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Fantomas
by Pierre Souvestre
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Therese did not finish all she would have said. A loud ring at the front door bell broke in upon her words, and Etienne Rambert rose and walked across the room.

"That must be the good Baronne de Vibray come for you," he said.



XIV. MADEMOISELLE JEANNE

After she had so roughly disposed of the enterprising Henri Verbier, whose most unseemly advances had so greatly scandalised her, Mlle. Jeanne took to her heels, directly she was out of sight of the Royal Palace Hotel, and ran like one possessed. She stood for a moment in the brilliantly lighted, traffic-crowded Avenue Wagram, shaking with excitement and with palpitating heart, and then mechanically hailed a passing cab and told the driver to take her towards the Bois. There she gave another heedless order to go to the boulevard Saint-Denis, but as the cab approached the place de l'Etoile she realised that she was once more near the Royal Palace Hotel, and stopping the driver by the tram lines she dismissed him and got into a tram that was going to the station of Auteuil. It was just half-past eleven when she reached the station.

"When is the next train for Saint-Lazaire?" she asked.

She learned that one was starting almost at once, and hurriedly taking a second-class ticket she jumped into a ladies' carriage and went as far as Courcelles. There she alighted, went out of the station, looked around her for a minute or two to get her bearings, and then walked slowly towards the rue Eugene-Flachat. She hesitated a second, and then walked firmly towards a particular house, and rang the bell.

* * * * *

"A lady to see you, sir," the footman said to M. Rambert.

"Bring her in here at once," said M. Rambert, supposing that the man had kept the Baronne de Vibray waiting in the anteroom.

The drawing-room door was opened a little way, and someone came in and stepped quickly into the shadow by the door. Therese, who had risen to hurry towards the visitor, stopped short when she perceived that it was a stranger and not her guardian. Noticing her action, M. Etienne Rambert turned and looked at the person who had entered.

It was a lady.

"To what am I indebted——" he began with a bow; and then, having approached the visitor, he broke off short. "Good heavens——!"

The bell rang a second time, and on this occasion the Baronne de Vibray hurried into the room, a radiant incarnation of gaiety.

"I am most dreadfully late!" she exclaimed, and was hurrying towards M. Etienne Rambert with outstretched hands, full of some amusing story she had to tell him, when she too caught sight of the strange lady standing stiffly in the corner of the room, with downcast eyes.

Etienne Rambert repressed his first emotion, smiled to the Baronne, and then went towards the mysterious lady.

"Madame," he said, not a muscle of his face moving, "may I trouble you to come into my study?"

"Who is that lady, M. Rambert?" said Therese when presently M. Rambert came back into the drawing-room. "And how white you are!"

M. Rambert forced a smile.

"I am rather tired, dear. I have had a great deal to do these last few days."

The Baronne de Vibray was full of instant apologies.

"It is all my fault," she exclaimed. "I am dreadfully sorry to have kept you up so late," and in a few minutes more the Baronne's car was speeding towards the rue Boissy-d'Anglais.

* * * * *

M. Rambert hurried back to his study, shut and locked the door behind him, and almost sprang towards the unknown lady, his fists clenched, his eyes starting out of his head.

"Charles!" he exclaimed.

"Papa!" the girl replied, and sank upon a sofa.

There was silence. Etienne Rambert seemed utterly dumbfounded.

"I won't, I won't remain disguised as a woman any longer. I've done with it. I cannot bear it!" the strange creature murmured.

"You must!" said Rambert harshly, imperiously. "I insist!"

The pseudo Mlle. Jeanne slowly took off the heavy wig that concealed her real features, and tore away the corsage that compressed her bosom, revealing the strong and muscular frame of a young man.

"No, I will not," replied the strange individual, to whom M. Rambert had not hesitated to give the name of Charles. "I would rather anything else happened."

"You have got to expiate," Etienne Rambert said with the same harshness.

"The expiation is too great," the young fellow answered. "The torture is unendurable."

"Charles," said M. Rambert very gravely, "do you forget that legally, civilly, you are dead?"

"I would a thousand times rather be really dead!" the unhappy lad exclaimed.

"Alas!" his father murmured, speaking very fast, "I thought your mind was more unhinged than it really is. I saved your life, regardless of all risk, because I thought you were insane, and now I know you are a criminal! Oh, yes, I know things, I know your life!"

"Father," said Charles Rambert with so stern and determined an expression that Etienne Rambert felt a moment's fear. "I want to know first of all how you managed to save my life and make out that I was dead. Was that just chance, or was it planned deliberately?"

Confronted with this new firmness of his son's, Etienne Rambert dropped his peremptory tone; his shoulders drooped in distress.

"Can one anticipate things like that?" he said. "When we parted, my heart bled to think that you, my son, must fall into the hands of justice, and that your feet must tread the path that led to the scaffold or, at least, to the galleys; I wondered how I could save you; then chance, chance, mark you, brought that poor drowned body in my way: I saw the fortunate coincidence of a faint resemblance, and resolved to pass it off for you; I got those woman's clothes which you exchanged for yours, buried the dead man's clothes and put yours on the corpse. Do you know, Charles, that I have suffered too? Do you know what agony and torture I, as a man of honour, have endured? Have you not heard the story of my appearance at the Assizes and of my humiliation in court?"

"You did all that!" Charles Rambert murmured. "Strange chance, indeed!" Then his tone changed and he sobbed. "Oh, my poor father, what an awful fatality it all is!" Suddenly he sprang to his feet. "But I committed no crime, papa! I never killed the Marquise de Langrune! Oh, do believe me! Why, you have just this minute said that you know I am not mad!"

Etienne Rambert looked at his son with distress.

"Not mad, my poor boy? Yet perhaps you were mad—then?" Then he stopped abruptly. "Don't let us go over all that again! I forbid it absolutely." He leaned back on his writing-table, folded his arms and asked sternly: "Have you come here only to tell me that?"

The curt question seemed to affect the lad strangely. All his former audacity dropped from him. Nervously he stammered:

"I can't remain a woman any longer!"

"Why not?" snapped Etienne Rambert.

"I can't."

The two men looked at each other in silence, as if trying to read one another's thoughts. Then Etienne Rambert seemed to see the inner meaning of the words his son had just said.

"I see!" he answered slowly. "I understand.... The Royal Palace Hotel, where Mlle. Jeanne held a trusted post, has just been the scene of a daring robbery. Obviously, if anyone could prove that Charles Rambert and the new cashier were one and the same person——"

But the young fellow understood the insinuation and burst out:

"I did not commit that robbery!"

"You did!" Etienne Rambert insisted: "you did. I read the newspaper accounts of the robbery, read them with all the agony that only a father like me with a son like you could feel. The detectives and the magistrates were at a loss to find the key to the mystery, but I saw clearly and at once what the solution of the mystery was. And I knew and understood because I knew it was—you!"

"I did not commit the robbery," Charles Rambert shouted. "Do you mean to begin all your horrible insinuations again, as you did at Beaulieu?" he demanded in almost threatening tones. "What evil spirit obsesses you? Why will you insist that your unhappy son is a criminal? I had nothing to do with those robberies at the hotel; I swear I had not, father!"

M. Rambert shrugged his shoulders and clasped his hands.

"What have I done," he muttered, "to have so heavy a cross laid on me?" He turned again to his son. "Your defence is childish. What is the use of mere denials? Words don't mean anything without proofs to support them." The lad was silent, seeming to think it useless to attempt to convince a father who appeared so certain of his guilt, and also crushed by the thought of all that had happened at the hotel. His father betrayed some uneasiness at a new thought that had come into his mind. "I told you not to come to me again except as a last resource, when punishment was actually overtaking you, or when you had proved your innocence: why are you here now? Has something happened that I do not know about? What has happened? What else have you done? Speak!"

Charles Rambert answered in a toneless voice, as if hypnotised:

"There has been a detective in the hotel for the last few days. He called himself Henri Verbier, and was disguised, but I knew him, for I had seen him too lately, and in circumstances too deeply impressed upon my mind for me to be able to forget him, although I only saw him then for a few minutes."

"What do you mean?" said the elder man uneasily.

"I mean that Juve was at the Royal Palace Hotel."

"Juve?" exclaimed Etienne Rambert. "And then—go on!"

"Juve, disguised as Henri Verbier, subjected me to a kind of examination, and I don't know what conclusion he came to. Then, this evening, barely two hours ago, he came up to my room and had a long talk, and while he was trying to get some information from me about a matter that I know nothing about—for I swear, papa, that I had nothing whatever to do with the robbery—he came up to me and took hold of me as a man does when he wants to make up to a woman. And I lost my head! I felt that in another minute all would be up with me—that he would establish my identity, which he perhaps suspected already—and I thought of all you had done to save my life by representing that I was dead, and——"

Charles paused for breath. His father's fists were clenched and his face contracted.

"Go on!" he said, "go on, but speak lower!"

"As Juve came close," Charles went on, "I dealt him a terrific blow on the forehead, and he fell like a stone. And I got away!"

"Is he dead?" Etienne Rambert whispered.

"I don't know."

* * * * *

For ten minutes Charles Rambert remained alone in the study, where his father had left him, thinking deeply. Then the door opened and Etienne Rambert came back carrying a bundle of clothes.

"There you are," he said to his son: "here are some man's clothes. Put them on, and go!"

The young man hastily took off his woman's garments and dressed himself in silence, while his father walked up and down the room, plunged in deepest thought. Twice he asked: "Are you quite sure it was Juve?" and twice his son replied "Quite sure." And once again Etienne Rambert asked, in tones that betrayed his keen anxiety: "Did you kill him?" and Charles Rambert shrugged his shoulders and replied: "I told you before, I do not know."

