If there is one man in the world whom no event can move or
surprise, who is always on his guard against deceptive appearances,
and is capable of admitting everything and explaining everything,
it certainly is a Parisian commissary of police.
While the judge, from his lofty place, applies the code to the
facts submitted to him, the commissary of police observes and
watches all the odious circumstances that the law cannot reach. He
is perforce the confidant of disgraceful details, domestic crimes,
and tolerated vices.
If, when he entered upon his office, he had any illusions,
before the end of a year they were all dissipated.
If he does not absolutely despise the human race, it is because
often, side by side with abominations indulged in with impunity, he
discovers sublime generosities which remain unrewarded.
He sees impudent scoundrels filching public respect; and he
consoles himself by thinking of the modest, obscure heroes whom he
has also encountered.
So often have his previsions been deceived, that he has reached
a state of complete scepticism. He believes in nothing, neither in
evil nor in absolute good; not more in virtue than in vice.
His experience has forced him to come to the sad conclusion that
not men, but events, are worth considering.
The commissary sent for by M. Fauvel soon made his
It was with a calm air, if not one of perfect indifference, that
he entered the office.
He was followed by a short man dressed in a full suit of black,
which was slightly relieved by a crumpled collar.
The banker, scarcely bowing to him, said:
"Doubtless, monsieur, you have been apprised of the painful
circumstance which compels me to have recourse to your
"It is about a robbery, I believe."
"Yes; an infamous and mysterious robbery committed in this
office, from the safe you see open there, of which my cashier" (he
pointed to Prosper) "alone possesses the key and the word."
This declaration seemed to arouse the unfortunate cashier from
his dull stupor.
"Excuse me, monsieur," he said to the commissary in a low tone.
"My chief also has the word and the key."
"Of course, that is understood."
The commissary at once drew his own conclusions.
Evidently these two men accused each other.
From their own statements, one or the other was guilty.
One was the head of an important bank: the other was a simple
One was the chief: the other was the clerk.
But the commissary of police was too well skilled in concealing
his impressions to betray his thoughts by any outward sign. Not a
muscle of his face moved.
But he became more grave, and alternately watched the cashier
and M. Fauvel, as if trying to draw some profitable conclusion from
Prosper was very pale and dejected. He had dropped into a seat,
and his arms hung inert on either side of the chair.
The banker, on the contrary, remained standing with flashing
eyes and crimson face, expressing himself with extraordinary
"And the importance of the theft is immense," continued M.
Fauvel; "they have taken a fortune, three hundred and fifty
thousand francs. This robbery might have had the most disastrous
consequences. In times like these, the want of this sum might
compromise the credit of the wealthiest banking-house in
"I believe so, if notes fall due."
"Well, monsieur, I had this very day a heavy payment to
There was no mistaking the commissary's tone; a suspicion, the
first, had evidently entered his mind.
The banker understood it; he started, and said, quickly:
"I met the demand, but at the cost of a disagreeable sacrifice.
I ought to add further that, if my orders had been obeyed, the
three hundred and fifty thousand francs would not have been
"How is that?"
"I never desire to have large sums of money in my house
over-night. My cashier had positive orders to wait always until the
last moment before drawing money from the Bank of France. I above
all forbade him to leave money in the safe over-night."
"You hear this?" said the commissary to Prosper.
"Yes, monsieur," replied the cashier, "M. Fauvel's statement is
After this explanation, the suspicions of the commissary,
instead of being strengthened, were dissipated.
"Well," he said, "a robbery has been perpetrated, but by whom?
Did the robber enter from without?"
The banker hesitated a moment.
"I think not," he said at last.
"And I am certain he did not," said Prosper.
The commissary expected and was prepared for those answers; but
it did not suit his purpose to follow them up immediately.
"However," said he, "we must make ourselves sure of it." Turning
toward his companion:
"M. Fanferlot," he said, "go and see if you cannot discover some
traces that may have escaped the attention of these gentlemen."
M. Fanferlot, nicknamed the Squirrel, was indebted to his
prodigious agility for this title, of which he was not a little
proud. Slim and insignificant in appearance he might, in spite of
his iron muscles, be taken for a bailiff's under clerk, as he
walked along buttoned up to the chin in his thin black overcoat. He
had one of those faces that impress us disagreeably—an odiously
turned-up nose, thin lips, and little, restless black eyes.
Fanferlot, who had been on the police force for five years,
burned to distinguish himself, to make for himself a name. He was
ambitious. Alas! he was unsuccessful, lacking opportunity—or
Already, before the commissary spoke to him, he had ferreted
everywhere; studied the doors, sounded the partitions, examined the
wicket, and stirred up the ashes in the fireplace.
"I cannot imagine," said he, "how a stranger could have effected
an entrance here."
He walked around the office.
"Is this door closed at night?" he inquired.
"It is always locked."
"And who keeps the key?"
"The office-boy, to whom I always give it in charge before
leaving the bank," said Prosper.
"This boy," said M. Fauvel, "sleeps in the outer room on a
sofa-bedstead, which he unfolds at night, and folds up in the
"Is he here now?" inquired the commissary.
"Yes, monsieur," answered the banker.
He opened the door and called:
This boy was the favorite servant of M. Fauvel, and had lived
with him for ten years. He knew that he would not be suspected; but
the idea of being connected in any way with a robbery is terrible,
and he entered the room trembling like a leaf.
"Did you sleep in the next room last night?" asked the
"Yes, monsieur, as usual."
"At what hour did you go to bed?"
"About half-past ten; I had spent the evening at a cafe near by,
with monsieur's valet."
"Did you hear no noise during the night?"
"Not a sound; and still I sleep so lightly, that, if monsieur
comes down to the cash-room when I am asleep, I am instantly
awakened by the sound of his footsteps."
"Monsieur Fauvel often comes to the cash-room at night, does
"No, monsieur; very seldom."
"Did he come last night?"
"No, monsieur, I am very certain he did not; for I was kept
awake nearly all night by the strong coffee I had drunk with the
"That will do; you can retire," said the commissary.
When Anselme had left the room, Fanferlot resumed his search. He
opened the door of the private staircase.
"Where do these stairs lead to?" he asked.
