what could possibly have happened to bring

ON the day after that upon which Freyberger had telephoned to the Paris
police requesting a personal interview with Mademoiselle Lefarge, London
awoke to find itself effaced by fog.

Mrs Hussey, the old woman who stole Hellier’s tea and whisky and coal,
made his bed, lit his fire, and attended generally to his wants and
discomforts, had set the breakfast things out for him, placed his eggs
and bacon in the fender to keep warm, and his letters by his plate.
Having attended to these duties she had departed, swallowed up in the
fog.

There were three letters on the table. Two small bills and an invitation
to a dance in Bayswater. A more depressing post could not have been
invented for him.

He had hoped to find an envelope post-marked Boulogne-sur-Mer and
addressed to him in a characteristic woman’s hand. He had received no
reply to his last letter, but there was the chance that one might come
by the second post.

London is a terrible place for the anxious heart expecting news by post.
There are so many posts; every hour you hear the double knock at some
one else’s door, every hour you see the man in blue passing, the man who
could bring you so much if the fates only willed.

The second post came and brought with it a circular.

Have you ever noticed in life the part played by the unexpected? You are
looking forward to some pleasure, some journey, some meeting, you,
perhaps, are full of doubt as to whether your finances will meet the
occasion, whether the carriage will come at the proper time, whether the
woman you are to meet will keep the appointment.

All your fears are groundless, the money arrives, the carriage is at the
door, the lady is waiting for you, and you are just getting into the
carriage with a bunch of violets in your hand and a fat cheque in your
pocket, when a messenger arrives to say that your aunt is dying.

You had never thought of that. On the other hand the cheque has not
arrived, the carriage has not come, you are in despair, and Providence
appears in the form of Jones, a debtor whom you had forgotten for years,
now a millionaire back from South Africa.

Hellier was leaving his rooms with his overcoat tightly buttoned up, a
muffler round his neck and a feeling of desolation at his heart, when,
on the stairs he knocked against a telegraph boy, took a telegram from
him, opened it and read by the light of the gas jet on the lower
landing:

“Boulogne-sur-Mer.

“DEAR FRIEND: We arrive London to-day. Meet us Langham Hotel six
o’clock; important.

CÉCILE LEFARGE.”

As Hellier walked across the courtyard of Clifford’s Inn with this
missive in his pocket, the sky above was sapphire blue, the sun was
shining brightly, also trees were blooming around him and nightingales
singing in their branches. At least, so it seemed to him till a
collision with Mr Crump, K.C., a portly gentleman, who was not in love,
brought him to his senses.

He did not ask himself what could possibly have happened to bring Cécile
to London. He only knew that she was coming, that she had telegraphed to
him and that he would meet her at six. As if nature had suddenly grown
kind as well as fate, towards noon the fog cleared away, the sun shone
out and the light of a perfect spring day was cast upon the world.

At six o’clock to the minute he presented himself at the Langham,
ascertained that Mademoiselle Lefarge and her aunt had arrived and were
expecting him and was shown to their private sitting-room.

FREYBERGER, also, had received a telegram that morning, or, at least,
the Chief of the Criminal Investigation Department had received it and
communicated its contents to him.

“You can take the case entirely into your own hands, Freyberger,” he
said. “You have certainly done well in it heretofore, the connexion
between the two crimes seems to me almost made out, should the Paris
people identify the portrait we have sent them as that of the supposedly
murdered man, Müller, the connexion will be made certain. Your insight
has been very praiseworthy, and if the portrait is identified we can at
once place our finger upon the person who, if he is not the author of
the crime, we are investigating, is, at least, so bound up in it that
his capture must place the whole matter in a clear light.

“But will we be any nearer to his arrest? You object to his portrait
being published in the papers, yet you know very well the value of that
step.

“Take a big morning and evening paper; a portrait published in these
papers is a portrait, so to speak, placarded on the sky. A million pair
of eyes are at once placed at our service.”

“Quite so, sir,” replied Freyberger, “I am the last man to undervalue
the power of the Press. I quite know that if we were to publish the
portrait we should have half a million amateur detectives at our service
in half a dozen hours. Unfortunately, it is my firm conviction that in
an hour after publication, our man, who is now, I fancy, walking about
the world catchable, in the pride of his infernal genius, in an hour, I
repeat, he would be uncatchable. He would turn himself into air, into
water, into smoke. He would become some one else. He is illusion
materialized.

