was
moved, "that is a very pretty thing which you have said to me."
The lights of the city fell away behind them. Now only a glow in
the sky spoke of Geneva; now even that was gone and with a smooth
continuous purr the car raced through the cool darkness. The great
head lamps threw a bright circle of light before them and the road
slipped away beneath the wheels like a running tide. Celia fell
asleep. Even when the car stopped at the Pont de La Caille she did
not waken. The door was opened, a search for contrabrand was made,
the book was signed, still she did not wake. The car sped on.
"You see, coming into France is a different affair," said Hanaud.
"Yes," replied Ricardo.
"Still, I will own it, you caught me napping yesterday.
"I did?" exclaimed Ricardo joyfully.
"You did," returned Hanaud. "I had never heard of the Pont de La
Caille. But you will not mention it? You will not ruin me?"
"I will not," answered. M. Ricardo, superb in his magnanimity.
"You are a good detective."
"Oh, thank you! thank you!" cried Hanaud in a voice which shook—
surely with emotion. He wrung Ricardo's hand. He wiped an imaginary
tear from his eye.
And still Celia slept. M. Ricardo looked at her. He said to Hanaud
in a whisper:
"Yet I do not understand. The car, though no serious search was
made, must still have stopped at the Pont de La Caille on the Swiss
side. Why did she not cry for help then? One cry and she was safe. A
movement even was enough. Do you understand?"
Hanaud nodded his head.
"I think so," he answered, with a very gentle look at Celia. "Yes,
I think so."
When Celia was aroused she found that the car had stopped before
the door of an hotel, and that a woman in the dress of a nurse was
standing in the doorway.
"You can trust Marie," said Hanaud. And Celia turned as she stood
upon the ground and gave her hands to the two men.
"Thank you! Thank you both!" she said in a trembling voice. She
looked at Hanaud and nodded her head. "You understand why I thank you
so very much?"
"Yes," said Hanaud. "But, mademoiselle"—and he bent over the car
and spoke to her quietly, holding her hand—"there is ALWAYS a big
Newfoundland dog in the worst of troubles—if only you will look for
him. I tell you so—I, who belong to the Surete in Paris. Do not lose
heart!" And in his mind he added: "God forgive me for the lie." He
shook her hand and let it go; and gathering up her skirt she went into
the hall of the hotel.
Hanaud watched her as she went. She was to him a lonely and
pathetic creature, in spite of the nurse who bore her company.
"You must be a good friend to that young girl, M. Ricardo," he
said. "Let us drive to your hotel."
"Yes," said Ricardo. And as they went the curiosity which all the
way from Geneva had been smouldering within him burst into flame.
"Will you explain to me one thing?" he asked. "When the scream
came from the garden you were not surprised. Indeed, you said that
when you saw the open door and the morphia-needle on the table of the
little room downstairs you thought Adele and the man Hippolyte were
hiding in the garden."
"Yes, I did think so."
"Why? And why did the publication that the jewels had been
discovered so alarm you?"
"Ah!" said Hanaud. "Did not you understand that? Yet it is surely
clear and obvious, if you once grant that the girl was innocent, was
a witness of the crime, and was now in the hands of the criminals.
Grant me those premisses, M. Ricardo, for a moment, and you will see
that we had just one chance of finding the girl alive in Geneva. From
the first I was sure of that. What was the one chance? Why, this! She
might be kept alive on the chance that she could be forced to tell
what, by the way, she did not know, namely, the place where Mme.
Dauvray's valuable jewels were secreted. Now, follow this. We, the
police, find the jewels and take charge of them. Let that news reach
the house in Geneva, and on the same night Mlle. Celie loses her life,
and not—very pleasantly. They have no further use for her. She is
merely a danger to them. So I take my precautions—never mind for the
moment what they were. I take care that if the murderer is in Aix and
gets wind of our discovery he shall not be able to communicate his
"The Post Office would have stopped letters or telegrams," said
Ricardo. "I understand."
"On the contrary," replied Hanaud. "No, I took my precautions,
which were of quite a different kind, before I knew the house in
Geneva or the name of Rossignol. But one way of communication I did
not think of. I did not think of the possibility that the news might
be sent to a newspaper, which of course would publish it and cry it
through the streets of Geneva. The moment I heard the news I knew we
must hurry. The garden of the house ran down to the lake. A means of
disposing of Mlle. Celie was close at hand. And the night had fallen.
As it was, we arrived just in time, and no earlier than just in time.
The paper had been bought, the message had reached the house, Mlle.
Celie was no longer of any use, and every hour she stayed in that
house was of course an hour of danger to her captors."
"What were they going to do?" asked Ricardo.
Hanaud shrugged his shoulders.
"It is not pretty—what they were going to do. We reach the garden
in our launch. At that moment Hippolyte and Adele, who is most likely
Hippolyte's wife, are in the lighted parlour on the basement floor.
Adele is preparing her morphia-needle. Hippolyte is going to get ready
the rowing-boat which was tied at the end of the landing-stage.
Quietly as we came into the bank, they heard or saw us. They ran out
and hid in the garden, having no time to lock the garden door, or
perhaps not daring to lock it lest the sound of the key should reach
our ears. We find that door upon the latch, the door of the room open;
on the table lies the morphia- needle. Upstairs lies Mlle. Celie—she
is helpless, she cannot see what they are meaning to do."
"But she could cry out," exclaimed Ricardo. "She did not even do
"No, my friend, she could not cry out," replied Hanaud very
seriously. "I know why. She could not. No living man or woman could.
Rest assured of that!"
Ricardo was mystified; but since the captain of the ship would not
show his observation, he knew it would be in vain to press him.
"Well, while Adele was preparing her morphia-needle and Hippolyte
was about to prepare the boat, Jeanne upstairs was making her
preparation too. She was mending a sack. Did you see Mlle. Celie's
eyes and face when first she saw that sack? Ah! she understood! They
meant to give her a dose of morphia, and, as soon as she became
unconscious, they were going perhaps to take some terrible
precaution—" Hanaud paused for a second. "I only say perhaps as to
that. But certainly they were going to sew her up in that sack, row
her well out across the lake, fix a weight to her feet, and drop her
quietly overboard. She was to wear everything which she had brought
with her to the house. Mlle. Celie would have disappeared for ever,
and left not even a ripple upon the water to trace her by!"
Ricardo clenched his hands.
"But that's horrible!" he cried; and as he uttered the words the
car swerved into the drive and stopped before the door of the Hotel
Ricardo sprang out. A feeling of remorse seized hold of him. All
through that evening he had not given one thought to Harry
Wethermill, so utterly had the excitement of each moment engrossed
"He will be glad to know!" cried Ricardo. "Tonight, at all events,
he shall sleep. I ought to have telegraphed to him from Geneva that
we and Miss Celia were coming back." He ran up the steps into the
"I took care that he should know," said Hanaud, as he followed in
"Then the message could not have reached him, else he would have
been expecting us," replied Ricardo, as he hurried into the office,
where a clerk sat at his books.
"Is Mr. Wethermill in?" he asked.
The clerk eyed him strangely.
"Mr. Wethermill was arrested this evening," he said.
Ricardo stepped back.
"At twenty-five minutes past ten," replied the clerk shortly.
"Ah," said Hanaud quietly. "That was my telephone message."
Ricardo stared in stupefaction at his companion.
"Arrested!" he cried. "Arrested! But what for?"
"For the murders of Marthe Gobin and Mme. Dauvray," said Hanaud.
CHAPTER XIV. MR. RICARDO IS
Ricardo passed a most tempestuous night. He was tossed amongst
dark problems. Now it was Harry Wethermill who beset him. He repeated
and repeated the name, trying to grasp the new and sinister suggestion
which, if Hanaud were right, its sound must henceforth bear. Of course
Hanaud might be wrong. Only, if he were wrong, how had he come to
suspect Harry Wethermill? What had first directed his thoughts to that
seemingly heart-broken man? And when? Certain recollections became
vivid in Mr. Ricardo's mind— the luncheon at the Villa Rose, for
instance. Hanaud had been so insistent that the woman with the red
hair was to be found in Geneva, had so clearly laid it down that a
message, a telegram, a letter from Aix to Geneva, would enable him to
lay his hands upon the murderer in Aix. He was isolating the house in
Geneva even so early in the history of his investigations, even so
soon he suspected Harry Wethermill. Brains and audacity—yes, these
two qualities he had stipulated in the criminal. Ricardo now for the
first time understood the trend of all Hanaud's talk at that
luncheon. He was putting Harry Wethermill upon his guard, he was
immobilising him, he was fettering him in precautions; with a subtle
skill he was forcing him to isolate himself. And he was doing it
deliberately to save the life of Celia Harland in Geneva. Once Ricardo
lifted himself up with the hair stirring on his scalp. He himself had
been with Wethermill in the baccarat-rooms on the very night of the
murder. They had walked together up the hill to the hotel. It could
not be that Harry Wethermill was guilty. And yet, he suddenly
remembered, they had together left the rooms at an early hour. It was
only ten o'clock when they had separated in the hall, when they had
gone, each to his own room. There would have been time for Wethermill
to reach the Villa Rose and do his dreadful work upon that night
before twelve, if all had been arranged beforehand, if all went as it
had been arranged. And as he thought upon the careful planning of that
crime, and remembered Wethermill's easy chatter as they had strolled
from table to table in the Villa des Fleurs, Ricardo shuddered. Though
he encouraged a taste for the bizarre, it was with an effort. He was
naturally of an orderly mind, and to touch the eerie or inhuman caused
him a physical discomfort. So now he marvelled in a great uneasiness
at the calm placidity with which Wethermill had talked, his arm in
his, while the load of so dark a crime to be committed within the hour
lay upon his mind. Each minute he must have been thinking, with a
swift spasm of the heart, "Should such a precaution fail—should such
or such an unforeseen thing intervene," yet there had been never a
sign of disturbance, never a hint of any disquietude.
Then Ricardo's thoughts turned as he tossed upon his bed to Celia
Harland, a tragic and a lonely figure. He recalled the look of
tenderness upon her face when her eyes had met Harry Wethermill's
across the baccarat-table in the Villa des Fleurs. He gained some
insight into the reason why she had clung so desperately to Hanaud's
coat-sleeve yesterday. Not merely had he saved her life. She was lying
with all her world of trust and illusion broken about her, and Hanaud
had raised her up. She had found some one whom she trusted—the big
Newfoundland dog, as she expressed it. Mr. Ricardo was still thinking
of Celia Harland when the morning came. He fell asleep, and awoke to
find Hanaud by his bed.
"You will be wanted today," said Hanaud.
Ricardo got up and walked down from the hotel with the detective.
The front door faces the hillside of Mont Revard, and on this side
Mr. Ricardo's rooms looked out. The drive from the front door curves
round the end of the long building and joins the road, which then
winds down towards the town past the garden at the back of the hotel.
Down this road the two men walked, while the supporting wall of the
garden upon their right hand grew higher and higher above their heads.
They came to a steep flight of steps which makes a short cut from the
hotel to the road, and at the steps Hanaud stopped.
"Do you see?" he said. "On the opposite side there are no houses;
there is only a wall. Behind the wall there are climbing gardens and
the ground falls steeply to the turn of the road below. There's a
flight of steps leading down which corresponds with the flight of
steps from the garden. Very often there's a serjent-de- ville
stationed on the top of the steps. But there was not one there
yesterday afternoon at three. Behind us is the supporting wall of the
hotel garden. Well, look about you. We cannot be seen from the hotel.
There's not a soul in sight—yes, there's some one coming up the hill,
but we have been standing here quite long enough for you to stab me
and get back to your coffee on the verandah of the hotel."
Ricardo started back.
"Marthe Gobin!" he cried. "It was here, then?"
"When we returned from the station in your motor-car and went up
to your rooms we passed Harry Wethermill sitting upon the verandah
over the garden drinking his coffee. He had the news then that Marthe
Gobin was on her way."
"But you had isolated the house in Geneva. How could he have the
news?" exclaimed Ricardo, whose brain was whirling.
"I had isolated the house from him, in the sense that he dared not
communicate with his accomplices. That is what you have to remember.
He could not even let them know that they must not communicate with
him. So he received a telegram. It was carefully worded. No doubt he
had arranged the wording of any message with the care which was used
in all the preparations. It ran like this"—and Hanaud took a scrap of
paper from his pocket and read out from it a copy of the telegram:
"'Agent arrives Aix 3.7 to negotiate purchase of your patent.' The
telegram was handed in at Geneva station at 12.45, five minutes after
the train had left which carried Marthe Gobin to Aix. And more, it was
handed in by a man strongly resembling Hippolyte Tace"—that we know."
"That was madness," said Ricardo.
"But what else could they do over there in Geneva? They did not
know that Harry Wethermill was suspected. Harry Wethermill had no
idea of it himself. But, even if they had known, they must take the
risk. Put yourself into their place for a moment. They had seen my
advertisement about Celie Harland in the Geneva paper. Marthe Gobin,
that busybody who was always watching her neighbours, was no doubt
watched herself. They see her leave the house, an unusual proceeding
for her with her husband ill, as her own letter tells us. Hippolyte
follows her to the station, sees her take her ticket to Aix and mount
into the train. He must guess at once that she saw Celie Harland enter
their house, that she is travelling to Aix with the information of her
whereabouts. At all costs she must be prevented from giving that
information. At all risks, therefore, the warning telegram must be
sent to Harry Wethermill."
Ricardo recognised the force of the argument.
"If only you had heard of the telegram yesterday in time!" he
"Ah, yes!" Hanaud agreed. "But it was only sent off at a quarter
to one. It was delivered to Wethermill and a copy was sent to the
Prefecture, but the telegram was delivered first."
"When was it delivered to Wethermill?" asked Ricardo.
"At three. We had already left for the station. Wethermill was
sitting on the verandah. The telegram was brought to him there. It
was brought by a waiter in the hotel who remembers the incident very
well. Wethermill has seven minutes and the time it will take for
Marthe Gobin to drive from the station to the Majestic. What does he
do? He runs up first to your rooms, very likely not yet knowing what
he must do. He runs up to verify his telegram."
"Are you sure of that?" cried Ricardo. "How can you be? You were
at the station with me. What makes you sure?"
Hanaud produced a brown kid glove from his pocket.
"That is your glove; you told me so yesterday."
"I told you so," replied Hanaud calmly; "but it is not my glove.
It is Wethermill's; there are his initials stamped upon the
lining—see? I picked up that glove in your room, after we had
returned from the station. It was not there before. He went to your
rooms. No doubt he searched for a telegram. Fortunately he did not
examine your letters, or Marthe Gobin would never have spoken to us as
she did after she was dead,"
"Then what did he do?" asked Ricardo eagerly; and, though Hanaud
had been with him at the entrance to the station all this while, he
asked the question in absolute confidence that the true answer would
be given to him.
"He returned to the verandah wondering what he should do. He saw
us come back from the station in the motor-car and go up to your
room. We were alone. Marthe Gobin, then, was following. There was his
chance. Marthe Gobin must not reach us, must not tell her news to us.
He ran down the garden steps to the gate. No one could see him from
the hotel. Very likely he hid behind the trees, whence he could watch
the road. A cab comes up the hill; there's a woman in it—not quite
the kind of woman who stays at your hotel, M. Ricardo. Yet she must be
going to your hotel, for the road ends. The driver is nodding on his
box, refusing to pay any heed to his fare lest again she should bid
him hurry. His horse is moving at a walk. Wethermill puts his head in
at the window and asks if she has come to see M. Ricardo. Anxious for
her four thousand francs, she answers 'Yes.' Perhaps he steps into the
cab, perhaps as he walks by the side he strikes, and strikes hard and
strikes surely. Long before the cab reaches the hotel he is back again
on the verandah."
"Yes," said Ricardo, "it's the daring of which you spoke which
made the crime possible—the same daring which made him seek your
help. That was unexampled."
"No," replied Hanaud. "There's an historic crime in your own
country, monsieur. Cries for help were heard in a by-street of a
town. When people ran to answer them, a man was found kneeling by a
corpse. It was the kneeling man who cried for help, but it was also
the kneeling man who did the murder. I remembered that when I first
began to suspect Harry Wethermill."
Ricardo turned eagerly.
"And when—when did you first begin to suspect Harry Wethermill?"
Hanaud smiled and shook his head.
"That you shall know in good time. I am the captain of the ship."
His voice took on a deeper note. "But I prepare you. Listen! Daring
and brains, those were the property of Harry Wethermill— yes. But it
is not he who is the chief actor in the crime. Of that I am sure. He
was no more than one of the instruments."
"One of the instruments? Used, then, by whom?" asked Ricardo.
"By my Normandy peasant-woman, M. Ricardo," said Hanaud. "Yes,
there's the dominating figure—cruel, masterful, relentless—that
strange woman, Helene Vauquier. You are surprised? You will see! It
is not the man of intellect and daring; it's my peasant-woman who is
at the bottom of it all."
"But she's free!" exclaimed Ricardo. "You let her go free!"
"Free!" repeated Ricardo. "She was driven straight from the Villa
Rose to the depot. She has been kept au secret ever since."
Ricardo stared in amazement.
"Already you knew of her guilt?"
"Already she had lied to me in her description of Adele Rossignol.
Do you remember what she said—a black-haired woman with beady eyes;
and I only five minutes before had picked up from the table- -this."
He opened his pocket-book, and took from an envelope a long strand
of red hair.
"But it was not only because she lied that I had her taken to the
depot. A pot of cold cream had disappeared from the room of Mlle
"Then Perrichet after all was right."
"Perrichet after all was quite wrong—not to hold his tongue. For
in that pot of cold cream, as I was sure, were hidden those valuable
diamond earrings which Mlle. Celie habitually wore."
The two men had reached the square in front of the Etablissement
des Bains. Ricardo dropped on to a bench and wiped his forehead.
"But I am in a maze," he cried. "My head turns round. I don't know
where I am."