"To my private office," replied M. Fauvel.
"Is not that the room whither I was conducted when I first
came?" inquired the commissary.
"I would like to see it," said Fanferlot, "and examine the
entrances to it."
"Nothing is more easy," said M. Fauvel, eagerly; "follow me,
gentlemen, and you come too, Prosper."
M. Fauvel's private office consisted of two rooms; the
waiting-room, sumptuously furnished and beautifully decorated, and
the study where he transacted business. The furniture in this room
was composed of a large office-desk, several leather-covered
chairs, and, on either side of the fireplace, a secretary and a
These two rooms had only three doors; one opened on the private
stairway, another into the banker's bedroom, and the third into the
main vestibule. It was through this last door that the banker's
clients and visitors were admitted.
M. Fanferlot examined the study at a glance. He seemed puzzled,
like a man who had flattered himself with the hope of discovering
some indication, and had found nothing.
"Let us see the adjoining room," he said.
He passed into the waiting-room, followed by the banker and the
commissary of police.
Prosper remained alone in the study.
Despite the disordered state of his mind, he could not but
perceive that his situation was momentarily becoming more
He had demanded and accepted the contest with his chief; the
struggle had commenced; and now it no longer depended upon his own
will to arrest the consequences of his action.
They were about to engage in a bitter conflict, utilizing all
weapons, until one of the two should succumb, the loss of honor
being the cost of defeat.
In the eyes of justice, who would be the innocent man?
Alas! the unfortunate cashier saw only too clearly that the
chances were terribly unequal, and was overwhelmed with the sense
of his own inferiority.
Never had he thought that his chief would carry out his threats;
for, in a contest of this nature, M. Fauvel would have as much to
risk as his cashier, and more to lose.
He was sitting near the fireplace, absorbed in the most gloomy
forebodings, when the banker's chamber-door suddenly opened, and a
beautiful girl appeared on the threshold.
She was tall and slender; a loose morning gown, confined at the
waist by a simple black ribbon, betrayed to advantage the graceful
elegance of her figure. Her black eyes were large and soft; her
complexion had the creamy pallor of a white camellia; and her
beautiful dark hair, carelessly held together by a tortoise-shell
comb, fell in a profusion of soft curls upon her exquisite neck.
She was Madeleine, M. Fauvel's niece, of whom he had spoken not
Seeing Prosper in the study, where probably she expected to find
her uncle alone, she could not refrain from an exclamation of
Prosper started up as if he had received an electric shock. His
eyes, a moment before so dull and heavy, now sparkled with joy as
if he had caught a glimpse of a messenger of hope.
"Madeleine," he gasped, "Madeleine!"
The young girl was blushing crimson. She seemed about to hastily
retreat, and stepped back; but, Prosper having advanced toward her,
she was overcome by a sentiment stronger than her will, and
extended her hand, which he seized and pressed with much
They stood thus face to face, but with averted looks, as if they
dared not let their eyes meet for fear of betraying their feelings;
having much to say, and not knowing how to begin, they stood
Finally Madeleine murmured, in a scarcely audible voice:
These words broke the spell. The cashier dropped the white hand
which he held, and answered bitterly:
"Yes, this is Prosper, the companion of your childhood,
suspected, accused of the most disgraceful theft; Prosper, whom
your uncle has just delivered up to justice, and who, before the
day is over, will be arrested, and thrown into prison."
Madeleine, with a terrified gesture, cried in a tone of
"Good heavens! Prosper, what are you saying?"
"What, mademoiselle! do you not know what has happened? Have not
your aunt and cousins told you?"
"They have told me nothing. I have scarcely seen my cousins this
morning; and my aunt is so ill that I felt uneasy, and came to tell
uncle. But for Heaven's sake speak: tell me the cause of your
Prosper hesitated. Perhaps it occurred to him to open his heart
to Madeleine, of revealing to her his most secret thoughts. A
remembrance of the past chilled his confidence. He sadly shook his
head, and replied:
"Thanks, mademoiselle, for this proof of interest, the last,
doubtless, that I shall ever receive from you; but allow me, by
being silent, to spare you distress, and myself the mortification
of blushing before you."
Madeleine interrupted him imperiously:
"I insist upon knowing."
"Alas, mademoiselle!" answered Prosper, "you will only too soon
learn my misfortune and disgrace; then, yes, then you will applaud
yourself for what you have done."
She became more urgent; instead of commanding, she entreated;
but Prosper was inflexible.
"Your uncle is in the adjoining room, mademoiselle, with the
commissary of police and a detective. They will soon return. I
entreat you to retire that they may not find you here."
As he spoke he gently pushed her through the door, and closed it
It was time, for the next moment the commissary and Monsieur
Fauvel entered. They had visited the main entrance and
waiting-room, and had heard nothing of what had passed in the
But Fanferlot had heard for them.
This excellent bloodhound had not lost sight of the cashier. He
said to himself, "Now that my young gentleman believes himself to
be alone, his face will betray him. I shall detect a smile or a
wink that will enlighten me."
Leaving M. Fauvel and the commissary to pursue their
investigations, he posted himself to watch. He saw the door open,
and Madeleine appear upon the threshold; he lost not a single word
or gesture of the rapid scene which had passed.
It mattered little that every word of this scene was an enigma.
M. Fanferlot was skilful enough to complete the sentences he did
As yet he only had a suspicion; but a mere suspicion is better
than nothing; it is a point to start from. So prompt was he in
building a plan upon the slightest incident that he thought he saw
in the past of these people, who were utter strangers to him,
glimpses of a domestic drama.
If the commissary of police is a sceptic, the detective has
faith; he believes in evil.
"I understand the case now," said he to himself. "This man loves
the young lady, who is really very pretty; and, as he is quite
handsome, I suppose his love is reciprocated. This love-affair
vexes the banker, who, not knowing how to get rid of the
importunate lover by fair means, has to resort to foul, and plans
this imaginary robbery, which is very ingenious."
Thus to M. Fanferlot's mind, the banker had simply robbed
himself, and the innocent cashier was the victim of an odious
But this conviction was, at present, of little service to
Fanferlot, the ambitious, who had determined to obtain renown in
his profession, decided to keep his conjectures to himself.