“Even if we circulate his portrait amidst the force, within a few hours
some man answering his description is sure to be arrested, sure to be
released, and the affair will get wind and our Jack-o’-lanthorn will
know that some one, not answering the description of Gyde, is being
sought for, and he will say to himself ‘they have found out something,
they suspect, perhaps they know,’ and he will dive, efface himself,
never be seen again.

“I believe the use of ordinary methods against this person will be of no
avail. We must trust to chance. And I have a strange belief, rather a
sort of instinct, that the chance will come to us through the Lefarge
case.”

He ceased, for at this moment a sergeant knocked at the door, bringing a
broad sheet of paper on which was some writing.

He handed it to the chief and withdrew. It was a message from Boulogne
and read:

“Boulogne-sur-Mer.

“Have received communication through Hamard. Will be at the Langham
Hotel this evening at seven, bringing all evidence with me.

CÉCILE LEFARGE.”

“The omen is good,” said the chief, with a slight smile.

Before Freyberger could reply the door opened and another officer
appeared with a message. It was from the prefecture.

“Photograph sent by your agent identified as that of Wilhelm Müller,
assassinated December 30, 18—, No. 110 Rue de Turbigo. Duplicate of
photo has been in this office since the crime was committed.—LEGENDRE,
Chief of Identification Bureau, Prefecture of Police.”

The chief’s eyes sparkled for a moment with pleasure. The way in which
Freyberger had connected and riveted the two cases, the manner in which
he had now, with terrible and mathematical certainty, proved Müller,
_alias_ Kolbecker, _alias_ Klein, the moving spirit in these two great
tragedies, and almost to a certainty the criminal, since Lefarge could
have no thinkable connexion with the Gyde case and Gyde no connexion
with the Lefarge case; all this pleased his artistic instinct. He said
nothing, but simply read the message, handed it to Freyberger, who read
it in turn and gave it back.

“Thank you, sir,” said Freyberger, “and now, if you will permit me, I
will go home. Nothing of importance is likely to happen between now and
seven o’clock. I have some pressing business to attend to.”

“And what may that business be?” inquired the chief.

“Sleep, sir. I have not closed my eyes for forty-eight hours.”

“Go and attend to your business, then,” replied the other, “and if
anything of vital importance turns up, I will send for you. I am pleased
with you, Freyberger, and with the way you have conducted this case. Go
and dream you have caught this will-o’-the-wisp, and may your dream turn
true.”

“I never dream, sir,” replied Freyberger, and, bidding the chief good
morning, he departed.

HE returned to his rooms.

The man who would command events must be able to command sleep. This, at
least, Freyberger was able to do. He cast himself upon his bed, closed
his eyes and was immediately lost in oblivion.

At half-past four he awoke, made himself some coffee, lit a cigar and
fell, for a moment, into meditation. There was one point wanting to him
in the case before it stood absolutely four square and to his
satisfaction.

That point was the proof that the bust of Sir Anthony Gyde was by the
hand of the same sculptor as the bust of M. Lefarge.

It was more than probable that Mademoiselle Lefarge would bring with her
to London this very material piece of evidence. It was in her possession
he knew, for, in the newspaper accounts of the tragedy it was numbered
amidst the _pièces de conviction_, and the statement was made that it
had been returned to the daughter of Lefarge, coupled with the statement
that Mademoiselle Lefarge wept when it was returned to her and expressed
her conviction of her father’s innocence and her determination to devote
her life to the task of clearing his name from the terrible stain upon
it. Antonides alone would be able to decide the question of the artist,
and at five Freyberger left his rooms and took his way to Old Compton
Street.

He did not call at the Yard on his way, knowing quite well that if
anything important had turned up in reference to the Gyde case, the
chief would have communicated with him immediately.

Antonides was in. He was eating a sausage roll behind his counter, or
rather finishing it, when Freyberger entered. The old man was killing
himself with indigestion. To save the price of a trustworthy assistant
he looked after his business entirely himself, with the exception of
what help a boy, hired at seven shillings a week, could give him. This
meant that whenever he required a meal properly cooked he had to go to a
café and lock the shop up till he returned, as this meant the possible
loss of a customer, he was condemned to live on sardines and sausage
rolls, sandwiches, anything, in fact, that did not require cooking or
service.