Hanaud stood in front of Ricardo, smiling. He was not displeased
with his companion's bewilderment; it was all so much of tribute to
"I am the captain of the ship," he said.
His smile irritated Ricardo, who spoke impatiently.
"I should be very glad," he said, "if you would tell me how you
discovered all these things. And what it was that the little salon on
the first morning had to tell to you? And why Celia Harland ran from
the glass doors across the grass to the motor-car and again from the
carriage into the house on the lake? Why she did not resist yesterday
evening? Why she did not cry for help? How much of Helene Vauquier's
evidence was true and how much false? For what reason Wethermill
concerned himself in this affair? Oh! and a thousand things which I
"Ah, the cushions, and the scrap of paper, and the aluminium
flask," said Hanaud; and the triumph faded from his face. He spoke
now to Ricardo with a genuine friendliness. "You must not be angry
with me if I keep you in the dark for a little while. I, too, Mr.
Ricardo, have artistic inclinations. I will not spoil the remarkable
story which I think Mlle. Celie will be ready to tell us. Afterwards I
will willingly explain to you what I read in the evidences of the
room, and what so greatly puzzled me then. But it is not the puzzle or
its solution," he said modestly, "which is most interesting here.
Consider the people. Mme. Dauvray, the old, rich, ignorant woman, with
her superstitions and her generosity, her desire to converse with Mme.
de Montespan and the great ladies of the past, and her love of a
young, fresh face about her; Helene Vauquier, the maid with her six
years of confidential service, who finds herself suddenly supplanted
and made to tend and dress in dainty frocks the girl who has
supplanted her; the young girl herself, that poor child, with her love
of fine clothes, the Bohemian who, brought up amidst trickeries and
practising them as a profession, looking upon them and upon misery and
starvation and despair as the commonplaces of life, keeps a simplicity
and a delicacy and a freshness which would have withered in a day had
she been brought up otherwise; Harry Wethermill, the courted and
successful man of genius.
"Just imagine if you can what his feelings must have been, when in
Mme. Dauvray's bedroom, with the woman he had uselessly murdered
lying rigid beneath the sheet, he saw me raise the block of wood from
the inlaid floor and take out one by one those jewel cases for which
less than twelve hours before he had been ransacking that very room.
But what he must have felt! And to give no sign! Oh, these people are
the interesting problems in this story. Let us hear what happened on
that terrible night. The puzzle—that can wait." In Mr. Ricardo's view
Hanaud was proved right. The extraordinary and appalling story which
was gradually unrolled of what had happened on that night of Tuesday
in the Villa Rose exceeded in its grim interest all the mystery of the
puzzle. But it was not told at once.
The trouble at first with Mlle. Celie was a fear of sleep. She
dared not sleep—even with a light in the room and a nurse at her
bedside. When her eyes were actually closing she would force herself
desperately back into the living world. For when she slept she dreamed
through again that dark and dreadful night of Tuesday and the two days
which followed it, until at some moment endurance snapped and she woke
up screaming. But youth, a good constitution, and a healthy appetite
had their way with her in the end.
She told her share of the story—she told what happened. There was
apparently one terrible scene when she was confronted with Harry
Wethermill in the office of Monsieur Fleuriot, the Juge
d'lnstruction, and on her knees, with the tears streaming down her
face, besought him to confess the truth. For a long while he held
out. And then there came a strange and human turn to the affair.
Adele Rossignol—or, to give her real name, Adele Tace, the wife of
Hippolyte—had conceived a veritable passion for Harry Wethermill. He
was of a not uncommon type, cold and callous in himself, yet with the
power to provoke passion in women. And Adele Tace, as the story was
told of how Harry Wethermill had paid his court to Celia Harland, was
seized with a vindictive jealousy. Hanaud was not surprised. He knew
the woman-criminal of his country—brutal, passionate, treacherous.
The anonymous letters in a woman's handwriting which descend upon the
Rue de Jerusalem, and betray the men who have committed thefts, had
left him no illusions upon that figure in the history of crime. Adele
Rossignol ran forward to confess, so that Harry Wethermill might
suffer to the last possible point of suffering. Then at last
Wethermill gave in and, broken down by the ceaseless interrogations
of the magistrate, confessed in his turn too. The one, and the only
one, who stood firmly throughout and denied the crime was Helene
Vauquier. Her thin lips were kept contemptuously closed, whatever the
others might admit. With a white, hard face, quietly and respectfully
she faced the magistrate week after week. She was the perfect picture
of a servant who knew her place. And nothing was wrung from her. But
without her help the story became complete. And Ricardo was at pains
to write it out.
CHAPTER XV. CELIA'S STORY
The story begins with the explanation of that circumstance which
had greatly puzzled Mr. Ricardo—Celia's entry into the household of
Celia's father was a Captain Harland, of a marching regiment, who
had little beyond good looks and excellent manners wherewith to
support his position. He was extravagant in his tastes, and of an
easy mind in the presence of embarrassments. To his other
disadvantages he added that of falling in love with a pretty girl no
better off than himself. They married, and Celia was born. For nine
years they managed, through the wife's constant devotion, to struggle
along and to give their daughter an education. Then, however, Celia's
mother broke down under the strain and died. Captain Harland, a couple
of years later, went out of the service with discredit, passed through
the bankruptcy court, and turned showman. His line was
thought-reading; he enlisted the services of his daughter, taught her
the tricks of his trade, and became "The Great Fortinbras" of the
music-halls. Captain Harland would move amongst the audience, asking
the spectators in a whisper to think of a number or of an article in
their pockets, after the usual fashion, while the child, in her short
frock, with her long fair hair tied back with a ribbon, would stand
blind-folded upon the platform and reel off the answers with
astonishing rapidity. She was singularly quick, singularly receptive.
The undoubted cleverness of the performance, and the beauty of the
child, brought to them a temporary prosperity. The Great Fortinbras
rose from the music-halls to the assembly rooms of provincial towns.
The performance became genteel, and ladies flocked to the matinees.
The Great Fortinbras dropped his pseudonym and became once more
As Celia grew up, he tried a yet higher flight—he became a
spiritualist, with Celia for his medium. The thought-reading
entertainments became thrilling seances, and the beautiful child, now
grown into a beautiful girl of seventeen, created a greater sensation
as a medium in a trance than she had done as a lightning
"I saw no harm in it," Celia explained to M. Fleuriot, without any
attempt at extenuation. "I never understood that we might be doing
any hurt to any one. People were interested. They were to find us out
if they could, and they tried to and they couldn't. I looked upon it
quite simply in that way. It was just my profession. I accepted it
without any question. I was not troubled about it until I came to
A startling exposure, however, at Cambridge discredited the craze
for spiritualism, and Captain Harland's fortunes declined. He crossed
with his daughter to France and made a disastrous tour in that
country, wasted the last of his resources in the Casino at Dieppe, and
died in that town, leaving Celia just enough money to bury him and to
pay her third-class fare to Paris.
There she lived honestly but miserably. The slimness of her figure
and a grace of movement which was particularly hers obtained her at
last a situation as a mannequin in the show-rooms of a modiste. She
took a room on the top floor of a house in the Rue St. Honore and
settled down to a hard and penurious life.
"I was not happy or contented—no," said Celia frankly and
decisively. "The long hours in the close rooms gave me headaches and
made me nervous. I had not the temperament. And I was very lonely—my
life had been so different. I had had fresh air, good clothes, and
freedom. Now all was changed. I used to cry myself to sleep up in my
little room, wondering whether I would ever have friends. You see, I
was quite young—only eighteen—and I wanted to live."
A change came in a few months, but a disastrous change. The
modiste failed. Celia was thrown out of work, and could get nothing
to do. Gradually she pawned what clothes she could spare; and then
there came a morning when she had a single five-franc piece in the
world and owed a month's rent for her room. She kept the five-franc
piece all day and went hungry, seeking for work. In the evening she
went to a provision shop to buy food, and the man behind the counter
took the five-franc piece. He looked at it, rung it on the counter,
and, with a laugh, bent it easily in half.
"See here, my little one," he said, tossing the coin back to her,
"one does not buy good food with lead."
Celia dragged herself out of the shop in despair. She was
starving. She dared not go back to her room. The thought of the
concierge at the bottom of the stairs, insistent for the rent,
frightened her. She stood on the pavement and burst into tears. A few
people stopped and watched her curiously, and went on again. Finally a
sergent-de-ville told her to go away.
The girl moved on with the tears running down her cheeks. She was
desperate, she was lonely.
"I thought of throwing myself into the Seine," said Celia simply,
in telling her story to the Juge d'Instruction. "Indeed, I went to
the river. But the water looked so cold, so terrible, and I was
young. I wanted so much to live. And then—the night came, and the
lights made the city bright, and I was very tired and—and—"
And, in a word, the young girl went up to Montmartre in
desperation, as quickly as her tired legs would carry her. She walked
once or twice timidly past the restaurants, and, finally, entered one
of them, hoping that some one would take pity on her and give her some
supper. She stood just within the door of the supper-room. People
pushed past her—men in evening dress, women in bright frocks and
jewels. No one noticed her. She had shrunk into a corner, rather
hoping not to be noticed, now that she had come. But the novelty of
her surroundings wore off. She knew that for want of food she was
almost fainting. There were two girls engaged by the management to
dance amongst the tables while people had supper—one dressed as a
page in blue satin, and the other as a Spanish dancer. Both girls were
kind. They spoke to Celia between their dances. They let her waltz
with them. Still no one noticed her. She had no jewels, no fine
clothes, no chic—the three indispensable things. She had only youth
and a pretty face.
"But," said Celia, "without jewels and fine clothes and chic these
go for nothing in Paris. At last, however, Mme. Dauvray came in with
a party of friends from a theatre, and saw how unhappy I was, and gave
me some supper. She asked me about myself, and I told her. She was
very kind, and took me home with her, and I cried all the way in the
carriage. She kept me a few days, and then she told me that I was to
live with her, for often she was lonely too, and that if I would she
would some day find me a nice, comfortable husband and give me a
marriage portion. So all my troubles seemed to be at an end," said
Celia, with a smile.
Within a fortnight Mme. Dauvray confided to Celia that there was a
new fortune-teller come to Paris, who, by looking into a crystal,
could tell the most wonderful things about the future. The old
woman's eyes kindled as she spoke. She took Celia to the fortune-
teller's rooms next day, and the girl quickly understood the ruling
passion of the woman who had befriended her. It took very little time
then for Celia to notice how easily Mme. Dauvray was duped, how
perpetually she was robbed. Celia turned the problem over in her mind.
"Madame had been very good to me. She was kind and simple," said
Celia, with a very genuine affection in her voice. "The people whom
we knew laughed at her, and were ungenerous. But there are many women
whom the world respects who are worse than ever was poor Mme. Dauvray.
I was very fond of her, so I proposed to her that we should hold a
seance, and I would bring people from the spirit world I knew that I
could amuse her with something much more clever and more interesting
than the fortune-tellers. And at the same time I could save her from
being plundered. That was all I thought about."
That was all she thought about, yes. She left Helene Vauquier out
of her calculations, and she did not foresee the effect of her
stances upon Mme. Dauvray. Celia had no suspicions of Helene
Vauquier. She would have laughed if any one had told her that this
respectable and respectful middle-aged woman, who was so attentive,
so neat, so grateful for any kindness, was really nursing a rancorous
hatred against her. Celia had sprung from Montmartre suddenly;
therefore Helene Vauquier despised her. Celia had taken her place in
Mme. Dauvray's confidence, had deposed her unwittingly, had turned the
confidential friend into a mere servant; therefore Helene Vauquier
hated her. And her hatred reached out beyond the girl, and embraced
the old, superstitious, foolish woman, whom a young and pretty face
could so easily beguile. Helene Vauquier despised them both, hated
them both, and yet must nurse her rancour in silence and futility.
Then came the seances, and at once, to add fuel to her hatred, she
found herself stripped of those gifts and commissions which she had
exacted from the herd of common tricksters who had been wont to make
their harvest out of Mme. Dauvray. Helene Vauquier was avaricious and
greedy, like so many of her class. Her hatred of Celia, her contempt
for Mme. Dauvray, grew into a very delirium. But it was a delirium she
had the cunning to conceal. She lived at white heat, but to all the
world she had lost nothing of her calm.
Celia did not foresee the hatred she was arousing; nor, on the
other hand, did she foresee the overwhelming effect of these
spiritualistic seances on Mme. Dauvray. Celia had never been brought
quite close to the credulous before.
"There had always been the row of footlights," she said. "I was on
the platform; the audience was in the hall; or, if it was at a house,
my father made the arrangements. I only came in at the last moment,
played my part, and went away. It was never brought home to me that
some amongst these people really and truly believed. I did not think
about it. Now, however, when I saw Mme. Dauvray so feverish, so
excited, so firmly convinced that great ladies from the spirit world
came and spoke to her, I became terrified. I had aroused a passion
which I had not suspected. I tried to stop the seances, but I was not
allowed. I had aroused a passion which I could not control. I was
afraid that Mme. Dauvray's whole life—it seems absurd to those who
did not know her, but those who did will understand—yes, her whole
life and happiness would be spoilt if she discovered that what she
believed in was all a trick."
She spoke with a simplicity and a remorse which it was difficult
to disbelieve. M. Fleuriot, the judge, now at last convinced that the
Dreyfus affair was for nothing in the history of this crime, listened
to her with sympathy.
"That is your explanation, mademoiselle," he said gently. "But I
must tell you that we have another."
"Yes, monsieur?" Celia asked.
"Given by Helene Vauquier," said Fleuriot.
Even after these days Celia could not hear that woman's name
without a shudder of fear and a flinching of her whole body. Her face
grew white, her lips dry.
"I know, monsieur, that Helene Vauquier is not my friend," she
said. "I was taught that very cruelly."
"Listen, mademoiselle, to what she says," said the judge, and he
read out to Celia an extract or two from Hanaud's report of his first
interview with Helene Vauquier in her bedroom at the Villa Rose.
"You hear what she says. 'Mme. Dauvray would have had seances all
day, but Mlle. Celie pleaded that she was left exhausted at the end
of them. But Mlle. Celie was of an address.' And again, speaking of
Mme. Dauvray's queer craze that the spirit of Mme. de Montespan should
be called up, Helene Vauquier says: 'She was never gratified. Always
she hoped. Always Mlle. Celie tantalised her with the hope. She would
not spoil her fine affairs by making these treats too common.' Thus
she attributes your reluctance to multiply your experiments to a
desire to make the most profit possible out of your wares, like a good
"It is not true, monsieur," cried Celia earnestly. "I tried to
stop the seances because now for the first time I recognised that I
had been playing with a dangerous thing. It was a revelation to me. I
did not know what to do. Mme. Dauvray would promise me everything,
give me everything, if only I would consent when I refused. I was
terribly frightened of what would happen. I did not want power over
people. I knew it was not good for her that she should suffer so much
excitement. No, I did not know what to do. And so we all moved to
And there she met Harry Wethermill on the second day after her
arrival, and proceeded straightway for the first time to fall in
love. To Celia it seemed that at last that had happened for which she
had so longed. She began really to live as she understood life at this
time. The day, until she met Harry Wethermill, was one flash of joyous
expectation; the hours when they were together a time of contentment
which thrilled with some chance meeting of the hands into an exquisite
happiness. Mme. Dauvray understood quickly what was the matter, and
laughed at her affectionately.
"Celie, my dear," she said, "your friend, M. Wethermill—'Arry, is
it not? See, I pronounce your tongue—will not be as comfortable as
the nice, fat, bourgeois gentleman I meant to find for you. But, since
you are young, naturally you want storms. And there will be storms,
Celie," she concluded, with a laugh.
"I suppose there will," she said regretfully. There were, indeed,
moments when she was frightened of Harry Wethermill, but frightened
with a delicious thrill of knowledge that he was only stern because he
cared so much.
But in a day or two there began to intrude upon her happiness a
stinging dissatisfaction with her past life. At times she fell into
melancholy, comparing her career with that of the man who loved her.
At times she came near to an extreme irritation with Helene Vauquier.
Her lover was in her thoughts. As she put it herself:
"I wanted always to look my best, and always to be very good."
Good in the essentials of life, that is to be understood. She had
lived in a lax world. She was not particularly troubled by the
character of her associates; she was untouched by them; she liked her
fling at the baccarat-tables. These were details, and did not distress
her. Love had not turned her into a Puritan. But certain recollections
plagued her soul. The visit to the restaurant at Montmartre, for
instance, and the seances. Of these, indeed, she thought to have made
an end. There were the baccarat-rooms, the beauty of the town and the
neighbourhood to distract Mme. Dauvray. Celia kept her thoughts away
from seances. There was no seance as yet held in the Villa Rose. And
there would have been none but for Helene Vauquier.
One evening, however, as Harry Wethermill walked down from the
Cercle to the Villa des Fleurs, a woman's voice spoke to him from
He turned and saw Mme. Dauvray's maid. He stopped under a street
lamp, and said:
"Well, what can I do for you?"
The woman hesitated.
"I hope monsieur will pardon me," she said humbly. "I am
committing a great impertinence. But I think monsieur is not very
kind to Mlle. Celie."
Wethermill stared at her.
"What on earth do you mean?" he asked angrily.
Helene Vauquier looked him quietly in the face.
"It is plain, monsieur, that Mlle. Celie loves monsieur. Monsieur
has led her on to love him. But it is also plain to a woman with
quick eyes that monsieur himself cares no more for mademoiselle than
for the button on his coat. It is not very kind to spoil the happiness
of a young and pretty girl, monsieur."
Nothing could have been more respectful than the manner in which
these words were uttered. Wethermill was taken in by it. He protested
earnestly, fearing lest the maid should become an enemy.
"Helene, it is not true that I am playing with Mlle. Celie. Why
should I not care for her?"
