Fantômas, p.1Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain / Mystery & Detective
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PIERRE SOUVESTREANDMARCEL ALLAIN
_Translated from the original French by_CRANSTOUN METCALFE
_Introduction to the Dover Edition by_ROBIN WALZ
DOVER PUBLICATIONS, INC.Mineola, New York
This Dover edition, first published in 2006, is an unabridgedrepublication of the work first published by Brentano's Publishers Inc.,New York, in 1915.
_International Standard Book Number: 0-486-44971-8_
Manufactured in the United States of AmericaDover Publications, Inc., 31 East 2nd Street, Mineola, N.Y. 11501
Introduction to the Dover Edition v
I. The Genius of Crime 1
II. A Tragic Dawn 12
III. The Hunt for the Man 26
IV. "No! I am not Mad!" 34
V. "Arrest Me!" 45
VI. "Fantomas, it is Death!" 52
VII. The Criminal Investigation Department 68
VIII. A Dreadful Confession 82
IX. All for Honour 92
X. Princess Sonia's Bath 104
XI. Magistrate and Detective 117
XII. A Knock-out Blow 125
XIII. Therese's Future 133
XIV. Mademoiselle Jeanne 140
XV. The Mad Woman's Plot 146
XVI. Among the Market Porters 156
XVII. At the Saint-Anthony's Pig 163
XVIII. A Prisoner and a Witness 174
XIX. Jerome Fandor 184
XX. A Cup of Tea 190
XXI. Lord Beltham's Murderer 196
XXII. The Scrap of Paper 205
XXIII. The Wreck of the "Lancaster" 210
XXIV. Under Lock and Key 216
XXV. An Unexpected Accomplice 223
XXVI. A Mysterious Crime 228
XXVII. Three Surprising Incidents 237
XXVIII. The Court of Assize 247
XXIX. Verdict and Sentence 255
XXX. An Assignation 265
XXXI. Fell Treachery 276
XXXII. On the Scaffold 288
I. THE GENIUS OF CRIME
"What did you say?"
"I said: Fantomas."
"And what does that mean?"
"But what is it?"
"Nobody.... And yet, yes, it is somebody!"
"And what does the somebody do?"
* * * * *
Dinner was just over, and the company were moving into the drawing-room.
Hurrying to the fireplace, the Marquise de Langrune took a large logfrom a basket and flung it on to the glowing embers on the hearth; thelog crackled and shed a brilliant light over the whole room; the guestsof the Marquise instinctively drew near to the fire.
During the ten consecutive months she spent every year at her chateau ofBeaulieu, on the outskirts of Correze, that picturesque district boundedby the Dordogne, it had been the immemorial custom of the Marquise deLangrune to entertain a few of her personal friends in the neighbourhoodto dinner every Wednesday, thereby obtaining a little pleasant relieffrom her loneliness and keeping up some contact with the world.
On this particular winter evening the good lady's guests includedseveral habitues: President Bonnet, a retired magistrate who hadwithdrawn to his small property at Saint-Jaury, in the suburbs ofBrives, and the Abbe Sicot, who was the parish priest. A more occasionalfriend was also there, the Baronne de Vibray, a young and wealthy widow,a typical woman of the world who spent the greater part of her lifeeither in motoring, or in the most exclusive drawing-rooms of Paris, orat the most fashionable watering-places. But when the Baronne de Vibrayput herself out to grass, as she racily phrased it, and spent a fewweeks at Querelles, her estate close to the chateau of Beaulieu, nothingpleased her better than to take her place again in the delightfulcompany of the Marquise de Langrune and her friends.
Finally, youth was represented by Charles Rambert, who had arrived atthe chateau a couple of days before, a charming lad of about eighteenwho was treated with warm affection by the Marquise and by ThereseAuvernois, the granddaughter of the Marquise, with whom since herparents' death she had lived as a daughter.
