The Merry Men

Page 96

As for Jean-Marie, he took his portion down with stoicism.

'I have given him a less amount,' observed the Doctor, 'his youth protecting him against emotion. And now that we have thus parried any morbid consequences, let us reason.'

'I am so cold,' wailed Anastasie.

'Cold!' cried the Doctor. 'I give thanks to God that I am made of fierier material. Why, madam, a blow like this would set a frog into a transpiration. If you are cold, you can retire; and, by the way, you might throw me down my trousers. It is chilly for the legs.'

'Oh, no!' protested Anastasie; 'I will stay with you.'

'Nay, madam, you shall not suffer for your devotion,' said the Doctor. 'I will myself fetch you a shawl.' And he went upstairs and returned more fully clad and with an armful of wraps for the shivering Anastasie. 'And now,' he resumed, 'to investigate this crime. Let us proceed by induction. Anastasie, do you know anything that can help us?' Anastasie knew nothing. 'Or you, Jean-Marie?'

'Not I,' replied the boy steadily.

'Good,' returned the Doctor. 'We shall now turn our attention to the material evidences. (I was born to be a detective; I have the eye and the systematic spirit.) First, violence has been employed. The door was broken open; and it may be observed, in passing, that the lock was dear indeed at what I paid for it: a crow to pluck with Master Goguelat. Second, here is the instrument employed, one of our own table-knives, one of our best, my dear; which seems to indicate no preparation on the part of the gang - if gang it was. Thirdly, I observe that nothing has been removed except the Franchard dishes and the casket; our own silver has been minutely respected. This is wily; it shows intelligence, a knowledge of the code, a desire to avoid legal consequences. I argue from this fact that the gang numbers persons of respectability - outward, of course, and merely outward, as the robbery proves. But I argue, second, that we must have been observed at Franchard itself by some occult observer, and dogged throughout the day with a skill and patience that I venture to qualify as consummate. No ordinary man, no occasional criminal, would have shown himself capable of this combination. We have in our neighbourhood, it is far from improbable, a retired bandit of the highest order of intelligence.'

'Good heaven!' cried the horrified Anastasie. 'Henri, how can you?'

'My cherished one, this is a process of induction,' said the Doctor. 'If any of my steps are unsound, correct me. You are silent? Then do not, I beseech you, be so vulgarly illogical as to revolt from my conclusion. We have now arrived,' he resumed, 'at some idea of the composition of the gang - for I incline to the hypothesis of more than one - and we now leave this room, which can disclose no more, and turn our attention to the court and garden. (Jean-Marie, I trust you are observantly following my various steps; this is an excellent piece of education for you.) Come with me to the door. No steps on the court; it is unfortunate our court should be paved. On what small matters hang the destiny of these delicate investigations! Hey! What have we here? I have led on to the very spot,' he said, standing grandly backward and indicating the green gate. 'An escalade, as you can now see for yourselves, has taken place.'

Sure enough, the green paint was in several places scratched and broken; and one of the panels preserved the print of a nailed shoe. The foot had slipped, however, and it was difficult to estimate the size of the shoe, and impossible to distinguish the pattern of the nails.

'The whole robbery,' concluded the Doctor, 'step by step, has been reconstituted. Inductive science can no further go.'

'It is wonderful,' said his wife. 'You should indeed have been a detective, Henri. I had no idea of your talents.'

'My dear,' replied Desprez, condescendingly, 'a man of scientific imagination combines the lesser faculties; he is a detective just as he is a publicist or a general; these are but local applications of his special talent.

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

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