Helene Vauquier shrugged her shoulders. The question needed no
"Why should I seek her so often if I did not care?"
And to this question Helene Vauquier smiled—a quiet, slow,
"What does monsieur want of Mme. Dauvray?" she asked. And the
question was her answer.
Wethermill stood silent. Then he said abruptly:
"Nothing, of course; nothing." And he walked away.
But the smile remained on Helene Vauquier's face. What did they
all want of Mme. Dauvray? She knew very well. It was what she herself
wanted—with other things. It was money—always money. Wethermill was
not the first to seek the good graces of Mme. Dauvray through her
pretty companion. Helene Vauquier went home. She was not discontented
with her conversation. Wethermill had paused long enough before he
denied the suggestion of her words. She approached him a few days
later a second time and more openly. She was shopping in, the Rue du
Casino when he passed her. He stopped of his own accord and spoke to
her. Helene Vauquier kept a grave and respectful face. But there was a
pulse of joy at her heart. He was coming to her hand.
"Monsieur," she said, "you do not go the right way." And again her
strange smile illuminated her face. "Mlle. Celie sets a guard about
Mme. Dauvray. She will not give to people the opportunity to find
"Oh," said Wethermill slowly. "Is that so?" And he turned and
walked by Helene Vauquier's side.
"Never speak of Mme. Dauvray's wealth, monsieur, if you would keep
the favour of Mlle. Celie. She is young, but she knows her world."
"I have not spoken of money to her," replied Wethermill; and then
he burst out laughing. "But why should you think that I—I, of all
men—want money?" he asked.
And Helene answered him again enigmatically.
"If I am wrong, monsieur, I am sorry, but you can help me too,"
she said, in her submissive voice. And she passed on, leaving
Wethermill rooted to the ground.
It was a bargain she proposed—the impertinence of it! It was a
bargain she proposed—the value of it! In that shape ran Harry
Wethermill's thoughts. He was in desperate straits, though to the
world's eye he was a man of wealth. A gambler, with no inexpensive
tastes, he had been always in need of money. The rights in his patent
he had mortgaged long ago. He was not an idler; he was no sham foisted
as a great man on an ignorant public. He had really some touch of
genius, and he cultivated it assiduously. But the harder he worked,
the greater was his need of gaiety and extravagance. Gifted with good
looks and a charm of manner, he was popular alike in the great world
and the world of Bohemia. He kept and wanted to keep a foot in each.
That he was in desperate straits now, probably Helene Vauquier alone
in Aix had recognised. She had drawn her inference from one simple
fact. Wethermill asked her at a later time when they were better
acquainted how she had guessed his need.
"Monsieur," she replied, "you were in Aix without a valet, and it
seemed to me that you were of that class of men who would never move
without a valet so long as there was money to pay his wages. That was
my first thought. Then when I saw you pursue your friendship with
Mlle. Celie—you, who so clearly to my eyes did not love her—I felt
On the next occasion that the two met, it was again Harry
Wethermill who sought Helene Vauquier. He talked for a minute or two
upon indifferent subjects, and then he said quickly:
"I suppose Mme. Dauvray is very rich?"
"She has a great fortune in jewels," said Helene Vauquier.
Wethermill started. He was agitated that evening, the woman saw.
His hands shook, his face twitched. Clearly he was hard put to it.
For he seldom betrayed himself. She thought it time to strike.
"Jewels which she keeps in the safe in her bedroom," she added.
"Then why don't you—-?" he began, and stopped.
"I said that I too needed help," replied Helene, without a ruffle
of her composure.
It was nine o'clock at night. Helene Vauquier had come down to the
Casino with a wrap for Mme. Dauvray. The two people were walking down
the little street of which the Casino blocks the end. And it happened
that an attendant at the Casino, named Alphonse Ruel, passed them,
recognised them both, and—smiled to himself with some amusement. What
was Wethermill doing in company with Mme. Dauvray's maid? Ruel had no
doubt. Ruel had seen Wethermill often enough these recent days with
Mme. Dauvray's pretty companion. Ruel had all a Frenchman's sympathy
with lovers. He wished them well, those two young and attractive
people, and hoped that the maid would help their plans.
But as he passed he caught a sentence spoken suddenly by
"Well, it is true; I must have money." And the agitated voice and
words remained fixed in his memory. He heard, too, a warning "Hush!"
from the maid. Then they passed out of his hearing. But he turned and
saw that Wethermill was talking volubly. What Harry Wethermill was
saying he was saying in a foolish burst of confidence.
"You have guessed it, Helene—you alone." He had mortgaged his
patent twice over—once in France, once in England—and the second
time had been a month ago. He had received a large sum down, which
went to pay his pressing creditors. He had hoped to pay the sum back
from a new invention.
"But Helene, I tell you," he said, "I have a conscience." And when
she smiled he explained. "Oh, not what the priests would call a
conscience; that I know. But none the less I have a conscience—a
conscience about the things which really matter, at all events to me.
There is a flaw in that new invention. It can be improved; I know
that. But as yet I do not see how, and—I cannot help it—I must get
it right; I cannot let it go imperfect when I know that it's
imperfect, when I know that it can be improved, when I am sure that I
shall sooner or later hit upon the needed improvement. That is what I
mean when I say I have a conscience."
Helena Vauquier smiled indulgently. Men were queer fish. Things
which were really of no account troubled and perplexed them and gave
them sleepless nights. But it was not for her to object, since it was
one of these queer anomalies which was giving her her chance.
"And the people are finding out that you have sold your rights
twice over," she said sympathetically. "That is a pity, monsieur."
"They know," he answered; "those in England know."
"And they are very angry?"
"They threaten me," said Wethermill. "They give me a month to
restore the money. Otherwise there will be disgrace, imprisonment,
Helene Vauquier walked calmly on. No sign of the intense joy which
she felt was visible in her face, and only a trace of it in her
"Monsieur will, perhaps, meet me tomorrow in Geneva," she said.
And she named a small cafe in a back street. "I can get a holiday for
the afternoon." And as they were near to the villa and the lights, she
walked on ahead.
Wethermill loitered behind. He had tried his luck at the tables
and had failed. And—and—he must have the money.
He travelled, accordingly, the next day to Geneva, and was there
presented to Adele Tace and Hippolyte.
"They are trusted friends of mine," said Helene Vauquier to
Wethermill, who was not inspired to confidence by the sight of the
young man with the big ears and the plastered hair. As a matter of
fact, she had never met them before they came this year to Aix.
The Tace family, which consisted of Adele and her husband and
Jeanne, her mother, were practised criminals. They had taken the
house in Geneva deliberately in order to carry out some robberies
from the great villas on the lake-side. But they had not been
fortunate; and a description of Mme. Dauvray's jewellery in the
woman's column of a Geneva newspaper had drawn Adele Tace over to
Aix. She had set about the task of seducing Mme. Dauvray's maid, and
found a master, not an instrument.
In the small cafe on that afternoon of July Helene Vauquier
instructed her accomplices, quietly and methodically, as though what
she proposed was the most ordinary stroke of business. Once or twice
subsequently Wethermill, who was the only safe go- between, went to
the house in Geneva, altering his hair and wearing a moustache, to
complete the arrangements. He maintained firmly at his trial that at
none of these meetings was there any talk of murder.
"To be sure," said the judge, with a savage sarcasm. "In decent
conversation there is always a reticence. Something is left to be
And it is difficult to understand how murder could not have been
an essential part of their plan, since—-But let us see what
CHAPTER XVI. THE FIRST MOVE
On the Friday before the crime was committed Mme. Dauvray and
Celia dined at the Villa des Fleurs. While they were drinking their
coffee Harry Wethermill joined them. He stayed with them until Mme.
Dauvray was ready to move, and then all three walked into the baccarat
rooms together. But there, in the throng of people, they were
Harry Wethermill was looking carefully after Celia, as a good
lover should. He had, it seemed, no eyes for any one else; and it was
not until a minute or two had passed that the girl herself noticed
that Mme. Dauvray was not with them.
"We will find her easily," said Harry.
"Of course," replied Celia.
"There is, after all, no hurry," said Wethermill, with a laugh;
"and perhaps she was not unwilling to leave us together."
Celia dimpled to a smile.
"Mme. Dauvray is kind to me," she said, with a very pretty
"And yet more kind to me," said Wethermill in a low voice which
brought the blood into Celia's cheeks.
But even while he spoke he soon caught sight of Mme. Dauvray
standing by one of the tables; and near to her was Adele Tace. Adele
had not yet made Mme. Dauvray's acquaintance; that was evident. She
was apparently unaware of her; but she was gradually edging towards
her. Wethermill smiled, and Celia caught the smile.
"What is it?" she asked, and her head began to turn in the
direction of Mme. Dauvray.
"Why, I like your frock—that's all," said Wethermill at once; and
Celia's eyes went down to it.
"Do you?" she said, with a pleased smile. It was a dress of dark
blue which suited her well. "I am glad. I think it is pretty." And
they passed on.
Wethermill stayed by the girl's side throughout the evening. Once
again he saw Mme. Dauvray and Adele Tace. But now they were together;
now they were talking. The first step had been taken. Adele Tace had
scraped acquaintance with Mme. Dauvray. Celia saw them almost at the
"Oh, there is Mme. Dauvray," she cried, taking a step towards her.
Wethermill detained the girl.
"She seems quite happy," he said; and, indeed, Mme. Dauvray was
talking volubly and with the utmost interest, the jewels sparkling
about her neck. She raised her head, saw Celia, nodded to her
affectionately, and then pointed her out to her companion. Adele Tace
looked the girl over with interest and smiled contentedly. There was
nothing to be feared from her. Her youth, her very daintiness, seemed
to offer her as the easiest of victims.
"You see Mme. Dauvray does not want you," said Harry Wethermill.
"Let us go and play chemin-de-fer"; and they did, moving off into one
of the further rooms.
It was not until another hour had passed that Celia rose and went
in search of Mme. Dauvray. She found her still talking earnestly to
Adele Tace. Mme. Dauvray got up at once.
"Are you ready to go, dear?" she asked, and she turned to Adele
Tace. "This is Celie, Mme. Rossignol," she said, and she spoke with a
marked significance and a note of actual exultation in her voice.
Celia, however, was not unused to this tone. Mme. Dauvray was
proud of her companion, and had a habit of showing her off, to the
girl's discomfort. The three women spoke a few words, and then Mme.
Dauvray and Celia left the rooms and walked to the entrance- doors.
But as they walked Celia became alarmed.
She was by nature extraordinarily sensitive to impressions. It was
to that quick receptivity that the success of "The Great Fortinbras"
had been chiefly due. She had a gift of rapid comprehension. It was
not that she argued, or deducted, or inferred. But she felt. To take a
metaphor from the work of the man she loved, she was a natural
receiver. So now, although no word was spoken, she was aware that Mme.
Dauvray was greatly excited—greatly disturbed; and she dreaded the
reason of that excitement and disturbance.
While they were driving home in the motor-car she said
"You met a friend then, to-night, madame?"
"No," said Mme. Dauvray; "I made a friend. I had not met Mme.
Rossignol before. A bracelet of hers came undone, and I helped her to
fasten it. We talked afterwards. She lives in Geneva."
Mme. Dauvray was silent for a moment or two. Then she turned
impulsively and spoke in a voice of appeal.
"Celie, we talked of things"; and the girl moved impatiently. She
understood very well what were the things of which Mme. Dauvray and
her new friend had talked. "And she laughed. ... I could not bear it."
Celia was silent, and Mme. Dauvray went on in a voice of awe:
"I told her of the wonderful things which happened when I sat with
Helene in the dark—how the room filled with strange sounds, how
ghostly fingers touched my forehead and my eyes. She laughed— Adele
Rossignol laughed, Celie. I told her of the spirits with whom we held
converse. She would not believe. Do you remember the evening, Celie,
when Mme. de Castiglione came back an old, old woman, and told us how,
when she had grown old and had lost her beauty and was very lonely,
she would no longer live in the great house which was so full of
torturing memories, but took a small appartement near by, where no one
knew her; and how she used to walk out late at night, and watch, with
her eyes full of tears, the dark windows which had been once so bright
with light? Adele Rossignol would not believe. I told her that I had
found the story afterwards in a volume of memoirs. Adele Rossignol
laughed and said no doubt you had read that volume yourself before the
Celia stirred guiltily.
"She had no faith in you, Celie. It made me angry, dear. She said
that you invented your own tests. She sneered at them. A string
across a cupboard! A child, she said, could manage that; much more,
then, a clever young lady. Oh, she admitted that you were clever!
Indeed, she urged that you were far too clever to submit to the tests
of some one you did not know. I replied that you would. I was right,
Celie, was I not?"
And again the appeal sounded rather piteously in Mme. Dauvray's
"Tests!" said Celia, with a contemptous laugh. And, in truth, she
was not afraid of them. Mme. Dauvray's voice at once took courage.
"There!" she cried triumphantly. "I was sure. I told her so.
Celie, I arranged with her that next Tuesday—"
And Celia interrupted quickly.
"No! Oh, no!"
Again there was silence; and then Mme. Dauvray said gently, but
"Celie, you are not kind."
Celia was moved by the reproach.
"Oh, madame!" she cried eagerly. "Please don't think that. How
could I be anything else to you who are so kind to me?"
"Then prove it, Celie. On Tuesday I have asked Mme. Rossignol to
come; and—" The old woman's voice became tremulous with excitement.
"And parhaps—who knows?—perhaps SHE will appear to us."
Celia had no doubt who "she" was. She was Mme. de Montespan.
"Oh, no, madame!" she stammered. "Here, at Aix, we are not in the
spirit for such things,"
And then, in a voice of dread, Mme. Dauvray asked: "Is it true,
then, what Adele said?"
And Celia started violently. Mme. Dauvray doubted.
"I believe it would break my heart, my dear, if I were to think
that; if I were to know that you had tricked me," she said, with a
trembling voice. Celia covered her face with her hands. It would be
true. She had no doubt of it. Mme. Dauvray would never forgive
herself—would never forgive Celia. Her infatuation had grown so to
engross her that the rest of her life would surely be embittered. It
was not merely a passion—it was a creed as well. Celia shrank from
the renewal of these seances. Every fibre in her was in revolt. They
were so unworthy—so unworthy of Harry Wethermill, and of herself as
she now herself wished to be. But she had to pay now; the moment for
payment had come.
"Celie," said Mme. Dauvray, "it isn't true! Surely it isn't true?"
Celia drew her hands away from her face.
"Let Mme. Rossignol come on Tuesday!" she cried, and the old woman
caught the girl's hand and pressed it with affection.
"Oh, thank you! thank you!" she cried. "Adele Rossignol laughs to-
night; we shall convince her on Tuesday, Celie! Celie, I am so glad!"
And her voice sank into a solemn whisper, pathetically ludicrous. "It
is not right that she should laugh! To bring people back through the
gates of the spirit-world—that is wonderful."
To Celia the sound of the jargon learnt from her own lips, used by
herself so thoughtlessly in past times, was odious. "For the last
time," she pleaded to herself. All her life was going to change;
though no word had yet been spoken by Harry Wethermill, she was sure
of it. Just for this one last time, then, so that she might leave Mme.
Dauvray the colours of her belief, she would hold a seance at the
Mme. Dauvray told the news to Helene Vauquier when they reached
"You will be present, Helene," she cried excitedly. "It will be
Tuesday. There will be the three of us."
"Certainly, if madame wishes," said Helene submissively. She
looked round the room. "Mlle. Celie can be placed on a chair in that
recess and the curtains drawn, whilst we—madame and madame's friend
and I—can sit round this table under the side windows."
"Yes," said Celia, "that will do very well."
It was Madame Dauvray's habit when she was particularly pleased
with Celia to dismiss her maid quickly, and to send her to brush the
girl's hair at night; and in a little while on this night Helene went
to Celia's room. While she brushed Celia's hair she told her that
Servettaz's parents lived at Chambery, and that he would like to see
"But the poor man is afraid to ask for a day," she said. "He has
been so short a time with madame."
"Of course madame will give him a holiday if he asks," replied
Celia with a smile. "I will speak to her myself to-morrow."
"It would be kind of mademoiselle," said Helene Vauquier. "But
perhaps—" She stopped.
"Well," said Celia.
"Perhaps mademoiselle would do better still to speak to Servattaz
himself and encourage him to ask with his own lips. Madame has her
moods, is it not so? She does not always like it to be forgotten that
she is the mistress."
On the next day accordingly Celia did speak to Servettaz, and
Servettaz asked for his holiday.
"But of course," Mme. Dauvray at once replied. "We must decide
upon a day."
It was then that Helene Vauquier ventured humbly upon a
"Since madame has a friend coming here on Tuesday, perhaps that
would be the best day for him to go. Madame would not be likely to
take a long drive that afternoon."
"No, indeed," replied Mme. Dauvray. "We shall all three dine
together early in Aix and return here."
"Then I will tell him he may go to-morrow," said Celia.
For this conversation took place on the Monday, and in the evening
Mme. Dauvray and Celia went as usual to the Villa des Fleurs and
"I was in a bad mind," said Celia, when asked by the Juge
d'Instruction to explain that attack of nerves in the garden which
Ricardo had witnessed. "I hated more and more the thought of the
seance which was to take place on the morrow. I felt that I was
disloyal to Harry. My nerves were all tingling. I was not nice that
night at all," she added quaintly. "But at dinner I determined that if
I met Harry after dinner, as I was sure to do, I would tell him the
whole truth about myself. However, when I did meet him I was
frightened. I knew how stern he could suddenly look. I dreaded what he
would think. I was too afraid that I should lose him. No, I could not
speak; I had not the courage. That made me still more angry with
myself, and so I—I quarrelled at once with Harry. He was surprised;
but it was natural, wasn't it? What else should one do under such
circumstances. except quarrel with the man one loved? Yes, I really
quarrelled with him, and said things which I thought and hoped would
hurt. Then I ran away from him lest I should break down and cry. I
went to the tables and lost at once all the money I had except one
note of five louis. But that did not console me. And I ran out into
the garden, very unhappy. There I behaved like a child, and Mr.
