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Title:The Dark Road:
further adventures of Chéri-Bibi
Author: Gaston Leroux
Release Date: May 28, 2021 [eBook #65459]
[Most recently updated: August 18, 2021]
Language: English
Character set encoding: UTF-8
Produced by: Laura Natal Rodrigues at Free Literature (Images generously made available by Hathi Trust Digital Library.)


Further Adventures of Chéri-Bibi










The Nut lay on the scorching beach facing the terrible sea in which the hungry sharks, the warders of his prison, were disporting. The convict was like a weary animal at rest. In truth, he had availed himself of the "relaxation" at ten o'clock to seek out a little fresh air and seclusion between two precipitous crags which cut him off from the rest of the convict settlement. If only he could live alone! No longer to hear anything. No longer to see anything! No longer to think of anything. But how could he help thinking of what he had seen, of what he had been compelled to see, that morning?

A double execution had taken place that very morning as an awful but necessary example. It was a smart piece of work by Pernambouc, the prison executioner, and his assistant, "Monsieur Désiré." . . . Oh the horror of it!

The Nut was still shuddering from the sight of it. He was a young man in the fullness of his supple strength. He lay resting on his elbows, holding his chin in the cup of his hands, apparently indulging in an impossible dream. His broad-brimmed straw hat cast its shadow over the gloom of his penetrating gaze which stole to the distant skyline. The outline of his clean-shaven face as far as could be seen indicated strength of character and shrewdness. Notwithstanding the ineffaceable marks of prison life which soon transforms the youngest convict into an old man, the Nut seemed to be scarcely more than forty years of age.

It was this combination of strength and refinement which had brought down on him the nickname of The Nut. It is a word which in the language of the Pré, or convict settlement, denotes a man whom nature has endowed with a fine bearing usually appreciated by women. "He acted as if he were the master." But the Nut's real name, Raoul de Saint-Dalmas, had been in famous criminal records some ten years before when the jury of the Seine Assize Court condemned him to death. He was a young man of good family who, after squandering his substance, had been charged with murdering his employer in order to rob him.

He owed his reprieve to his youth, to his mother, who in her despair died of grief, and to the persistence with which he proclaimed his innocence in spite of proofs which were seemingly overwhelming. And now he was in the convict settlement undergoing a sentence of penal servitude for life.

"Why do you sigh, Nut?"

He gave a start and turned round.

Bursts of coarse laughter rang out, and his eyes encountered seated round him the Parisian, the Burglar, the Caid and the Joker. His dreams had carried him so far away that he had failed to hear their approach.

The four men were his worst enemies. They never relented, and as a result he had not hesitated latterly to get himself imprisoned for months together in the île St. Joseph, the island of silence, which was near, and reserved for those who committed offenses in the convict settlement or whose feelings rebelled against the convict gang.

In order to avoid those four monsters who tormented him with their infernal mischief-making and their abominable jokes, he tried to fasten a quarrel on one of the convict guards by seriously threatening him, for which he suffered the terrible punishment of internment on the adjoining island, where the overseers themselves were not permitted to communicate with the prisoners by word of mouth, but only by signs and in writing.

He left his solitary confinement with a feeling of regret, especially as Chéri-Bibi, the astonishing bandit who had terrorized the world for so many years—Chéri-Bibi had made a friend of him—was no longer there to silence by a frown the loathsome Burglar or the Parisian himself.

Not that Chéri-Bibi was very far away. He was for the time being behind bars in the principal building, and the Nut peeping through them one morning when he was on fatigue duty, sweeping the courtyards, caught sight of him and exchanged a few secret signs of friendship. It was done in a flash, for the sergeant of the guard had entered the courtyard, and, straightway, such volleys of insults were poured forth from the rows of cells fronted with iron bars, that the hapless sergeant sounded the call for the fatigue party, and ordered the cooks' mates who were bringing along the soup to clear the courtyard, declaring in his wrath that he would leave the "lifers" to starve and rot for three days.

Above the shouting of threats and the hideous tumult the Nut could hear Chéri-Bibi's strident and vociferous laugh.

Neither the Parisian nor the Burglar nor the Caid nor the Joker would have run the risk in this way of being sent to solitary confinement. They managed to have a good time, standing in some favor with the authorities, to whom they secretly related what they wanted to know about the state of mind or the plans of escape of their fellow-convicts, reaping no little reward for their treachery.

And even when their natural disposition to fight or plunder got the better of them, they merely "copped," as a punishment, the job of "taking a stroll with the wood," which meant that they had to move heavy planks from one place to another for several hours a day, merely to take them back again to the spot whence they came.

Just then, as they began to annoy the Nut, they were working in leisurely fashion at certain odds and ends intended to be exchanged, when a chance visitor appeared, for packets of tobacco or small change. Arigonde, otherwise the Parisian, had just finished engraving with a knife on a shark's jawbone the fateful words: The Convict's Tomb.

Arigonde bore a deadly hatred against the Nut for having deposed him from his position as the "man of fashion" in the Îles du Salut. Until the Nut came upon the scene it was Arigonde who wielded the scepter of elegance, if such a term may be allowed. Needless to say, this reputation for elegance depended less upon the cut of his clothes or the way in which he tied his tie than upon his manners, which were not met with in the usual run of convicts, and bore witness to his superior education. In spite of the Parisian's bragging—he was never at a loss in telling the story of his successes with the fair sex in high circles and crying up his relations in society—he seemed, compared with the Nut, none the less to be what he was to begin with—a shopman in a small firm bowing and scraping to the customers.

The Nut resumed his original posture on the beach, and it was as though he did not hear the Joker, who squeaked:

"He lacks most who sighs most."

The others grinned.

"M'sieu Nut does not condescend to enter into conversation with humble 'jail-birds' like us," went on the Joker, who had once been a clerk to a sheriff's officer and had assisted a client to murder his master. "M'sieu Nut puts on airs and graces and fancies himself a bit."

"M'sieu Nut is grieving over the misfortunes of France," interjected the rascally Burglar, a short man with disjointed limbs, who walked sideways like a crab, and was wont to enter other people's houses by way of the roof.

"The Caid, too, would like to make bang, bang on the Boches. The Caid good soldier."

The Nut bit his fingers to prevent a groan slipping from him when he heard the awful Ben Aïssa, the Mohammedan "jail-bird," a robber and procurer of girls, ask to take part in the world struggle.

Alas, did he not himself long to play a part in it? And was it not because they heard him on the evening when they learned of the declaration of war proclaim once again his innocence and his despair, and demand to be allowed to shoulder a rifle, that the wretched men in their spite made game of him?

"I've just seen the postman on his way from the town," declared the Parisian, "and he brings some very great news. It seems that Joffre wants the Nut as his Chief of Staff!"

The Nut leaped to his feet, and the four men fell back, for he was a match for them. Only they knew he shrank from the task of "pitching into jail-birds," and indeed he contented himself with shouting a few threats against them, which roused their laughter, though they kept their distance.

"Do you think you can bounce us with the things you say," sneered the Burglar. "Hold your jaw."

"All my eye and tommy rot," said the Burglar, prudently retiring into the background. "All brag."

"When you've done talking I may have something to get off my chest," said the Parisian, who did not venture to try conclusions with the Nut, but whose hatred of him was so intense that he would have liked to kill him.

He made a step towards the Nut, who clenched his fists and began to see red, when the arrival of another person put the four miscreants to flight as if by magic. There was no need for the newcomer to open his mouth. He had but to show his face.

It was Chéri-Bibi!



"Have you left the black hole?" asked the Nut.

"Yes," returned Chéri-Bibi, who held in his hand a peculiarly shaped piece of hard wood which he was carving with the point of his knife.

It was an appalling face, was Chéri-Bibi's. His amazing adventures, the long years passed in the convict settlement, broken by innumerable escapes, his fierce passions and the martyrdom of the flesh even to the corrosive marks of vitriol, had ravaged that terrible face so that no one could look upon it without a shudder.

Nevertheless ever and anon—when his gaze rested upon the Nut for instance—a curious gleam of kindliness would flicker across that death's head.

His figure in its entirety, moreover, was extraordinary. His huge fists, his square build, his shoulders which seemed to have been designed for lifting enormous weights, all combined to convey the impression of irresistible strength.

When he made an effort the muscles under his convict's jumper stood out in startling prominence. He invariably wore this jumper. No one had ever seen him, as they had seen his fellow-convicts, at work or walking about stripped to the waist. It was said that upon his chest was tattooed the mystery of his life and that these marks expressed the secret of his heart. Chéri-Bibi was a man of great reserve in love affairs. This man, whose crimes were beyond computation, had always possessed, as the phrase goes, irreproachable morals.

Chéri-Bibi and the Nut imagined that they were alone. They did not observe the Burglar warily retrace his steps and hide behind a rock in order to keep an eye on them and overhear their conversation. Chéri-Bibi sat down beside the Nut and proceeded with the carving of his piece of wood.

"What's that?" asked the Nut.

"That's the key to freedom," returned Chéri-Bibi.

"What do you say?" exclaimed the Nut, turning pale.

Chéri-Bibi heaved a sigh that might have softened the hardest heart.

"I like you, old chum, and should have been glad of your company," he said in a voice that failed him somewhat, "but I see clearly enough that you are worrying yourself to death here. Cheer up. You will soon be free. You will be able to go back to France, old man."

The Nut knew that when Chéri-Bibi spoke he spoke to some purpose. He believed in him; and he was buoyed up by an immense hope.

"Back to France," he gasped.

"Twenty-two!" whispered Chéri-Bibi.

Twenty-two signified in convict language: "Look out!"

The Nut turned his head slightly and caught sight of the figure of a convict guard passing not far away from them, his rifle slung over his shoulder. The man cast a glance in their direction and disappeared, strolling along the sea-front. The Burglar still occupied his post of observation.

"I may tell you that I shall provide you with the papers of an honest man. You shall have everything necessary to start afresh and be happy."

"Heavens above!" moaned the Nut.

He took a long look at Chéri-Bibi. Chéri-Bibi was weeping. The Nut felt a thrill pass through him. Tears in the eyes of Chéri-Bibi! It was a sight to which he was unaccustomed. Chéri-Bibi stuck his fists into his eyes, as a punishment, doubtless, for that moment of weakness, and uttered a frightful oath.

"Why don't you get away with me?" asked the Nut.

"Because I should be in your way, old man. You'll soon forget all about Chéri-Bibi, I assure you."

"Never!" exclaimed the Nut. "You are the only man here who has been decent to me. You have always stood up for me."

"Stood up for you! You don't need anyone to stand up for you. Under your somewhat ladylike ways you are as strong as I am. If you had given those fellows who are always jawing at you a sound thrashing they would have soon stopped humbugging you. But you are too much of the gentleman to fight them. For that matter, that's what attracted me to you. I like people who have been well brought up; and then I like an honest man, and you are an honest man. I believe you when you tell me that you are innocent. I remember the time when I hadn't yet used the knife. Oh, it remains impressed on my memory, does that first blow. I always carried a knife in my belt. I was a journeyman butcher in Le Pollet. Do you know Le Pollet? It's near Dieppe. No doubt you've been to the races there in the summer. You were always a smart chap. . . . Why are you so pale again?"

"Because I'm thinking of the races at Dieppe," returned the Nut, closing his eyes.

"Yes, those were jolly days. Believe me, that was the place for smartly dressed people. The pink of fashion, swagger officials in full fig, and English swells. And the chorus girls, what brazen hussies! . . . But to come back to my first affair with a knife, which happened on the cliff at Dieppe. Some blackguard was about to do in a decent fellow. I arrived on the scene. I tried to get at the blackguard with my knife, but killed the honest man instead. And I was sentenced. Fatalitas! That was the beginning of all my troubles. But I don't want to think about them, nor about France nor anything else. I have perpetrated more murders than there are fingers on my hands. But always with the best intentions! You know what I mean; it was hard luck. Fatalitas! So it's better for me to remain here forever, don't you think? A penal settlement, you see, was made for me; it's my hearth and home. You, you are young, and that's quite another pair of shoes. You can build up a new life. Marry an honest woman and make her happy. Take my advice, and keep away from the other sort of women. You've had your lesson in that particular, I dare say."

"You bet!" returned the Nut smiling, greatly astonished to hear such moral sentiments from Chéri-Bibi's mouth. "But you haven't yet told me what you are making."

Chéri-Bibi did not answer immediately, but raising his eyes to the jetty, the head of which sheltering the small natural harbor, could be seen, said:

"Take a squint yonder."

The Nut turned his gaze to the harbor. A large motor launch, evidently from the wood-cutting establishments at St. Laurent-du-Maroni, drew alongside. An officer landed and was received on the jetty by a number of officials.

"See what's taking place," went on Chéri-Bibi. "What do you make of it?"

"Well," returned the Nut, "it's the officer who has just finished his tour of inspection. They must be asking him for news of the war. It doesn't seem to be good news. They don't look a bit pleased with themselves."

"What then?"

"The lieutenant is stooping towards the launch."

"Ah, there you are," said Chéri-Bibi. "Well, what else?"

"The engineer is standing on the deck-house and has handed him something which he is putting in his pocket."

"Stop! You've seen enough and now have a look at this."

Chéri-Bibi pointed to the piece of wood upon which he was no longer working.

"This is an exact copy of the thing that the inspecting officer put in his pocket. Do you know what that thing is? It is an indispensable part of the motor, and without it the engine won't go. When he has it in his pocket he is easy in his mind. There's no hope of the convicts making use of the launch. When I went on fatigue duty to St. Laurent I had the opportunity of examining that part. I assure you that this one is the fellow to it, and if anything is missing, I'll make it this evening."

"This evening!" exclaimed the Nut.

"Yes, old man, you shall be free this evening, I give you my word. I've finished digging a hole in my hut. We shall see some fun this evening. Look out! . . . Warders coming. They're sounding the fall in."

The two men sprang up. The Nut was behind Chéri-Bibi, quivering with a new hope. They went off to line up with the other men of their section in a sunk road which was dominated by a government office. It was here that they were employed in laying out a new road across the island.

During the whole of that day every movement by the Nut and Chéri-Bibi was spied upon by the Burglar, and not a word was exchanged by them which was not either overheard or guessed by him.

The Burglar said, between times, to the Parisian, the Caid and the Joker:

"Hold yourself in readiness. Something's going to happen to-night when we're having a game of dice."

After the last muster at six o'clock the convicts turned their steps towards their prison almost with an air of cheerfulness. The day's work was done. The men were then locked up in their prison, which consisted of one large dormitory, and were left to do as they pleased, sleep or drink or play games, free from the presence of the guards. Chéri-Bibi, the Nut, the Parisian, the Burglar, the Caid and the Joker shared the same dormitory with some twenty other men. That evening the officer made a tour of inspection.

Standing in line in front of a double row of hammocks, they listened to his remarks. He told them that he would not allow any noise in the prison. They might consider themselves in their own homes, with doors closed, but they were there for sleeping purposes, and if any complaint was made against them, he would send the entire section to the cages in the main building.

Before leaving he asked:

"Has any man anything to bring to my notice?"

The Nut stepped forward.

"There's a rumor, monsieur, that bad news has been received from France."

"What interest can that be to you?" returned the officer harshly. "Men like you have nothing more to do with France."

The Nut grew pale. A threatening murmur swept through the ranks. The guards enforced silence by drawing their revolvers. Nevertheless one of the men could not refrain from shouting:

"Give us a rifle and you'd soon see that we know how to die like other men."

"You are not fit to shoulder a rifle," retorted the officer, and he walked away.

The door closed after him. The convicts raised their clenched fists in the air. A tumult of oaths filled the dormitory. The Nut flung himself into his hammock and covered his face with his hands.

For men like the Nut, who had been laid low by the hand of fate, the hours spent in the dormitory, however popular they might be with other men because of the absence of all restraint, were undoubtedly the most merciless which human justice could inflict. The herding together of these men was an abominable sight. Every passion and vice, kept alive by drink and gambling, had full rein. It was a veritable inferno. Fortunately for the Nut fate, which was so cruel in other respects, had vouchsafed Chéri-Bibi to him as his comrade. His presence and the terror which he inspired forced the men to leave the Nut comparatively undisturbed. As he lay in his hammock, he closed his eyes to shut out the vision of those hideous faces, but he could not stop his ears. And it was too awful. Bottles of rum, playing cards, money, appeared from no one knew where, and the nightly revel began.

Chéri-Bibi lifted one of the slabs with which the floor of the prison was paved without troubling about what was taking place around him. A gaping cavity stood revealed before him, and he descended it. For the last two months he had been digging at that outlet. Once he broke off his work to get himself sent to solitary confinement for a week in order quietly to finish carving the piece of wood which would enable him to make use of the motor launch.

When he was digging at his hole his fellow-convicts helped him in the morning to remove the earth which had collected during the night, so that the warders might not perceive anything unusual. He promised them that when his plan was completed there would be an opportunity for any of them to escape if they had a mind for it. He did not enter into any further explanation, and they let him go his own way, wondering what it was that he was about to attempt.

The Parisian and his gang did not betray him for many reasons, not the least of which was that Chéri-Bibi had declared that if they gave him away he would know who did the deed, and, in any case, even if the Parisian and the Burglar were innocent, he would cook their goose for them. Another reason was that the Parisian and his friends were themselves cherishing the idea of flight.

They retained the hope that Cheri-Bibi's scheme, when they knew it in its entirety, would be useful to them. That evening, seated on their kit-bags, in a corner, the Parisian, the Burglar, the Caid and the Joker watched Chéri-Bibi as he slipped into his underground passage.

"Will your hole be ready soon?" asked the Joker.

"Give me another week," returned Chéri-Bibi, as he disappeared from view.

The four convicts fished out their dice and began to play in the dismal light of the lanterns hanging from the prison roof. Darkness had fallen, for night comes quickly in tropical countries. In every part of the dormitory men began to play games. Some of them were at cards. Bottles were opened and the pungent odor of rum permeated the air.

The Nut was seemingly asleep in his hammock.

"Chéri-Bibi is lying to you," whispered the Burglar to his three confederates. "Chéri-Bibi is tricking us. He's going to do the job to-night. He'll get out through his underground passage, and put off in the motor launch. He has found some dodge of making the engine go. The Nut is to follow him in half an hour when he's ready to start the engine. But our pals will prevent the Nut from getting away, and it's we who'll do a guy. When Chéri-Bibi finds that the Nut doesn't turn up he'll come back to fetch him, and we'll take the opportunity of jumping into the launch, and off we'll go!"

The plot was cleverly contrived. The other "jail-birds" were furious when they learned that Chéri-Bibi was putting them off, and held themselves in readiness to act on a signal from the Burglar.

The Nut pretended to be asleep. Nevertheless he was consumed by a feeling of intense excitement. At that terrible and decisive moment his thoughts turned to his mother, who had died of grief, and he prayed to her—his mother! He thought of the golden days of his youth. He lived the past over again. He beheld the radiant picture of himself when life smiled at him and he had but to stoop to pluck its most fragrant flowers.



Raoul had not known in that enchanted garden how to cull the flowers. It needs very little to transform paradise into a garden of suffering. At the dawn of life, as at the dawn of the world, it is enough for the gesture of a woman to bring about the catastrophe.

What acts of folly he had committed for Nina Noha, the capricious dancing-girl who scoffed at him and ruined him, tormented and drove him mad with jealousy, and forced him into the worst excesses of gambling!

Thus he had weakly allowed himself to find an excuse for his early excesses. Though the dancer was his first passion, she was not his first love. It was in her society that he strove to forget a woman, a young friend of his mother's, unhappily married to a man who loved her but whom she did not love. She soon came to her senses. . . . But for Raoul and this woman it had been a bitter experience, the secret of which now filled him, when he thought of it, with a feeling of pain and sorrow.

But he quickly forgot the first incident in his life when he was in the dressing-room at the theater, where Nina Noha every night made up her voluptuous beauty anew after she had finished her dances which, frenzied and languorous by turns, drew all Paris. He wanted to be the sole master of this public favorite. . . . Stupid pride! . . . Madness! . . . At the price of his inheritance he had purchased a few hours of pleasure, every one of which he had to fight for.

The pity of it! He called to mind a first performance one evening in a fashionable theater on the boulevard, in which Nina had made a huge hit. She promised to go to supper with him. To enter a smart restaurant at one o'clock in the morning with this woman, covered with jewels, on his arm, was for Raoul a dazzling joy for which, like a child, he was ready to give up everything that he possessed.

She was very amiable that evening and permitted him to make a parade of her. Raoul de Saint Dalmas in the eyes of everyone present was the fortunate friend of Nina Noha. What an unforgettable moment! He saw in imagination the warm room, resplendent with light and gaily bedecked women. He heard the Hungarian band and its wild music. He could have repeated the remarks of his friends who did homage to Nina. But Nina that evening gave no ear to them. Her smiles were reserved for him who had promised to give her next day his last twenty thousand francs.

Twenty thousand francs for a smile from Nina was a trifle. But to pay for it in a penal settlement was somewhat dear. . . . Open your eyes, Raoul, and look round you, and see the party which is present at your feast to-night. Here are faces which are somewhat different from the faces that you saw at those festal occasions on the boulevard.

With what looks of deadly hatred the convicts bend over their unhappy victim. The Nut does not say a word. He remains silent, this dog of a Parisian who was as strong as a Turk and for over ten years had not once condescended to come to blows with them. What were his thoughts under his closed eyes? Oh, they were capable of tearing open those eyes to discover what his dreams were about.

Poor, unfortunate Raoul, who in the gloom of prison could bring to life again the glitter of those Parisian feasts and the glowing memory of Nina Noha. . . . She was more cruel than his present taskmasters, was that beautiful dancer who gave him short shrift when he was ruined. Then his thoughts harked back to his sole refuge, his mother, who had received the prodigal son with joy.

"Now you must work," she said. He promised sincerely to atone for his sins. Mme. de Saint Dalmas took her son to an old friend of the family, Charles Raynaud, a banker in Paris, who agreed to find an opening for him in his business.

Raynaud was a very decent fellow whose own youthful days had not been without blemish, but that did not prevent him from settling down later on to work, and acquiring a considerable fortune. He himself determined to train Raoul in memory of his father who had been a loyal friend. He made him his private secretary and placed him in his own office. After a few months, Raoul, who had shown a great will to work and an uncommon intelligence, became Charles Raynaud's confidential man.

The unfortunate part was that Raoul had not ceased to think of Nina. He endeavored to renew his relations with her. She declined even to see him in her dressing-room at the theater. He greatly felt her contemptuous treatment of him. That was the origin of the tragedy that followed.

On the Saturday before the races at Dieppe, Raynaud came into his office with a friend at the moment when considerable sums of money were passing through Raoul's hands and he was preparing to hand them over. While he was counting bundles of ten thousand francs, Raynaud said to his friend:

"It's a certain tip. Volubilis is a twenty to one chance . . . a walk over."

Just then the banker was called away to the next room. His friend did not wait for him. Raoul's brain was on fire. He had arranged to go to Dieppe the following day, less to see his mother who was on a visit there, than because he knew that Nina would be at the races . . . Nina . . . Volubilis. . . . A twenty to one chance and he had but two louis in his pocket! His hands feverishly crumpled the bank-notes, one of which would suffice to bring him a small fortune.

Charles Raynaud was an intimate friend of the owner of Volubilis, and Raoul had no misgivings as to the value of the tip. He thought that he would be in a position to refund the money next day after the race. Nevertheless, to borrow money in that way, no matter what the amount might be, or the hope of returning it, was known and called by a definite name.

Raoul was about to unpin a bundle of ten thousand francs in order to borrow one of a thousand francs, one only, when Raynaud came into the office, and he scarcely had time to thrust the entire bundle into the inside pocket of his jacket. The banker hastily threw the various amounts which lay on the table into his safe, confident of Raoul's accuracy and honesty. And he departed. . . . Behind him stood a young man of a deathly pallor who made a gesture as if to detain him, but Raynaud did not turn round. Raoul de Saint-Dalmas had five hundred louis to put on Volubilis and was a thief.

* * * * *

The moment through which he lived next day when the bell in the reserved enclosure announced that the horses were off, remained impressed forever on his memory. What mingled feelings of torment and hope dwelled in his heart! In a few moments, by his watch, he would either be ruined forever or rich once more, and no one would suspect his shameful act of weakness and Nina Noha would smile on him again.

It was for her sake that he had lived through that frightful moment. He had spent the night wandering up and down, like a madman, under her window. But some compensation was perhaps in store for him. A minute would put an end to his doubts. Either it would be Nina or the Assize Court.

He had no wish to see the race. He paced up and down behind the grand stand. A cold sweat broke over his forehead. Had anyone met him, that person would have had some difficulty in recognizing him, so greatly had the madness of the moment distorted his features. His gloves were torn to shreds.

An immense silence hung over the race-course as often happens in critical moments when the fate of a great struggle hangs in suspense. . . . And then suddenly the air was rent with a thousand shouts: "Volubilis . . . Volubilis . . . Volubilis wins in a canter."

Raoul rushed to the grand stand, thrust aside the betters who loudly protested, and arrived in time to see Volubilis, who at one time looked like a winner, come in fourth. He descended the steps tottering like an old man. He wanted straightway to leave the race-course. The thought of committing suicide entered his mind. He met Nina surrounded by her friends: "Well, my little man, your tip has cost me fifty louis." He made no answer. He threw her a look of despair. He no longer loved her. The moral disaster which had overtaken him was so complete that nothing remained to him but a terrible contempt for her and himself.

"Forgive me, mother," he groaned. And it was for his mother's sake that he abandoned the idea of suicide.

He asked himself, on her account, if there was not something better and braver for him to do than to put a bullet in his brain. The instinct for good which still existed deep down within him, and which the disorders of his reckless youth could not wholly stifle, inspired him with a sense of duty. Next morning he went to the office as usual. He had made up his mind to confess everything to Raynaud.

The banker did not come in during the morning. Considerable sums of money were still passing through Raoul's hands. Not for a moment was he tempted to win back the stolen ten thousand francs by borrowing a further sum. The thought did not even occur to him. His first offense in this respect filled him with an unspeakable horror. He felt himself capable of starvation with millions in front of him.

He was the first to return to the office after lunch. Raynaud had not yet put in an appearance. Raoul's sufferings reached their culminating point. A senior clerk in the firm who had occasion to speak to him was struck by his pallor and air of abstraction. He did not seem to listen to what was said to him.

"Are you not feeling well?" he inquired.

Raoul made no answer to the question but asked:

"Is Monsieur Raynaud coming to-day?"

"Yes, but he will be late. He is attending the sale of the Queen of Carynthia's jewels."

Raynaud arrived at the office about six o'clock. He was not alone. Several friends accompanied him and were congratulating him on the purchase of a magnificent pearl necklace. Without noticing Raoul's agitation he showed him the necklace in its case. Raoul had already seen it, for Raynaud had been anxious to buy it and had taken him with him to examine it the valuer's office. He bent over the pearls, unable to utter a word. Raynaud imagined that he was purposely taking his time to inspect it because one of the pearls had a flaw in it.

"I don't understand why they left that pearl in a necklace like this," said Raynard. "I shall have it taken out. As it is, the necklace is dirt cheap at the price—a hundred and fifty thousand francs."

Raoul continued to gaze at the necklace so that Raynaud should not observe his agitation. He would remember that scene for the rest of his life.

"It's a clouded pearl but it may be possible to get it back to its former luster."

An argument ensued on the subject and lasted some time among the gentlemen who had come in with Raynaud. Then they took their departure and Raoul and Raynaud were left to themselves. Raoul confessed everything. While he was speaking the banker looked at him at first with an air of amazement and afterwards with threatening severity. In a trembling voice Raoul finished his story.

"It's not for myself. Monsieur, that I am pleading. It is that my mother should not be told anything. I hold myself at your disposal and you can do with me as you please. I am your property. I am willing to accept the lowest kind of work, and if I have to earn the money a penny at a time, I will pay back the ten thousand francs."

He ceased speaking. The banker maintained a silence, a dreadful and prolonged silence. Raoul thought that all was over with him. He took his revolver from his pocket.

Raynaud saw the movement and realized that Raoul was about to shoot himself. He clutched him by the arm, snatched the weapon away, and threw it on the desk.

"Wretched boy, what are you doing?"

Raoul sank to his knees and broke into a fit of sobbing. Raynaud helped him to rise.

"Calm yourself, your mother shall not be told anything."

The banker turned the key in the door which separated his office from the general offices of his company and came back to Raoul.

"You understand that the worst part of this terrible business is that you, who received an exceptionally good education, and whom I wish to regard in spite of all as an honest man at heart—your confession and your repentance show me that—were unable to resist so sordid a temptation. You are more to blame than anyone else would be in your place. . . . I will tell you what I have decided upon. You must leave Paris and France and all these Nina Nohas who have brought you to such a pass. You must go and build up a new career in America. You must sail by the mail boat which leaves Havre for New York to-morrow morning. I will tell your mother that I have sent you to America on urgent business of importance. You must catch the express train at eight o'clock to-night. You have no time to lose."

So saying, he opened his safe and took out two bundles of bank-notes, each of which contained ten thousand francs.

"Do the best you can for yourself with this money and become an honest man again. I don't want your thanks. I am doing this in remembrance of your father who rendered me many great services."

Distraught and overcome with gratitude, Raoul left the room with the twenty thousand francs. The banker himself opened the door of his private entrance which led direct through the courtyard into the street.

The safe remained open.

Scarcely a minute had elapsed after Raynaud's return to his office when the staff in the other part of the building heard the sounds of a great commotion—shouting, struggles and a revolver shot. They rushed to the private office. They had to break in the door. When they entered the room they found Raynaud lying dead on the floor in front of the safe with a bullet in his head.

The necklace, as well as the securities and bank-notes—everything of negotiable value was gone.

They looked about for Raoul. He was nowhere to be found. They called to mind his singular demeanor during the day. The police investigation, which was held that evening, showed that the revolver, which was still hot when it was discovered in the office, was bought by Raoul that very morning. They felt convinced that it was he who did the deed, nor did they doubt that he had escaped through the window, which was left open and looked out on to the roof of a small room, arranged corbel-wise, whence it was easy to reach, through another window, the staircase of the adjoining building.

Next morning Raoul was arrested at Havre at the moment when he was about to embark on the mail boat for New York.

It was in vain that he protested his innocence. His own counsel did not believe him. The evidence was too overwhelming. The sequel is known.



Chéri-Bibi, as we have seen, left the dormitory and slipped into his opening under the floor.

The underground passage, which he had dug out with a patience and cunning which is only to be found in a convict settlement, was a tremendous piece of work, given the extreme simplicity of the tools at his command, which consisted of a knife, a piece of sharp-pointed iron, and a few sardine tins. Nevertheless he achieved his purpose with them single-handed, for he refused to allow anyone else to have a finger in the pie. The passage was over three hundred feet long, running forward as far as possible through the loamy earth, but keeping clear of the sand and emerging between two precipitous rocks, at a spot which was almost entirely deserted, especially at night. Moreover, this outlet was on the beach along which Chéri-Bibi had to make his way in order to reach the jetty where the motor launch lay moored.

When he appeared at the opening of the cavity it was about nine o'clock in the evening. The night was cloudless with the brightness peculiar to tropical countries. Thus he had to take the greatest precaution to avoid being observed by the guards on duty or those going their rounds.

But apart from these patrols which covered the same ground, at fixed hours, the guards' duty was reduced to the simplest proportions. It was the dinner hour for the officials, and of rest for the convicts locked up in their dormitories.

A warder, with his rifle slung over his shoulder, was usually seated on a bench placed against a hut at the far end of the jetty, acting in a vague sort of way as sentry, and smoking and yawning and waiting for the moment when his relief would come. That evening, as Chéri-Bibi crept along the jetty on all fours, he perceived that the warder was not in his place. Where was he? Had he fallen asleep in the hut? Was he dodging his sentry duty and having a tot of rum with some of his mates?

"A good thing for him," muttered Chéri-Bibi, as he dropped into the launch. And he added, still to himself, "And all the better for me!" He shrank, as a rule, from acts of violence. He could only make up his mind to them when circumstances were too strong for him, and he had had sufficient occasion in the past in this respect to upbraid fate; and thus he could be grateful to Providence, which for once in a way had spared him from taking the life of a man!

* * * * *

Half an hour after Chéri-Bibi's departure a curious silence fell in the dormitory. Every game was stopped and every eye turned in one direction. The cavity made by Chéri-Bibi was almost directly under the Nut's hammock, and his legs had just reached the floor when he stopped short, taken aback by the sudden hush.

The convicts rushed up to him.

"Where are you going?"

The Nut saw by their threatening attitude that they would stick at nothing to prevent him from leaving the dormitory.

He sought to argue with them.

"I'm going to meet Chéri-Bibi. He has asked me to lend him a hand. What is there in that to annoy you?"

The Nut never used prison slang. That also had helped to excite their animosity against him, and they could not forgive him for holding aloof from them now as he did in the first days.

"Rot, humbug, swanker . . . liar! It's not true. Chéri-Bibi won't let anyone help him in the job. There's no need for you to work for him."

"He asked me to join him."

"You lie. You've got to stay here. Take my advice. It'll be all the better for you if you put your feet up and do a snore."

It was the Parisian who did the talking. For that matter he kept a safe distance from the Nut. The Burglar, for his part, was leading his confederates somewhat craftily, pushing as near the Nut as possible, thinking to himself that there could not be too many of them, and there would be a row.

The fight was begun by a violent movement from the Caid, who seized the Nut by the legs and threw him into the hammock. The Nut sprang out after the Caid, who managed to slip away. A score of men made for the Nut and the thud of heads striking the flagstones was heard.

The dormitory in which these wild beasts were tearing each other to pieces was rent with hollow groans and hoarse cries. Feeling that his fellow-prisoners' hatred of him was such that they would never allow him to get away, the Nut, whose last hope was in death, determined to sell his life dearly. But before he died he would recompense himself for all his sufferings, all that he had undergone from those hideous jailers who were more odious than the warders, and fiercer than the sharks themselves who lay in wait for their prey behind the rocks in the Île Royale.

He fought like a lion. Many of the men who came up against him were to bear for some time the marks of the desperate encounter. Nevertheless he was soon felled to the ground, in the narrow space, by weight of numbers.

Almost smothered, reduced to helplessness, twenty convicts lay heavily on his limbs and he was tightly and strongly bound with a rope which appeared as if by magic. Then he was flung into his corner, gasping for breath, worsted. He closed his eyes so that they should not behold his distress.

Thus at the moment when he was thinking of making good his escape, the purgatory was to begin all over again. Continue to live this life! He would rather die! Why had they not killed him a few minutes before? Why had not the iron grip of those murderous fingers round his throat set him free from his terrible existence? He had suffered torment for ten years; ten long years during which he had never ceased to hope for his deliverance by flight and for the miracle which would establish his innocence. Now he no longer hoped for anything. He thought only of how to end his life. . . .

And in the meantime Chéri-Bibi was waiting for him . . . Chéri-Bibi who had prepared everything, who had done wonders. . . . To what end?

Among the hideous faces bending over the Nut, he would have looked in vain now for the Parisian, the Burglar, the Caid and the Joker. The four men, during the fight, had slipped into the underground passage dug out by the most terrible man among the "lifers."

Suddenly a shot rang out in the stillness. They all gave a start. And "Monsieur Désiré" who for a tin of sardines and a packet of cigarettes usually acted as assistant to Pernambouc, the prison executioner, whispered to the Nut:

"Did you hear that? They're playing with the shooters not far from the coast. Chéri-Bibi may have been hit. He won't get you away to-night. Mind the Inspector doesn't find out that you are chums with him. It'll be a bad look out for the convicts. Take it from me, the finish of it will be that I shall have your noddle." And he added with a hideous laugh, "You know I shan't say no to that, because I'm out of tobacco. I've given it all away to pals. 'Monsieur Désiré' has a good heart."

They heard the gallop of the patrols, and a voice in the distance shouted:

"Chéri-Bibi's done for."

The Parisian, the Burglar, the Caid and the Joker, after getting away through the underground passage, reached the outlet without hindrance.

"Congratulations to Chéri-Bibi," said the Joker as he inhaled the cool night air. "He ought to have been born a mole!"

"Shut up and let's get on with it," interjected the Burglar. "It won't be long before Chéri-Bibi comes back for news of the Nut. . . . Look out how we go."

They followed the high rocks which skirted the sea, and at times the waves buried them up to the knees.

"Halt!" cried the Parisian.

"Thanks for the foot-bath," grunted the Joker.

"Me always satisfied, never ill, never die," babbled the Caid.

"If we go a step farther Chéri-Bibi will see us," exclaimed the Parisian.

The four men stood stock still. They had caught sight of Chéri-Bibi's head rising cautiously above the gunwale with the purpose, obviously, of scrutinizing the immediate precincts. What the four bandits anticipated did in fact happen. Failing to understand why the Nut kept him waiting so long, Chéri-Bibi, in a state of some uneasiness, made up his mind to go back the way he had come and see for himself the reason of the delay.

