The Teeth of the Tiger/Chapter 16

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The Teeth of the Tiger by Maurice Leblanc
Chapter XVI. Weber Takes his Revenge

CHAPTER XVI. WEBER TAKES HIS REVENGE[edit]

Don Luis was for one moment amazed. Florence Levasseur here! Florence, whom he had left in the train under Mazeroux's supervision and for whom it was physically impossible to be back in Paris before eight o'clock in the evening!

Then, despite his bewilderment, he at once understood. Florence, knowing that she was being followed, had drawn them after her to the Gare Saint-Lazare and simply walked through the railway carriage, getting out on the other platform, while the worthy Mazeroux went on in the train to keep his eye on the traveller who was not there.

But suddenly the full horror of the situation struck him. Florence was here to claim the inheritance; and her claim, as he himself had said, was a proof of the most terrible guilt.

Acting on an irresistible impulse, Don Luis leaped to the girl's side, seized her by the arm and said, with almost malevolent force:

"What are you doing here? What have you come for? Why did you not let me know?"

M. Desmalions stepped between them. But Don Luis, without letting go of the girl's arm, exclaimed:

"Oh, Monsieur le Préfet, don't you see that this is all a mistake? The person whom we are expecting, about whom I told you, is not this one. The other is keeping in the background, as usual. Why it's impossible that Florence Levasseur--"

"I have no preconceived opinion on the subject of this young lady," said the Prefect of Police, in an authoritative voice. "But it is my duty to question her about the circumstances that brought her here; and I shall certainly do so."

He released the girl from Don Luis's grasp and made her take a seat. He himself sat down at his desk; and it was easy to see how great an impression the girl's presence made upon him. It afforded so to speak an illustration of Don Luis's argument.

The appearance on the scene of a new person, laying claim to the inheritance, was undeniably, to any logical mind, the appearance on the scene of a criminal who herself brought with her the proofs of her crimes. Don Luis felt this clearly and, from that moment, did not take his eyes off the Prefect of Police.

Florence looked at them by turns as though the whole thing was the most insoluble mystery to her. Her beautiful dark eyes retained their customary serenity. She no longer wore her nurse's uniform; and her gray gown, very simply cut and devoid of ornaments, showed her graceful figure. She was grave and unemotional as usual.

M. Desmalions said:

"Explain yourself, Mademoiselle."

She answered:

"I have nothing to explain, Monsieur le Préfet. I have come to you on an errand which I am fulfilling without knowing exactly what it is about."

"What do you mean? Without knowing what it is about?"

"I will tell you, Monsieur le Préfet. Some one in whom I have every confidence and for whom I entertain the greatest respect asked me to hand you certain papers. They appear to concern the question which is the object of your meeting to-day."

"The question of awarding the Mornington inheritance?"

"Yes."

"You know that, if this claim had not been made in the course of the present sitting, it would have had no effect?"

"I came as soon as the papers were handed to me."

"Why were they not handed to you an hour or two earlier?"

"I was not there. I had to leave the house where I am staying, in a hurry."

Perenna did not doubt that it was his intervention that upset the enemy's plans by causing Florence to take to flight.

The Prefect continued:

"So you are ignorant of the reasons why you received the papers?"

"Yes, Monsieur le Préfet."

"And evidently you are also ignorant of how far they concern you?"

"They do not concern me, Monsieur le Préfet."

M. Desmalions smiled and, looking into Florence's eyes, said, plainly:

"According to the letter that accompanies them, they concern you intimately. It seems that they prove, in the most positive manner, that you are descended from the Roussel family and that you consequently have every right to the Mornington inheritance."

"I?"

The cry was a spontaneous exclamation of astonishment and protest.

And she at once went on, insistently:

"I, a right to the inheritance? I have none at all, Monsieur le Préfet, none at all. I never knew Mr. Mornington. What is this story? There is some mistake."

She spoke with great animation and with an apparent frankness that would have impressed any other man than the Prefect of Police. But how could he forget Don Luis's arguments and the accusation made beforehand against the person who would arrive at the meeting?

"Give me the papers," he said.

She took from her handbag a blue envelope which was not fastened down and which he found to contain a number of faded documents, damaged at the folds and torn in different places.

He examined them amid perfect silence, read them through, studied them thoroughly, inspected the signatures and the seals through a magnifying glass, and said:

"They bear every sign of being genuine. The seals are official."