And now Charles Rambert stood upon the threshold of the house, about to leave his father without a word of farewell or parting embrace. M. Etienne Rambert stayed him, holding out a pocket-book, filled full with bank-notes.

"There: take that," he said, "and go!"



XV. THE MAD WOMAN'S PLOT

When Dr. Biron built his famous private asylum in the very heart of Passy, intended, according to his prospectus, to provide a retreat for people suffering from nervous breakdown or from overwork or over-excitement, and to offer hospital treatment to the insane, in order to secure a kind of official sanction for his institution, he took the wise precaution to proclaim from the housetops that he would enlist the services of ex-medical officers of the hospitals. The idea was a shrewd and a successful one, and his establishment throve.

Perret and Sembadel were having breakfast, and also were grumbling.

"I shouldn't curse the meanness of the management quite so much if they didn't put us on to all the jobs," said Sembadel. "Hang it all, man, we are both qualified, and when we undertook to assist Dr. Biron we did so, I presume, in order to top off our theoretical training with some practical clinical experience."

"Who's stopping you?" Perret enquired.

"How can we find the time, when besides all our actual work with the patients, we have to do all this administrative work, writing to people to say how the patients are, and all that? That ought to be done by clerks, not by us."

"Isn't one job as good as another?" Perret retorted. "Besides, we are the only people who know how the patients really are, so it's common sense that we should have to write to their friends."

"They might let us have a secretary, anyhow," Sembadel growled.

Perret saw that his friend was in a bad temper, so did not try to carry on the argument.

"Say," he said, "you ought to make a special note of that case of No. 25, for your thesis. She was in your ward for about six months, wasn't she?"

"No. 25?" said Sembadel. "Yes, I know: a woman named Rambert; age about forty; hallucination that people are persecuting her; anaemic, with alternate crises of excitement and melancholia, punctuated by fits of passion; treatment: rest, nourishment, anodynes."

"You evidently remember the case distinctly."

"She interested me; she has marvellous eyes. Well, what about her?"

"Why, when she was moved into my pavilion the diagnosis was bad and the prognosis very bad: she was supposed to be incurable. Just go and see her now: her brain is restored: she's a new woman." He came to the table and picked up some notepaper. "I wrote to her husband a day or two ago and told him he might expect to hear that his wife had recovered, but I imagine my letter miscarried, for I've had no answer. I have a good mind to write to him again and ask for permission to send her to the convalescent home. The mischief of it is that this Etienne Rambert may want to remove her altogether, and that would mean one paying patient less, which would put our worthy director in a bad temper for a month."

He turned to his correspondence, and for some minutes the silence in the room was only broken by the scratching of pens on paper. Then an attendant came in, bringing a quantity of letters. Perret picked them up and began to sort them out.

"None for you," he said to Sembadel. "Not one of those little mauve envelopes which you look for every day and which decide what your temper will be. I must look out for storms."

"Shan't even have time to grouse to-day," Sembadel growled again. "You forget that Swelding pays us an official visit to-day."

"The Danish professor? Is it this morning that he is coming?"

"So it seems."

"Who is the fellow?"

"Just one of those foreign savants who haven't succeeded in becoming famous at home and so go abroad to worry other people under a pretext of investigations. That's why he wants to come here. Wrote some beastly little pamphlet on the ideontology of the hyper-imaginative. Never heard of it myself."

The conversation dropped, and presently the two men went off to their wards to see their patients, and warn the attendants to have everything in apple-pie order for the official inspection.

* * * * *

Meantime, in the great drawing-room, elaborate courtesies were being exchanged between Dr. Biron and Professor Swelding.

Dr. Biron was a man of about forty, with a high-coloured face and an active, vigorous frame. He gesticulated freely and spoke in an unctuous, fawning tone.

"I am delighted at the great compliment you pay me by coming here, sir," he said. "When I started this institution five years ago I certainly did not dare to hope that it would so soon win sufficient reputation to entitle it to the honour of inspection by men so eminent in the scientific world as yourself."

The professor listened with a courteous smile but evinced no hurry in replying.

Professor Swelding was certainly a remarkable figure. He might have been sixty, but he bore very lightly the weight of the years that laid their snows upon his thick and curly but startlingly white hair. It was this hair that attracted attention first; it was of extraordinary thickness and was joined on to a heavy moustache and a long and massive beard. He was like a man who might have taken a vow never to cut his hair. It covered his ears and grew low upon his forehead, so that hardly a vestige of the face could be seen, while, further, all the expression of the eyes was concealed behind large blue spectacles. The professor was enveloped in a heavy cloak, in spite of the bright sunshine; evidently he was one of those men from the cold North who do not know what real warmth is and have no idea of what it means to be too thickly clothed. He spoke French correctly, but with a slight accent and a slow enunciation that betrayed a foreign origin.

"I was really anxious, sir, to observe for myself the measures you have taken which have set your institution in the forefront of establishments of the kind," he replied. "I have read with the very greatest interest your various communications to the transactions of learned societies. It is a great advantage for a practitioner like myself to be able to profit by the experience of a savant of your high standing."

A few further compliments were exchanged and then Dr. Biron suggested a visit to the various wards, and led his guest out into the grounds of the institution.

If Dr. Biron did not possess that theoretical knowledge of insanity which has made French alienists famous throughout the world, he was certainly a first-rate organiser. His sanatorium was a model one. It was situated in one of the wealthiest, quietest and airiest quarters of Paris, and stood in a vast enclosure behind high walls; within this enclosure a number of small pavilions were built, all attractive in design, and communicating by broad flights of steps with a beautiful garden studded with trees and shrubs, but further subdivided into a series of little gardens separated from one another by white latticed palings.

"You see, Professor, I rely entirely on the isolation principle. A single block would have involved a deleterious collocation of various types of insanity, so I built this series of small pavilions, where my patients can be segregated according to their type of alienation. The system has great therapeutic advantages, and I am sure it is the explanation of my high percentage of cures."

Professor Swelding nodded approval.

"We apply the system of segregation in Denmark," he said, "but we have never carried it so far as to divide the general grounds. I see that each of your pavilions has its own private garden."

"I regard that as indispensable," Dr. Biron declared. He led his visitor to one of the little gardens, where a man of about fifty was walking about between two attendants. "This man is a megalomaniac," he said: "he believes that he is the Almighty."

"What is your treatment here?" Professor Swelding enquired. "I am aware that the books prescribe isolation, but that is not sufficient by itself."

"I nurse the brain by nursing the body," Dr. Biron replied. "I build up my patient's system by careful attention to hygiene, diet, and rest, and I pretend to ignore his mental alienation. There is always a spark of sound sense in a diseased brain. This man imagines he is the Almighty, but when he is hungry he has to ask for something to eat, and then we pretend to wonder why he has any need to eat if he is the Almighty; he has to concoct some explanation, and very gradually his reasoning power is restored. A man ceases to be insane the moment he begins to comprehend that he is insane."

The Professor followed the doctor, casting curious eyes at the various patients who were walking in their gardens.

"Have you many cures?"

"That is a difficult question to answer," said Dr. Biron. "The statistics are so very different in the different categories of insanity."

"Of course," said Professor Swelding; "but take some particular type of dementia, say, hallucination of persecution. What percentage of cures can you show there?"

"Twenty per cent absolute recoveries, and forty per cent definite improvements," the doctor replied promptly, and as the Professor evinced unmistakable astonishment at so high a percentage, Dr. Biron took him familiarly by the arm and drew him along. "I will show you a patient who actually is to be sent home in a day or two. I believe that she is completely cured, or on the very point of being completely cured."

A woman of about forty was sitting in one of the gardens by the side of an attendant, quietly sewing. Dr. Biron paused to draw his visitor's particular attention to her.

"That lady belongs to one of the best of our great merchant families. She is Mme. Alice Rambert, wife of Etienne Rambert, the rubber merchant. She has been under my care for nearly ten months. When she came here she was in the last stage of debility and anaemia and suffered from the most characteristic hallucination of all: she thought that assassins were all round her. I have built up her physical system, and now I have cured her mind. At the present moment that lady is not mad at all, in the proper sense of the term."

"She never shows any symptoms of reverting to her morbid condition?" Professor Swelding enquired with interest.

"Never."

"And would not, even if violently upset?"

"I do not think so."

"May I talk to her?"

"Certainly," and Dr. Biron led the visitor towards the seat on which the patient was sitting. "Madame Rambert," he said, "may I present Professor Swelding to you? He has heard that you are here and would like to pay his respects."

Mme. Rambert put down her needlework and rose and looked at the Danish professor.

"I am delighted to make the gentleman's acquaintance," she said, "but I should like to know how he was aware of my existence, my dear doctor."

"I regret that I cannot claim to know you, madame," said Professor Swelding, replying for Dr. Biron, "but I know that in addressing you I shall be speaking to the inmate of this institution who will testify most warmly to the scientific skill and the devotion of Dr. Biron."

"At all events," Mme. Rambert replied coldly, "he carries his kindness to the extent of wishing his patients never to be dull, since he brings unexpected visitors to see them."

The phrase was an implicit reproach of Dr. Biron's too ready inclination to exhibit his patients as so many rare and curious wild animals, and it stung him all the more because he was convinced that Mme. Rambert was perfectly sane. He pretended not to hear what she said, giving some order to the attendant, Berthe, who was standing respectfully by.

"I understand, madame," Professor Swelding replied gently. "You object to my visit as an intrusion?"

Mme. Rambert had picked up her work and already was sewing again, but suddenly she sprang up, so abruptly that the professor recoiled, and exclaimed sharply:

"Who called me? Who called me? Who——"

The Professor was attempting to speak when the patient interrupted him.