Of course he could have had dinner sent in from a café, but he would
have had to eat it on the counter for had he retired upstairs to devour
it he would have been compelled to close the shop.

Not for one moment did he leave it open during his absence upstairs,
save on very rare occasions, such as the morning before, when
Freyberger, calling to inspect the bust, had found the boy taking down
the shutters and the door open.

“Good day, Mr Freyberger,” said the old man.

“Good day,” said Freyberger.

“And what can I do for you Mr Freyberger,” asked Antonides, “any more
busts to restore?”

“Not to-day, thanks, I want your opinion on a work of art.”

“Produce it.”

“Do you think I carry it about with me in my pocket?”

“I have seen works of art produced from a pocket before now. I have seen
a snuff-box, worth a thousand guineas, and which I bought for,—no
matter.”

“Well this is not a snuff-box but a bust.”

“Another bust!”

“Yes, another.”

“The subject?”

“A man.”

“The artist?”

“Unknown, but supposed to be the same who executed the bust of Sir
Anthony Gyde.”

“Ha! ha!”

“Could you tell if it were the same artist?”

“Could I tell it in the dark by the touch of my fingers, could I not?”

“Well, I hope to show you it.”

“You know my fee for examining works of art?”

“No.”

“A guinea.”

“You shall have it.”

“At what hour will you bring it here?”

“That’s just the point, the thing can’t be brought here, you must go to
see it.”

“Where?”

“At the Langham Hotel.”

“You know my fee for leaving my shop to inspect works of art.”

“No.”

“Two guineas, Mr Freyberger.”

“You shall have them.”

“And the cab fare?” shrieked Antonides, his face becoming pinched with
excitement.

“And the cab fare.”

“There and back?”

“Yes, there and back, anything else? Mention it whilst we are about it,
don’t be bashful, drinks on the way and a red carpet on the steps when
you get there.”

“I never drink between meals. Three shillings is the cab fare. I never
cheat my customers, nor do I allow cabmen to cheat me. At what hour
shall I be at the Langham Hotel?”

“Oh, about half-past seven.”

“And the bust. If it is not asking an impertinent question, where is it
coming from?”

“Paris.”

“Ah!”

“By the way.”

“Yes.”

“Have you ever heard of an artist and sculptor, named Wilhelm Müller?”

“Wilhelm Müller, a sculptor?”

“Yes.”

“Murdered eight years ago?”

“Yes.”

“By a M.—”

“Lefarge.”

“Yes, yes, that is the name. Oh, yes, I remember Müller. I only saw him
once about nine years ago; I clearly recollect him for the fact of his
murder, which I read of in the papers shortly after impressed our
meeting upon me. It was at the _chat noir_. Oh, yes, I remember Wilhelm
Müller very well indeed.”

“You are a judge of men.”

“I am a judge of art primarily, modern man is mainly a production of
art, not of nature; yes, I am a judge of men.”

“What was your opinion of Müller?”

“You know my fee for examining and giving my opinion on works of art.”

“Yes, here, take a cigar and give me your opinion on Müller.”

“As a work of art or nature?”

“You said modern man was a work of art.”

“I said, mainly a work of art, there is a strong substratum of nature in
some men.”

“Well I want your opinion on Müller, both as a work of art and a work of
nature; cast some light on him for me out of your intelligence.”

“Give me a match.”

“There you are.”

“Thank you. As an artistic production, Müller was not so bad, for he
managed fairly well to conceal from his fellow-men what nature had made
him?”

“And what had nature made him?”

“A madman.”

“A madman?”

“Yes, and yet he was sane.”

“That sounds like a paradox.”

“Man is a paradox. I know twenty men in London who are as mad as
hatters, yet they are sane for all practical purposes.”

“Could you fancy Müller committing a murder?”

“Easily. He was of the intellectual criminal type.”

“Yet he was a great artist.”

“Though I have never seen any of his work—”

“Pardon me, you have, for that bust of Sir Anthony Gyde’s was, I
believe, from his chisel.”