"Then, Monsieur le Préfet--?" said Florence, in a trembling voice.

"Then, Mademoiselle, let me tell you that your ignorance strikes me as most incredible."

And, turning to the solicitor, he said:

"Listen briefly to what these documents contain and prove. Gaston Sauverand, Cosmo Mornington's heir in the fourth line, had, as you know, an elder brother, called Raoul, who lived in the Argentine Republic. This brother, before his death, sent to Europe, in the charge of an old nurse, a child of five who was none other than his daughter, a natural but legally recognized daughter whom he had had by Mlle. Levasseur, a French teacher at Buenos Ayres.

"Here is the birth certificate. Here is the signed declaration written entirely in the father's hand. Here is the affidavit signed by the old nurse. Here are the depositions of three friends, merchants or solicitors at Buenos Ayres. And here are the death certificates of the father and mother.

"All these documents have been legalized and bear the seals of the French consulate. For the present, I have no reason to doubt them; and I am bound to look upon Florence Levasseur as Raoul Sauverand's daughter and Gaston Sauverand's niece."

"Gaston Sauvarand's niece? ... His niece?" stammered Florence.

The mention of a father whom she had, so to speak, never known, left her unmoved. But she began to weep at the recollection of Gaston Sauverand, whom she loved so fondly and to whom she found herself linked by such a close relationship.

Were her tears sincere? Or were they the tears of an actress able to play her part down to the slightest details? Were those facts really revealed to her for the first time? Or was she acting the emotions which the revelation of those facts would produce in her under natural conditions?

Don Luis observed M. Desmalions even more narrowly than he did the girl, and tried to read the secret thoughts of the man with whom the decision lay. And suddenly he became certain that Florence's arrest was a matter resolved upon as definitely as the arrest of the most monstrous criminal. Then he went up to her and said:

"Florence."

She looked at him with her tear-dimmed eyes and made no reply.

Slowly, he said:

"To defend yourself, Florence--for, though I am sure you do not know it, you are under that obligation--you must understand the terrible position in which events have placed you.

"Florence, the Prefect of Police has been led by the logical outcome of those events to come to the final conclusion that the person entering this room with an evident claim to the inheritance is the person who killed the Mornington heirs. You entered the room, Florence, and you are undoubtedly Cosmo Mornington's heir."

He saw her shake from head to foot and turn as pale as death. Nevertheless, she uttered no word and made no gesture of protest.

He went on:

"It is a formal accusation. Do you say nothing in reply?"

She waited some time and then declared:

"I have nothing to say. The whole thing is a mystery. What would you have me reply? I do not understand!"

Don Luis stood quivering with anguish in front of her. He stammered:

"Is that all? Do you accept?"

After a second, she said, in an undertone:

"Explain yourself, I beg of you. What you mean, I suppose, is that, if I do not reply, I accept the accusation?"

"Yes."

"And then?"

"Arrest--prison--"

"Prison!"

She seemed to be suffering hideously. Her beautiful features were distorted with fear. To her mind, prison evidently represented the torments undergone by Marie and Sauverand. It must mean despair, shame, death, all those horrors which Marie and Sauverand had been unable to avoid and of which she in her turn would become the victim.

An awful sense of hopelessness overcame her, and she moaned:

"How tired I am! I feel that there is nothing to be done! I am stifled by the mystery around me! Oh, if I could only see and understand!"

There was another long pause. Leaning over her, M. Desmalions studied her face with concentrated attention. Then, as she did not speak, he put his hand to the bell on his table and struck it three times.

Don Luis did not stir from where he stood, with his eyes despairingly fixed on Florence. A battle was raging within him between his love and generosity, which led him to believe the girl, and his reason, which obliged him to suspect her. Was she innocent or guilty? He did not know. Everything was against her. And yet why had he never ceased to love her?

Weber entered, followed by his men. M. Desmalions spoke to him and pointed to Florence. Weber went up to her.

"Florence!" said Don Luis.

She looked at him and looked at Weber and his men; and, suddenly, realizing what was coming, she retreated, staggered for a moment, bewildered and fainting, and fell back in Don Luis's arms:

"Oh, save me, save me! Do save me!"

