Page:Gaston Leroux--The man with the black feather.djvu/49

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THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER

last figure is missing. It would be a paper of the eighteenth century then. Given the date within ten years, our task becomes very simple."

"Oh, I saw the date," said Theophrastus quickly. "But is this really an eighteenth-century paper? Is n't the date false? That's what I want to know."

Ambrose pointed to the middle of the scrap.

"Look," he said.

Theophrastus looked; but he saw nothing. Then Ambrose lighted a little lamp and threw its light on the document. In holding the scrap of paper between one's eyes and the lamp one distinguished in the middle of it a kind of crown.

"This paper's extremely rare, Theophrastus!" cried Ambrose in considerable excitement. "This water-mark is almost unknown, for very little of it was manufactured. The water-mark is called 'The Crown of Thorns.' This paper, my dear Theophrastus, is exactly of the year 1721."

"You are sure of it?"

"Absolutely. But how comes it that this document, which is dated 1721, is, in every part of it which is visible, in your handwriting?" cried Ambrose in a tone of amazement.