"I will let the others go their way, and I'll go mine," he said.
"When, by dint of close watching and patient investigation I shall
have collected proof sufficient to insure certain conviction, I
will unmask the scoundrel."
He was radiant. He had at last found the crime, so long looked
for, which would make him celebrated. Nothing was wanting, neither
the odious circumstances, nor the mystery, nor even the romantic
and sentimental element represented by Prosper and Madeleine.
Success seemed difficult, almost impossible; but Fanferlot, the
Squirrel, had great confidence in his own genius for
Meanwhile, the search upstairs completed, M. Fauvel and the
commissary returned to the room where Prosper was waiting for
The commissary, who had seemed so calm when he first came, now
looked grave and perplexed. The moment for taking a decisive part
had come, yet it was evident that he hesitated.
"You see, gentlemen," he began, "our search has only confirmed
our first suspicion."
M. Fauvel and Prosper bowed assentingly.
"And what do you think, M. Fanferlot?" continued the
Fanferlot did not answer.
Occupied in studying the safe-lock, he manifested signs of a
lively surprise. Evidently he had just made an important
M. Fauvel, Prosper, and the commissary rose, and surrounded
"Have you discovered any trace?" said the banker, eagerly.
Fanferlot turned around with a vexed air. He reproached himself
for not having concealed his impressions.
"Oh!" said he, carelessly, "I have discovered nothing of
"But we should like to know," said Prosper.
"I have merely convinced myself that this safe has been recently
opened or shut, I know not which, with great violence and
"Why so?" asked the commissary, becoming attentive.
"Look, monsieur, at this scratch near the lock."
The commissary stooped down, and carefully examined the safe; he
saw a light scratch several inches long that had removed the outer
coat of varnish.
"I see the scratch," said he, "but what does that prove?"
"Oh, nothing at all!" said Fanferlot. "I just now told you it
was of no importance."
Fanferlot said this, but it was not his real opinion.
This scratch, undeniably fresh, had for him a signification that
escaped the others. He said to himself, "This confirms my
suspicions. If the cashier had stolen millions, there was no
occasion for his being in a hurry; whereas the banker, creeping
down in the dead of night with cat-like footsteps, for fear of
awakening the boy in the ante-room, in order to rifle his own
money-safe, had every reason to tremble, to hurry, to hastily
withdraw the key, which, slipping along the lock, scratched off the
Resolved to unravel by himself the tangled thread of this
mystery, the detective determined to keep his conjectures to
himself; for the same reason he was silent as to the interview
which he had overheard between Madeleine and Prosper.
He hastened to withdraw attention from the scratch upon the
"To conclude," he said, addressing the commissary, "I am
convinced that no one outside of the bank could have obtained
access to this room. The safe, moreover, is intact. No suspicious
pressure has been used on the movable buttons. I can assert that
the lock has not been tampered with by burglar's tools or false
keys. Those who opened the safe knew the word, and possessed the
This formal affirmation of a man whom he knew to be skilful
ended the hesitation of the commissary.
"That being the case," he replied, "I must request a few
moments' conversation with M. Fauvel."
"I am at your service," said the banker.
Prosper foresaw the result of this conversation. He quietly
placed his hat on the table, to show that he had no intention of
attempting to escape, and passed into the adjoining room.
Fanferlot also went out, but not before the commissary had made
him a sign, and received one in return.
This sign signified, "You are responsible for this man."
The detective needed no admonition to make him keep a strict
watch. His suspicions were too vague, his desire for success was
too ardent, for him to lose sight of Prosper an instant.
Closely following the cashier, he seated himself in a dark
corner of the room, and, pretending to be sleepy, he fixed himself
in a comfortable position for taking a nap, gaped until his
jaw-bone seemed about to be dislocated, then closed his eyes, and
kept perfectly quiet.
Prosper took a seat at the desk of an absent clerk. The others
were burning to know the result of the investigation; their eyes
shone with curiosity, but they dared not ask a question.
Unable to refrain himself any longer, little Cavaillon,
Prosper's defender, ventured to say:
"Well, who stole the money?"
Prosper shrugged his shoulders.
"Nobody knows," he replied.
Was this conscious innocence or hardened recklessness? The
clerks observed with bewildered surprise that Prosper had resumed
his usual manner, that sort of icy haughtiness that kept people at
a distance, and made him so unpopular in the bank.
Save the death-like pallor of his face, and the dark circles
around his swollen eyes, he bore no traces of the pitiable
agitation he had exhibited a short time before.
Never would a stranger entering the room have supposed that this
young man idly lounging in a chair, and toying with a pencil, was
resting under an accusation of robbery, and was about to be
He soon stopped playing with the pencil, and drew toward him a
sheet of paper upon which he hastily wrote a few lines.
"Ah, ha!" thought Fanferlot the Squirrel, whose hearing and
sight were wonderfully good in spite of his profound sleep, "eh!
eh! he makes his little confidential communication on paper, I see;
now we will discover something positive."
His note written, Prosper folded it carefully into the smallest
possible size, and after furtively glancing toward the detective,
who remained motionless in his corner, threw it across the desk to
little Cavaillon with this one word:
All this was so quickly and skilfully done that Fanferlot was
confounded, and began to feel a little uneasy.
"The devil take him!" said he to himself; "for a suffering
innocent this young dandy has more pluck and nerve than many of my
oldest customers. This, however, shows the result of
Yes: innocent or guilty, Prosper must have been endowed with
great self-control and power of dissimulation to affect this
presence of mind at a time when his honor, his future happiness,
all that he held dear in life, were at stake. And he was only
thirty years old.
Either from natural deference, or from the hope of gaining some
ray of light by a private conversation, the commissary determined
to speak to the banker before acting decisively.
"There is not a shadow of doubt, monsieur," he said, as soon as
they were alone, "this young man has robbed you. It would be a
gross neglect of duty if I did not secure his person. The law will
decide whether he shall be released, or sent to prison."
The declaration seemed to distress the banker.