The action was so natural and unconstrained, the cry of distress so clearly denoted the alarm which only the innocent can feel, that Don Luis was promptly convinced. A fervent belief in her lightened his heart. His doubts, his caution, his hesitation, his anguish: all these vanished before a certainty that dashed upon him like an irresistible wave. And he cried:

"No, no, that must not be! Monsieur le Préfet, there are things that cannot be permitted--"

He stooped over Florence, whom he was holding so firmly in his arms that nobody could have taken her from him. Their eyes met. His face was close to the girl's. He quivered with emotion at feeling her throbbing, so weak, so utterly helpless; and he said to her passionately, in a voice too low for any but her to hear:

"I love you, I love you.... Ah, Florence, if you only knew what I feel: how I suffer and how happy I am! Oh, Florence, I love you, I love you--"

Weber had stood aside, at a sign from the Prefect, who wanted to witness the unexpected conflict between those two mysterious beings, Don Luis Perenna and Florence Levasseur.

Don Luis unloosed his arms and placed the girl in a chair. Then, putting his two hands on her shoulders, face to face with her, he said:

"Though you do not understand, Florence, I am beginning to understand a good deal; and I can already almost see my way in the mystery that terrifies you. Florence, listen to me. It is not you who are doing all this, is it? There is somebody else behind you, above you--somebody who gives you your instructions, isn't there, while you yourself don't know where he is leading you?"

"Nobody is instructing me. What do you mean? Explain."

"Yes, you are not alone in your life. There are many things which you do because you are told to do them and because you think them right and because you do not know their consequences or even that they can have any consequences. Answer my question: are you absolutely free? Are you not yielding to some influence?"

The girl seemed to have come to herself, and her face recovered some of its usual calmness. Nevertheless, it seemed as if Don Luis's question made an impression on her.

"No," she said, "there is no influence--none at all--I'm sure of it."

He insisted, with growing eagerness:

"No, you are not sure; don't say that. Some one is dominating you without your knowing it. Think for a moment. You are Cosmo Mornington's heir, heir to a fortune which you don't care about, I know, I swear! Well, if you don't want that fortune, to whom will it belong? Answer me. Is there any one who is interested or believes himself interested in seeing you rich? The whole question lies in that. Is your life linked with that of some one else? Is he a friend of yours? Are you engaged to him?"

She gave a start of revolt.

"Oh, never! The man of whom you speak is incapable--"

"Ah," he cried, overcome with jealousy, "you confess it! So the man of whom I speak exists! I swear that the villain--"

He turned toward M. Desmalions, his face convulsed with hatred. He made no further effort to contain himself:

"Monsieur le Préfet, we are in sight of the goal. I know the road that will lead us to it. The wild beast shall be hunted down to-night, or to-morrow at least. Monsieur le Préfet, the letter that accompanied those documents, the unsigned letter which this young lady handed you, was written by the mother superior who manages a nursing-home in the Avenue des Ternes.

"By making immediate inquiries at that nursing-home, by questioning the superior and confronting her with Mlle. Levasseur, we shall discover the identity of the criminal himself. But we must not lose a minute, or we shall be too late and the wild beast will have fled."

His outburst was irresistible. There was no fighting against the violence of his conviction. Still, M. Desmalions objected:

"Mlle. Levasseur could tell us--"

"She will not speak, or at least not till later, when the man has been unmasked in her presence. Monsieur le Préfet, I entreat you to have the same confidence in me as before. Have not all my promises been fulfilled? Have confidence, Monsieur le Préfet; cast aside your doubts. Remember how Marie Fauville and Gaston Sauverand were overwhelmed with charges, the most serious charges, and how they succumbed in spite of their innocence.

"Does the law wish to see Florence Levasseur sacrificed as the two others were? And, besides, what I ask for is not her release, but the means to defend her--that is to say, an hour or two's delay. Let Deputy Chief Weber be responsible for her safe custody. Let your detectives go with us: these and more as well, for we cannot have too many to capture the loathsome brute in his lair."

M. Desmalions did not reply. After a brief moment he took Weber aside and talked to him for some minutes. M. Desmalions did not seem very favourably disposed toward Don Luis's request. But Weber was heard to say:

"You need have no fear, Monsieur le Préfet. We run no risk."

And M. Desmalions yielded.

A few moments later Don Luis Perenna and Florence Levasseur took their seats in a motor car with Weber and two inspectors. Another car, filled with detectives, followed.

The hospital was literally invested by the police force and Weber neglected none of the precautions of a regular siege.