"Oh!" she cried, "Alice! Alice! His voice—his voice! Go away! You frighten me! Who spoke? Go away! Oh, help! help!" and she fled screaming towards the far end of the garden, with the attendant and Dr. Biron running after her. With all the cleverness of the insane she managed to elude them, and continued to scream. "Oh, I recognised him! Do go away, I implore you! Go! Murder! Murder!"

The attendant tried to reassure the doctor.

"Don't be frightened, sir. She is not dangerous. I expect the visit from that gentleman has upset her."

The poor demented creature had taken refuge behind a clump of shrubs, and was standing there with eyes dilated with anguish fixed on the Professor and hand pointing to him, trembling in every limb.

"Fantomas!" she cried: "Fantomas! There—I know him! Oh, help!"

The scene was horribly distressing, and Dr. Biron put an end to it by ordering the attendant to take Mme. Rambert to her room and induce her to rest, and to send at once for M. Perret. Then he turned to Professor Swelding.

"I am greatly distressed by this incident, Professor. It proves that the cure of this poor creature is by no means so assured as I had believed. But there are other cases which will not shake your faith in my judgment like this, I hope. Shall we go on?"

Professor Swelding tried to comfort the doctor.

"The brain is a pathetically frail thing," he said. "You could not have a more striking case to prove it: that poor lady, whom you believed to be cured, suddenly having a typical crisis of her form of insanity provoked by—what? Neither you nor I look particularly like assassins, do we?" And he followed Dr. Biron, who was much discomfited, to be shown other matters of interest.

* * * * *

"Better now, madame? Are you going to be good?"

Mme. Rambert was reclining on a sofa in her room, watching her attendant, Berthe, moving about and tidying up the slight disorder caused by her recent ministrations. The patient made a little gesture of despair.

"Poor Berthe!" she said. "If you only knew how unhappy I am, and how sorry for having given way to that panic just now!"

"Oh, that was nothing," said the attendant. "The doctor won't attach any importance to that."

"Yes, he will," said the patient with a weary smile. "I think he will attach importance to it, and in any case it will delay my discharge from this place."

"Not a bit of it, madame. Why, you know they have written to your home to say you are cured?"

Mme. Rambert did not reply for a minute or two. Then she said:

"Tell me, Berthe, what do you understand by the word 'cured'?"

The attendant was rather nonplussed.

"Why, it means that you are better: that you are quite well."

Her patient smiled bitterly.

"It is true that my health is better now, and that my stay here has done me good. But that is not what I was talking about. What is your opinion about my madness?"

"You mustn't think about that," the attendant remonstrated. "You are no more mad than I am."

"Oh, I know the worst symptom of madness is to declare you are not mad," Mme. Rambert answered sadly; "so I will be careful not to say it, Berthe. But, apart from this last panic, the reason for which I cannot tell you, have you ever known me do, or heard me say, anything that was utterly devoid of reason, in all the time that I have been in your charge?"

Struck by the remark, the attendant, in spite of herself, was obliged to confess:

"No, I never have—that is——"

"That is," Mme. Rambert finished for her, "I have sometimes protested to you that I was the victim of an abominable persecution, and that there was a tragic mystery in my life: in short, that if I was shut up here, it was because someone wanted me to be shut up. Come now, Berthe, has it never occurred to you that perhaps I was telling the truth?"

The attendant had been shaken for a minute by the calm self-possession of her patient; now she resumed her professional manner.

"Don't worry any more, Mme. Rambert, for you know as well as I do that Dr. Biron acknowledges that you are cured now. You are going to leave the place and resume your ordinary life."

"Ah, Berthe," said Mme. Rambert, twisting and untwisting her hands, "if you only knew! Why, if I leave this sanatorium, or rather if the doctor sends me back to my family, I shall certainly be put in some other sanatorium before two days are past! No, it isn't merely an idea that I have got into my head," she went on as the attendant protested. "Listen: during the whole ten months that I have been here, I have never once protested that I was not insane. I was quite glad to be in this place! For I felt safe here. But now I am not sure of that. I must go, but I must not go merely to return to my husband! I must be free, free to go to those who will help me to escape from the horrible trap in which I have spent the last few years of my life!"

Mme. Rambert's earnest tone convinced the attendant in spite of her own instinct.

"Yes?" she said enquiringly.

"I suppose you know that I am rich, Berthe?" Mme. Rambert went on. "I have always been generous to you, and higher fees are paid for me here than are paid for any other patient. Would you like to make sure of your future for ever, and quite easily? I have heard you talk about getting married. Shall I give you a dot? You might lose your situation here, but if you trust me I will make it up to you a hundredfold, if you will help me to escape from this place! And it cannot be too soon! I have not a minute to lose!"

Berthe tried to get away from her patient, but Mme. Rambert held her back, almost by force.

"Tell me your price," she said. "How much do you want? A thousand pounds? Two thousand pounds?" and as the attendant, bewildered by the mere suggestion of such fabulous sums, was silent, Mme. Rambert slipped a diamond ring off her finger and held it out to the young woman. "Take that as proof of my sincerity," she said. "If anybody asks me about it I will say that I have lost it. And from now, Berthe, begin to prepare a way for me to escape! The very night that I am free I swear you shall be a rich woman!"

Berthe got up, swaying, hardly knowing if she was awake or dreaming.

"A rich woman!" she murmured. "A rich woman!" and over the girl's face there suddenly crept a horrible expression of cupidity and desire.



XVI. AMONG THE MARKET PORTERS

"Boulevard Rochechouart," said Berthe, the young asylum nurse, to the conductor as she sprang into the tram just as it was starting.

It was a September afternoon, one of the last fine days of the now fast-dying summer, and the girl had just got her fortnightly leave for forty-eight hours. She had gone off duty at noon, and now had until noon on the next day but one to resume her own personality and shake off the anxieties that beset all those who are charged with the constant care of the insane, the most distressing kind of patients that exists. As a general rule Berthe spent her fortnightly holidays with her old grand-parents in their cottage outside Paris, but on this occasion she had elected to remain in the city, influenced thereto by the long conversation she had had with the patient confided to her particular care, No. 25, Mme. Rambert. Since that first talk with her, on the day of Professor Swelding's visit to the asylum, she had had others, and Berthe had now elaborated a plan to enable the supposed lunatic to escape, and had decided to spend her short holiday in bringing the plan to a point.

At the boulevard Rochechouart Berthe got out of the tram, looked around to get her bearings in the somewhat unfamiliar neighbourhood, and then turned into the rue Clignancourt and stood on the left-hand side of the street, looking at the shops. The third one was a wine shop, only the first of many in the street.

Berthe pushed the door of this establishment a little way open and looked at the rather rowdy company gathered round the zinc counter, all with flushed faces and all talking loudly. She did not venture inside, but in a clear voice asked, "Is M. Geoffroy here?" No definite answer was forthcoming, but the men turned round, hearing her enquiry, and seeing her pretty figure began to nudge one another and jest and laugh coarsely. "Come in, missy," said one of them, but already Berthe had quickly closed the door and lightly gone on her way.

A few yards further on there was another bar, and into this, also, Berthe peeped and once more asked, "Is M. Geoffroy here?" adding by way of further explanation, "Hogshead Geoffroy, I mean." This time a roar of laughter followed, and the girl fled, flushed with indignation.

Yet she did not desist from her strange search, and at last, at the sixth shop, her question was answered by a deep bass voice from the far end of a smoke-clouded den. "Hogshead Geoffroy? Here!" and heaving a sigh of relief Berthe went inside the shop.

* * * * *

When you want to see M. "Hogshead" Geoffroy, your procedure is simplicity itself. As he has no known address, all you have to do is to start at the bottom of the rue Clignancourt on the left-hand side, look into every wineshop, and ask, in tones loud enough to be heard above the clatter of conversation, whether Hogshead Geoffroy is there, and it will be mighty bad luck if, at one or other of the bars, you do not hear the answer, "Hogshead Geoffroy? Here," followed immediately by that gentleman's order to the patronne: "Half a pint, please: the gentleman will pay!" It is a safe order; the patronne knows from past experience that she can serve the half-pint without anxiety: Hogshead Geoffroy rapidly drains it, and then holds out a huge and hairy hand to the visitor and enquires, "Well, what is it?"

If, as often happens, the Hogshead finds himself confronted by a stranger, he feels no surprise; he knows his own popularity, and is a modest soul, so he calls his visitor by his Christian name at once, taps him amicably on the shoulder, and calls him "old boy," and invites him to stand a drink. The Hogshead is an artist in his line; he hires himself out to public halls to announce in his powerful voice, reinforced by a trumpet, the various items on the programme or the results of performances achieved. He also harangues the crowd on behalf of showmen, or hurls threats at too excited demonstrators at public demonstrations. Between whiles he rolls hogsheads down into cellars, or bottles wine, and even drinks it when he is among friends who have money to pay withal.

* * * * *

At sight of Berthe, Hogshead Geoffroy so far departed from custom as not to give an order to the patronne at the bar; instead, he rose and went towards the girl and unceremoniously embraced her.

"Ah-ha, little sister, there you are! Why, I was just that moment thinking of you!" He drew her to the back of the shop, towards a bunch of sturdy, square-shouldered fellows drinking there, to whom he introduced her. "Now then, mates, try to behave yourselves; I'm bringing a charming young lady to see you, my sister Berthe, little Bob—Bobinette, as we called her when we lived with the old folks." The girl blushed, a little uneasy at finding herself in such a mixed company, but Hogshead Geoffroy put every one at ease; he put his great hand under Berthe's chin and tilted her head back. "Don't you think she is pretty, this little sister of mine? She's the very spit of her brother!" There was a general roar of laughter. The contrast between the two figures was so great that it seemed impossible there could be any relationship between them: the graceful, slender, tiny Parisienne looking tinier still beside the huge colossus of a man six feet high, with the chest of a bull and the shoulders of an athlete. "We don't seem to be built on quite the same lines," M. Geoffroy admitted, "but all the same there is a family likeness!"