He sank into a chair, and murmured:
Seeing the astonished look of his listener, he added:
"Until to-day, monsieur, I have always had the most implicit
faith in his honesty, and would have unhesitatingly confided my
fortune to his keeping. Almost on my knees have I besought and
implored him to confess that in a moment of desperation he had
taken the money, promising him pardon and forgetfulness; but I
could not move him. I have loved him; and even now, in spite of the
trouble and humiliation that he is bringing upon me, I cannot bring
myself to feel harshly toward him."
The commissary looked as if he did not understand.
"What do you mean by humiliation, monsieur?"
"What!" said M. Fauvel, excitedly; "is not justice the same for
all? Because I am the head of a bank, and he only a clerk, does it
follow that my word is more to be relied upon than his? Why could I
not have robbed myself? Such things have been done. They will ask
me for facts; and I shall be compelled to expose the exact
situation of my house, explain my affairs, disclose the secret and
method of my operations."
"It is true, monsieur, that you will be called upon for some
explanation; but your well-known integrity—"
"Alas! He was honest, too. His integrity has never been doubted.
Who would have been suspected this morning if I had not been able
to instantly produce a hundred thousand crowns? Who would be
suspected if I could not prove that my assets exceed my liabilities
by more than three millions?"
To a strictly honorable man, the thought, the possibility of
suspicion tarnishing his fair name, is cruel suffering. The banker
suffered, and the commissary of police saw it, and felt for
"Be calm, monsieur," said he; "before the end of a week justice
will have collected sufficient proof to establish the guilt of this
unfortunate man, whom we may now recall."
Prosper entered with Fanferlot, whom they had much trouble to
awaken, and with the most stolid indifference listened to the
announcement of his arrest.
In response, he calmly said:
"I swear that I am innocent."
M. Fauvel, much more disturbed and excited than his cashier,
made a last attempt.
"It is not too late yet, poor boy," he said: "for Heaven's sake
Prosper did not appear to hear him. He drew from his pocket a
small key, which he laid on the table, and said:
"Here is the key of your safe, monsieur. I hope for my sake that
you will some day be convinced of my innocence; and I hope for your
sake that the conviction will not come too late."
Then, as everyone was silent, he resumed:
"Before leaving I hand over to you the books, papers, and
accounts necessary for my successor. I must at the same time inform
you that, without speaking of the stolen three hundred and fifty
thousand francs, I leave a deficit in cash."
"A deficit!" This ominous word from the lips of a cashier fell
like a bombshell upon the ears of Prosper's hearers.
His declaration was interpreted in divers ways.
"A deficit!" thought the commissary: "how, after this, can his
guilt be doubted? Before stealing this whole contents of the safe,
he has kept his hand in by occasional small thefts."
"A deficit!" said the detective to himself, "now, no doubt, the
very innocence of this poor devil gives his conduct an appearance
of great depravity; were he guilty, he would have replaced the
first money by a portion of the second."
The grave importance of Prosper's statement was considerably
diminished by the explanation he proceeded to make.
"There is a deficit of three thousand five hundred francs on my
cash account, which has been disposed of in the following manner:
two thousand taken by myself in advance on my salary; fifteen
hundred advanced to several of my fellow-clerks. This is the last
day of the month; to-morrow the salaries will be paid,
The commissary interrupted him:
"Were you authorized to draw money whenever you wished to
advance the clerks' pay?"
"No; but I knew that M. Fauvel would not have refused me
permission to oblige my friends in the bank. What I did is done
everywhere; I have simply followed my predecessor's example."
The banker made a sign of assent.
"As regards that spent by myself," continued the cashier, "I had
a sort of right to it, all of my savings being deposited in this
bank; about fifteen thousand francs."
"That is true," said M. Fauvel; "M. Bertomy has at least that
amount on deposit."
This last question settled, the commissary's errand was over,
and his report might now be made. He announced his intention of
leaving, and ordered to cashier to prepare to follow him.
Usually, this moment when stern reality stares us in the face,
when our individuality is lost and we feel that we are being
deprived of our liberty, this moment is terrible.
At this fatal command, "Follow me," which brings before our eyes
the yawning prison gates, the most hardened sinner feels his
courage fail, and abjectly begs for mercy.
But Prosper lost none of that studied phlegm which the
commissary of police secretly pronounced consummate impudence.
Slowly, with as much careless ease as if going to breakfast with
a friend, he smoothed his hair, drew on his overcoat and gloves,
and said, politely:
"I am ready to accompany you, monsieur."
The commissary folded up his pocket-book, and bowed to M.
Fauvel, saying to Prosper:
They left the room, and with a distressed face, and eyes filled
with tears that he could not restrain, the banker stood watching
their retreating forms.
"Good Heaven!" he exclaimed: "gladly would I give twice that sum
to regain my old confidence in poor Prosper, and be able to keep
him with me!"
The quick-eared Fanferlot overheard these words, and prompted to
suspicion, and ever disposed to impute to others the deep
astuteness peculiar to himself, was convinced they had been uttered
for his benefit.
He had remained behind the others under pretext of looking for
an imaginary umbrella, and, as he reluctantly departed, said he
would call in again to see if it had been found.
It was Fanferlot's task to escort Prosper to prison; but, as
they were about starting, he asked the commissary to leave him at
liberty to pursue another course, a request which his superior
Fanferlot had resolved to obtain possession of Prosper's note,
which he knew to be in Cavaillon's pocket.
To obtain this written proof, which must be an important one,
appeared the easiest thing in the world. He had simply to arrest
Cavaillon, frighten him, demand the letter, and, if necessary, take
it by force.
But to what would this disturbance lead? To nothing unless it
were an incomplete and doubtful result.
Fanferlot was convinced that the note was intended, not for the
young clerk, but for a third person.
If exasperated, Cavaillon might refuse to divulge who this
person was, who after all might not bear the name "Gypsy" given by
the cashier. And, even if he did answer his questions, would he not
After a mature reflection, Fanferlot decided that it would be
superfluous to ask for a secret when it could be surprised. To
quietly follow Cavaillon, and keep close watch on him until he
caught him in the very act of handing over the letter, was but play
for the detective.
This method of proceeding, moreover, was much more in keeping
with the character of Fanferlot, who, being naturally soft and
stealthy, deemed it due to his profession to avoid all disturbance
or anything resembling evidence.