“Though I had never seen any of his work, judging from my recollection
of the man, I would say he was a great genius. He had the brilliancy of
eye, the concentration of gaze, which one rarely meets with in
common-place people, and yet those eyes would, so to speak, fall apart,
the concentration relax, the gaze become turned inward. Then it was that
the essential madness of the man became visible to the man who could
see. How many men of your acquaintance can see, Mr Freyberger?”

Freyberger laughed and turned to leave the shop.

“Well,” he said, “seven-thirty at the Langham. Be sure you are there and
ask for Mademoiselle Lefarge.”

AT seven o’clock precisely, Freyberger drove up to the Langham.

Mademoiselle Lefarge had given instructions that anyone who called was
to be shown up.

Freyberger followed a waiter up the softly carpeted stairs; at the door
of a room on the first landing the man stopped.

“Whom shall I say, sir?”

“Mr Gustave Freyberger.”

The waiter opened the door and the detective found himself in the
presence of three people.

An old lady with white hair, a young woman whom he recognized by
instinct as Mademoiselle Lefarge, and a man of about thirty or perhaps
thirty-five, clean-shaved, English-looking, and with the stamp of a
barrister.

The detective’s quick eye and even quicker brain took in the room and
its occupants at a glance.

In a moment he comprehended the status of the two women before him, but
the man puzzled him.

The women were French to their fingertips, but the man was English.

Needless to say the man was Hellier.

Cécile Lefarge gazed at the newcomer for a moment and then advanced,
with hand out-stretched, in such a kindly and frank manner as quite to
captivate even the unemotional Freyberger.

“I need not ask you,” she said, “for I am quite sure you are the
gentleman mentioned by M. Hamard as having telegraphed to Paris for an
interview with me. I am Cécile Lefarge.”

“Mademoiselle,” replied the detective, with a charming modesty that was
half false. “The communication to M. Hamard came from the Chief of the
Criminal Investigation Department of Scotland Yard. I am but the humble
instrument deputed by him to inquire into a certain case. A crime has
been committed in England. In the investigation of the matter, I, by a
strange chance, came upon the records of a crime committed in Paris—”

“Eight years ago.”

“Pardon me, mademoiselle, eight years and five months ago.”

“You are exact.”

“I am exact, but before I proceed, I must ask you to excuse me. This is
an important matter. In speaking of it I wish to be sure of whom I am
addressing. You are Mademoiselle Lefarge, this lady—”

“Is my aunt, Madame de Warens.”

“Thank you, and this gentleman?”

Cécile Lefarge blushed slightly. “He is our very good friend, Mr
Hellier.”

Hellier produced his visiting card and handed it to Freyberger.

“That is my name and address,” said he. “I assure you that anything you
say before me will not pass beyond me. Mademoiselle Lefarge has
entrusted me with the painful details of the case that occurred in Paris
eight years ago, and I have made investigations myself in the matter. I
have spent some time in Paris studying the reports of the case, and I
may be able to assist you in an humble way, if my assistance would not
be out of place.”

Freyberger bowed very stiffly. He had a horror of the amateur detective,
the Gyde case was his own especial problem, he wished for no help in its
solution.

“Thank you,” he said. Then turning to Mademoiselle Lefarge:

“I like to be always perfectly frank, I have brought you a long journey,
my message was urgent, yet I can give you no word of hope on the
question that has troubled your heart for eight years.”

“Hope!”

“My meaning is this, I can give you no hope that M. Lefarge is alive.”

“Alive! Ah, no! He is dead, my dear father is dead, some instinct has
long told me that; all I hope for is revenge.”

“I may give you that,” said Freyberger quite simply.

They were standing opposite to one another. Mademoiselle Lefarge sank
down on a fauteuil near by and motioned the detective to take a chair.

“I must tell you first,” said he, taking a seat close to her, “that a
terrible crime has been committed in England, a crime almost exactly
similar to that which was committed in the Rue de Turbigo eight years
ago.”

“Ah!”

“We are investigating that crime, we believe the active agent in it to
be the active agent in the crime of the Rue de Turbigo. If we can prove
this incontrovertibly by the capture of the active agent for whom we are
seeking, your father’s name will be quite cleared of any imputation.”

Cécile Lefarge sighed deeply. She sat with her hands clasped across one
knee and her eyes fixed upon the man before her.