The men made room for the girl, and after she had yielded to the general insistence and accepted a glass of white wine, Geoffroy bent forward and spoke in a lower tone.

"Well, what do you want with me?"

"I want to talk to you about something which will interest you, I'm sure," Berthe answered.

"Anything to be got out of it?" was the giant's next enquiry.

Berthe smiled.

"I expect so, or I wouldn't have troubled you."

"Whenever there's any money to be picked up the Hogshead's always on," he replied: "especially just now when things aren't any too bright, though I may tell you I think there's going to be an alteration in that respect."

"Have you got a situation?" Berthe asked in some surprise.

Hogshead Geoffroy laid a finger on his lip.

"It's still a secret," he said, "but there's no harm in talking it over, for everybody here knows all about it," and at interminable length, and with many a pause for libations, he explained that he was a candidate for an appointment as Market Porter. He had been cramming for a fortnight past, in order to emerge triumphantly from the examination to which candidates were always subjected, and that very morning he had sat in the Hotel de Ville wrestling with nothing less than a problem in arithmetic. In proof, he produced from his pocket a crumpled, greasy and wine-stained sheet of paper scrawled all over with childish writing and figures, and showed it to his sister, immensely proud of the effect he was producing on her. "A problem," he repeated. "See here: two taps fill a tank at the rate of twenty litres a minute, and a third tap empties it at the rate of fifteen hundred litres an hour. How long will it take for the tank to get full?"

A friend of Geoffroy's broke in: it was Mealy Benoit, his most formidable competitor for the appointment.

"And how long will it take for you to get full?" he asked with a great laugh.

Hogshead Geoffroy banged his fist on the table.

"This is a serious conversation," he said, and turned again to his sister, who wanted to know if he had succeeded in finding the answer to the problem. "Maybe," he replied. "I worked by rule of thumb, for, as you know, arithmetic and all those devil's funniments aren't in my line. To sit for an hour, writing at a table in the great hall of the Hotel de Ville—not much! It made me sweat more than carrying four hundredweight!"

But the company was preparing to make a move. Time was getting on, and at six o'clock the second part of the examination, the physical test, was to be held in the Fish Market. Mealy Benoit had paid his score already, and Hogshead Geoffroy's deferent escort of friends was getting restless. Berthe won fresh favour in her brother's eyes by paying for their refreshments with a ten franc piece and leaving the change to be placed to his credit, and then with him she left the wineshop.

* * * * *

The annual competition for an appointment as Market Porter is held at the end of September. It is a great event. There are generally many candidates, but only two or three, and sometimes less, of the best are picked. The posts are few and good, for the number of porters is limited. The examination is in two parts: one purely intellectual, consisting of some simple problem and a little dictation, the other physical, in which the candidates have to carry a sack of meal weighing three hundredweight a distance of two hundred yards in the shortest time.

At six o'clock punctually the market women were all in their places along the pavement by their respective stalls. The hall was decorated with flags; the salesmen and regular shopmen were provided with chairs, and their assistants were behind them, with the sweepers and criers; at the back stood three or four rows of the general public, all eager to witness the impressive display.

The two-hundred-yard course was carefully cleared, every obstacle having been scrupulously swept off the asphalte, especially pieces of orange-peel, lettuce leaves and bits of rotten vegetable matter, which might have caused a competitor to slip when trying to break the record for carrying the sack. A high official of the Hotel de Ville and three of the senior Market Porters formed the jury, and there were also two officials of the Cyclists' Union, expert in the use of stop watches, armed with tested chronometers and deputed to take the exact time of each performance.

The crowd of onlookers was as odd, and eclectic, and keen, as can possibly be imagined. Berthe, who knew that false modesty is quite out of place in popular gatherings, mingled freely in the general conversation. Among other picturesque types she had noticed one particularly extraordinary individual who, although he was in the last row of all, overtopped the rest by quite half of his body, being perched on an antiquated tricycle, which provoked the hilarity of the mob.

"What ho, Bouzille!" somebody called out, for the man was a well-known and popular figure, and everybody knew his name. "Is that Methuselah's tricycle that you have pinched?" and to some of the sallies the fellow replied with a smile that was almost lost in his matted beard, and to others with a jest uttered in the purest dialect of Auvergne.

Someone spoke softly in Berthe's ear and she turned and saw a sturdy fellow of about twenty-five, wearing a blue blouse, a red handkerchief round his neck, and a drover's cap; he was a well-built, powerful man, and in spite of his humble dress, had an intelligent face and an almost distinguished manner. Berthe responded amiably, and a few commonplace remarks were exchanged between the two.

"In case you care to know, my name's Julot," said the man.

And Berthe replied frankly, but without otherwise compromising herself.

"And I am Bob, or Bobinette, whichever you like. I am Hogshead Geoffroy's sister," she added with a little touch of pride.

A murmur ran round the crowd. Mealy Benoit was going through his trial. The great fellow came along with rapid, rhythmical step, with supple limbs and chest hunched forward. Surely balanced on his broad shoulders and the nape of his neck was an enormous sack of meal, accurately weighed to scale three hundredweight. Without the least hesitation or slackening of pace, he covered the two hundred yards, reaching the goal perfectly fresh and fit; he stood for a moment or two in front of the judges, displaying the mighty muscles of his naked chest, over which the perspiration was running, and evincing genuine delight in not freeing himself from his heavy burden at the earliest possible moment. The applause was enthusiastic and immediate, but silence quickly fell again and all eyes turned towards the starting-post. It was Hogshead Geoffroy's turn.

The giant was really a splendid sight. Instead of walking as his rival had done, he began to step like a gymnast, and the crowd yelled their delight. It seemed that he must beat his rival's time easily, but all at once the great sack on his shoulders was seen to shake, and Geoffroy almost stopped, uttering a heavy groan before he got going again. The crowd looked on in surprise: where he had just set his feet there was a wet mark upon the asphalte: Geoffroy had slipped on a piece of orange-peel. But he managed to restore the equilibrium of the sack, and, taught caution by the risk he had just run, he finished the course with measured steps.

* * * * *

Two hours later the result of the competition was announced. Hogshead Geoffroy and Mealy Benoit were bracketed equal, having taken exactly the same time to cover the course; upon the result of the written examination would depend the final issue, and the matter was all the more important because this year there was but one vacancy for a Market Porter.

Berthe, or Bobinette, was vehemently discussing with her neighbours the mishap that had befallen Geoffroy during his trial. A man dressed in a shabby black overcoat buttoned up to the chin, and wearing a kind of jockey cap on his greasy hair, was watching her intently, seeming to agree with all she said while really interested in something else. Berthe, who was very intent upon the matter in hand, did not notice this individual's manner; it was Julot, her faithful squire for the last two hours, who got her away.

"Come," he said, taking her by the sleeve, "you know your brother is waiting for you," and as she yielded to his insistence he whispered in her ear, "That chap's a dirty-looking rascal: I don't think much of him!"

"He certainly is uncommonly ugly," the girl admitted, and then like the trained nurse that she was, she added, "and did you notice his complexion? The man must be ill: he is absolutely green!"



XVII. AT THE SAINT-ANTHONY'S PIG

"Pay for a drink, and I'll listen to you," said Hogshead Geoffroy to his sister.

After numerous visits to the many bars and drinking saloons that surround the markets, they had finally gone for a late supper into the Saint-Anthony's Pig, the most popular tavern in the neighbourhood, Geoffroy having reconciled himself to waiting for the result of the examination, which would not be announced until the following day.

* * * * *

A new and original attraction had been stationed outside the Saint-Anthony's Pig for the last few days. After the formal enquiries succeeding his discovery of the drowned body in the river, Bouzille had come to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower. He had met with but a week's delay in his itinerary, having been locked up for that time at Orleans for some trifling misdemeanour.

On entering the capital, Bouzille's extraordinary equipage had caused quite a sensation, and as the worthy fellow, with utter disregard of the heavy traffic in the city, had careered about in it through the most crowded streets, he had very soon been run in and taken to the nearest lock-up. His train had been confiscated for forty-eight hours, but as there was nothing really to be objected against the tramp, he had merely been requested to make himself scarce, and not to do it again.

Bouzille did not quite know what to make of it all. But while he was towing his two carriages behind his tricycle towards the Champ-de-Mars, from which point he would at last be able to contemplate the Eiffel Tower, he had fallen in with the editor of the Auto, to whom, in exchange for a bottle of wine at the next cafe, he had ingenuously confided his story. A sensational article about the globe-trotting tramp appeared in the next number of that famous sporting journal, and Bouzille woke to find himself famous. The next thing that happened was that Francois Bonbonne, the proprietor of the Saint-Anthony's Pig, shrewdly foreseeing that this original character with his remarkable equipage would furnish a singular attraction, engaged him to station himself outside the establishment from eleven to three every night, in return for his board and lodging and a salary of five francs a day.

It need not be said that Bouzille had closed with the offer. But getting tired of cooling his heels on the doorstep, he had gradually taken to leaving his train on the pavement and himself going down into the basement hall, where he generously returned his five francs every night to the proprietor, in exchange for potations to that amount.

