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The Mystery of the Yellow Room


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  Title: The Mystery of the Yellow Room

  Author: Gaston Leroux

  Release Date: March, 1999 [EBook #1685]

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  The Mystery of the Yellow Room

  by Gaston Leroux

  CHAPTER I

  In Which We Begin Not to Understand

  It is not without a certain emotion that I begin to recount here

  the extraordinary adventures of Joseph Rouletabille. Down to the

  present time he had so firmly opposed my doing it that I had come

  to despair of ever publishing the most curious of police stories

  of the past fifteen years. I had even imagined that the public

  would never know the whole truth of the prodigious case known as

  that of The Yellow Room, out of which grew so many mysterious,

  cruel, and sensational dramas, with which my friend was so closely

  mixed up, if, propos of a recent nomination of the illustrious

  Stangerson to the grade of grandcross of the Legion of Honour, an

  evening journal--in an article, miserable for its ignorance, or

  audacious for its perfidy--had not resuscitated a terrible

  adventure of which Joseph Rouletabille had told me he wished to be

  for ever forgotten.

  The Yellow Room! Who now remembers this affair which caused so

  much ink to flow fifteen years ago? Events are so quickly

  forgotten in Paris. Has not the very name of the Nayves trial and

  the tragic history of the death of little Menaldo passed out of

  mind? And yet the public attention was so deeply interested in the

  details of the trial that the occurrence of a ministerial crisis

  was completely unnoticed at the time. Now The Yellow Room trial,

  which, preceded that of the Nayves by some years, made far more

  noise. The entire world hung for months over this obscure problem

  --the most obscure, it seems to me, that has ever challenged the

  perspicacity of our police or taxed the conscience of our judges.

  The solution of the problem baffled everybody who tried to find it.

  It was like a dramatic rebus with which old Europe and new America

  alike became fascinated. That is, in truth--I am permitted to say,

  because there cannot be any author's vanity in all this, since I

  do nothing more than transcribe facts on which an exceptional

  documentation enables me to throw a new light--that is because,

  in truth, I do not know that, in the domain of reality or

  imagination, one can discover or recall to mind anything comparable,

  in its mystery, with the natural mystery of The Yellow Room.

  That which nobody could find out, Joseph Rouletabille, aged eighteen,

  then a reporter engaged on a leading journal, succeeded in

  discovering. But when, at the Assize Court, he brought in the key

  to the whole case, he did not tell the whole truth. He only allowed

  so much of it to appear as sufficed to ensure the acquittal of an

  innocent man. The reasons which he had for his reticence no longer

  exist. Better still, the time has come for my friend to speak out

  fully. You are going to know all; and, without further preamble,

  I am going to place before your eyes the problem of The Yellow

  Room as it was placed before the eyes of the entire world on the

  day following the enactment of the drama at the Chateau du Glandier.

  On the 25th of October, 1892, the following note appeared in the

  latest edition of the "Temps":

  "A frightful crime has been committed at the Glandier, on the border

  of the forest of Sainte-Genevieve, above Epinay-sur-Orge, at the

  house of Professor Stangerson. On that night, while the master was

  working in his laboratory, an attempt was made to assassinate

  Mademoiselle Stangerson, who was sleeping in a chamber adjoining

  this laboratory. The doctors do not answer for the life of Mdlle.

  Stangerson."

  The impression made on Paris by this news may be easily imagined.

  Already, at that time, the learned world was deeply interested in

  the labours of Professor Stangerson and his daughter. These labours

  --the first that were attempted in radiography--served to open

  the way for Monsieur and Madame Curie to the discovery of radium.

  It was expected the Professor would shortly read to the Academy of

  Sciences a sensational paper on his new theory,--the Dissociation

  of Matter,--a theory destined to overthrow from its base the whole

  of official science, which based itself on the principle of the

  Conservation of Energy. On the following day, the newspapers were

  full of the tragedy. The "Matin," among others, published the

  following article, entitled: "A Supernatural Crime":

  "These are the only details," wrote the anonymous writer in the

  "Matin"--"we have been able to obtain concerning the crime of the

  Chateau du Glandier. The state of despair in which Professor

  Stangerson is plunged, and the impossibility of getting any

  information from the lips of the victim, have rendered our

  investigations and those of justice so difficult that, at present,

  we cannot form the least idea of what has passed in The Yellow Room

  in which Mdlle. Stangerson, in her night-dress, was found lying on

  the floor in the agonies of death. We have, at least, been able

  to interview Daddy Jacques--as he is called in the country--a

  old servant in the Stangerson family. Daddy Jacques entered The

  Room at the same time as the Professor. This chamber adjoins the

  laboratory. Laboratory
and Yellow Room are in a pavilion at the

  end of the park, about three hundred metres (a thousand feet) from

  the chateau.