The Parisian and his confederates saw him get out of the launch and crawl along the jetty, moving with the greatest precaution, and stopping to listen for any suspicious sounds that might disturb the silence of the night. Thus he reached the beach. As had been already stated, it was easy to keep out of sight because of the great mass of high rocks which overhung the sea shore. It was entirely different from the beach at Kourou and the mainland. That part of the island is flat and devoid of vegetation.

Thus Chéri-Bibi, who was well screened by the rocks, continued his way without obstacle; but, on the other hand, he could not see the four runaways, who were less than thirty feet away from him, because of those very rocks.

After he had disappeared in the semi-darkness, the four men, in their turn, crawled on to the jetty and thence dropped into the launch. It did not take them long, but they were no sooner settled in her than the Burglar gave the alarm. Chéri-Bibi was coming back.

They concealed themselves in the deck-house, hardly daring to breathe, waiting for what would come next. Why had Chéri-Bibi returned so quickly? Had his suspicions been aroused? The Nut's redoubtable friend filled them with such terror that they were afraid of his shadow like children who, passing through the forest at night, fear the were-wolf.

They were unarmed. Chéri-Bibi must have weapons, and even if it were not so, they would make very little, the four of them, in his huge paws. Moreover, they knew that certain persons who had a fancy to thwart his plans paid for it with their lives. They had abundant reasons for keeping quiet.

But what was Chéri-Bibi doing? They no longer had him in view. He had disappeared behind the engine. Soon, however, they saw him stand up and make off once more with the same degree of caution as before. When he had vanished from sight the Burglar, who had been an engine driver in his time, whispered:

"Hurry up, you fellows. Break the padlocks of the mooring chains."

The three men were applying themselves to the work when a frightful oath uttered by the Burglar made them turn round:

"Chéri-Bibi has taken away his part of the engine," he cried.

"Nothing more can be done. It's all up with us," groaned the Joker, flung into consternation, and he stopped the Caid, who with an iron grip, was continuing to pull at the padlocks.

"That's why he came back, the traitor," growled the Parisian. "Listen to me. We've got to make up our minds to it, and go to bed in the deck-house. There's just a chance that he won't see us when he comes back with the Nut. They'll make tracks for the mainland. When they've landed we'll hop out after them. If they twig us on the way, I don't think they'll waste time taking us back to the settlement. It's a good idea—let's lie low."

In the meantime Chéri-Bibi continued his way to the opening of the underground passage. He glided over the ground with the suppleness of a great stag. Suddenly he pulled himself up. He heard voices. And almost at once he caught a glimpse of the silhouettes of the Inspecting Officer and the Commandant of the Penitentiary Administration. They were taking a stroll after dinner, smoking their cigars and talking strategy. The startling events of the war engrossed them to such an extent that, having stopped to discuss Joffre's retreat, the position of Sarrail at Verdun and Castelnau at Nancy, they remained stationary for a quarter of an hour; thus preventing Chéri-Bibi from making a step. Fatalitas! His guns were spiked!

Greatly perturbed at first by the Nut's failure to arrive, Chéri-Bibi now dreaded to see him emerge from the underground passage, for he would be bound to attract the attention of the two officers.

Time went on. And an accident might happen to destroy, in its entirety, the plan which he had so laboriously constructed.

At that moment a tremor passed through him from head to foot. It was seldom that he shuddered, but he saw before him a terrible sight. Coming towards him was a huge dog, a veritable sleuth-hound, whose business it was, also to keep guard, and the dog was charging straight at him.

"Hullo!" said the Commandant. "Here's Tarasque going his rounds. Here! Tarasque! Come here!"

But the huge brute instead of answering the officer's call continued to make for Chéri-Bibi, who, with a feeling of unutterable anguish, saw him rushing up to him.

Strange to say Tarasque did not give tongue. Thus the two officers continued to discuss their ideas of strategy without paying any further attention to the dog. They entertained no suspicion that ten paces away from them a fierce drama was being enacted.

Tarasque was friends with Chéri-Bibi. How had this thing arisen between man and dog? They had taken to each other at their first meeting. Had this monster of a dog scented a brother in this monster of a man?

Their two jaws had more than a passing resemblance, and their instincts for destruction were such that they were bound to understand each other. One thing was certain—Tarasque, who had for the wastrels of the penal settlement but his canine teeth, had a tongue with which to lick Chéri-Bibi's hands whenever he met him.

The reader who is familiar with the early adventures of Chéri-Bibi, and knows what a peculiar wealth of affection lay hidden in the heart of the great criminal—the victim of fate—will comprehend the attachment which he felt for the huge brute who was then making so much of him.

But coming at that moment, that exhibition of friendship would destroy him no less utterly than the most infuriated attack, and at the same time, be the undoing of the Nut.

Chéri-Bibi loved the dog, but he had promised the Nut his liberty. If those friendly demonstrations continued for a few seconds longer, the two officers, put on their guard, would come upon the dog and Chéri-Bibi.

He held the dog's head under his arm, and feeling in his pocket with his other hand, took out a knife, the blade of which was open. It was a question of killing the brute in such a way that it would drop dead at his feet.

Chéri-Bibi felt a clutch at his heart. He had killed many persons in the course of his life, as the result, as it seemed to him, of inexorable circumstances, and he had suffered for it, but never before had he been filled with such horror.

He patted the dog and the dog licked his face. And during this dire caress the sharp and unerring point of his knife penetrated Tarasque's throat and cut it at a single blow, "without working back in the cut," as butchers say in their particular jargon.

Chéri-Bibi had been a journeyman butcher in the days of his youth. He knew his business. Alas, he had proved it many a time since. He knew how to kill effectively. The dog gave a prolonged and terrible gasp and fell dead, deluging Chéri-Bibi with blood.

"Fatalitas!" he groaned under his breath. And that ghastly moment was set down in his memory as among the most frightful in his frightful career.

"It's very strange," said the Commandant. "What's the matter with Tarasque, gasping like that? Tarasque, here! Come here!"

As Tarasque did not answer the call, the two officers started up greatly perplexed. They went to the rock behind which they had seen him disappear and found him lying on the ground.

"What's the matter with him? Is he ill? Tarasque! . . . Tarasque!"

They leaned forward. The dog was still warm. Suddenly the Lieutenant rose from his stooping posture with an oath and shook his hand, which was covered with blood. He had thrust it into the dog's throat.

Someone had cut the dog's throat!

The Commandant uttered an oath in his turn. The thing was past all belief. They had seen nothing, heard nothing. It must have been the work of a "lifer" who had escaped. He at once raised the alarm by firing his revolver in the air; and a patrol which was passing along the beach came hurrying up.

In order that the reader may understand what is about to happen, it may be as well to give an approximate idea of the general formation and aspect of this part of the world.

The Îles du Salut are divided one from the other by channels of some hundreds of yards in width. There is a sheltered roadstead in which the largest ships may ride at anchor. The mail boat belonging to the Compagnie Transatlantique which sails in the ordinary way between Martinique and Guiana, touches the islands both on her inward and outward journeys. The full strength of the Penitentiary is very considerable. The islands, in fact, are used as a depot, and convicts condemned to transportation remain there some time before they are classified, registered, and distributed.

The Commandant and the various administrative services are lodged on the Île Royale, as also are the victualling departments and a large hospital to which sick convicts from the Penitentiaries and Wood-cutting establishments at Cayenne and St Laurent are removed. In this island also are workshops for the manufacture of clothing, boots, and caps required for the use of the convicts.

The difficulty of escape, together with the possibility of maintaining a most rigorous discipline, caused Île Royale to be selected as the Penitentiary for hardened criminals and notorious outlaws.

There is a brick manufactory, and near the hospital, at the western end, stands a lighthouse with a fixed light which is visible at a distance of nearly twenty miles.

The islands can be observed and recognized from afar, for they are of some height. Île Royale is the highest, and rises to about two hundred feet above the sea level. From the mainland it has the appearance, in shape, of an irregular sugar-loaf.

But to return to Chéri-Bibi, whose position was extremely precarious. He had been able to retreat without being observed, but in order to reach his tunnel he would have to cross an open space in which it would be impossible for him to conceal himself. On the other hand, he could not remain where he was, twenty paces from the dog's body, hiding behind a great overhanging rock where the convict guards were bound to discover him.

He heard one of the men who answered the Commandant's call for assistance say:

"There's been a great stir among the convicts since yesterday. The rumor goes that the Parisian Intends to skedaddle."

Now a "deputy-warder" filled the night with his resounding imprecations. . . . Someone had killed his dog, his Tarasque. . . . It must have been Chéri-Bibi who did the deed. Tarasque never allowed anyone to come near him but Chéri-Bibi. . . .

When they heard that he had escaped, or at any rate was attempting to escape, and was at large in the island, the warders began to lose their heads. His escapes were so sensational, and were accompanied by such amazing incidents, that the very thought of it was enough to rob them of their self-control.

They must warn the guard; put the whole garrison on the alert.

The Commandant and the Lieutenant pulled them up. Chéri-Bibi could not be far away.

He had killed the dog a few spaces from the spot where they were standing. That spot was open ground. The scoundrel could not cross it without being detected. And as a logical consequence the Commandant took a step towards the rock which hid Chéri-Bibi from view.

The latter was thinking things out.

"Shall I let them lay hold of me, give myself up now, content to begin the whole thing over again?"

He was in a quandary because of the formidable and unforeseen difficulties which loomed up before him. . . . And then the very agglomeration of difficulties was a temptation to that demoniacal mind. He thought, too, that he would never be able to renew a scheme which had once miscarried. He would have to devise something else; start another plan, which would take him endless time. He would be sent to solitary confinement for months; his tunnel would be discovered; and perhaps his "fake" for the motor launch would no longer be possible. Finally, he had given his word of honor to the Nut.

When Chéri-Bibi had given his word of honor there was no instance in which he had not kept it to the uttermost, whether for good or evil, though he had wandered so long between the two, knife in hand, that he had not always very clearly distinguished the difference between them. Well, once again he would conquer or lose his reputation together with his life.

The Commandant was approaching the rock.

He was about to discover him. It was a crucial moment for the convict. He could only save the situation by a surprise and some marvelous effort.

The rock projected over a sort of sloping bank, and a number of guards had just reached the foot of it. Chéri-Bibi, during the last minute, had propped himself up against the rock, and was quietly exercising his tremendous strength.

Suddenly the rock, forced from its bed of clay, swung over and fell on to the warders. They set up a terrible outcry. Some of them were seriously injured.

The Commandant and his brother officer barely had time to fling themselves on one side. Availing himself of the confusion which ensued, Chéri-Bibi rushed into the darkness. He fled in the direction of the forest. The guards who were unhurt followed closely upon his heels.

At the moment when he was about to elude them by jumping over a bank lined with tall bamboo-canes, his eyes encountered above him a warder who was leveling his rifle at him. He had no time even to duck his head. The shot rang out, and Chéri-Bibi fell in a mass, crushing the branches with his enormous weight like a giant utterly overwhelmed.

An immense shout of joy greeted the well-directed shot: "Chéri-Bibi is dead!"



The Nut in the dormitory attempted by a supreme effort to shake off his bonds. He could not believe in Chéri-Bibi's death. For that matter his opinion was shared by the convicts in general: "Do you think that Chéri-Bibi would allow himself to peg out like that?"

The commotion outside the building drew still nearer. The convicts paid no farther heed to the Nut. They were absorbed in the drama which was being played in the darkness of the night, endeavoring to understand or imagine its successive phases.

The horror of the position inspired the Nut with renewed energy. The longing to have done with it either by escape or by some violent measure which would involve the end of all, increased tenfold his energy which for a moment had been flagging. Yes, death even at the hands of Pernambouc or "Monsieur Désiré" would be better than to continue to live like this.

His persistent and vigorous efforts at length loosened his bonds. Slowly, with infinite precaution, and without anyone being able to notice the least movement, he succeeded in ridding himself of the rope.

He lay in wait for the moment when he could spring from his hammock and slip into the cavity, at the other end of which he hoped to meet Chéri-Bibi.

He quickly dropped on to his feet. But just then the report of more firing burst upon them from the outside, accompanied by a great hubbub.

The Nut hesitated for a second, which was long enough to bring all the "lifers" round him.

"The deputy warders are firing on Chéri-Bibi. He's nabbed. Look out! They're calling up the guard. Before five minutes are over we shall have them here blaming the whole lot of us," exclaimed one of them.

They put away the rope and carefully adjusted the flagstone, the seams of which they cemented with moistened bread-crumbs coated with dust. Outside, the galloping of patrols, shouts, curses, calls for help and the blowing of whistles could still be heard. Finally the commotion approached the building and the door of the dormitory was opened.

A dozen warders, armed to the teeth, crowded in among the convicts, and the Lieutenant's voice could be heard ordering the "fall-in." The convicts lined up beside their hammocks.

The Lieutenant saw for himself that five men were missing: Chéri-Bibi, the Burglar, the Parisian, the Caid and the Joker, for these men failed to respond when their numbers were called. The Nut answered when his turn came: Number 3213.

The Lieutenant left the dormitory in a towering rage. He gave orders for two men to remain on guard inside, and the others to be stationed round the building.

"This time I'm really cornered," said the Nut to himself.

Worn out by his struggles and the anxiety through which he had passed, and overcome by the ruin of his last hope, he dropped on to his convict's kitbag; and meantime the two warders left on guard in the dormitory endeavored to discover the means by which the five men had managed to get away.

The convicts laughed in their sleeves at the fruitlessness of these investigations. One of them said loud enough to be heard:

"They won't catch Chéri-Bibi in a hurry. He'll make short work of anyone standing in his way, you bet."

"Well, I tell you that he's lost the number of his mess," roared one of the warders told off to keep watch on them. "I know what I'm talking about, I suppose? I've seen his corpse."

"Did you hear what that warder said?" whispered "Monsieur Désiré" to the Nut. "He said it's true that Chéri-Bibi has been done in. He's seen his corpse."

A shudder passed through the Nut. He had a great liking for Chéri-Bibi. This affection of a young man like the Nut for a convict built on the lines of Chéri-Bibi—a man who seemed the embodiment of crime in this world—was extraordinary. And yet it was not entirely incomprehensible. The monster had shown him a compassion for his misfortunes which he had sought in vain from anyone else in jail or out of jail. Beneath his frightful exterior Chéri-Bibi proved that he was possessed of feelings of an unsuspected degree of refinement. He treated and protected the Nut like a younger brother.

The Nut had often thought that there was something beyond mere defiance of fate in the use of the word Fatalitas that the convict so frequently hurled at the heavens. Chéri-Bibi's life was a secret whose depths no one had ever plumbed but himself. What did anyone know of him? . . . An arm that was upraised and struck home. But between the two gleams of the knife which left behind it two pools of blood all was darkness; as mysterious as the abyss of his soul. . . . Why was his path stained with blood?

He explained to the Nut in a few words, with what terrible irony fate had compelled him to strike down the man whose life he was trying to save. That was the beginning of it all.

The beginning of it all? The Nut sometimes felt an inclination to fathom the mystery of that word all.

"Don't look into it," Chéri-Bibi answered. "It would be hell let loose."

And then he stood up and with a fierce cynicism said:

"You can't want me to account for all my murders. There are too many of them." And he added with a boisterous laugh: "Take it from me that I am past all forgiveness."

* * * * *

"Spot the Nut blubbing because he thinks Chéri-Bibi is dead," went on "Monsieur Désiré" bent on making mischief.

The Nut wished only to remember Chéri-Bibi as the man who liked him and often saved him from an act of desperation; as the man who by a memorable action had saved himself from the guillotine. It seems that after certain adventures of which one of the most sensational was the capture of the vessel which was commissioned to take convicts to the penal settlement in Guiana, he was rearrested in France, brought to trial, and this time sentenced to death.

Chéri-Bibi told the Nut that he had not opened his lips during the trial. His counsel defended him against his will; and when the dread sentence was pronounced the prisoner thanked the jury for their service to him as well as to society.

That very evening as a prison van was taking him back to the central prison of the town in which he was tried, he heard a heart-rending clamor, and as he was stepping out of the van, he saw that the hospital which stood in the same square was on fire.

It was the work of a moment to free himself from his jailors and to leap into the flames. That evening, single-handed, he saved the lives of sixty.

"Fire!" he cried, "I'm used to fire."

He left the hospital only to return to it and to come out again with his precious burdens. When the whole of the inmates had been rescued, he gave himself up as a prisoner. His body was a mass of burns.

Throughout France there was but one opinion: He must be reprieved. Thus the death penalty was commuted to penal servitude for life.

"Fatalitas!" said the prisoner when the news was broken to him. "So there's still need for me to kill someone in the world!"

* * * * *

For a wonder the sight of the Nut's grief ended by softening the hearts of those wild beasts.

"Don't take on, Nut. It's all rot. I tell you that Chéri-Bibi is right enough. To begin with he can't kick the bucket. There are chaps like that. The very sight of them makes death turn tail."

Twenty voices were ready to join with the one which had attempted to hearten the unhappy Nut. The thought of a catastrophe of such magnitude as the death of Chéri-Bibi did not enter the minds of a single one of them. Only a warder—or a mischief-maker like "Monsieur Désiré," would entertain such ridiculous nonsense. The man who could bring down Chéri-Bibi was not yet born. Chéri-Bibi had always done what he had set his mind to do.

When he longed to be off there was nothing more to be said. He knew how to let himself out! The warders were well aware of that. They had seen him subject to the most rigid discipline, never out of sight of a convict guard whose sole duty was to keep watch on his movements, and yet he had found means of getting the better of every obstacle. Moreover he had declared beforehand that he was going away. At the appointed day and hour, the thing was done.

Though he came back again and allowed himself to be recaptured, it was undoubtedly because he could not do without the air of the Pré. As he himself said: "A penal settlement is my hearth and home."

It was known that Chéri-Bibi invariably carried about with him his "outfit;" that is to say, everything that was necessary to enable him to escape when "it suited him." And no one knew how he managed to conceal the things.

On one occasion he allowed himself to be caught. He put his "going away kit" in a shoemaker's last over which he placed a piece of leather studded with nails as if he intended to begin making a pair of boots but the last was hollow and could be unscrewed, and it contained an elaborate collection of "necessaries"—mustaches, whiskers, false hair, a chisel, a small saw for sawing iron made from the spring of a watch, a tiny hand mirror for dressing purposes, needles and thread, and pen and paper.

He often let his shoemaker's last lie about on his bed, and sometimes he folded it under his arm when he went on forced labor.

It was quite an event when one day the inspecting officer who had been noticing the last for some time, ended by considering that the work of making a pair of boots was taking too long and confiscated it.

This time the fat was in the fire. But Chéri-Bibi had no end of other tricks up his sleeve. He would always get the better of them; that was certain.

At this point in the discussion the door was opened and a deputy warder entered. He came to inquire if they had yet discovered the way by which the five convicts had escaped. His two colleagues replied by a shrug of the shoulders.

"Say what you like, they can't have flown away," observed the newcomer.

"Ask Chéri-Bibi."

"Chéri-Bibi's dead."

"Ah, what did I tell you," exclaimed one of the warders. "Our customers here refuse to believe it."

"He was killed in the bamboo plantation. The Commandant himself was leading the battle. Bordière fired the shot. Chéri-Bibi was right up against his rifle. Seems that he turned head over heels like a rabbit. Oh, there's no mistake about it. It was bound to end like that. . . . Good-by. I'm off. . . . Oh, it's made a great to do I can tell you. You must have heard the firing on Devil's Island. There's a great stir among the convicts. But there'll be some pickings for those who find the other four. Bordière is in luck's way. He'll get extra pay this month over this Chéri-Bibi job."

The man left the room. The door was closed behind him and a great uproar of mingled amazement and incredulity arose, for the convicts found it impossible to believe the monstrous story. Chéri-Bibi let himself be knocked over like a rabbit!

Suddenly, while the warders were discussing the event at the far end of the dormitory, a flagstone was quietly raised, and the Nut and the men who were behind the warders saw Chéri-Bibi's terrible and distorted jaw emerge from the cavity.

No, Chéri-Bibi was not dead. He was not even wounded. He had played his trick of tumbling to the grounds as if he were shot dead when the warder fired his rifle, so as to distract the guards' attention from the outlet of his underground passage, which he determined to reach, whatever happened, in order to meet the Nut.

What he reckoned on had come about, and when the guards recognized the figure of Chéri-Bibi falling to the ground as he spun on his heels, they made a rush towards him uttering a shout of triumph.

Bordière, the warder, climbed the bank with a light step calculating in his mind the amount of the extra pay which a deed of this sort would be worth to him. The authorities would undoubtedly be grateful to him for relieving them of a brute whom it was so difficult to keep in his cage.

Men hurried up from all directions. The Commandant himself followed close upon them, and the report gradually spread over the island that Chéri-Bibi had at last returned to the lower regions. Some of the warders, as we have said, declared that they had seen his corpse.

The truth was that they searched for him in vain. Bordière, the lucky Bordière, who was responsible for so smart a piece of work, became enraged when he could find no traces of Chéri-Bibi apart from the marks among the bamboos. He offered his own explanation of the mystery: "I saw him fall here. He gave a loud cry and collapsed. Look at all this blood. He's certainly mortally wounded. He must have crawled away to croak a little farther on."

The thing was inexplicable, something very like magic. The Commandant stood silent, not knowing what to think. Had Chéri-Bibi any accomplices among his men? Had he bought some of them? How was it possible to tell with a man like that?

They related the story that he invariably carried gold-dust on him. Where? How? They were never able to determine. Some of them went so far as to maintain that he could hide at will thirty gold louis in his stomach. He ate gold, swallowed it, got rid of it, secreted it, and recovered it again as he pleased.

It was a pack of silly tales to which the authorities attached no importance, but now the Commandant began to think that there might be something in them.

Nevertheless what had really happened was capable of an extremely simple explanation. Chéri-Bibi had slipped away through the undergrowth until he came to his retreat and thence reached his opening; and the reason why blood was found on the bamboos was because he had wiped his hands, stained with Tarasque's blood, on them. While the warders were searching for a dead body he was in his tunnel; and thus his head appeared in the dormitory at the moment when the news of his death was exciting so much talk.

He summed up the situation at a glance. He saw the warders. He saw the Nut. He saw his brother "lifers" who, transfixed in amazement, restrained the burst of laughter with which they were ready to greet the startling vision that contradicted so flatly the warders' stories.

In a flash the Nut crept into the cavity and vanished from sight, while Chéri-Bibi kept the other convicts at bay by the ferocity of his look.

The flagstone fell back in its place.

When the convict guards turned round nothing seemed changed in the dormitory. Stay! There was one convict the fewer.

Some time elapsed before they noticed it. It was "Monsieur Désiré" who called their attention to it by saying under his breath so that he could be heard only by them:

"Hullo, where's the Nut?"

Then they began their search.

Their personal responsibility was directly involved in this case. They had no inclination to treat it as a joke. And when they made certain that the Nut also had escaped, they fell into a sudden rage. Once more they turned everything upside down and bullied the men in the dormitory, uttering a thousand threats and oaths. They grew violent when a look from "Monsieur Désiré" told them what they wanted to know.

His look pointed to a flagstone, and as the stone was not properly in its place, and the seams were sprinkled with dust, they at once discovered the secret. They ordered the flagstone to be cleared, whereupon the cavity lay open before them. One of them descended into it, requesting the other to remain at his post.

Almost at once the echo of two, three, four shots was heard. The warder running forward in the little tunnel was firing on the fugitives.

The entire staff of the Penitentiary Administration was called into action. By the Lieutenant's orders the clerical staff telephoned to the deputy-chiefs on the other islands, informing them of the escape of six convicts, and instructing them to take the necessary measures to recapture them before they could, by some unforeseen means, reach the mainland.

The gun on the roof of the tower which dominated the penitentiary huts on Devil's Island, placed in position at the time of Dreyfus's imprisonment, was fired, thus proclaiming that the roadstead was closed.

All the convict guards and forces in the islands which the authorities had at their command were set to work hunting for the absent men.

The Inspecting Officer, whom the "lifers" had nicknamed "Haversack," threw himself into the fray with furious ardor; and his exasperation was entirely comprehensible, for Chéri-Bibi had already played tricks on him; but the peculiar incidents of this last trick which had been carried out under his very nose were more than he could bear. The miscreant had killed Tarasque by the light of his cigar!

He worked himself up into a fury when, on returning from his rounds in the dormitories, he learned that other convicts had followed Chéri-Bibi in his flight, while nothing was known of the means by which they had escaped.

He went with his men to meet the Commandant, who had finished his beating-up of the game and, like himself, had not obtained a glimpse of even Chéri-Bibi's shadow. Of course no one now believed in his death.

When the Commandant was informed of the extent of the disaster, he exclaimed to the Lieutenant:

"We must warn Cayenne, Kourou, Sinnamarie, St. Laurent and the other stations on the coast. I look upon it as most unfortunate, but we mustn't lose time. The convicts must have felt certain of being able to leave the roadstead or they wouldn't have attempted such a stroke, and possibly they have made terms with some vessel passing through. What's that Dutch schooner which dropped anchor off the harbor last night? Perhaps she has lowered a boat, or perhaps the men have joined some small craft by swimming out to her."

"Let's hope the sharks will get 'em!" returned the Lieutenant.

"Meantime, while we are looking for Chéri-Bibi here, the other convicts have probably already got outside our waters. Go and telephone to Cayenne and Kourou at once."

"I suggest, Commandant, that it might be better while our people are telephoning to Cayenne for me to go in the motor-launch to the mainland. I should get to Kourou very quickly, for it is only about eight miles from here, and I could convey orders to Sinnamarie and St. Laurent, and see personally that the steps which have to be taken are carried out. Not forgetting that if I meet our 'jail-birds' on the way I can bring them back to you at once."

"I agree. Take a couple of well-armed overseers with you, and shoot at sight anyone you may meet who refuses to obey orders."

The Lieutenant saluted and hurriedly made for the jetty.

We left the Parisian, the Burglar, the Caid and the Joker hiding in the fore deck-house on the launch. They still remained there in a frame of mind that it is easy to picture. Sufficient time had elapsed for them to realize that their escape was no longer a secret to anyone. The commotion in the island, the galloping of patrols, and finally the firing of the gun on Devil's Island, sufficed to put them in possession of the facts.

"We're badly done," the Burglar said aloud. "There's no hope for us with this caboodle as we can't make her go. If Chéri-Bibi and the Nut turn up we may be able to come to an understanding."

Instead of Chéri-Bibi and the Nut they saw the Lieutenant and two warders, armed to the teeth, hurrying towards them. The three men boarded the launch.

The runaways had not stirred. In the pitchy darkness which shrouded them they might hope to escape observation for a while. Their last chance depended upon none of the men coming in to the deck-house for a length of rope or any article necessary for the working of the launch.

They held their breath. Fortunately for them the engineer was not on board and the officer would have to put off without him. He would have his hands full attending to the engine during the journey. He had already taken from his pocket the special part of the machinery and placed it in position.

The convicts had more to fear from the warders, but at the word of command the latter climbed to the top of the deck-house, where they remained, rifle in hand, keeping watch, and peering into the night. The convicts could hear the sound of their movements above them.

The officer himself unmoored the chains and threw them into the deck-house, where they fell on the Burglar and the Joker, who did not dare even to make an exclamation!

And the launch put off.

They first sailed round the island at full speed. Obviously the officer had no intention of leaving those waters without first making this circular tour which might, if he had the least luck and discovered anything unusual, put him on the track of the fugitives or reveal to him some part of their scheme.

Finding nothing suspicious, he returned to the roadstead, hailed the Dutch schooner, jumped aboard her, and quickly learned that all was in order and that her ship's boat and dinghy had not been lowered. After exchanging a few words with the captain he returned to the launch.

During his short absence the four convicts were greatly tempted to dash out of their retreat and attack the warders.

But it would have been a risky enterprise, offering very little prospect of success. The warders were armed and would have shot them down like dogs. Moreover, it would have been difficult to take them by surprise. At the least sound coming from below they would have been on their guard and realized that the game for which they were to go hunting so far away was close at hand! Not to mention that they were in the roadstead and assistance would be forthcoming immediately. If the convicts wished to attempt an onset of that character it would be better to wait until they were under way.

The launch was now steering for the mainland and fast leaving the islands behind her.

The crossing was rapid. The launch cut through the water in excellent style. No incident occurred during the brief passage.

The adventure was shaping so splendidly for the four convicts that they had but to let things take their course. They would very soon see what was what. An immense hope began to dawn in them.

The launch came-to alongside the pontoon at Kourou. It was here that the drama for the Parisian and his gang would reach its climax. They were nearing the crucial moment.

The chains with which the launch was moored were in the deck-house, resting on the convicts' knees! Could they suppose that the officer and the warders would lay hold of them without discovering the men in their lair?

They had every reason to hope so, because the ends of the chains were outside the deck-house, and all the warders had to do was to stoop and pick up these ends and the rest of the chains would be at their disposal. That was what actually did happen.

A warder stooped and even turned his head towards the retreat in which the miscreants stood ready to leap forth at the least incident, but he failed to observe them.

The officer, as was his custom, made the engine unworkable by removing the special part, and after mooring the launch, climbed on to the pontoon, ordering his two men to follow him. The three of them soon vanished into the darkness.

The Parisian, the Burglar, the Caid and the Joker heaved a tremendous sigh of relief. During the last half-hour they had scarcely dared to breathe.

The Burglar took off his cap, and bowing in the direction taken by the "Haversack," said with an intonation of mingled excitement and gratitude: "Good-by, and thank you."

Soon they were crouching on the pontoon on the look-out for the guard who was stationed at this point. As they could not see him, they partly rose and began to run for the shore, when suddenly they heard behind them loud shouts and the order to halt.

Of course they ran for all they were worth. A shot was fired after them.

"Look out," grunted the Parisian. "Now for the forest, and in less than no time!"



Though the warder was taking pot-shots at them, Chéri-Bibi and the Nut had received too great a start to run any risk of being hit. When, a few minutes later, the warder came to the outlet of the tunnel through which the six convicts had escaped, he set up a music which may be imagined.

The two convicts found that they were cut off from the road to the jetty, and were obliged to fall back into a small wood of tall forest trees.

They strove again and again to get back to the mass of high rocks on the beach, but all their attempts to do so were discovered, and it was with a feeling of gloomy despair that Chéri-Bibi, who did not know that the launch had left the jetty, was fain to relinquish the idea.

The warders started again with renewed vigor to search the wood. They fired their rifles and revolvers into the trees on the off chance. They cursed and swore in their wrath.

Their imprecations were leveled at Chéri-Bibi, who had so often given them trouble, and whom they had never been able to capture when once he had taken to his heels. It was always he who, after a few weeks' stay in the forest, gave himself up as a prisoner.

The escape of convicts, especially on the mainland, was somewhat frequent. The old offenders imprisoned there were subjected to a vigilance which was less strict, and, like Chéri-Bibi, they disappeared for a time and then returned of their own free will, having finished what they called their "short holiday." They had taken the opportunity to scrape together a little gold dust in localities known only to themselves, and then, weary of the terrible life in the forest and its manifold dangers, they returned to take their places in the penal settlement.

Search them as the warders might, nothing was ever found on them. They were up to all sorts of extraordinary and unsuspected tricks for hiding the gold dust which enabled them to buy certain luxuries in Cayenne and in the wood-cutting establishments.

But how did Chéri-Bibi get away from the islands without falling a prey to the sharks which infested those waters?

At any rate, on this occasion the warders were pretty well certain that he was still on the island. They had caught sight of him and the Nut at the moment when they were taking refuge in the forest.

"Let's go to the coal depot," whispered Chéri-Bibi to the Nut, realizing that they were being surrounded.

The naval authorities kept a huge stock of coal in the Îles du Salut. Chéri-Bibi had more than once found a safe retreat there. In order to discover a man hiding in an immense store of coal and compressed fuel, the entire mass would have to be turned upside down and removed.

During the hours when the convicts were "resting," and were less subject to supervision, Chéri-Bibi was wont to make his way to the depot and dig out passages and recesses known only to himself and undreamt of by any one else. Such places would always come in handy one day or the other. The time had arrived to take advantage of them once more. To reach the place, without hindrance if possible, he went the longest way round, making a wide sweep behind the victualling department.

He stopped to take breath, and then skirting the "sugar-loaf" of the island, finally arrived at the coal store.

But, curse it all, the depot was surrounded by a body of warders who were guarding the approaches. It was evident that experience of past escapes had put the authorities on the alert. Nothing was to be done in that quarter.

Chéri-Bibi uttered an oath, and as he swore a flash pierced the darkness and a bullet whistled between him and the Nut.

Once again their presence had been detected.

In this way they were chased, by degrees, all over the island, until they reached the main buildings in which were imprisoned men who had refused to obey the warders, or been sentenced by the local courts.

Here, notwithstanding that a stronger force of men than usual was posted on guard, the doors were kept locked. That evening, however, one door was ajar and Chéri-Bibi and the Nut slipped through it. On this door was painted in black letters the one word: "Guillotine."

Chéri-Bibi and the Nut did not find themselves alone. Two bodies and two heads lay in a basket; two heads which had fallen that very morning. . . .

And then Pernambouc, the prison executioner, came in, closing the door after him.

He was in a merry mood.

He had returned from the canteen where he had been entertaining his friends. He had been standing treat to them throughout the day. He was very pleased with himself.

Pernambouc was a man of a cheerful disposition, and he found that life had its pleasant side. The pleasant side of life for him was the execution of other men.

Therefore Pernambouc was singing:

"I go to Trouville, to Etretat,
I cut a dash like President Faure
I go about like the head of the State——"

He did not complete the verse. He turned round, and by the red gleam of a lantern slung on the wall he recognized Chéri-Bibi and the Nut.

He did not utter a cry nor make a movement. He only regretted his omission to close the door when he first went out, and he stood waiting.

Chéri-Bibi was not long in coming to the point.

"Look here, there's a chance for you to make a bit. Instead of placing those bodies in your sack and throwing them, as you always do, off the jetty, put us, the Nut and me, in sacks one after the other and drop us into the sea in the ordinary way, but as near as you can to the 'Haversack's' launch. Do you follow me?"

"How much?" asked Pernambouc.

Chéri-Bibi undid the lining in the waistband of his trousers and took out something which glittered. Pernambouc unhooked the lantern from the wall and bent over the shining substance.

"I'll give you half this gold dust," said Chéri-Bibi.

"I want the lot," returned Pernambouc.

Chéri-Bibi offered to give him half then for carrying the Nut first, and the other half when he came back to fetch him.

"That's a fair proposal," said Pernambouc. "All right, my lord. But what am I going to do with my corpses?"

"You've only got to bury them here. You can easily find a way of getting rid of them. In the meantime you needn't be afraid they'll come to life again."

A minute later the Nut, quivering in body and soul, slipped into the loathsome sack intended for one of the guillotined men.

Pernambouc hoisted it on his shoulders.

The warder, whose absence from the jetty Chéri-Bibi had observed at the beginning of his flight, had hurriedly taken up his post as soon as he heard the first rumors of the convicts' escape. He, too, was in a merry mood, and it may be that his gayety had received its inspiration from the same source at which the worthy Pernambouc had refreshed himself.

The man caught sight of the executioner as he laboriously crept forward with the sack on his bade. He went to meet him and asked facetiously:

"Is that shoddy goods heavy?"

"Yes; it's not as light as a feather," he returned. "I'm dying to get rid of it."

"Fire away!" said the warder. "They're sure of 'the convicts' grave' this evening. It's as though the sharks knew about it; for I've seen them turning over and over near the jetty."

"Whereabouts?" asked Pernambouc.

"At the far end."

"I'm going to give 'em something for supper," said Pernambouc with a hideous laugh.

"I'll come with you," said the warder in a sprightly tone.

As he went along Pernambouc became aware that the "Haversack's" launch was no longer moored to the jetty. A grim laugh shook him from head to foot.

Nevertheless he was not a bad sort of man. He had, as we have said, a generous disposition, and when he was at the canteen he had no liking for "drinking alone without standing treat;" but at the thought of the face that the Nut would pull when, once in the water, he discovered that the launch was on a trip and sharks were waiting for him, he could not help roaring with laughter.

"Well, old man, are you satisfied with your little business?" asked the warder.

"Yes," returned Pernambouc. "Things are not so bad. I've earned my pay to-day. I'm very well pleased with myself."

When he came to the end of the jetty he laid his sack on the ground.

"Where did you see the sharks?"

The warder's presence somewhat inconvenienced him, but when the man stooped over the water trying to catch a glimpse of the monsters in the trough of the sea, Pernambouc made the most of the opportunity to throw his sack down.

When the warder turned round at the sound which the sack made as it struck the liquid element he could see only a dark mass which was lost to view in the swirling foam. Almost immediately the waves were swollen by another eddy a few feet away, and the leaping shadow of a huge dog-fish glided over the luminous and phosphorescent sea and disappeared in the direction of the Nut. Above the spot where he had fallen the waters swished and seethed and then grew still.

"What a pity it's dark," exclaimed the warder. "We might have seen if the sea is red."

"Oh, never fear," returned Pernambouc. "That's another one dead and in his grave." And he walked away singing to himself:

"I go to Trouville, to Etretat,
I cut a dash like President Faure,
I go about like the head of the State. . . .
The Nuts lost his, nut! . . . He'll swank no more!"