Ricardo saw me. But it was not the little money I had lost which
troubled me; no, it was the thought of what a coward I was.
Afterwards Harry and I made it up, and I thought, like the little
fool I was, that he wanted to ask me to marry him. But I would not
let him that night. Oh! I wanted him to ask me—I was longing for him
to ask me—but not that night. Somehow I felt that the seance and the
tricks must be all over and done with before I could listen or
The quiet and simple confession touched the magistrate who
listened to it with profound pity. He shaded his eyes with his hand.
The girl's sense of her unworthiness, the love she had given so
unstintingly to Harry Wethermill, the deep pride she had felt in the
delusion that he loved her too, had in it an irony too bitter. But he
was aroused to anger against the man.
"Go on, mademoiselle," he said. But in spite of himself his voice
"So I arranged with him that we should meet on Wednesday, as Mr.
"You told him that you would 'want him' on Wednesday," said the
Judge quoting Mr. Ricardo's words.
"Yes," replied Celia. "I meant that the last word of all these
deceptions would have been spoken. I should be free to hear what he
had to say to me. You see, monsieur, I was so sure that I knew what it
was he had to say to me—"and her voice broke upon the words. She
recovered herself with an effort. "Then I went home with Mme.
On the morning of Tuesday, however, there came a letter from Adele
Tace, of which no trace was afterwards discovered. The letter invited
Mme. Dauvray and Celia to come out to Annecy and dine with her at an
hotel there. They could then return together to Aix. The proposal
fitted well with Mme. Dauvray's inclinations. She was in a feverish
mood of excitement.
"Yes, it will be better that we dine quietly together in a place
where there is no noise and no crowd, and where no one knows us," she
said; and she looked up the time-table. "There is a train back which
reaches Aix at nine o'clock," she said, "so we need not spoil
"His parents will be expecting him," Helene Vauquier added.
Accordingly Servettaz left for Chambery by the 1.50 train from
Aix; and later on in the afternoon Mme. Dauvray and Celia went by
train to Annecy. In the one woman's mind was the queer longing that
"she" should appear and speak to-night; in the girl's there was a wish
passionate as a cry. "This shall be the last time," she said to
herself again and again—"the very last."
Meanwhile, Helene Vauquier, it must be held, burnt carefully Adele
Taces letter. She was left in the Villa Rose with the charwoman to
keep her company. The charwoman bore testimony that Helene Vauquier
certainly did burn a letter in the kitchen-stove, and that after she
had burned it she sat for a long time rocking herself in a chair, with
a smile of great pleasure upon her face, and now and then moistening
her lips with her tongue. But Helene Vauquier kept her mouth sealed.
CHAPTER XVII. THE AFTERNOON OF
Mme. Dauvray and Celia found Adele Rossignol, to give Adele Tace
the name which she assumed, waiting for them impatiently in the
garden of an hotel at Annecy, on the Promenade du Paquier. She was a
tall, lithe woman, and she was dressed, by the purse and wish of
Helene Vauquier, in a robe and a long coat of sapphire velvet, which
toned down the coarseness of her good looks and lent something of
elegance to her figure.
"So it is mademoiselle," Adele began, with a smile of raillery,
"who is so remarkably clever."
"Clever?" answered Celia, looking straight at Adele, as though
through her she saw mysteries beyond. She took up her part at once.
Since for the last time it had got to be played, there must be no
fault in the playing. For her own sake, for the sake of Mme. Dauvray's
happiness, she must carry it off to-night with success. The suspicions
of Adele Rossignol must obtain no verification. She spoke in a quiet
and most serious voice. "Under spirit-control no one is clever. One
does the bidding of the spirit which controls."
"Perfectly," said Adele in a malicious tone. "I only hope you will
see to it, mademoiselle, that some amusing spirits control you this
evening and appear before us."
"I am only the living gate by which the spirit forms pass from the
realm of mind into the world of matter," Celia replied.
"Quite so," said Adele comfortably. "Now let us be sensible and
dine. We can amuse ourselves with mademoiselle's rigmaroles
Mme. Dauvray was indignant. Celia, for her part, felt humiliated
and small. They sat down to their dinner in the garden, but the rain
began to fall and drove them indoors. There were a few people dining
at the same hour, but none near enough to overhear them. Alike in the
garden and the dining-room, Adele Tace kept up the same note of
ridicule and disbelief. She had been carefully tutored for her work.
She was able to cite the stock cases of exposure—"les freres
Davenport," as she called them, Eusapia Palladino and Dr. Slade. She
knew the precautions which had been taken to prevent trickery and
where those precautions had failed. Her whole conversation was
carefully planned to one end, and to one end alone. She wished to
produce in the minds of her companions so complete an impression of
her scepticism that it would seem the most natural thing in the world
to both of them that she should insist upon subjecting Celia to the
severest tests. The rain ceased, and they took their coffee on the
terrace of the hotel. Mme. Dauvray had been really pained by the
conversation of Adele Tace. She had all the missionary zeal of a
"I do hope, Adele, that we shall make you believe. But we shall.
Oh, I am confident we shall." And her voice was feverish.
Adele dropped for the moment her tone of raillery.
"I am not unwilling to believe," she said, "but I cannot. I am
interested—yes. You see how much I have studied the subject. But I
cannot believe. I have heard stories of how these manifestations are
produced—stories which make me laugh. I cannot help it. The tricks
are so easy. A young girl wearing a black frock which does not
rustle—it is always a black frock, is it not, because a black frock
cannot be seen in the dark?—carrying a scarf or veil, with which she
can make any sort of headdress if only she is a little clever, and
shod in a pair of felt-soled slippers, is shut up in a cabinet or
placed behind a screen, and the lights are turned down or out—" Adele
broke off with a comic shrug of the shoulders. "Bah! It ought not to
deceive a child."
Celia sat with a face which WOULD grow red. She did not look, but
none the less she was aware that Mme. Dauvray was gazing at her with
a perplexed frown and some return of her suspicion showing in her
eyes. Adele Tace was not content to leave the subject there.
"Perhaps," she said, with a smile, "Mlle. Celie dresses in that
way for a seance?"
"Madame shall see tonight," Celia stammered, and Camille Dauvray
rather sternly repeated her words.
"Yes, Adele shall see tonight. I myself will decide what you shall
Adele Tace casually suggested the kind of dress which she would
"Something light in colour with a train, something which will hiss
and whisper if mademoiselle moves about the room—yes, and I think
one of mademoiselle's big hats," she said. "We will have mademoiselle
as modern as possible, so that, when the great ladies of the past
appear in the coiffure of their day, we may be sure it is not Mlle.
Celie who represents them."
"I will speak to Helene," said Mme. Dauvray, and Adele Tace was
There was a particular new dress of which she knew, and it was
very desirable that Mlle. Celie should wear it tonight. For one
thing, if Celia wore it, it would help the theory that she had put it
on because she expected that night a lover; for another, with that
dress there went a pair of satin slippers which had just come home
from a shoemaker at Aix, and which would leave upon soft mould
precisely the same imprints as the grey suede shoes which the girl was
Celia was not greatly disconcerted by Mme. Rossignol's
precautions. She would have to be a little more careful, and Mme. de
Montespan would be a little longer in responding to the call of Mme.
Dauvray than most of the other dead ladies of the past had been. But
that was all. She was, however, really troubled in another way. All
through dinner, at every word of the conversation, she had felt her
reluctance towards this seance swelling into a positive disgust. More
than once she had felt driven by some uncontrollable power to rise up
at the table and cry out to Adele:
"You are right! It IS trickery. There is no truth in it."
But she had mastered herself. For opposite to her sat her
patroness, her good friend, the woman who had saved her. The flush
upon Mme. Dauvray's cheeks and the agitation of her manner warned
Celia how much hung upon the success of this last seance. How much
for both of them!
And in the fullness of that knowledge a great fear assailed her.
She began to be afraid, so strong was her reluctance, that she would
not bring her heart into the task. "Suppose I failed tonight because I
could not force myself to wish not to fail!" she thought, and she
steeled herself against the thought. Tonight she must not fail. For
apart altogether from Mme. Dauvray's happiness, her own, it seemed,
was at stake too.
"It must be from my lips that Harry learns what I have been," she
said to herself, and with the resolve she strengthened herself.
"I will wear what you please," she said, with a smile. "I only
wish Mme. Rossignol to be satisfied."
"And I shall be," said Adele, "if—" She leaned forward in
anxiety. She had come to the real necessity of Helene Vauquier's
plan. "If we abandon as quite laughable the cupboard door and the
string across it; if, in a word, mademoiselle consents that we tie
her hand and foot and fasten her securely in a chair. Such restraints
are usual in the experiments of which I have read. Was there not a
medium called Mlle. Cook who was secured in this way, and then
remarkable things, which I could not believe, were supposed to have
"Certainly I permit it," said Celia, with indifference; and Mme.
Dauvray cried enthusiastically:
"Ah, you shall believe tonight in those wonderful things!"
Adele Tace leaned back. She drew a breath. It was a breath of
"Then we will buy the cord in Aix," she said.
"We have some, no doubt, in the house," said Mme. Dauvray.
Adele shook her head and smiled.
"My dear madame, you are dealing with a sceptic. I should not be
Celia shrugged her shoulders.
"Let us satisfy Mme. Rossignol," she said.
Celia, indeed, was not alarmed by this last precaution. For her it
was a test less difficult than the light-coloured rustling robe. She
had appeared upon so many platforms, had experienced too often the
bungling efforts of spectators called up from the audience, to be in
any fear. There were very few knots from which her small hands and
supple fingers had not learnt long since to extricate themselves. She
was aware how much in all these matters the personal equation counted.
Men who might, perhaps, have been able to tie knots from which she
could not get free were always too uncomfortable and self-conscious,
or too afraid of hurting her white arms and wrists, to do it. Women,
on the other hand, who had no compunctions of that kind, did not know
It was now nearly eight o'clock; the rain still held off.
"We must go," said Mme. Dauvray, who for the last half-hour had
been continually looking at her watch.
They drove to the station and took the train. Once more the rain
came down, but it had stopped again before the train steamed into Aix
at nine o'clock.
"We will take a cab," said Mme. Dauvray: "it will save time."
"It will do us good to walk, madame," pleaded Adele. The train was
full. Adele passed quickly out from the lights of the station in the
throng of passengers and waited in the dark square for the others to
join her. "It is barely nine. A friend has promised to call at the
Villa Rose for me after eleven and drive me back in a motor-car to
Geneva, so we have plenty of time."
They walked accordingly up the hill, Mme. Dauvray slowly, since
she was stout, and Celia keeping pace with her. Thus it seemed
natural that Adele Tace should walk ahead, though a passer-by would
not have thought she was of their company. At the corner of the Rue du
Casino Adele waited for them and said quickly:
"Mademoiselle, you can get some cord, I think, at the shop there,"
and she pointed to the shop of M. Corval. "Madame and I will go
slowly on; you, who are the youngest, will easily catch us up." Celia
went into the shop, bought the cord, and caught Mme. Dauvray up before
she reached the villa.
"Where is Mme. Rossignol?" she asked.
"She went on," said Camille Dauvray. "She walks faster than I do."
They passed no one whom they knew, although they did pass one who
recognised them, as Perrichet had discovered. They came upon Adele,
waiting for them at the corner of the road, where it turns down toward
"It is near here—the Villa Rose?" she asked.
"A minute more and we are there."
They turned in at the drive, closed the gate behind them, and
walked up to the villa.
The windows and the glass doors were closed, the latticed shutters
fastened. A light burned in the hall.
"Helene is expecting us," said Mme. Dauvray, for as they
approached she saw the front door open to admit them, and Helene
Vauquier in the doorway. The three women went straight into the
little salon, which was ready with the lights up and a small fire
burning. Celia noticed the fire with a trifle of dismay. She moved a
fire-screen in front of it.
"I can understand why you do that, mademoiselle," said Adele
Rossignol, with a satirical smile. But Mme. Dauvray came to the
"She is right, Adele. Light is the great barrier between us and
the spirit-world," she said solemnly.
Meanwhile, in the hall Helene Vauquier locked and bolted the front
door. Then she stood motionless, with a smile upon her face and a
heart beating high. All through that afternoon she had been afraid
that some accident at the last moment would spoil her plan, that
Adele Tace had not learned her lesson, that Celie would take fright,
that she would not return. Now all those fears were over. She had her
victims safe within the villa. The charwoman had been sent home. She
had them to herself. She was still standing in the hall when Mme.
Dauvray called aloud impatiently:
And when she entered the salon there was still, as Celia was able
to recall, some trace of her smile lingering upon her face.
Adele Rossignol had removed her hat and was taking off her gloves.
Mme. Dauvray was speaking impatiently to Celia.
"We will arrange the room, dear, while Helene helps you to dress.
It will be quite easy. We shall use the recess."
And Celia, as she ran up the stairs, heard Mme. Dauvray discussing
with her maid what frock she should wear. She was hot, and she took a
hurried bath. When she came from her bathroom she saw with dismay that
it was her new pale-green evening gown which had been laid out. It was
the last which she would have chosen. But she dared not refuse it. She
must still any suspicion. She must succeed. She gave herself into
Helene's hands. Celia remembered afterwards one or two points which
passed barely heeded at the time. Once while Helene was dressing her
hair she looked up at the maid in the mirror and noticed a strange and
rather horrible grin upon her face, which disappeared the moment their
eyes met. Then again, Helene was extraordinarily slow and
extraordinarily fastidious that evening. Nothing satisfied her,
neither the hang of the girl's skirt, the folds of her sash, nor the
arrangement of her hair.
"Come, Helene, be quick," said Celia. "You know how madame hates
to be kept waiting at these times. You might be dressing me to go to
meet my lover," she added, with a blush and a smile at her own pretty
reflection in the glass; and a queer look came upon Helene Vauquier's
face. For it was at creating just this very impression that she aimed.
"Very well, mademoiselle," said Helene. And even as she spoke Mme.
Dauvray's voice rang shrill and irritable up the stairs.
"Quick, Helene," said Celia. For she herself was now anxious to
have the seance over and done with.
But Helene did not hurry. The more irritable Mme. Dauvray became,
the more impatient with Mlle. Celie, the less would Mlle. Celie dare
to refuse the tests Adele wished to impose upon her. But that was not
all. She took a subtle and ironic pleasure to-night in decking out her
victim's natural loveliness. Her face, her slender throat, her white
shoulders, should look their prettiest, her grace of limb and figure
should be more alluring than ever before. The same words, indeed, were
running through both women's minds.
"For the last time," said Celia to herself, thinking of these
horrible seances, of which to-night should see the end.
"For the last time," said Helene Vauquier too. For the last time
she laced the girl's dress. There would be no more patient and
careful service for Mlle. Celie after to-night. But she should have
it and to spare to-night. She should be conscious that her beauty had
never made so strong an appeal; that she was never so fit for life as
at the moment when the end had come. One thing Helene regretted. She
would have liked Celia—Celia, smiling at herself in the glass—to
know suddenly what was in store for her! She saw in imagination the
colour die from the cheeks, the eyes stare wide with terror.
Again the impatient voice rang up the stairs, as Helene pinned the
girl's hat upon her fair head. Celie sprang up, took a quick step or
two towards the door, and stopped in dismay. The swish of her long
satin train must betray her. She caught up the dress and tried again.
Even so, the rustle of it was heard.
"I shall have to be very careful. You will help me, Helene?"
"Of course, mademoiselle. I will sit underneath the switch of the
light in the salon. If madame, your visitor, makes the experiment too
difficult, I will find a way to help you," said Helene Vauquier, and
as she spoke she handed Celia a long pair of white gloves.
"I shall not want them," said Celia.
"Mme. Dauvray ordered me to give them to you," replied Helene.
Celia took them hurriedly, picked up a white scarf of tulle, and
ran down the stairs. Helene Vauquier listened at the door and heard
madame's voice in feverish anger.
"We have been waiting for you, Celie. You have been an age."
Helene Vauquier laughed softly to herself, took out Celia's white
frock from the wardrobe, turned off the lights, and followed her down
to the hall. She placed the cloak just outside the door of the salon.
Then she carefully turned out all the lights in the hall and in the
kitchen and went into the salon. The rest of the house was in
darkness. This room was brightly lit; and it had been made ready.
CHAPTER XVIII. THE SEANCE
Helene Vauquier locked the door of the salon upon the inside and
placed the key upon the mantel-shelf, as she had always done whenever
a seance had been held. The curtains had been loosened at the sides of
the arched recess in front of the glass doors, ready to be drawn
across. Inside the recess, against one of the pillars which supported
the arch, a high stool without a back, taken from the hall, had been
placed, and the back legs of the stool had been lashed with cord
firmly to the pillar, so that it could not be moved. The round table
had been put in position, with three chairs about it. Mme. Dauvray
waited impatiently. Celia stood apparently unconcerned, apparently
lost to all that was going on. Her eyes saw no one. Adele looked up at
Celia, and laughed maliciously.
"Mademoiselle, I see, is in the very mood to produce the most
wonderful phenomena. But it will be better, I think, madame," she
said, turning to Mme. Dauvray, "that Mlle. Celie should put on those
gloves which I see she has thrown on to a chair. It will be a little
more difficult for mademoiselle to loosen these cords, should she wish
to do so."
The argument silenced Celia. If she refused this condition now she
would excite Mme. Dauvray to a terrible suspicion. She drew on her
gloves ruefully and slowly, smoothed them over her elbows, and
buttoned them. To free her hands with her fingers and wrists already
hampered in gloves would not be so easy a task. But there was no
escape. Adele Rossignol was watching her with a satiric smile. Mme.