  "'It was half-past twelve at night,' this honest old man told us,

  'and I was in the laboratory, where Monsieur Stangerson was still

  working, when the thing happened. I had been cleaning and putting

  instruments in order all the evening and was waiting for Monsieur

  Stangerson to go to bed. Mademoiselle Stangerson had worked with

  her father up to midnight; when the twelve strokes of midnight had

  sounded by the cuckoo-clock in the laboratory, she rose, kissed

  Monsieur Stangerson and bade him good-night. To me she said "bon

  soir, Daddy Jacques" as she passed into The Yellow Room. We heard

  her lock the door and shoot the bolt, so that I could not help

  laughing, and said to Monsieur: "There's Mademoiselle double-locking

  herself in,--she must be afraid of the 'Bete du bon Dieu!'"

  Monsieur did not even hear me, he was so deeply absorbed in what he

  was doing. Just then we heard the distant miawing of a cat. "Is

  that going to keep us awake all night?" I said to myself; for I

  must tell you, Monsieur, that, to the end of October, I live in an

  attic of the pavilion over The Yellow Room, so that Mademoiselle

  should not be left alone through the night in the lonely park. It

  was the fancy of Mademoiselle to spend the fine weather in the

  pavilion; no doubt, she found it more cheerful than the chateau and,

  for the four years it had been built, she had never failed to take

  up her lodging there in the spring. With the return of winter,

  Mademoiselle returns to the chateau, for there is no fireplace in

  The Yellow Room.

  "'We were staying in the pavilion, then--Monsieur Stangerson and

  me. We made no noise. He was seated at his desk. As for me, I

  was sitting on a chair, having finished my work and, looking at him,

  I said to myself: "What a man!--what intelligence!--what

  knowledge!" I attach importance to the fact that we made no noise;

  for, because of that, the assassin certainly thought that we had

  left the place. And, suddenly, while the cuckoo was sounding the

  half after midnight, a desperate clamour broke out in The Yellow

  Room. It was the voice of Mademoiselle, crying "Murder!--murder!

  --help!" Immediately afterwards revolver shots rang out and there

  was a great noise of tables and furniture being thrown to the

  ground, as if in the course of a struggle, and again the voice of

  Mademoiselle calling, "Murder!--help!--Papa!--Papa!--"

  "'You may be sure that we quickly sprang up and that Monsieur

  Stangerson and I threw ourselves upon the door. But alas! it

  was locked, fast locked, on the inside, by the care of Mademoiselle,

  as I have told you, with key and bolt. We tried to force it open,

  but it remained firm. Monsieur Stangerson was like a madman, and

  truly, it was enough to make him one, for we heard Mademoiselle

  still calling "Help!--help!" Monsieur Stangerson showered

  terrible blows on the door, and wept with rage and sobbed with

  despair and helplessness.

  "'It was then that I had an inspiration. "The assassin must have

  entered by the window!" I cried;--"I will go to the window!" and

  I rushed from the pavilion and ran like one out of his mind.

  "'The inspiration was that the window of The Yellow Room looks out

  in such a way that the park wall, which abuts on the pavilion,

  prevented my at once reaching the window. To get up to it one has

  first to go out of the park. I ran towards the gate and, on my way,

  met Bernier and his wife, the gate-keepers, who had been attracted

  by the pistol reports and by our cries. In a few words I told them

  what had happened, and directed the concierge to join Monsieur

  Stangerson with all speed, while his wife came with me to open the

  park gate. Five minutes later she and I were before the window of

  The Yellow Room.

  "'The moon was shining brightly and I saw clearly that no one had

  touched the window. Not only were the bars that protect it intact,

  but the blinds inside of them were drawn, as I had myself drawn

  them early in the evening, as I did every day, though Mademoiselle,

  knowing that I was tired from the heavy work I had been doing, had

  begged me not to trouble myself, but leave her to do it; and they

  were just as I had left them, fastened with an iron catch on the

  inside. The assassin, therefore, could not have passed either in

  or out that way; but neither could I get in.

  "'It was unfortunate,--enough to turn one's brain! The door of

  the room locked on the inside and the blinds on the only window

  also fastened on the inside; and Mademoiselle still calling for

  help!--No! she had ceased to call. She was dead, perhaps. But

  I still heard her father, in the pavilion, trying to break down

  the door.

  "'With the concierge I hurried back to the pavilion. The door,

  in spite of the furious attempts of Monsieur Stangerson and Bernier

  to burst it open, was still holding firm; but at length, it gave

  way before our united efforts,--and then what a sight met our eyes!

  I should tell you that, behind us, the concierge held the laboratory

  lamp--a powerful lamp, that lit the whole chamber.

  "'I must also tell you, monsieur, that The Yellow Room is a very

  small room. Mademoiselle had furnished it with a fairly large iron

  bedstead, a small table, a night-commode; a dressing-table, and two

  chairs. By the light of the big lamp we saw all at a glance.