But the Nut was not dead. Before he touched water he had ripped open the sack with his knife.

He at once swam under water, making a vigorous effort to reach the spot where he believed the launch was moored. . . . No launch was there!

But in her place a shark was swimming towards him, a shark who had already turned on its back, its jaws wide open like a yawning gulf.

The Nut understood what tactics should be followed. They were the chief topic of conversation during the time the convicts were "resting." He dived and passed under the shark. The monster lost the scent and hunted its prey on the other side of the jetty.

But what was he to do? From his position he could see the warder seated on the top of the steps by which alone he could land on the jetty.

He dived again and swam under water, intending to get back as quickly as he could to the beach, at the rear of the warder, by swimming round the jetty if the sharks gave him sufficient time!

Not for a second did it enter his mind to surrender in order to get out of his awful plight. Rather a thousand deaths than return again to the life of the penal settlement. He might reach the beach in time to meet Pernambouc with his new load, and save Chéri-Bibi from the terrible danger to which he himself had been exposed. . . . They would hide themselves once more. . . . And the launch would return.

He managed to swim round the jetty when the monster who missed him before and was continuing the hunt, appeared in front of him, and once more turning on its back glided towards him opening its voracious jaws.

It is this somewhat perplexing movement which the shark must make in order to seize its prey that enables pearl fishers, for example, to work in waters infested with them and, in most cases, to avoid them. As soon as the brute turns on its back, the man plunges under it, and sometimes he is quick enough to rip it open by a magnificent stroke of his knife, a weapon which he invariably carries in his teeth.

The Nut had not sufficiently practised this sort of trial of skill to think of anything but flight. He quickly retreated to the jetty and he knew that on this side a large iron ring was affixed which was used for mooring small craft. He clutched it with one hand, almost exhausted, his exertions having made so great a demand upon his muscular power; and before the brute was upon him he managed to seize the ring with both hands and lift himself out of the water by the strength of his wrists.

The shark brushed against him as it passed under him, snapping its jaws on the empty waters and vanishing in the obscurity.

Meantime Pernambouc returned to fetch Chéri-Bibi, who had lived through an agony of suspense. In his friendship, as in his love or hatred, Chéri-Bibi was always in extremes. His heart had adopted the Nut. To be conscious that the Nut was in danger was for him the cruellest of torments.

When Pernambouc entered his hut he found him seated on the basket which contained the bodies of the guillotined men. The lantern threw its beams on a face that might well have struck dismay in the least sensitive.

So little sensitive as he was a shudder passed through Pernambouc.

"It worked very well," he threw at him without waiting to be questioned.

"Is the Nut on board the launch?" asked Chéri-Bibi.

"The Nut is on board the launch," returned Pernambouc, holding out the second sack to Chéri-Bibi, and claiming from him the balance of the gold dust.

A few minutes later Pernambouc appeared once more on the jetty staggering under his immense burden. The warder lay drowsing on the steps. Pernambouc had to jostle him slightly.

"Let me finish my job."

"Oh, that's number two," grunted the warder. "He looks heavier than the first. Shall I give you a hand to swing him in?"

"Don't trouble. . . . Look here, go back a little way along the jetty. . . . I thought I saw the Commandant over there. He's cursing like mad, and turning the hole damn island upside down to-night."

"Is it a fact that Chéri-Bibi is dead?" asked the warder as he went up the steps of the jetty.

"Oh, with a man like that you can never tell." So saying, Pernambouc bundled the sack into the water, and it was swallowed up in a huge eddy.

Pernambouc had not gone far when a hollow exclamation came from the sea, sending once more a shudder through him to the marrow: "Fatalitas!"

"What's that?" exclaimed the warder. "I thought I heard someone's voice."

"You're imagining things to-night."

The warder did not persist. He was attracted by the distant throbbing of the launch.

"Hullo, here's the Inspecting Officer back again," he exclaimed.

"Yes, yes," returned Pernambouc. "Here's the launch. And his day's work finished, his duty performed, he went back to his dormitory like a well-disciplined 'convict.'"

The Commandant had also caught the hum of the approaching launch. He reached the jetty in time to receive the officer when he landed, and to learn that his instructions had been carried out, but that no trace of the fugitives had been seen.

"It's something very like witchcraft," exclaimed the Commandant as he left the jetty with the officer. "We haven't discovered anything either."

At that juncture the warder was not a little taken aback to see the launch put off from the jetty without apparently any crew being on board her. He shouted, called for help, and fired several shots at her on chance. The officers rushing up in haste could scarcely believe their own eyes.

Meantime Chéri-Bibi and the Nut had at last found each other, boarded the launch, and reached the open sea. The engine was running to perfection. They might consider themselves out of danger. Suddenly Chéri-Bibi exclaimed:

"The barque!"

This was the sailing ship whose business it was to convey the convicts to the various penitentiary establishments and to keep guard.

The coast was quite near. Nevertheless Chéri-Bibi and the Nut had barely time to run the launch aground before the boat which was lowered by the barque landed a body of warders who at once started firing on them.

"We've got 'em; we've got 'em," they bellowed.

But it was not long before their pursuit was brought to a standstill. They were obliged even to fall back, for they heard a crackling sound all around them.

Chéri-Bibi had set fire to the forest.



Chéri-bibi and the Nut had taken a serious step in entering the primeval forest. How many convicts who had escaped and sought refuge in it had found death; death in its most terrible form? They must needs struggle against all and everything—hunger, fever, wild beasts and men.

It sometimes happened that men who were engaged in clearing a new part of the forest came upon partly devoured remains of human bodies. That was all that was left of an escape which had created some sensation at the time of its occurrence.

None but a very old jail-bird regards the forest as a friend who would defend and keep him. As we have said, more than one convict, weary of its savage life, returned and gave himself up as a prisoner.

Nevertheless Chéri-Bibi said to the Nut:

"I know my forest. They can send every warder in the colony after us. I defy them to capture us."

In order to keep back for a while the men who were pursuing them, he had simply set fire to a great accumulation of trees of all sizes and species which had been felled by the ax some months previously, and which the burning hot tropical sun had entirely dried up. This mass became in a few minutes like a gigantic furnace, which spread the blaze to an entire quarter of the living forest, so that, perceiving the extent of the conflagration, the Nut anxiously inquired if they would not themselves fall victims to their own method of defense.

The wind which had arisen when darkness fell blew north and north-west, and drove the flames towards Cayenne. The Nut, feeling instinctively that animals were fleeing in the opposite direction, that is to say with the wind behind them, tried to persuade Chéri-Bibi to turn towards the north-east; but he stopped him with a word.

"That way we are bound to meet warders who must be preparing to bar our passage. Do as I say, and don't let's leave the fire."

The Nut did as he said, thinking to himself that though they were almost certain, of course, to avoid the warders by fleeing in this direction, they ran considerable risk of being roasted alive. As a matter of fact they felt that the greatest heat from the furnace was behind them.

Now they cut a caper.

"That's done it; we're saved," exclaimed Chéri-Bibi. And he pointed through the tropical climbers which were already beginning to crackle around them, to the crimson waters of a river.

"The river . . . the Kourou river!"

A few minutes later they swam across it.

"Look out for alligators!" cried Chéri-Bibi, and then immediately afterwards sinking his voice: "Under water. . . . Put your mug under water. . . . Warders about! . . . I prefer alligators."

At that moment a launch filled with warders sent in pursuit of them, hove in sight at the bend of the river.

Hiding themselves in the thick of a mass of reeds and aquatic plants, Chéri-Bibi and the Nut were obliged repeatedly to dive to avoid being seen in the dazzling light of the conflagration, for the giant trees of the ages-old forest seemed like prodigious candles uniting heaven and earth in one glow and one illumination.

"Go ahead!" ordered the petty officer, and the launch speeded up the river against the tide, and finally disappeared from view.

Chéri-Bibi and the Nut felt fairly certain that they had now thrown the warders off the scent, for obviously they still believed that the two men were at some point on the opposite bank of the river. Thus they landed on the right bank, and leaving both the river and sea behind them, plunged boldly into the heart of the jungle.

Chéri-Bibi seemed to be following some well thought-out plan, for he interrupted their journey from time to time to take his bearings. Their progress, moreover, had become extremely difficult, and the Nut made the suggestion that they might now call a halt for a little sleep, and set out again the next day.

Under the canopy of the high forest trees and in the dense entanglement of creepers and parasitical vegetation of all sorts, they forged their way in murky darkness.

"Have you anything to light a fire with?" said Chéri-Bibi in answer to the Nut's proposal. "No, of course you haven't. Well, I've got three matches left, and I needn't tell you that after our dip in the river they won't light, so what then, old man? To go to sleep at night in the forest without having a fire beside you is to stand a pretty good chance of waking up in the jaws of a jaguar. Come on. We'll have a sleep during the day."

Thus they moved on for the remainder of the night, conscious that if they stopped to lie down they would close their eyes in utter prostration.

Chéri-Bibi sought to encourage the Nut by telling him stupendous stories of the jungle, so stupendous, in fact, that the Nut had some difficulty in believing them. What strange tragedies and what legends of mysterious and fabulous fortunes were associated with the gold-diggers! . . . Meantime they were almost naked, and each carried a knife as his sole weapon.

"As we've been walking for such a time, it can't be long now before we come to the Pupa," said Chéri-Bibi.

"What's the Pupa?"

"It's a small river which flows into the Cayenne, and, of course, it bars our route. We are bound to come up against it whether we go a little farther one way or the other. So when we get there we shall be able to see how we stand."

The Nut's feet were bleeding. He would have liked to take off the rough shoes which were the regulation shoes served out by the Penitentiary Administration; but Chéri-Bibi set his face against it.

"We're going through a forest which is full of rattlesnakes, old man, and nothing is more poisonous than those reptiles. One bite is enough! Make as much noise as you can as we go along so as to drive them away—and keep your shoes on!"

They frequently used their knives to cut a path through the inextricable tangle of undergrowth, and they made two staffs for themselves, veritable boar spears, from a wood as hard as iron, called gun wood. As they proceeded they beat the thickets right and left, and often heard the spring of some wild animal as it took itself off in the darkness. At length dawn suddenly broke.

Chéri-Bibi started to run. The Nut heard him shouting:

"The Pupa! . . . The Pupa!"

He managed to drag himself so far and dropped, at the end of his endurance, before a stream whose cool waters lapped the clear rocks. Chéri-Bibi lay flat with his face in the water drinking . . . drinking. The Nut bent down and drank out of the same cup; and afterwards both slept a dreamless sleep in the shade of the branches which overhung this enchanting stream.

So overcome were they by sleep and exhaustion that they did not hear the approach of four men somewhat noisily descending the bank of the river which they too were longing to reach. When their eyes fell on Chéri-Bibi and the Nut, the four men stopped with one accord. It was the Parisian, the Burglar, the Caid and the Joker.

The delight of the four miscreants, when they saw before them, at their mercy, the two beings whom they most hated in the world, knew no bounds. They were armed with axes which they had seized together with some food—already consumed, however—as they passed through a woodcutting establishment near Kourou.

They had but to lift their arms and strike; and already the Parisian was shaking his ax in the air and staring at the Nut with a look in his eyes in which the craving for murder had already sent the blood. But the Joker who had the coolest head among the gang, agreed with the Burglar, who was the most cunning, that it was a matter that demanded consideration. They dragged the Parisian and the Caid away, and there was a council of war.

The result of the discussion was that the four convicts put off for a while their treacherous attack. The Joker's line of argument was, moreover, entirely convincing. It was no secret, he said, that Chéri-Bibi possessed at some spot in the forest a hiding-place in which he must certainly have taken the precaution, during his earlier expeditions, to collect together such things as provisions and so forth to prevent himself from dying of starvation. From all appearance the two scantily dressed men, who lay overwhelmed with sleep, and defenseless, had not yet reached any of those hiding-places. Would it not be better, before disposing of them, to wait until they themselves had betrayed their hoard to the men who, like the Parisian, the Burglar, the Caid, and the Joker, stood most in need of it?

Having made up their minds, they retraced their steps slightly towards the north so as to be behind the two men when they resumed their journey. But they kept to the banks of the Pupa, which were obviously some sort of guide to Chéri-Bibi.

As a matter of fact, when Chéri-Bibi woke up, he first took his bearings, and then roused the Nut from his heavy slumber, and both followed the river bank, making for the south-west.

The Parisian and his gang did not lose sight of their movements. And they had the satisfaction of seeing Chéri-Bibi halt at the foot of a tall tree, lift a boulder, and dig the earth underneath with the point of his wooden spear. The Nut lent him a hand. They seemed to work with growing excitement. To those who were watching the scene, there could not be the shadow of a doubt that at that spot stood the hiding-place in which their treasure was concealed.

At last Chéri-Bibi stooped forward and after rummaging in the earth began to pass sundry articles to the Nut.

The Burglar, who knew how to steal through the forest without making a twig crackle just as he knew, in Paris, how to move about a flat at night without stumbling against the furniture, had crept forward pretty close to the two men without arousing suspicion, and was eagerly watching the scene. To begin with, the hiding-place contained a kit-bag full of articles which were of prime necessity. The Burglar heard Chéri-Bibi enumerate them in a hoarse voice: a compass, a small lantern, a saw, some tins of preserved meat, spices, two bottles of rum, a pocket-lighter and tinder, and an iron box containing identity papers which would enable a convict to return to France as an honest man.

"There are several honest men in that box," said Chéri-Bibi, with a grunt of satisfaction. "You will be able to make your choice."

Then there was a bottle filled with a brownish liquid. It was an antidote to the stings of snakes.

Chéri-Bibi had thought of everything; but undoubtedly the prize of the collection was a large box from which he drew forth two hatchets for felling trees, a rifle, a revolver, some ammunition and three dynamite cartridges.

"It's all in first-rate condition, because I took the precaution of covering the kit-bag and the box with a thick layer of bully-tree gum," observed Chéri-Bibi.

The Nut did not know how to express his delight. He burst into laughter. For the first time since he had been in the penal settlement he laughed. He had no suspicion, unhappy man, that not far away from him a pair of eyes were fastened on those treasures and gleaming with covetousness.

Had the Burglar's three confederates been with him, possibly he might not have wavered but fallen upon the two friends before they were in possession of their weapons. Possibly—because Chéri-Bibi and the Nut, even unarmed, were men to be feared.

They had by this time satisfied their hunger from a tin of preserved meat, and Chéri-Bibi slung his rifle on his shoulder ready to set out for the chase.

"Sharpen your teeth," he said; "I'm going to have a look round for your dinner, and I can assure you that there won't be such a spread even at the Commandant's table. But let's do a little fishing to start with."

"Are you going shooting and fishing at the same time?" inquired the Nut, who since he had seen the good things at their disposal had forgotten his troubles and was as light-hearted as a child.

"You'll soon see how I do my fishing," returned Chéri-Bibi.

He went up to the river bank and, handing his rifle to the Nut, took from his precious kit-bag, which he had flung over his shoulders, a dynamite cartridge. A minute later the cartridge exploded in the river, and straightway dozens of fish, both big and small, floated on the seething waters, belly upwards.

"Well, what do you say to some fried fish?"

"I'm sorry we've got rid of a dynamite cartridge. We've only two left."

"That's more than we shall want," returned Chéri-Bibi. "What's the use of them if not for fishing? In the old days, when I amused myself by going prospecting for gold in the forest, they came in handy, but now I've no need of them, and I'll tell you why after dinner."

Chéri-Bibi began shooting, and had the good fortune to "bring down" a tapir and a partridge. The partridge was the size of a chicken and the tapir as big as a pony. In South America the flesh of the tapir is considered one of the best among red meats; and with the fish which they picked up on the surface of the water after the explosion of their dynamite cartridge, their dinner could not fail to be an appetizing one.

They pitched their camp some three hundred feet from the Pupa under a great forest tree, dug a hole, lighted a fire, and when the hole grew as hot as an oven, slipped the skinned carcass of the tapir into it.

They ate their fill and drank the river water with a dash of rum in it. At the finish Chéri-Bibi fished out of his bag some tobacco and they smoked and chatted in great good humor.

The Nut regarded their mode of existence as perfect, and declared that he could not understand the conduct of those escaped convicts who, having had the unexpected good fortune to reach the forest, returned and surrendered themselves as prisoners. Chéri-Bibi as he listened to him gave a peculiar smile.

Night was coming on. An impressive silence reigned over the face of all living things.

"Well," said Chéri-Bibi, speaking in an undertone as if he feared to be overheard by the very trees. "Well, I, who love the forest, I tell you that I cannot look upon it without a tremor, and particularly during those hours, like the present, when it ceases to breathe. Its silence terrifies me. . . . I've never been afraid of but two things—my knife for others and the forest for myself. For the forest is like myself. . . . Sometimes it wants to do good, and it is at those moments that it slays. The forest is something like my elder sister. . . . I love it very much and it loves me very much, and yet it would make an end of me as it would make an end of anyone else, because when one is born to commit murder there's no way out of it. Some crime is on foot at the moment when one least suspects it. Be on your guard. You must never take any risks. The forest is full of mysteries; full of fumes which kill; of plants and animals which carry death in their breath. And then there are other things besides plants and animals. . . . There, listen . . ." snorted Chéri-Bibi, as he grasped his rifle and peered into the gloom behind the Nut. "Didn't you hear?"

"No. . . . What was it?"

"A man's breathing."

Chéri-Bibi remained standing for several minutes with his ears pricked up listening to the sounds of the forest, and then he came back and seated himself again beside the fire and threw ashes over it.

"I assure you," he said, sinking his voice, "that something was breathing not very far away from us, and that something was a man. Perhaps it was a medicine-man who was passing and came up to have a look at us. In any case, let's put out the fire, which throws too much light around, and use the lantern. That will be enough to drive away wild animals, while a big fire, you know, attracts any man who may be in the neighborhood. . . . So you didn't hear anything? No, you can't tell. Sure enough, there's only one wizard who would come so near. It's a pity that Yoyo isn't here."

"Who or what's Yoyo?"

"Yoyo is undoubtedly the chief magician or medicine-man of the forest. He's the man who taught me a thing or two! He has a cure for everything. He can drive away evil spirits. . . . And he gave me the antidote for the stings of snakes. I'll introduce you to him in three or four days' march from her. He's an Indian who comes from the Emmerillons, and he and his family just managed to escape being eaten by a savage tribe—the Roncouyennes."

"Even though he's a magician?"

"Oh, in those days he was only an apprentice magician. He hadn't passed his examinations!"

"Do magicians have to pass examinations?"

"The Indians about here call their medicine-men piayes. A goodly number of them claim to be piayes, but if they are not the real article they do not impose on anyone. There are certain recognized tests by which it is impossible to mistake a genuine piaye. Such a man knows how at a given time to make a tiger or jaguar obey him. You must understand that these men are familiar with every scent and plant, and the peculiar detritus with which they have to sow the track of these animals in order to make them come to the place to which they wish them to come."

"Is Yoyo a friend?"

"A very great friend. It was I who saved him from death. And ever since then he and his brothers have worked for me in a secret place in the forest. A great quantity of gold is stored in that place; more gold, perhaps, than you would be able to carry away with you."

Chéri-Bibi mounted guard during the night and looked after the Nut as though he were a child. He managed to rig him up a crude sort of hammock by twisting together a number of creepers and suspending them to a tree. It served to protect the Nut from the excruciating stings of the innumerable ants which constitute the mortal plague of Guiana at night time. Next morning the Nut could not be sufficiently grateful, nor did he know how to express the feelings of friendship with which his heart was overflowing. He was quite at a loss.

"Never mind about that," said Chéri-Bibi, as they broke camp. "That's a matter between me and the good Lord. He has been rather hard upon me, and we have not always got on well together. But the good Lord allowed you to cross my path, and I am thankful for it. You know that in my particular sphere of life, one doesn't come across a mug like yours every day. Yours is not the mug of a bad lot. That's all. I like you because I've often seen you grieving and calling out for your mother like a kid, and because you're a white man, with the soul of a priest. You give me peace, in fact. Enough, we'll say no more about it. . . . And then you must know one thing, old man—everything that I have is yours. My life, my gold—everything. My life will be useful to you here, and my gold will be useful to you in Europe. I have a fair quantity of it. . . .

"Yoyo alone knows where I keep it. We must continue our way day and night. I shan't be easy in my mind until we meet Yoyo. The other medicine-men are afraid of him, and the redskins from Taheca to Paramacuas obey him. Yoloch, the native devil, and Goudon, the native god, are devoted to him. He rules the forest."

"Where is Yoyo?" asked the Nut.

"In a part of the forest which very few people except his family and myself know, I promise you. . . . However, nearly every Sunday he comes to do a little marketing at Sanda's bar and store in the village where the gold-diggers live."

They pushed rapidly forward during the next two days and nights. Every now and then they met natives, who greeted them with the usual civilities but kept their distance.

"Hodeo." ("Good day.")

"Akonno, Feî-de-ba?" ("Thank you, how are you?")

"Li vacca bouilleba." ("Traveling is pleasant, thanks be to Heaven.")

"Diafonno." ("May your journey continue prosperous!")

Sometimes they encountered natives who were able to speak French fairly well. The Nut could not help expressing his astonishment.

"They mix in high circles, my dear fellow," explained Chéri-Bibi. "They're regular frequenters of the wood-cutting establishments and the penal settlements on the coast. Yoyo speaks French as well as you or I."

Other natives jabbered a mixture of French and Pupian which was not without its humor.

"How lifika? (How are things?")

The Nut asked Chéri-Bibi if it were true, as was declared, that certain tribes in Guiana practiced cannibalism.

Chéri-Bibi nodded his head.

"There are some. There are not many, but there are a few when the opportunity for a good 'feast' offers itself—you follow me—and we can't bear them any grudge for it. From what I hear, it's not so very bad. . . . In general, the natives are quite decent sorts if the medicine-men do not egg them on. But there are tribes who work only with these 'feasts' in view. They don't live in these parts, but much farther away, near Pelzgoudars. Yoyo told me that in that district you must take no risks. . . . Those people are fond of tasty dishes!"

"What about the terrible tribe of Oyaricoulets?"

"I can tell you that I've never seen the tribe of Oyaricoulets, and I really believe that those who talk the most about them haven't seen them any more than I have. Still, one can never tell. The jungle is a world to itself, and we must never be astonished at anything. The story runs that these people have big ears resembling the ears of donkeys, and enormously long legs. They're giants, in fact. They climb trees like monkeys. They are said to be armed with bows as big as my arm, which carry an incredible distance, and of course they 'eat' the stranger within their gates. It's said, too, that they have noses as big as a macaw's beak. Stuff and nonsense!"

About eleven o'clock on their third night, Chéri-Bibi fell asleep, utterly done up, and the Nut was mounting guard. With rifle in hand he listened to the weird night noises of the forest, and often he gave a start, imagining that he heard a stirring in the underwood, and even, as Chéri-Bibi said, a man's breathing.

Once or twice he got up to make a tour of the camp, stopping with ears on the alert, and taking a step forward only with the greatest caution. Chéri-Bibi's stories of forest witchcraft were like an obsession on his restless mind.

Several times he stared into the darkness ready to fire; and then he laughed at his childish fears and came back and sat down beside Chéri-Bibi.

Nearly an hour passed in this way. Suddenly there was a very distinct creaking, as of some body bearing down upon making its way through the undergrowth. And then he caught a sigh—it was very distinctly a breath, for it was something more than a sigh—like a human whisper.

The Nut shook Chéri-Bibi who, however, slept on. He reproached himself for trying to awaken him from his heavy slumber; and so as to make sure that he was not the victim of his over-excited nerves, he stole, with rifle at the ready, towards the sound which he fancied he had heard.

The noise was repeated, but it seemed to be moving away.

The Nut went forward boldly, and suddenly emerged into a small clearing, in the center of which was a native on his knees with arms upraised in the shining moon, sighing and, seemingly, giving himself up to infinitely sad incantations.

It was an Indian clad simply in the skin of a carnivora. His face was curiously tattooed, while his long hair was parted in the middle. His eyes gleamed in the dusk like the luminous eyes of an animal while he sobbed forth his muffled and singular litany wherein ever and anon occurred the refrain: "Galatha! Galatha! Galatha!"

He failed to perceive the Nut, who stood hidden behind a tree. "That's a magician, a piaye, who is calling upon Yoloch or Goudon," said the Nut to himself. But he had no desire to break in upon the man's supplications.

Suddenly the piaye was surrounded by a band of infuriated redskins, whose leaping shadows appeared enormous to the Nut and filled him with affright. They seemed to be bounding as high as the trees, and the play of the moonlight through the branches lent itself to the fancies of a man who had been listening all day to exciting and fantastic stories of the forest.

He fled, convinced that he had seen the Oyaricoulets, and he gave no rest to Chéri-Bibi until he allowed himself to be dragged away still half asleep. At last when he was entirely awake in the early morning, and the dreaded country was left far behind, he said:

"Tell me what you saw."

"I saw the Oyaricoulets."

"But what else?"

"They were preparing to commit every sort of crime, and dancing like madmen round a magician who broke forth into frightful lamentations, crying 'Galatha! Galatha!'"

"Well, it was some poor man who was mourning the death of his wife, his galatha. And you were witnessing a sort of mass for the repose of her soul. . . . May Goudon protect her and defend us from Yoloch! It takes very little to astonish you."

During the remainder of the day Chéri-Bibi gave particular attention to the physical features of the country through which they were passing. In the afternoon his face lit up with a smile; and the Nut surmised that all was as well as well could be with them.

They left the Pupa and were following the course of another river which flowed towards the north-east. Strangely enough the forest was no longer inimical to them. Everything, on the contrary, seemed to assist them in their purpose. They came across a path which enabled them to cover a considerable tract of ground without unduly fatiguing themselves.

At last, in the evening, they reached the top of a wooded height, from which Chéri-Bibi could point out to the Nut the gold diggings and the village in which the prospectors lived.



The bar and store which Señor Sanda had set up in the heart of the gold-prospecting district stood on the banks of a stream which, some three days' march farther on emptied itself into the Oyapok, a river which constituted the frontier between French Guiana and Brazil. The bar was an establishment similar to those, called albacen, which are to be found in the forest solitudes of Gran Chaco.

Here everything was sold that could be of use to the worker in the forest—tools, provisions, preserves, tinware, clothes, arms, munitions and every variety of alcohol. It was at once a bar and a grocer's shop. It was likewise a gaming-house. Men entered it with their pockets well filled with gold dust, and left it to work in the "sluices," having lost their all. Other men quickly made a fortune, but they did not keep it long. Truth to tell, Señor Sanda was the only man in the place who grew rich.

One Sunday, in the large saloon bar, constructed of wooden planks with a corrugated iron roof, men were having an exciting game at the table, at the far end of the room, near the counter behind which Sanda, assisted by his "boys," was serving out rum and Indian spirits to chance customers.

At the gaming-table gold dust passed from one hand to another, and little bags were emptied on the turn of the dice or filled to an accompaniment of shouts, protests and a general uproar, which were followed suddenly by intervals of intense silence.

Near the door the Parisian, the Burglar, the Caid and the Joker were seated at a table with a bottle before them. They were chatting somewhat furtively as they eyed, by turns, the proprietor, new arrivals as they came in, and the table at the other end at which a mad game was in progress.

"We might imagine ourselves at the Jockey Club," said the Joker.

"You dry up," said the Parisian.

The four men had no gold dust. They were penniless, but they were in possession of an important secret which had brought them to that village and filled them with a dim but splendid hope. They had overheard Chéri-Bibi and the Nut's conversation about Yoyo and his hoard of gold.

Consequently they had performed surprising feats, marching day and night in order to arrive at the diggings before the two men.

During the last twenty-four hours they had been hunting, without success, for Yoyo. At last they ran aground at Sanda's bar, and were now seated with a bottle in front of them for which, seemingly, they would find some difficulty in paying.

Suddenly the Parisian stood up and said:

"Don't you trouble about me, but go on with your chatter." And he showed them a set of dice with which they were quite familiar.

He went to have a look at the men at the gaming-table where a certain amount of disorder reigned. The men were arguing about a throw of the dice. The Parisian forked out a piece of linen which might possibly have been a handkerchief with a knot at the end of it containing an appreciable quantity of the precious metal.

He took a hand in the game.

His first victim was a woolly-headed half-breed, who came from the diggings with a well-lined belt. Half an hour later he had lost the lot. He swore, for that matter, that he had been robbed, and the quarrel was about to lead to blows, for two other diggers had come in and taken sides against the Parisian, when Señor Sanda stepped between them and declared that he only allowed gentlemen who were above suspicion to enter his place. Sanda exercised absolute authority. He could expel from his gaming club anyone who failed to meet his approval without having to consult any committee of management.

The Parisian, in the manner of a great aristocrat, at once ordered the most expensive drinks and invited everyone to have a drink with him, paying a large sum in advance to Señor Sanda without moving a muscle of his face. Then the Parisian, as he had foreseen, was favored with Sanda's smile, and the sound of the dear man's voice was as pleasant to hear as the gold dust was pleasant to look upon.

The Burglar, the Caid and the Joker joined them and took part, as may well be imagined, in the general carouse.

"I've unloosened the tongue of the pub-keeper," said the Parisian. "We must try to make the most of it."

The Parisian poured the gold dust which he had won into his wide-brimmed felt hat, and letting it run through his fingers, said to Sanda:

"Poor beggars! I've probably taken the result of six months' work away from them."

"Oh, not many of them make their fortunes in the diggings apart from a few Indians who discover a real vein and hide themselves from Europeans as though they were the plague . . ." returned Sanda. "See that man passing over there?"


"Opposite the bar. . . . That's a celebrated magician. He knows where the gold is, does that man. . . . He's called Yoyo."

The Parisian made a dash for the window. He saw a man going past who was in the full vigor of youth.

His appearance was somewhat startling, and even demoniacal. He wore his hair plaited in little tresses. He had a fine figure and moved gracefully. It would be difficult to withstand his flashing gaze.

The convicts kept their eyes fixed on him.

"He comes here to buy the necessaries for the yaraqué feast, which is the most important event of the year. The Indians carry through the village their flags made of basket-work, which they fix on tall bamboos, beat on their various drums, and play a sort of flute made from dead men's bones."

At that moment one of the gamblers, who had procured a little gold, challenged the Parisian to a fresh game. The Parisian imagined, from the appearance of the saloon, that it would be difficult to refuse to play, and he sat down once more opposite his partners; but, turning to the Burglar and his chums, he threw a glance in the direction of Yoyo, who was entering a hut on the other side of the street, and one of them went out to follow the Indian's tracks.

In the meantime night had fallen quickly, and Chéri-Bibi and the Nut had come in. They were feeling worn out, and did not stop in the village until they reached Sanda's store.

When they entered the bar the proprietor and his customers were so intent upon the game that their arrival passed entirely unobserved. They went to a table some distance from the lamps, and threw their bags down in a dark corner beside them.

Then Chéri-Bibi stood up to inspect some cooking utensils which were hanging on the wall and which, on the way, he had decided to buy.

The Nut, overcome with fatigue, holding his head in his hands, did not seem to have the strength to give an order. Nevertheless he turned his head at the sounds which came from the other end of the room. Curses and yells of fury went up against the turn of the dice. The Parisian insolently continued to win.

Suddenly the Nut gave a start. Someone was speaking whose voice he seemed to recognize, and yet it could not be.

He rose from the table and drew near the gamblers. The dice were thrown again.

"Those dice are loaded!" a loud voice broke out.

The Nut, who had flung out the accusation, stared at the gambler with blazing eyes. His heart was swelling with an unspeakable hatred. The Parisian. . . . The Parisian was before his eyes. . . . The man who had tortured him for such long years.

"That man has robbed you!"

The gamblers made a rush at the Parisian, but the Nut shook off the human cluster which stood between him and his enemy.

"No, no. . . . Leave him to me," he cried. "This man is my affair. He falls to my lot. Oh, how long I've waited for this moment!"

Chéri-Bibi tried in vain to intervene. The Parisian and the Nut, locked in a deadly embrace, were rolling on the floor.

As soon as hostilities broke out Sanda saw that the affair would end in a free fight and, as was his duty, sent one of his "boys" to warn the headman of the place. And at the height of the struggle, as the Parisian was gasping for breath under the pressure of the Nut's fingers, the saloon was plunged into complete darkness. The Parisian's confederates had put out the lamps. Someone shouted:


The police had, in fact, arrived. The lamps were lighted again, and it was seen that the birds had flown. . . .

Sanda remarked to the headman:

"Fortunately for me, my customers pay in advance!"

Saved from the Nut's clutches by the cunning and devotion of his friends, the Parisian soon recovered his senses, and in particular, his perception of their position. The main thing for them was not to lose sight of Yoyo.

The four convicts felt certain that Chéri-Bibi was unaware of the medicine-man's appearance in the village, and it was with full confidence in their scheme that they followed Yoyo's tracks as soon as he once again made his way into the forest.

Yoyo led them during a part of the night into an almost impenetrable wilderness; but when dawn broke they realized that they had lost trace of him. For hours they endeavored, without avail, to recover the scent. They held a consultation, and finally determined to return to the village, for they ran some risk in that part of the jungle of losing their way, which would mean death to them. . . .

At the village they would be able to buy such things as they stood in need, particularly fire-arms, and leave the place and wait patiently until Chéri-Bibi and the Nut passed the frontier into Brazil, for when the two men came back from visiting Yoyo they would be laden with gold. The Parisian and his gang were fully aware of the part of the coast from which the Nut would attempt to sail for Europe. . . . The plan was adopted with enthusiasm.

Meanwhile Chéri-Bibi and the Nut had also entered the forest. Chéri-Bibi went forward with confidence owing to the landmarks which had been set up some years before; and suddenly, as he was passing under a giant tree, something fell into his arms. It was Yoyo—Yoyo, who, perceiving that he was being followed, had climbed into a tree with the agility of a monkey—Yoyo, who had recognized Chéri-Bibi.

The Nut was presented to him with due form and ceremony. Yoyo was a medicine-man who seemed to be conversant with the usages of polite society and to value them more than anything else.

"I'm the man who told him all about the benefits of civilization," said Chéri-Bibi, with a touch of pride. Nevertheless, the presence of a gang of undesirables in the neighborhood, to which he drew attention—Chéri-Bibi recognized from Yoyo's description that he was referring to the Parisian and his confederates—curtailed his demonstrations of friendship, which the medicine-man's personality rendered well-nigh sacred; and when Yoyo had expressed to Chéri-Bibi how rejoiced his family would be to see him again, the three of them plunged into the very depths of the Macuano country in which Yoyo lived.

When Chéri-Bibi and the Nut reached the place they received a very touching welcome. The old mother, the young sister and brothers vied with each other in their kindness to the new-comers. They served a concoction for the evening meal which brought the tears to Chéri-Bibi's eyes.

Never had fish and pimento been so tastily prepared for the convict's palate, and he declared that he had never eaten anything so good, even in the days when he was in hiding in a fisherman's hut in Martigny, after a sorry story of an attempted murder of a gendarme, the mock-heroic episodes of which he recalled not without a certain whimsical humor.

The story was, it seemed, entirely in Chéri-Bibi's favor, for he had taken upon himself to defend a young girl who appeared to be in some danger; but the misfortune was that the jury suspected that the danger came from Chéri-Bibi himself. And he concluded: "I expected that, but when your conscience is clear you can afford to treat the rest as a good joke."

The natives, who were extremely quick-witted, listened to Chéri-Bibi with absorbed attention. The evening wore on in most agreeable fashion as Chéri-Bibi indulged in his recollections as a criminal, for he deferred the consideration of serious business to the morrow. As to the Nut, he was like a man in a dream.

He no longer allowed himself to be astonished at anything. The most amazing incidents seemed to him to be quite normal. He knew beforehand that anything might happen to him, and, adopting Chéri-Bibi's philosophy, was prepared for everything. A day or two ago it was the penal settlement, convicts, warders; yesterday it was the fearsome Oyaricoulets, and the not less fearsome Parisian; that night it was an excellent dinner, winding up with stories of which the least that could be said was that they were in keeping with the fantastic nature of the events which were in store for them. To-morrow! What would happen to-morrow. Oh, yes, Chéri-Bibi had promised him that to-morrow he would be a millionaire!

And in very truth he did become a millionaire. After a good night's rest, which was the first that they had passed in safety since their departure from île Royale, Yoyo suggested to Chéri-Bibi that they should set out with him. . . .

They came to a clear stream in which the medicine-man's brothers and women-folk were engaged in obtaining gold by washing the alluvial gravels.

It is well known that this particular region is one of the richest in the world, and nearly every river contains gold in appreciable quantities. But the difficulties which are involved in obtaining it, and the impossibility for Europeans to live in the primeval forest, renders the collection of the gold exceedingly arduous. To secure remunerative results, large companies with considerable capital at their command are necessary. The individual prospector who refuses to become a worker for others is fated soon to be discouraged or to perish. In comparison with the few who grow rich by a lucky accident, what great numbers go under!

The native can overcome these disadvantages. Nevertheless, when he has discovered a lode, or some creek containing a larger amount of the metal than usual, he is plundered, or rather, compulsorily dispossessed, according to the rigor of the law of ownership established by white men. Thus, learning from experience, he hides himself and works entirely alone.