She divined, in this plain, clean-shaved, fresh-coloured and
youngish-looking man, whose face might have been that of a café waiter,
whose manner was yet so calm and authoritative and assured, and whose
eye was so full of steadfastness and energy, she divined in this person
the man for whom she had been seeking for years—her avenger.

“Go on, please,” she said.

“I must first,” said Freyberger, taking a parcel from his pocket, “ask
you to look at this.”

He handed a photograph to the girl.

She looked at it and gave a short, sharp cry, as though some one had
struck her.

“Müller!” she said, holding the thing away from her with a gesture of
terror.

Freyberger took it and replaced it in his pocket after Hellier had
glanced at it.

“You recognize it as the portrait—”

“Of the man who executed the bust of my father. Oh, yes, indeed, I
recognize it. His face is burnt upon my brain. Were I to live a thousand
years, it would be there still.”

“Now,” said Freyberger, “I do not wish to pain you, yet I must say some
unpleasant things. You know that in the eyes of the world at the time of
this affair, M. Lefarge appeared guilty.”

“Alas!” said she, “in the eyes of the world my dear father must appear
as guilty as he did then.”

“You know the terrible mass of evidence that was produced against him?”

“Yes.”

“You have weighed it logically yourself?”

“Yes.”

“Have you ever believed your father to have been guilty of the crime
imputed to him?”

“Never.”

“Have you any special reason for this disbelief?”

“No.”

“Yet—”

“Yet I know him to have been innocent. Ah, M. Freyberger! logic is not
everything in this world, instinct with some people counts for much
more. I know my dear father to have been innocent, and you ask me how I
know it. I can only answer, ‘how do I know that the sun shines,’ the
thing is plain before me, and we will not speak of it again.”

“We will speak, then, of this man, Müller. He impressed you.”

She looked around as if seeking for a metaphor.

“He impressed me with horror, he filled me with the terror of a
nightmare.”

“You saw him several times?”

“Yes, my dear father brought him to our house. My father was so good, so
pleasant, so genial, he saw no harm in anyone. If a man were only
clever, that was enough for him. Many an artist who is now well-to-do in
the world owes everything to the help received from him.”

Freyberger had been studying Mademoiselle Lefarge from the first moment
of his entering the room. This was no woman of the ordinary type.

This was an individual of spirit and sense and intellect, who had been
studying the Lefarge case for eight years. He determined to put the
whole matter of the Gyde case before her and its connexion with the case
of Lefarge.

This he did in the space of ten minutes, clearly and concisely and with
that precision that never misses a necessary or includes an unnecessary
word.

“If what you have told me is correct,” said Mademoiselle Lefarge, when
he had finished, “it only confirms my belief that Müller by some
horrible alchemy, known only to himself, destroyed my father both in
body and reputation, just as he has destroyed Sir Anthony Gyde.”

“That, too, is my belief,” said Hellier, who had been listening, amazed
at the tale of Freyberger, and full of admiration at his process of
reasoning.

“Now,” said the detective, “have you the bust this man executed of M.
Lefarge?”

“Yes,” replied Cécile, “I have it in the next room, I brought it with me
to-day, hoping it might be of use.”

Freyberger looked at her with admiration.

“It will be of great use, and I must thank you for bringing it. I would
like to see it and to show it to a friend whom I expect here shortly. He
is a Greek who has reconstructed the Gyde bust, and his opinion is
necessary to me in the case.”

Mademoiselle Lefarge passed into an adjoining room, from which she
presently emerged, carrying something in her arms; something wrapped in
a white cloth.

She placed this object on a table and, removing the cloth, exposed the
bust of M. Lefarge, which we have already seen.

Freyberger examined the thing attentively, murmuring to himself as he
did so. Mademoiselle Lefarge, watching him narrowly, imagined that he
seemed pleased.

“Well,” she said at last, “do you think it will be of service to you in
your investigations? What do you think of it?”

“Ah, mademoiselle,” he replied, “my opinion on a work of art is,
perhaps, of no great value and for that reason I have sent for a friend
who is a magician where these matters are concerned, but,” looking at
his watch, “he is late, this magician.”

Scarcely had he spoken than a knock came to the door and a waiter
appeared bearing a salver, on which reposed a filthy-looking visiting
card.

Cécile took the thing, on which was scrawled:

“I. Antonides, art dealer, 1006 Old Compton Street.”

