CHAPTER II. The Blue Diamond 2/4

During this time, a locksmith was sent for who, with great difficulty, succeeded in forcing the gate of the garden and the front door. The commissary went upstairs and, at once, at the first glance, said to the servant:

"Why, you told me that the room was in the greatest disorder!"

He turned round. Charles seemed pinned to the threshold, hypnotized: all the furniture had resumed its usual place! The little table was standing between the two windows, the chairs were on their legs and the clock in the middle of the mantel-piece. The shivers of the smashed candlestick had disappeared.

Gaping with stupor, he articulated:

"The body.... Monsieur le baron ..."

"Yes," cried the commissary, "where is the victim?"

He walked up to the bed. Under a large sheet, which he drew aside, lay General the Baron d'Hautrec, late French Ambassador in Berlin. His body was covered with his general's cloak, decorated with the cross of the Legion of Honour. The face was calm. The eyes were closed.

The servant stammered:

"Someone must have come."

"Which way?"

"I can't say, but someone has been here during my absence.... Look, there was a very thin steel dagger there, on the floor.... And then, on the table, a blood-stained handkerchief.... That's all gone.... They've taken everything away.... They've arranged everything...."

"But who?"

"The murderer!"

"We found all the doors closed."

"He must have remained in the house."

"Then he would be here still, as you never left the pavement."

The man reflected and said, slowly:

"That's so ... that's so ... and I did not go far from the gate either.... Still ..."

"Let us see, who was the last person you saw with the baron?"

"Mlle. Antoinette, the companion."

"What has become of her?"

"I should say that, as her bed was not even touched, she must have taken advantage of Sœur Auguste's absence to go out also. It would only half surprise me if she had: she is young ... and pretty...."

"But how could she have got out?"

"Through the door."

"You pushed the bolt and fastened the chain!"

"A good deal later! By that time, she must have left the house."

"And the crime was committed, you think, after she went?"

"Of course."

They searched the house from top to bottom, from the garrets to the cellars; but the murderer had fled. How? When? Was it he or an accomplice who had thought proper to return to the scene of the crime and do away with anything that might have betrayed him? Those were the questions that suggested themselves to the police.

The divisional surgeon came upon the scene at seven o'clock, the head of the detective-service at eight. Next came the turn of the public prosecutor and the examining magistrate. In addition, the house was filled with policemen, inspectors, journalists, Baron d'Hautrec's nephew and other members of the family.

They rummaged about, they studied the position of the body, according to Charles's recollection, they questioned Sœur Auguste the moment she arrived. They discovered nothing. At most, Sœur Auguste was surprised at the disappearance of Antoinette Brehat. She had engaged the girl twelve days before, on the strength of excellent references, and refused to believe that she could have abandoned the sick man confided to her care, to go running about at night alone.

"All the more so," the examining magistrate insisted, "as, in that case, she would have been in before now. We therefore come back to the same point: what has become of her?"

"If you ask me," said Charles, "she has been carried off by the murderer."

The suggestion was plausible enough and fitted in with certain details. The head of the detective service said:

"Carried off? Upon my word, it's quite likely."

"It's not only unlikely," said a voice, "but absolutely opposed to the facts, to the results of the investigation, in short, to the evidence itself."

The voice was harsh, the accent gruff and no one was surprised to recognize Ganimard. He alone, besides, would be forgiven that rather free and easy way of expressing himself.

"Hullo, is that you, Ganimard?" cried M. Dudouis. "I hadn't seen you."

"I have been here for two hours."

"So you do take an interest in something besides number 514, series 23, the Rue Clapeyron mystery, the blonde lady and Arsene Lupin?"

"Hee, hee!" grinned the old inspector. "I won't go so far as to declare that Lupin has nothing to do with the case we're engaged on.... But let us dismiss the story of the lottery-ticket from our minds, until further orders, and look into this matter."

Ganimard is not one of those mighty detectives whose proceedings form a school, as it were, and whose names will always remain inscribed on the judicial annals of Europe. He lacks the flashes of genius that illumine a Dupin, a Lecoq or a Holmlock Shears. But he possesses first-rate average qualities: perspicacity, sagacity, perseverance and even a certain amount of intuition. His greatest merit lies in the fact that he is absolutely independent of outside influences. Short of a kind of fascination which Arsene Lupin wields over him, he works without allowing himself to be biased or disturbed.

At any rate, the part which he played that morning did not lack brilliancy and his assistance was of the sort which a magistrate is able to appreciate.

"To start with," he began, "I will ask Charles here to be very definite on one point: were all the objects which, on the first occasion, he saw upset or disturbed put back, on the second, exactly in their usual places?"


"It is obvious, therefore, that they can only have been put back by a person to whom the place of each of those objects was familiar."

The remark impressed the bystanders. Ganimard resumed:

"Another question, Mr. Charles.... You were woke by a ring.... Who was it, according to you, that called you?"

"Monsieur le baron, of course."

"Very well. But at what moment do you take it that he rang?"

"After the struggle ... at the moment of dying."

"Impossible, because you found him lying, lifeless, at a spot more than four yards removed from the bell-push."

"Then he rang during the struggle."

"Impossible, because the bell, you told us, rang steadily, without interruption, and went on for seven or eight seconds. Do you think that his assailant would have given him time to ring like that?"

"Then it was before, at the moment when he was attacked."

"Impossible. You told us that, between the ring of the bell and the instant when you entered the room, three minutes elapsed, at most. If, therefore, the baron had rung before, it would be necessary for the struggle, the murder, the dying agony and the flight to have taken place within that short space of three minutes. I repeat, it is impossible."

"And yet," said the examining magistrate, "some one rang. If it was not the baron, who was it?"

"The murderer."