The odd and even mysterious words spoken by President Bonnet as theywere leaving the table, and the personality of this Fantomas about whichhe had said nothing definite in spite of all the questions put to him,had excited the curiosity of the company, and while Therese Auvernoiswas gracefully dispensing the coffee to her grandmother's guests thequestions were renewed with greater insistence. Crowding round the fire,for the evening was very cold, Mme. de Langrune's friends showered freshquestions upon the old magistrate, who secretly enjoyed the interest hehad inspired. He cast a solemn eye upon the circle of his audience andprolonged his silence, the more to capture their attention. At length hebegan to speak.
"Statistics tell us, ladies, that of all the deaths that are registeredevery day quite a third are due to crime. You are no doubt aware thatthe police discover about half of the crimes that are committed, andthat barely half meet with the penalty of justice. This explains how itis that so many mysteries are never cleared up, and why there are somany mistakes and inconsistencies in judicial investigations."
"What is the conclusion you wish to draw?" the Marquise de Langruneenquired with interest.
"This," the magistrate proceeded: "although many crimes pass unsuspectedit is none the less obvious that they have been committed; now whilesome of them are due to ordinary criminals, others are the work ofenigmatical beings who are difficult to trace and too clever orintelligent to let themselves be caught. History is full of stories ofsuch mysterious characters, the Iron Mask, for instance, and Cagliostro.In every age there have been bands of dangerous creatures, led by suchmen as Cartouche and Vidocq and Rocambole. Now why should we supposethat in our time no one exists who emulates the deeds of those mightycriminals?"
The Abbe Sicot raised a gentle voice from the depths of a comfortablearm-chair wherein he was peacefully digesting his dinner.
"The police do their work better in our time than ever they did before."
"That is perfectly true," the president admitted, "but their work isalso more difficult than ever it was before. Criminals who operate inthe grand manner have all sorts of things at their disposal nowadays.Science has done much for modern progress, but unfortunately it can beof invaluable assistance to criminals at times; the hosts of evil havethe telegraph and the motor-car at their disposal just as authority has,and some day they will make use of the aeroplane."
Young Charles Rambert had been listening to the president's dissertationwith the utmost interest and now broke in, with a voice that quiveredslightly.
"You were talking about Fantomas just now, sir----"
The president cast a cryptic look at the lad and did not reply directlyto him.
"That is what I am coming to, for, of course, you have understood me,ladies. In these days we have been distressed by a steady access ofcriminality, and among the assets we shall henceforth have to count amysterious and most dangerous creature, to whom the baffled authoritiesand public rumour generally have for some time now given the name ofFantomas. It is impossible to say exactly or to know precisely whoFantomas is. He often assumes the form and personality of some definiteand even well-known individual; sometimes he assumes the forms of twohuman beings at one and the same time. Sometimes he works alone,sometimes with accomplices; sometimes he can be identified as such andsuch a person, but no one has ever yet arrived at knowing Fantomashimself. That he is a living person is certain and undeniable, yet he isimpossible to catch or to identify. He is nowhere and everywhere atonce, his shadow hovers above the strangest mysteries, and his tracesare found near the most inexplicable crimes, and yet----"
"You are frightening us!" exclaimed the Baronne de Vibray with a littleforced laugh that did not ring true, and the Marquise de Langrune, whofor the past few minutes had been uneasy at the idea of the childrenlistening to the conversation, cast about in her mind for an occupationmore suited to their age. The interruption gave her an opportunity, andshe turned to Charles Rambert and Therese.
"You must find it very dull here with all of us grown-up people, dears,so run away now. Therese," she added with a smile to her granddaughterwho had risen obediently, "there is a splendid new puzzle in thelibrary; you ought to try it with Charles."
The young fellow realised that he must comply with the desire of theMarquise, although the conversation interested him intensely; but he wastoo well bred to betray his thoughts, and the next moment he was in theadjoining room, sitting opposite the girl, and deep in the intricaciesof the latest fashionable game.
* * * * *
The Baronne de Vibray brought the conversation back to the subject ofFantomas.