Fanferlot's plan was settled when he reached the vestibule.
He began talking with an office-boy, and, after a few apparently
idle questions, had discovered that the Fauvel bank had no outlet
on the Rue de la Victoire, and that consequently all the clerks
were obliged to pass in and out through the main entrance on the
Rue de Provence.
From this moment the task he had undertaken no longer presented
a shadow of difficulty. He rapidly crossed the street, and took up
his position under a gateway.
His post of observation was admirably chosen; not only could he
see everyone who entered and came out of the bank, but also
commanded a view of all the windows, and by standing on tiptoe
could look through the grating, and see Cavaillon bending over his
Fanferlot waited a long time, but did not wax impatient, for he
had often had to remain on watch entire days and nights at a time,
with much less important objects in view than the present one.
Besides, his mind was busily occupied in estimating the value of
his discoveries, weighing his chances, and, like Perrette with her
pot of milk, building the foundation of his fortune upon present
Finally, about one o'clock, he saw Cavaillon rise from his desk,
change his coat, and take down his hat.
"Very good!" he exclaimed, "my man is coming out; I must keep my
The next moment Cavaillon appeared at the door of the bank; but
before stepping on the pavement he looked up and down the street in
an undecided manner.
"Can he suspect anything?" thought Fanferlot.
No, the young clerk suspected nothing; only having a commission
to execute, and fearing his absence would be observed, he was
debating with himself which would be the shortest road for him to
He soon decided, entered the Faubourg Montmartre, and walked up
the Rue Notre Dame de Lorette so rapidly, utterly regardless of the
grumbling passers-by whom he elbowed out of his way, that Fanferlot
found it difficult to keep him in sight.
Reaching the Rue Chaptal, Cavaillon suddenly stopped, and
entered the house numbered 39.
He had scarcely taken three steps in the narrow corridor when he
felt a touch on his shoulder, and turning abruptly, found himself
face to face with Fanferlot.
He recognized him at once, and turning very pale he shrank back,
and looked around for means of escape.
But the detective, anticipating the attempt, barred the
passage-way. Cavaillon saw that he was fairly caught.
"What do you want with me?" he asked in a voice tremulous with
Fanferlot was distinguished among his confreres for his
exquisite suavity and unequalled urbanity. Even with his prisoners
he was the perfection of courtesy, and never was known to handcuff
a man without first obsequiously apologizing for being compelled to
"You will be kind enough, my dear monsieur," he said, "to excuse
the great liberty I take; but I really am under the necessity of
asking you for a little information."
"Information! From me, monsieur?"
"From you, my dear monsieur; from M. Eugene Cavaillon."
"But I do not know you."
"Ah, yes; you remember seeing me this morning. It is only about
a trifling matter, and you will overwhelm me with obligations if
you will do me the honor to accept my arm, and step outside for a
What could Cavaillon do? He took Fanferlot's arm, and went out
The Rue Chaptal is not one of those noisy thoroughfares where
foot-passengers are in perpetual danger of being run over by
numberless vehicles dashing to and fro; there were but two or three
shops, and from the corner of Rue Fontaine occupied by an
apothecary, to the entrance of the Rue Leonie, extended a high,
gloomy wall, broken here and there by a small window which lighted
the carpenters' shops behind.
It was one of those streets where you could talk at your ease,
without having to step from the sidewalk every moment. So Fanferlot
and Cavaillon were in no danger of being disturbed by
"What I wished to say is, my dear monsieur," began the
detective, "that M. Prosper Bertomy threw you a note this
Cavaillon vaguely foresaw that he was to be questioned about
this note, and instantly put himself on his guard.
"You are mistaken," he said, blushing to his ears.
"Excuse me, monsieur, for presuming to contradict you, but I am
quite certain of what I say."
"I assure you that Prosper never gave me anything."
"Pray, monsieur, do not persist in a denial; you will compel me
to prove that four clerks saw him throw you a note written in
pencil and closely folded."
Cavaillon saw the folly of further contradicting a man so well
informed; so he changed his tactics, and said:
"It is true Prosper gave me a note this morning; but it was
intended for me alone, and after reading it I tore it up, and threw
the pieces in the fire."
This might be the truth. Fanferlot feared so; but how could he
assure himself of the fact? He remembered that the most palpable
tricks often succeed the best, and trusting to his star, he said at
"Permit me to observe that this statement is not correct; the
note was intrusted to you to give to Gypsy."
A despairing gesture from Cavaillon apprised the detective that
he was not mistaken; he breathed again.
"I swear to you, monsieur," began the young man.
"Do not swear, monsieur," interrupted Fanferlot; "all the oaths
in the world would be useless. You not only preserved the note, but
you came to this house for the purpose of giving it to Gypsy, and
it is in your pocket now."
"No, monsieur, no!"
Fanferlot paid no attention to this denial, but continued in his
"And I am sure you will be kind enough to give it to me; believe
me, nothing but the most absolute necessity—"
"Never!" exclaimed Cavaillon; and, believing the moment
favorable, he suddenly attempted to jerk his arm from under
Fanferlot's, and escape.
But his efforts were vain; the detective's strength was equal to
"Don't hurt yourself, young man," he said, "but take my advice,
and quietly give up the letter."
"I have not got it."
"Very well; see, you reduce me to painful extremities. If you
persist in being so obstinate, I shall call two policemen, who will
take you by each arm, and escort you to the commissary of police;
and, once there, I shall be under the painful necessity of
searching your pockets, whether you will or not."
Cavaillon was devoted to Prosper, and willing to make any
sacrifice in his behalf; but he clearly saw that it was worse than
useless to struggle any longer, as he would have no time to destroy
the note. To deliver it under force was no betrayal; but he cursed
his powerlessness, and almost wept with rage.
"I am in your power," he said, and then suddenly drew from his
pocket-book the unlucky note, and gave it to the detective.