The Prefect of Police, who arrived in his own car, was shown by the manservant into the waiting-room and then into the parlour, where the mother superior came to him at once. Without delay or preamble of any sort he put his questions to her, in the presence of Don Luis, Weber, and Florence:

"Reverend mother," he said, "I have a letter here which was brought to me at headquarters and which tells me of the existence of certain documents concerning a legacy. According to my information, this letter, which is unsigned and which is in a disguised hand, was written by you. Is that so?"

The mother superior, a woman with a powerful face and a determined air, replied, without embarrassment:

"That is so, Monsieur le Préfet. As I had the honour to tell you in my letter, I would have preferred, for obvious reasons, that my name should not be mentioned. Besides, the delivery of the documents was all that mattered. However, since you know that I am the writer, I am prepared to answer your questions."

M. Desmalions continued, with a glance at Florence:

"I will first ask you, Reverend Mother, if you know this young lady?"

"Yes, Monsieur le Préfet. Florence was with us for six months as a nurse, a few years ago. She gave such satisfaction that I was glad to take her back this day fortnight. As I had read her story in the papers, I simply asked her to change her name. We had a new staff at the hospital, and it was therefore a safe refuge for her."

"But, as you have read the papers, you must be aware of the accusations against her?"

"Those accusations have no weight, Monsieur le Préfet, with any one who knows Florence. She has one of the noblest characters and one of the strictest consciences that I have ever met with."

The Prefect continued:

"Let us speak of the documents, Reverend Mother. Where do they come from?"

"Yesterday, Monsieur le Préfet, I found in my room a communication in which the writer proposed to send me some papers that interested Florence Levasseur--"

"How did any one know that she was here?" asked M. Desmalions, interrupting her.

"I can't tell you. The letter simply said that the papers would be at Versailles, at the _poste restante_, in my name, on a certain day--that is to say, this morning. I was also asked not to mention them to anybody and to hand them at three o'clock this afternoon to Florence Levasseur, with instructions to take them to the Prefect of Police at once. I was also requested to have a letter conveyed to Sergeant Mazeroux."

"To Sergeant Mazeroux! That's odd."

"That letter appeared to have to do with the same business. Now, I am very fond of Florence. So I sent the letter, and this morning went to Versailles and found the papers there, as stated. When I got back, Florence was out. I was not able to hand them to her until her return, at about four o'clock."

"Where were the papers posted?"

"In Paris. The postmark on the envelope was that of the Avenue Niel, which happens to be the nearest office to this."

"And did not the fact of finding that letter in your room strike you as strange?"

"Certainly, Monsieur le Préfet, but no stranger than all the other incidents in the matter."

"Nevertheless," continued M. Desmalions, who was watching Florence's pale face, "nevertheless, when you saw that the instructions which you received came from this house and that they concerned a person living in this house, did you not entertain the idea that that person--"

"The idea that Florence had entered the room, unknown to me, for such a purpose?" cried the superior. "Oh, Monsieur le Préfet, Florence is incapable of doing such a thing!"

The girl was silent, but her drawn features betrayed the feelings of alarm that upset her.

Don Luis went up to her and said:

"The mystery is clearing, Florence, isn't it? And you are suffering in consequence. Who put the letter in Mother Superior's room? You know, don't you? And you know who is conducting all this plot?"

She did not answer. Then, turning to the deputy chief, the Prefect said:

"Weber, please go and search the room which Mlle. Levasseur occupied."

And, in reply to the nun's protest:

"It is indispensable," he declared, "that we should know the reasons why Mlle. Levasseur preserves such an obstinate silence."

Florence herself led the way. But, as Weber was leaving the room, Don Luis exclaimed:

"Take care, Deputy Chief!"

"Take care? Why?"

"I don't know," said Don Luis, who really could not have said why Florence's behaviour was making him uneasy. "I don't know. Still, I warn you--"

Weber shrugged his shoulders and, accompanied by the superior, moved away. In the hall he took two men with him. Florence walked ahead. She went up a flight of stairs and turned down a long corridor, with rooms on either side of it, which, after turning a corner, led to a short and very narrow passage ending in a door.

This was her room. The door opened not inward, into the room, but outward, into the passage. Florence therefore drew it to her, stepping back as she did so, which obliged Weber to do likewise. She took advantage of this to rush in and close the door behind her so quickly that the deputy chief, when he tried to grasp the handle, merely struck the air.