* * * * *

In the basement of the Saint-Anthony's Pig the atmosphere was steadily getting cloudier, and the noise louder. The time was about a quarter to two. The "swells," and the young men about town who went to have a bowl of onion soup at the popular cafe because that was the latest correct thing to do, had withdrawn. The few pale and shabby dancers had given their show, and in another ten minutes, when the wealthy customers had departed, the supper room would resume its natural appearance and everybody would be at home. Francois Bonbonne had just escorted the last toffs up the narrow corkscrew staircase that led from the basement to the ground-floor, and now he stood, his stout person entirely filling the only exit, unctuously suggesting that perhaps somebody would like to give an order for a hot wine salad.

Berthe was sitting in a corner beside her brother, whom the warmth of the room and his numerous potations had rendered drowsy, and thinking it an opportune moment to tell him of her scheme, before he became talkative or quarrelsome, she began to explain.

"There's nothing much to do, but I want a strong man like you."

"Any barrels to roll anywhere?" he enquired in a thick voice.

Berthe shook her head, her glance meanwhile resting mechanically on a small young man with a budding beard and a pale face, who had just taken a seat opposite her and was timidly ordering a portion of sauerkraut.

"I want some bars removed from a window; they are iron bars set in stone, but the stone is worn and the bars are very rusty, and anybody with a little strength could wrench them out."

"And that's all?" Geoffroy enquired suspiciously.

"Yes, that's all."

"Then I shall be very glad to help you: I suppose it will be worth something, won't it?" He broke off short, noticing that a man sitting close by seemed to be listening attentively to the conversation. Berthe followed his eyes, and then turned with a smile to her brother.

"That's all right; don't mind; I know that man," and in proof of the statement she held out a friendly hand to the individual who seemed to be spying upon them. "Good evening again, M. Julot: how are you, since I saw you just now? I did not notice you were here."

Julot shook hands with her and without evincing any further interest in her, went on with the conversation he was having with his own companion, a clean-shaven fellow.

"Go on, Billy Tom," he said in low tones. "Tell me what has happened."

"Well, there has been the devil to pay at the Royal Palace, owing to that——accident, you know; of course I was not mixed up in it in any way: I'm only interpreter, and I stick to my own job. But three weeks after the affair, Muller was suddenly kicked out, owing to the door having been opened for the chap who worked the robbery."

"Muller, Muller?" said Julot, seeming to be searching his memory. "Who is Muller?"

"Why, the watchman on the second floor."

"Oh, ah, yes; and who turned him out?"

"I think his name is Juve."

"Oh—ho!" Julot muttered to himself. "I thought as much!"

There was a noise at the entrance of the hall, and down the corkscrew staircase came two people who, judging by the greeting they received, were very popular: Ernestine, a well-known figure, and Mealy Benoit, who was very drunk.

Benoit lurched from one table to another, leaning on every head and pair of shoulders that came his way, and reached an empty seat on a lounge into which he crushed, half squashing the pale young man with the budding beard. The lad made no protest, seeming to be afraid of his neighbour's bulk, but merely wriggled sideways and tried to give the new-comer all the room he wanted. Benoit did not seem even to notice the humble little fellow, but Ernestine took pity on him and assured him that she would look after him.

"All right, sonny," she said, "Mealy won't squash you; and if he tries any of his games on you, Ernestine will look after you." She took his head between her two hands and kissed his forehead affectionately, ignoring Mealy Benoit's angry protests. "He's a dear little chap: I like him," she said to the company at large. "What's your name, deary?"

The boy blushed to the tips of his ears.

"Paul," he murmured.

But Francois Bonbonne the proprietor, with his usual keen eye to business, arrived just then and set down before Mealy Benoit the famous hot wine salad of which he had spoken before. Behind Bonbonne came Bouzille, who had left his turn-out on the pavement and come down into the supper room to eat and drink his five francs, and more if credit could be got.

Benoit caught sight of Hogshead Geoffroy and immediately offered to clink glasses with him; he pushed a glass towards him, inviting him to dip it with the rest into the steaming bowl; but Geoffroy was warming up under the influence of alcohol, and broke into a sudden flame of wrath at sight of Mealy Benoit. If Benoit should be given the first place, it would be a rank injustice, he reflected, for he, Geoffroy, was most certainly the stronger man. And besides, the sturdy Hogshead was beginning to wonder whether his rival might not have devised an odious plot against him and put the famous piece of orange-peel upon the track, but for which Geoffroy would have won hands down. So Geoffroy, very drunk, offered Benoit, who was no whit more sober, the gross affront of refusing to clink glasses with him!

"Why, it's you!" exclaimed Bouzille, in ringing tones of such glad surprise that everybody turned round to see whom he was addressing. Julot and Berthe looked with the rest.

"Why, it's the green man of just now," said the asylum nurse to her companion, and he assented, moodily enough.

"Yes, it's him right enough."

Bouzille took no notice of the attention he had provoked, and did not seem to notice that the green man appeared to be anything but pleased at having been recognised.

"I've seen you before, I know," he went on; "where have I met you?"

The green man did not answer; he affected to be engrossed in a most serious conversation with the friend he had brought with him into the supper room, a shabby individual who carried a guitar. But Bouzille was not to be put off, and suddenly he exclaimed, with perfect indifference to what his neighbours might think:

"I know: you are the tramp who was arrested with me down there in Lot! The day of that murder—you know—the murder of the Marquise de Langrune!"

Bouzille in his excitement had caught the green man by the sleeve, but the green man impatiently shook him off, growling angrily.

"Well, and what about it?"

* * * * *

For some minutes now Hogshead Geoffroy and Mealy Benoit had been exchanging threatening glances. Geoffroy had given voice to his suspicions, and kind friends had not failed to report his words to Benoit. Inflamed with drink as they were, the two men were bound to come to blows before long, and a dull murmur ran through the room heralding the approaching altercation. Berthe, anxious on her brother's behalf, and a little frightened on her own, did all she could to induce Geoffroy to come away, but even though she promised to pay for any number of drinks elsewhere, he refused to budge from the bench where he was sitting hunched up in a corner.

* * * * *

When at length he got rid of Bouzille and his exasperating garrulity, the green man resumed his conversation with his friend with the guitar.

"It's rather odd that he hasn't a trace of accent," the latter remarked.

"Oh, it's nothing for a fellow like Gurn to speak French like a Frenchman," said the green man in a low tone; then he stopped nervously. Ernestine was walking about among the company, chatting to one and another and getting drinks, and he fancied that she was listening to what he said.

But another duologue rose audible in another part of the room.

"If the gentleman would like to show his strength there's someone ready to take him on."

Hogshead Geoffroy had thrown down his glove!

Silence fell upon the room. It was Mealy Benoit's turn to answer. At that precise moment, however, Benoit was draining the salad bowl. He slowly swallowed the last of the red liquid—one can't do two things at once—laid the bowl down, empty, on the table, and in thundering, dignified tones demanded another, wiped his lips on the back of his sleeve, and turned his huge head towards the corner where Geoffroy was hunched up, saying, "Will the gentleman kindly repeat his last remark?"

* * * * *

Ernestine moved furtively to Julot's side, and affecting to be interested only in the argument going on between Geoffroy and Benoit, said without looking at him:

"The pale man, with the greenish complexion, said to the man with the guitar, 'It's he, all right, because of the burn in the palm of his hand.'"

Julot choked back an oath, and instinctively clenched his fist, but Ernestine already had moved on and was huskily chaffing the young man with the budding beard. Julot sat with sombre face and angry eyes, only replying in curt monosyllables to the occasional remarks of his next neighbour, Billy Tom. Marie, the waitress, was passing near him and he signed to her to stop.

"Say, Marie," he said, nodding towards the window that was behind him, "what does that window open on to?"

The girl thought for a moment.

"On to the cellar," she said; "this hall is in the basement."

"And the cellar," Julot went on; "how do you get out of that?"

"You can't," the servant answered; "there's no door; you have to come through here."

Momentarily becoming more uneasy, Julot scrutinised the long tunnel of a room at the extreme end of which he was sitting; there was only one means of egress, up the narrow corkscrew staircase leading to the ground-floor, and at the very foot of that staircase was the table occupied by the green man and the man with the guitar.

* * * * *

A plate aimed by Hogshead Geoffroy at Mealy Benoit crashed against the opposite wall. Everyone jumped to his feet, the women screaming, the men swearing. The two market porters stood confronting one another, Hogshead Geoffroy brandishing a chair, Benoit trying to wrench the marble top from a table to serve as a weapon. The melee became general, plates smashing on the floor, and dinner things flying towards the ceiling.

Suddenly a shot rang out, but quickly though it had been fired, the green man and the man with the guitar had seen who fired it. For the last few minutes, indeed, these two mysterious individuals had never taken their eyes off Julot.

Julot, whom Berthe had supposed from his appearance to be an honest cattle-drover, was undoubtedly a wonderful shot. Having observed that the room was lighted by a single chandelier composed of three electric lamps, and that the current was supplied by only two wires running along the cornice, Julot had taken aim at the wires and cut them clean in two with a single shot!

Immediately following upon the shot, the room was plunged into absolute darkness. A perfectly incredible uproar ensued, men and women struggling together and shouting and trampling one another down, and crockery and dinner things crashing down from the side-boards and tables on to the floor.

Above the din a sudden hoarse cry of pain rang out, "Help!" and simultaneously Berthe, who was lost among the mob, heard a muttered exclamation in her ear and felt two hands groping all over her body as if trying to identify her. The young nurse was the only woman in the room wearing a hat. Half swooning with terror, she felt herself picked up and thrust upon a bench, and then someone whispered in a vinous voice: "You are not to help no. 25, the Rambert woman, to escape."

Berthe was so utterly astonished that she overcame her fright sufficiently to stammer out a question:

"But what—but who——?"

Lower still, but yet more peremptorily, the voice became audible again.