Fanferlot trembled with pleasure as he unfolded the paper; yet,
faithful to his habits of fastidious politeness, before reading it,
he bowed to Cavaillon, and said:
"You will permit me, will you not, monsieur?" Then he read as
"DEAR NINA—If you love me, follow my instructions instantly,
without a moment's hesitation, without asking any questions. On the
receipt of this note, take everything you have in the house,
absolutely everything, and establish yourself in furnished rooms at
the other end of Paris. Do not appear in public, but conceal
yourself as much as possible. My life may depend on your
"I am accused of an immense robbery, and am about to be
arrested. Take with you five hundred francs which you will find in
"Leave your address with Cavaillon, who will explain what I have
not time to tell. Be hopeful, whatever happens. Good-by.
Had Cavaillon been less bewildered, he would have seen blank
disappointment depicted on the detective's face after the perusal
of the note.
Fanferlot had cherished the hope that he was about to possess a
very important document, which would clearly prove the guilt or
innocence of Prosper; whereas he had only seized a love-letter
written by a man who was evidently more anxious about the welfare
of the woman he loved than about his own.
Vainly did he puzzle over the letter, hoping to discover some
hidden meaning; twist the words as he would, they proved nothing
for or against the writer.
The two words "absolutely everything" were underscored, it is
true; but they could be interpreted in so many ways.
The detective, however, determined not to drop the matter
"This Mme. Nina Gypsy is doubtless a friend of M. Prosper
"She is his particular friend."
"Ah, I understand; and she lives here at No. 39?"
"You know it well enough, as you saw me go in there."
"I suspected it to be the house, monsieur; now tell me whether
the apartments she occupies are rented in her name."
"No. Prosper rents them."
"Exactly; and on which floor, if you please?"
"On the first."
During this colloquy, Fanferlot had folded up the note, and
slipped it into his pocket.
"A thousand thanks, monsieur, for the information; and, in
return, I will relieve you of the trouble of executing your
"Yes: with your permission, I will myself take this note to Mme.
Cavaillon began to remonstrate; but Fanferlot cut him short by
"I will also venture to give you a piece of advice. Return
quietly to your business, and have nothing more to do with this
"But Prosper is a good friend of mine, and has saved me from
ruin more than once."
"Only the more reason for your keeping quiet. You cannot be of
the slightest assistance to him, and I can tell you that you may be
of great injury. As you are known to be his devoted friend, of
course your absence at this time will be remarked upon. Any steps
that you take in this matter will receive the worst
"Prosper is innocent, I am sure."
Fanferlot was of the same opinion, but he had no idea of
betraying his private thoughts; and yet for the success of his
investigations it was necessary to impress the importance of
prudence and discretion upon the young man. He would have told him
to keep silent concerning what had passed between them, but he
"What you say may be true," he said. "I hope it is, for the sake
of M. Bertomy, and on your own account too; for, if he is guilty,
you will certainly be very much annoyed, and perhaps suspected of
complicity, as you are well known to be intimate with him."
Cavaillon was overcome.
"Now you had best take my advice, monsieur, and return to your
business, and—. Good-morning, monsieur."
The poor fellow obeyed. Slowly and with swelling heart he
returned to the Rue Notre Dame de Lorette. He asked himself how he
could serve Prosper, warn Mme. Gypsy, and, above all, have his
revenge upon this odious detective, who had just made him suffer
He had no sooner turned the corner of the street, than Fanferlot
entered No. 39, gave his name to the porter as Prosper Bertomy,
went upstairs, and knocked at the first door he came to.
It was opened by a youthful footman, dressed in the most
"Is Mme. Gypsy at home?"
The groom hesitated; seeing this, Fanferlot showed his note, and
"M. Prosper told me to hand this note to madame, and wait for an
"Walk in, and I will let madame know you are here."
The name of Prosper produced its effect. Fanferlot was ushered
into a little room furnished in blue and gold silk damask. Heavy
curtains darkened the windows, and hung in front of the doors. The
floor was covered with a blue velvet carpet.
"Our cashier was certainly well lodged," murmured the
But he had no time to purse his inventory. One of the
door-curtains was pushed aside, and Mme. Nina Gypsy stood before
Mme. Gypsy was quite young, small, and graceful, with a brown or
rather gold-colored quadroon complexion, with the hands and feet of
Long curling silk lashes softened the piercing brilliancy of her
large black eyes; her lips were full, and her teeth were very
She had not yet made her toilet, but wore a velvet
dressing-wrapper, which did not conceal the lace ruffles beneath.
But she had already been under the hands of a hairdresser.
Her hair was curled and frizzed high on her forehead, and
confined by narrow bands of red velvet; her back hair was rolled in
an immense coil, and held by a beautiful gold comb.
She was ravishing. Her beauty was so startling that the dazzled
detective was speechless with admiration.
"Well," he said to himself, as he remembered the noble, severe
beauty of Madeleine, whom he had seen a few hours previous, "our
young gentleman certainly has good taste—very good taste—two
While he thus reflected, perfectly bewildered, and wondering how
he could begin the conversation, Mme. Gypsy eyed him with the most
disdainful surprise; she was waiting for this shabby little man in
a threadbare coat and greasy hat to explain his presence in her
She had many creditors, and was recalling them, and wondering
which one had dared send this man to wipe his dusty boots on her
After scrutinizing him from head to foot with undisguised
contempt, she said, haughtily:
"What do you want?"
Anyone but Fanferlot would have been offended at her insolent
manner; but he only noticed it to gain some notion of the young
"She is bad-tempered," he thought, "and is uneducated."
While he was speculating upon her merits, Mme. Nina impatiently
tapped her little foot, and waited for an answer; finally she
"Why don't you speak? What do you want here?"
"I am charged, my dear madame," he answered in his softest tone,
"by M. Bertomy, to give you this note."
"From Prosper! You know him, then?"
"I have that honor, madame; indeed, I may be so bold as to claim
him as a friend."
"Monsieur! You a friend of Prosper!"
exclaimed Mme. Gypsy in a scornful tone, as if her pride were
Fanferlot did not condescend to notice this offensive
exclamation. He was ambitious, and contempt failed to irritate
"I said a friend of his, madame, and there are few people who
would have the courage to claim friendship for him now."
Mme. Gypsy was struck by the words and manner of Fanferlot.
"I never could guess riddles," she said, tartly: "will you be
kind enough to explain what you mean?"