He made an angry gesture:

"The baggage! She means to burn some papers!"

And, turning to the superior:

"Is there another exit to the room?"

"No, Monsieur."

He tried to open the door, but she had locked and bolted it. Then he stood aside to make way for one of his men, a giant, who, with one blow of his fist, smashed a panel.

Weber pushed by him, put his arm through the opening, drew the bolt, turned the key, pulled open the door and entered.

Florence was no longer in her room. A little open window opposite showed the way she had taken.

"Oh, curse my luck!" he shouted. "She's cut off!"

And, hurrying back to the staircase, he roared over the balusters:

"Watch all the doors! She's got away! Collar her!"

M. Desmalions came hurrying up. Meeting the deputy, he received his explanations and then went on to Florence's room. The open window looked out on a small inner yard, a sort of well which served to ventilate a part of the house. Some rain-pipes ran down the wall. Florence must have let herself down by them. But what coolness and what an indomitable will she must have displayed to make her escape in this manner!

The detectives had already distributed themselves on every side to bar the fugitive's road. It soon became manifest that Florence, for whom they were hunting on the ground floor and in the basement, had gone from the yard into the room underneath her own, which happened to be the mother superior's; that she had put on a nun's habit; and that, thus disguised, she had passed unnoticed through the very men who were pursuing her.

They rushed outside. But it was now dark; and every search was bound to be vain in so populous a quarter.

The Prefect of Police made no effort to conceal his displeasure. Don Luis was also greatly disappointed at this flight, which thwarted his plans, and enlarged openly upon Weber's lack of skill.

"I told you so, Deputy Chief! You should have taken your precautions. Mlle. Levasseur's attitude ought to have warned you. She evidently knows the criminal and wanted to go to him, ask him for explanations and, for all we can tell, save him, if he managed to convince her. And what will happen between them? When the villain sees that he is discovered, he will be capable of anything."

M. Desmalions again questioned the mother superior and soon learned that Florence, before taking refuge in the nursing-home, had spent forty-eight hours in some furnished apartments on the Ile Saint-Louis.

The clue was not worth much, but they could not neglect it. The Prefect of Police, who retained all his doubts with regard to Florence and attached extreme importance to the girl's capture, ordered Weber and his men to follow up this trail without delay. Don Luis accompanied the deputy chief.

Events at once showed that the Prefect of Police was right. Florence had taken refuge in the lodging-house on the Ile Saint-Louis, where she had engaged a room under an assumed name. But she had no sooner arrived than a small boy called at the house, asked for her, and went away with her.

They went up to her room and found a parcel done up in a newspaper, containing a nun's habit. The thing was obvious.

Later, in the course of the evening, Weber succeeded in discovering the small boy. He was the son of the porter of one of the houses in the neighbourhood. Where could he have taken Florence? When questioned, he definitely refused to betray the lady who had trusted him and who had cried when she kissed him. His mother entreated him. His father boxed his ears. He was inflexible.

In any case, it was not unreasonable to conclude that Florence had not left the Ile Saint-Louis or its immediate vicinity. The detectives persisted in their search all the evening. Weber established his headquarters in a tap room where every scrap of information was brought to him and where his men returned from time to time to receive his orders. He also remained in constant communication with the Prefect's office.

At half-past ten a squad of detectives, sent by the Prefect, placed themselves at the deputy chief's disposal. Mazeroux, newly arrived from Rouen and furious with Florence, joined them.

The search continued. Don Luis had gradually assumed its management; and it was he who, so to speak, inspired Weber to ring at this or that door and to question this or that person.

At eleven o'clock the hunt still remained fruitless; and Don Luis was the victim of an increasing and irritating restlessness. But, shortly after midnight, a shrill whistle drew all the men to the eastern extremity of the island, at the end of the Quai d'Anjou.

Two detectives stood waiting for them, surrounded by a small crowd of onlookers. They had just learned that, some distance farther away, on the Quai Henri IV, which does not form part of the island, a motor car had pulled up outside a house, that there was the noise of a dispute, and that the cab had subsequently driven off in the direction of Vincennes.

They hastened to the Quai Henri IV and at once found the house. There was a door on the ground floor opening straight on the pavement. The taxi had stopped for a few minutes in front of this door. Two persons, a woman and a man leading her along, had left the ground floor flat. When the door of the taxi was shut, a man's voice had shouted from the inside:

"Drive down the Boulevard Saint-Germain and along the quays. Then take the Versailles Road."