"What connection is there, President, between this uncanny creature andthe disappearance of Lord Beltham, of which we were talking at dinner?"
"I should certainly have agreed with you and thought there was none,"the old magistrate replied, "if Lord Beltham's disappearance had beenunattended by any mysterious circumstance. But there is one point thatdeserves your attention: the newspaper from which I read an extractjust now, _La Capitale_, draws attention to it and regards it as beingimportant. It is said that when Lady Beltham began to be uneasy abouther husband's absence, on the morning of the day following hisdisappearance, she remembered noticing just as he was going out that hewas reading a particular letter, the peculiar, square shape of whichsurprised her. She had also noticed that the handwriting of the letterwas very heavy and black. Now, she found the letter in question upon herhusband's desk, but the whole of the writing had disappeared, and it wasonly the most minute examination that resulted in the discovery of a fewalmost imperceptible stains which proved that it really was theidentical document that had been in her husband's hands. Lady Belthamwould not have thought very much about it, if it had not occurred to theeditor of _La Capitale_ to interview detective Juve about it, the famousInspector of the Criminal Investigation Department, you know, who hasbrought so many notorious criminals to justice. Now M. Juve manifestedthe greatest excitement over the discovery and the nature of thisdocument; and he did not attempt to hide from his interviewer his beliefthat the strange nature of this unusual epistle was proof of theintervention of Fantomas. You very likely know that Juve has made it hisspecial business to follow up Fantomas; he has sworn that he will takehim, and he is after him body and soul. Let us hope he will succeed! Butit is no good pretending that Juve's job is not as difficult a one ascan be imagined.
"However, it is a fair inference that when Juve spoke as he did to therepresentative of _La Capitale_, he did not think he was going too farwhen he declared that a crime lay behind the disappearance of LordBeltham, and that perhaps the crime must be laid at Fantomas' door; andwe can only hope that at some not distant date, justice will not onlythrow full light upon this mysterious affair, but also rid us for everof this terrifying criminal!"
President Bonnet had convinced his audience completely, and his closingwords cast a chill upon them all.
The Marquise de Langrune deemed it time to create a diversion.
"Who are these people, Lord and Lady Beltham?" she enquired.
"Oh, my dear!" the Baronne de Vibray answered, "it is perfectly obviousthat you lead the life of a hermit in this remote country home of yours,and that echoes from the world of Paris do not reach you often! Lord andLady Beltham are among the best known and most popular people insociety. He was formerly attached to the English Embassy, but left Paristo fight in the Transvaal, and his wife went with him and showedmagnificent courage and compassion in charge of the ambulance andhospital work. They then went back to London, and a couple of years agothey settled once more in Paris. They lived, and still live, in theboulevard Inkermann at Neuilly-sur-Seine, in a delightful house wherethey entertain a great deal. I have often been one of Lady Beltham'sguests; she is a most fascinating woman, distinguished, tall, fair, andendowed with the charm that is peculiar to the women of the North. I amvery distressed at the trouble that is hanging over her."
"Well," said the Marquise de Langrune conclusively, "I mean to believethat the gloomy prognostications of our friend the president will not bejustified by the event."
"Amen!" murmured the Abbe mechanically, roused from his gentle slumberby the closing words of the Marquise.
* * * * *
The clock chimed ten, and her duties as hostess did not make theMarquise forgetful of her duties as grandmother.
"Therese," she called, "it is your bed-time. It is very late, darling."
The child obediently left her game, said good night to the Baronne deVibray and President Bonnet, and last of all to the old priest, who gaveher a paternal embrace.
"Shall I see you at the seven o'clock mass, Therese?" he asked.
The child turned to the Marquise.
"Will you let me accompany Charles to the station to-morrow morning? Iwill go to the eight o'clock mass on my way back."
The Marquise looked at Charles Rambert.
"Your father really is coming by the train that reaches Verrieres at6.55?" and when he assented she hesitated a moment before replying toTherese. "I think, dear, it would be better to let our young friend goalone to meet his father."