  Mademoiselle, in her night-dress, was lying on the floor in the

  midst of the greatest disorder. Tables and chairs had been

  overthrown, showing that there had been a violent struggle.

  Mademoiselle had certainly been dragged from her bed. She was

  covered with blood and had terrible marks of finger-nails on her

  throat,--the flesh of her neck having been almost torn by the

  nails. From a wound on the right temple a stream of blood had run

  down and made a little pool on the floor. When Monsieur Stangerson

  saw his daughter in that state, he threw himself on his knees beside

  her, uttering a cry of despair. He ascertained that she still

  breathed. As to us, we searched for the wretch who had tried to

  kill our mistress, and I swear to you, monsieur, that, if we had

  found him, it would have gone hard with him!

  "'But how to explain that he was not there, that he had already

  escaped? It passes all imagination!--Nobody under the bed, nobody

  behind the furniture!--All that we discovered were traces,

  blood-stained marks of a man's large hand on the walls and on the

  door; a big handkerchief red with blood, without any initials, an

  old cap, and many fresh footmarks of a man on the floor,--footmarks

  of a man with large feet whose boot-soles had left a sort of sooty

  impression. How had this man got away? How had he vanished? Don't

  forget, monsieur, that there is no chimney in The Yellow Room. He

  could not have escaped by the door, which is narrow, and on the

  threshold of which the concierge stood with th
e lamp, while her

  husband and I searched for him in every corner of the little room,

  where it is impossible for anyone to hide himself. The door, which

  had been forced open against the wall, could not conceal anything

  behind it, as we assured ourselves. By the window, still in every

  way secured, no flight had been possible. What then?--I began

  to believe in the Devil.

  "'But we discovered my revolver on the floor!--Yes, my revolver!

  Oh! that brought me back to the reality! The Devil would not have

  needed to steal my revolver to kill Mademoiselle. The man who had

  been there had first gone up to my attic and taken my revolver from

  the drawer where I kept it. We then ascertained, by counting the

  cartridges, that the assassin had fired two shots. Ah! it was

  fortunate for me that Monsieur Stangerson was in the laboratory

  when the affair took place and had seen with his own eyes that I

  was there with him; for otherwise, with this business of my revolver,

  I don't know where we should have been,--I should now be under lock

  and bar. Justice wants no more to send a man to the scaffold!'"

  The editor of the "Matin" added to this interview the following

  lines:

  "We have, without interrupting him, allowed Daddy Jacques to recount

  to us roughly all he knows about the crime of The Yellow Room. We

  have reproduced it in his own words, only sparing the reader the

  continual lamentations with which he garnished his narrative. It is

  quite understood, Daddy Jacques, quite understood, that you are very

  fond of your masters; and you want them to know it, and never cease

  repeating it--especially since the discovery of your revolver. It

  is your right, and we see no harm in it. We should have liked to

  put some further questions to Daddy Jacques--Jacques--Louis

  Moustier--but the inquiry of the examining magistrate, which is

  being carried on at the chateau, makes it impossible for us to gain

  admission at the Glandier; and, as to the oak wood, it is guarded

  by a wide circle of policemen, who are jealously watching all traces

  that can lead to the pavilion, and that may perhaps lead to the

  discovery of the assassin. "We have also wished to question the

  concierges, but they are invisible. Finally, we have waited in a

  roadside inn, not far from the gate of the chateau, for the departure

  of Monsieur de Marquet, the magistrate of Corbeil. At half-past

  five we saw him and his clerk and, before he was able to enter his

  carriage, had an opportunity to ask him the following question:

  "'Can you, Monsieur de Marquet, give us any information as to this

  affair, without inconvenience to the course of your inquiry?'

  "'It is impossible for us to do it,' replied Monsieur de Marquet.

  'I can only say that it is the strangest affair I have ever known.

  The more we think we know something, the further we are from knowing

  anything!'

  "We asked Monsieur de Marquet to be good enough to explain his last

  words; and this is what he said,--the importance of which no one

  will fail to recognise:

  "'If nothing is added to the material facts so far established, I

  fear that the mystery which surrounds the abominable crime of which

  Mademoiselle Stangerson has been the victim will never be brought to

  light; but it is to be hoped, for the sake of our human reason, that

  the examination of the walls, and of the ceiling of The Yellow Room

  --an examination which I shall to-morrow intrust to the builder who

  constructed the pavilion four years ago--will afford us the proof

  that may not discourage us. For the problem is this: we know by

  what way the assassin gained admission,--he entered by the door and

  hid himself under the bed, awaiting Mademoiselle Stangerson. But

  how did he leave? How did he escape? If no trap, no secret door,

  no hiding place, no opening of any sort is found; if the examination

 
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