But the porter's wife was able to furnish more precise particulars. Puzzled by the tenant of the ground floor, whom she had only seen once, in the evening, who paid his rent by checks signed in the name of Charles and who but very seldom came to his apartment, she had taken advantage of the fact that her lodge was next to the flat to listen to the sound of voices. The man and the woman were arguing. At one moment the man cried, in a louder tone:

"Come with me, Florence. I insist upon it; and I will give you every proof of my innocence to-morrow morning. And, if you nevertheless refuse to become my wife, I shall leave the country. All my preparations are made."

A little later he began to laugh and, again raising his voice, said:

"Afraid of what, Florence? That I shall kill you perhaps? No, no, have no fear--"

The portress had heard nothing more. But was this not enough to justify every alarm?

Don Luis caught hold of the deputy chief:

"Come along! I knew it: the man is capable of anything. It's the tiger! He means to kill her!"

He rushed outside, dragging the deputy toward the two police motors waiting five hundred yards down. Meanwhile, Mazeroux was trying to protest:

"It would be better to search the house, to pick up some clues--"

"Oh," shouted Don Luis, increasing his pace, "the house and the clues will keep! ... But he's gaining ground, the ruffian--and he has Florence with him--and he's going to kill her! It's a trap! ... I'm sure of it--"

He was shouting in the dark, dragging the two men along with irresistible force.

They neared the motors.

"Get ready!" he ordered as soon as he was in sight. "I'll drive myself."

He tried to get into the driver's seat. But Weber objected and pushed him inside, saying:

"Don't trouble--the chauffeur knows his business. He'll drive faster than you would."

Don Luis, the deputy chief, and two detectives crowded into the cab; Mazeroux took his seat beside the chauffeur.

"Versailles Road!" roared Don Luis.

The car started; and he continued:

"We've got him! You see, it's a magnificent opportunity. He must be going pretty fast, but without forcing the pace, because he doesn't think we're after him. Oh, the villain, we'll make him sit up! Quicker, driver! But what the devil are we loaded up like this for? You and I, Deputy Chief, would have been enough. Hi, Mazeroux, get down and jump into the other car! That'll be better, won't it, Deputy? It's absurd--"

He interrupted himself; and, as he was sitting on the back seat, between the deputy chief and a detective, he rose toward the window and muttered:

"Why, look here, what's the idiot doing? That's not the road! I say, what does this mean?"

A roar of laughter was the only answer. It came from Weber, who was shaking with delight. Don Luis stifled an oath and, making a tremendous effort, tried to leap from the car. Six hands fell upon him and held him motionless. The deputy chief had him by the throat. The detectives clutched his arms. There was no room for him to struggle within the restricted space of the small car; and he felt the cold iron of a revolver on his temple.

"None of your nonsense," growled Weber, "or I'll blow out your brains, my boy! Aha! you didn't expect this! It's Weber's revenge, eh?"

And, when Perenna continued to wriggle, he went on, in a threatening tone:

"You'll have only yourself to blame, mind!... I'm going to count three: one, two--"

"But what's it all about?" bellowed Don Luis.

"Prefect's orders, received just now."

"What orders?"

"To take you to the lockup if the Florence girl escaped us again."

"Have you a warrant?"

"I have."

"And what next?"

"What next? Nothing: the Sante--the examining magistrate--"

"But, hang it all, the tiger's making tracks meanwhile! Oh, rot! Is it possible to be so dense? What mugs those fellows are! Oh, dash it!"

He was fuming with rage, and when he saw that they were driving into the prison yard, he gathered all his strength, knocked the revolver out of the deputy's hand, and stunned one of the detectives with a blow of his fist.

But ten men came crowding round the doors. Resistance was useless. He understood this, and his rage increased.

"The idiots!" he shouted, while they surrounded him and searched him at the door of the office. "The rotters! The bunglers! To go mucking up a job like that! They can lay hands on the villain if they want to, and they lock up the honest man--while the villain makes himself scarce! And he'll do more murder yet! Florence! Florence ..."

Under the lamp light, in the midst of the detectives holding him, he was magnificent in his helpless violence.