For many years Yoyo and his family had labored for Chéri-Bibi. What was the nature of his tremendous services to them that they should become his slaves? "I saved Yoyo's life," said Chéri-Bibi modestly. The truth was that one day, when tired of the settlement, he escaped and was taking a holiday on the Upper Oyapok, he saved the entire family from destruction by a man-eating tribe. . . . "But that," as Kipling says, "is another story."

Chéri-Bibi having given the signal, Yoyo led the way over a swamp, concealed by bamboos. Undoubtedly they would have been engulfed in the swamp but for stones which had been secretly laid down in the mire and were scarcely visible, but which held them up as they walked across.

Each man had but to imitate the movements of Yoyo. One of his brothers who, with a proud air, leaned on the handle of a pickaxe, was the last to cross over. Thus they landed on an islet of moss-covered boulders whose approach was guarded by this belt of mud. They made their way into a narrow circular space surrounded by rising ground.

"Here we are!" exclaimed Yoyo.

He spoke a few quick words to his brother, who inserted his pick under a stone of some considerable size which looked as if it were immovable, but all the same it almost at once swung on a pivot, exposing to view a crevice filled with thick moss.

The men shifted the moss and a leather bag could be seen. The magician bent forward and untied the complicated fastenings. It was apparent, that the bag was filled with gold dust. . . .

When, two days later, they crossed the Oyapok and, at the same time, the Brazilian frontier, Chéri-Bibi heaved a deep sigh of relief, and said to the Nut, pointing to the bag which Yoyo and one of his brothers had carried so far, and to the landscape which lay before them:

"Fortune and liberty!"

"It is to you that I shall owe both. I shall never forget it."

The Nut had first refused to accept this royal gift. He could not understand how it was that with such wealth, and friends like Yoyo, Chéri-Bibi remained so long at the penal settlement and was quite ready to go back to it.

"Come with me to Europe, or, if that is impossible, live here with Yoyo," he entreated him. "Anything is better than life in the convict settlement."

At first he received in reply merely one of those terrible grins which placed an impassable gulf between Chéri-Bibi and mankind. Those who saw that grin understood that something was on the other side of the abyss, something entirely remote from them, apart from them, apart from everything; some mysterious thing which they would never unravel, and they did not persist.

Nevertheless a few minutes later Chéri-Bibi made an effort to enter into an explanation for the Nut's benefit, to which he would never have consented with anyone else. It seemed that the moment was not yet come for Chéri-Bibi to see Europe once more. He had the most profound reasons for his decision. Obviously he would amass a fortune before that particular hour struck, but since it was still far distant, the Nut could accept the gold with an easy conscience, inasmuch as Yoyo would have ample time to collect together another hoard. In so far as the penal settlement was concerned, Chéri-Bibi added, with a demoniacal laugh, he should return to it by choice.

"Not forgetting that I cannot do without certain news which can only reach me there."

Yoyo put an end to the discussion by announcing that the canoe, which they required in order to descend the Oyapok, would be ready that evening. He had bought one from the Indians. It was of fair size, hewn in one piece from the trunk of a huge tree.

Yoyo steered her, seated in the stern, singing the while the plaintive ballads of his country.

The journey proceeded without let or hindrance, and when they were within a few miles of the sea they landed and made the rest of the way by land in Brazilian territory, arriving thus at Cape Orange. At this place there was an inn, which was well and favorably known in the district for its admirable treatment of travelers. The proprietor did not worry his customers by asking them indiscreet questions as to whence they came, nor as to their previous careers, which usually had brought them, more or less, in contact with the police. Moreover, the landlord, who was called Fernandez, was a friend of Chéri-Bibi's.

An exuberant delight bubbled over his truculent features when his eyes fell upon him.

"Oh, here's the 'Shower,'" he said.

This was his name for Chéri-Bibi, who became by accident one of his customers and whom he did not know in any other way. One day Chéri-Bibi got him out of his difficulties, when he was well nigh bankrupt and in the slough of despair, by literally showering bank-notes on him, which Fernandez accepted without asking whence they came.

Chéri-Bibi, therefore, had a friend in Fernandez who was almost as devoted to him as Yoyo, and upon whom he could rely when he needed him. A man who kept an inn on the outskirts of the forest, over the frontier, could not fail to be useful to a "convict on the march." Chéri-Bibi maintained that here again he had done a good stroke of business for himself.

Fernandez's household consisted of his wife, who was still a handsome woman, and two graceful and sprightly young daughters who, at their father's bidding, paid their respects to Chéri-Bibi and proceeded to prepare a special supper.

"Business getting on all right?" asked Chéri-Bibi when they were all together in Fernandez's private room with a bottle of golden wine before them.

"Bless me, yes," he returned. "What with convicts, gold-diggers, smugglers and pirates I hold my own."

The Nut asked for news of the great war.

"Very unsatisfactory for France," said Fernandez, shaking his head. "But the steamer which puts in here to-morrow morning may bring us better news."

"I thought that the boat from the Antilles did not reach here for another week," said Chéri-Bibi.

"That's true," returned Fernandez, "but a boat now starts from Martinique, and calls at the ports along the coast on dates announced beforehand. She has to pick up Frenchmen of military age coming from the interior to join up."

Chéri-Bibi turned to the Nut.

"That's just the very thing to meet the wishes of my friend Didier d'Haumont, who has left his business on the Upper Oyapok—a very fine and prosperous business—to go back to France and do his duty. Only, old chap, Didier d'Haumont came away in such a tearing hurry that he absolutely forgot to bring his wardrobe with him. As I know you always have these things on hand, I hope that he won't be much the worse for it."

"Your friend will be able to get anything he wants here," returned Fernandez, bowing to the Nut with every mark of politeness.

"That's all right then. You'll go with my friend to the ship, of course?"

"Your friend won't need any help but mine, and I'll introduce him to Captain Lalouette, an old acquaintance, who will be very glad to be of service to him."

"So that's settled," said Chéri-Bibi, bluntly, concealing his emotion. "But what's happened to our friend Yoyo?"

At that moment Yoyo came into the room. Chéri-Bibi must have read some uneasiness in the expression of his face for he asked him what was the matter.

"Nothing; all goes well," replied Yoyo somewhat laconically.

They sat down to supper, which grew very lively. The hostess and her daughters made themselves agreeable. Chéri-Bibi was the most exuberant of the party. He did not eat, he devoured his food. Moreover, he drank to excess. He who prided himself on having maintained throughout his adventurous career the greatest abstemiousness and showed an abstainer's contempt for drunkards, continually held out his glass, and kept level with Fernandez, who was considered the hardest drinker on the coast.

The Nut alone neither ate nor drank. But he was no more astonished at anything Chéri-Bibi did than Chéri-Bibi was astonished at his doings. They both knew quite well what this excessive eating and drinking on the one hand, and this complete abstinence on the other really meant, and that it had its origin in both cases in the thought which never left their minds, that the following night, at that particular hour, they would have said good-bye to each other with very considerable chances of never meeting again.

Ten years side by side in a convict settlement bring about frightful hatreds, or friendships which depend upon something almost higher than liking, and create a bond of moral unity, as it were, which does not break without some excruciating wrench.

Convicts have been known to die rather than to allow themselves to be parted. And it might be that if suicide had not been forbidden to Chéri-Bibi for reasons which we shall know one day, that supper night at Fernandez's inn might, by his own desperate act, have been his last. For that matter it was almost equally fatal to him though not by any design of his own.

He had judged rightly when he read on Yoyo's face some degree of uneasiness. During the meal Yoyo often left the room. First he subjected the more or less pallid faces in the ordinary bar to a scrutiny, and then he strolled round the house.

The starting point of his secret agitation was the squawk of a paroquet which scarcely ever left them as they sailed down the Oyapok. They were near the forest in which these birds abound, and it was to some extent natural that they should hear them, but the inn was a considerable distance from the forest. Moreover, certain shadowy movements round the inn almost level with the ground seemed to Yoyo suspicious. He climbed to the balcony, mounting quickly and coming down almost immediately. This time obviously there was an end to his doubts.

Some hours later when everyone seemed to be asleep in the inn, the Burglar broke open the door of the yard with a cleverness and quickness which impressed even his confederates, and accompanied by them effected an entrance into the inn. They crept forward with the greatest caution.

Suddenly they were stopped short by a loud burst of laughter which startled the silence of the night. Oh, they recognized that laugh! And, as the phrase goes, they took themselves off. They beat a retreat with a haste that caused them to knock their heads against the door which a few minutes before they had opened and which was now closed. At that moment a fusillade burst around them.

They performed wonders in their effort to get away from the infernal inn in which they expected to take their victims by surprise, but were so nicely cornered. By extraordinary agility they managed to climb to the top of a wall and drop to the other side at the risk of breaking their necks. Nevertheless, they lost a few of their feathers; and the next morning the extent of their downfall was apparent in the traces which they left behind—traces of blood.

"All the same," said Chéri-Bibi in confidence to Fernandez, "you'll now understand how necessary it is for me to stay in the country until they are collared with me—just to keep my eye on them, at close quarters, so that they don't do any harm to my friend the Nut. . . ."



When the steamer was in the roadstead and the time came for Chéri-Bibi and the Nut to say good-bye, no words were wasted by them. It was a moment of great simplicity, for though out of the fullness of the heart the mouth speaketh—pectus est quod disertes facit—yet the heart may be too full for words.

Chéri-Bibi, as may be imagined, after so many vicissitudes presented a very disordered appearance which was not, however, altogether unsuited to him. Hardly anything remained of his old clothes but his leather trousers and a worn-out scrap of coarse canvas with which he managed to conceal certain peculiar tattoo-marks which were not the work of any native of Guiana.

Thus, as may be imagined, his appearance was the antithesis of the Nut's, who had just put on a new suit of clothes of the latest Parisian fashion which had come from Rio a few weeks earlier.

When the Nut entered the room in which Chéri-Bibi was waiting for him in intense silence, the latter at first failed to recognize him. A man of fashion stood before him. Nevertheless, Chéri-Bibi had known men of fashion before, not only because he used to keep their company and help them on their passage from life to death, but because for a certain time he was a man of fashion himself. But the Nut took his breath away.

By Jove, the Nut was a man of breeding! At the sight of such a remarkable transformation, Chéri-Bibi's heart, which was bursting with grief, was filled with pride; he was proud of his pal, so that the combination of these two feelings in a being who was accustomed to amazing ebullitions, excited him to such a degree that he could find expression only in tears; and it was many a long day since his weary eyes had shed tears. The Nut saw that the limbs of this Titan trembled under him when he stood up to receive him. Then he clasped him in his arms. And they held each other fast, and their hearts beat in unison at that moment of mutual grief. . . . A knock at the door told them that they must say good-bye.

"As you are not coming with me," said the Nut, "I must at least hear from you. Let me have news of you. I know that you receive letters in secret. Tell me how I can write to you."

Chéri-Bibi shook his head.

"No, no," he returned. "This ends it all. I insist. . . . We shall no longer know each other. The Nut is dead."

As a result of those terrible but necessary words a silence fell, short but deep as the chasms into which men who dread lest they be seized with giddiness dare not look. Then Chéri-Blbi said:

"Listen to me. I believe you are safe forever. But we can never tell. I have a friend in France from whom you can ask anything, if you need a friend—the Dodger. He is a grocer in the Rue Saint-Roch, Paris, and his real name is Hilaire. He is one of the straightest of men. You can get your supplies from his place. If you want to be well dealt with you have but to say to him the one word 'Fatalitas.'"

It was the last utterance, the supreme farewell, of Chéri-Bibi in taking leave of the Nut. . . . And the Nut allowed himself to be dragged away by Fernandez.

* * * * *

The small boats which brought the passengers from the estuary of the Oyapok had put off, and the Dordogne, commanded by Captain Lalouette, began to churn the sea with her propellers. Soon Cape Orange, and by degrees the entire coastline of Guiana, the land in which the Nut had so greatly suffered, disappeared from view. But to his honor be it said that notwithstanding his long martyrdom, he could not remove his eyes from the land, for he was leaving behind an unhappy man with a splendid heart without whom he would have long since died in despair.

Suddenly a slight cry beside him made him turn his head. A charming young girl in a flutter of anxiety placed her hands to her hair. Her veil, caught by the wind, had become entangled in the rigging and was held fast.

The Nut helped to release the handsome child, and their hands touched. The most trivial gesture, the most insignificant incident sometimes assumes a considerable importance. . . . A few minutes later the Nut learned the young girl's name. It was Mlle. Françoise de la Boulays, and she was returning with her father from the Upper Amazon, to which district he had been sent on an official mission. They were going back to France saddened beyond measure by the startling events which had followed one upon the other during the preceding month.

The Nut did not venture to appear in the saloon at dinner time. To begin again, in this way without some intermediate stage, civilized life, after having been buried in the grave for more than ten years; to meet the frank look of that pure-souled girl when he was still shuddering from the "evil eye" of the warders; to help himself to well cooked food from a luxurious dish when he was still feeling the nausea of the service tubs which contained the convicts' skilly! . . . He was afraid. . . . He was afraid.

And then a few minutes before as he stood in front of a glass, he took off his hat, and he saw his bare forehead, the bare forehead of a convict on which he seemed to read in letters of fire "Number 3213."

He remained on deck.

At that moment the wireless operator hurriedly passed him and entered the dining saloon, and almost immediately afterwards the Captain's voice was heard:

"Ladies and Gentlemen . . . it's victory . . . victory for France. Joffre has defeated the Germans on the Marne."

The thunders of applause which followed may be imagined. . . .

When Mlle. de la Boulays mounted the deck again she found the Nut in tears; and she spoke to him and shook him by the hand. When she left him he remained behind. Her voice continued to ring in his ears during the night. He was still on deck after the other persons in the ship, except the watch, had gone to sleep.

Then the sun appeared and lit up the Nut's radiant face, and leaning on the bulwarks he beheld the rise of a new dawn on the world.



"But my dear Captain, why did you refuse the Legion of Honor? It's inconceivable."

"Because, my dear girl, I considered that I didn't deserve it. That's all."

"Now that's too bad."

Mlle. Françoise de la Boulays rose from the settle where she had just invited Captain Didier d'Haumont, who was gradually recovering health and strength, to be seated. Certainly there were times when she failed to understand her dear invalid. Didier d'Haumont had been wounded and mentioned in the orders of the day several times; he wore with joy and pride the cross, but firmly refused the Legion of Honor, remarking:

"I will accept it at some future time when I've deserved it."

"Shall I tell you what I think? Well, you're getting proud," said Françoise in a delightful tone of annoyance.

"Possibly it's something like that," returned the Captain smiling; and then he became serious and was silent.

His sudden silences in the midst of the most cheerful conversation constituted one of the riddles which Mlle. de la Boulays was unable to solve. True, there were moments when the Captain not only baffled her completely by his silences, but occasionally by expressing opinions which were incomprehensible and directly at variance with those held by most level-headed persons. He sometimes uttered a word, and at the same time gave a peculiar smile, which seemed to indicate that he was not entirely in agreement on these matters with the rest of the world.

Nevertheless Françoise was convinced that she had never in the course of her life met a finer intelligence than his, nor a more sympathetic mind, nor a braver heart.

She was attracted to him from the first; from that evening on the Dordogne when they celebrated the victory on the Marne, and she was a witness of his intense emotion. . . . They sat at the same table and became good friends during the voyage. Captain Lalouette introduced Didier to M. de la Boulays; and Françoise's father, who was himself an ardent patriot, was struck by the generous enthusiasm with which a man like d'Haumont, who was no longer a young man, left important business affairs to return to France and take his place in the fighting line. True, such instances were not rare, but what was remarkable in his case was the almost boyish delight with which he spoke of battles that were to come, and the mystic joy, as it were, with which he envisaged death.

"I would give all that I possess to die like that," he said.

It was known that d'Haumont was a very rich man.

Françoise concealed her agitation when the steamer reached its destination and they had to part.

"Good-bye forever," Didier said.

His departure was so abrupt that she had no opportunity of asking him for an explanation of this enigmatic remark.

M. de la Boulays was the owner of a country house near the boundary of the zone occupied by the army. He straightway devoted a considerable part of the house and the buildings on his estate to the service of the Red Cross. In this temporary hospital Françoise nursed the wounded with untiring care and devotion.

For two years she heard nothing of Didier d'Haumont. A day came, however, when she saw his name in a newspaper. In spite of the great reticence with which heroic exploits in the war were treated, it was related that Lieutenant Didier d'Haumont and his company had held throughout the night against two German regiments a position of supreme importance, which the reserves were unable to reach until dawn. He was brought back, severely wounded, with the seven survivors of the struggle. The day on which she read to her father the news of this great feat a general commanding one of the armies, whose name had become famous after the battle of the Yser, was dining with them. He knew Didier d'Haumont, for he had been his colonel, and was able to speak of his rash bravery in the battles for Flanders. Moreover, his attention had been specially called to him by the War Office where d'Haumont had friends, among others a Jewish banker attached to the Ministry, by whose intermediary, if gossip could be believed, Didier d'Haumont had deposited at the exchequer, as a gift, nearly two million francs worth of gold dust, his entire fortune.

Mlle. de la Boulays left the room when she heard these last words, not wishing her father to see how greatly this talk about d'Haumont affected and even unnerved her. The newspaper which told the story of his exploit reported also that the lieutenant, after hovering between life and death for some days, was now out of danger.

Some months drifted by. And one evening during a great offensive a captain who had been considerably knocked about by a shell was brought into the operating-room.

Françoise recognized Didier d'Haumont at the moment that he recovered consciousness. The emotion which overcame both of them was such that they made no effort to conceal it. He determined to discover the truth about his condition. He begged Françoise to save him from an operation which would make a cripple of him. He would rather die; and truth to tell, he seemed anxious only for one thing: to be left to die.

It was Françoise who saved his life and prevented an amputation which had already been decided upon. And now he was well again; staying in M. de la Boulays' own apartments and treated as an old friend of the family. His strength had, he said, entirely returned, though Mlle. de la Boulays was inclined to doubt it, and he began to talk of going away. The armistice, which was now signed, created for him, he said, fresh duties.

"You are always telling me that you owe your life to me," said Françoise in a somewhat constrained tone, "and it seems that the only way you can prove your gratitude is by promptly leaving us." It is at this point in their friendly disputes that we come upon Didier and Françoise in the de la Boulays' park.

"Haven't you any relatives?" she asked, after a short pause.

"No. . . . I have no relatives."

She hesitated slightly and then, with a sudden movement of her head, for she was as red as a rose, she flung out:

"Haven't you ever thought of new ones?"

"Upon my word, no. . . . It's too late." And he added with a laugh, "You forget my hair is turning grey."

"Oh, ever so little. Besides, what does that prove?"

"It proves that I am over the marrying age."

"What you say is silly. Our friend the Vicomte d'Arly was married when he was sixty."

"Very well, I'll wait till then."

She began to laugh.

"Tell me, do you ever think of the dramatic coincidence of our meeting here, although you said 'good-bye' to me forever? It was fate taking its revenge on you. And quite unmercifully! . . . Why did you want to lose sight of me forever?"

He looked her straight in the face. He was very pale.

"Because my life does not belong to me," he said. Françoise leaned for a moment for support on the marble baluster. Obviously she faltered where she stood. He felt sorry for her and also not a little sorry for himself.

"Don't you think that it brings you bad luck to say 'good-bye for the present' in war time, when your life belongs to your country?"

She breathed again. She had imagined that Didier's heart was not free.

She was much easier, but she still raged within herself at the incredible obstinacy with which he refused to understand that she loved him and that he had but to say one word.

"I'll leave you," she said nervously. "I have to dress for dinner. I'm expecting one of my admirers here this evening."



Count Stanislas de Gorbio was a handsome man, and quite young, for he was still in the thirties.

There are certain women who cannot endure his particular style of beauty: velvet black eyes, black moustache, black beard, black hair, a pale, delicate almost feminine complexion, and dazzling white teeth displayed in an everlasting smile. Such men are too good looking; they are insipid, these women declare. They prefer, if we may believe them, a man who is frankly ugly.

In so saying some of them scarcely speak the truth, for they change their tune if one of those insipid persons pays court to them. It was thus, for instance, that Mlle. de la Boulays, who had repeatedly declared, without attaching any importance to it, that the airs and graces of Count Stanislas de Gorbio only "made her smile," in other words, that she ridiculed them, began that evening to lend the most assiduous and smiling attention to the Count's amiable chatter.

She had discarded the Red Cross uniform which, admirably suiting her clear-cut beauty, seemed to emphasize the real and somewhat serious side of an expression belonging less to a young girl than to a young woman already conversant with the sorrows of life. Françoise's childhood had not been happy. When she was ten years of age she suffered the great loss of her mother to whom she was tenderly attached. Her father married again, but the marriage was unhappy for both of them. A divorce, however, which had been obtained not long before, set both father and daughter free. And now Françoise and her father lived for each other, never separating, traveling together and finding consolation for the cares and sorrows of the past in their perfect affection.

M. de la Boulays had plunged into considerable business affairs, anxious to increase the fortune of his daughter, who was destined to make a brilliant marriage. She had already refused several suitors. She argued that there was no hurry, though she had passed her twenty-fifth birthday.

Mlle. de la Boulays was fair-haired—so fair-haired that everyone who came near her was bathed in sunshine. Count Stanislas de Gorbio seemed as though he were illuminated. Never, indeed, had that handsome head with its crown of gold bent towards him with so much sweetness to listen to words which he could not regard as more eloquent that day than on the day before. Never had those eyes, those great grey-green eyes, with their variable shadows, like waves affected by the least caprice of the wind, never had those eyes looked at him with such persistence. In truth they fixed themselves only on him. That evening the Count had some grounds for feeling sure that the victory was won.

Didier followed their movements, and his feelings may be imagined. During dinner he seemed greatly dejected, answering in an abstracted manner the few questions which were put to him by M. de la Boulays, who did not fail to notice his guest's gloomy demeanor.

When they retired to the drawing-room Françoise's father asked Didier if he were not somewhat indisposed, to which he made answer that on the contrary he was quite well, and if he had shown some depression during this last meal, it was because he was compelled, as the result of certain news which he had received from Paris, to leave them that very night by the late express.

M. de la Boulays bowed and uttered a few polite expressions of regret, but made no attempt to keep Didier. He felt sure that Didier was very jealous of Count de Gorbio, for he could not imagine anyone coming near Françoise without falling in love with her on the spot. Count de Gorbio was in love with his daughter. She should choose for herself, do as she pleased. It suited her to smile that evening on the Count; and M. de la Boulays would be delighted if his daughter decided to marry him, for he was a considerable personage, reckless, perhaps, in business, but one of those men with whom, generally speaking, everything succeeds.

When Françoise came up to Didier with a cup of coffee he was on the point of telling her of his departure, but as she moved quickly away after serving him, as she served the others, smiling faintly and making a few trivial remarks, he kept silent.

She returned to de Gorbio in the embrasure of a window, and the chatter was renewed between them. Then a serious expression flashed over her countenance, and she became quiet. It was de Gorbio who went on talking, eyeing her in a peculiar manner. Didier turned away feeling greatly distressed. What was the Count saying to her which could be of such interest that she listened to him like that?

De Gorbio's words were ordinary enough but quite explicit.

"I've loved you from the time I first saw you. Will you give me permission to ask M. de la Boulays for your hand? I think I may assure you that your father would be pleased to see our union."

Françoise did not appear in any sense surprised.

"If you have spoken to my father of your intentions, how is it that he hasn't said anything to me?" she returned.

"M. de la Boulays answered me: 'I shall do what my daughter desires. It is for her to decide and you to persuade her.' Have I succeeded in persuading you?"

Mlle. de la Boulays listened with great attention to the Count's words, but apparently she was not greatly perturbed by them. She raised her eyes not to the speaker but to look round for Didier. She could not see him. He had left the drawing room.

"Give me time to think it over," she said, and she took leave of him.

Didier, in fact, went to the balustrade. Here he came across an officer who had sat next to him at dinner, and asked him about Count de Gorbio. Who was the man who was so far advanced in Mile, de la Boulays' friendship?

"He is a Count created by the Pope, and during the last three or four years has launched into every sphere of society. He invested considerable monies in munition factories; and I hear that he and M. de la Boulays possess joint interests in various undertakings."

Didier made his way down to the park, walking about in the dimly-lit solitude like a soul distraught. He pressed his burning forehead to the iron rails of the garden gate, and stared vaguely at the white line of the road without seeing anything. He did not observe near him, on the other side of the gate, a man who was spying on him. He did not see, or rather he paid no heed, to a peddler's cart which went past. Nor did he perceive the nod which the peddler exchanged with the man behind the wall. Didier was conscious only of what was passing within himself; he thought only of his own condition which seemed to him as miserable as could be, and yet there was a time, not so very long ago, when he regarded himself as the most wretched of men.

But that was because he had learned to know hell and had not attained the paradise lost of Françoise's love. The story of creation portrays the awful spectacle of Adam and Eve driven from Eden by the angel with the flaming sword. Didier looked upon their woes as less than his own. They had been driven from the garden of Eden. Didier had driven himself out. He had drawn the sword upon himself.

At one time—and the time was not very far distant—the man called the Nut was the friend of a tremendous person from whom at times the cry Fatalitas burst forth like the fatal words which appeared in letters of fire on the wall at Belshazzer's feast.

Didier quivered with emotion at his remembrance of the Nut and with faltering steps turned to go back to the house, through the darkness of the park pierced by the uncertain light of the moon.

Before him stood a figure which barred his way. It was the figure of love. It was Françoise.

"What is this my father tells me?" she asked at once. "You are off to Paris to-night? Do you wish to leave us, Monsieur d'Haumont?"

Didier repeated what he had already said to M. de la Boulays, whereupon she reminded him of the unwisdom of going away in his precarious state of health.

"I am quite well now, thanks to you, and I shall never forget it."

He tried to utter this last sentence in an expressionless fashion, not wishing to betray the emotion which almost made him cry out. Nevertheless his voice shook.

A silence fell which she did not at once break. A seat was at hand and she sat down. At last it seemed as if she had made up her mind.

"Your leaving us so hurriedly makes it difficult for me I assure you," she declared in a blank voice in which she too concealed her feelings which were not devoid of a certain annoyance with the Captain. "You must know that I need the advice of a good friend, and I thought of speaking to you, but here you are about to leave us. It's a pity."

"I'm not going for a couple of hours yet," returned Didier frigidly, "and if I can be of any use to you. Mlle. . . ."

"Well then, I will tell you," said Françoise with a casual air. "Will you believe that an incident has happened this evening which I was far from expecting. You must know that Count de Gorbio has amused himself by making love to me. Everyone took it in fun, and I myself was I don't know how far from treating him seriously. I called him 'my admirer,' laughing a little at him and at his manner, which is slightly too affected for my liking. But what can one do? Tastes differ. Personally I like men to be men. The Count with his butterfly manners never attracted me. . . . But perhaps I'm boring you with my silly tales. . . ."

"I'm not losing a single word, Mlle."

"Well, now, to come to the main point. Count de Gorbio told me this evening that he was in love with me. He has spoken to my father who, he says, would be happy to accept him as a son-in-law. In short he asks me to marry him. I told him that I wanted time for reflection, and in view of my friendship with you and my reliance on your judgment, I've come straight away to you for reflection! Tell me frankly, Monsieur d'Haumont; what do you advise me to do?"

As she spoke she took his hand, for she saw him standing before her as motionless as a statue and she was dismayed by his silence. She did not doubt that he loved her, and his attitude pained her as much on his account as it pained her on her own. She motioned him to a seat beside her on the settle where during the last two months they had had so many pleasant discussions. While he remained like one petrified she no longer concealed her agitation. And was not the gesture, the rather peremptory gesture of her hand, by which she asked him to sit down beside her, was it not the most significant of avowals?

Then Didier's voice was heard. Neither of them recognized it. Who and what was this third person who came between them and was now speaking?

"You know the Count better than I do, Mademoiselle, and in such a matter, what I think or what I do not think is of no consequence."

Françoise's heart turned to ice, for this was not the voice of a third person. It was Didier himself, seated beside her, who had spoken those cruel words.

She was on her feet.

"No consequence indeed!" she exclaimed. "Only my happiness is at stake! That matters little to you."

"Oh, Mademoiselle," protested the unhappy man, unable to say another word.

"Well, do you advise me to marry him—yes or no?"

"If he is an honest man—yes."

It was all over between them. In a tone in which there was a suggestion almost of enmity she said:

"Thank you, Monsieur d'Haumont. You are a real friend! Pray give me your arm and let's go back to the house."

* * * * *

The man near the garden gate whom Captain d'Haumont had failed to notice resumed his journey, keeping near the wall. He was pushing his bicycle before him. Without haste he overtook the peddler's cart which was continuing its way at the walking pace of the old horse harnessed to it. A hundred yards farther on they came to a small door in the wall. The man signalled the peddler to stop, exchanged a few words with him in German, mounted his bicycle, and went off quickly into the country.

The peddler backed his cart against the park wall, and started to unharness the horse as if he had made up his mind to camp at that spot for the night.

Just then the door leading into the park was opened and a man servant appeared, hatless, his hands in his pockets. He seemed to have come out for a stroll and to "take the air." Nevertheless, between the two men, the one who was unharnessing the horse and the other who was "taking the air," a few quick words passed.

"All well?"

"Yes, all goes well. The Count has arrived."

The man servant pointed to the key which was in the lock. The peddler looked at his watch, nodded his head, and the man servant went back into the park.

Five minutes later the peddler was hiding in a summer-house adjoining the wall, the roof of which jutted over the road near the little door. At the slightest alarm, whether from inside or outside the garden, the peddler could take refuge either in the road or in the park. The place was well chosen for a private conversation, for it was impossible to be overheard, not to mention that it was quite natural for M. de la Boulay's guests to come there for the cool of the evening or to dream. The peddler was not kept waiting long for his "dreamer." Almost at once Count Stanislas de Gorbio appeared.

"Well?" he questioned.

"I have an urgent message from Nina Noha," the man returned, holding out a letter.

The Count seized it, seemingly very eager to learn the contents, for diving into the summer-house, and screened by the man, he did not hesitate to bring into play a small, dark, pocket lantern. The letter was soon read. The Count appeared to be satisfied and put several questions to the peddler concerning the visits which had been made and the guests who had been received at the house during the last few days. As they were about to part company the Count asked:

"Have you any special information regarding this Captain d'Haumont who is so much talked about? Did anyone know him before the war?"

"I have been asking about him and I'm waiting for the reply. Be on your guard. He's been trotting round with the governor's daughter ever since he's been here, and your 'traveling agent' just told me that he's with her now."

The Count clenched his fists, sent the man away, and flung himself out of the summer house. He was nearing the Château when he caught sight, in profile before him, of the figures of Captain d'Haumont and Mlle. de la Boulays. The girl was leaning on the officer's arm. He quickened his steps without making the least sound, anxious to overhear a conversation which he inferred might be confidential and of particular interest to himself, but he could not catch a word, for, truth to tell, the two friends were saying nothing.

The silence in no way pacified the Count. He was sufficiently man of the world and experienced in love affairs to be aware that there are silences sometimes between a man and woman, which are more eloquent than the tenderest speech. It is when they understand each other best that they have least to say, and the sweetest moments are those which pass in the mute exchange of the one idea which they hold in common, and the delightful feeling of perfect harmony.

The Count was furious. He had not thought that the danger was so real. . . . Up to that day he had not given a thought to it at all. He attached but slight importance to certain secret tales which had come to him from the Château servants.

Count de Gorbio had an opinion of his own personal merits which rendered it difficult for him to comprehend that he might receive a rebuff where women were concerned. And he was convinced that in spite of Mlle. de la Boulays' laughing and chaffing air, she had been greatly affected by the delicate tact of his attentions to her. And now he discovered that he had a serious rival. De Gorbio knew, moreover, that his friends greatly relied on his marriage with Mlle. de la Boulays. The obstacle which stood in his way inclined him, therefore, to take some unpleasant action against the Captain when he met him face to face in the hall.

Moreover the two men took stock of each other with a look of hostility which the excessively cheerful air of the one and the excessively frigid air of the other failed to conceal; but a voice behind them said:

"Count, I've been speaking of our plans to the Captain, who is my sincere friend. He has given me advice which tells me that he will soon be your friend. To-night you may ask my father for my hand."

As he heard those words which overwhelmed him and for which he was so little prepared, his delight and gratitude straightway manifested themselves in sundry praises of the gallant Captain d'Haumont and he went up to him with outstretched hand; but doubtless by an unlucky chance, at that very moment d'Haumont stooped to pick up some object, so that when he stood erect again he had forgotten de Gorbio, who was still holding out his hand, though no one thought of taking it, not even Mlle. de la Boulays, who had disappeared through another door.



Captain d'Haumont went up to his room. His mind was in so great a state of turmoil that he paid no heed to the servants who jostled him slightly as they descended quickly the front door steps at which a motor-car had stopped.

As he was closing his window he heard M. de la Boulays' voice greeting a new arrival.

"How are you, my dear fellow?"

But even this did not hold his attention although the name that was mentioned was that of one of the most celebrated political personages of the war.

There was nothing, moreover, exceptional in the visit. M. de la Boulays' country house stood near the crossways of the most important main roads leading to the rear of the army, and persons of the highest distinction often came to him and requested his hospitality.

Most of them were friends of the family, or at all events acquaintances. M. de la Boulays had been in the diplomatic service for some time, and he knew personally pretty well all the great figures in the Republic.

Captain d'Haumont neither heard nor saw, nor did he trouble himself about anything but closing his window and packing his trunks.

As he was collecting together on the table the remaining articles which belonged to him, he picked up a photograph of Mlle. de la Boulays in her Red. Cross uniform, on which was written: "To Captain Didier d'Haumont, with admiration for his bravery, from Françoise de la Boulays."

He gazed at it for a few moments with a look upon his face which would have told the truth to the least sophisticated if by chance such a person had been present. But the Captain had closed the door, for he liked to be certain of being alone when his secret feelings threatened, by their tyrannical craving for some outward expression, to betray him.

How many persons take their revenge in the privacy of their own room for the restraints which they force upon themselves when they are among their fellows! And the sight which the inquisitive might behold if they entered the room in which offended pride, despised love, or any other human passion was hiding itself from society, after affecting in drawing-rooms the mask of indifference—such a sight would not be devoid of the unexpected.

Offended pride would be seen tearing its hair and despised love cursing a thousand curses. Captain d'Haumont would have been seen putting his lips to the photograph of the beloved image, discarding it almost immediately, and finally burning it in the flame of a candle.

He watched to the end with a feeling of pain the candle in which the beloved portrait was consumed. It seemed actually to suffer the torture which he inflicted on it, and in the gleam of the dying flame, in the last ashes, the face of Mlle. de la Boulays seemed set with a look at her inquisitor of unforgettable distress and reproach.

Strange to say—and it bore witness once more to the connection which subsists between matter and spirit even when kept asunder by thick walls, a connection to which the middle ages saw no limits, for they practised "casting a spell" on their enemies—while Mlle. de la Boulays suffered thus in her portrait she was suffering equally in her mind. And it was at the very moment when, in her drawing-room, she was acknowledging the congratulations of her friends on the news which it suited Count de Gorbio to spread abroad, that she sank in a huddled heap in a chair as if suddenly deprived of life. . . .

Captain d'Haumont was in his room strapping his luggage when a knock came at the door. It was M. de la Boulays' valet, a man called Schwab, who claimed to be of Alsatian descent and whom he had never liked though he could not say why, for he never had any occasion to complain of him. But when, as in the case of Didier d'Haumont, a man has a past full of irregularities, and has been forced to keep company with all sorts of people, his perceptions become particularly acute to detect the moral weight of the more or less mysterious elements which surround him, so that Captain d'Haumont was assailed by a vague foreboding with regard to Schwab.

The man came up to tell him that M. de la Boulays would be glad to see him in his study before his departure.

D'Haumont went with the servant, who showed him into a room which was occupied by M. de la Boulays and the important person who had just arrived. This gentleman had been appointed to conduct a secret investigation into some startling incidents in enemy propaganda.

Captain d'Haumont was introduced to Monsieur G—— by M. de la Boulays.

"Monsieur G———- wants a reliable man for a special mission," he said. "He came here from Paris in his car with a small staff, none of whom he can spare. It's a matter of taking a letter to Paris to-night, and you will be put on your honor for its safety. Monsieur G—— is anxious that the commission should be carried out with great tact. Since you are taking the train to Paris this evening I consider that Monsieur G—— cannot have a better 'messenger' than you."

"I am obliged to you, M. de la Boulays, for giving me the opportunity of making myself useful," returned the Captain. "Where am I to deliver the letter?"

"To the Hotel d'Or . . . at the corner of the Rue Saint Honoré and the Rue Saint Roch."

"I shall reach Paris at two o'clock in the morning. Must I have the person for whom it is intended disturbed then?"

"Yes, at once. You will send him this." And Monsieur G—— scribbled a few words on his card, which he handed to d'Haumont.