"Fantomas forbids you to do it! And if you disobey, you die!"

The nurse dropped back upon the bench half fainting with fright, and the row in the supper room grew worse. Three men were fighting now, the green man being at grips with two at once. The green man did not seem to feel the blows rained on him, but with a strength that was far beyond the ordinary he gripped hold of an arm and slid his hands along the sleeve, never letting go of the arm, until he reached the wrist, when wrenching open the clenched fist he slipped his fingers on to the palm of the hand. A little exclamation of triumph escaped him, and simultaneously the owner of the hand uttered an exclamation of pain, for the green man's fingers had touched a still raw wound upon the hollow of the palm.

But at that instant his leg was caught between two powerful knees, and the slightest pressure more would have broken it. The green man was forced to let go the hand he held; he fell to the ground with his adversary upon him, and for a moment thought that he was lost. But at the same moment his adversary let go of him in turn, having been taken by surprise by yet a third combatant who joined in the fray and separated the first two, devoting himself to a furious assault upon the man whom the green man had tried to capture. The green man passed a rapid hand over the individual who had just rescued him from the fierce assault, and was conscious of a shock of surprise as he identified the young man with the budding beard; thereupon he collared him firmly by the neck and did not let him go.

* * * * *

In the crush the combatants had been forced towards the staircase, and at this narrow entrance into the hall bodies were being trampled underfoot and piercing screams rent the air. Francois Bonbonne had not made the least attempt to interfere. He knew exactly the proper procedure when trouble of this sort broke out, and he had gone to the corner of the street and sent the constable on duty there to the nearest police station for help. Directly the first gendarmes arrived, Francois Bonbonne led them behind the counter in the shop and showed them the fire hose; with the skill acquired by long practice, they rapidly unrolled the pipe, introduced it into the narrow mouth of the staircase, turned on the tap, and proceeded to drench everybody in the supper room below.

The unexpected sousing pulled the combatants up short, separated all the champions, and drove the howling and shrieking mob back to the far end of the room. The operation lasted for a good five minutes, and when the gendarmes considered that the customers of the Saint-Anthony's Pig were sufficiently quieted down, the sergeant threw the light of a lantern, which the proprietor obligingly had ready for him, over the supper room, and peremptorily ordered the company to come up, one by one.

Seeing that resistance would be futile, the company obeyed. As they slowly emerged at the top of the corkscrew staircase, meek and subdued, the gendarmes at the top arrested them, slipped handcuffs on them, and sent them off in couples to the station. When the sergeant assumed that every one had come out, he went down into the supper room, just to make sure that nobody was still hiding there. But the room was not quite empty. One unfortunate man was lying on the floor, bathed in his own blood. It was the man with the guitar, and a knife had been driven through his breast!

* * * * *

The couple consisting of the green man and the young man with the budding beard, of whom his companion had never once let go since identifying him during the fight in the supper room, were taken to the station. The clerk, who was taking down the names of the prisoners, with difficulty repressed an exclamation of surprise when the green man produced an identification card, and whispered a few words in his ear.

"Release that gentleman at once," said the clerk. "With regard to the other——"

"With regard to the other," the green man broke in, "kindly release him too. I want to keep him with me."

The clerk bowed in consent, and both men were immediately released from their handcuffs. The young man stared in astonishment at the individual who a minute before had been his companion in bonds, and was about to thank him, but the other grasped him firmly by the wrist, as though to warn him of the impossibility of flight, and led him out of the police station. In the street they met the sergeant with a gendarme bringing in the unfortunate man with the guitar, who was just breathing, and in whom the officials had recognised a detective-inspector. Without letting go of the youth, the green man bent forward to the sergeant and had a brief but animated conversation with him.

"Yes, sir, that's all," the sergeant said respectfully; "I haven't anyone else."

The green man stamped his foot in wrath.

"Good Lord! Gurn has got away!"

* * * * *

Towards the rue Montmartre the green man rapidly dragged his companion, who was trembling in every limb, and utterly at a loss to guess what the future held in store for him. Suddenly the green man halted, just under the light of a street lamp outside the church of Saint-Eustache. He stood squarely in front of his prisoner and looked him full in the eyes.

"I am Juve," he said, "the detective!" and as the young man stared at him in silent dismay, Juve went on, emphasising each of his words, and with a sardonic smile flickering over his face. "And you, Mademoiselle Jeanne—you are Charles Rambert!"



XVIII. A PRISONER AND A WITNESS

Juve had spoken in a tone of command that brooked no reply. His keen eyes seemed to pierce through Paul and read his inmost soul. The winking light of the street lamp shed a wan halo round the lad, who obviously wanted to move away from its radius, but Juve held him fast.

"Come now, answer! You are Charles Rambert, and you were Mademoiselle Jeanne?"

"I don't understand," Paul declared.

"Really!" sneered Juve. He hailed a passing cab. "Get in," he ordered briefly, and pushing the lad in before him he gave an address to the driver, entered the cab and shut the door. Juve sat there rubbing his hands as if well pleased with his night's work. For several minutes he remained silent, and then turned to his companion.

"You think it is clever to deny it," he remarked, "but do you imagine it isn't obvious to anyone that you are Charles Rambert, and that you were disguised as Mademoiselle Jeanne?"

"But you are wrong," Paul insisted. "Charles Rambert is dead."

"So you know that, do you? Then you admit that you know whom I am talking about?"

The lad coloured and began to tremble. Juve looked out of the window, pretending not to notice him, and smiled gently. Then he went on in a friendly tone. "But you know it's stupid to deny what can't be denied. Besides, you should remember that if I know you are Charles Rambert I must know something else as well; and therefore——"

"Well, yes," Paul acknowledged, "I am Charles Rambert, and I was disguised as Mademoiselle Jeanne. How did you know it? Why were you at the Saint-Anthony's Pig? Had you come to arrest me? And where are you taking me now—to prison?"

Juve shrugged his shoulders.

"You want to know too much, my boy. Besides, you ought to know Paris, and so ought to be able to guess where I told the driver to go, merely by looking at the streets we are passing through."

"That is exactly what frightens me," Charles Rambert replied. "We are on the quays, near the Law Courts."

"And the Police Station, my son. Quite so. Now it's quite useless to make a scene: you will gain nothing by attempting to get away. You are in the hands of justice, or rather in my hands, which is not quite the same thing, so come quietly. That is really good advice!"

A few minutes later the cab stopped at the Tour Pointue which has such melancholy associations for so many criminals. Juve alighted and made his companion alight as well, paid the driver, and walked up the staircase to the first floor of the building. It was daylight now, and the men were coming on duty; all of them saluted Juve as he walked along with his trembling captive. The detective went down one long passage, turned into another, and opened a door.

"Go in there," he ordered curtly.

Charles Rambert obeyed, and found himself in a small room the nature of which he recognised immediately from the furniture it contained. It was the measuring room of the anthropometric service. So what he feared was about to happen: Juve was going to lock him up!

But the detective called out in a loud tone: "Hector, please!" and one of the men who remained on duty in the department, in case they were required by any of the detective inspectors to find the records of any previously convicted criminal, came hurrying in.

"Ah, M. Juve, and with a bag too! So early? You think he has been here before?"

"No," said Juve in a dry tone that put a stop to further indiscreet questions. "I don't want you to look up my companion's record, but to take his measurements, and very carefully too."

The man was somewhat surprised at the order, for it was not usual to be asked to do such work at so very early an hour. He was rather irritable too at being disturbed from the rest he was enjoying, and it was very curtly that he spoke to Charles Rambert.

"Come here, please: the standard first: take off your boots."

Charles Rambert obeyed and stood under the standard of measurement, and then, as the assistant ordered him, he submitted to having his fingers smeared with ink so that his finger prints might be taken, to being photographed, full face and in profile, and finally to having the width of his head, from ear to ear, measured with a special pair of caliper compasses.

Hector was surprised by his docility.

"I must say your friend is not very talkative, M. Juve. What has he been up to?" and as the detective merely shrugged his shoulders and did not reply, he went on: "That's done, sir. We will develop the negatives and take the prints, and recopy the measurements, and the record shall be classified in the register in a couple of hours."

Charles Rambert grew momentarily more scared. He felt that he was definitely arrested now. But Juve left the arm-chair in which he had been resting, and coming up to him laid his hand upon his shoulder, speaking the while with a certain gentleness.

"Come: there are some other points as to which I wish to examine you." He led him from the anthropometric room along a dark corridor, and presently taking a key from his pocket, opened a door and pushed the lad in before him. "Go in there," he said. "This is where we make the dynamometer tests."

A layman looking round the room might almost have supposed that it was merely some carpenter's shop. Pieces of wood, of various shapes and sizes and sorts, were arranged along the wall or laid upon the floor; in glass cases were whole heaps of strips of metal, five or six inches long, and of varying thickness.

Juve closed the door carefully behind him.

"For pity's sake, M. Juve, tell me what you are going to do with me," Charles Rambert implored.

The detective smiled.

"Well, there you ask a question which I can't answer off-hand. What am I going to do with you, eh? That still depends upon a good many things."

As he spoke Juve tossed his hat aside and, looking at a rather high kind of little table, proceeded to remove from it a grey cloth which protected it from dust, and drew it into the middle of the room. This article was composed of a metal body screwed on to a strong tripod, with a lower tray that moved backwards and forwards, and two lateral buttresses with a steel cross-piece firmly bolted on to them above. Upon this framework were two dynamometers worked by an ingenious piece of mechanism. Juve looked at Charles Rambert and explained.