Dauvray was urging her to be quick. Obeying a second order the girl
raised her skirt and extended a slim foot in a pale-green silk
stocking and a satin slipper to match. Adele was content. Celia was
wearing the shoes she was meant to wear. They were made upon the very
same last as those which Celia had just kicked off upstairs. An almost
imperceptible nod from Helene Vauquier, moreover, assured her.
She took up a length of the thin cord.
"Now, how are we to begin?" she said awkwardly. "I think I will
ask you, mademoiselle, to put your hands behind you."
Celia turned her back and crossed her wrists. She stood in her
satin frock, with her white arms and shoulders bare, her slender
throat supporting her small head with its heavy curls, her big hat—a
picture of young grace and beauty. She would have had an easy task
that night had there been men instead of women to put her to the test.
But the women were intent upon their own ends: Mme. Dauvray eager for
her seance, Adele Tace and Helene Vauquier for the climax of their
Celia clenched her hands to make the muscles of her wrists rigid
to resist the pressure of the cord. Adele quietly unclasped them and
placed them palm to palm. And at once Celia became uneasy. It was not
merely the action, significant though it was of Adele's alertness to
thwart her, which troubled Celia. But she was extraordinarily
receptive of impressions, extraordinarily quick to feel, from a touch,
some dim sensation of the thought of the one who touched her. So now
the touch of Adele's swift, strong, nervous hands caused her a queer,
vague shock of discomfort. It was no more than that at the moment, but
it was quite definite as that.
"Keep your hands so, please, mademoiselle," said Adele; "your
And the next moment Celia winced and had to bite her lip to
prevent a cry. The thin cord was wound twice about her wrists, drawn
cruelly tight and then cunningly knotted. For one second Celia was
thankful for her gloves; the next, more than ever she regretted that
she wore them. It would have been difficult enough for her to free her
hands now, even without them. And upon that a worse thing befell her.
"I beg mademoiselle's pardon if I hurt her," said Adele.
And she tied the girl's thumbs and little fingers. To slacken the
knots she must have the use of her fingers, even though her gloves
made them fumble. Now she had lost the use of them altogether. She
began to feel that she was in master-hands. She was sure of it the
next instant. For Adele stood up, and, passing a cord round the upper
part of her arms, drew her elbows back. To bring any strength to help
her in wriggling her hands free she must be able to raise her elbows.
With them trussed in the small of her back she was robbed entirely of
her strength. And all the time her strange uneasiness grew. She made a
movement of revolt, and at once the cord was loosened.
"Mlle. Celie objects to my tests," said Adele, with a laugh, to
Mme. Dauvray. "And I do not wonder."
Celia saw upon the old woman's foolish and excited face a look of
"Are you afraid, Celie?" she asked.
There was anger, there was menace in the voice, but above all
these there was fear—fear that her illusions were to tumble about
her. Celia heard that note and was quelled by it. This folly of
belief, these seances, were the one touch of colour in Mme. Dauvray's
life. And it was just that instinctive need of colour which had made
her so easy to delude. How strong the need is, how seductive the
proposal to supply it, Celia knew well. She knew it from the
experience of her life when the Great Fortinbras was at the climax of
his fortunes. She had travelled much amongst monotonous, drab towns
without character or amusements. She had kept her eyes open. She had
seen that it was from the denizens of the dull streets in these towns
that the quack religions won their recruits. Mme. Dauvray's life had
been a featureless sort of affair until these experiments had come to
colour it. Madame Dauvray must at any rate preserve the memory of that
"No," she said boldly; "I am not afraid," and after that she moved
Her elbows were drawn firmly back and tightly bound. She was sure
she could not free them. She glanced in despair at Helene Vauquier,
and then some glimmer of hope sprang up. For Helene Vauquier gave her
a look, a smile of reassurance. It was as if she said, "I will come to
your help." Then, to make security still more sure, Adele turned the
girl about as unceremoniously as if she had been a doll, and, passing
a cord at the back of her arms, drew both ends round in front and
knotted them at her waist.
"Now, Celie," said Adele, with a vibration in her voice which
Celia had not remarked before.
Excitement was gaining upon her, as upon Mme. Dauvray. Her face
was flushed and shiny, her manner peremptory and quick. Celia's
uneasiness grew into fear. She could have used the words which Hanaud
spoke the next day in that very room—"There is something here which I
do not understand." The touch of Adele Tact's hands communicated
something to her—something which filled her with a vague alarm. She
could not have formulated it if she would; she dared not if she could.
She had but to stand and submit.
"Now," said Adele.
She took the girl by the shoulders and set her in a clear space in
the middle of the room, her back to the recess, her face to the
mirror, where all could see her.
"Now, Celie"—she had dropped the "Mlle." and the ironic suavity
of her manner—"try to free yourself."
For a moment the girl's shoulders worked, her hands fluttered. But
they remained helplessly bound.
"Ah, you will be content, Adele, to-night," cried Mme. Dauvray
But even in the midst of her eagerness—so thoroughly had she been
prepared—there lingered a flavour of doubt, of suspicion. In Celia's
mind there was still the one desperate resolve.
"I must succeed to-night," she said to herself—"I must!"
Adele Rossignol kneeled on the floor behind her. She gathered in
carefully the girl's frock. Then she picked up the long train, wound
it tightly round her limbs, pinioning and swathing them in the folds
of satin, and secured the folds with a cord about the knees.
She stood up again.
"Can you walk, Celie?" she asked. "Try!"
With Helene Vauquier to support her if she fell, Celia took a tiny
shuffling step forward, feeling supremely ridiculous. No one,
however, of her audience was inclined to laugh. To Mme. Dauvray the
whole business was as serious as the most solemn ceremonial. Adele was
intent upon making her knots secure. Helene Vauquier was the well-bred
servant who knew her place. It was not for her to laugh at her young
mistress, in however ludicrous a situation she might be.
"Now," said Adele, "we will tie mademoiselle's ankles, and then we
shall be ready for Mme. de Montespan."
The raillery in her voice had a note of savagery in it now.
Celia's vague terror grew. She had a feeling that a beast was waking
in the woman, and with it came a growing premonition of failure.
Vainly she cried to herself, "I must not fail to-night." But she felt
instinctively that there was a stronger personality than her own in
that room, taming her, condemning her to failure, influencing the
She was placed in a chair. Adele passed a cord round her ankles,
and the mere touch of it quickened Celia to a spasm of revolt. Her
last little remnant of liberty was being taken from her. She raised
herself, or rather would have raised herself. But Helene with gentle
hands held her in the chair, and whispered under her breath:
"Have no fear! Madame is watching."
Adele looked fiercely up into the girl's face.
"Keep still, hein, la petite!" she cried. And the epithet—"little
one"—was a light to Celia. Till now, upon these occasions, with her
black ceremonial dress, her air of aloofness, her vague eyes, and the
dignity of her carriage, she had already produced some part of their
effect before the seance had begun. She had been wont to sail into the
room, distant, mystical. She had her audience already expectant of
mysteries, prepared for marvels. Her work was already half done. But
now of all that help she was deprived. She was no longer a person
aloof, a prophetess, a seer of visions; she was simply a
smartly-dressed girl of today, trussed up in a ridiculous and painful
position—that was all. The dignity was gone. And the more she
realised that, the more she was hindered from influencing her
audience, the less able she was to concentrate her mind upon them, to
will them to favour her. Mme. Dauvray's suspicions, she was sure, were
still awake. She could not quell them. There was a stronger
personality than hers at work in the room. The cord bit through her
thin stockings into her ankles. She dared not complain. It was
savagely tied. She made no remonstrance. And then Helene Vauquier
raised her up from the chair and lifted her easily off the ground. For
a moment she held her so. If Celia had felt ridiculous before, she
knew that she was ten times more so now. She could see herself as she
hung in Helene Vauquier's arms, with her delicate frock ludicrously
swathed and swaddled about her legs. But, again, of those who watched
her no one smiled.
"We have had no such tests as these," Mme. Dauvray explained, half
in fear, half in hope.
Adele Rossignol looked the girl over and nodded her head with
satisfaction. She had no animosity towards Celia; she had really no
feeling of any kind for her or against her. Fortunately she was
unaware at this time that Harry Wethermill had been paying his court
to her or it would have gone worse with Mlle. Celie before the night
was out. Mlle. Celie was just a pawn in a very dangerous game which
she happened to be playing, and she had succeeded in engineering her
pawn into the desired condition of helplessness. She was content.
"Mademoiselle," she said, with a smile, "you wish me to believe.
You have now your opportunity."
Opportunity! And she was helpless. She knew very well that she
could never free herself from these cords without Helene's help. She
would fail, miserably and shamefully fail.
"It was madame who wished you to believe," she stammered.
And Adele Rossignol laughed suddenly—a short, loud, harsh laugh,
which jarred upon the quiet of the room. It turned Celia's vague
alarm into a definite terror. Some magnetic current brought her grave
messages of fear. The air about her seemed to tingle with strange
menaces. She looked at Adele. Did they emanate from her? And her
terror answered her "Yes." She made her mistake in that. The strong
personality in the room was not Adele Rossignol, but Helene Vauquier,
who held her like a child in her arms. But she was definitely aware of
danger, and too late aware of it. She struggled vainly. From her head
to her feet she was powerless. She cried out hysterically to her
"Madame! Madame! There is something—a presence here—some one who
means harm! I know it!"
And upon the old woman's face there came a look, not of alarm, but
of extraordinary relief. The genuine, heartfelt cry restored her
confidence in Celia.
"Some one—who means harm!" she whispered, trembling with
"Ah, mademoiselle is already under control," said Helene, using
the jargon which she had learnt from Celia's lips.
Adele Rossignol grinned.
"Yes, la petite is under control," she repeated, with a sneer; and
all the elegance of her velvet gown was unable to hide her any longer
from Celia's knowledge. Her grin had betrayed her. She was of the
dregs. But Helene Vauquier whispered:
"Keep still, mademoiselle. I shall help you."
Vauquier carried the girl into the recess and placed her upon the
stool. With a long cord Adele bound her by the arms and the waist to
the pillar, and her ankles she fastened to the rung of the stool, so
that they could not touch the ground.
"Thus we shall be sure that when we hear rapping it will be the
spirits, and not the heels, which rap," she said. "Yes, I am
contented now." And she added, with a smile, "Celie may even have her
scarf," and, picking up a white scarf of tulle which Celia had brought
down with her, she placed it carelessly round her shoulders.
"Wait!" Helene Vauquier whispered in Celia's ear.
To the cord about Celia's waist Adele was fastening a longer line.
"I shall keep my foot on the other end of this," she said, "when
the lights are out, and I shall know then if our little one frees
The three women went out of the recess. And the next moment the
heavy silk curtains swung across the opening, leaving Celia in
darkness. Quickly and noiselessly the poor girl began to twist and
work her hands. But she only bruised her wrists. This was to be the
last of the seances. But it must succeed! So much of Mme. Dauvray's
happiness, so much of her own, hung upon its success. Let her fail
to-night, she would be surely turned from the door. The story of her
trickery and her exposure would run through Aix. And she had not told
Harry! It would reach his ears from others. He would never forgive
her. To face the old, difficult life of poverty and perhaps starvation
again, and again alone, would be hard enough; but to face it with
Harry Wethermill's contempt added to its burdens—as the poor girl
believed she surely would have to do—no, that would be impossible!
Not this time would she turn away from the Seine, because it was so
terrible and cold. If she had had the courage to tell him yesterday,
he would have forgiven, surely he would! The tears gathered in her
eyes and rolled down her cheeks. What would become of her now? She was
in pain besides. The cords about her arms and ankles tortured her. And
she feared— yes, desperately she feared the effect of the exposure
upon Mme. Dauvray. She had been treated as a daughter; now she was in
return to rob Mme. Dauvray of the belief which had become the passion
of her life.
"Let us take our seats at the table," she heard Mme. Dauvray say.
"Helene, you are by the switch of the electric light. Will you turn
it off?" And upon that Helene whispered, yet so that the whisper
reached to Celia and awakened hope:
"Wait! I will see what she is doing."
The curtains opened, and Helene Vauquier slipped to the girl's
Celia checked her tears. She smiled imploringly, gratefully.
"What shall I do?" asked Helene, in a voice so low that the
movement of her mouth rather than the words made the question clear.
Celia raised her head to answer. And then a thing incomprehensible
to her happened. As she opened her lips Helene Vauquier swiftly
forced a handkerchief in between the girl's teeth, and lifting the
scarf from her shoulders wound it tightly twice across her mouth,
binding her lips, and made it fast under the brim of her hat behind
her head. Celia tried to scream; she could not utter a sound. She
stared at Helene with incredulous, horror-stricken eyes. Helene nodded
at her with a cruel grin of satisfaction, and Celia realised, though
she did not understand, something of the rancour and the hatred which
seethed against her in the heart of the woman whom she had supplanted.
Helene Vauquier meant to expose her to-night; Celia had not a doubt of
it. That was her explanation of Helene Vauquier's treachery; and
believing that error, she believed yet another—that she had reached
the terrible climax of her troubles. She was only at the beginning of
"Helene!" cried Mme. Dauvray sharply. "What are you doing?"
The maid instantly slid back into the room.
"Mademoiselle has not moved," she said.
Celia heard the women settle in their chairs about the table.
"Is madame ready?" asked Helene; and then there was the sound of
the snap of a switch. In the salon darkness had come.
If only she had not been wearing her gloves, Celia thought, she
might possibly have just been able to free her fingers and her supple
hands from their bonds. But as it was she was helpless. She could only
sit and wait until the audience in the salon grew tired of waiting and
came to her. She closed her eyes, pondering if by any chance she could
excuse her failure. But her heart sank within her as she thought of
Mme. Rossignol's raillery. No, it was all over for her. ...
She opened her eyes, and she wondered. It seemed to her that there
was more light in the recess than there had been when she closed
them. Very likely her eyes were growing used to the darkness. Yet-
-yet—she ought not to be able to distinguish quite so clearly the
white pillar opposite to her. She looked towards the glass doors and
understood. The wooden shutters outside the doors were not quite
closed. They had been carelessly left unbolted. A chink from lintel to
floor let in a grey thread of light. Celia heard the women whispering
in the salon, and turned her head to catch the words.
"Do you hear any sound?"
"Was that a hand which touched me?"
"We must wait."
And so silence came again, and suddenly there was quite a rush of
light into the recess. Celia was startled. She turned her head back
again towards the window. The wooden door had swung a little more
open. There was a wider chink to let the twilight of that starlit
darkness through. And as she looked, the chink slowly broadened and
broadened, the door swung slowly back on hinges which were strangely
silent. Celia stared at the widening panel of grey light with a vague
terror. It was strange that she could hear no whisper of wind in the
garden. Why, oh, why was that latticed door opening so noiselessly?
Almost she believed that the spirits after all... And suddenly the
recess darkened again, and Celia sat with her heart leaping and
shivering in her breast. There was something black against the glass
doors—a man. He had appeared as silently, as suddenly, as any
apparition. He stood blocking out the light, pressing his face against
the glass, peering into the room. For a moment the shock of horror
stunned her. Then she tore frantically at the cords. All thought of
failure, of exposure, of dismissal had fled from her. The three poor
women—that was her thought—were sitting unwarned, unsuspecting,
defenceless in the pitch-blackness of the salon. A few feet away a
man, a thief, was peering in. They were waiting for strange things to
happen in the darkness. Strange and terrible things would happen
unless she could free herself, unless she could warn them. And she
could not. Her struggles were mere efforts to struggle, futile, a
shiver from head to foot, and noiseless as a shiver. Adele Rossignol
had done her work well and thoroughly. Celia's arms, her waist, her
ankles were pinioned; only the bandage over her mouth seemed to be
loosening. Then upon horror, horror was added. The man touched the
glass doors, and they swung silently inwards. They, too, had been
carelessly left unbolted. The man stepped without a sound over the
sill into the room. And, as he stepped, fear for herself drove out
for the moment from Celia's thoughts fear for the three women in the
black room. If only he did not see her! She pressed herself against
the pillar. He might overlook her, perhaps! His eyes would not be so
accustomed to the darkness of the recess as hers. He might pass her
unnoticed—if only he did not touch some fold of her dress.
And then, in the midst of her terror, she experienced so great a
revulsion from despair to joy that a faintness came upon her, and she
almost swooned. She saw who the intruder was. For when he stepped into
the recess he turned towards her, and the dim light struck upon him
and showed her the contour of his face. It was her lover, Harry
Wethermill. Why he had come at this hour, and in this strange way, she
did not consider. Now she must attract his eyes, now her fear was lest
he should not see her.
But he came at once straight towards her. He stood in front of
her, looking into her eyes. But he uttered no cry. He made no
movement of surprise. Celia did not understand it. His face was in
the shadow now and she could not see it. Of course, he was stunned,
amazed. But—but—he stood almost as if he had expected to find her
there and just in that helpless attitude. It was absurd, of course,
but he seemed to look upon her helplessness as nothing out of the
ordinary way. And he raised no hand to set her free. A chill struck
through her. But the next moment he did raise his hand and the blood
flowed again, at her heart. Of course, she was in the darkness. He had
not seen her plight. Even now he was only beginning to be aware of it.
For his hand touched the bandage over her mouth—tentatively. He felt
for the knot under the broad brim of her hat at the back of her head.
He found it. In a moment she would be free. She kept her head quite
still, and then—why was he so long? she asked herself. Oh, it was not
possible! But her heart seemed to stop, and she knew that it was not
only possible—it was true: he was tightening the scarf, not loosening
it. The folds bound her lips more surely. She felt the ends drawn
close at the back of her head. In a frenzy she tried to shake her
head free. But he held her face firmly and finished his work. He was
wearing gloves, she noticed with horror, just as thieves do. Then his
hands slid down her trembling arms and tested the cord about her
wrists. There was something horribly deliberate about his movements.