“Gentleman is outside, miss,” said the waiter, whose cast-iron face was
struggling with a grin and conquering it.

“Show him in,” said Cécile, and I. Antonides entered.

Dressed in a shabby old fur-lined coat, from which half the buttons were
gone, and holding a shabby old silk hat in one hand he stood for a
moment in the doorway, blinking and then, catching sight of Freyberger,
he beckoned.

Freyberger went to him and Antonides, catching him by the lapel,
whispered, “A word in your ear, Mr Freyberger.”

“Well, what is it?” asked the detective, following the old man into the
corridor.

“Am I dealing in this matter with you, or the young woman?”

“I suppose by the young woman you mean Mademoiselle Lefarge?”

“Yes.”

“Well, you are dealing with me. Why do you ask?”

“Only this,” said Antonides, who, from one brief glimpse, had summed up
the financial position of this girl, who was able to afford a private
suite of rooms on the first floor of the Langham.

“It’s nothing to you, here or there, a pound or two in my pocket, so
long as it doesn’t come out of your pocket, won’t make _her_ pocket any
the lighter. Mr Freyberger, consider our bargain off, like a good friend
and let me do the skinning.”

“Now look here,” said Freyberger, “you bargained to come here and view
the thing for two pounds.”

“Guineas.”

“And the cab fare, that’s what you’ll get and not a penny more.
Skinning, indeed! Do you take me for an—art dealer? See here, I have the
money for you, here’s two pounds, here’s two shillings, and what’s the
cab fare?”

“Five.”

“Three, you mean; anyhow, here’s five. What a funny man you are.”

“I am never funny in business, but in return for your compliment, I will
give you a piece of advice—never, never, stir a foot in business without
settling your terms in advance. Once I lost eight shillings and a
halfpenny, the single fare to Leicester by omitting to carry out that
precept. It was seven years ago, Mr Freyberger, seven years, and I have
never got that eight and a halfpenny back from the world yet, and never
will. Now to our consultation.”

They returned to the sitting-room, Freyberger introduced the old man in
a word or two and then pointed to the bust.

The Greek took a spectacle case from his pocket, drew forth a pair of
steel-rimmed spectacles and adjusted them upon his nose. Then he
examined the bust attentively.

“Well?” asked Freyberger.

“Well,” answered the other, quite disregardless of the other people
present. “Where are your eyes, could you not see that this bust is, from
an artistic point of view, the twin brother of that which I repaired for
you?”

“I was sure of it,” said Freyberger.

“Then why did you ask my opinion?”

“Because I wanted to make doubly sure.”

“Well, you have done so,” said Antonides, taking his spectacles off and
replacing them in his pocket. “You may take my word for it that the man
who executed this bust was also the author of that admirable piece of
work which some Philistine smashed with his coal hammer.”

Antonides bowed slightly to the ladies, seized his old hat, which he had
placed on a chair, and, escorted by Freyberger, left the room.

When Freyberger returned, Mademoiselle Lefarge was still standing in
exactly the same place where she had stood whilst the old man was giving
his opinion on the bust.

Hellier was still seated in the background; he had not spoken a word,
content to listen and leave the case entirely in the capable hands of
the detective.

The girl took a seat and motioned Freyberger to do the same.

He took the chair which she had pointed out, then he sat for a moment in
thought. At last he said.

“You have told me everything that you know?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I want you to tell me something more. I want you to tell me, more
precisely, what you think.”

She looked puzzled.

“Your knowledge of the facts of this case,” said he, “does not, perhaps,
exceed my own. Your memory may not be able to cast new light on the
matter, but your imagination may. You have pondered over it, you have
dreamt of it, for eight years and more it has been with you. What does
your imagination say? what have you fancied about it?”

“I have fancied this,” said she, “or, rather, I have been assured of
this. That whoever was murdered in the Rue de Turbigo, it was not
Müller. I know all the evidence, and of the tattooed marks upon the
body. The two letters ‘W.M.,’ which were his initials. But might they
not have been the initials of some other man? No one gave evidence to
say that such marks had ever been seen upon Müller. No matter. I believe
that Müller was _not_ murdered; I believe that Müller was the assassin
of whoever _was_ murdered, and I have felt that he was such a terrible
man that he was sure to repeat his crime, murder some one else, and
probably get caught. God help me! I have hoped so. For years it has been
my hope that this demon might act again as he acted in the Rue de
Turbigo, and fall into the hands of justice, just as a tiger who eats
men returns to his feeding place and falls into the hands of the
hunters.

