CHAPTER II. The Blue Diamond 3/4

All Paris, the Paris of the first nights and great public functions, was there, all those who buy and all those who like others to think that they are in a position to buy: stockbrokers, artists, ladies in every class of society, two members of the Government, an Italian tenor, a king in exile who, in order to reestablish his credit, with great self-possession and in a resounding voice, permitted himself the luxury of running up the price to a hundred thousand francs. A hundred thousand francs! His Majesty was quite safe in making the bid. The Italian tenor was soon offering a hundred and fifty thousand, an actress at the Francais a hundred and seventy-five.

At two hundred thousand francs, however, the competition became less brisk. At two hundred and fifty thousand, only two bidders remained: Herschmann, the financial magnate, known as the Gold-mine King; and a wealthy American lady, the Comtesse de Crozon, whose collection of diamonds and other precious stones enjoys a world-wide fame.

"Two hundred and sixty thousand ... two hundred and seventy thousand ... seventy-five ... eighty," said the auctioneer, with a questioning glance at either competitor in turn. "Two hundred and eighty thousand for madame.... No advance on two hundred and eighty thousand...?"

"Three hundred thousand," muttered Herschmann.

A pause followed. All eyes were turned on the Comtesse de Crozon. Smiling, but with a pallor that betrayed her excitement, she stood leaning over the back of the chair before her. In reality, she knew and everybody present knew that there was no doubt about the finish of the duel: it was logically and fatally bound to end in favour of the financier, whose whims were served by a fortune of over five hundred millions. Nevertheless, she said:

"Three hundred and five thousand."

There was a further pause. Every glance was now turned on the Gold-mine King, in expectation of the inevitable advance. It was sure to come, in all its brutal and crushing strength.

It did not come. Herschmann remained impassive, with his eyes fixed on a sheet of paper which he held in his right hand, while the other crumpled up the pieces of a torn envelope.

"Three hundred and five thousand," repeated the auctioneer. "Going ... going.... No further bid...?"

No one spoke.

"Once more: going ... going...."

Herschmann did not move. A last pause. The hammer fell.

"Four hundred thousand!" shouted Herschmann, starting up, as though the tap of the hammer had roused him from his torpor.

Too late. The diamond was sold.

Herschmann's acquaintances crowded round him. What had happened? Why had he not spoken sooner?

He gave a laugh:

"What happened? Upon my word, I don't know. My thoughts wandered for a second."

"You don't mean that!"

"Yes, some one brought me a letter."

"And was that enough...?"

"To put me off? Yes, for the moment."

Ganimard was there. He had watched the sale of the ring. He went up to one of the porters:

"Did you hand M. Herschmann a letter?"


"Who gave it you?"

"A lady."

"Where is she?"

"Where is she?... Why, sir, there she is ... the lady over there, in a thick veil."

"Just going out?"


Ganimard rushed to the door and saw the lady going down the staircase. He ran after her. A stream of people stopped him at the entrance. When he came outside, he had lost sight of her.

He went back to the room, spoke to Herschmann, introduced himself and asked him about the letter. Herschmann gave it to him. It contained the following simple words, scribbled in pencil and in a handwriting unknown to the financier:

"The blue diamond brings ill-luck. Remember Baron d'Hautrec."

The tribulations of the blue diamond were not over. Already famous through the murder of Baron d'Hautrec and the incidents at the Hotel Drouot, it attained the height of its celebrity six months later. In the summer, the precious jewel which the Comtesse de Crozon had been at such pains to acquire was stolen.

Let me sum up this curious case, marked by so many stirring, dramatic and exciting episodes, upon which I am at last permitted to throw some light.

On the evening of the tenth of August, M. and Madame de Crozon's guests were gathered in the drawing-room of the magnificent chateau overlooking the Bay of Somme. There was a request for some music. The countess sat down to the piano, took off her rings, which included Baron d'Hautrec's, and laid them on a little table that stood beside the piano.

An hour later, the count went to bed, as did his two cousins, the d'Andelles, and Madame de Real, an intimate friend of the Comtesse de Crozon, who remained behind with Herr Bleichen, the Austrian consul, and his wife.

They sat and talked and then the countess turned down the big lamp which stood on the drawing-room table. At the same moment, Herr Bleichen put out the two lamps on the piano. There was a second's darkness and groping; then the consul lit a candle and they all three went to their rooms. But, the instant the countess reached hers, she remembered her jewels and told her maid to go and fetch them. The woman returned and placed them on the mantel-piece. Madame de Crozon did not examine them; but, the next morning, she noticed that one of the rings was missing, the ring with the blue diamond.