"I suggested to Monsieur G—— that you should go to Paris by car, but he prefers you to take the train as you had arranged," said M. de la Boulays. "In point of fact, your journey to Paris must have no connection with Monsieur G——'s stay at my house."

"I understand, gentlemen. I will now take leave of you as I've only just about enough time to get to the station."

"Here's the letter," said Monsieur G——, holding out an envelope of medium size which bore neither name or address. But he uttered a name and said:

"Give it into his own hands."

Didier slipped the letter into the inside pocket of his jacket, which he buttoned closely over his chest.

He bowed to Monsieur G——, who shook him warmly by the hand, thanking him in words which would have made any other man proud. But the Nut's pride now lay only in his powers of endurance.

He set out without seeing Mlle. de la Boulays again. The station was some distance from the Château, and he was driven to it in a car attached to the Medical Service. The train was late and he had to wait an hour. He stepped into an empty compartment, but at the last moment a man opened the door and took a seat facing him. He was too obsessed by his thoughts to pay the least attention to the intruder.

The Nut was satisfied with himself. The fierce heart of the convict could beat with pride under the tunic of the soldier. Marvelous to say, not until that hour when he had made up his mind to flee from the path of happiness, had he dared to allow his thoughts to recur to the penal settlement. It was the first time that his mind could clearly and honestly and calmly revert to his past life.

Up to that day he had turned away with horror from the accursed past and sought forgetfulness mainly in the excitement of his reckless bravery.

Suddenly, with the awakening of love, had come the strongest temptation that could check a man in the path of regeneration. He could win this beautiful girl and lead her to the altar, and all the world would commend that union of beauty and courage. It was a splendid dream, was that marriage, and for a moment he was dazzled by it. He closed his eyes. When he opened them again he beheld under the halo which crowned the woman he loved, strange letters and figures forming a word and a number: "Cayenne, 3213."

And now he had said his last word. Yes, he had had the courage to go away. He had had the further courage, compared with which the first was easy, the supreme courage, to say to himself: "No woman can marry me."

It was a fine gesture. He might suffer beyond measure, but he could look the convict settlement in the face without a blush. And that, at all events, was something. . . .

It was something to be able to say to himself: "I come from prison, from that vile, ignominious place. I have been an outcast from the world, an accursed being without a name, save the name that lies in the mouths of miscreants, and they called me 'lag,' 'lifer,' 'old offender.' . . . They called me the Nut, and now I am called Didier d'Haumont, but I . . . I call myself an honest man."

Such were the thoughts which were passing through his mind when the train arrived in Paris.

He alighted from the carriage, carrying his bag, and hurried through the yard leading into the street, towards the only taxi which stood on the rank near the iron gates.

At this juncture he was joined by the traveler who had entered his compartment and who, in the course of the journey, had vainly endeavored to engage him in conversation.

"Captain, my car has been sent to the station for me. Will you allow me to drive you home?"

Didier was on the point of accepting the offer, which seemed to come at the right moment, but suddenly, without any other reason than that of caution, which, in his case, kept him continually on the alert, he declined. He did not know this man who wished to make himself so agreeable. Didier's motto was to be suspicious of everybody and everything.

After thanking him, he turned again to the taxi, but he was too late, for it was already engaged and starting off. Fortunately two cabs stood on the rank.

"Drive to the corner of the Rue Saint Roch and the Rue d'Argenteuil," he said, not wishing to give the exact address to which he was proceeding.

The cab turned down the Boulevard de Strasbourg at a smart pace, went along the principal boulevards, and after passing through the Avenue de l'Opéra plunged into the smaller streets. In another five minutes the Nut would be in sight of his goal.

Suddenly there was a terrible shock and Didier and the cab were overturned. He might have been killed on the spot, but he picked himself up without a scratch and could see at a glance what had happened. A motor-car had collided so violently with the cab that the latter was shattered to pieces, the horse was ripped open and lay dying, and the driver, who was thrown into the gutter, gave no sign of life.

Half a dozen dark forms sprang from the car and surrounded the wrecked cab. They closed upon Didier with a common impulse which left no doubt as to their intentions. But he made a rush on one side, hurling one of the dark figures to the ground, and darted off down a neighboring passage. The man started to run after him.

Not the least dramatic part of the incident was the silence in which the pursuit was effected. Didier at one moment thought that he had put the villains off the scent, but he did not know exactly where he was. A whistle rang out behind him and other dark forms appeared under a street lamp, blocking his passage from the street.

He retraced his steps, but at this end, too, he caught sight of suspicious figures. This time he could not escape and there would be a fight for it. He was in no sense alarmed, though his "mission" and his life were both in danger.

As he was casting about for a corner in which to await the assault of his adversaries, his eyes encountered a sign and he read by the light of the street lamp: "Rue Saint Roch;" and a little farther away, painted in large letters on the iron shutters which closed the shop: "Hilaire's Up-to-date Grocery Stores. The Old and the New World United." A clock at that moment chimed three.



It might be well to hark back a few hours and discover what was taking place in the shop which was to have its brief moment of fame.

M. Hilaire was a tradesman of good reputation in the quarter. His leanness and the singular expression of his countenance, which seemed to be laughing and crying at the same time, made of him a well-known figure. He was a boon companion to those whom he favored with his friendship, and a persistent card player; for he had a taste for the tap-room as well as a love of practical joking, notwithstanding that, to please his wife, he assumed the airs of a respectable tradesman.

His wife was the dark spot in Hilaire's otherwise fortunate existence, for Virginie was of a jealous temperament and endowed by nature with an execrable temper. Had he been free from Virginie and the competition of a provision merchant at the next corner, Hilaire would have been a perfectly happy man. It was said in the district that he had risen from nothing, but that was all to his credit. His enemies—the provision merchant and his wife, their customers and their circle—declared that M. Hilaire had spent a more than riotous youth and must be an ex-anarchist, for his language when he was in his cups showed little respect for the established order of society.

On that particular night M. Hilaire was in his shop making up his books. The reason why he was not in bed was that he was waiting up for his wife, with whom he had had a stormy altercation in connection with the girl who formed his sole staff, for the two young men who were learning how to sell golden syrup and prunes had left for the war, in which, in fact, they conducted themselves like heroes, and when they returned on leave from time to time each wore stripes on his arm and medals on his breast.

The girl in question was seventeen years of age, had dazzling teeth and a turned-up nose. She was as dark as a mole or a gypsy. Perhaps she was a gypsy. She spoke Italian. She was probably a child picked up in the streets. Hilaire did not go into these details when he engaged her. The girl bore a name which her character belied. She was called Sarah. Madame Hilaire called her Zoé.

Now this young creature, who worked under her mistress with the will of four men and was always of an exasperating good humor, had one serious failing: she possessed a pair of magnificent black eyes which seemed to laugh at the whole world. M. Hilaire found some diversion in those two eyes, and could not look at them without a smile. It was not the same thing with Madame Hilaire. She caught her husband on more than one occasion in the act of ogling the girl. She did not like it, and the scenes which ensued were sufficient proof of it.

That very evening she surprised them throwing prunes at each other. The thing caused a pretty disturbance. Zoé and Hilaire both received a box on the ear, and afterwards Madame Hilaire went upstairs to dress, vowing that she was fed up with a man who had no respect for his goods and did not know how to keep his place with his servant.

After locking Sarah-Zoé in her attic and putting the key in her pocket, she told her husband that she was going to stay with her mother until something better turned up. The threat, which was obviously directed at M. Hilaire's honor and was renewed at least once a week, was not calculated to stagger him. He knew that it was in Virginie's temperament to betray him, and that she had another fault: her love of cards. "Go and have a game of poker," he said to himself, "and make it last as long as possible."

She would come back cleaned out—that was the rule.

Meantime, in order to furnish himself with weapons that would give him the advantage, M. Hilaire was examining the books in detail. They were kept by his better half, who falsified them now and again in order to conceal slight borrowings from the cash, which she made without saying a word to her skinflint of a husband.

Thus the hours went by. M. Hilaire discovered that his wife had appropriated forty-two francs fifty centimes, and was waiting for her with an impatience which may well be imagined, when two tremendous blows from a fist sounded on the iron shutters and a voice growled "Fatalitas!"

It was two o'clock in the morning. At that same hour Didier was in the train to Paris thinking of the penal settlement for the first time without undue shame. As he heard that significant word Hilaire sprang from his office like a Jack-in-the-box shot up by a powerful spring, and tottered in the shop as if he had received one of those blows that make a man turn dizzy.

Hilaire felt certain that he recognized the voice which flung out the astounding word. Was such a thing possible?

It was so possible, indeed, that the word was repeated and fresh blows shook the shop front. And the voice, the curious voice which unhinged the mind of M. Hilaire, shouted:

"Open the door; I know you're alone!"

Trembling like a child who is frightened or overjoyed, Hilaire leant towards the small, low door in the shop front, unlocked and opened it. A huge form at once glided into the shop. The door was closed with a kick, and the figure displayed itself in its full proportions.

It was a man, or rather a human animal, tall of stature, square of build, thick-set, with tremendous limbs, and fists capable of felling an ox, and an extraordinary, fierce-looking head in which only the gleam in the eyes was visible.

"Chéri-Bibi!" gasped Hilaire, placing his hand on his heart like sensitive persons who are undergoing a moment of intense excitement.

"If any one asks you if I am Chéri-Bibi say you know nothing about me," growled Chéri-Bibi. "You took a long time to open the door. Have you forgotten me, Dodger?"

At these words Hilaire, who was deathly pale, stretched out his arms and fell upon the immense chest of the man whom he loved more than any being in the world.

Chéri-Bibi gave signs of a certain degree of satisfaction.

"You show me at this moment," he said in his gruff voice, which quivered with an agitation that he strove to control, "you show me that there are still honest men in the world. Prosperity has not shriveled up your heart, my dear Dodger."

"I am the happiest man alive now that I see you again, Monsieur le Marquis."

"Hush!" growled Chéri-Bibi. "Never let that name pass your lips again. Forget the past, Dodger, as I try to forget it myself. Erase from your memory those adventures which had their day and from which present events separate us for ever. At this terrible hour other duties arise. I have come back to France to defend an innocent man, old chap!"

"Ah, there I recognize Monsieur le Marquis."

"Will you stop worrying me with your 'Monsieur le Marquis'? I would have you know that I call myself the Bleeder now."

"Good, Monsieur le——"

"Bleeder! They gave me that name at La Villette, where I work in the slaughter-houses. I am the man whose business it is to cut the throats of cattle. So they call me the Bleeder. There's an end of it. It's a name which suits me and I've stuck to it."

"Have you been there long, Monsieur le Bleeder?"

"Please call me Bleeder simply."

"I can't, I can't; I have too much respect for you, Monsieur le Marquis."

"Oh, you ass! You were always silly like that. Shake hands, my dear old Dodger. Do you know that you've grown a bit stout!"

"That's not Virginie's fault, for she's continually making scenes."

Chéri-Bibi chuckled.

"And you let her make scenes! Oh, my dear Dodger, that is all that was wanted. It's clear that you've become a respectable citizen."

They looked into each other's eyes for a moment in silence. They were seated facing one another, and they held each other's hand, and their eyes spoke for their hearts in which bloomed the red flower of their friendship. Thenceforward complete trust returned to them as in the brave days of their youth, when they were engaged in so many struggles against an adverse fate, and their minds sped back to the time of their pleasantest memories. But Chéri-Bibi's life was so ordered that his pleasantest memories were always enveloped with the tragedy of death. And those who might have heard the two men thus conjure up with emotion their delightful past would undoubtedly have fled from them in terror.

"I asked you if you had been long in France, Monsieur le Bleeder."

"The date is no business of yours," Chéri-Bibi returned. "I've been busy altering my status. I've managed it. Now I am quite easy in my mind at La Villette, not to mention that I have a coal-dealer's shop in view. As soon as I had an hour to spare I came to see you. I knew that you were alone because I had your wife's movements watched. I didn't want you to have any worries in your household on my account. Do you follow me, Dodger?"

"You have always been very considerate, Monsieur le Bleeder."

"When Madame Hilaire comes back I shall be warned by a signal from a fellow on the look-out."

"I see that Monsieur le Bleeder's police can still be relied on." "So you'll hide me somewhere and I'll slip off when you've gone to bed. And now, Dodger, let's talk of serious things."

Chéri-Bibi's face became so solemn that Hilaire felt that they were about to discuss certain things that he had been forbidden to mention, and of which he had the discretion not to breathe a word.

"Have you had any news during the last five years?" began Chéri-Bibi.

Hilaire broke in at once:

"None during the five years that Madame la Marchioness——"

Chéri-Bibi sprang from his chair with a fierce gesture.

"Who told you to speak of her?" he demanded, choking for breath.

He succeeded in at once mastering his intense excitement. He fell back into his seat, and passing his hand over his forehead, said in quiet, gloomy tones with an air of the deepest dejection:

"My dear old Dodger, you must never speak of her or her child. Our lips are not pure enough for us to dare utter her name; and as to her child, I fear lest we should bring bad luck upon him. I am dead, actually dead. You must never forget that. Chéri-Bibi may be alive, but Monsieur le Marquis is dead. And Chéri-Bibi himself is dead to them so long as they have no need of him. I know that at the present moment they are abroad and happy. Her son is growing up by her side, and she is making of him one of the finest and best of the sons of men. If she wants me later on, we shall see what we shall see. Meantime, let us sever all connection with the past. Is that agreed. Dodger?"

"I blush, my dear Monsieur le Bleeder, for having thoughtlessly stirred up so many painful memories."

"That'll do."

They did not speak again of that mysterious past which we must respect, as they themselves respected it, till the day when fate in the course of their extraordinary careers may decree its return. Chéri-Bibi after a last sigh, went on:

"I merely wanted to ask you if anyone has been here and spoken to you of me."

"No, not during the last five years."

Chéri-Bibi remained brooding for a while.

"It's just as well. He's forgotten me," he said.

And as Chéri-Bibi's thoughts seemed to have reverted to the other end of the world, Hilaire, in order to give him the opportunity of coming back to him, uttered this pithy maxim:

"Ingratitude is met with everywhere and always."

"I don't expect gratitude from anybody, and I owe no gratitude to anybody," growled Chéri-Bibi. "In this world it's each for himself and God against us all."

Hilaire did not wince at these terrible words of blasphemy. He had so often heard his friend "go for" heaven and earth in the most withering language that he had made up his mind never to allow himself to become excited over it. Moreover, during the last few moments something attracted his attention apart from Chéri-Bibi's outburst.

He heard hurried footsteps in the street and some one came to a stand outside his shop. That some one brushed against the shop-front. The footsteps were clearly not those of a woman, and thus the person in question could not be Madame Hilaire.

He was about to get up and see for himself what was coming, when a blow from a fist was struck on the shutters and the ominous word was once more flung into echoes of the street: "Fatalitas!"

Chéri-Bibi sprang forward.

"It's he," he cried. "I've come in the nick of time. Is Providence this time on my side?"

He turned to Hilaire, who gazed at him in bewilderment, quite at a loss as to what was happening either in the house or in the street.

"Open the door and pay every attention to the man who comes in, but don't mention that I am here."

Having said which Chéri-Bibi retreated to the dining-room.

Hilaire opened the small low door for the second time, but not before taking from a drawer a revolver which he kept for use in case of emergency. The Nut darted into the shop. Hilaire closed the door and as a measure of greater precaution closed also the iron shutter.

He glanced at his strange visitor and at once felt much easier as he saw before him the face of a scared but entirely honest man.

The new-comer breathed heavily, passing a feverish hand across his brow, bathed in perspiration.

"Won't you sit down, Monsieur?" said Hilaire, in a tone of extreme politeness.

The Nut took the proffered chair. He grew more self-possessed. A smile flickered across Hilaire's face.

"You are quite out of breath. What happened to you, Monsieur?"

"Some ruffians were after me," returned the Nut. "They can't be far away. If I had not caught sight of the light under your door, and if you had net been sitting up so late, I don't know what would have become of me."

He ceased speaking. Furtive steps creeping along the pavement, and even the exchange of a few words in hushed whispers could be heard some five paces away from them. And then a great silence fell, but they were not deceived by it, and Hilaire said in an undertone:

"They're still there."

"Yes, they must have seen me come in. If that's so, they won't go away in a hurry."

"What do they want with you?"

"I can't tell you that."

"I've been too inquisitive. I apologize. I don't wish to know anything. I am entirely at your disposal, and ready to help you to the best of my ability. You said a word when you banged at my door which makes me your slave."

The Nut turned red.

"Yes, fatalitas," he said in a breath.

He paused. They pricked up their ears to the night, which still maintained its silence. After a while, not without embarrassment, the Captain went on:

"It's a password which was given to me by a friend of mine who is also, it seems, your friend."

"Yes, Monsieur," acquiesced Hilaire, with a bow, "a great friend; the best, the truest of friends, and also the most unfortunate."

"I owe everything to him," said the Captain simply. "He has saved my life again to-night."

Hilaire bowed again. Neither of them had mentioned the name of Chéri-Bibi, but they were both thinking of him.

"I will tell you what, in the name of this friend, I ask you to do," went on the Nut. "You will be able to say whether it's possible."

"What is it?"

"First I must apologize for not giving you my name, and I shall be thankful if you will not attempt to discover it."

"When you leave this place I shall forget that you ever came here."

The Nut gave Hilaire his hand.

"My friend was right in telling me that I could count on you. What you have just said is most considerate, and I shall never forget it."

"He taught me to be considerate," sighed Hilaire. "What can I do for you?"

"I must get away from here at the earliest moment without being seen."

"They're waiting for you outside," objected Hilaire, indicating by a movement of his head the street, in which some amount of stir could still be heard.

"Yes," returned the Captain, "I should like to dodge this street when I get away. Would that be possible?"

"Possible, but perhaps unwise. Will you stay here for a moment?"

So saying Hilaire left the shop and entered the dining-room, from which he returned almost at once.

"My proposal is that we should take a stroll on the roofs."

"Where will they lead me?"

"Past the Rue Saint Roch and near the Hotel d'Or . . ."

The officer was already on his feet.

"I'll go with you, Monsieur."

Hilaire opened a door which gave access to a back staircase, and they soon reached the passage leading to the servants' bedrooms. Hilaire was carrying a lighted candle. He blew it out.

"We'd better not show a light in the attic we're going into," he explained, "because it looks out on to the street."

"Is it empty?" asked the Captain.

"No, Monsieur. My wife, who is away this evening, locked our shop-girl in it before she went out."

Hilaire knocked at the door.

"Who's there?" cried Zoé.

"It's me. Don't trouble. And be sure not to light the candle."

Mademoiselle Zoé as she lay in her bed turned her face to the wall and thought to herself: "What a madman the governor is! He's going to make another trip over the rain pipes. One fine day Madame will find him out, and it's poor Zoé who will suffer."

Suddenly she propped herself up on her elbow.

"But you know very well that you can't come in. Madame has the key."

"I tell you to turn your face to the wall," whispered the voice on the landing.

And Zoé at once heard Hilaire "rummaging" with the lock. It was not long in the doing. Zoé herself was quite astonished. She had no idea that Hilaire possessed such a nice talent in locks.

The door opened and two men entered the room. Turn her face to the wall as she might, Mademoiselle Zoé none the less found means of satisfying her curiosity, thanks to a pale moonbeam which pierced the curtain.

Her master was by this time standing at the window, which he opened with the greatest caution and without the slightest sound. He beckoned to the man who was with him, and himself led the way on to the roof where the man followed him.

"There," thought Zoé, "he's got a friend with him to-night. What's the meaning of it? Who is the man? Where does he come from? Where's he going to?"

Young Sarah-Zoé had too great a relish for intrigue not to be interested in the highest degree in the man. She had by now slipped her little feet out of the bed-clothes when the door was once again opened and a huge dark form appeared. She gave a cry of fright. But the dark form had already thrust her back on to the bed.

"Stay where you are, if you value your skin, gypsy. You needn't be afraid of a Romany."

"Hullo, he's one of us. Seems to know me," she thought, shivering from head to foot.

She tried to feel reassured, but she was ill at ease. She was very glad to see him climb on to the roof like the others.

"Good gracious," she thought, "there are plenty of people on the balcony to-night. What a carnival on the tiles!"

She covered herself with the bed-clothes. Her little face did not pop out again till half an hour later, when Hilaire came back, and after closing the window threatened her with dire penalties if she did not forget what she had seen that night.

Then he quickly went downstairs, for he heard the voice of Madame Hilaire, who had already come back from her mother.

Next morning as Zoé was helping her master to lay out the goods for sale in the shop window, she saw an officer stop and approach Hilaire, and as she had sharp ears she caught the words:

"You acted last night like a man of courage and you saved my life. We shall meet again, Monsieur."

"Whenever you like," returned Hilaire. "My shop is always open except after midday on Sundays. Every evening from five to seven I have a little game of cards in the café round the corner. There's a private room for a chat. I shall always be glad to be of service to you." And as a new customer came up to him he added:

"And the next thing, please?"

The officer apparently did not require anything else, for he left the quarter, without delay, stepped into a taxi, and was driven to the railway station.



Some hours later Captain d'Haumont was back again in the de la Boulays' country house.

He had left it with the firm determination never to return to it whatever it might cost him. And now he was strolling once more through the avenues of the park with a secret satisfaction which he made no attempt to conceal. He must have been impelled by a powerful motive, doubtless, to set at naught so quickly a line of conduct which he had ruthlessly marked out for himself, but it was a motive which, in all sincerity, he had no cause to regret.

It would have needed very little persuasion to induce Captain d'Haumont to confess that he blessed the startling occurrences the outcome of which was that he beheld once more the faces and places which filled so large a part in his heart.

An imperative duty impelled him to cross that garden gate. He had nothing to reproach himself with. Treason lay concealed in that house; and he had to unmask it.

Since he had all but fallen a prey to the mysterious gang who had pursued him so far as the neighborhood of the Hotel d'Or, the Captain was convinced that the scheme which his villainous aggressors were carrying out was planned at M. de la Boulays' house. It was the only place where the hidden enemy might have overheard something to indicate the importance of the secret mission with which he had been charged. In a word, Captain d'Haumont believed that the Château de la Boulays was the center of a spy system. He called to mind that, as he left M. de la Boulays' study the night before, he almost stumbled over Schwab, whose attitude had always seemed suspicious. Some few minutes later, at the moment of leaving the house, he caught a glimpse of two dark forms in conversation in the park, one of whom was undoubtedly Schwab and the other curiously suggestive of de Gorbio. The incident had made no great impression on him at the time, but how prominently it stood out in his thoughts to-day!

He reached the house after lunch. The men were at the other side of the park practicing firing with Count de Gorbio. From the sounds of the shots and the exclamations which followed he gathered that he was quite close to the butts. He heard the voice of Françoise:

"Well done, Count. That was a wonderful shot. What a pity the Boches are not up against your pistol!"

Françoise was moving away from the group where the Count was "showing off" his prowess when her eyes fell upon Didier. She gave a start and grew pale. Nevertheless she continued her way towards the house as though she had not seen him.

M. de la Boulays was not less astonished than his daughter at the sudden and entirely unexpected apparition of the Captain, and though the latter did not express any desire to see him alone, he realized that he must have some urgent communication to make to him connected with the important mission with which the Captain had been entrusted the night before. In the meantime he took his cue from the Captain's attitude and was content to wait.

Count de Gorbio treated the new-comer with icy politeness, for he was by no means pleased to see him again.

Several more shots were fired which served to display the Count's wonderful skill. He was congratulated by all and they returned to the house. Didier had declined to take part in the contest when the pistols were offered to him, under the pretence of a weakness in his right arm. He had no wish to run the risk of being humiliated before de Gorbio, and when he looked at him it was certainly not at a cardboard target that he longed to fire!

As soon as they were in the house M. de la Boulays went up to Didier and said quietly:

"I presume you have something to tell me. Captain."

"Yes; something serious."

"Would you care to go upstairs to my study?"

"No; don't let any one think we're having a serious talk. We're being spied upon."

They went on the terrace while one party was arranging a game of poker with the Count, and another party was making up a game of bridge in which M. de la Boulays was to join.

"Let me know when you want me," he said. And, turning to Didier, asked in a somewhat nonplussed tone: "Well, what's it all about?"

"Monsieur de la Boulays, there's a spy in this house."

As he heard those words M. de la Boulays could not restrain himself.

"De Gorbio was right!" he exclaimed.

The result was that before Captain d'Haumont could say another word de Gorbio, who had caught M. de la Boulays' cry, came up and asked for an explanation. But d'Haumont became frigidly silent, and M. de la Boulays appeared to be extremely perplexed by the Captain's attitude. The Count at once apologized for interposing so clumsily in a private conversation.

"I thought I heard you say 'de Gorbio was right.' I see that I made a mistake," and he walked away in spite of M. de la Boulays' protestations.

"I think you might have explained matters before the Count," said M. de la Boulays. "This morning he persuaded me to dismiss the man-servant whom you never liked and whom he caught he tells me, eavesdropping."

"Isn't Schwab here now?" cried d'Haumont. "Well, I'm very sorry to hear it. We might have brought him to book or caught him in the act. . . . Now it's too late."

"In any case we can't blame Count de Gorbio."

"I'm not blaming him. I'm only sorry that, owing to the haste with which he has had him turned out, Schwab can continue his treachery elsewhere."

"I think you are a little unfair to Count de Gorbio," said M. de la Boulays. "But never mind that, tell me what happened to you to put you in such a state."

Didier told his story in a few words without entering into particulars of the attack on him, and passing over in silence, of course, the incident at Hilaire's grocery stores, the escape by the roofs, and the descent into a timber merchant's yard, while his adversaries were waiting for him in the Rue Saint Roch. After all, was not the fact that he had brought his errand to a successful issue the main thing? Finally, he told M. de la Bourlays how he had found himself face to face with Schwab the night before, when he left the study, but he did not feel called upon to mention that afterwards he caught a glimpse of the Count, in the park, in conversation with the man.

After M. de la Boulays had heard Didier's story he regretted less than ever having got rid of Schwab—a point of view which was not shared by d'Haumont.

Just then some one came up to fetch M. de la Boulays for his bridge party. He left the Captain after making him promise that he would stay to dinner. The latter could not well refuse the invitation, for he had no conceivable pretext for leaving the house before the hour at which the train departed by which he would return to Paris.

He did not see Mademoiselle de la Boulays again during the whole of the afternoon, but half an hour before dinner, while he was on the terrace lost in sorrowful musings, swinging on a rocking-chair and smoking a cigar, he saw her coming towards him. He threw away his cigar and stopped the movement of his chair.

He saw from the wistful and lovelorn look in her eyes that she was suffering no less than he, and he hated himself for his powerlessness to combat their twofold misery save to disappear from sight.

She came to him in all the simplicity of her soul, such as he had known her when he recovered consciousness after his sufferings in hospital, when she supported his first steps on his return to health and strength, and when she turned her beloved face to him in full confidence.

They made their way down into the park.

"My father tells me that last night again your life was in great danger," she said.

Her voice was shaken by intense emotion, and he saw a tear spring from her beautiful eyes. He forgot the infamous past and the impossible future. He lived through an exquisite moment. He was loved at that hour and in that place, and straightway he separated that hour and place from every other hour and place. The arm of his beloved trembled against his. He forgot everything. He was a happy man for a space, and he lifted his eyes to heaven in a frenzy of gratitude.

What did he say next? What words had he uttered? They could only have been trivial, since they had no connection with what was passing in his heart. He told the story, perhaps, of the night before; he spoke, perhaps, of other things. What he said was of no consequence. His words fell in silence, and they could not come between their twin souls, responsive only to the mute rhythm of their love.

How, in that moment of exaltation, could he see behind him a rival whose eyes were gleaming with hatred? Count de Gorbio stood beside M. de la Boulays on the terrace, and what he saw and heard made him swell with suppressed anger.

He saw Françoise walking arm in arm with Didier and heard M. de la Boulays telling him that it was in vain that he had endeavored to induce his daughter to fix a date for the marriage.

"But I say, what did she reply?"

"She made no reply at all. She left me to meet Captain d'Haumont."

The Count could not repress a gesture of fury. Nevertheless the two men ceased talking, for the Captain and Françoise, summoned by the dinner bell, were coming up the steps to the terrace.

D'Haumont was placed next to Françoise at dinner, and the Count was seated opposite them. He at once turned the conversation to the subject of gold-diggers, and the hazards which attended their enterprises, and, in particular, the unfortunate necessity which forced persons who were out there to mix with the lowest type of adventurers.

"That's true," agreed d'Haumont, without betraying the least agitation. "Count de Gorbio knows the manners and customs of the country as if he had lived there."

The conversation could not continue for long in such a strain without the fear of some altercation arising during the dinner. The enmity of the two men was so obvious that the guests exchanged astonished glances. What were they about to witness?

M. de la Boulays was conscious of the danger and did not conceal his anxiety. Françoise, on the other hand, maintained her composure. She asked Count de Gorbio to tell them in his usual charming manner some of his theatrical anecdotes, which would change the subject from that of spies and savages.

"For my part, I wish to be enlightened," protested the Count. "One never knows what may happen in life. Is it true that you went out there without a sou and came back as rich as a nabob?"

Before Didier had time to reply Françoise took it upon herself to interpose.

"Captain d'Haumont is a poorer man now than he was before he went out. He gave all his fortune in addition to shedding some of his blood for France."

A murmur of approval passed through the room. It was as much as the guests could do not to break forth into applause.

"Captain d'Haumont is a hero and the most disinterested man of my acquaintance," rejoined the Count. "I am very pleased to number myself among his friends."

This sudden and unexpected change of front did not deceive any one. Nevertheless it put an end, for the time being, to a situation which was one of great delicacy for M. and Mlle. de la Boulays, whom every one was watching. It was easy to understand the cause of the quarrel, and the reason of the animosity which had brought about a contest between the two men.

M. de la Boulays himself grew increasingly uncomfortable. He could not make out his daughter's attitude. She had suddenly shown a violent hostility to the Count, and the problem for him was why, if she were animated by such feelings, she had bestowed her hand upon him.

He determined to get her to unburden herself to him, for he was an extremely worthy man, and though his interests were bound up in certain business matters with those of de Gorbio, he would not have seen his daughter unhappy on any account. And, moreover, if she were in love with d'Haumont she had but to confess it.

When they rose from the table to retire to the drawing-room, Mlle. de la Boulays took d'Haumont's arm and asked him to go with her into the park for a breath of fresh air of which she stood in need. She did not omit, as she left the room, to apologize gracefully to the Count for monopolizing the attention of "his friend."

"He is my patient," she said, "and I want to give him my last injunctions."

"Do you know that you were very disagreeable to my future husband?" she said when they were alone. "If you don't like him, it would be a mistake not to tell me so seeing that I accepted him on your advice! But nothing is lost yet. There is still time to choose a different one if this one does not please you!" She did not give him time to reply. "And now," she added quickly, "you must go and say good-by to my father and start off if you want to catch your train. The small racing-car will take you to the station."

It was she now who was urging him to depart, eager to see him leave the Château. Obviously she dreaded any sort of encounter between the two men. But at that moment Count de Gorbio appeared before them.

"M. de la Boulays wishes to speak to you, Mademoiselle. He asked me to come and tell you so." And he added in a somewhat sharper tone, "You must forgive me for disturbing, in this way, your last conversation."

"But you are not disturbing it, I assure you, my dear Count. Be kind enough, Captain d'Haumont, to take me to my father."

The Count let them pass out of sight. He was seeing red.

A quarter of an hour later d'Haumont left the house in the racing car. A break-down occurred on the way, and he reached the station only to see the express "on the move." The next train did not leave until the following morning, and he put up at an hotel in the town. He had not been in his room for more than five minutes when a knock came at the door. He opened it.

It proved to be Count de Gorbio, who bowed politely and apologized for disturbing him at such an hour, but he was convinced that when the Captain knew the reason of his haste, he would not bear him any ill-will. The matter in question was this: Count de Gorbio had always held that a man's honor was the most valuable thing in the world, and as his honor had been affronted by Captain d'Haumont's remarks, he had come without delay to demand satisfaction.

Captain d'Haumont listened to him with absolute composure. He answered that the Count's errand greatly astonished him, for he was not aware in what way he could have caused him any personal annoyance.

"There have been many things, Monsieur, which I do not feel called upon to explain, but among others you used a certain phrase about adventurers which you would not have finished if I had not been held back by respect for my host."

"Monsieur," broke in d'Haumont, in a frigid tone, "the remark was made by you and I merely replied to it. But it will serve. You want a duel. Very well, you shall have one when peace is signed. Until then my life belongs to my country."

"I quite expected that excuse. It's easy to say that. We don't know when peace will be signed. We may both of us be old men by then. Hang it all, the armistice is good enough for me, and I am so constituted that the thought of holding over indefinitely the remembrance of so unpardonable an affront, makes me furious. I want to kill you at once, Captain d'Haumont."

"I say again that for the time being my life belongs to my country."

"Mlle. de la Boulays told us that you had shed half your blood for your country. I claim the other half. When a man knows that he cannot fight, or chooses not to fight, he behaves himself accordingly, and keeps to himself the ill opinion that he may have formed of his neighbor."

Captain d'Haumont did not answer the Count. He pointed to the door.

Then Count de Gorbio, with a slow movement, drew off a heavy motor-glove and struck him with it across the face.

The scene changed in a flash. Didier took the Count in his formidable hands, lifted him, swung him, and was about to break his head against the wall when the Count, in his terror, bellowed the one thing that could save him.

"Coward, afraid of my pistol."

Didier let him drop.

"Very well," he said, "I'll fight you."

During this time Mlle. de la Boulays was searching the Château for de Gorbio, and was in a fever of anxiety as to what had become of him.

She learned that he had set out in one of the motor-cars with the hood up. M. de la Boulays was in his study, unconscious of what was happening. At that juncture the small racing car returned, and the chauffeur told Françoise that Captain d'Haumont had missed the train and had ordered him to drive to an hotel.

She sprang into the car, a prey to the gloomiest forebodings. It seemed a forgone conclusion to her that de Gorbio, furious at the manner in which she had openly slighted him and with Didier for his attitude towards him, was in pursuit with a view of challenging him. The deed, perhaps, was already done. Her memory harked back to the Count's wonderful prowess with the pistol, and she shuddered. Besides, she had learned with certainty that his car had preceded her by an hour. . . .

Her feeling of anguish increased every moment almost to the point of suffocation. She was convinced that the two men were in the very act of fighting. They could not even wait until the next morning!

When she reached the hotel and discovered that Didier was in his room safe and sound, she wept tears of joy. She ran up to his room and knocked wildly at the door. The Captain himself opened it.

"You're going to fight a duel," she burst out, addressing him in the familiar second person which spoke volumes for their love which, when they were alone, had never been in question. They both remained as motionless as statues. "Forgive me," she went on, while a deep blush mantled her cheeks. "Oh, forgive me." And she sank into a chair, sobbing aloud.

"Yes, Françoise, it's true. I'm fighting a duel to-morrow morning."

"Oh, good heavens!" she cried. And then, with a look of dismay: "What are you fighting with? Pistols? You saw what that wretched man can do with a pistol. He will kill you."

"Yes," answered Didier simply, transfigured by an immense joy. "Yes, he will kill me. . . . There's no way out of it. But I shall die the happiest of men because you came to me."

She rose from her chair and took his hands in hers.

"You will not fight. I don't want it and you don't want it. You must not fight. You are a soldier. In war time a soldier fights only against the enemy. You would be guilty of an act of treason if you were to fight. No, no; you will not fight."

"But, my dear girl, I said all that to him and he struck me in the face."

"He laid hands on you! He dared to strike you, and is still alive!"

"Why, you see, Françoise, you, no more than I, would consent to live after that. No, my love, he is still alive because, when I was about to smash his head against the wall, he taunted me with being afraid of his pistol. You see, yourself, that I must fight him."

"No, no; never. . . . The man is a murderer."

"We should have fought before now if we could have found any seconds. We had to postpone the meeting. He is taking everything on himself. Both of us will have the necessary seconds. And now go back to your father, and keep silent about the whole matter. I have an hour left in which to write to you—to write to you at great length."

"Why write to me? Why do you suddenly change your tone? Why do you again assume the coldness which has already caused me so much pain? You have but to say one word to me—the word which you have never yet said."

"It is to tell you why I have never said that word that I want to write to you."

"And afterwards you'll fight?"

"I shall fight."

"That means you don't love me, Didier. Alas, my love, you have never loved me. And yet you know that I have loved you from the first day that I saw you . . . and you have done nothing but make me weep."

"That's true," returned Didier. "But you are so good that I am certain you will forgive me."

He sat down and, leaning with his elbows on the table, placed his hands before his face as if to shut out the vision of her for the last time. When he looked up again she was gone.

Then he began to write. His letter was a confession and a testament; one long wail of sorrow and love.

At daybreak, when d'Haumont entered the forest, Count de Gorbio and the four seconds whom he had undertaken to obtain were already waiting for him and he had the sensation of being face to face with a firing-party.

Those four men—the seconds—wore an ominous look, as if they knew that they were about to engage in an ugly business. The duel was occurring in such peculiar circumstances that de Gorbio must have had some difficulty in finding accomplices. It was not a pleasant sight for any one, except a German, to see a man shoot down a Captain in the French army, wounded in the war and not a little famous on account of his deeds. Count de Gorbio must have had to pay them a good price to induce them to act as seconds.