Celia, even at that moment, even with him, had the sensation which had
possessed her in the salon. It was the personal equation on which she
was used to rely. But neither Adele nor this—this STRANGER was
considering her as even a human being. She was a pawn in their game,
and they used her, careless of her terror, her beauty, her pain. Then
he freed from her waist the long cord which ran beneath the curtain to
Adele Rossignol's foot. Celia's first thought was one of relief. He
would jerk the cord unwittingly. They would come into the recess and
see him. And then the real truth flashed in upon her blindingly. He
had jerked the cord, but he had jerked it deliberately. He was already
winding it up in a coil as it slid noiselessly across the polished
floor beneath the curtains towards him. He had given a signal to Adele
Rossignol. All that woman's scepticism and precaution against
trickery had been a mere blind, under cover of which she had been
able to pack the girl away securely without arousing her suspicions.
Helene Vauquier was in the plot, too. The scarf at Celia's mouth was
proof of that. As if to add proof to proof, she heard Adele Rossignol
speak in answer to the signal.
"Are we all ready? Have you got Mme. Dauvray's left hand, Helene?"
"Yes, madame," answered the maid.
"And I have her right hand. Now give me yours, and thus we are in
a circle about the table."
Celia, in her mind, could see them sitting about the round table
in the darkness, Mme. Dauvray between the two women, securely held by
them. And she herself could not utter a cry—could not move a muscle
to help her.
Wethermill crept back on noiseless feet to the window, closed the
wooden doors, and slid the bolts into their sockets. Yes, Helene
Vauquier was in the plot. The bolts and the hinges would not have
worked so smoothly but for her. Darkness again filled the recess
instead of the grey twilight. But in a moment a faint breath of wind
played upon Celia's forehead, and she knew that the man had parted the
curtains and slipped into the room. Celia let her head fall towards
her shoulder. She was sick and faint with terror. Her lover was in
this plot—the lover in whom she had felt so much pride, for whose
sake she had taken herself so bitterly to task. He was the associate
of Adele Rossignol, of Helene Vauquier. He had used her, Celia, as an
instrument for his crime. All their hours together at the Villa des
Fleurs—here to-night was their culmination. The blood buzzed in her
ears and hammered in the veins of her temples. In front of her eyes
the darkness whirled, flecked with fire. She would have fallen, but
she could not fall. Then, in the silence, a tambourine jangled. There
was to be a seance to-night, then, and the seance had begun. In a
dreadful suspense she heard Mme. Dauvray speak.
CHAPTER XIX. HELENE EXPLAINS
And what she heard made her blood run cold.
Mme Dauvray spoke in a hushed, awestruck voice.
"There is a presence in the room."
It was horrible to Celia that the poor woman was speaking the
jargon which she herself had taught to her.
"I will speak to it," said Mme. Dauvray, and raising her voice a
little, she asked: "Who are you that come to us from the spirit-
No answer came, but all the while Celia knew that Wethermill was
stealing noiselessly across the floor towards that voice which spoke
this professional patter with so simple a solemnity.
"Answer!" she said. And the next moment she uttered a little
shrill cry—a cry of enthusiasm. "Fingers touch my forehead—now they
touch my cheek—now they touch my throat!"
And upon that the voice ceased. But a dry, choking sound was
heard, and a horrible scuffling and tapping of feet upon the polished
floor, a sound most dreadful. They were murdering her— murdering an
old, kind woman silently and methodically in the darkness. The girl
strained and twisted against the pillar furiously, like an animal in a
trap. But the coils of rope held her; the scarf suffocated her. The
scuffling became a spasmodic sound, with intervals between, and then
ceased altogether. A voice spoke—a man's voice—Wethermill's. But
Celia would never have recognised it—it had so shrill and fearful an
"That's horrible," he said, and his voice suddenly rose to a
"Hush!" Helene Vauquier whispered sharply. "What's the matter?"
"She fell against me—her whole weight. Oh!"
"You are afraid of her!"
"Yes, yes!" And in the darkness Wethermill's voice came
querulously between long breaths. "Yes, NOW I am afraid of her!"
Helene Vauquier replied again contemptuously. She spoke aloud and
quite indifferently. Nothing of any importance whatever, one would
have gathered, had occurred.
"I will turn on the light," she said. And through the chinks in
the curtain the bright light shone. Celia heard a loud rattle upon
the table, and then fainter sounds of the same kind. And as a kind of
horrible accompaniment there ran the laboured breathing of the man,
which broke now and then with a sobbing sound. They were stripping
Mme. Dauvray of her pearl necklace, her bracelets, and her rings.
Celia had a sudden importunate vision of the old woman's fat, podgy
hands loaded with brilliants. A jingle of keys followed.
"That's all," Helene Vauquier said. She might have just turned out
the pocket of an old dress.
There was the sound of something heavy and inert falling with a
dull crash upon the floor. A woman laughed, and again it was Helene
"Which is the key of the safe?" asked Adele.
And Helene Vauquier replied:-
Celia heard some one drop heavily into a chair. It was Wethermill,
and he buried his face in his hands. Helene went over to him and laid
her hand upon his shoulder and shook him.
"Do you go and get her jewels out of the safe," she said, and she
spoke with a rough friendliness.
"You promised you would blindfold the girl," he cried hoarsely.
Helene Vauquier laughed.
"Did I?" she said. "Well, what does it matter?" "There would have
been no need to—" And his voice broke off shudderingly.
"Wouldn't there? And what of us—Adele and me? She knows certainly
that we are here. Come, go and get the jewels. The key of the door's
on the mantelshelf. While you are away we two will arrange the pretty
baby in there."
She pointed to the recess; her voice rang with contempt.
Wethermill staggered across the room like a drunkard, and picked up
the key in trembling fingers. Celia heard it turn in the lock, and the
door bang. Wethermill had gone upstairs.
Celia leaned back, her heart fainting within her. Arrange! It was
her turn now. She was to be "arranged." She had no doubt what
sinister meaning that innocent word concealed. The dry, choking
sound, the horrid scuffling of feet upon the floor, were in her ears.
And it had taken so long—so terribly long!
She heard the door open again and shut again. Then steps
approached the recess. The curtains were flung back, and the two
women stood in front of her—the tall Adele Rossignol with her red
hair and her coarse good looks and her sapphire dress, and the
hard-featured, sallow maid. The maid was carrying Celia's white coat.
They did not mean to murder her, then. They meant to take her away,
and even then a spark of hope lit up in the girl's bosom. For even
with her illusions crushed she still clung to life with all the
passion of her young soul.
The two women stood and looked at her; and then Adele Rossignol
burst out laughing. Vauquier approached the girl, and Celia had a
moment's hope that she meant to free her altogether, but she only
loosed the cords which fixed her to the pillar and the high stool.
"Mademoiselle will pardon me for laughing," said Adele Rossignol
politely; "but it was mademoiselle who invited me to try my hand. And
really, for so smart a young lady, mademoiselle looks too ridiculous."
She lifted the girl up and carried her back writhing and
struggling into the salon. The whole of the pretty room was within
view, but in the embrasure of a window something lay dreadfully still
and quiet. Celia held her head averted. But it was there, and, though
it was there, all the while the women joked and laughed, Adele
Rossignol feverishly, Helene Vauquier with a real glee most horrible
"I beg mademoiselle not to listen to what Adele is saying,"
exclaimed Helene. And she began to ape in a mincing, extravagant
fashion the manner of a saleswoman in a shop. "Mademoiselle has never
looked so ravishing. This style is the last word of fashion. It is
what there is of most chic. Of course, mademoiselle understands that
the costume is not intended for playing the piano. Nor, indeed, for
the ballroom. It leaps to one's eyes that dancing would be difficult.
Nor is it intended for much conversation. It is a costume for a mood
of quiet reflection. But I assure mademoiselle that for pretty young
ladies who are the favourites of rich old women it is the style most
recommended by the criminal classes."
All the woman's bitter rancour against Celia, hidden for months
beneath a mask of humility, burst out and ran riot now. She went to
Adele Rossignol's help, and they flung the girl face downwards upon
the sofa. Her face struck the cushion at one end, her feet the cushion
at the other. The breath was struck out of her body. She lay with her
Helene Vauquier watched her for a moment with a grin, paying
herself now for her respectful speeches and attendance.
"Yes, lie quietly and reflect, little fool!" she said savagely.
"Were you wise to come here and interfere with Helene Vauquier?
Hadn't you better have stayed and danced in your rags at Montmartre?
Are the smart frocks and the pretty hats and the good dinners worth
the price? Ask yourself these questions, my dainty little friend!"
She drew up a chair to Celia's side, and sat down upon it
"I will tell you what we are going to do with you, Mlle. Celie.
Adele Rossignol and that kind gentleman, M. Wethermill, are going to
take you away with them. You will be glad to go, won't you, dearie?
For you love M. Wethermill, don't you? Oh, they won't keep you long
enough for you to get tired of them. Do not fear! But you will not
come back, Mile. Celie. No; you have seen too much to-night. And every
one will think that Mlle. Celie helped to murder and rob her
benefactress. They are certain to suspect some one, so why not you,
Celia made no movement. She lay trying to believe that no crime
had been committed, that that lifeless body did not lie against the
wall. And then she heard in the room above a bed wheeled roughly from
The two women heard it too, and looked at one another.
"He should look in the safe," said Vauquier. "Go and see what he
And Adele Rossignol ran from the room.
As soon as she was gone Vauquier followed to the door, listened,
closed it gently, and came back. She stooped down.
"Mlle. Celie," she said, in a smooth, silky voice, which terrified
the girl more than her harsh tones, "there is just one little thing
wrong in your appearance, one tiny little piece of bad taste, if
mademoiselle will pardon a poor servant the expression. I did not
mention it before Adele Rossignol; she is so severe in her criticism,
is she not? But since we are alone, I will presume to point out to
mademoiselle that those diamond eardrops which I see peeping out under
the scarf are a little ostentatious in her present predicament. They
are a provocation to thieves. Will mademoiselle permit me to remove
She caught her by the neck and lifted her up. She pushed the lace
scarf up at the side of Celia's head. Celia began to struggle
furiously, convulsively. She kicked and writhed, and a little tearing
sound was heard. One of her shoe-buckles had caught in the thin silk
covering of the cushion and slit it. Helene Vauquier let her fall. She
felt composedly in her pocket, and drew from it an aluminium
flask—the same flask which Lemerre was afterward to snatch up in the
bedroom in Geneva. Celia stared at her in dread. She saw the flask
flashing in the light. She shrank from it. She wondered what new
horror was to grip her. Helene unscrewed the top and laughed
"Mlle. Celie is under control," she said. "We shall have to teach
her that it is not polite in young ladies to kick." She pressed Celia
down with a hand upon her back, and her voice changed. "Lie still,"
she commanded savagely. "Do you hear? Do you know what this is, Mlle.
Celie?" And she held the flask towards the girl's face. "This is
vitriol, my pretty one. Move, and I'll spoil these smooth white
shoulders for you. How would you like that?"
Celia shuddered from head to foot, and, burying her face in the
cushion, lay trembling. She would have begged for death upon her
knees rather than suffer this horror. She felt Vauquier's fingers
lingering with a dreadful caressing touch upon her shoulders and
about her throat. She was within an ace of the torture, the
disfigurement, and she knew it. She could not pray for mercy. She
could only lie quite still, as she was bidden, trying to control the
shuddering of her limbs and body.
"It would be a good lesson for Mlle. Celie," Helene continued
slowly. "I think that if Mlle. Celie will forgive the liberty I ought
to inflict it. One little tilt of the flask and the satin of these
She broke off suddenly and listened. Some sound heard outside had
given Celia a respite, perhaps more than a respite. Helene set the
flask down upon the table. Her avarice had got the better of her
hatred. She roughly plucked the earrings out of the girl's ears. She
hid them quickly in the bosom of her dress with her eye upon the door.
She did not see a drop of blood gather on the lobe of Celia's ear and
fall into the cushion on which her face was pressed. She had hardly
hidden them away before the door opened and Adele Rossignol burst into
"What is the matter?" asked Vauquier.
"The safe's empty. We have searched the room. We have found
nothing," she cried.
"Everything is in the safe," Helene insisted.
The two women ran out of the room and up the stairs. Celia, lying
on the settee, heard all the quiet of the house change to noise and
confusion. It was as though a tornado raged in the room overhead.
Furniture was tossed about and over the room, feet stamped and ran,
locks were smashed in with heavy blows. For many minutes the storm
raged. Then it ceased, and she heard the accomplices clattering down
the stairs without a thought of the noise they made. They burst into
the room. Harry Wethermill was laughing hysterically, like a man off
his head. He had been wearing a long dark overcoat when he entered the
house; now he carried the coat over his arm. He was in a
dinner-jacket, and his black clothes were dusty and disordered.
"It's all for nothing!" he screamed rather than cried. "Nothing
but the one necklace and a handful of rings!"
In a frenzy he actually stooped over the dead woman and questioned
"Tell us—where did you hide them?" he cried.
"The girl will know," said Helene.
Wethermill rose up and looked wildly at Celia.
"Yes, yes," he said.
He had no scruple, no pity any longer for the girl. There was no
gain from the crime unless she spoke. He would have placed his head
in the guillotine for nothing. He ran to the writing-table, tore off
half a sheet of paper, and brought it over with a pencil to the sofa.
He gave them to Vauquier to hold, and drawing out the sofa from the
wall slipped in behind. He lifted up Celia with Rossignol's help, and
made her sit in the middle of the sofa with her feet upon the ground.
He unbound her wrists and fingers, and Vauquier placed the writing-pad
and the paper on the girl's knees. Her arms were still pinioned above
the elbows; she could not raise her hands high enough to snatch the
scarf from her lips. But with the pad held up to her she could write.
"Where did she keep her jewels! Quick! Take the pencil and write,"
said Wethermill, holding her left wrist.
Vauquier thrust the pencil into her right hand, and awkwardly and
slowly her gloved fingers moved across the page.
"I do not know," she wrote; and, with an oath, Wethermill snatched
the paper up, tore it into pieces, and threw it down.
"You have got to know," he said, his face purple with passion, and
he flung out his arm as though he would dash his fist into her face.
But as he stood with his arm poised there came a singular change upon
"Did you hear anything?" he asked in a whisper.
All listened, and all heard in the quiet of the night a faint
click, and after an interval they heard it again, and after another
but shorter interval yet once more.
"That's the gate," said Wethermill in a whisper of fear, and a
pulse of hope stirred within Celia.
He seized her wrists, crushed them together behind her, and
swiftly fastened them once more. Adele Rossignol sat down upon the
floor, took the girl's feet upon her lap, and quietly wrenched off
"The light," cried Wethermill in an agonised voice, and Helena
Vauquier flew across the room and turned it off.
All three stood holding their breath, straining their ears in the
dark room. On the hard gravel of the drive outside footsteps became
faintly audible, and grew louder and came near. Adele whispered to
"Has the girl a lover?"
And Helene Vauquier, even at that moment, laughed quietly.
All Celia's heart and youth rose in revolt against her extremity.
If she could only free her lips! The footsteps came round the corner
of the house, they sounded on the drive outside the very window of
this room. One cry, and she would be saved. She tossed back her head
and tried to force the handkerchief out from between her teeth. But
Wethermill's hand covered her mouth and held it closed. The footsteps
stopped, a light shone for a moment outside. The very handle of the
door was tried. Within a few yards help was there—help and life. Just
a frail latticed wooden door stood between her and them. She tried to
rise to her feet. Adele Rossignol held her legs firmly. She was
powerless. She sat with one desperate hope that, whoever it was who
was in the garden, he would break in. Were it even another murderer,
he might have more pity than the callous brutes who held her now; he
could have no less. But the footsteps moved away. It was the
withdrawal of all hope. Celia heard Wethermill behind her draw a long
breath of relief. That seemed to Celia almost the cruellest part of
the whole tragedy. They waited in the darkness until the faint click
of the gate was heard once more. Then the light was turned up again.
"We must go," said Wethermill. All the three of them were shaken.
They stood looking at one another, white and trembling. They spoke in
whispers. To get out of the room, to have done with the business—that
had suddenly become their chief necessity.
Adele picked up the necklace and the rings from the satin-wood
table and put them into a pocket-bag which was slung at her waist.
"Hippolyte shall turn these things into money," she said. "He
shall set about it to-morrow. We shall have to keep the girl now—
until she tells us where the rest is hidden."
"Yes, keep her," said Helene. "We will come over to Geneva in a
few days, as soon as we can. We will persuade her to tell." She
glanced darkly at the girl. Celia shivered.
"Yes, that's it," said Wethermill. "But don't harm her. She will
tell of her own will. You will see. The delay won't hurt now. We
can't come back and search for a little while."
He was speaking in a quick, agitated voice. And Adele agreed. The
desire to be gone had killed even their fury at the loss of their
prize. Some time they would come back, but they would not search
now—they were too unnerved.
"Helene," said Wethermill, "get to bed. I'll come up with the
chloroform and put you to sleep."
Helene Vauquier hurried upstairs. It was part of her plan that she
should be left alone in the villa chloroformed. Thus only could
suspicion be averted from herself. She did not shrink from the
completion of the plan now. She went, the strange woman, without a
tremor to her ordeal. Wethermill took the length of rope which had
fixed Celia to the pillar.
"I'll follow," he said, and as he turned he stumbled over the body
of Mme. Dauvray. With a shrill cry he kicked it out of his way and
crept up the stairs. Adele Rossignol quickly set the room in order.
She removed the stool from its position in the recess, and carried it
to its place in the hall. She put Celia's shoes upon her feet,
loosening the cord from her ankles. Then she looked about the floor
and picked up here and there a scrap of cord. In the silence the clock
upon the mantelshelf chimed the quarter past eleven. She screwed the
stopper on the flask of vitriol very carefully, and put the flask away
in her pocket. She went into the kitchen and fetched the key of the
garage. She put her hat on her head. She even picked up and drew on
her gloves, afraid lest she should leave them behind; and then
Wethermill came down again. Adele looked at him inquiringly.