“Was my belief correct? Look at the case of Sir Anthony Gyde, of which
you told us to-night.”

“Your belief was, I am convinced, correct,” answered Freyberger.

“I believe,” went on Mademoiselle Lefarge, speaking as if under the
influence of an inspiration, “that this man has not limited his hand to
Sir Anthony Gyde, I believe that he has committed many murders. He is a
_murderer_. I can fancy him strangling a fellow creature from pure
hatred and the lust of blood or money.”

“Ah! Good heavens!” cried Hellier, striking himself on the forehead.

Every one turned towards him.

“What is it?” asked the girl.

“I have been a fool, forgive me. I remember now; listen to me.”

“Yes, yes.”

“I undertook to investigate this case. I went to Paris, I saw every one
who could in the least throw light on it, I went into all the evidence.
I said to myself, the case is hopeless; forgive me for having said this
even to myself. Well, one day, by chance, in an old file of the _Petit
Journal_, I saw the case of an old man named Mesnier; he had been
strangled for no apparent reason, and an important witness said that he
had seen a man leaving Mesnier’s room shortly after the time the tragedy
must have taken place, and he said that he would have sworn that this
man was Müller, only for the fact that Müller was known to be dead.”

“Ah, ah!” said Freyberger, who was listening intently. “How long after
the Lefarge affair was this?”

“A few days. Then a few days later a woman was strangled in a field for
no apparent motive save murder, and a few days later a child was also
killed upon the high road near Paris in a similar manner. I read these
things, but though they made an impression upon me, I said to myself,
Müller is dead, they can have no relationship to the crime in the Rue de
Turbigo. Now I have heard of the Gyde case, it proves that Müller is
still alive, and now I feel convinced that these crimes were committed
by this demon. Can you forgive me, my friend, for having for a moment
doubted the innocence of your father?”

“There is nothing to forgive,” said the girl, gazing at the young man
with an expression that spoke volumes of her feelings towards him, “and
if there were I would forgive you a hundred times, for you have
struggled against the disbelief caused by terrible and crushing
evidence. What you say proves to me again that this man is alive; but,
alas! of what use to us can these other crimes be? He was not caught,
they occurred years ago and can give justice no thread.”

Freyberger did not seem to fall in with this opinion. He had risen from
his chair and was pacing up and down, a sure sign that he was deeply
excited or disturbed.

“You are sure of what you say?” he said, suddenly turning on Hellier.

“Certain.”

“You saw these crimes reported in the _Petit Journal_?”

“Yes.”

“Have you files of the papers?”

“No. I read it in Paris. I can supply you with the dates.”

“No use; I don’t want to know details. Simply the fact that these crimes
were committed suffices me.”

“Do you think the fact will be of use to you?” asked the girl.

Freyberger laughed hoarsely. He had let his excitement get away with
him. In a flash he had seen the means and the method of laying his hand
upon the man he wanted. This was what he had been waiting for, just this
accidental sidelight. “Chance will give him to us,” he had told the
Chief of the Criminal Investigation Department, and now he felt that the
chance had come. But he was not going to show his hand, especially
before Hellier. He wanted to keep the Gyde case to himself till it was
completed, just as a sculptor keeps a statue from view till the moment
of unveiling.

“It may and it may not,” he replied. “And now, Mademoiselle, I will take
leave of you. There is much work to be done and I am required elsewhere.
I will keep you informed of our progress, that is to say, as far as it
is in my power. You are staying at the hotel?”

“Yes, for some time.”

“Thank you; good evening.” He bowed to old Madame de Warens, who had
been a somewhat unintelligent spectator of all that had passed, he gave
a slight, stiff bow to Hellier and left the room.

Hellier rose to his feet. “I must speak to that man,” he said, taking
Cécile Lefarge’s hand in both his. “I must catch him before he leaves
the hotel. May I see you to-morrow?”

“Yes, come early.”

He left the room with something in his hand. It was a small bunch of
violets she had taken from her breast.

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