She told her husband. Both immediately came to the same conclusion: the maid being above suspicion, the thief could be none but Herr Bleichen.

The count informed the central commissary of police at Amiens, who opened an inquiry and arranged discreetly for the house to be constantly watched, so as to prevent the Austrian consul from selling or sending away the ring. The chateau was surrounded by detectives night and day.

A fortnight elapsed without the least incident. Then Herr Bleichen announced his intention of leaving. On the same day, a formal accusation was laid against him. The commissary made an official visit and ordered the luggage to be examined. In a small bag of which the consul always carried the key, they found a flask containing tooth-powder; and, inside the flask, the ring!

Mrs. Bleichen fainted. Her husband was arrested.

My readers will remember the defense set up by the accused. He was unable, he said, to explain the presence of the ring, unless it was there as the result of an act of revenge on the part of M. de Crozon:

"The count ill-treats his wife," he declared, "and makes her life a misery. I had a long conversation with her and warmly urged her to sue for a divorce. The count must have heard of this and revenged himself by taking the ring and slipping it into my dressing-bag when I was about to leave."

The count and countess persisted in their charge. It was an even choice between their explanation and the consul's: both were equally probable. No new fact came to weigh down either scale. A month of gossip, of guess-work and investigations, failed to produce a single element of certainty.

Annoyed by all this worry and unable to bring forward a definite proof of guilt to justify their accusation, M. and Madame de Crozon wrote to Paris for a detective capable of unravelling the threads of the skein. The police sent Ganimard.

For four days the old inspector rummaged and hunted about, strolled in the park, had long talks with the maids, the chauffeur, the gardeners, the people of the nearest post-offices, and examined the rooms occupied by the Bleichen couple, the d'Andelle cousins and Madame de Real. Then, one morning, he disappeared without taking leave of his hosts.

But, a week later, they received this telegram:

"Please meet me five o'clock to-morrow, Friday afternoon at The Japonais, Rue Boissy-d'Anglas.

At five o'clock to the minute, on the Friday, their motor-car drew up in front of 9, Rue Boissy-d'Anglas. The old inspector was waiting for them on the pavement and, without a word of explanation, led them up to the first-floor of the The Japonais.

In one of the rooms they found two persons, whom Ganimard introduced to them.

"M. Gerbois, professor at Versailles College, whom, you will remember, Arsene Lupin robbed of half a million.... M. Leonce d'Hautrec, nephew and residuary legatee of the late Baron d'Hautrec."

The four sat down. A few minutes later, a fifth arrived. It was the chief of the detective-service.

M. Dudouis appeared to be in a rather bad temper. He bowed and said:

"Well, what is it, Ganimard? They gave me your telephone message at headquarters. Is it serious?"

"Very serious, chief. In less than an hour, the last adventures in which I have assisted will come to an issue here. I considered that your presence was indispensable."

"And does this apply also to the presence of Dieuzy and Folenfant, whom I see below, hanging round the door?"

"Yes, chief."

"And what for? Is somebody to be arrested? What a melodramatic display! Well, Ganimard, say what you have to say."

Ganimard hesitated for a few moments and then, with the evident intention of impressing his hearers, said:

"First of all, I wish to state that Herr Bleichen had nothing to do with the theft of the ring."

"Oh," said M. Dudouis, "that's a mere statement ... and a serious one!"

And the count asked:

"Is this ... discovery the only thing that has come of your exertions?"

"No, sir. Two days after the theft, three of your guests happened to be at Crecy, in the course of a motor-trip. Two of them went on to visit the famous battlefield, while the third hurried to the post-office and sent off a little parcel, packed up and sealed according to the regulations and insured to the value of one hundred francs."

M. de Crozon objected:

"There is nothing out of the way in that."

"Perhaps you will think it less natural when I tell you that, instead of the real name, the sender gave the name of Rousseau and that the addressee, a M. Beloux, residing in Paris, changed his lodgings on the very evening of the day on which he received the parcel, that is to say, the ring."

"Was it one of my d'Andelle cousins, by any chance?" asked the count.

"No, it was neither of those gentlemen."

"Then it was Mme. de Real?"


The countess, in amazement, exclaimed:

"Do you accuse my friend Mme. de Real?"

"A simple question, madame," replied Ganimard. "Was Mme. de Real present at the sale of the blue diamond?"

"Yes, but in a different part of the room. We were not together."

"Did she advise you to buy the ring?"

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