"It is all done," he said, with a nod of the head. "I will bring
the car down to the door. Then I'll drive you to Geneva and come back
with the car here."
He cautiously opened the latticed door of the window, listened for
a moment, and ran silently down the drive. Adele closed the door
again, but she did not bolt it. She came back into the room; she
looked at Celia, as she lay back upon the settee, with a long glance
of indecision. And then, to Celia's surprise—for she had given up all
hope—the indecision in her eyes became pity. She suddenly ran across
the room and knelt down before Celia. With quick and feverish hands
she untied the cord which fastened the train of her skirt about her
At first Celia shrank away, fearing some new cruelty. But Adele's
voice came to her ears, speaking—and speaking with remorse.
"I can't endure it!" she whispered. "You are so young—too young
to be killed."
The tears were rolling down Celia's cheeks. Her face was pitiful
"Don't look at me like that, for God's sake, child!" Adele went
on, and she chafed the girl's ankles for a moment.
"Can you stand?" she asked.
Celia nodded her head gratefully. After all, then, she was not to
die. It seemed to her hardly possible. But before she could rise a
subdued whirr of machinery penetrated into the room, and the
motor-car came slowly to the front of the villa.
"Keep still!" said Adele hurriedly, and she placed herself in
front of Celia.
Wethermill opened the wooden door, while Celia's heart raced in
"I will go down and open the gate," he whispered. "Are you ready?"
Wethermill disappeared; and this time he left the door open. Adele
helped Celia to her feet. For a moment she tottered; then she stood
"Now run!" whispered Adele. "Run, child, for your life!"
Celia did not stop to think whither she should run, or how she
should escape from Wethermill's search. She could not ask that her
lips and her hands might be freed. She had but a few seconds. She had
one thought—to hide herself in the darkness of the garden. Celia fled
across the room, sprang wildly over the sill, ran, tripped over her
skirt, steadied herself, and was swung off the ground by the arms of
"There we are," he said, with his shrill, wavering laugh. "I
opened the gate before." And suddenly Celia hung inert in his arms.
The light went out in the salon. Adele Rossignol, carrying Celia's
cloak, stepped out at the side of the window.
"She has fainted," said Wethermill. "Wipe the mould off her shoes
and off yours too—carefully. I don't want them to think this car has
been out of the garage at all."
Adele stooped and obeyed. Wethermill opened the door of the car
and flung Celia into a seat. Adele followed and took her seat
opposite the girl. Wethermill stepped carefully again on to the
grass, and with the toe of his shoe scraped up and ploughed the
impressions which he and Adele Rossignol had made on the ground,
leaving those which Celia had made. He came back to the window.
"She has left her footmarks clear enough," he whispered. "There
will be no doubt in the morning that she went of her own free will."
Then he took the chauffeur's seat, and the car glided silently
down the drive and out by the gate. As soon as it was on the road it
stopped. In an instant Adele Rossignol's head was out of the window.
"What is it?" she exclaimed in fear.
Wethermill pointed to the roof. He had left the light burning in
Helene Vauquier's room.
"We can't go back now," said Adele in a frantic whisper. "No; it
is over. I daren't go back." And Wethermill jammed down the lever.
The car sprang forward, and humming steadily over the white road
devoured the miles. But they had made their one mistake.
CHAPTER XX. THE GENEVA ROAD
The car had nearly reached Annecy before Celia woke to
consciousness. And even then she was dazed. She was only aware that
she was in the motor-car and travelling at a great speed. She lay
back, drinking in the fresh air. Then she moved, and with the movement
came to her recollection and the sense of pain. Her arms and wrists
were still bound behind her, and the cords hurt her like hot wires.
Her mouth, however, and her feet were free. She started forward, and
Adele Rossignol spoke sternly from the seat opposite.
"Keep still. I am holding the flask in my hand. If you scream, if
you make a movement to escape, I shall fling the vitriol in your
face," she said.
Celia shrank back, shivering.
"I won't! I won't!" she whispered piteously. Her spirit was broken
by the horrors of the night's adventure. She lay back and cried
quietly in the darkness of the carriage. The car dashed through
Annecy. It seemed incredible to Celia that less than six hours ago
she had been dining with Mme. Dauvray and the woman opposite, who was
now her jailer. Mme. Dauvray lay dead in the little salon, and she
herself—she dared not think what lay in front of her. She was to be
persuaded—that was the word—to tell what she did not know. Meanwhile
her name would be execrated through Aix as the murderess of the woman
who had saved her. Then suddenly the car stopped. There were lights
outside. Celia heard voices. A man was speaking to Wethermill. She
started and saw Adele Tace's arm flash upwards. She sank back in
terror; and the car rolled on into the darkness. Adele Tace drew a
breath of relief. The one point of danger had been passed. They had
crossed the Pont de la Caille, they were in Switzerland.
Some long while afterwards the car slackened its speed. By the
side of it Celia heard the sound of wheels and of the hooves of a
horse. A single-horsed closed landau had been caught up as it jogged
along the road. The motor-car stopped; close by the side of it the
driver of the landau reined in his horse. Wethermill jumped down from
the chauffeur's seat, opened the door of the landau, and then put his
head in at the window of the car.
"Are you ready? Be quick!"
Adele turned to Celia.
"Not a word, remember!"
Wethermill flung open the door of the car. Adele took the girl's
feet and drew them down to the step of the car. Then she pushed her
out. Wethermill caught her in his arms and carried her to the landau.
Celia dared not cry out. Her hands were helpless, her face at the
mercy of that grim flask. Just ahead of them the lights of Geneva were
visible, and from the lights a silver radiance overspread a patch of
sky. Wethermill placed her in the landau; Adele sprang in behind her
and closed the door. The transfer had taken no more than a few
seconds. The landau jogged into Geneva; the motor turned and sped back
over the fifty miles of empty road to Aix.
As the motor-car rolled away, courage returned for a moment to
Celia. The man—the murderer—had gone. She was alone with Adele
Rossignol in a carriage moving no faster than an ordinary trot. Her
ankles were free, the gag had been taken from her lips. If only she
could free her hands and choose a moment when Adele was off her guard
she might open the door and spring out on to the road. She saw Adele
draw down the blinds of the carriage, and very carefully, very
secretly, Celia began to work her hands behind her. She was an adept;
no movement was visible, but, on the other hand, no success was
obtained. The knots had been too cunningly tied. And then Mme.
Rossignol touched a button at her side in the leather of the carriage.
The touch turned on a tiny lamp in the roof of the carriage, and
she raised a warning hand to Celia.
"Now keep very quiet."
Right through the empty streets of Geneva the landau was quietly
driven. Adele had peeped from time to time under the blind. There
were few people in the streets. Once or twice a sergent-de-ville was
seen under the light of a lamp. Celia dared not cry out. Over against
her, persistently watching her, Adele Rossignol sat with the open
flask clenched in her hand, and from the vitriol Celia shrank with an
overwhelming terror. The carriage drove out from the town along the
western edge of the lake.
"Now listen," said Adele. "As soon as the landau stops the door of
the house opposite to which it stops will open. I shall open the
carriage door myself and you will get out. You must stand close by
the carriage door until I have got out. I shall hold this flask ready
in my hand. As soon as I am out you will run across the pavement into
the house. You won't speak or scream."
Adele Rossignol turned out the lamp and ten minutes later the
carriage passed down the little street and attracted Mme. Gobin's
notice. Marthe Gobin had lit no light in her room. Adele Rossignol
peered out of the carriage. She saw the houses in darkness. She could
not see the busybody's face watching the landau from a dark window.
She cut the cords which fastened the girl's hands. The carriage
stopped. She opened the door. Celia sprang out on to the pavement. She
sprang so quickly that Adele Rossignol caught and held the train of
her dress. But it was the fear of the vitriol which had made her
spring so nimbly. It was that, too, which made her run so lightly and
quickly into the house. The old woman who acted as servant, Jeanne
Tace, received her. Celia offered no resistance. The fear of vitriol
had made her supple as a glove. Jeanne hurried her down the stairs
into the little parlour at the back of the house, where supper was
laid, and pushed her into a chair. Celia let her arms fall forward on
the table. She had no hope now. She was friendless and alone in a den
of murderers, who meant first to torture, then to kill her. She would
be held up to execration as a murderess. No one would know how she had
died or what she had suffered. She was in pain, and her throat burned.
She buried her face in her arms and sobbed. All her body shook with
her sobbing. Jeanne Rossignol took no notice. She treated Celie just
as the others had done. Celia was la petite, against whom she had no
animosity, by whom she was not to be touched to any tenderness. La
petite had unconsciously played her useful part in their crime. But
her use was ended now, and they would deal with her accordingly. She
removed the girl's hat and cloak and tossed them aside.
"Now stay quiet until we are ready for you," she said. And Celia,
lifting her head, said in a whisper:
The old woman poured some from a jug and held the glass to Celia's
"Thank you," whispered Celia gratefully, and Adele came into the
room. She told the story of the night to Jeanne, and afterwards to
Hippolyte when he joined them.
"And nothing gained!" cried the older woman furiously. "And we
have hardly a five-franc piece in the house."
"Yes, something," said Adele. "A necklace—a good one—some good
rings, and bracelets. And we shall find out where the rest is hid-
-from her." And she nodded at Celia.
The three people ate their supper, and, while they ate it,
discussed Celia's fate. She was lying with her head bowed upon her
arms at the same table, within a foot of them. But they made no more
of her presence than if she had been an old shoe. Only once did one of
them speak to her.
"Stop your whimpering," said Hippolyte roughly. "We can hardly
hear ourselves talk."
He was for finishing with the business altogether to-night.
"It's a mistake," he said. "There's been a bungle, and the sooner
we are rid of it the better. There's a boat at the bottom of the
Celia listened and shuddered. He would have no more compunction
over drowning her than he would have had over drowning a blind
"It's cursed luck," he said. "But we have got the necklace—that's
something. That's our share, do you see? The young spark can look for
But Helene Vauquier's wish prevailed. She was the leader. They
would keep the girl until she came to Geneva.
They took her upstairs into the big bedroom overlooking the lake.
Adele opened the door of the closet, where a truckle-bed stood, and
thrust the girl in.
"This is my room," she said warningly, pointing to the bedroom.
"Take care I hear no noise. You might shout yourself hoarse, my
pretty one; no one else would hear you. But I should, and
afterwards—we should no longer be able to call you 'my pretty one,'
And with a horrible playfulness she pinched the girl's cheek.
Then with old Jeanne's help she stripped Celia and told her to get
"I'll give her something to keep her quiet," said Adele, and she
fetched her morphia-needle and injected a dose into Celia's arm.
Then they took her clothes away and left her in the darkness. She
heard the key turn in the lock, and a moment after the sound of the
bedstead being drawn across the doorway. But she heard no more, for
almost immediately she fell asleep.
She was awakened some time the next day by the door opening. Old
Jeanne Tace brought her in a jug of water and a roll of bread, and
locked her up again. And a long time afterwards she brought her
another supply. Yet another day had gone, but in that dark cupboard
Celia had no means of judging time. In the afternoon the newspaper
came out with the announcement that Mme. Dauvray's jewellery had been
discovered under the boards. Hippolyte brought in the newspaper, and,
cursing their stupidity, they sat down to decide upon Celia's fate.
That, however, was soon arranged. They would dress her in everything
which she wore when she came, so that no trace of her might be
discovered. They would give her another dose of morphia, sew her up in
a sack as soon as she was unconscious, row her far out on to the lake,
and sink her with a weight attached. They dragged her out from the
cupboard, always with the threat of that bright aluminium flask before
her eyes. She fell upon her knees, imploring their pity with the tears
running down her cheeks; but they sewed the strip of sacking over her
face so that she should see nothing of their preparations. They flung
her on the sofa, secured her as Hanaud had found her, and, leaving her
in the old woman's charge, sent down Adele for her needle and
Hippolyte to get ready the boat. As Hippolyte opened the door he saw
the launch of the Chef de la Surete glide along the bank.
CHAPTER XXI. HANAUD EXPLAINS
This is the story as Mr. Ricardo wrote it out from the statement
of Celia herself and the confession of Adele Rossignol. Obscurities
which had puzzled him were made clear. But he was still unaware how
Hanaud had worked out the solution.
"You promised me that you would explain," he said, when they were
both together after the trial was over at Aix. The two men had just
finished luncheon at the Cercle and were sitting over their coffee.
Hanaud lighted a cigar.
"There were difficulties, of course," he said; "the crime was so
carefully planned. The little details, such as the footprints, the
absence of any mud from the girl's shoes in the carriage of the
motor-car, the dinner at Annecy, the purchase of the cord, the want
of any sign of a struggle in the little salon, were all carefully
thought out. Had not one little accident happened, and one little
mistake been made in consequence, I doubt if we should have laid our
hands upon one of the gang. We might have suspected Wethermill; we
should hardly have secured him, and we should very likely never have
known of the Tace family. That mistake was, as you no doubt are fully
"The failure of Wethermill to discover Mme. Dauvray's jewels,"
said Ricardo at once.
"No, my friend," answered Hanaud. "That made them keep Mlle. Celie
alive. It enabled us to save her when we had discovered the
whereabouts of the gang. It did not help us very much to lay our
hands upon them. No; the little accident which happened was the
entrance of our friend Perrichet into the garden while the murderers
were still in the room. Imagine that scene, M. Ricardo. The rage of
the murderers at their inability to discover the plunder for which
they had risked their necks, the old woman crumpled up on the floor
against the wall, the girl writing laboriously with fettered arms 'I
do not know' under threats of torture, and then in the stillness of
the night the clear, tiny click of the gate and the measured,
relentless footsteps. No wonder they were terrified in that dark room.
What would be their one thought? Why, to get away—to come back
perhaps later, when Mlle. Celie should have told them what, by the
way, she did not know, but in any case to get away now. So they made
their little mistake, and in their hurry they left the light burning
in the room of Helene Vauquier, and the murder was discovered seven
hours too soon for them."
"Seven hours!" said Mr. Ricardo.
"Yes. The household did not rise early. It was not until seven
that the charwoman came. It was she who was meant to discover the
crime. By that time the motor-car would have been back three hours
ago in its garage. Servettaz, the chauffeur, would have returned from
Chambery some time in the morning, he would have cleaned the car, he
would have noticed that there was very little petrol in the tank, as
there had been when he had left it on the day before. He would not
have noticed that some of his many tins which had been full yesterday
were empty to-day. We should not have discovered that about four in
the morning the car was close to the Villa Rose and that it had
travelled, between midnight and five in the morning, a hundred and
"But you had already guessed 'Geneva,'" said Ricardo. "At
luncheon, before the news came that the car was found, you had
"It was a shot," said Hanaud. "The absence of the car helped me to
make it. It is a large city and not very far away, a likely place for
people with the police at their heels to run to earth in. But if the
car had been discovered in the garage I should not have made that
shot. Even then I had no particular conviction about Geneva. I really
wished to see how Wethermill would take it. He was wonderful."
"He sprang up."
"He betrayed nothing but surprise. You showed no less surprise
than he did, my good friend. What I was looking for was one glance of
fear. I did not get it."
"Yet you suspected him—even then you spoke of brains and
audacity. You told him enough to hinder him from communicating with
the red-haired woman in Geneva. You isolated him. Yes, you suspected
"Let us take the case from the beginning. When you first came to
me, as I told you, the Commissaire had already been with me. There
was an interesting piece of evidence already in his possession.
Adolphe Ruel—who saw Wethermill and Vauquier together close by the
Casino and overheard that cry of Wethermill's, 'It is true: I must
have money!'—had already been with his story to the Commissaire. I
knew it when Harry Wethermill came into the room to ask me to take up
the case. That was a bold stroke, my friend. The chances were a
hundred to one that I should not interrupt my holiday to take up a
case because of your little dinner-party in London. Indeed, I should
not have interrupted it had I not known Adolphe Ruel's story. As it
was I could not resist. Wethermill's very audacity charmed me. Oh yes,
I felt that I must pit myself against him. So few criminals have
spirit, M. Ricardo. It is deplorable how few. But Wethermill! See in
what a fine position he would have been if only I had refused. He
himself had been the first to call upon the first detective in France.
And his argument! He loved Mlle. Celie. Therefore she must be
innocent! How he stuck to it! People would have said, 'Love is blind,'
and all the more they would have suspected Mile. Celie. Yes, but they
love the blind lover. Therefore all the more would it have been
impossible for them to believe Harry Wethermill had any share in that
Mr. Ricardo drew his chair closer in to the table.
"I will confess to you," he said, "that I thought Mlle. Celie was
"It is not surprising," said Hanaud. "Some one within the house
was an accomplice—we start with that fact. The house had not been
broken into. There was Mlle. Celie's record as Helene Vauquier gave
it to us, and a record obviously true. There was the fact that she had
got rid of Servettaz. There was the maid upstairs very ill from the
chloroform. What more likely than that Mlle. Celie had arranged a
seance, and then when the lights were out had admitted the murderer
through that convenient glass door?"
"There were, besides, the definite imprints of her shoes," said
"Yes, but that is precisely where I began to feel sure that she
was innocent," replied Hanaud dryly. "All the other footmarks had
been so carefully scored and ploughed up that nothing could be made
of them. Yet those little ones remained so definite, so easily
identified, and I began to wonder why these, too, had not been cut up
and stamped over. The murderers had taken, you see, an excess of
precaution to throw the presumption of guilt upon Mlle. Celie rather
than upon Vauquier. However, there the footsteps were. Mlle. Celie had
sprung from the room as I described to Wethermill. But I was puzzled.
Then in the room I found the torn- up sheet of notepaper with the
words, 'Je ne sais pas,' in mademoiselle's handwriting. The words
might have been spirit- writing, they might have meant anything. I put
them away in my mind. But in the room the settee puzzled me. And again
I was troubled—greatly troubled."