They dragged him away. With an unparalleled display of strength, he drew himself up, shook off the men who were hanging on to him like a pack of hounds worrying some animal at bay, got rid of Weber, and accosted Mazeroux in familiar tones. He was gloriously masterful, almost calm, so wholly did he appear to control his seething rage. He gave his orders in breathless little sentences, curt as words of command.

"Mazeroux, run around to the Prefect's. Ask him to ring up Valenglay: yes, the Prime Minister. I want to see him. Have him informed. Ask the Prefect to say it's I: the man who made the German Emperor play his game. My name? He knows. Or, if he forgets, the Prefect can tell him my name."

He paused for a second or two; and then, calmer still, he declared:

"Arsène Lupin! Telephone those two words to him and just say this: 'Arsène Lupin wishes to speak to the Prime Minister on very important business.' Get that through to him at once. The Prime Minister would be very angry if he heard afterward that they had neglected to communicate my request. Go, Mazeroux, and then find the villain's tracks again."

The governor of the prison had opened the jail book.

"You can enter my name, Monsieur le Directeur," said Don Luis. "Put down 'Arsène Lupin.'"

The governor smiled and said:

"I should find a difficulty in putting down any other. It's on the warrant: 'Arsène Lupin, alias Don Luis Perenna.'"

Don Luis felt a little shudder pass through him at the sound of those words. The fact that he was arrested under the name of Arsène Lupin made his position doubly dangerous.

"Ah," he said, "so they've resolved--"

"I should think so!" said Weber, in a tone of triumph. "We've resolved to take the bull by the horns and to go straight for Lupin. Plucky of us, eh? Never fear, we'll show you something better than that!"

Don Luis did not flinch. Turning to Mazeroux again, he said:

"Don't forget my instructions, Mazeroux."

But there was a fresh blow in store for him. The sergeant did not answer his remark. Don Luis watched him closely and once more gave a start. He had just perceived that Mazeroux also was surrounded by men who were holding him tight. And the poor sergeant stood silently shedding tears.

Weber's liveliness increased.

"You'll have to excuse him, Lupin. Sergeant Mazeroux accompanies you to prison, though not in the same cell."

"Ah!" said Don Luis, drawing himself up. "Is Mazeroux put into jail?"

"Prefect's orders, warrant duly executed."

"And on what charge?"

"Accomplice of Arsène Lupin."

"Mazeroux my accomplice? Get out! Mazeroux? The most honest man that ever lived!"

"The most honest man that ever lived, as you say. That didn't prevent people from going to him when they wanted to write to you or prevent him from bringing you the letters. Which proves that he knew where you were hanging out. And there's a good deal more which we'll explain to you, Lupin, in good time. You'll have plenty of fun, I assure you."

Don Luis murmured:

"My poor Mazeroux!"

Then, raising his voice, he said:

"Don't cry, old chap. It's just a matter of the remainder of the night. Yes, I'll share my cards with you and we'll turn the king and mark game in a very few hours. Don't cry. I've got a much finer berth waiting for you, a more honourable and above all a more lucrative position. I have just what you want.

"You don't imagine, surely, that I wasn't prepared for this! Why, you know me! Take it from me: I shall be at liberty to-morrow, and the government, after setting you free, will pitch you into a colonelcy or something, with a marshal's pay attached to it. So don't cry, Mazeroux."

Then, addressing Weber, he said to him in the voice of a principal giving an order, and knowing that the order will be executed without discussion:

"Monsieur, I will ask you to fulfil the confidential mission which I was entrusting to Mazeroux. First, inform the Prefect of Police that I have a communication of the very highest importance to make to the Prime Minister. Next, discover the tiger's tracks at Versailles before the night is over. I know your merit, Monsieur, and I rely entirely upon your diligence and your zeal. Meet me at twelve o'clock to-morrow."

And, still maintaining his attitude of a principal who has given his instructions, he allowed himself to be taken to his cell.

It was ten to one. For the last fifty minutes the enemy had been bowling along the highroad, carrying off Florence like a prey which it now seemed impossible to snatch from him.

The door was locked and bolted.

Don Luis reflected:

"Even presuming that Monsieur le Prefect consents to ring up Valenglay, he won't do so before the morning. So they've given the villain eight hours' start before I'm free. Eight hours! Curse it!"

He thought a little longer, then shrugged his shoulders with the air of one who, for the moment, has nothing better to do than wait, and flung himself on his mattress, murmuring:

"Hushaby, Lupin!"