Nevertheless, the seconds, anticipating some future unpleasantness, were anxious that the duel should be fought strictly in accordance with the rules. They expressed regret that d'Haumont had not brought a case of pistols with him, but as he accepted, without demur, the pistols belonging to his opponent, they decided to go on. Captain d'Haumont's seconds took the greatest care to see that the weapons were properly loaded. They drew lots and fate decreed that one of his seconds should take charge of the combat, and he offered the Captain a few words of advice.

It was obvious that he was quite in his element. He turned down the thin line of white collar which could be seen above the blue of d'Haumont's jacket. He counselled him to stand sideways under cover of his right arm, and to bend it over his chest so that it might serve as a shield; and to fire standing in that position when the command was given, so that Count de Gorbio would not have time to take aim between the words, "One, two, three, and fire!" Of course, such precipitation would mean that he would be firing a little at random, but it was his only chance of saving his life, for there was no use hiding the fact that if Count de Gorbio were given time to take aim d'Haumont would be a dead man.

The second did not express in so many words an opinion which was shared by every one else, but he clearly hinted as much.

The seconds counted the paces. The adversaries were placed face to face. After the usual preliminaries, the word of command, "Fire!" rang out. Captain d'Haumont did not display any undue haste, but gave Count de Gorbio his full time and fired abstractedly, almost simultaneously with him.

He had recommended his soul to God and thought of Françoise for the last time. He expected to be struck to the ground. What was his stupefaction to see Count de Gorbio turn right round. The Count swayed for a second and then fell his length with his face on the sward. The seconds rushed up, followed by a gentleman whom the Captain had not previously observed, and who, it seemed, was the doctor.

At that moment a woman's cry was heard, and Françoise appeared on the scene. She came hurrying up apparently to prevent the duel, and hearing the shots, she was shrieking all the more despairingly, feeling certain that she had arrived too late. It is only in fiction and plays that the heroine can calculate her time with such nicety that she appears on the ground at the psychological moment and glides in front of a pistol to receive the shot which was intended for the man she loves.

Nevertheless, when Mlle. de la Boulays had made sure that the body which lay on the grass was the Count's, and that d'Haumont was uninjured, she in no way regretted her late arrival. She flung herself into Didier's arms.

"It is the judgment of God!"

These words coming from the beloved lips made an immense impression on d'Haumont, and affected him to a greater degree than the duel itself.

"The judgment of God!" It was true that God had been on his side in the battle, so that he had miraculously escaped the Count's unerring pistol, while the Count was struck down by a bullet which had no chance of hitting him!

It was fated, therefore, that he should live. It was fated that he should love. It was shown that he had sufficiently suffered; made sufficient atonement. God, by removing that man from his path, had thrown that splendid girl into his arms, and she alone uttered the only words that were able to decide his destiny.

The judgment of God!

It was an inspiring thought and overwhelmed him with an exultation which may easily be imagined; while Françoise's tears of joy, the clasp of her arms, the wonderful elation which seized him as he felt that he was on the threshold of a new life, illumined by love, took him out of himself—and he listened but absent-mindedly to the remarks of the seconds who were telling him that Count de Gorbio was not dead, but that he was not very far from it.

They raised their hats, and he returned the salute without quite knowing what he was about. And he allowed himself to be dragged away by Françoise.

Some weeks later she led him to the altar. The marriage made a great stir. It was one of the smartest among the war-weddings. As the wedding party emerged into the church square, bathed in the warm light, it was as though the sun of victory had risen that morning expressly to shine on Captain d'Haumont and his radiant bride.

They descended the main staircase amidst a murmur of admiration from a fashionably dressed crowd. As in the case of all marriages of wealthy people, a few eager beggars and down-at-heel loafers congregated here and there on the pavement. One of them climbed the gilded gate in order to see better, and his movements were like the contortions of a crab. Standing near him a squalid-looking peddler of rugs, carrying his bundle of trash on his shoulders, stared at the procession with not less interest. Captain d'Haumont was in the seventh heaven and had no eyes for earthly sights, nor did he hear the words that were spoken in an undertone by an over-dressed man to his companion, who might have been a sheriff's clerk and looked rather shabby:

"Well, what do you think about it, Joker?"

"I think he is now ripe, Parisian."



The moon—Captain and Madame d'Haumont's honeymoon—rose with its soft refulgence over the silver waves at Villefranche, at the extremity of Cape Ferrat, between Nice and Monte Carlo. It was here, in the seclusion of the fragrant gardens of "Thalassa," the splendid villa which M. de la Boulays possessed on the azure coast of the Mediterranean, that they had hidden their great and new-found happiness.

Leaning on the beflowered balcony the happy couple listened in silence to the moaning of the sea breaking itself at the foot of the hills which watched over this enchanted bay. The dark mass of two vessels lay heavily asleep on their gleaming bed in the beautiful night.

Only the faint splash of two oars causing a light swirl of glistening foam could be heard from the roadstead, and a boat passed so near as to be almost at their feet.

"How pleasant it would be to have a row on the sea at this delightful hour," murmured Françoise.

She had scarcely given expression to the wish when Didier hailed the fisherman who was rowing the boat and asked him to wait. They made their way down the steps which led to the beach, and the man, having consented by a gesture to take them with him, they were soon gliding over the surface of the waves, which were flowing out to the headland of Cape Ferrat.

"Do you often fish at this hour?" questioned Françoise. "I believe I caught sight of you yesterday pulling round the point."

The man answered only with a grunt.

"Certainly our sailor is no gossip," said Françoise in a whisper to Didier.

They did not again speak to him. They even completely forgot his existence. Didier's arm gently stole round Françoise's waist. Her head lay on his shoulder. A soft and scented breeze was wafted from the gardens at Saint Jean and the terraces at Beaulieu. Their lips met in the glad night as though they were alone.

The uncouth fisherman, a few feet away from them, was deemed as of no importance. Moreover he looked half asleep as he bent over his oars, drowsing in the huge muffler which covered his face. But the man was not slumbering, and in the innermost recesses of his mind he thought: "Love each other. Rejoice like children who are free from care while Chéri-Bibi keeps watch. Let nothing disturb the happiness which you have wrested from fate. I, too, have known those divine moments. I, too, have known what it is to be kissed by a beloved wife. I, too, have felt a beautiful form yield in my arms. I, too, have heard a lover's sighs. Alas, there is an end to all things! Make haste! The most delightful nights are not far distant from the blackest chaos. The abyss lies under your feet. Forget it! Forget it. Nut, as long as you can! I have come from a great distance to remove from your path the cowardly forms clinging to your shadow who are lying in wait for you as for a quarry. Pray to your God in whom you believe, because your cup of happiness is full, that I may save you from evil before even you suspect its presence. Alas, nothing comes more swiftly in the world than misfortune. You are right to forget it lest your fondest kisses be fraught with bitter tears."

Thus Chéri-Bibi's thoughts flowed on in the lyrical and affected style which was usual with him when the occasion did not call upon him to express himself in the most frightful slang.

Those who have known as he knew, both sides of life as a result of complications which they have not sought, and which have sent them astray from their early path, find themselves again with a suddenness which cannot surprise them, either with a heart full of the joys of former times, or else wearing a hideous mask under which Fatality endeavors to suppress their former selves without entirely succeeding.

Chéri-Bibi half saw what was passing in the Nut's elated mind. He was at that moment entirely transported with gratitude to Providence, the Giver of life and death, who had imposed on him such sore trials and made such splendid amends.

This secret pæan to the mighty spirit of goodness rose all the higher, inasmuch as the Nut could consider himself henceforward safe from a recurrence of his evil fortune. As far as the world was concerned the Nut was dead, Chéri-Bibi thought. The newspapers, some months before, had published the glad news:

"The tragedy of the murder of a well-known banker by Raoul de Saint Dalmas," it was reported, "is now doubtless forgotten by the public. It may be stated that the prisoner succeeded in escaping from the convict settlement, but the Penitentiary Authorities have been able to satisfy themselves beyond any doubt that the miscreant perished in the primeval forest like so many other convicts who have attempted the same venture."

No endeavor would be made to search further for him, and since he had learned from the same source, on his arrival in Europe, that the men who in Cayenne were called the Burglar, the Parisian, the Caid and the Joker had been recaptured, together with the notorious Chéri-Bibi, he had every reason to believe that the past contained no menace for him.

He was confident, moreover, that he owed his perfect security to Chéri-Bibi, and at those moments when his thoughts reverted to him, he vowed an even deeper gratitude to him.

"Be happy, Nut! You will learn all too soon, if you are to learn it, that your old companions in bondage escaped once again after four years of imprisonment, showing greater cunning this time, for they managed to return to France, and were present at your wedding. Oh, if you had known it! How you would have invoked in your prayers the demon of darkness who alone can save you, and whom, in the natural selfishness of your happiness, you no longer wished even to remember."

* * * * *

Françoise loved adornment and admiration, and Didier was delighted, for he thought, with some reason, that a woman without elegance and style was a woman without charm.

During the early months of the war, Mlle. de la Boulays restricted herself with a veritable enthusiasm to the greatest simplicity in dress. But, in truth, could she claim that she was devoted to her Red Cross costume solely because it served to remind her of her duties to humanity? Did she entirely ignore the fact that it suited her to perfection?

Her engagement, and then her marriage, which was a society event, afforded her more than a sufficient reason for returning to her former tastes, so that she found herself once more devoting herself to matters of toilet and dress. The fact, moreover, in no way detracted from her more solid qualities.

Captain d'Haumont was delighted to accompany his wife when she went shopping or visited her dressmaker. And when they were in Nice, after sauntering through the Promenade des Anglais, he never failed to bring her back to the verdant avenue where behind the great shop-fronts bloomed the latest fashions.

On that day they went to Violette's to see a certain dress in white voile embroidered with pearls upon which Françoise had been casting longing eyes. The elder of the sisters, Violette, had just returned from their principal branch in Paris, bringing with her every kind of fashionable wonder. Françoise had not visited Violette's during the war. But she knew the two sisters well, and she was quite surprised to see the elder one put out her hand to Didier with a pleasant smile. So Didier also knew her! So Didier used to visit the millinery shops before his marriage! With a charming pout, lifting in mock-seriousness a threatening finger, she remarked upon the fact.

"Don't scold us, Madame," said the elder Mlle. Violette with a smile. "It's a great secret between Captain d'Haumont and me. But as it's the secret of a good action, you must not ask me to tell you about it."

"I insist on knowing what it is," said Françoise gaily. "A husband ought not to have any secrets from his wife."

"After all, you're quite right, Madame, and well . . . the secret is . . ."

At that juncture a girl appeared from the other end of the shop. She was wearing an exquisite dress which Françoise at once gazed upon enraptured. She did not even bestow a glance at the face of the wearer. A mannequin in the flesh means little more to the customers than a mannequin in dummy.

Nevertheless she was obliged to take stock of that handsome face with its refined and aristocratic outline, for the girl, catching sight of Captain d'Haumont, uttered a cry of joy, and blushing with pleasure went quickly up to him with outstretched hand. And then, doubtless feeling that her gesture was indiscreet, she stopped short and murmured, almost stammering:

"Oh, Captain d'Haumont! . . . How is it you're here?"

"What about you?" returned d'Haumont. "Have you been in Nice long?"

"I brought her with me from Paris yesterday," interposed Mlle. Violette. "We needed a few mannequins, and I took her away from the cash desk so as to have her taught a new business here. She does all that we want. We are very pleased with our favorite, Captain d'Haumont."

"My dear," said Captain d'Haumont, turning to his wife, who did not know what to say or what to think, and who remained standing somewhat nonplussed by the mystery, "I want you to be very nice to Mlle. Giselle who is quite worthy of it. It's a story which I will tell you later."

"A very pathetic story, Madame," interposed Mlle. Violette, "and one that redounds to your husband's credit."

Giselle bowed gracefully to Madame d'Haumont. "I will try to deserve your kindness, Madame and Monsieur," she said with great simplicity. "When my mother and I heard of Captain d'Haumont's marriage we both of us prayed for your happiness."

"She is delightful, this child," said Françoise, as she shook her warmly by the hand. "And how pretty she is!" Then, turning to her husband with an adorable pout:

"I don't know what you did to make them so grateful to you, but you know how to choose the people to whom to do good turns, my dear Didier."

When they left the shop Françoise, who was agog with the greatest curiosity, asked him what it all meant.

"Be quick, tell me. You know that I am jealous, you brigand."

D'Haumont was much amused by her impatience. He assumed an air of detachment.

"My dear, it's a secret which belongs to that young girl," he said. "I really don't know if I can——"

"Oh, you're making game of me! That's not the old Didier. Think of the confidence that I have in you. We go into a shop and the first mannequin that we see throws herself into your arms and I don't scratch her eyes out."

"That would have been a pity, for they are very nice eyes," said Didier.

"Yes, she has extremely nice blue eyes and an expression of gentle sadness which haunts one, it's true. Oh, you're an excellent judge. I congratulate you! All the same, you must admit that I am a good sort. Do I know what you did before our marriage?"

"Françoise!" rapped out Didier in a muffled voice. The word was uttered in such a tone of reproach that Françoise stopped teasing him. She saw that he was very pale and painfully upset.

"Good gracious, I didn't know that I should be hurting your feelings like that."

He took her hand and pressed it gently.

"My dearest," he said, "I will tell you all about her, but never forget that since the day that I first saw you, there's never been any other woman in the world for me but you."

"I believe you, my Didier."

Nothing more was said while they remained among the fashionably dressed crowd which assembles between eleven o'clock and midday on the Promenade de la Baie des Anges. But as soon as they were alone on the terrace, which was usually deserted at that time, and which, skirting the Château, leads to the harbor, Didier told Françoise what he knew of Giselle and how he came to know her.

The incident occurred on an occasion when he was home on leave. He was "pulling himself together" from the fatigues of the front in a small flat which he had taken on his arrival in Paris. It was in the Luxembourg quarter, facing the gardens, of which he was very fond, and which served to remind him of the happiest days of his boyhood.

One day as he left his flat he was arrested by a most mournful procession which was descending from the attic above. Some poor devil was being taken to his last resting place. A young girl was walking behind the coffin. She was in tears, and was so weak that obviously she had the greatest difficulty to hold herself upright. She was alone or almost alone. Didier offered her his assistance. She clung to his arm in her distress with an ingenuous confidence that deeply touched him. He took her thus to the cemetery, and brought her back home again.

It was not until they were in the house that she seemed to notice the assistance which a stranger had rendered her.

"Oh, monsieur, it's very good of you," she said, and as they were now indoors she made her escape and went upstairs to her attic.

Captain d'Haumont questioned the porter's wife. He learned that Giselle's father had suffered from an illness—consumption—which was practically incurable. Thus he had not been able to work for two years, and her mother was crippled, so that the young girl could only maintain her unhappy family by the most grinding toil. Scarcely being able to leave them, she was forced to wear herself out with needlework at home, and earned barely enough to keep the wolf from the door.

D'Haumont knew the elder of the Violette sisters, for one of her nephews, a second lieutenant, had served under him; and amid the dangers of the campaign they had struck up a friendship. He called upon this worthy lady and asked her if she could find a situation for an honest girl who would be worthy of her trust. Mlle. Violette, as it happened, had a vacancy for a cashier. And that was how Giselle came to enter one of the principal dressmaking establishments in Paris, and her mother and herself to be extricated from poverty. In the course of a year, assisted by her youth, Giselle won back her health. In a word, she blossomed forth into the beautiful young girl whom Françoise had just seen. Mlle. Violette, realizing how graceful she was, sometimes took her away from the cash desk and dressed her as her most valuable mannequin, for she set off to advantage their most sensational "confections."

"And now, my dear Françoise, you know as much as I do about Giselle."

"You always will be the best of men," returned Françoise, affectionately pressing his arm. "Men are only as good as that in popular novels and plays," she added with an arch smile.

"You are laughing at me," said the Nut in a tone of surprise, slightly vexed. But she grew entirely serious again.

"I adore you, my Didier."

They retraced their steps, for it was now lunch time. As they turned round they almost ran into a singular-looking person, with a copper-colored skin, and eyes devoid of eyebrows but protected from the glare of the sun by large yellow glasses. This peculiar individual was dressed entirely in white linen; and he wore white shoes and a gray bowler hat. Didier could not help giving a start when his eyes fell upon him.

"How very much like Yoyo he is!" he said to himself.

But the idea no sooner flashed upon him than he realized how ridiculous and unpardonable it was to let his thoughts wander back to the men and things of the primeval forest while walking on the Promenade des Anglais.

"Did you notice that man?" asked Françoise, laughing. "There's an eccentric for you! Do you know who he is? From what I hear, he is a genuine redskin, a celebrated surgeon-dentist from Chicago who has just opened a consulting-room in Nice. How would you like to have a redskin as your dentist? Personally, I should be afraid of his sending me to sleep and then scalping me. Madame d'Erlande told me, the other day, that the women here are crazy about him, and that he has already secured the smartest people in the foreign colony as his patients."

Captain d'Haumont smiled and turned round to have another look at him. The man was still walking some twenty paces behind them, smoking a cigarette.

A few days later a charitable fête was held in Cimiez, in the beautiful gardens of the Château de Valrose, standing on the hills which tower above Nice. Madame d'Erlande was one of the chief organizers of the fête, and she invited Françoise, whom she had known since she was a little girl, and for whom she had always shown a great affection, to take charge of a stall. Françoise could not well refuse. Didier went with her. He allowed her to sell his choicest tobacco with all the reckless and charming freedom which the holder of a tobacco stall is expected to show in an affair of the sort.

He wandered among the clumps of trees, strolled through the sham Roman ruins, and drew near and entered the Château de Valrose almost at the same time as the redskin, who was surrounded by a regular "court" of smart women. He knew the man's name now, for it was to be heard on every hand. He called himself Herbert Ross.

They went into the theater at the same time. The surgeon-dentist from Chicago took a seat in front of him, next to a woman whose appearance seemed to be familiar to him. She chattered incessantly to the redskin and did her utmost to arouse his interest. But with his usual unruffled calm he replied to her only in monosyllables. That was his method. Moreover, it was stated that he could only speak a black man's broken lingo.

At that juncture a celebrated Russian diva sang Gluck's "Alceste." She secured a great triumph, and was followed by sundry instrumental pieces on the piano, harp and violin. Finally it was announced that the celebrated Nina Noha would appear in her character dances.

Didier gave a start when he heard her name. He had often seen mention of her in the newspapers since his return to France. He was fully aware that the dancer, was still much courted, or at least that the fascination which the great public in Paris found in her who used to be Raoul de Saint Dalmas's mistress had in no sense diminished. The war had made no difference to her. On the one hand were those who fought, and on the other those who idled away their time.

Nevertheless it struck him that Nina Noha must have changed in the course of fifteen years. If he had been bent on it, he could have seen for himself. It would have been easy for him to have found an opportunity. But he did not seek her out—far from it. In spite of the image which was reflected in his mirror, and showed him a Didier who in no way resembled the old Raoul, he could not help shuddering with a peculiar dread at the thought of finding himself confronted by a countenance which used to be so familiar to him. Suppose she recognized him! Repeat to himself that the thing was impossible as he might, he had none the less procured some tortoiseshell-rimmed dark glasses in order to take refuge behind those glasses should any sudden encounter place him in an embarrassing position.

Nina Noha! She was the origin of all his misery. What follies he had committed for the woman whom he now held in horror!

She came on to the stage. What a marvel she was! She had not changed in the least. She still possessed her fatal beauty. Her eyes, her great dark, blazing eyes still held their disturbing fire. Her movements were still as lithe, as voluptuous, as before. She was still as young as ever.

Nina Noha danced in a Parisian robe which revealed her figure more completely than if she had worn a Corinthian tunic. What were Didier's real feelings as he gazed at that apparition? Did they betoken the death of his former passion for her? Was he mourning over himself? Did he see in her the hated cause of all his woes?

He clapped his hands like everybody else, hardly knowing what he was doing. Five minutes later, at the sound of a voice which, likewise had undergone no change, he came to himself from his musings.

"Well, doctor, are you satisfied?"

The woman who had sat in front of him and whose back alone he had seen while she chattered to the "doctor," was no other than Nina Noha.

Didier instinctively put on his dark glasses. She had come back to her seat. She had danced solely to please the redskin. At least he gathered as much from her talk which he could not but overhear. But the Captain was no longer listening to her voice. He was staring at her.

He was staring at the nape of her neck, the sight of which at one time distracted him. Even now he could not remove his eyes from it, but it was not the living flesh that held him, it was not the perfumed neck which he was wont to cover with kisses that he now gazed upon. His eyes were fixed on the necklace fastened round her neck.

Lord above, he had known a necklace with pearls like that! It was a long time ago . . . a very long time ago. It was more than fifteen years ago. Yes, he had held in his hand gems which were so like them that they might easily be mistaken for those which were round Nina's neck. He had held pearls in his hand like them on the day when the banker had passed to him, so that he might judge their brilliance, the necklace which once belonged to the Queen of Carynthia.

Oh, how he longed to count the number of pearls in it! That particular necklace—the fact had been repeated often enough during the trial for the Nut to remember it—contained sixty pearls. Such was the necklace which, if the Public Prosecutor was to be believed, Raoul de Saint Dalmas had stolen, and to obtain which he had not scrupled to murder his employer!

It was enough to strike any man to the very heart suddenly to see before his eyes, after fifteen years, a necklace like it . . . exactly like it . . . for after all, suppose it were one and the same?

"I am wandering in my mind," he thought, Nina Noha! A pearl necklace! Raynaud's murder! . . . All these things were whirling in Didier's poor brain.

"It's not surprising that I cannot see a necklace without thinking of the other one," he thought to himself. "But the other one contained a certain pearl, a pearl with a flaw in it, a pearl which had lost its luster. M. Raynaud pointed it out to me. True, I myself remember the particular pearl. It was not perfectly round either. True, I see it in my mind's eye still. . . . But here I cannot see it at all!

"Am I going mad? Haven't I yet done staring at that necklace, trying to count how many pearls there are in it? Why do I not at once cry aloud to the people in this theater: 'Cannot you recognize me? I am Raoul de Saint Dalmas. I was condemned to death for the murder of the owner of that necklace. I insist on this woman telling me where she got it from.'"

He was afraid of himself. He left the theater. By a curious coincidence Nina Noha came out after him. She was no longer with the redskin but was attended by a showily dressed "gentleman" who, however, left her almost at once, and to whom she said:

"See you this evening, my dear de Saynthine. . . ."

At that moment Didier encountered his wife's friend, Madame d'Erlande, who likewise was leaving the theatre, and she stopped to speak to him.

She was a vivacious and sprightly, and somewhat mature woman, who wore a smile from which youth had fled. She was not devoid of wit, nor of love of mischief, nor, in particular, of malice. She liked to tease the enamored. She had assisted at Françoise's wedding with immense enjoyment; and she never failed to say, when she caught her giving her husband an adoring look:

"Make the most of it, my dear. Make the most of it. One can never tell how long it will last with those gentlemen."

She was reputed, moreover, to have had not a little experience in love affairs, and malicious tongues declared that in her time she had rarely allowed to slip from her the opportunity of putting to test the constancy of man.

"Well," she said to Didier, "what do you think of our little fête? I noticed just now that you were by no means boring yourself. You were taking an enormous pleasure in watching Nina Noha dance."

"Upon my word," returned Didier, forcing himself to reply by a resolute effort of will so as to appear natural, for, at the mention of her name, Nina Noha turned her head and was eyeing him with considerable interest, "upon my word, she certainly dances extremely well."

"She is undoubtedly one of our most beautiful actresses. Ah, you brigand, she was in front of you. I was watching you. You never took your eyes from her. But I shall tell Françoise the whole story. I must put the little innocent on her guard."

Nina Noha passed them with an air of supreme unconcern. Well, Madame d'Erlande could let her tongue run on as she pleased. Nina Noha had not recognized him.



The same evening, a few minutes before the arrival of the train from Paris, a man in livery was walking up and down the platform of the railway station at Nice. He wore a cap with a glazed leather peak, which hid from sight one eye, while the other was covered with a large black band wound round his head.

Not only could very little be caught of the man's face, but people might, with good reason, ask themselves whether he was able to distinguish anything himself. Nevertheless his heavy but confident tread bore witness, in spite of the manner in which he was muffled up, to the fact that he retained a clear perception of what was passing round him. He avoided groups of passengers, the porters, the station-master, and even the commissary of police!

When the train entered the station, he posted himself near the way out and imperturbably watched travelers march past him carrying their luggage. Now and again, for he had chosen a somewhat dark corner, he was jostled by the crowd, but he stood stock still as firm as a rock.

Suddenly he stepped forward, thrust out his arm, and laid hold of a remarkably tall, lean man who was wearing an immense, loose overcoat.

The man gave a start and murmured:

"Oh, it's you, Monsieur le Marq——"

The other gave him a dig in the ribs which checked his flow of words and manifestations of pleasure.

"Did you have a pleasant journey, Monsieur Hilaire?" asked the servant, seizing the bag from the hands of the traveler in the flowing overcoat.

"Very pleasant indeed, Monsieur le——"

"Call me Casimir, you ass!"

"Yes, Monsieur Casimir. But I don't want you to carry my bag. I am not at all tired. One can travel very comfortably in these first-class carriages. I never want to travel again in anything but a first-class carriage."

"Dry up!" growled Monsieur Casimir.

Hilaire did not speak again. When they reached the Avenue de la Gare, and were abreast of Notre Dame, the servant said to the new-comer:

"Now you can talk."

"Well, that's a good thing," sighed Hilaire, "because I have several things to tell you, Monsieur le Marq——Casimir! First of all, let me thank you for enabling me to realize the greatest dream of my life: a trip to the blue waters of the Mediterranean."

"Did your wife offer any objection to your leaving her. Monsieur Hilaire?"

"She did everything that she could think of to prevent me from getting away. But she had to bow to the inevitable when I told her that I was entrusted by the Government with a secret mission to supply the Mediterranean seaboard with macaroni! . . . But even that didn't pass without some unpleasant remarks, and she foretold a number of dire disasters, such as the train running off the lines, an earthquake, and a few epidemics. But I don't want to think of those disagreeable moments. I am at Nice. I see before me the land of the sun."

"You will see it to-morrow morning," corrected Chéri-Bibi. "Meantime, we will go and have a bit of dinner together. I have nothing to do. My master has given me the evening off!"

"Your master! So you have a master now. I imagined that your uniform was only for show. I know, Monsieur le Marquis, that you always had a fancy for assuming a disguise, and even in the time of——"

"Are you sober, Dodger?"

"I beg your pardon. I couldn't help it. I thought I was back again to those days when you, Monsieur le Marquis, disguised yourself before proceeding on certain expeditions. And then, it's quite true, this country, this air intoxicates me. I don't know myself. I am twenty years younger. I beg your pardon. . . ."

"Listen to me. I am employed as hall-porter by Dr. Herbert Ross, 95 A, Avenue Victor Hugo. He is a fashionable surgeon-dentist, and has a large number of smart patients. Remember that, I beg of you. And you, do you know what you are?"

"Know what I am! I should think I did. I am M. Hilaire, grocer, spending a holiday on the Riviera, and my one idea is to amuse myself and take things easy."

They had reached a dingy street which turned into the Place Masséna. Chéri-Bibi came to a stand before an hotel.

"I've taken a room here in your name. Off with you! I'll wait for you."

Five minutes later Hilaire came out again.

"I've only had time to wash my hands and dip my face in a basin of water," he said. "Where are we going to dine? I'll stand treat."

Chéri-Bibi took the Dodger to a restaurant, in the old town, famous for its tripe and light white wines. Hilaire was in the highest spirits. After dinner he lit a cigar which Chéri-Bibi gave him and he puffed away at it with great gusto as he threw himself back in his chair.

"You've told me your program," said Chéri-Bibi, putting his elbows on the table, while the coffee was being served, "and I'm now going to speak of mine, if you don't mind. I promise you that it will make another man of you, my dear old Dodger, and you'll fancy we're back again to the best days of our youth."

"I'm listening, Monsieur Casimir," returned Hilaire, blowing smoke towards the ceiling and seemingly greatly interested in the rings which were forming above him.

"I know nothing more likely to make one forget the worries of family life and the anxieties of business," began Chéri-Bibi by way of prologue, "than to take a hand in certain schemes in which you have to bring into play some degree of cunning, presence of mind, coolness, and a great amount of pluck; in fact, all the qualities which enabled us in the old days to overcome very considerable difficulties. You cannot have forgotten them."

"Bless me, Monsieur Casimir, if I understand you aright, your program, while it offers us some amount of amusement, is not particularly one to go to sleep on."

"If you want to remain idle while I'm working, you can watch me on the job," returned Chéri-Bibi in a gruff voice.

"I should have some feeling of remorse, Monsieur Casimir——"

"If you have too much feeling of remorse, you can take the next train back——"

"Don't be upset, Monsieur Casimir. You know as well as I do that my life belongs to you. I gave it to you once for all. I owe everything to you. I am not ungrateful. Tell me what you intend to do," said Hilaire with a deep sigh. "Is there someone who still stands in your way?"

"Yes, there is someone who still stands in my way, Monsieur Hilaire. You've hit it in one."

"It's his own lookout," said the grocer with another deep and mournful sigh. "Yes, it will serve him right. As long as he is in your way, he is in my way, too! And, look here, I had better tell you right now," added the Dodger, who realized that it was not the moment for jesting, "that I shan't be easy in my mind until that someone no longer inconveniences you. Then we shall be able to enjoy in peace the good things of this delightful country. Upon my word, I really believe that between us we shall know how to manage the affair so that he doesn't worry us much longer."

"I didn't expect anything else from you, my dear Dodger. You must know then that the person who annoys me is a certain gentleman whose service you will enter to-morrow as chauffeur."

"Is it possible!" sighed the Dodger. "You've already found me a job as chauffeur—to start to-morrow morning? What is this particular gentleman's business?"

"He is a gentleman very comfortably off. He has no business, and his name is M. de Saynthine."

"I'm much obliged to you, Monsieur, for finding me such a smart post. Since Monsieur Casimir is hall-porter to a surgeon-dentist, I see no reason why Monsieur Hilaire shouldn't be chauffeur to an independent gentleman. What have I got to do?"

"Well, you look after the car as you used to do at my house."

"And then?"

"And then you will keep a watchful eye on everything that's happening round you."

"And what else?"

"Listen to everything that's said."

"Come, I say, that doesn't sound very difficult."

"Your future governor, M. de Saynthine, is particularly interested in someone whom you know, my dear Dodger."

"Whom do you mean? I've met so many people since I went into business."

"You remember the man who came and knocked at your door one evening and mentioned me?"

"Oh, yes, but I don't even know his name."

"His name is Didier d'Haumont He is one of the heroes of the Great War. Besides, he made a very fine marriage, which was reported in all the newspapers. When I send you customers. Monsieur Hilaire, I send you the very best."

"Oh, really! . . . I am very thankful to you. What has my governor, M. de Saynthine, to do with M. d'Haumont?"

"He has this much to do with him: that he hates him like poison and has sworn to ruin him, and M. d'Haumont has no suspicion of it, the poor, dear man."

"Indeed! Well, let him lay hands on anyone who comes to me from you and says 'Fatalitas!'"

Chéri-Bibi put his mouth to the Dodger's ear.

"As long as M. de Saynthine lives, your customer, Dodger, won't be safe for a moment."

M. Hilaire scratched his ear.

"That being so, my governor's number is up," he sighed. "There's another man who won't make old bones!"

"Yes," growled Chéri-Bibi, "accidents will happen. Oh, by the way, your governor has a friend, a bit of a braggart, who acts as his factotum and whose name is Onésime Belon. De Saynthine picked this man, who is an old pal of his, out of the gutter, and he calls him in private the Joker, though no one has ever known why."

"Must I keep an eye on him, too?"

"Keep an eye on him! I should think you must keep an eye on him. He is as dangerous to our friend, the Captain, as your governor is. Our friend will never have a quiet life so long as this Onésime Belon . . ."

Chéri-Bibi did not finish the sentence, but brought his two hands together and gave a twist which left no doubt as to the necessity for disposing of this fellow also.

"Ah, yes, that man too," sighed Hilaire.

"I might as well let you know also that Onésime Belon is mixed up with a certain second-hand clothes dealer in the old town—that accounts, perhaps, for his being so shabbily dressed—a man nicknamed the Burglar, who is easily recognized because he walks sideways like a crab, and can't hide the fact that one of his shoulders is higher than the other. This man, the Burglar, calls himself in the old town Monsieur Toulouse. . . ."

"Does he, too, bear a grudge against Captain d'Haumont?" asked poor Hilaire with growing anxiety, while the sweat broke over his forehead in great drops.

"Bear him a grudge! I should think he did bear him a grudge! He has sworn to ruin him or to cook his goose for him. Listen carefully. All those fellows are in possession of a certain secret, and they have determined to blackmail the Captain to the death."

"Blackmail him to the death! Yes, I can understand the whole thing. It's not very complicated, this blackmail business. . . . So this man the Burglar . . .?"

"This man the Burglar as well," said Chéri-Bibi simply.

"As well?"

"As well."

"That makes three of 'em," Hilaire ventured to observe.

"You know how to count in the grocery business!"

The tone in which this fearsome sentence was flung in Hilaire's face sent a shudder through him from head to foot.

Chéri-Bibi rose from the table, paid the bill and whistled to the Dodger like a master calling his dog. Hilaire gave a start and followed him like a puppy who has received a drubbing.

"I've known you when you had more go in you, Dodger," said Chéri-Bibi when they were in the street.

"Well, curse me, three! You know, Monsieur le Marquis, that I've got out of the habit of doing these things. I've got a bit rusty in the Rue Saint Roch. Give me a little time to get used to the idea that we've got a little job under way."

"Look here, Dodger, I'm very fond of you, but don't go on pulling such a long face at the thought of doing a service to a brave soldier—a thought which ought to move you to enthusiasm. Bear in mind that without our assistance he'll fall a victim to those villains."

"Villains! You're right, Monsieur le Marq . . . I feel my enthusiasm beginning to rise."

"They're the cleverest of blackmailers."

"The mere thought of blackmailers always disgusted me," declared Hilaire, with a gesture of repugnance.

"Well done! That's more like your old self. Don't forget that we have to do our good deeds in the dark."

"Yes, yes; I shan't forget. We must work in the dark as far as possible. Certainly we shan't receive a medal for striking this particular blow."

"No, but you will satisfy your own conscience."

"That's good enough for me, Monsieur le Marquis. You have helped me to make up my mind to act," declared Hilaire in a voice which was not entirely cheerful.

"Well, now that you've come round to a sensible view of things, I'll finish telling you the program."

"What's that? Isn't that the end of it?"

"Nearly the end."

"Nearly!" exclaimed Hilaire with a profound sigh.

"Well, what about it? What's the matter now?"

"It's this 'nearly.' You said 'nearly,' Monsieur Casimir. Now I confess that this 'nearly' scares me. In the old days when you, Monsieur le Marquis . . . had 'nearly' finished a job we had enough in hand to last a week!"

"What a pity. And all this fuss over a peddler of rugs," growled Chéri-Bibi.

"A peddler of rugs?"

"Yes, a man from Tunis whom they call the Caid, and who lugs about on his shoulder all day a bundle of rugs—a nigger of no importance."

"Oh, if that's all it is!" exclaimed Hilaire. "I fancy I see him now—one of those 'me never ill and never die' sort."

"Let him say it," snorted Chéri-Bibi fiercely.

"What do you mean, 'let him say it?'"

"Hang it all, if he says 'me never ill, never die,' he's making a mistake, that's all."

"Oh, very good indeed. You, Monsieur le Marq . . . always had a pretty wit. And afterwards? Aren't there any more?"

"No, I don't think I've forgotten anybody. Besides, once for all, call me Monsieur Casimir."

"Of course . . . of course, Monsieur Casimir."

Hilaire did not utter another word. Monsieur Casimir respected his silence; and thus they came to within a few steps of the hotel.

"Can I leave you and go to bed?" asked Hilaire in a voice that failed him somewhat. "We're not going to begin to-night?"

"No. Go and have a good night's rest, and, above all, no bad dreams."

"Good night, Monsieur Casimir."

"Good night, Monsieur Hilaire."



Hilaire had been in the service of his new master for several days. So far, he was extremely satisfied with his new and singular position. His pay was by no means small. When he first called on M. de Saynthine he was subjected to a searching scrutiny, and his master said: "He looks an ass, but he must be pretty quick-witted."

Such criticism was hardly likely to meet with Hilaire's approval, but he was consoled by the first part of the sentence, and he said to himself:

"I look what I wish to look at the moment."

After closing the door of the study in which he interviewed him, M. de Saynthine, who was a well set-up, middle-aged man, went on arranging his tie before the glass, which enabled him to watch Hilaire's every movement.