But Charles Rambert put in his plea.
"Oh, I am sure my father would be delighted to see Therese with me whenhe gets out of the train."
"Very well, then," the kind old lady said; "arrange it as you please.But, Therese, before you go upstairs, tell our good steward, Dollon, togive orders for the carriage to be ready by six o'clock. It is a longway to the station."
Therese promised, and the two young people left the drawing-room.
"A pretty couple," remarked the Baronne de Vibray, adding with acharacteristic touch of malice, "you mean to make a match between themsome day, Marquise?"
The old lady threw up her hands protesting.
"What an idea! Why, Therese is not fifteen yet."
"Who is this Charles Rambert?" the Abbe asked. "I just caught sight ofhim the day before yesterday with Dollon, and I puzzled my brainswondering who he could be."
"I am not surprised," the Marquise laughed, "not surprised that you didnot succeed in finding out, for you do not know him. But you may perhapshave heard me mention a M. Etienne Rambert, an old friend of mine, withwhom I had many a dance in the long ago. I had lost sight of himcompletely until about two years ago, when I met him at a charityfunction in Paris. The poor man has had a rather chequered life; twentyyears ago he married a woman who was perfectly charming, but who is, Ibelieve, very ill with a distressing malady: I am not even sure that sheis not insane. Quite lately Etienne Rambert has been compelled to sendher to an asylum."
"That does not tell us how his son comes to be your guest," PresidentBonnet urged.
"It is very simple: Etienne Rambert is an energetic man who is alwaysmoving about. Although he is quite sixty he still occupies himself withsome rubber plantations he possesses in Colombia, and he often goes toAmerica: he thinks no more of the voyage than we do of a trip to Paris.Well, just recently young Charles Rambert was leaving the _pension_ inHamburg where he had been living in order to perfect his German; I knewfrom his father's letters that Mme. Rambert was about to be put away,and that Etienne Rambert was obliged to be absent, so I offered toreceive Charles here until his father should return to Paris. Charlescame the day before yesterday, and that is the whole story."
"And M. Etienne Rambert joins him here to-morrow?" said the Abbe.
"That is so----"
* * * * *
The Marquise de Langrune would have given other information about heryoung friend had he not come into the room just then. He was anattractive lad with refined and distinguished features, clear,intelligent eyes, and graceful figure. The other guests were silent, andCharles Rambert approached them with the slight awkwardness of youth. Hewent up to President Bonnet and plucked up sudden courage.
"And what then, sir?" he asked in a low tone.
"I don't understand, my boy," said the magistrate.
"Oh!" said Charles Rambert, "have you finished talking about Fantomas?It was so amusing!"
"For my part," the president answered dryly, "I do not find thesestories about criminals 'amusing.'"
But the lad did not detect the shade of reproach in the words.
"But still it is very odd, very extraordinary that such mysteriouscharacters as Fantomas can exist nowadays. Is it really possible that asingle man can commit such a number of crimes, and that any human beingcan escape discovery, as they say Fantomas can, and be able to foil thecleverest devices of the police? I think it is----"
The president's manner grew steadily more chilly as the boy's curiositywaxed more enthusiastic, and he interrupted curtly.
"I fail to understand your attitude, young man. You appear to behypnotised, fascinated. You speak of Fantomas as if he were somethinginteresting. It is out of place, to put it mildly," and he turned to theAbbe Sicot. "There, sir, that is the result of this modern education andthe state of mind produced in the younger generation by the newspaperpress and even by literature. Criminals are given haloes and proclaimedfrom the housetops. It is astounding!"
But Charles Rambert was not the least impressed.
"But it is life, sir; it is history, it is the real thing!" he insisted."Why, you yourself, in just a few words, have thrown an atmosphere roundthis Fantomas which makes him absolutely fascinating! I would giveanything to have known Vidocq and Cartouche and Rocambole, and to haveseen them at close quarters. Those were men!"