The detective slowly drew Prosper's note from his pocket, and,
with a bow, presented it to Mme. Gypsy.
"Read, madame," he said.
She certainly anticipated no misfortune; although her sight was
excellent, she stopped to fasten a tiny gold eyeglass on her nose,
then carelessly opened the note.
At a glance she read its contents.
She turned very red, then very pale; she trembled as if with a
nervous chill; her limbs seemed to give way, and she tottered so
that Fanferlot, thinking she was about to fall, extended his arms
to catch her.
Useless precaution! Mme. Gypsy was one of those women whose
inert listlessness conceals indomitable energy; fragile-looking
creatures whose powers of endurance and resistance are unlimited;
cat-like in their soft grace and delicacy, especially cat-like in
their nerves and muscles of steel.
The dizziness caused by the shock she had received quickly
passed off. She tottered, but did not fall, and stood up looking
stronger than ever; seizing the wrist of the detective, she held it
as if her delicate little hand were a vice, and cried out:
"Explain yourself! what does all this mean? Do you know anything
about the contents of this note?"
Although Fanferlot betrayed courage in daily contending with the
most dangerous rascals, he was positively terrified by Mme.
"Alas!" he murmured.
"Prosper is to be arrested, accused of being a thief?"
"Yes, madame, he is accused of taking three hundred and fifty
thousand francs from the bank-safe."
"It is false, infamous, absurd!" she cried. She had dropped
Fanferlot's hand; and her fury, like that of a spoiled child, found
vent in violent actions. She tore her web-like handkerchief, and
the magnificent lace on her gown, to shreds.
"Prosper steal!" she cried; "what a stupid idea! Why should he
steal? Is he not rich?"
"M. Bertomy is not rich, madame; he has nothing but his
The answer seemed to confound Mme. Gypsy.
"But," she insisted, "I have always seen him have plenty of
money; not rich—then——"
She dared not finish; but her eye met Fanferlot's, and they
understood each other.
Mme. Nina's look meant:
"He committed this robbery in order to gratify my extravagant
Fanferlot's glance answered:
"Very likely, madame."
A few minutes' reflection convinced Nina that her first
impression was the correct one. Doubt fled after hovering for an
instant over her agitated mind.
"No!" she cried, "I regret to say that Prosper would never have
stolen one cent for me. One can understand a man robbing a bank to
obtain means of bestowing pleasure and luxury upon the woman he
loves; but Prosper does not love me, he never has loved me."
"Oh, fair lady!" protested the gallant and insinuating
Fanferlot, "you surely cannot mean what you say."
Her beautiful eyes filled with tears, as she sadly shook her
head, and said:
"I mean exactly what I say. It is only too true. He is ready to
gratify my every wish, you may say; what does that prove? Nothing.
I am too well convinced that he does not love me. I know what love
is. Once I was beloved by an affectionate, true-hearted man; and my
own sufferings of the last year make me know how miserable I must
have made him by my cold return. Alas! we must suffer ourselves
before we can feel for others. No, I am nothing to Prosper; he
would not care if—"
"But then, madame, why—"
"Ah, yes," interrupted Nina, "why? you will be very wise if you
can answer me. For a year have I vainly sought an answer to this
question, so sad to me. I, a woman, cannot answer it; and I defy
you to do so. You cannot discover the thoughts of a man so
thoroughly master of himself that never is a single thought passing
in his mind to be detected upon his countenance. I have watched him
as only a woman can watch the man upon whom her fate depends, but
it has always been in vain. He is kind and indulgent; but he does
not betray himself, never will he commit himself. Ignorant people
call him weak, yielding: I tell you that fair-haired man is a rod
of iron painted like a reed!"
Carried away by the violence of her feelings, Mme. Nina betrayed
her inmost thoughts. She was without distrust, never suspecting
that the stranger listening to her was other than a friend of
As for Fanferlot, he congratulated himself upon his success. No
one but a woman could have drawn him so excellent a portrait; in a
moment of excitement she had given him the most valuable
information; he now knew the nature of the man with whom he had to
deal, which in an investigation like that he was pursuing is the
"You know that M. Bertomy gambles," he ventured to say, "and
gambling is apt to lead a man—"
Mme. Gypsy shrugged her shoulders, and interrupted him:
"Yes, he plays," she said, "but he is not a gambler. I have seen
him lose and gain large sums without betraying the slightest
agitation. He plays as he drinks, as he sups, as he falls in
love—without passion, without enthusiasm, without pleasure.
Sometimes he frightens me; he seems to drag about a body without a
soul. Ah, I am not happy! Never have I been able to overcome his
indifference, and indifference so great, so reckless, that I often
think it must be despair; nothing will convince me that he has not
some terrible secret, some great misfortune weighing upon his mind,
and making life a burden."
"Then he has never spoken to you of his past?"
"Why should he tell me? Did you not hear me? I tell you he does
not love me!"
Mme. Nina was overcome by thoughts of the past, and tears
silently coursed down her cheeks.
But her despair was only momentary. She started up, and, her
eyes sparkling with generous resolution, she cried out:
"But I love him, and I will save him! I will see his chief, the
miserable wretch who dares to accuse him. I will haunt the judges,
and I will prove that he is innocent. Come, monsieur, let us start,
and I promise you that before sunset he shall be free, or I shall
be in prison with him."
Mme. Gypsy's project was certainly laudable, and prompted by the
noblest sentiments; but unfortunately it was impracticable.
Moreover, it would be going counter to the plans of the
Although he had resolved to reserve to himself all the
difficulties as well as the benefits of this inquiry, Fanferlot saw
clearly that he could not conceal the existence of Mme. Nina from
the judge of instruction. She would necessarily be brought into the
case, and sought for. But he did not wish her to take any steps of
her own accord. He proposed to have her appear when and how he
judged proper, so that he might gain for himself the merit of
having discovered her.
His first step was to endeavor to calm the young woman's
excitement. He thought it easy to prove to her that the least
interference in favor of Prosper would be a piece of folly.
"What will you gain by acting thus, my dear madame?" he asked.
"Nothing. I can assure you that you have not the least chance of
success. Remember that you will seriously compromise yourself. Who
knows if you will not be suspected as M. Bertomy's accomplice?"