"You were recommended to me, my lad," he said, "by a friend of Mlle. Nina Noha, who told me that you have a very reliable character" (M. Hilaire bowed), "and are so discreet that you would even decline to tell me the extent of your zeal in your late master's interests. I understood that you rendered him very substantial services, which were only interrupted by the unexpected outbreak of war. That suits me admirably. I am told, also, that you are not the sort of man to work for nothing, and your devotion doesn't run counter to your interests. I will give you a thousand francs a month. Will that satisfy you?"

"That will suit me to begin with," returned Hilaire, without moving a muscle.

"Then we are agreed," concluded M. de Saynthine. "But it is understood that you do absolutely as you're told without asking questions, or endeavoring to understand what is not explained to you; and you will pretend not to understand when you do understand. Moreover, you must not be surprised at anything."

"Monsieur, that's settled. It's just the sort of place that I've been looking for."

"Well, go and see M. Onésime Belon, who will tell you what you have to do from day to day. He is the man with whom you will have to deal when it's a question of any special business. You must take your orders from him as though he were myself. . . ."

Hilaire was also extremely satisfied with M. Onésime Belon. Taken all round, the situation was an easy one.

Hilaire had sharp ears and an inquiring eye. When he had a moment to spare he went to report the result of his observations to the hall-porter at Dr. Ross's, for the Boulevard Victor Hugo, in which the dentist lived, was not far away.

Dr. Ross never received patients after five o'clock in the afternoon. Thus, at that hour the hall-porter would close his office. He was a queer porter, for, in order not to be disturbed by the night bell, he rented and slept in a small house at St. Jean, on the sea coast, not far from Cape Ferrat.

Now and then the Dodger found time to go with him, even to this distant neighborhood.

One night, as they were passing near Mont Boron, they met a certain peddler of rugs, who must have said some very unpleasant things to them, for a more or less violent quarrel ensued. The Dodger was very excited about it when he left his friend a quarter of an hour later at the cross-way on the road from Villefranche.

"That's one point scored," he said with a deep sigh.

"Oh, that man doesn't count," returned Chéri-Bibi in his gruff voice.



But we must return to M. de Saynthine. That evening when he left M. Onésime Belon, with whom he had a long discussion, he passed through the little door leading to the deserted street on the seafront, and turned his steps towards the light of the town. He walked past the pier, crossed the public gardens, stopped before Violette's shop and exclaimed: "Hullo, Giselle is working late to-night!"

M. de Saynthine was in love. In reality M. de Saynthine was always in love, on principle. He possessed the sentimental temperament of a certain Arigonde, alias the Parisian, who, in his youth, had achieved notoriety as a squire of dames.

We know that this notoriety had landed him in the Assize Court, and even beyond that Court, as a result of irretrievable accidents which had befallen the ladies to whom he paid court. The few years that he had spent in the convict settlement had by no means extinguished his ardor.

In the early days this lady-killer was prodigal of his favors and not very particular in the choice of his partners. But he had become tired of so many commonplace adventures and victories won, as it were, before a shot was fired, that he felt the longing for an affair which would be more difficult to complete, more serious and more lasting. He had encountered Giselle at Violette's shop in Paris, for Nina Noha was one of its customers.

Nina Noha, to serve her own purposes, which may be imagined—particularly if it is remembered that she was of Hungarian descent and quite recently naturalized—never lost an opportunity of introducing M. de Saynthine into society circles as an old friend, who was interested in stock breeding in the Argentine, and who had come to France on the declaration of war to discover the most effective means of serving his country.

The truth—unfortunately only too obvious—was that enemy propaganda, which was always on the lookout to increase its army of spies in the old as well as the new world, had its ramifications even in the gold-diggings in Guiana, and had enlisted the Parisian and his gang at a moment, when, having escaped a second time from their prison, they reached, in utter destitution, the frontier of Dutch Guiana.

Enemy agents had at once seen how to turn those miscreants to account, and had supplied them with the necessary social status to enable them to live in France.

Nina Noha had to take the Parisian in hand, and when she was entrusted with the mission of organizing a system of espionage among the fashionable crowd on the Riviera, she brought the Parisian with her, and his gang followed.

The Parisian's first intention had been to make love to the dancer, but she repressed him so remorselessly that he accepted his rejection without demur.

"We are not here to amuse ourselves," she flung at him.

The consciousness that he was her subordinate was extremely distasteful to M. de Saynthine. Until he had succeeded in striking the blow which he was meditating against the Nut, he sought, therefore, to pass the time and console himself for Nina Noha's contempt by engaging in one of those little sentimental intrigues in which he was a past master. Giselle's handsome face, with its touch of sadness, appealed to him from the first—from the day on which he saw her when he accompanied Nina Noha on one of her visits to Violette's.

While he was at Nice he happened to pass Violette's shop and he caught sight of the young girl. After that he endeavored, without success, to induce her to respond to his advances, and he was delighted with her. Some degree of opposition was by no means unwelcome to him.

That evening again his footsteps led him quite naturally to Violette's shop. And now he was watching Giselle, not without excitement, putting things back in their proper places before her departure. He knew that she lived in the Rue d'Angleterre, for he had followed her so far, and he determined to make the same little trip that evening.

Accordingly it was with a feeling of great annoyance that, when the shop door suddenly opened, he saw standing before him Nina Noha and her maid.

"What are you doing here, de Saynthine? I say, come along with me to my place. I want to talk to you."

"But, my dear lady, I happen to have an appointment——"

"Tut, tut! You're waiting for Giselle, aren't you? Oh, you wonder how I know what you're up to! Giselle made a complaint to the elder Mademoiselle Violette, and she told me all about it But your love affairs are no business of mine. Come with me. Someone is waiting to have a chat with you."

He could not choose but obey. He was incensed. He thought that he might even yet be able to meet Giselle before she reached the Rue d'Angleterre.

When they were in Nina Noha's flat, she opened a door which, till then, de Saynthine thought was permanently closed. The door connected her flat with the adjoining flat. She went into it and he heard her say:

"Yes, my dress will be ready to-morrow evening."

And a voice, which he did not at once recognize, asked:

"Do you know whether the d'Haumonts will be at Madame d'Erlande's?"

"Yes, they'll be there. I heard so from Mdlle. Violette, who saw Madame d'Haumont to-day."

A few words were exchanged in a whisper, and Nina Noha returned and requested M. de Saynthine to go into the next flat. He saw a man with a pallid face and feverish eyes lying on a sofa.

"Oh, Monsieur le Comte!" he exclaimed.

"Yes, it's I, come back to life again, or nearly so. I've had a narrow escape. That Captain d'Haumont shoots like a duffer, but we shall be even with him, don't you think, de Saynthine?"

"Yes, Monsieur le Comte."

"But who is the man? No d'Haumont has lived in France for the last fifty years. Here's a man who came back from away in Guiana with millions. It seems that he has a splendid business out there in the forest. All the same, you can't keep a business like that secret. I have had inquiries made. Who is d'Haumont? He is quite unknown in Guiana. Have you fellows in your wanderings through the country ever heard of d'Haumont's business?"

"No, certainly not. His business must be on the Upper Oyapok, and even farther away. It's a very uncivilized place. People never go there. But in those parts one stroke of luck is enough to make a man rich."

"It's very funny," interposed Nina Noha. "I saw Captain d'Haumont for the first time at the fête at Valrose, and I had a sort of feeling that his face was not unfamiliar to me."

"Oh, one often imagines such things," returned de Saynthine, shaking his head.

"Listen to me, de Saynthine," went on de Gorbio. "I have had the closest inquiries made about Captain d'Haumont. There is a gap in his life! We must know what that gap means, my lad."

De Saynthine bowed.

"I will have a good try, Monsieur le Comte." Having said which, he took his leave.

So they had sent for him in order to talk about d'Haumont! "You don't catch me parting with that tit-bit to you," he growled, thinking of his own schemes.

As he walked past Violette's shop his thoughts turned once again to Giselle with a rancor which but immensely increased his longing to see the handsome mannequin. But she was no longer there.

As a matter of fact, while he was submitting to the caprice of Nina Noha, Giselle had been hastily sent for. Her mother was in an alarming state, and the poor girl had set out distraught. A few minutes later Captain and Madame d'Haumont came to the shop. Mdlle. Violette told them of the blow which was threatening her assistant, and Didier at once suggested that they should go and call on her. Somewhat surprised to see her husband display so much anxiety, Françoise none the less expressed her agreement with him; and Mdlle. Violette herself went with them to the Rue d'Angleterre.

Five minutes later they knocked at the door of a small flat on the fifth floor. A nurse asked them in, and they found themselves in a sort of entrance-lobby which contained a folding bedstead. It was here that Giselle slept.

Mlle. Violette had already slipped into the next room to see the mother, who appeared to be a little better. She had had a fit, but, according to the nurse, the doctor had given them a few words of hope. Mdlle. Violette came back to say that they could see the invalid.

They entered a room which was quite tastefully furnished, and Giselle's mother welcomed them with a smile on her pale face. She expressed her gratitude to Didier for what he had done for her daughter and her self in words which brought tears to Françoise's eyes. And she said a few nice things about Françoise and her marriage which stirred the latter to the depths of her being.

"But where is Giselle?" asked Didier.

"She went downstairs with the doctor. She probably wanted to go with him to learn the truth, the poor child. She fears that I am really ill, though we have done everything we can to hide the truth from her."

Françoise and Mlle. Violette assured her that the southern sun would do wonders for her, but that she must not live in rooms where its light never penetrated; and they made arrangements for Madame Anthenay, for such was the mother's name, to take up her abode in a small but comfortable flat on the Quay du Midi where she would be bathed in sunshine from the rising to the setting of the sun.

Suddenly they heard loud knocks on the landing door; and when it was opened Giselle flung herself into the room, her face convulsed and her frame shaken with a fit of sobbing.

"What's happened? . . . What's the matter?"

She endeavored to restrain herself, asking pardon of those whom she had not expected to see for giving way to such a silly exhibition of emotion.

"It's nothing. I've had a great fright in the street."

"That's not true," exclaimed Mlle. Violette. "I bet it's that man again. He has been following you."

"Well, yes, it is he. He has insulted me. He won't leave me alone."

Didier sprang from his chair, pale, and with a terrible lode on his face that frightened Françoise.

"Who has insulted you?" he demanded in a smothered voice.

Mlle. Violette went to the window of the balcony on the roof which looked out on to the street. And she pointed to a man wearing a soft hat and an overcoat with the collar turned up, walking with his hands in his pockets, his stick under his arm.

"Yes, that's the man!" she cried. "The wretch follows Giselle every day. We shall have to lodge a complaint."

Declining to listen to his wife, who, greatly distressed, begged him to stay where he was, Didier rushed wildly out of the room.

* * * * *

In truth, in our ordinary, prosaic life men of nobility of mind and goodness of heart are ever eager to throw themselves into the cause of virtue. We may say of these men that they are true knights, for they never lose an opportunity of flying to the rescue of beauty in distress, untouched by any selfish motive or even by the least thought of reward. Such a man was Captain d'Haumont.

He had already "done enough" for Giselle by helping her to escape from poverty and enter a good business; and he was entitled to consider that any claim upon his charitable instincts had been fully met. He might have rested content with that. Giselle was old enough to protect herself from the annoyance of a chance wayfarer or even from the deep-laid plots of a rascal.

Indifference or contempt on the one hand and a feeling of weariness and wounded pride on the other are enough, as a general rule, to cool the first ardor of a villain who, in his self-complacency, thinks that no one is able to resist him.

Captain d'Haumont bounded wildly down the stairs, darted into the street, and looked about for his man, or rather Giselle's man, with the gestures of a bulldog longing for a bite, and it might almost seem as if he had taken leave of his senses.

What was Françoise to think about it? She might very well say to herself: "Well, if he gets into such a state of excitement over a stranger to whom someone has been lacking in respect, what will he do when any man looks at me askance? Good gracious, he couldn't possibly show more righteous indignation!" She became quite dejected by the reflection. But as she was, in her own way, inspired with sentiments which did not fall short in generosity those entertained by Captain d'Haumont, whom she loved more for himself than for herself—which is the crowning test of love—she quickly discarded thoughts which she regarded as selfish, and her sole apprehension was as to what lay in store, in this attack, for the man for whom she would have given her life.

Mlle. Giselle was no less anxious as to what might happen to her protector, and she expressed aloud her regret for not keeping silent; but she was not aware that Captain d'Haumont was in the room; and, in particular, she had no idea that he would take the matter so much to heart. Her agitation, her apologies, her sorrow, were so sincere and expressed with such real candor that though Françoise might have felt within her as a result of her husband's action—charitable, doubtless, but of an exaggerated charity—a natural antipathy to Giselle, she was the first to console her.

They both went downstairs to seek for news, in the same state of agitation and with sinking hearts. Upstairs, Madame Anthenay was almost fainting. Mdlle. Violette was the only person who retained any degree of self-command.

"What do you expect to happen? Captain d'Haumont will give the unmannerly brute a piece of his mind and the fellow will make off. You may be certain that we shan't see that 'follower' again."

As a matter of fact, at the sight of the Captain waving his stick like a madman, the man buried his face still deeper in the collar of his overcoat, and led away along a street branching off at an angle, and turned his hastening footsteps towards the light of one of the main roads.

Captain d'Haumont soon came up to him, but the night was dark.

"Don't walk so fast, Monsieur," Captain d'Haumont threw at him. "I've something to say to you."

At the sound of that voice the man gave a start but did not slacken his pace.

"Wait a moment, if you don't mind," went on d'Haumont. "I want to tell you that you are a coward, and if you don't stop tormenting that girl you'll have me to deal with."

But the other made no attempt to halt. Far from it. He strode forward with redoubled speed.

"Do you hear?" pursued the mad Didier. "If I catch you following Mlle. Anthenay again I shall punch your head. Besides, you are not going to get away until I've seen your face."

And as they came under the light of a street lamp, Captain d'Haumont raised his walking stick and knocked the man's soft hat on to the pavement, uncovering the upper part of his face.

At that moment d'Haumont ceased to wave his arms, and uttered a hollow groan as though he had received a blow in the stomach. The man on the other hand did not utter a word. He picked up his hat, rammed it on his head, and went on his way.

"The Parisian!" cried Captain d'Haumont in a choking voice. "The Parisian!"

And he retraced his steps staggering like a drunken man.



Didier met the two women at the corner of the street almost frightened out of their senses. He calmed them in a faltering voice. The man, he said, had rushed away as soon as he caught sight of him. The d'Haumonts at once took leave of Giselle, who implored them to forgive her foolish outburst.

In the taxi in which they drove back to Cape Ferrat, Didier and Françoise exchanged but an occasional remark. She was in a state of depression. She thought that her husband would be annoyed with her for her remarks regarding his exaggerated kindness to Giselle.

She took his hand in hers, and was no little surprised and even alarmed to feel that it was icy cold.

"Oh, good gracious, how cold you are! Aren't you well, dear?"

"Yes, yes, I am quite well, I assure you."

She put her hand to his forehead and found that it was covered with an icy perspiration. She was startled.

"Something must be the matter with you. Do say something. Why don't you talk? I've never seen you like this before."

He endeavored to make a jest of it, but his voice was quite different from his usual voice. She began to weep.

"I don't know what has happened. I don't know what is the matter with you. You are concealing something from me."

He took her in his arms and kissed her in a sudden outburst of passion which was far from reassuring her.

"Heavens, you are crying too," she said.

"Only because you are grieved. You must know I worship you."

"Yes, yes. Tell me so! Say it again!"

"Can you doubt it, dearest?"

"I should die if I doubted it. But all the same, tell me that you love me. I like it. Take me in your arms again and kiss me . . . kiss me. Let us mingle our tears. It's so good."

"What nonsense we talk! We don't know why we are crying. We are behaving like children. It's a shame."

"So, my love, it's true. You are not hiding anything from me. You didn't face that wretched man?"

"No, I scarcely saw him. He literally took to his heels. I advised him not to show himself in this quarter again, that's all. We'll say no more about it."

"Don't let's speak of him."

They dropped the subject, and indeed the rest of the drive to the villa was passed in silence. Then, when they were in the house, she said:

"Listen, dear, you must let me take care of you. A moment ago you were as cold as ice, and now your hands are burning. You are still suffering from fever. It's only a short time since you recovered from your wounds, and we are behaving very unwisely. You must have caught a cold on leaving Madame d'Erlande's. . . . But what are you doing? Leave the doors. The servants will dose them."

He was surprised to see himself locking the doors like a child who is overcome with fear.

And yet he had become slightly more composed. He longed to remain in doubt. He tried to doubt still. Might he not have made a mistake, for after all the vision of that man's face under the light of the street lamp was but a momentary one. It was not even a face. A forehead, a pair of eyes, that was all. Was that enough to convince him that he had encountered the Parisian? Surely not. He had to reckon with freaks of resemblance, as well as his own state of mind, ever ready to conjure up dangers and to imagine that they were near.

The Parisian at Nice! No, it was out of the question. The man had been captured and taken back to prison. The newspapers contained a report of the occurrence. And, besides, if the Parisian were at Nice would he not have been occupied in hunting different game from Giselle? Captain d'Haumont would have heard something about him.

Thus his thoughts ran on. Françoise's love, the anxious attentions with which she enveloped him, while they touched his heart also relaxed the tension of his nerves. They were perfectly happy and tranquil; a great peace fell upon them. And he could no longer believe that anything untoward would befall him. He kept quite quiet, took his medicine, allowed himself to be nursed, and—worn out by the new excitement which physically and mentally weighed down upon him—fell asleep.

But Françoise did not fall asleep.

She listened to his irregular breathing; she watched the painful slumber in which the man beside her lay. Resting on her elbow, she bent over the beloved face, distorted by strange dreams, with an ever-increasing anguish which wrung her heart and almost stifled her.

What frightful visions were passing before those closed eyes and the heaving chest? She had never watched her husband asleep. The sight was terrifying.

And then his face changed so that she did not recognize it, and she was appalled. Deep furrows, which she had never seen before, plowed his forehead and temples and the corners of his mouth. The face which, when it was in repose, was calm and dignified and kept under control by a strong, brave mind, was distorted as if the spirit of fear had taken possession of it at a moment when the sentinel was no longer on guard.

It was impossible for her to remain any further beside that tortured face which was unknown to her, and she wakened Didier so as to see once more the face as she knew it—the face of the man she had married.

Didier uttered a hollow groan and opened his haggard eyes. By the light of the night-lamp she watched him come to himself from his nightmare like a swimmer who rises to the surface of the waters and is able at last to breathe again.

"Didier . . . Didier . . . What's the matter? Don't you recognize me? It's I . . . Françoise."

Then his face unbent and his eyes were filled once more with the soft light which illumined them whenever his gaze fell upon her.

"I've had such an awful dream, dearest."

"Yes, it was awful. That's why I woke you up."

"What did I say? What was I talking about?"

"You said nothing, but you were suffering and sighing and groaning terribly."

Françoise's gentle voice seemed to drive away for good and all the cruel shadows of the night.

"But what were you dreaming about?" she asked. "I had the worst dream that it is possible to conceive, dear. I dreamt that you had ceased to love me."

"Oh, my Didier!"

She took him in her arms and he lay his head upon her breast

"Listen to my heart," she said.

They listened in silence. Didier did not speak again, and he pretended to yield to a sweet and refreshing sleep. But he did not sleep. He would not allow himself to sleep. He feared to be betrayed by his dreams. . . .

She, too, closed her eyes and made believe to sleep, and he really thought that she was asleep, but she knew that he was still awake.

They were deceiving each other for the first time in their married life. Didier, like a sufferer who seeks a corner in which to lie down so as to suffer less, laid down his secret there with her, and from that moment she did not doubt that the secret was worthy of its refuge.

With a man of Didier's character—assuming that there was a secret which made him suffer in his dreams as he lay beside the woman he loved—it could only be some trouble which it was his duty to hide from her but which, if she knew what it was, would not make her blush for him.

Ever since Didier's strange behavior at the beginning of what might be called their engagement, she fancied that there was something mysterious in his past life. She persisted in thinking that it was a story of some former woman—of some bad woman of course—who had taken advantage of Didier's goodness, and even now was trying to hold him up to ransom. Whether this was the explanation or not, she felt convinced that Didier was the victim.

At an early hour next morning Captain d'Haumont was in Nice. He waited to see Giselle at the corner of the Rue d'Angleterre and the Rue Bardin, pacing up and down outside a fashionable hairdressing and massage establishment. The sound of his footsteps coming and going put the porter in a general flutter.

Didier knew that Giselle had to be at the shop at nine o'clock and passed that way; and as he had no wish, in view of the incident of the evening before, for Mlle. Violette to know anything about the step he was taking, he waited for her in the street. To call at her own place at that hour would have been difficult to explain. At the same time he hoped that, impelled by some necessity of house-keeping, Giselle would make a very early appearance in the quarter.

As the minutes went by his impatience became painful to see. The porter at the establishment felt sorry for him; and he stopped some of the customers as they came in to point to the man on the pavement.

"Someone has made an appointment and failed to turn up!"

At a quarter to nine a lady who was in the habit of visiting the shop every day for her "high frequency" treatment, with the object, apparently, of renewing her youth in so far as it was possible, alighted from her car, and at the moment when she was about to enter the vestibule stopped with a face like stone.

Her eyes had fallen upon Captain d'Haumont running up to Giselle and entering into an animated talk with her.

"Well, Madame d'Erlande, the girl has turned up, and not a moment too soon," said the porter. "Just fancy, the poor man has been cooling his heels on the pavement for more than an hour."

"You don't mean to say so!"

"I assure you that he was here at half-past seven. He must be gone on her."

Madame d'Erlande was incensed.

"The wretch," she exclaimed. "And I treated the whole thing as a joke. Poor Françoise!"

Meantime Captain d'Haumont had received certain details regarding the man who was pursuing Giselle which were to some extent reassuring. Giselle was greatly astonished to meet the Captain on her way to the shop, and as soon as she learned what had brought him, she straightway assumed that a somewhat violent scene had occurred between the two men the evening before and that the Captain intended to follow it up with a challenge to a duel.

Taking alarm at the prospect, she implored him to overlook the incident, but he expressed himself in such strong language in order to obtain from her the real truth, that in the end she told him the little that she knew about the stranger; that is to say, that he was a friend of one of Mlle. Violette's customers; that the first time she saw him was in Paris where, it seemed, he was well known in artistic and society circles; that he offered to get her on the stage, explaining that he had considerable influence in the theater; and that his name was de Saynthine.

When he left Giselle, d'Haumont said to himself: "I lost my head. I've been dreaming."

An hour later—after thinking things over—nothing remained of what he called his fancy of the evening before, but he made up his mind to escape from the scene and surroundings which prevented him from enjoying as he might, in the soft light of his honeymoon, the last precious hours of his sick leave; and he would take Françoise for a little trip in which he hoped he might encounter neither the form of Nina Noha nor the shade of the Parisian.

He attributed the confusion into which, for the time being, he was thrown to the reappearance of the dancer on his horizon. From that moment his dearest wish was to leave the place in which she was to be met. Obsessed by this thought he turned his steps towards the building at which, during the war, safe-conducts and passports were issued. Thus he passed through a part of the old town, taking a short cut. In that quarter the streets are narrow and winding. He found himself stopping outside a low-storied shop containing secondhand clothes and cheap carpets, the signboard of which bore the name "Monsieur Toulouse."

How was it that his attention was attracted by this signboard? Why did he remember the name? Later on when he asked himself these questions, he was unable to offer any explanation, except that in the subconscious depths within him, some mysterious faculty knew that the signboard would be mixed up in his life.

A hand-cart laden with vegetables was being moved, thus clearing the street. When the cart was dragged away, a sort of human specter was revealed to view, which shot past the walls and entered a dark passage adjoining Monsieur Toulouse's shop. Didier leaned for support against the wall. He had recognized the Burglar!

He summoned up sufficient strength of mind to slip away from the place. His entire being cried aloud: Fly . . . escape with Françoise to the uttermost comers of the earth!

His face was ghastly white when he entered the room in which passes were made out. He was almost sure that the Burglar had not caught sight of him. He waited a moment in order to recover his breath and the use of his voice.

When he went up to the main table at which were seated the clerics whose duty it was to answer inquiries from the public, he saw a man standing before him, holding a number of papers in his hand—a man wearing a long, flowing overcoat who stared him steadily in the face. Didier felt giddy. His mind was giving way.

He never knew how he managed to get outside, or how he found the strength to throw himself into a taxi and to give his address. He had recognized the Joker!



When Didier was in his own home again he saw that Françoise was in a state of great uneasiness.

"Why did you leave the house so early without letting me know?"

"You were asleep and I didn't want to disturb you."

"How pale you are! You are still suffering. You are concealing something from me, Didier. You have received bad news."

"No, dearest, I assure you——"

The servant came into the room with a letter addressed to him. He took it from her, and went and shut himself in the study, stating that he must get rid of his correspondence which was in arrears. Obviously he wanted to be alone. Françoise realized it, and was greatly distressed.

As soon as he was in the study, he placed his head in his hands and endeavored to think. His mind was a blank. The shock had been too much for him. He was stunned by it.

He stared at the letter on the table before him without opening it. It bore the Nice postmark. Suddenly he caught hold of it and feverishly, with shaking hands, tore it open. It was not until he had made several attempts that he could read it:

My Dear Captain,

I am of opinion that it is absolutely necessary for us to have an interview. You need not be uneasy, for I do not bear you any ill-will on account of our recent meeting. As soon as you recognized me you did the proper thing. I might have entered into conversation with you there and then, but a discussion in the street, even at ten o'clock at night, is never very safe, and it is desirable that what we have to say to you should, as far as possible, be said among ourselves. My friends are here. I do not hide from you that they also will be delighted to see you again. It is at the shop of one of them, Monsieur Toulouse, secondhand clothes dealer, at the corner of the Rue Basse, in the old town, that I make an appointment with you for five o'clock to-day. We shall wait for you until six o'clock, and if you do not put in an appearance, we shall be entitled to presume that our letter has gone astray, and we shall write to Madame d'Haumont, taking the necessary precautions to insure, this time, that our letter reaches its destination.

The letter was signed "The Parisian."

Strange to say the letter came as a relief to Didier. He would meet the danger face to face. He would know exactly what to fear and what to hope; whether he was to live and for how long.

He gave no thought of the danger to which he might be exposed by keeping the appointment. Either his enemies and himself would "come to an understanding," or they would murder him, and in any event they would be rendering him a service.

When he had mapped out his plan of campaign, he felt sufficiently himself for the time being to deceive Françoise by word and manner and look.

He went to her and told her that he felt much better: he had been suffering since the previous night from an attack of malarial fever which he thought he had long since shaken off. He first caught it during one of his visits, many years before, to a marshy district in the tropics. His words in no way allayed his wife's misgivings.

In the afternoon she stole through the passage to the room which Didier used as a study. It possessed a glazed door, the curtain of which was not properly drawn. And she saw Didier with his eyes fixed on an envelope which she recognized, by the seal on it, as one which she had seen in his hands on the night before his duel with Count de Gorbio. His head was slightly turned towards her, and there was a look of infinite sadness on his face such as she had never seen before.

It was not for his own fate that the unhappy man was moved to pity, but for her fate—the fate which he had brought on her in a moment of lover's cowardice. He called himself a villain and held himself in horror. He would have to die. He would have to rescue her from the shame of her marriage with him. Yes, he would keep the appointment.

At that moment he raised his head, and he seemed to hear a mysterious voice which said in a low whisper: "Don't go!"

The window which looked out on to the grounds was open. He thought he saw a dark form holding on to the window. He half rose to his feet, his heart beating like the clapper of a bell.


Was it a dream? He found the strength to stand up; and he moved closer to the window with arms outstretched to the dark form. And he heard once more:

"Don't go!" And the dark form leaped into the room.

Françoise, hidden behind the curtain, watched, affrighted, the incomprehensible spectacle of that hideous human monstrosity, the sight of which alone would have made little children fly in terror, clasped in her husband's arms.

What was the meaning of that embrace? By what unfathomable mystery did Didier, her husband, her hero, hold to his heart this formidable brute who came to visit him by the path peculiar to robbers and murderers?

A last flicker of light caused the bandit's face to loom into sight so dramatically that Françoise opened her mouth to cry aloud in horror, but her very horror stifled the cry, and she fell her length on the floor.

She did not lose consciousness. In the next room a muffled whisper bore witness that the conversation was continuing between the two friends. But she could not hear what was said. In her ears rang a buzzing sound, which seemed to be a messenger of madness.

She managed to drag herself to her room and to stretch herself on the bed.

Chéri-Bibi, in the study, cut short Didier's desire for an explanation of how he came to be there. It was not a question of explaining his presence, but of knowing what the Nut was going to do in view of the danger which threatened him. Here the bandit found himself up against a rock.

Nothing that he could say to dissuade the Nut from keeping the appointment which the Parisian had made in so barefaced a manner altered his resolution. He would not swerve from his opinion that he must try a policy of conciliation, and the prospect which was guilelessly opened up to him by Chéri-Bibi, who proposed to get rid at the earliest moment—that very evening if necessary—of the miscreants who were threatening him, was not one likely to make him change his mind. Notwithstanding his ten years in a penal settlement, it was difficult for him to treat seriously an idea, put forward so definitely, for the suppression of these human obstacles. Thus he was not content to implore his old comrade from the inferno to refrain from any intervention in the formidable business, he put it to him as a peremptory command.

At the outset he had welcomed the almost natural appearance of Chéri-Bibi as an unexpected help which Providence had vouchsafed him in the hour of adversity, but after a few minutes' talk the artlessness of his friend's project struck him with dismay, and led him almost to regret that, in circumstances in which all might yet perhaps be saved by the display of tact and resource, he should meet again a protector of such savage zeal that human life seemed to mean little or nothing to him.

Seeing him in such a pitiful frame of mind, Chéri-Bibi expressed his shame of what he called his lack of pluck, and, somewhat vexed, no longer concealed from him that he had already taken it upon himself to remove the commonest of his enemies from his path.

"Whom do you mean?" asked Didier in a voice strained with anxiety.

"The Caid. The man whose dead body was found at Mont Boron. It made quite a stir. I did it," returned Chéri-Bibi frankly.

Didier shuddered, refusing, however, to believe his own ears.

"But my wife and I were at Mont Boron that evening, and not far from the very spot."

"Exactly. His presence prevented you from kissing each other."

"And you killed him!"

"Don't take on like that. You had nothing to do with it. It was his own fault. Pull yourself together. He had no right to creep over the parapet. He was already mangled and disfigured, I assure you, when I finished him off to prevent him from molesting you."

"It's awful!"

"Not a bit of it. There's no need to exaggerate. And then, you know, he wasn't there for any good purpose."

"Oh, Chéri-Bibi! . . . Chéri-Bibi, your friendship is a fearful thing."

"Is it really! . . . Yes, my friendship is a fearful thing, but not for you, I hope. You will never know all that I have done to make your life a success, and for your happiness."

"Yes, I do know. I owe everything to you."

"I won't deny it. That's why, since I am responsible for your happiness, I won't allow anyone to lay hands upon it."

Then, in language which bore witness to a certain acquaintance with the polite world, the convict spoke to him with an almost lyrical sensibility of the wedding ceremony, at which he had been present, at a distance so as not to be recognized, but sufficiently near to keep an eye on those miscreants and thwart their schemes.

When Didier learned from Chéri-Bibi that he had again escaped from prison on the heels of the Parisian and his gang, and hastened after them to Europe solely to keep them under observation and prevent them from meeting him; when he learned that Chéri-Bibi had brought with him Yoyo transformed into a dental-surgeon; when he was told of the part played by M. Hilaire, to whom he already owed a great deal, in mounting guard during many days over him and his honeymoon; and when he learned that the fisherman who one evening took him and his wife for a row in his boat was no other than Chéri-Bibi—Chéri-Bibi, his guardian angel, his tutelary saint, who was always on the alert, now acting secretly and now crushing everything before him—Didier was at a loss to express his surprise and gratitude as well as his consternation at the evidence of so many dangers from which he had escaped at a time when he believed that they had been dispelled for ever.

He clasped the bandit's hand in his own trembling hand, and his emotion arose as much from a feeling of gratitude as from the discovery that when he believed that his bark had put off for Cythera he had been sailing over the abyss.

"You would never have known anything about all this if those swine had given me another couple of days," ended Chéri-Bibi with a profound sigh.

Captain d'Haumont grasped the significance of those words. He quivered all over. A nice conversation! And such a meeting!

To have on the one hand Françoise, who lived but for his love, and on the other Chéri-Bibi, who had escaped from the devil!

But the latter had not come to receive the Nut's thanks and speeches. The moment that he was certain that he would never manage to convince him, he quickly disappeared. He departed as he came, by the window, over the roofs, and through the great, heavy, sweeping clouds in which his huge form seemed to swell.



That afternoon M. Hilaire was driving a large motor-car with the hood up, and few persons would have thought that he was not the owner of the splendid equipage. Obviously there was nothing about him to suggest the servant.

For that matter, M. Hilaire never looked like a servant, even in the days when he was employed as one by a certain Marquis, who treated him more as a confidential friend than as a secretary or valet.

M. Hilaire, on this particular day, had dressed himself with special care as a man of fashion. A check suit, with gaiters, a gray felt hat, and a blue butterfly bow with white spots, gave him an air of renewed youth as well as a very gentlemanly appearance. He was even wearing a flower in his buttonhole.

When he reached the railway station he pulled up and leaped from the car with a delightfully easy bearing. He gave a tip which enabled him to wait for the train from Paris on the platform from which the common herd was excluded.

The train from Paris was late as usual. M. Hilaire lit a cigar, and walked up and down with his hands behind his back. Whom was he waiting for? We may be certain that if he had been expecting Virginie he would not have put himself to so much expense in the matter of dress.

Notwithstanding that his visit, which he hoped would have been a peaceful one, had been attended by unforeseen complications, Hilaire had made up his mind to spend a few pleasant hours while he was on the Riviera. The time has come, perhaps, to show him in a light which is not an entirely favorable one. It is certain that Hilaire, who had been brought up in an austere school in so far as morals were concerned, and nurtured from his earliest childhood on the maxims of Chéri-Bibi, who not only hated a dissolute life but also any failure in respect to women—it is certain that M. Hilaire would have been incapable of committing, in this particular, an equivocal action; and Mademoiselle Zoé's ingenuousness was in little danger from him. For long he had treated her as a mischievous chit, which indeed she was. He did not stand on ceremony when he wanted to pass through her attic on his way over the roofs to some nocturnal frolic of his own, which was detrimental to no one, except perhaps Virginie; but for some time the saucy young gypsy had greatly amused him. She amused him all the more as Virginie wearied him all the more. Madame Hilaire abused the right which a wife possesses to make herself disagreeable, and if M. Hilaire found some amount of pleasure in the fantastic ideas and the humorous sallies of Mademoiselle Zoé, the fault lay to a great extent in Virginie and her bad temper. So much so, that M. Hilaire's heart, which was breaking away more and more every day from Virginie, was drawing nearer and nearer every day to Zoé, and he made no attempt to prevent it. So much so, that it was not Virginie whom he was expecting from Paris, but Mademoiselle Zoé herself. Unfortunately, as luck would have it, they both arrived by the same train!

At first he saw but one of them, for the very good reason that they did not travel together; and more particularly because Mademoiselle Zoé had boldly treated herself to a first class ticket, and was unaware that her dear mistress was behind her in a second class carriage.

While Hilaire had decked himself out for the occasion, Mademoiselle Zoé had not allowed herself to be outdone by him. She was sporting a pink frock, with hat to match, both of which achieved some success before she arrived at Nice.

Though she threw herself into M. Hilaire's arms the moment she saw him, it was not from over-forwardness nor lack of guilelessness, but because her heart was brimming over with thankfulness to him for having found her a situation as second lady's maid to the celebrated dancer, Nina Noha, and in such a beautiful neighborhood. It is needless to say that she had given Virginie "the chuck" with a glad heart.

All this was vouched for by hugs and kisses which made M. Hilaire and several passengers laugh, for they could not tear themselves away from the contemplation of the youthful traveler and her pink frock and hat.

It was at that splendid moment of triumph that a lady of opulent corsage loomed into sight from no one knew where and, waving her arms as though she were demented, set to work to break her umbrella alternately over the back of Zoé and the back of Hilaire.

Hilaire did not wait to hear more. He saw at a glance whence the blows came, and took himself off with an alacrity which passengers, who were jostling each other as they left the station, considered devoid of manners. He did not stop, however, until he was outside the station, where, under cover of his car, he could await events. As a measure of precaution he set the engine going.

To his amazement he did not have to wait long. Mademoiselle Zoé appeared, surrounded by a delighted mob. She held in her hand a few shreds of her hat, from which the feathers had departed, and her nose was bleeding.

Hilaire did not at first show his face, but when she passed close to him, searching on either side, obviously endeavoring to find him, and when he had made sure that Virginie was still in the station, he stepped forward quickly, flung her, rather than seated her, in the car, leaped to his seat, and drove off in a great style amid the shouts and cheering of an enthusiastic public.

They had not gone far outside the town when he turned round to ask Zoé, through the lowered window, what she had done with his wife.