"With what object?"

"I can't tell his object. But at least the fact that he rang proves that he must have known that the bell communicated with a servant's bedroom. Now who could have known this detail except a person belonging to the house?"

The circle of suppositions was becoming narrower. In a few quick, clear, logical sentences, Ganimard placed the question in its true light; and, as the old inspector allowed his thoughts to appear quite plainly, it seemed only natural that the examining magistrate should conclude:

"In short, in two words, you suspect Antoinette Brehat."

"I don't suspect her; I accuse her."

"You accuse her of being the accomplice?"

"I accuse her of killing General Baron d'Hautrec."

"Come, come! And what proof...?"

"This handful of hair, which I found in the victim's right hand, dug into his flesh by the points of his nails."

He showed the hair; it was hair of a brilliant fairness, gleaming like so many threads of gold; and Charles muttered:

"That is certainly Mlle. Antoinette's hair. There is no mistaking it." And he added, "Besides ... there's something more.... I believe the knife ... the one I didn't see the second time ... belonged to her.... She used it to cut the pages of the books."

The silence that followed was long and painful, as though the crime increased in horror through having been committed by a woman. The examining magistrate argued:

"Let us admit, until further information is obtained, that the baron was murdered by Antoinette Brehat. We should still have to explain what way she can have taken to go out after committing the crime, to return after Charles's departure and to go out again before the arrival of the commissary. Have you any opinion on this subject, M. Ganimard?"



Ganimard wore an air of embarrassment. At last, he spoke, not without a visible effort:

"All that I can say is that I find in this the same way of setting to work as in the ticket 514-23 case, the same phenomenon which one might call the faculty of disappearance. Antoinette Brehat appears and disappears in this house as mysteriously as Arsene Lupin made his way into Maitre Detinan's and escaped from there in the company of the blonde lady."

"Which means...?"

"Which means that I cannot help thinking of these two coincidences, which, to say the least, are very odd: first, Antoinette Brehat was engaged by Sœur Auguste twelve days ago, that is to say, on the day after that on which the blonde lady slipped through my fingers. In the second place, the hair of the blonde lady has precisely the same violent colouring, the metallic brilliancy with a golden sheen, which we find in this."

"So that, according to you, Antoinette Brehat ..."

"Is none other than the blonde lady."

"And Lupin, consequently, plotted both cases?"

"I think so."

There was a loud burst of laughter. It was the chief of the detective-service indulging his merriment:

"Lupin! Always Lupin! Lupin is in everything; Lupin is everywhere!"

"He is just where he is," said Ganimard, angrily.

"And then he must have his reasons for being in any particular place," remarked M. Dudouis, "and, in this case, his reasons seem to me obscure. The writing-desk has not been broken open nor the pocketbook stolen. There is even gold left lying on the table."

"Yes," cried Ganimard, "but what about the famous diamond?"

"What diamond?"

"The blue diamond! The celebrated diamond which formed part of the royal crown of France and which was presented by the Duc d'Alais to Leonide Latouche and, on her death, was bought by Baron d'Hautrec in memory of the brilliant actress whom he had passionately loved. This is one of those recollections which an old Parisian like myself never forgets."

"It is obvious," said the examining magistrate, "that, if the blue diamond is not found, the thing explains itself. But where are we to look?"

"On monsieur le baron's finger," replied Charles. "The blue diamond was never off his left hand."

"I have looked at that hand," declared Ganimard, going up to the corpse, "and, as you can see for yourselves, there is only a plain gold ring."

"Look inside the palm," said the servant.

Ganimard unfolded the clenched fingers. The bezel was turned inward and, contained within the bezel, glittered the blue diamond.

"The devil!" muttered Ganimard, absolutely nonplussed. "This is beyond me!"

"And I hope that you will now give up suspecting that unfortunate Arsene Lupin?" said M. Dudouis, with a grin.

Ganimard took his time, reflected and retorted, in a sententious tone:

"It is just when a thing gets beyond me that I suspect Arsene Lupin most."

These were the first discoveries effected by the police on the day following upon that strange murder, vague, inconsistent discoveries to which the subsequent inquiry imparted neither consistency nor certainty. The movements of Antoinette Brehat remained as absolutely inexplicable as those of the blonde lady, nor was any light thrown upon the identity of that mysterious creature with the golden hair who had killed Baron d'Hautrec without taking from his finger the fabulous diamond from the royal crown of France.

Moreover and especially, the curiosity which it inspired raised the murder above the level of a sordid crime to that of a mighty, if heinous trespass, the mystery of which irritated the public mind.

Baron d'Hautrec's heirs were obliged to benefit by this great advertisement. They arranged an exhibition of the furniture and personal effects in the Avenue Henri-Martin, in the house itself, on the scene of the crime, prior to the sale at the Salle Drouot. The furniture was modern and in indifferent taste, the knicknacks had no artistic value ... but, in the middle of the bedroom, on a stand covered with ruby velvet, the ring with the blue diamond sparkled under a glass shade, closely watched by two detectives.

It was a magnificent diamond of enormous size and incomparable purity and of that undefined blue which clear water takes from the sky which it reflects, the blue which we can just suspect in newly-washed linen. People admired it, went into raptures over it ... and cast terrified glances round the victim's room, at the spot where the corpse had lain, at the floor stripped of its blood-stained carpet and especially at the walls, those solid walls through which the criminal had passed. They felt to make sure that the marble chimney-piece did not swing on a pivot, that there was no secret spring in the mouldings of the mirrors. They pictured yawning cavities, tunnels communicating with the sewers, with the catacombs....

The blue diamond was sold at the Hotel Drouot on the thirtieth of January. The auction-room was crammed and the bidding proceeded madly.

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