But this alarming perspective, which had frightened Cavaillon
into foolishly giving up a letter which he might so easily have
retained, only stimulated Gypsy's enthusiasm. Man calculates, while
woman follows the inspirations of her heart. Our most devoted
friend, if a man, hesitates and draws back: if a woman, rushes
undauntedly forward, regardless of the danger.
"What matters the risk?" she exclaimed. "I don't believe any
danger exists; but, if it does, so much the better: it will be all
the more to my credit. I am sure Prosper is innocent; but, if he
should be guilty, I wish to share the punishment which awaits
Mme. Gypsy's persistence was becoming alarming. She hastily drew
around her a cashmere shawl, and, putting on her hat, declared that
she was ready to walk from one end of Paris to the other, in search
of the judge.
"Come, monsieur," she said with feverish impatience. "Are you
not coming with me?"
Fanferlot was perplexed. Happily he always had several strings
to his bow.
Personal considerations having no hold upon this impulsive
nature, he resolved to appeal to her interest in Prosper.
"I am at your command, fair lady," he said; "let us go if you
desire it; only permit me, while there is yet time, to say that we
are very probably going to do great injury to M. Bertomy."
"In what way, if you please?"
"Because we are taking a step that he expressly forbade in his
letter; we are surprising him—giving him no warning."
Nina scornfully tossed her head, and replied:
"There are some people who must be saved without warning, and
against their will. I know Prosper: he is just the man to let
himself be murdered without a struggle, without speaking a word—to
give himself up through sheer recklessness and despair."
"Excuse me, madame," interrupted the detective: "M. Bertomy has
by no means the appearance of a man who has given up in despair. On
the contrary, I think he has already laid his plan of defence. By
showing yourself, when he advised you to remain in concealment, you
will be very likely to make vain his most careful precautions."
Mme. Gypsy was silently weighing the value of Fanferlot's
objections. Finally she said:
"I cannot remain here inactive, without attempting to contribute
in some way to his safety. Can you not understand that this floor
burns my feet?"
Evidently, if she was not absolutely convinced, her resolution
was shaken. Fanferlot saw that he was gaining ground, and this
certainty, making him more at ease, gave weight to his
"You have it in your power, madame," he said, "to render a great
service to the man you love."
"In what way, monsieur, in what way?"
"Obey him, my child," said Fanferlot, in a paternal manner.
Mme. Gypsy evidently expected very different advice.
"Obey," she murmured, "obey!"
"It is your duty," said Fanferlot with grave dignity, "it is
your sacred duty."
She still hesitated; and he took from the table Prosper's note,
which she had laid there, then continued:
"What! M. Bertomy at the most trying moment, when he is about to
be arrested, stops to point out your line of conduct; and you would
render vain this wise precaution! What does he say to you? Let us
read over this note, which is like the testament of his liberty. He
says, 'If you love me, I entreat you, obey.' And you hesitate to
obey. Then you do not love him. Can you not understand, unhappy
child, that M. Bertomy has his reasons, terrible, imperious
reasons, for your remaining in obscurity for the present?"
Fanferlot understood these reasons the moment he put his foot in
the sumptuous apartment of the Rue Chaptal; and, if he did not
expose them now, it was because he kept them as a good general
keeps his reserve, for the purpose of deciding the victory.
Mme. Gypsy was intelligent enough to divine these reasons.
"Reasons for my hiding! Prosper wishes, then, to keep everyone
in ignorance of our intimacy."
She remained thoughtful for a moment; then a ray of light seemed
to cross her mind, and she cried:
"Oh, I understand now! Fool that I was for not seeing it before!
My presence here, where I have been for a year, would be an
overwhelming charge against him. An inventory of my possessions
would be taken—of my dresses, my laces, my jewels—and my luxury
would be brought against him as a crime. He would be asked to tell
where he obtained so much money to lavish all these elegancies on
The detective bowed, and said:
"That is true, madame."
"Then I must fly, monsieur, at once. Who knows that the police
are not already warned, and may appear at any moment?"
"Oh," said Fanferlot with easy assurance, "you have plenty of
time; the police are not so very prompt."
And, leaving the detective alone in the parlor, Mme. Nina
hastily ran into her bedroom, and calling her maid, her cook, and
her little footman, ordered them to empty her bureau and chests of
their contents, and assisted them to stuff her best clothing and
jewels into her trunks.
Suddenly she rushed back to Fanferlot and said:
"Everything will be ready to start in a few minutes, but where
am I to go?"
"Did not M. Bertomy say, my dear lady, to the other end of
Paris? To a hotel, or furnished apartments."
"But I don't know where to find any."
Fanferlot seemed to be reflecting; but he had great difficulty
in concealing his delight at a sudden idea that flashed upon him;
his little black eyes fairly danced with joy.
"I know of a hotel," he said at last, "but it might not suit
you. It is not elegantly furnished like this room."
"Would I be comfortable there?"
"Upon my recommendation you would be treated like a queen, and,
above all, concealed."
"Where is it?"
"On the other side of the river, Quai Saint Michel, the
Archangel, kept by Mme. Alexandre."
Mme. Nina was never long making up her mind.
"Here are pen and paper; write your recommendation."
He rapidly wrote, and handed her the letter.
"With these three lines, madame, you can make Mme. Alexandre do
anything you wish."
"Very good. Now, how am I to let Cavaillon know my address? It
was he who should have brought me Prosper's letter."
"He was unable to come, madame," interrupted the detective, "but
I will give him your address."
Mme. Gypsy was about to send for a carriage, but Fanferlot said
he was in a hurry, and would send her one. He seemed to be in luck
that day; for a cab was passing the door, and he hailed it.
"Wait here," he said to the driver, after telling him that he
was a detective, "for a little brunette who is coming down with
some trunks. If she tells you to drive her to Quai Saint Michel,
crack your whip; if she gives you any other address, get down from
your seat, and arrange your harness. I will keep in sight."
He stepped across the street, and stood in the door of a
wine-store. He had not long to wait. In a few minutes the loud
cracking of a whip apprised him that Mme. Nina had started for the
"Aha," said he, gayly, "I told her, at any