"I gave her a pretty good dressing down," returned the charming Zoé. "We were both of us hauled off to the chief inspector's office. They took down our names and addresses. As my papers were in order they let me go, but as Madame had no papers at all they put her in the train which was starting for Paris."

"How was it that she had no papers?"

"Because I pinched them before I left. Look, here they are!" exclaimed softly the artful creature, opening her wrist-bag.

M. Hilaire betrayed such inordinate satisfaction and steered the car so wildly, that Mademoiselle Zoé implored him not to afford Madame Hilaire yet awhile the joy of becoming a widow. Thereupon M. Hilaire suggested that Zoé should come and sit on the seat beside him, a proposal which she straightway accepted.

"Madame certainly had an idea that I was leaving," said Zoé.

"Don't let's speak about her," returned M. Hilaire. "Let's hope that she'll have a pleasant journey. Don't let's bother about her."

M. Hilaire still bore the mark of Madame Hilaire's umbrella on his left cheek, and this injury, though it was ever so slight, did not incline him to pity her troubles overmuch.

"You can be easy now, my dear Zoé. You will enter the service of important people. The celebrated Dr. Ross is going to take you to the not less celebrated Nina Noha, who will know how to protect you better than I do, worse luck, from Madame Hilaire's unreasonable ways; and if, by chance, she takes it into her head to return to this part, where she is not wanted, those people will find means of getting rid of her for us."

Having uttered these reassuring words, M. Hilaire and Mademoiselle Zoé had nothing more to do but to admire the landscape. It was very beautiful. They were driving along the sea front on the road from Cannes.

The air was soft, though great clouds were beginning to rise in the sky, driven by the west wind, which usually portended some degree of atmospheric disturbance for the approaching night. But Hilaire and Zoé were intent only upon the passing hour. Hilaire's heaven at that moment was in his heart, so that the other heavens, with their gathering clouds, scarcely interested him. With Zoé at his side he forgot everything, even the order which his master, M. de Saynthine, had given him to be at the corner of the Rue Basse, in the old town, at five o'clock punctually with the car, with the hood up and the iron shutters.

An order like that was, of course, at once brought to the knowledge of M. Casimir, and M. Casimir himself gave M. Hilaire to understand that he must on no account fail to keep the appointment. M. Casimir, in fact, added: "It's quite likely that I myself shall want a car. It's very good of M. de Saynthine to lend me his!"

But these instructions, which at first aroused the Dodger's interest, were, at that moment, no more than an unsubstantial trifle in a lover's brain!

M. Hilaire's cheeks flushed under the look, at, once mischievous and grateful, which the handsome Zoé threw at him. He was conscious that she pressed closer to him, and his steering became slightly erratic.

"How well you drive, Monsieur Hilaire," she said. "You must teach me; will you?"

"Why, of course; whenever you like—the car doesn't belong to me!"

"How funny you are. Monsieur Hilaire. One never gets bored with you. Will you have a plum?"

"Do you mean to say you've brought some preserved fruit with you?"

"I filled my bag with them. Here, do you recognize your own plums? The real, the identical fruit as sold at Hilaire's up-to-date grocery stores. The old and the new world united!"

Mlle. Zoé opened her small valise and M. Hilaire saw that it contained several paper bags, bearing his name and address, full of preserved fruit. It was a delicate attention and softened M. Hilaire's heart beyond measure, so that his eyes grew moist, and he could not refrain from saying to his pretty companion:

"Look here, my dear Zoé, I must give you a kiss."

And they kissed each other as they devoured the fruit. At that juncture they heard a great clatter on their right. It was the train to Paris, steaming towards Marseilles, for at this spot the permanent way runs for several miles along the sea front.

But the train as it plunged forward made less noise than a certain lady of our acquaintance who was standing at the door of one of the carriages and began literally to bellow. The fury of her invective rose above the song of the wheels, and the frenzy of her gestures scared the man guarding the line.

"Virginie. . . . It's Virginie!"

"Madame. . . . It's Madame!"

It was indeed Madame, and she was in a mighty temper.

It must be stated that the speed of the car was equal to that of the train, so that for a while car and train traveled abreast, and the lady at the carriage door did not miss a single iota of what was happening in the car. She recognized M. Hilaire; She recognized Zoé. She recognized the plums!

In her indignation she leaned so far out of the window that certainly but for the intervention of kind-hearted persons in the carriage, who clung to her skirts, a grievous accident might have been feared.

"Be careful, Virginie, you will get yourself run over," shouted M. Hilaire, who, cherishing no ill-will against her, advised her to reserve herself for a less violent end.

"Would you like a plum, Madame?" asked Mdlle. Zoé, holding out a bag on which the poor lady could discern quite plainly the name and superscription of the "up-to-date grocery stores."

"Ladies . . . Gentlemen . . . That's my husband. . . . My husband with my shop-girl! . . . They're gallows-birds!"

This last imputation greatly ruffled M. Hilaire, who slackened his pace, while Mdlle. Zoé rapped out as the train sped past them:

"Enjoy yourself, old dear!"

"Now we can go back to Nice," said Hilaire. "She's sure not to be there! But when she does return I shall get it hot."

The prospect of Madame Hilaire's reappearance damped his enthusiasm, and he suddenly fell into a state of despondency. He remembered in his dejection the explicit injunctions which both M. de Saynthine and Chéri-Bibi had given hem. He swore like a trooper and put on full speed.

"You look quite upset all of a sudden," said Zoé. "What's the matter?"

"Nothing. I'm late."

"I say, don't smash us to pieces. When do I go to my place?"


"Where are you taking me?"

"To the hotel where I've booked a room for you."

He could not very well confess to Zoé that having himself engaged a room in the town he had at first taken one for her in his own hotel, but that by chance Chéri-Bibi heard of it, and burst into a violent fit of anger at the thought that M. Hilaire should be guilty of an act contrary to the proprieties. M. Hilaire had in vain indignantly protested that his liking for his shop-assistant was an entirely platonic one, and that up to that time they had but exchanged plums, not kisses. "One is more than enough," replied Chéri-Bibi with authority, rolling his big eyes. "'Sufficient for the day' . . ."

"Is it in your hotel?" asked Zoé.

"No," returned M. Hilaire, reddening.



Didier had no need to inquire his way in order to find Monsieur Toulouse's shop. The previous night, by a sort of fatality, as has been said, he stopped outside the squalid-looking house and its odd signboard.'

Feeling convinced that it was not in the interests of those masters in the art of blackmail to play him any trick, and being himself prepared to make every possible sacrifice which might at least give him time for reflection, and to decide whether he should adopt a graver course, he was by no means alarmed as to the immediate consequences of his visit.

He understood quite well that, for the purposes of certain business in which he required the cooperation of a man like the Burglar, M. de Saynthine greatly preferred that the work should be done in the semi-darkness of a room at the back of a shop.

Nevertheless Captain d'Haumont took his revolver with him by way of precaution. He felt that his forces were returning to him; and it has been seen in the course of this narrative that his strength was above the common.

It was thus with a confident step that he made his way through the labyrinth of narrow streets in the old town and proceeded straight to Monsieur Toulouse's shop.

The day was closing in. Moreover it grew dark early between the buildings in those mean alleys where two carts could not pass each other. Glimmers of light began to pierce the shop-windows.

At the back of M. Toulouse's shop, in the dusk, stood a candle, by the light of which Didier recognized the Burglar crouching behind his counter like a watch-dog in its kennel. As soon as his eyes fell on the Captain, he came towards him with a profusion of bows, bidding him welcome, and declaring that he was "quite honored by the presence of a hero like Captain d'Haumont." He asked permission to close the door on account of the draught.

Didier did not, at first, answer this contemptible preamble. He took a good look round him at the clothes which stocked the miserable hole, and, observing nothing suspicious, allowed Monsieur Toulouse to lock and bolt the door.

"Now no one will come and disturb us," explained the second-hand clothes dealer.

Had the Burglar been able to see the peculiar movement which was taking place in the street, he might not perhaps have expressed himself in such positive terms. As a matter of fact, a force of police was surrounding the house, and indeed guarding the neighboring streets.

For some time past, robberies, burglaries, attempts at murder, the work of one and the same gang, had followed one upon the other. It was known that the gang's headquarters were in the old town, and that they were assisted by a number of confederates who screened them from police investigation.

The Caid's murder was included in the same series of crimes. A detective-inspector who had often observed him loitering about the streets of Nice, with his rugs on his shoulders, identified his corpse, and wondered what had become of the rugs which the Mohammedan always carried about with him. He discovered identical rugs in Monsieur Toulouse's shop.

The behavior of the Burglar seemed to be suspicious, and the shop was kept under observation. At nightfall men were seen calling on him, slipping into the shop by stealth. In short, the police came to the conclusion that they need not look farther afield to discover the gang's lair, and that if they organized a trap, they would be able to catch the entire fraternity at a single stroke.

The trap was laid for that very evening. Orders were given that visitors should be allowed to enter Monsieur Toulouse's shop, and "nabbed" on the quiet as they came out.

It is quite likely that the police had already seen that afternoon several interesting figures call at the shop, but Didier attracted their curiosity more particularly, because of the care with which he was enveloped in a huge overcoat with the collar turned up, and of the difficulty of seeing even the tip of his nose under his soft felt hat with the brim pressed down over his face.

Though Didier had started off without fear to keep his disagreeable appointment, he was by no means anxious to be recognized as he entered the shop. Thus he had chosen to wear an overcoat and a hat in which he might consider himself safe from observation.

When the Burglar had locked the door, Didier in a calm voice said:

"I may tell you that I am armed, and at the least action which I don't like, I will shoot you all like dogs."

"Oh, my dear Captain, you must have formed a very bad opinion of us since our last meeting. You are armed, you say. Well, I am not armed. I've no weapon in my hands or in my pockets. And I assure you that my friends are not armed any more than I am. We must convince you, my dear Captain, that you are here among friends. No, no, you haven't any better friends in Nice or anywhere else than ourselves."

"Where are the others?" asked Didier. "Don't let us spin out the business. I am not here to please myself."

"If you've come here to please us I think I can promise you that you will leave the place with a light heart, a mind at rest, and free from any feeling of remorse. When a man does what he can, in life, he does what he must. We shan't ask you to do anything you 'can't' do, my dear Captain. Would you mind stepping into the room behind the shop? That's where our friends are waiting for you."

"Lead on."

The Burglar bowed and "led on." Didier followed with his hand in his pocket clutching his revolver, prepared for anything that might happen.

He at once saw, seated at a table, two men whom he recognized. One was the Parisian, who now called himself de Saynthine, and whom he had so roughly handled the previous evening for persecuting Giselle and the other was the Joker, who was dressed in black, looking as serious as a solicitor's clerk. He had before him, on the table, a morocco leather portfolio.

M. de Saynthine had risen and, pointing to a chair facing him on the other side of the table, begged Captain d'Haumont to be seated. The Joker nodded slightly, and straightway opened his portfolio, taking from it sundry papers. Pens, paper and an inkstand lay on the table.

"I will sit down when the Burglar, who is standing beside me, has taken his place with you on your side of the table," said d'Haumont, who seemed in no way perturbed.

"Bless me, Captain d'Haumont, my name is Monsieur Toulouse, and I beg you not to forget it, but apart from that there's nothing Monsieur Toulouse wouldn't do to please you." So saying, the Burglar took up his position on the other side of the table; and Didier sat down, placing his revolver in front of him. M. de Saynthine smiled.

"I assure you that this inkstand is all that we shall need," interposed the Joker.

"I'm listening," said Didier, throwing a swift glance round the room. He was placed in such a way that there was no danger from the rear. The room in which he found himself was, like the shop itself, filled with every variety of "reach-me-down." Didier had no need to fear that some confederate was hiding among the toggery. He observed that for the most part it was hanging from the ceiling on iron rods. Moreover it was inconceivable that the Parisian and his gang would admit any other miscreant into the secret.

The room looked out on to a small courtyard, with a glass roof, the high walls of which could be seen. A door with a hatch over it led on to another courtyard. This door was locked. It was through the hatch over the door that Didier caught sight of the courtyard's glass roof. The room was connected with the shop not by a door but by an opening, and, as the two rooms were not on the same level, the shop was reached by means of three worn-out steps.

The Burglar was seated on the Parisian's right, while the Joker was on his left. They looked like a full bench of judges, and as a matter of course the presiding judge, M. de Saynthine, opened the proceedings.

"We need not indulge in unnecessary words," he said. "I will at once come to the point. When Captain d'Haumont left his gold-digging business in Guiana, it was in a particularly prosperous state, so that he was able to bring to Europe with him something like two million francs' worth of gold dust. Arrived in France, Captain d'Haumont married wealth. Madame d'Haumont brought him as her marriage portion, to begin with, her personal fortune which was left to her by her maternal great-aunt, amounting to seven hundred thousand francs."

"Allow me," broke in the Joker. "You have made a slight mistake. To begin with, this personal fortune amounts to"—and he turned the pages of a report until he came to a figure—"exactly seven hundred and forty-five thousand francs. But this fortune was made up of six hundred thousand francs left to Madame d'Haumont by her great-aunt, who disinherited Madame d'Haumont's mother for conduct of which she disapproved; and one hundred and forty-five thousand francs, which came to Madame d'Haumont from M. de la Boulays' brother, who left the remainder of his wealth, amounting to four hundred thousand francs, to M. de la Boulays"—fresh reference to the papers—"to be exact, four hundred and thirty-two thousand, eight hundred francs, free of legacy duty, which four hundred and thirty-two thousand, eight hundred francs and the interest accruing thereon during five years, the amount of which can easily be ascertained, were given by M. de la Boulays absolutely to his daughter. The dowry amounted, therefore, to a grand total of one million, one hundred and seventy-seven thousand, eight hundred francs, without counting the interest in question."

"A very fine wedding present," said M. de Saynthine. "We have only mentioned Madame d'Haumont's fortune to show how matters stand, and to prove that Captain d'Haumont will not be reduced to beggary on the day when he hands over his own property, worth two million francs, to his old companions who worked with him for so many long years, and but for whose devoted and entirely discreet assistance he would be nothing to-day."

Having spoken, M. de Saynthine leaned towards Didier, who maintained a gloomy silence.

"I don't know if I have made myself sufficiently clear," he said.

"Yes," returned Captain d'Haumont. "Unfortunately you have made yourself only too clear."

A pause ensued. The Burglar broke it by remarking:

"We ought to have foreseen it. He's going to bargain."

"No," returned M. de Saynthine, "Captain d'Haumont is not going to bargain. He will reflect that it might have cost him a great deal more. He will appreciate the delicacy which we have shown in allowing him to pay his debt to us without having to lay hands on his wife's property."

"Mlle. de la Boulays' property," interposed Didier, who dared not say Madame d'Haumont, "does not belong to me. I will not touch a sou of Mlle. de la Boulays' money."

"Calm yourself, Captain d'Haumont, seeing that your wife's fortune is not in question, and we are not asking for any part of it," returned M. de Saynthine.

"All the same, allow me to say," broke in the Joker, "that Captain d'Haumont is wrong in saying that his wife's property does not belong to him. It belongs to him as much as it belongs to her. He can dispose of it in its entirety, because Captain and Madame d'Haumont were married under the law of community of property between husband and wife. Captain d'Haumont wanted this community of property converted into the law of acquisition whereby the property belongs to the husband and wife jointly, but Madame d'Haumont, with an unselfishness which one cannot too highly praise, insisted on the former course, and M. de la Boulays himself had to give way to her. Moreover, he did so all the more readily inasmuch as he knew that he was dealing with a perfectly honest man who would know how to manage with care and economy their mutual interests."

"You are wasting words," growled the Burglar. "Captain d'Haumont has got to make up his mind. Is it to be yes or no?"

"I am prepared to give you everything that belongs to me," said Captain d'Haumont. The three men at these words were quivering with delight when he added: "Unfortunately for your expectations, which I consider excessive, I do not possess more than one hundred and fifty thousand francs."

Slightly nonplussed by this declaration, the three confederates burst into laughter.

"What a good joke!" jeered the Burglar. "Who's going to believe that humbug?"

M. de Saynthine intervened:

"I thought that I said what I had to say with sufficient clearness," he observed. "Two million francs for us, and honor, fame, happiness, security, love and one million francs for you."

"One million, one hundred and seventy-seven thousand, eight hundred francs," corrected the Joker. "It strikes me that with the share we are leaving you, you'll have nothing to complain of."

"We are much too generous," declared Monsieur Toulouse, who was beginning to show irritation and struck the table with his fist. "It's obvious that we shall have to resort to extreme measures."

M. de Saynthine placed his hand on Monsieur Toulouse's arm.

"Hold your tongue," he ordered. "We are not here to shout or to be trifled with."

As he uttered these last words he turned to Didier and said:

"Be good enough, Monsieur, to answer us seriously."

"I tell you, with the utmost seriousness, that one hundred and fifty thousand francs are all that I have left. I gave the rest to the State."

This time they stared at him in silent amazement. Captain d'Haumont did not look as if he were "trifling." Nevertheless the Burglar could not refrain from again striking the table with his clenched fist.

"He's getting at us. The thing's impossible," he cried.

"Personally I don't believe a word of it," declared the Joker with a feeble smile.

"He is quite capable of doing such a thing," said the Parisian.

"You can have proof of it whenever you like," declared Didier with an impassive air.

The Joker and the Burglar at once burst into a fit of indignation. They called to mind what the Parisian had told them of the Nut's character, and the rash deeds of which he was capable.

"Oh, the swine! if he's done that, he's robbed us," moaned Monsieur Toulouse.

The Joker rose to his feet and, losing all self-restraint, treated Captain d'Haumont with the familiarity with which he used to treat the Nut.

"Do you think we've come all this way for one hundred and fifty thousand francs?"

"Fifty thousand francs," corrected the Burglar, who knew how to calculate at least as well as the Joker. "Why, we must be dreaming."

"Very well," said the Parisian, who had paused to reflect. "We'll test what you say, and you'll have only yourself to blame if you've lied to us, and it's a bad look-out for you if you've told us the truth."

"It's a certainty that he's telling lies."

"Be quiet," ordered the Parisian. "That's his business. Our business is to receive the money. If you haven't a sou yourself——"

"Then, of course, he must hand over his wife's money."

Didier stood up, pale as death.

"Where are you going?"

"I'm going off because I have nothing more to say to you. My hundred and fifty thousand francs are at your disposal. You can take them or leave them. You cannot betray me without ruining yourselves. You won't get another sou. You can think it over. I don't attach any value to my life. You can have the hundred and fifty thousand francs or nothing at all.

"Sit down, Nut, and let's argue the thing out. It would be a pity for all of us if you left us like this," said de Saynthine.

Now they no longer gave themselves airs. They let themselves go without restraint, and were such men as life in a penal settlement had made of them. They used slang and addressed each other in the familiar second person. They had become once again comrades who were ready to come to an understanding or fight to the death. They called him once more the Nut.

Didier was still on his feet.

"You haven't grasped the fact, Nut, that we don't want to blackmail you. There's never any end to blackmail. If we accepted your hundred and fifty thousand francs they would be gone in three months, and the whole thing would begin over again. Nothing is to be done with a hundred and fifty thousand francs between the three of us. It's not enough to make even one honest man! But if you have any common sense, you will get us out of our poverty once for all. We ask you to share with us what property you have, whether it comes from your marriage or from any other source."

"You must hand over a million, and you'll never hear of us again, I promise you," said the Burglar, and he raised his hand as if he were about to take an oath.

"I have a list of the securities pertaining to Madame d'Haumont," said the Joker in his turn. "A pretty good lot of them could be sold at once, and the others do not present insuperable difficulties. The Nut has the power to do what he likes with these securities. His signature alone is needed. There's no necessity to give any explanation; but if he wants to supply one, it will be easy for him to do so. He has securities which have gone up in value, and he is taking advantage of the fact to sell them. Others have gone down in value, and he wants to get rid of them before they depreciate still further. It's he who has the management of the business. It's his duty to 'reinvest' the money. I'll take it on myself to reinvest it. He has but to give me his signature, and he will see what a good business man I am! Madame d'Haumont will suspect nothing. We shall leave you the land and houses, and your father-in-law's property which you will inherit. You have nothing to complain of. Only you must sit down, old man, and take a pen. We have already jawed too much. Time is passing, and we haven't really done anything yet."

The three of them stared at Didier, who was still on his feet, very pale, his eyes half closed, his revolver in his hand.

They did not fear the revolver. They knew very well that he was incapable of shooting the three of them. He was not a Chéri-Bibi, was not Didier, and then if he were to run away leaving three corpses behind he would not escape a scandal. Moreover, as may be imagined, they would not allow him to have it all his own way.

As they saw him standing, with a set, pale face, before them, and as they closely watched the suppressed desperation to which they had driven him, their fear was lest he should use the weapon against himself. In truth he had a look about him of a man who was about to kill himself.

They instinctively realized it, and the Burglar and the Joker had no need of a swift glance from M. de Saynthine to grasp the position. The latter at once assumed a good-humored air.

"In reality it will be enough if we are agreed in principle," he said. "A day or two will make no difference. The position in which we stand towards each other to-day will be the same to-morrow. And we shall still have at our command the same weapons, so that we can put an end to it if it is unduly protracted. Let Captain d'Haumont show his good will and we shan't fall out. Of course, we can't give Captain d'Haumont away to the police without detriment to ourselves, but we are not concerned with the police. The thought that Madame d'Haumont may remain indefinitely, perhaps for ever, ignorant of things which she need not know—it depends on him—will hasten our old friend's decision. Let him now make the necessary arrangements to transfer securities to the value of one hundred and fifty thousand francs to us, and we will talk about the rest in a week's time."

Didier still clung to the supreme hope of coming to some understanding.

"I must go home now," he said. "I shan't come here again. I will meet M. de Saynthine one evening by appointment, in a suitable and discreet place. He will receive due notice here. Within the next four days we shall either come to a definite agreement or each be free to go his own way."

M. de Saynthine cast a further glance at his assistants.

"Very well, that's agreed," he said. "And may those four days of reflection help you to become sensible. Good-by, Nut. Open the street door, Monsieur Toulouse."

The Burglar made for the shop and Didier followed him.

"Only one way out of it," whispered the Parisian to the Joker.

The Joker had but to stretch out his arm and to press his hand against the wall, and the stairs which led to the shop fell to pieces at the moment when Didier was bearing down upon them with all his weight.

Didier uttered a cry, and hardly knowing what he did, raised his arms in the air and fell. The three men were upon him in a flash. His revolver had dropped on to the shop floor. Thus he was disarmed and in such a position that it was almost impossible for him to shake off the human cluster which was pressing him hard. He gave a hollow groan, to which the others replied by bursting into hideous fits of laughter.

But suddenly the little game took another turn. Didier's moans were answered by a loud shout mingled with a terrible crash.

The glass roof of the courtyard was shattered by an enormous weight, and the door which connected the yard with the back room was battered in at a blow. A human form rolled to the bandits' feet.

The three of them stood up, letting go their prey, with a simultaneous cry: "Chéri-Bibi!"

Seized with an uncontrollable terror they staggered back, but seeing that Chéri-Bibi appeared to be distraught they realized that he was seriously injured, and they leapt at him, while the Parisian fired his revolver point-blank at his chest.

Chéri-Bibi, however, clutched the weapon and the shot struck the wall after grazing his hand, which began to bleed copiously. The bandits were on him like hounds upon the quarry. With ever-increasing hatred for the monster who came among them to interfere in their affairs, they might have torn him to pieces, for Didier was wedged in the cavity in the stairs and was trying in vain to release himself, when they heard the sound of a commotion in the street, the shop door was broken down and the police rushed in.

At the sound of the first blows on the shop front the Parisian, the Burglar and the Joker took refuge at the back of the courtyard and remained in a dark staircase by which, whatever happened, they could make good their escape.

The police followed close upon their heels, passing the two men who lay on the floor without troubling about them for the time being.

Chéri-Bibi and the Nut were left to themselves. They could hear the police-calls in the passages, the staircases, and even in the street.

Chéri-Bibi dragged himself towards the Nut and endeavored to get on his feet, but his leg must have been broken, for he fell to the ground moaning: "Fatalitas, my leg has given way!"



The Nut at length managed to release himself from the trap in which he had been caught. He turned to Chéri-Bibi and could not repress a muffled exclamation when he heard Chéri-Bibi say that he had broken his leg.

"Now make tracks while there's time," Chéri-Bibi whispered. "You have less than five minutes if you want to get away from here. Never mind me. I can't move my leg. Listen: Go past the rag-and-bone shop at the back of the courtyard on the right. No one is there. Slip up the stairs on the right; the others took the one on the left. When you get to the attics, scoot along the roofs till you come to the corner of the little square. Get down as best you can. You'll find a car waiting there, in charge of your friend Hilaire. He won't be surprised to see you. He expects us. Good luck!"

The Nut stooped and put his arms round Chéri-Bibi. He lifted him by a powerful effort.

"What are you doing?" asked the other, who was tying a handkerchief round his bleeding hand.

"I'm going to carry you," said the Nut simply. "You don't suppose I'm going to leave you here."

"Oh, damn it, you'll jolly well do nothing of the sort. I'm done for. I tell you my leg's broken. You can't think of carrying me as if I were a doll. You don't know my weight. Besides, you must clear off—do a guy. The police will come back. You'll get nabbed, and you won't save me. A lot of good that will do you!"

"Listen, Chéri-Bibi, you killed the Caid. They're hunting for his murderer. You can't escape the guillotine this time. I won't leave you here."

He went down on his knees, took Chéri-Bibi by the arms, and hoisted him on his shoulders.

"Oh, it's the finest thing I've ever seen in my life," sobbed Chéri-Bibi. "If there's a Providence, may He help us now. . . . And let me creep along, since you absolutely insist on it. I can lean on your shoulder and you can hold me up. But if you see them coming, chuck me."

They crossed the courtyard, which was all in darkness and formed a sort of well, overlooked by squalid lodging-houses which might have been empty, for no face appeared at the garret-windows. The people who swarmed in them remained in their rooms, refusing to show any interest in what was happening, and, for that matter, never interfering in these dramatic events save to assist burglars to escape the constable.

Cheri-Bibi guided the Nut. When he realized that his old friend was determined to keep the appointment which the "jail-birds" had made, he must have carefully examined the premises. His appearance on the scene in the midst of the struggle was not a bolt from the blue.

Soon they reached a staircase which was so narrow that the Nut had great difficulty in turning round in it with his burden on his back.

"Let go, old man, let go. You'll only get yourself pinched. What does an old horse like me matter?"

Didier continued to climb the stairs. In the meantime the police had come down again by another staircase. They had lost the trail of the three bandits, but considered that their eventual escape was impossible owing to their plan of surrounding the entire block of houses. They came back to the shop, and stopped in amazement when they noticed that the man and his companion, both of whom appeared to be seriously wounded, were gone. They could see only a few bloodstains.

They went to the street door. Here the men posted on guard told them that no one had left the house.

"Very queer," observed a detective-inspector. "Which way have the two birds flown? One of them looked as if his leg was broken, and the other was in a pretty bad way. My opinion is that it would be more interesting to find the two victims than the men who attacked them."

He followed the traces of blood on the flagstones. These led him through the small courtyard to the rag-and-bone shop and the squalid staircase with its damp walls which ran up the building to the right. "They can't be far away," he muttered. And the police darted forward on this new hunt.

Chéri-Bibi heard them running up the staircase. "We are badly done!" he said.

A door on one of the landings stood ajar. The Nut pushed it open. A little boy and girl began to utter shrill cries. Chéri-Bibi gave them a fierce look which frightened them out of their lives and at once silenced them.

The Nut turned the key in the lock; and the policemen passed the landing, without stopping, on their way to the roof.

Unfortunately, at that moment the children's mother appeared. She had gone out to do some shopping, or to have a gossip with a neighbor, and was hastening home to her children in a state of anxiety caused by the disturbance in the house. She was amazed to find that she could not open the door.

"Didi! . . . Gégé!" she cried, and the children at once returned to life and began to squall anew, and then suddenly they held their tongues, silenced by the frightful look in Chéri-Bibi's eyes.

The mother furiously shook the door.

"But who can have locked the door? . . . Not the youngsters. . . . Didi! . . . Gégé! . . ."

Fresh cries and fresh silence. Then the mother had a fit of hysterical sobbing on the landing. The police came back. She told them that she had just come home to find the door locked. Her children were alone and something dreadful must have happened. At that moment the youngsters began to cry as if they were being flayed alive. They had recovered their breath, for Chéri-Bibi was no longer looking at them. The mother began to scream. . . .

"Hang it all, they're here!" said a policeman.

The mother grasped the situation, and was seized with indescribable fright. She threw herself against the door, shouting imprecations.

"Murder! . . . Murder! . . . They're murdering my children! . . ."

Policemen attempted to break in the door, but the woman's presence hindered them, and when they tried to push her aside she scratched their faces with her claws. She was like a mad woman.

The Nut had opened a window which looked out on to a narrow, deserted street—a sort of blind alley. Chéri-Bibi dragged himself so far, and they took a look round. They saw a rain-pipe fixed to the wall by iron hooks. It was their last hope. By making use of this rain-pipe they could reach the structure above, and climb upon the roof.

"Off you go," whispered Chéri-Bibi. "Good-bye. Don't trouble about me any more, or I'll jump out of the window."

Nothing that Chéri-Bibi could say, even now, made any impression. How the Nut performed the miracle of carrying him and saving him was a riddle which he could not himself have solved five minutes later.

They happened to be on the top floor but one, and the stories were extremely low. The clamps held securely. The molding of the window above did duty likewise as a support for the Nut.

It looked as if they might be hurled headlong below. They could still hear the cries of mother and children, the shouts of policemen, and the echo of tremendous blows striking the door, which, fortunately, was solidly built, as is usually the case in very old houses.

At length Chéri-Bibi and the Nut reached the roof, climbed through a window facing them, and passed into a room in which another window led to the next roof. They made for it, but here they came up against a chimney and nearly fell into the street.

The Nut began to pant like a bellows. They could hear the shouts of the policemen in pursuit who had returned to the roofs, and also the shouts which they exchanged with their men in the street.

Chéri-Bibi still directed the Nut, whose progress was becoming increasingly difficult, for he was almost carrying him.

"Stop here. Passengers off first, please!"

They slipped through a dormer window, found themselves in a loft and crossed a staircase.

"Let me go. I'll get down on one foot."

The Nut did not even hear him. Startled faces appeared in the doorways.

"Go bade to bed, all of you, damn it!" shouted Chéri-Bibi. "I don't want to see your mugs. Keep quiet or I'll murder you!" Then, turning to the Nut, he said: "Another minute and we shall reach the car. All the same, I should never have thought you were so strong. I must say that ten years in a penal settlement have given you a bit of muscle!"

They reached the passage on the ground floor from which they could signal to the car. Afterwards they would have but to start off at full speed.

"I hear the car. The Dodger has grasped the situation. He has set his engine going."

The Nut, who still bore Chéri-Bibi's immense weight on his shoulders, ventured to glance into the street.

"Yes, the car is there!" he said.

"Not a bit of it, she's not there," squeaked Chéri-Bibi. "Fatalitas! That's the police car!"

He assumed that de Saynthine and his confederates had managed in their escape to jump into the car driven by Hilaire before they arrived, which was obviously not in Chéri-Bibi's plan. He had provided for everything that might happen except the intervention of the police.

Suddenly they saw the policemen enter their car and order the chauffeur to drive round the old town. And immediately after their departure Hilaire came up with his car.

Chéri-Bibi and the Nut made a sign and walked out of the passage. Hilaire saw them and beckoned to them. And two huge forms came towards him, one carrying the other. He helped the Nut to install Chéri-Bibi in the car.

"You managed to put de Saynthine off the scent," gasped Chéri-Bibi.

"No mistake about that!" returned Hilaire, who had merely dropped Mlle. Zoé at her hotel and was expecting a warm reception from Chéri-Bibi.

"To Cape Ferrat! And let her go for all she's worth," ordered Chéri-Bibi.

The car drove off. Almost at once the car containing the policemen returned to the square, and seeing the car with the hood up in front of them, started off like a meteor to attack it.

"If you don't give them the slip as well, it's all up with us!" yelled Chéri-Bibi.



At the turning of Saint Jean bridge by which the headland leading to Cape Ferrat is entered, Hilaire pulled up the car and jumped out.

"Get out," he cried. "They're gaining on us. My engine is misfiring. They'll overtake us in a minute. But I'll go on and they'll follow me, thinking that you are still in the car. I'll manage to pull through all right, never fear."

"I shall stay with the Dodger. Let me go," exclaimed Chéri-Bibi.

But the Nut, assisted by the Dodger, took Chéri-Bibi again by his shoulders and darted behind a sloping bank by the roadside. Just then the police car came into view and the Dodger drove off again.

Nevertheless the police stopped their car at the turning to Saint Jean bridge. They held a consultation. Their suspicions must have been aroused, and they must have seen Hilaire's car pull up, for they split into two parties; one half of them continued their way in the car and the other crossed the bridge.

The Nut took advantage of their indecision to go forward a little way under cover of a wall. Chéri-Bibi begged him for the last time to leave him on the road.

"I have recovered my strength," the Nut returned. "It's all right. The headland is a veritable maze. They won't be able to find us in the darkness. In a quarter of an hour we shall reach the villa gardens. Then we shall be safe."

* * * * *

Françoise in the villa was in a state of the utmost moment when her mind, still obsessed by the fright-anxiety owing to Didier's protracted absence at a full vision which she had seen, could not recover its calm. She began to give way to a feeling of despair which might well overpower her, for she was unable to put it into words. Nevertheless, the fierce misgivings which clutched at her heart would have passed unperceived.

She had the strength to get up. She put on a dressing-gown and lay on a sofa in the little sitting-room which adjoined their rooms. She lit a lamp and took up a book, and dismissed her maid for the night. She requested to be left alone until Captain d'Haumont's return.

Outwardly she appeared quite self-possessed. What she had seen was so dreadful and so incapable of explanation that she felt above all that Didier must not suspect her of having seen the thing. And, in order that he might not suspect it, she strove to assume in front of her servants a listless and impassive look, and an appearance of purely physical weakness which would deceive Didier.

For she would have to deceive him in order to get at the truth; in order to try to understand him. To succeed in her purpose she must rely on herself alone. Her husband's secret was of such a nature and appeared to be wrapped in such appalling mystery that she realized that he would do his utmost to keep it from her rather than to confess the truth. And the truth must be all the more terrible since he was so jealously guarding it.

She refused to drive him to falsehood or subterfuge, or force him to resort to expedients. That would be unworthy of her, unworthy of her love. She meant to take her full share in the deception; that was essential to his happiness. And when, by virtue of wonderful patience and craft, she discovered the truth, she would act as if she did not know it, since it was necessary that she should not know anything. Had not Didier, who was devoted to her and would have died of grief if she had married another man—she was certain of that—had not Didier gone so far as to advise her to marry de Gorbio rather than share his secret with her?

Only by the force of extraordinary circumstances was Didier driven to tell her that he loved her. How could she fail to see that if he now became aware that she knew he might never again tell her that he loved her? Possibly he would leave her. Possibly he would shoot himself. Their marriage had occurred, she saw quite clearly, only because Didier had forgotten for the nonce, the thing that she must not know. Was she by some indiscreet question, some specific lack of intelligence, to recall to his mind this thing whose frightful face she had for a moment caught sight of?

Never! She would hold her peace, and though she might render his formidable task of dissimulation in her presence less difficult. For she now realized that this was no case of some former love affair, or some trivial adventure of which he was disposed to exaggerate the significance as far as she was concerned. No, it was something more than that. After what she had seen, she could not doubt that some horror lay behind the awful thing. . . . But, without allowing him to know anything, she would guard with zealous and unremitting care their love, and her faith in Didier should drive away the trouble.

For she did not doubt him, and perhaps she would love him all the more because he was thus struck down by fate. Her reflections inspired and uplifted her; filled her with a new life. Although Didier had held the monster in his arms, she had not lost her love for him.

Where was he at that moment? Why had he not returned home? She refused to believe his story that he had to report himself in the town. Suddenly she drew herself up. She heard the sound of voices. Someone was violently ringing the garden gate bell. She ran to the French window leading to the balcony which ran round the first floor. She looked out, concealed behind the curtains. The night was sufficiently bright to enable her to distinguish some four or five men. They were calling out. A manservant hastened up to them, opened the gate, and they scattered over the garden on the run. A few words reached her ears.

"The police!" she murmured, and sank back upon the sofa.

At that moment, although every window was closed, she distinctly caught her husband's voice on the balcony: "Everything is locked. . . . We're done for!" She stifled a cry and turned her head. Then, looking above the curtain over the lower part of the balcony window, she saw, behind a number of giant mimosa plants which hid this corner of the frontage, an astounding sight—her husband bending under the monster's weight.

She had the strength to stand up and quietly to open one of the windows at the far end of the balcony, and to fling herself into the darkness of her bedroom. From the back of the room she saw Didier steal into the sitting-room and close the window. As to the monster, he had rolled on to the landing. Didier had scarcely time to push him under the sofa and to take refuge behind a curtain when a knock came at the door.

Then Françoise returned to the sitting-room, lay down cm the sofa, took up her book again, and said, "Come in!"

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