President Bonnet contemplated the young man in astonishment; his eyesflashed lightning at him and he burst out:
"You are mad, boy, absolutely mad! Vidocq--Rocambole! You mix up legendand history, bracket murderers with detectives, and make no distinctionbetween right and wrong! You would not hesitate to set the heroes ofcrime and the heroes of law and order on one and the same pedestal!"
"You have said the word, sir," Charles Rambert exclaimed: "they all areheroes. But, better still, Fantomas----"
The lad's outburst was so vehement and spontaneous and sincere, that itprovoked unanimous indignation among his hearers. Even the indulgentMarquise de Langrune ceased to smile. Charles Rambert perceived that hehad gone too far, and stopped abruptly.
"I beg your pardon, sir," he murmured. "I spoke without thinking; pleaseforgive me."
He raised his eyes and looked at President Bonnet, blushing to the tipsof his ears and looking so abashed that the magistrate, who was akind-hearted man at bottom, tried to reassure him.
"Your imagination is much too lively, young man, much too lively. Butyou will grow out of that. Come, come: that's all right; lads of yourage do talk without knowledge."
It was very late now, and a few minutes after this incident the guestsof the Marquise de Langrune took their departure.
Charles Rambert accompanied the Marquise to the door of her own privaterooms, and was about to bid her a respectful good night before going onto his bedroom, which adjoined hers, when she asked him to follow her.
"Come in and get the book I promised you, Charles. It should be on mywriting-table." She glanced at that piece of furniture as she enteredthe room, and went on, "Or in it, perhaps; I may have locked it away."
"I don't want to give you any trouble," he protested, but the Marquiseinsisted.
"Put your light down on that table," she said. "Besides, I have got toopen my desk, for I must look at the lottery tickets I gave to Therese afew weeks ago." She pushed back the roll top of her Empire desk andlooked up at the young fellow. "It would be a piece of good luck if mylittle Therese won the first prize, eh, Charles? A million francs! Thatwould be worth winning?"
"Rather!" said Charles Rambert with a smile.
The Marquise found the book she was searching for and gave it to the ladwith one hand while with the other she smoothed out several variegatedpapers.
"These are my tickets," she said, and then broke off. "How stupid of me!I have not kept the number of the winning ticket that was advertised in_La Capitale_."
Charles Rambert immediately offered to go downstairs again to fetch thenewspaper, but the Marquise would not let him.
"It is no good, my dear boy; it is not there now. You know--or ratheryou don't know--that the Abbe takes away all the week's newspapers everyWednesday night in order to read all the political articles." The oldlady turned away from her writing-table, which she left wide open,conducted the young man to the door, and held out a friendly hand. "Itis to-morrow morning already!" she said. "So now good night, dearCharles!"
In his own room, with the lights extinguished and the curtains closed,Charles Rambert lay wide awake, a prey to strange excitement. He turnedand tossed in his bed nervously. In vain did he try to banish from hismind the words spoken during the evening by President Bonnet. Inimagination Charles Rambert saw all manner of sinister and dramaticscenes, crimes and murders: hugely interested, intensely curious,craving for knowledge, he was ever trying to concoct plots and unravelmysteries. If for an instant he dozed off, the image of Fantomas tookshape in his mind, but never twice the same: sometimes he saw a colossalfigure with bestial face and muscular shoulders; sometimes a wan, thincreature, with strange and piercing eyes; sometimes a vague form, aphantom--Fantomas!
Charles Rambert slept, and woke, and dozed again. In the silence of thenight he thought he heard creakings and heavy sounds. Then suddenly hefelt a breath pass over his face--and again nothing! And suddenly againstrange sounds were buzzing in his ears.
Bathed in cold sweat Charles Rambert started and sat upright in bed,every muscle tense, listening with all his ears. Was he dreaming, or hadhe really waked up? He did not know. And still, still he had aconsciousness of Fantomas--of mystery--of Fantomas!
Charles Rambert heard the clock strike four.
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