"Yes, I saw that."
"And not you alone," said Hanaud, with a smile. "Do you remember
that loud cry Wethermill gave when we returned to the room and once
more I stood before the settee? Oh, he turned it off very well. I had
said that our criminals in France were not very gentle with their
victims, and he pretended that it was in fear of what Mlle. Celie
might be suffering which had torn that cry from his heart. But it was
not so. He was afraid—deadly afraid—not for Mlle. Celie, but for
himself. He was afraid that I had understood what these cushions had
to tell me."
"What did they tell you?" asked Ricardo.
"You know now," said Hanaud. "They were two cushions, both
indented, and indented in different ways. The one at the head was
irregularly indented—something shaped had pressed upon it. It might
have been a face—it might not; and there was a little brown stain
which was fresh and which was blood. The second cushion had two
separate impressions, and between them the cushion was forced up in a
thin ridge; and these impressions were more definite. I measured the
distance between the two cushions, and I found this: that
supposing—and it was a large supposition—the cushions had not been
moved since those impressions were made, a girl of Mlle. Celie's
height lying stretched out upon the sofa would have her face pressing
down upon one cushion and her feet and insteps upon the other. Now,
the impressions upon the second cushion and the thin ridge between
them were just the impressions which might have been made by a pair of
shoes held close together. But that would not be a natural attitude
for any one, and the mark upon the head cushion was very deep.
Supposing that my conjectures were true, then a woman would only lie
like that because she was helpless, because she had been flung there,
because she could not lift herself—because, in a word, her hands were
tied behind her back and her feet fastened together. Well, then,
follow this train of reasoning, my friend! Suppose my conjectures—and
we had nothing but conjectures to build upon-were true, the woman
flung upon the sofa could not be Helene Vauquier, for she would have
said so; she could have had no reason for concealment. But it must be
Mlle. Celie. There was the slit in the one cushion and the stain on
the other which, of course, I had not accounted for. There was still,
too, the puzzle of the footsteps outside the glass doors. If Mlle.
Celie had been bound upon the sofa, how came she to run with her
limbs free from the house? There was a question—a question not easy
"Yes," said Mr. Ricardo.
"Yes; but there was also another question. Suppose that Mlle.
Celie was, after all, the victim, not the accomplice; suppose she had
been flung tied upon the sofa; suppose that somehow the imprint of her
shoes upon the ground had been made, and that she had afterwards been
carried away, so that the maid might be cleared of all complicity—in
that case it became intelligible why the other footprints were scored
out and hers left. The presumption of guilt would fall upon her. There
would be proof that she ran hurriedly from the room and sprang into a
motor-car of her own free will. But, again, if that theory were true,
then Helene Vauquier was the accomplice and not Mlle. Celie."
"I follow that."
"Then I found an interesting piece of evidence with regard to the
strange woman who came: I picked up a long red hair—a very important
piece of evidence about which I thought it best to say nothing at all.
It was not Mlle. Celie's hair, which is fair; nor Vauquier's, which is
black; nor Mme. Dauvray's, which is dyed brown; nor the charwoman's,
which is grey. It was, therefore, the visitor's. Well, we went
upstairs to Mile. Celie's room."
"Yes," said Mr. Ricardo eagerly. "We are coming to the pot of
"In that room we learnt that Helene Vauquier, at her own request,
had already paid it a visit. It is true the Commissaire said that he
had kept his eye on her the whole time. But none the less from the
window he saw me coming down the road, and that he could not have
done, as I made sure, unless he had turned his back upon Vauquier and
leaned out of the window. Now at the time I had an open mind about
Vauquier. On the whole I was inclined to think she had no share in the
affair. But either she or Mlle. Celie had, and perhaps both. But one
of them—yes. That was sure. Therefore I asked what drawers she
touched after the Commissaire had leaned out of the window. For if she
had any motive in wishing to visit the room she would have satisfied
it when the Commissaire's back was turned. He pointed to a drawer, and
I took out a dress and shook it, thinking that she may have wished to
hide something. But nothing fell out. On the other hand, however, I
saw some quite fresh grease-marks, made by fingers, and the marks were
wet. I began to ask myself how it was that Helene Vauquier, who had
just been helped to dress by the nurse, had grease upon her fingers.
Then I looked at a drawer which she had examined first of all. There
were no grease-marks on the clothes she had turned over before the
Commissaire leaned out of the window. Therefore it followed that
during the few seconds when he was watching me she had touched grease.
I looked about the room, and there on the dressing-table close by the
chest of drawers was a pot of cold cream. That was the grease Helene
Vauquier had touched. And why— if not to hide some small thing in it
which, firstly, she dared not keep in her own room; which, secondly,
she wished to hide in the room of Mlle. Celie; and which, thirdly, she
had not had an opportunity to hide before? Now bear those three
conditions in mind, and tell me what the small thing was."
Mr. Ricardo nodded his head.
"I know now," he said. "You told me. The earrings of Mlle. Celie.
But I should not have guessed it at the time."
"Nor could I—at the time," said Hanaud. "I kept my open mind
about Helene Vauquier; but I locked the door and took the key. Then
we went and heard Vauquier's story. The story was clever, because so
much of it was obviously, indisputably true. The account of the
seances, of Mme. Dauvray's superstitions, her desire for an interview
with Mme. de Montespan—such details are not invented. It was
interesting, too, to know that there had been a seance planned for
that night! The method of the murder began to be clear. So far she
spoke the truth. But then she lied. Yes, she lied, and it was a bad
lie, my friend. She told us that the strange woman Adele had black
hair. Now I carried in my pocket- book proof that that woman's hair
was red. Why did she lie, except to make impossible the identification
of that strange visitor? That was the first false step taken by Helene
"Now let us take the second. I thought nothing of her rancour
against Mlle. Celie. To me it was all very natural. She—the hard
peasant woman no longer young, who had been for years the
confidential servant of Mme. Dauvray, and no doubt had taken her levy
from the impostors who preyed upon her credulous mistress— certainly
she would hate this young and pretty outcast whom she has to wait
upon, whose hair she has to dress. Vauquier—she would hate her. But
if by any chance she were in the plot—and the lie seemed to show she
was—then the seances showed me new possibilities. For Helene used to
help Mlle. Celie. Suppose that the seance had taken place, that this
sceptical visitor with the red hair professed herself dissatisfied
with Vauquier's method of testing the medium, had suggested another
way, Mlle. Celie could not object, and there she would be neatly and
securely packed up beyond the power of offering any resistance, before
she could have a suspicion that things were wrong. It would be an easy
little comedy to play. And if that were true—why, there were my sofa
cushions partly explained."
"Yes, I see!" cried Ricardo, with enthusiasm. "You are wonderful."
Hanaud was not displeased with his companion's enthusiasm.
"But wait a moment. We have only conjectures so far, and one fact
that Helene Vauquier lied about the colour of the strange woman's
hair. Now we get another fact. Mlle. Celie was wearing buckles on her
shoes. And there is my slit in the sofa cushions. For when she is
flung on to the sofa, what will she do? She will kick, she will
struggle. Of course it is conjecture. I do not as yet hold
pigheadedly to it. I am not yet sure that Mlle. Celie is innocent. I
am willing at any moment to admit that the facts contradict my theory.
But, on the contrary, each fact that I discover helps it to take
"Now I come to Helene Vauquier's second mistake. On the evening
when you saw Mlle. Celie in the garden behind the baccarat-rooms you
noticed that she wore no jewellery except a pair of diamond eardrops.
In the photograph of her which Wethermill showed me, again she was
wearing them. Is it not, therefore, probable that she usually wore
them? When I examined her room I found the case for those
earrings—the case was empty. It was natural, then, to infer that she
was wearing them when she came down to the seance."
"Well, I read a description—a carefully written description—of
the missing girl, made by Helene Vauquier after an examination of the
girl's wardrobe. There is no mention of the earrings. So I asked
her—'Was she not wearing them?' Helene Vauquier was taken by
surprise. How should I know anything of Mlle. Celie's earrings? She
hesitated. She did not quite know what answer to make. Now, why? Since
she herself dressed Mile. Celie, and remembers so very well all she
wore, why does she hesitate? Well, there is a reason. She does not
know how much I know about those diamond eardrops. She is not sure
whether we have not dipped into that pot of cold cream and found them.
Yet without knowing she cannot answer. So now we come back to our pot
of cold cream."
"Yes!" cried Mr. Ricardo. "They were there."
"Wait a bit," said Hanaud. "Let us see how it works out. Remember
the conditions. Vauquier has some small thing which she must hide,
and which she wishes to hide in Mlle. Celie's room. For she admitted
that it was her suggestion that she should look through mademoiselle's
wardrobe. For what reason does she choose the girl's room, except that
if the thing were discovered that would be the natural place for it?
It is, then, something belonging to Mlle. Celie. There was a second
condition we laid down. It was something Vauquier had not been able to
hide before. It came, then, into her possession last night. Why could
she not bide it last night? Because she was not alone. There were the
man and the woman, her accomplices. It was something, then, which she
was concerned in hiding from them. It is not rash to guess, then, that
it was some piece of the plunder of which the other two would have
claimed their share—and a piece of plunder belonging to Mlle. Celie.
Well, she has nothing but the diamond eardrops. Suppose Vauquier is
left alone to guard Mlle. Celie while the other two ransack Mme.
Dauvray's room. She sees her chance. The girl cannot stir hand or foot
to save herself. Vauquier tears the eardrops in a hurry from her
ears—and there I have my drop of blood just where I should expect it
to be. But now follow this! Vauquier hides the earrings in her pocket.
She goes to bed in order to be chloroformed. She knows that it is very
possible that her room will be searched before she regains
consciousness, or before she is well enough to move. There is only one
place to hide them in, only one place where they will be safe. In bed
with her. But in the morning she must get rid of them, and a nurse is
with her. Hence the excuse to go to Mlle. Celie's room. If the
eardrops are found in the pot of cold cream, it would only be thought
that Mlle. Celie had herself hidden them there for safety. Again it is
conjecture, and I wish to make sure. So I tell Vauquier she can go
away, and I leave her unwatched. I have her driven to the depot
instead of to her friends, and searched. Upon her is found the pot of
cream, and in the cream Mlle. Celie's eardrops. She has slipped into
Mlle. Celie's room, as, if my theory was correct, she would be sure to
do, and put the pot of cream into her pocket. So I am now fairly sure
that she is concerned in the murder.
"We then went to Mme. Dauvray's room and discovered her brilliants
and her ornaments. At once the meaning of that agitated piece of
hand-writing of Mlle. Celie's becomes clear. She is asked where the
jewels are hidden. She cannot answer, for her mouth, of course, is
stopped. She has to write. Thus my conjectures get more and more
support. And, mind this, one of the two women is guilty— Celie or
Vauquier. My discoveries all fit in with the theory of Celie's
innocence. But there remain the footprints, for which I found no
"You will remember I made you all promise silence as to the
finding of Mme. Dauvray's jewellery. For I thought, if they have
taken the girl away so that suspicion may fall on her and not on
Vauquier, they mean to dispose of her. But they may keep her so long
as they have a chance of finding out from her Mme. Dauvray's
hiding-place. It was a small chance but our only one. The moment the
discovery of the jewellery was published the girl's fate was sealed,
were my theory true.
"Then came our advertisement and Mme. Gobin's written testimony.
There was one small point of interest which I will take first: her
statement that Adele was the Christian name of the woman with the red
hair, that the old woman who was the servant in that house in the
suburb of Geneva called her Adele, just simply Adele. That interested
me, for Helene Vauquier had called her Adele too when she was
describing to us the unknown visitor. 'Adele' was what Mme. Dauvray
"Yes," said Ricardo. "Helene Vauquier made a slip there. She
should have given her a false name."
"It is the one slip she made in the whole of the business. Nor did
she recover herself very cleverly. For when the Commissaire pounced
upon the name, she at once modified her words. She only thought now
that the name was Adele, or something like it. But when I went on to
suggest that the name in any case would be a false one, at once she
went back upon her modifications. And now she was sure that Adele was
the name used. I remembered her hesitation when I read Marthe Gobin's
letter. They helped to confirm me in my theory that she was in the
plot; and they made me very sure that it was an Adele for whom we had
to look. So far well. But other statements in the letter puzzled me.
For instance, 'She ran lightly and quickly across the pavement into
the house, as though she were afraid to be seen.' Those were the
words, and the woman was obviously honest. What became of my theory
then? The girl was free to run, free to stoop and pick up the train of
her gown in her hand, free to shout for help in the open street if she
wanted help. No; that I could not explain until that afternoon, when
I saw Mlle. Celie's terror-stricken eyes fixed upon that flask, as
Lemerre poured a little out and burnt a hole in the sack. Then I
understood well enough. The fear of vitriol!" Hanaud gave an uneasy
shudder. "And it is enough to make any one afraid! That I can tell
you. No wonder she lay still as a mouse upon the sofa in the bedroom.
No wonder she ran quickly into the house. Well, there you have the
explanation. I had only my theory to work upon even after Mme. Gobin's
evidence. But as it happened it was the right one. Meanwhile, of
course, I made my inquiries into Wethermill's circumstances. My good
friends in England helped me. They were precarious. He owed money in
Aix, money at his hotel. We knew from the motor-car that the man we
were searching for had returned to Aix. Things began to look black for
Wethermill. Then you gave me a little piece of information."
"I!" exclaimed Ricardo, with a start.
"Yes. You told me that you walked up to the hotel with Harry
Wethermill on the night of the murder and separated just before ten.
A glance into his rooms which I had—you will remember that when we
had discovered the motor-car I suggested that we should go to Harry
Wethermill's rooms and talk it over—that glance enabled me to see
that he could very easily have got out of his room on to the verandah
below and escaped from the hotel by the garden quite unseen. For you
will remember that whereas your rooms look out to the front and on to
the slope of Mont Revard, Wethermill's look out over the garden and
the town of Aix. In a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes he could
have reached the Villa Rose. He could have been in the salon before
half-past ten, and that is just the hour which suited me perfectly.
And, as he got out unnoticed, so he could return. So he did return! My
friend, there are some interesting marks upon the window-sill of
Wethermill's room and upon the pillar just beneath it. Take a look, M.
Ricardo, when you return to your hotel. But that was not all. We
talked of Geneva in Mr. Wethermill's room, and of the distance between
Geneva and Aix. Do you remember that?"
"Yes," replied Ricardo.
"Do you remember too that I asked him for a road-book?"
"Yes; to make sure of the distance. I do."
"Ah, but it was not to make sure of the distance that I asked for
the road-book, my friend. I asked in order to find out whether Harry
Wethermill had a road-book at all which gave a plan of the roads
between here and Geneva. And he had. He handed it to me at once and
quite naturally. I hope that I took it calmly, but I was not at all
calm inside. For it was a new road-book, which, by the way, he bought
a week before, and I was asking myself all the while—now what was I
asking myself, M. Ricardo?"
"No," said Ricardo, with a smile. "I am growing wary. I will not
tell you what you were asking yourself, M. Hanaud. For even were I
right you would make out that I was wrong, and leap upon me with
injuries and gibes. No, you shall drink your coffee and tell me of
your own accord."
"Well," said Hanaud, laughing, "I will tell you. I was asking
myself: 'Why does a man who owns no motor-car, who hires no motor-
car, go out into Aix and buy an automobilist's road-map? With what
object?' And I found it an interesting question. M. Harry Wethermill
was not the man to go upon a walking tour, eh? Oh, I was obtaining
evidence. But then came an overwhelming thing—the murder of Marthe
Gobin. We know now how he did it. He walked beside the cab, put his
head in at the window, asked, 'Have you come in answer to the
advertisement?' and stabbed her straight to the heart through her
dress. The dress and the weapon which he used would save him from
being stained with her blood. He was in your room that morning, when
we were at the station. As I told you, he left his glove behind. He
was searching for a telegram in answer to your advertisement. Or he
came to sound you. He had already received his telegram from
Hippolyte. He was like a fox in a cage, snapping at every one,
twisting vainly this way and that way, risking everything and every
one to save his precious neck. Marthe Gobin was in the way. She is
killed. Mlle. Celie is a danger. So Mile. Celie must be suppressed.
And off goes a telegram to the Geneva paper, handed in by a waiter
from the cafe at the station of Chambery before five o'clock.
Wethermill went to Chambery that afternoon when we went to Geneva.
Once we could get him on the run, once we could so harry and bustle
him that he must take risks—why, we had him. And that afternoon he
had to take them."
"So that even before Marthe Gobin was killed you were sure that
Wethermill was the murderer?"
Hanaud's face clouded over.
"You put your finger on a sore place, M. Ricardo. I was sure, but
I still wanted evidence to convict. I left him free, hoping for that
evidence. I left him free, hoping that he would commit himself. He
did, but—well, let us talk of some one else. What of Mlle. Celie?"
Ricardo drew a letter from his pocket.
"I have a sister in London, a widow," he said. "She is kind. I,
too, have been thinking of what will become of Mlle. Celie. I wrote
to my sister, and here is her reply. Mlle. Celie will be very
Hanaud stretched out his hand and shook Ricardo's warmly.
"She will not, I think, be for very long a burden. She is young.
She will recover from this shock. She is very pretty, very gentle.
If—if no one comes forward whom she loves and who loves her—I—
yes, I myself, who was her papa for one night, will be her husband
He laughed inordinately at his own joke; it was a habit of M.
Hanaud's. Then he said gravely:
"But I am glad, M. Ricardo, for Mlle. Celie's sake that I came to
your amusing dinner-party in London."
Mr. Ricardo was silent for a moment. Then he asked:
"And what will happen to the condemned?"
"To the women? Imprisonment for life."
"And to the man?"
Hanaud shrugged his shoulders.
"Perhaps the guillotine. Perhaps New Caledonia. How can I say? I
am not the President of the Republic."