"This is Dr. Bertillon's effraction dynamometer. I am going to make use of it to find out at once whether you are or are not deserving of some little interest. I don't want to tell you more just at present." Juve slipped into a specially prepared notch a thin strip of wood, which he had selected with particular care from one of the heaps of material arranged along the wall. From a chest he took a tool which Charles Rambert, who had had some intimate experience of late with the light-fingered community, immediately recognised as a jemmy. "Take hold of that," said Juve, and as Charles took it in his hand he added: "Now put the jemmy into this groove, and press with all your force. If you can move that needle to a point which I know, and which it is difficult but not impossible to reach, you may congratulate yourself on being in luck."

Stimulated by this encouragement from the detective, Charles Rambert exerted all his force upon the lever, only afraid that he might not be strong enough. Juve stopped him very soon.

"That's all right," he said, and substituting a strip of sheet-iron for the strip of wood, he handed another tool to the lad. "Now try again."

A few seconds later Juve took a magnifying lens, and closely examined both the strip of metal and the strip of wood. He gave a little satisfied click with his tongue, and seemed to be very pleased.

"Charles Rambert," he remarked, "I think we are going to do a very good morning's work. Dr. Bertillon's new apparatus is an uncommonly useful invention."

The detective might have gone on with his congratulatory monologue had not an attendant come into the room at that moment.

"Ah, there you are, M. Juve: I have been looking for you everywhere. There is someone asking for you who says he knows you will receive him. I told him this was not the proper time, but he was so insistent that I promised to bring you his card. Besides, he says you have given him an appointment."

Juve took the card and glanced at it.

"That's all right," he said. "Take the gentleman into the parlour and tell him I will be with him in a minute." The attendant went out and Juve looked at Charles Rambert with a smile. "You are played out," he said; "before we do anything else common humanity requires that you should get some rest. Come, follow me; I will take you to a room where you can throw yourself on a sofa and get a sleep for a good hour at least while I go and see this visitor." He led the lad into a small waiting-room, and as Charles Rambert obediently stretched himself upon the sofa, Juve looked at the pale and nervous and completely silent boy, and said with even greater gentleness: "There, go to sleep; sleep quietly, and presently——"

Juve left the room, and called a man to whom he gave an order in a low tone.

"Stay with that gentleman, please. He is a friend of mine, but a friend, you understand, who must not leave this place. I am going to see some one, but I will come up again presently," and Juve hurried downstairs to the parlour.

The visitor rose as the door opened, and Juve made a formal bow.

"M. Gervais Aventin?" he said.

"M. Gervais Aventin," that gentleman replied. "And you are Detective-Inspector Juve?"

"I am, sir," the detective answered, and pointing his visitor to a chair he took a seat himself at a small table littered with official documents.

"Sir," Juve began, "I ventured to send you that pressing invitation to come to Paris to-day, because from enquiries I had made about you, I was sure that you were a man with a sense of duty, who would not resent being put to inconvenience when it was a question of co-operating in a work of justice and of truth."

The visitor, a man of perhaps thirty, of somewhat fashionable appearance and careful though quiet dress, manifested much surprise.

"Enquiries about me, sir? And pray, why? I must confess that I was very much astonished when I received your letter informing me that the famous Detective-Inspector Juve wished to see me, and at first I suspected some practical joke. On consideration I decided to obey your summons without further pressing, but I did not imagine that you would have made any enquiries about me. How do you know me, may I ask?"

Juve smiled.

"Is it the fact," he enquired, instead of replying directly, for like the good detective that he was, intensely keen on his work, he enjoyed mystifying people with whom he conversed, "is it the fact that your name is Gervais Aventin? A civil engineer? The possessor of considerable private means? About to be married? And that lately you made a short journey to Limoges?"

The young man nodded and smiled.

"Your information is perfectly correct in every particular. But I do not yet understand what crime of mine can have subjected me to these enquiries on your part."

Juve smiled again.

"I wondered, sir, why you vouchsafed no answer to the local enquiries which have been made at my instance, to the advertisements which I have had inserted in the papers, in which I discreetly made it known that the police wanted to get into communication with all the passengers who travelled first class, in the slow train from Paris to Luchon, on the night of the 23rd of December last."

This time the young man looked anxious.

"Great Scott!" he exclaimed, "are you in the employment of my future father-in-law?"

Juve burst into a roar of laughter.

"First acknowledge that you did travel by that train on that night: that you got into it at Vierzon, where you live and where you are going to be married; and that you were going to Limoges to see a lady—and that you did not want your fiancee's family to know anything about it."

Gervais Aventin pulled himself together.

"I had no idea that the official police undertook espionage of that sort," he said rather drily. "But it is true, sir, that I went to Limoges—my last post before I was appointed to Vierzon—to take a final farewell to a lady. But since you are so accurately informed about all this, since you even know what train I went by, a train I deliberately chose because in little places like Vierzon so much notice is taken of people who travel by the express, you must also know——"

Juve checked him with a wave of the hand.

"A truce to jesting," he said; "excuse me, sir, I was only amusing myself by observing once more how quickly decent people, who have a little peccadillo on their conscience, are disturbed when they think they have been found out. Your love affairs do not matter to me, sir; I don't want to know if you have a lady friend, or not. The information I want from you is of a very different nature. Tell me simply this: in what circumstances did you make that journey? What carriage did you get into? Who travelled with you in that carriage? I am asking you because, sir, I have every reason to believe that you travelled that night with a murderer who committed a crime of particular atrocity, and I think you may be able to give me some interesting information."

The young man, who had been looking grave, smiled once more.

"I would rather have that than an enquiry into my defunct love affairs. Well, sir, I got into the train at Vierzon, into a first-class carriage——"

"What kind of carriage?"

"One of the old-fashioned corridor carriages; that is to say, not a corridor communicating with the other carriages, but a single carriage with four compartments, two in the middle opening on to the corridor, and two at the ends communicating with the corridor by a small door."

"I know," said Juve; "the lavatory is in the centre, and the end compartments are like the ordinary noncorridor compartments, except that they have only seven seats, and also have the little door communicating with the narrow passage down one side of the carriage."

"That's it. I got into the smoking compartment at the end."

"Don't go too quick," said Juve. "Tell me whom you saw in the various compartments. Let us go even farther back. You were on the platform, waiting for the train; it came in; what happened then?"

"You want to be very precise," Gervais Aventin remarked. "Well, when the train pulled up I looked for the first-class carriage; it was a few yards away from me, and the corridor was alongside the platform. I got into the corridor and wanted to choose my compartment. I remember clearly that I went first to the rear compartment, the last one in the carriage. I could not get into that, for the door opening into it from the corridor was locked."

"That is correct," Juve nodded. "I know from the guard that that compartment was empty. What did you do then?"

"I turned back and, passing the ladies' compartment and the lavatory, decided to take my seat in the one next it communicating with the corridor. But luck was against me: a pane of glass was broken and it was bitterly cold there; so I had to fall back on the only compartment left, the smoking one towards the front of the train."

"Were there many of you there?"

"I thought at first that I was going to have a fellow-traveller, for there was some luggage and a rug arranged on the seat. But the passenger must have been in the lavatory, for I didn't see him. I lay down on the other seat and went to sleep. When I got out of the train at Limoges, my fellow-traveller must have been in the lavatory again, for I remember quite distinctly that he was not on the opposite seat. I thought at the time how easy it would have been for me to steal his luggage and walk off with his valise: nobody would have seen me."

Juve had listened intently to every word of the story. He asked for one further detail with a certain anxiety in his tone.

"Tell me, sir, when you woke up did you have any impression that the baggage arranged on the seat opposite yours had been disturbed at all? Might the traveller, whom you did not see, have come in for a sleep while you yourself were asleep?"

Gervais Aventin made a little gesture of uncertainty.

"I can't answer in the affirmative, M. Juve. I did not notice that; and, besides, when I got into the compartment, the shade was pulled down over the lamp, and the curtains were drawn across the windows. I hardly saw how the things were arranged. And then, when I got out at Limoges I was in a hurry, and only thought about finding my ticket and jumping on to the platform. But I do not think the other fellow did take his place while I was asleep. I did not hear a sound, and yet I did not sleep at all heavily."

"So you travelled in a first-class compartment in the slow train from Paris to Luchon on the night of the 23rd of December, and in that compartment there was the luggage of a traveller whom you did not see—who may not have been there?"

"Yes," said Gervais Aventin, and, as the detective sat silent for a moment, he enquired: "Is my information too vague to be of any use to you?"

Juve was wondering inwardly why the dickens Etienne Rambert was not in that compartment when, according to the depositions of the guard, he must have been there; but he said nothing of this. Instead, he said:

"Your information is most valuable, sir. You have told me everything I wanted to know."

Gervais Aventin displayed still more surprise.

"Well," he said, "by way of return, M. Juve, tell me something which puzzles me. How did you know I travelled by that train that night?"

The detective drew out his pocket-book, and from an inner pocket produced a first-class ticket, which he held out to the engineer.

"That is very simple," he replied. "Here is your ticket. I wanted to know exactly who everyone was who travelled in that first-class compartment, so I sent for all the first-class tickets which were given up by passengers who left the train at the different stations. That's how I got yours: it had been issued at Vierzon, the station where you got in, so I interrogated the clerk at the booking-office who gave me a description of you; then I sent down an inspector to Vierzon to make discreet enquiries, and he got me all the information I required. All I had to do then was to write and ask you to come here to-day; and the regrettable story of your broken relations with the lady was an ample guarantee to me that you would be punctual at the appointment!"



XIX. JEROME FANDOR

Whistling a quick-step, sure sign with him of a light heart, Juve opened the door of the little room where he had left Charles Rambert, and looked at the sleeping lad.

"It's a fine thing to be young," he remarked to the man he had left on guard; "that boy plunges into the wildest adventures and shaves the scaffold by an inch, and yet after one late night he sleeps as peacefully as any chancellor of the Legion of Honour!" He shook the lad with a friendly hand. "Get up, lazy-bones! It's ten o'clock: high time for me to carry you off."

"Where to?" the unhappy boy asked, rubbing his eyes.

"There's no doubt about inquisitiveness being your besetting sin," Juve replied cryptically. "Well, we've got a quarter of an hour's drive in front of us. But you're not going to prison; I'm going to take you home with me!"

* * * * *

Juve had taken off his collar and tie and put on an old jacket, had set a great bowl of bread and milk in front of Charles Rambert, and was leisurely enjoying his own breakfast.

"I didn't want to answer any questions just now," he said, "because I hate talking in cabs where I have to sit by a man's side, and can't see him or hear half he says. But now that we are snug and comfortable here, I've no right to keep you waiting any longer, and I'll give you a bit of good news."

"Snug" and "comfortable" were the right words with which to describe Juve's private abode. The detective had attained an honourable and lucrative position in his profession, and, exposed as he was in the course of his work to all manner of dangers and privations, had compensated himself by making an entirely satisfactory, if not luxurious, nest where he could rest after his labours.

When he had finished his breakfast he lighted a big cigar and sank into an easy chair, crossing his hands behind his head. He turned a steady gaze upon Charles Rambert, who was still completely puzzled, and half frightened by this sudden amiability, and did not know whether he was a prisoner or not.

"I will give you a bit of good news; that is, that you are innocent of the Langrune affair when you were Charles Rambert, and innocent also of the Danidoff affair, when you were Mademoiselle Jeanne. I need not say anything about the scrap last night, in which you played a still more distinguished part."

"Why tell me that?" asked Charles Rambert nervously. "Of course I know I did not rob Princess Sonia Danidoff; but how did you recognise me last night, and how did you find out that I was Mademoiselle Jeanne?"

Juve smiled, and shook back a lock of hair that was falling over his eyes.

"Listen, my boy: do you suppose that thundering blow you dealt the excellent Henri Verbier when he was making love to Mademoiselle Jeanne, could fail to make me determined to find out who that young lady was who had the strength of a man?"

The allusion made Charles Rambert most uneasy.

"But that does not explain how you recognised me in Paul to-night. I recognised you in Henri Verbier at the hotel, but I had no idea that it was you last night."

"That's nothing," said Juve with a shake of the head. "And you may understand once for all that when I have once looked anybody square in the face, he needs to be an uncommonly clever fellow to escape me afterwards by means of any disguise. You don't know how to make up, but I do; and that's why I took you in and you did not take me in."

"What makes you believe I did not rob Princess Sonia Danidoff?" Charles Rambert asked after a pause. "I am quite aware that everything points to my having been the thief."

"Not quite everything," Juve answered gently. "There are one or two things you don't know, and I'll tell you one of them. The Princess was robbed by the same man who robbed Mme. Van den Rosen, wasn't she? Well, Mme. Van den Rosen was the victim of a burglary: some of the furniture in her room was broken into, and the tests I made this morning with the dynamometer proved to me that you are not strong enough to have caused those fractures."

"Not strong enough?" Charles Rambert ejaculated.

"No. I told you at the time that your innocence would be proved if you were strong enough, but I said that to prevent you from playing tricks and not putting out all your strength. As a matter of fact it was your comparative weakness that saved you. The dynamometer tests and the figures I obtained just now prove absolutely that you are innocent of the Van den Rosen robbery and, consequently, of the robbery from Sonia Danidoff."

Again the lad reflected for a minute or two.

"But you didn't know who I was when you came to the hotel, did you? And therefore had no suspicion that I was Charles Rambert? That's true, isn't it? How did you find out? I was supposed to be dead."

"That was a child's job," Juve replied. "I got the anthropometric records of the body that had been buried as yours, and I planned to get symmetrical photographs of you in your character of Mademoiselle Jeanne, as I did of you to-day at head-quarters. My first job was to lay hands upon Mademoiselle Jeanne, and I very soon found her, as I expected, turned into a man again, and living in the most disreputable company. I made any number of enquiries, and when I went to the Saint-Anthony's Pig last evening I knew that it was some unknown person who had been buried in your stead; that Paul was Mademoiselle Jeanne; and that Mademoiselle Jeanne was Charles Rambert. It was my intention to arrest you, and to ascertain definitely by means of the dynamometer that you were innocent of the Langrune and the Danidoff crimes."

"What you tell me about the dynamometer explains how you know I am not the man who committed the robbery at the hotel, but what clears me in your eyes of the Langrune murder?"

"Bless my soul!" Juve retorted, "you are arguing as if you wanted to prove you were guilty. Well, my boy, it's the same story as the other. The man who murdered the Marquise de Langrune smashed things, and the dynamometer has proved that you are not strong enough to have been the man."

"And suppose I had been mad at the time," Charles Rambert said, his hesitation and his tone betraying his anxiety about the answer, "could I have been strong enough then? Might I have committed these crimes without knowing anything about it?"

But Juve shook his head.

"I know: you are referring to your mother, and are haunted by an idea that through some hereditary taint you might be a somnambulist and have done these things in your sleep. Come, Charles Rambert, finish your breakfast and put all that out of your head. To begin with, you would not have been strong enough, even then; and in the next place there is nothing at present to show that you are mad, nor even that your poor mother—— But I need not go on: I've got some rather odd notions on that subject."

"Then, M. Juve——"

"Drop the 'monsieur'; call me 'Juve.'"

"Then, if you know that I am innocent, you can go and tell my father? I have nothing to fear? I can reappear in my own name?"

Juve looked at the lad with an ironical smile.

"How you go ahead!" he exclaimed. "Please understand that although I do believe you are innocent, I am almost certainly the only person who does. And unfortunately I have not yet got any evidence that would be sufficiently convincing and certain to put the persuasion of your guilt out of your father's head, or anybody else's. This is not the time for you to reappear: it would simply mean that you would be arrested by some detective who knows less than I do, and thrown into prison as you confidently expected to be this morning."

"Then what is to become of me?"

"What do you think of doing yourself?"

"Going to see my father."

"No, no," Juve protested once more. "I tell you not to go. It would be stupid and utterly useless. Wait a few days, a few weeks if need be. When I have put my hand on Fantomas' shoulder, I will be the very first to take you to your father, and proclaim your innocence."

"Why wait until Fantomas is arrested?" Charles Rambert asked, the mere sound of the name seeming to wake all his former enthusiasm on the subject of that famous criminal.

"Because if you are innocent of the charge brought against you, it is extremely likely that Fantomas is the guilty party. When he is laid by the heels you will be able to protest your innocence without any fear."

Charles Rambert sat silent for some minutes, musing on the odd chance of destiny which required him to make his own return to normal life contingent on the arrest of a mysterious criminal, who was merely suspected, and had never been seen nor discovered.

"What do you advise me to do?" he asked presently.

The detective got up and began to pace the room.

"Well," he began, "the first fact is that I am interested in you, and the next is, that while I was having that rough-and-tumble last night with that scoundrel in the supper-room, I thought for a minute or two that it was all up with me: your chipping in saved my life. On the other hand I may be said to have saved your life now by ascertaining your innocence and preventing your arrest. So we are quits in a way. But you began the delicate attentions, and I have only paid you back, so it's up to me to start a new series and not turn you out into the street where you would inevitably get into fresh trouble. So this is what I propose: change your name and go and take a room somewhere; get into proper clothes and then come back to me, and I'll give you a letter to a friend of mine who is on one of the big evening papers. You are well educated, and I know you are energetic. You are keen on everything connected with the police, and you'll get on splendidly as a reporter. You will be able to earn an honest and respectable name that way. Would you like to try that idea?"

"It's awfully good of you," Charles Rambert said gratefully. "I should love to be able to earn my living by work so much to my taste."

Juve cut his thanks short, and held out some bank-notes.

"There's some money; now clear out; it's high time we both got a little sleep. Get busy settling into rooms, and in a fortnight I shall expect you to be editor of La Capitale."

"Under what name shall you introduce me to your friend?" Charles Rambert asked, after a little nervous pause.

"H'm!" said Juve with a smile: "it will have to be an alias of course."

"Yes; and as it will be the name I shall write under it ought to be an easy one to remember."

"Something arresting, like Fantomas!" said Juve chaffingly, amused by the curious childishness of this lad, who could take keen interest in such a trifle when he was in so critical a situation. "Choose something not too common for the first name; and something short for the other. Why not keep the first syllable of Fantomas? Oh, I've got it—Fandor; what about Jerome Fandor?"

Charles Rambert murmured it over.

"Jerome Fandor! Yes, you are right, it sounds well."

Juve pushed him out of the door.

"Well, Jerome Fandor, leave me to my slumbers, and go and rig yourself out, and get ready for the new life that I'm going to open up for you!"

Bewildered by the amazing adventures of which he had just been the central figure, Charles Rambert, or Jerome Fandor, walked down Juve's staircase wondering. "Why should he take so much trouble about me? What interest or what motive can he have? And how on earth does he find out such a wonderful lot of things?"



XX. A CUP OF TEA

After the tragic death of her husband, Lady Beltham—whose previous life had inclined to the austere—withdrew into almost complete retirement. The world of gaiety and fashion knew her no more. But in the world where poverty and suffering reign, in hospital wards and squalid streets, a tall and beautiful woman might often be seen, robed all in black, with distinguished bearing and eyes serene and grave, distributing alms and consolation as she moved. It was Lady Beltham, kind, good and very pitiful, bent on the work of charity to which she had vowed her days.

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