The Blue Lights: A Detective Story
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"The subsequent actions of Mary Lanahan are a trifle difficult to account for; but I suppose them to have been as follows: On slowly coming out of her stupor, and realizing that the boy was gone, she was terribly frightened. It had seemed to her but a moment since she turned away. She fears that the cigarette has made her drowsy – she has heard that they sometimes contain opium. She thinks she may have dozed off; but is not willing to admit it. Especially does she not want her employers to know that she uses cigarettes. She fears that such knowledge would cost her her place. It is not until later that she begins to suspect the cigarettes."
"When is that?" inquired Lefevre.
"Several days later, when she is supposed to have been poisoned. She was with Valentin at the time; although, on account of Mr. Stapleton's dislike for him, she feared to admit it. She smokes another of the cigarettes, while sitting on a bench with him, in the Champs ?lys?es. Suddenly she is taken ill – a frequent result of hashish, when taken in excessive doses, or by one otherwise nervously upset. Valentin takes the box, puts her into a cab, and goes to his room, where he leaves the cigarettes. No doubt, as she begins to feel ill, she discusses with him the possibility of the cigarettes having been poisoned. It is for that reason that she gives them to him.
"Her sudden message to Valentin to destroy them arose from a fear that I would discover the part which they had played in the boy's loss. This would, she knew, not only cost her her place, but would make her, in a way, responsible for the entire affair. She feared Mr. Stapleton's wrath, and therefore both she and Valentin remained dumb, so far as the cigarettes were concerned.
"They both, however, were all this time doing their best to find the child. Her message to Valentin, that she was suspicious of Fran?ois, telling Valentin to watch him, arose no doubt from a realization that the box of drugged cigarettes had been substituted for her own by the chauffeur.
"Valentin, acting on her advice, does watch Fran?ois, as his presence clinging to the rear of the latter's car the other night has proved. He tells me, today, that Fran?ois did not take his car to the garage that night at all. The men there who so testified lied, at his request, supposing it merely an excuse to cover a joy ride.
"Fran?ois, not wishing that the drugged cigarettes should remain in the nurse's hands as evidence against him, evidently made an attempt to recover them, discovered that she had turned them over to Valentin, and, being watched himself, sent word of the matter to his confederate, the fellow who went about in the black beard. He must have been admitted to Mr. Stapleton's house that night by Fran?ois himself.
"I came to the conclusion, early in the course of my investigations, that the cigarette, the end of which I had found in the Bois, had been smoked by Mary Lanahan, and I so told Mr. Stapleton."
The banker nodded."Yes," he said; "but you did not then say anything about the hashish."
"I was not certain of it. I intended to have the fragment I had found analyzed. When I discovered the cigarettes in Fran?ois' room, you will remember that I took one of them. I smoked that cigarette, before going to bed that night. It produced exactly the sensations that Mary Lanahan must have felt. I floated away in the land of dreams for over half an hour, and came to with no recollection whatever of the passage of time. It is a remarkable drug, but an extremely dangerous one.
"After that, the case became simple enough. I knew at once, beyond any question, that Fran?ois was one of the kidnappers. My plans last night would have worked perfectly, but for the chauffeur's accidental discovery of me, hiding in the closet. Had that not happened, the boy would have been returned, according to program, and Fran?ois I had safely in my hands."
"But we wouldn't have got the others," laughed the Prefect. "You must thank your wife for that. Vernet has told me how the kidnappers outwitted you at the Avenue Malakoff. The car from which the signal apparently was made contained a well known stockbroker, who knew nothing of the matter at all. He merely happened to be passing the Avenue Malakoff at the precise moment when the signal was given to Fran?ois."
"You are mistaken, Monsieur," observed the detective, quietly. "The signal was undoubtedly made from that car; not by Monsieur Lemaitre, I will admit, but by his chauffeur. He has admitted to Vernet that a stranger paid him fifty francs to do so, on the plea that it was some signal to a woman. The man knows nothing of the affair, beyond that."
As he finished speaking, there was a ripple of laughter from the hall, and Mrs. Stapleton, Madame Lefevre, and Grace came in.
"We have been debating a most important question," said Mrs. Stapleton, with an assumption of extreme gravity, "and we beg that you, Monsieur Lefevre, will be so good as to decide it."
"What is this question so grave, Madame," inquired the Prefect, rising, with a smile. "I am all impatience to hear it."
"The question is this, Monsieur Lefevre: Which deserves the greater credit for the recovery of my boy – Mr. Duvall, or his charming wife?"
The Prefect stepped forward, placed one hand affectionately upon Duvall's shoulder, and with the other grasped Grace by the arm.
"The question you propound, Madame," he said, looking from the detective to his wife with a smile, "is easily answered. The credit belongs equally to both. And that, my children, is as it should be. This affair, so happily terminated, has taught me one important lesson. It is this: The husband and the wife should never be in opposition to each other. They must work together always, not only in matters of this sort, but in all the affairs of life. I attempted a risky experiment in allowing these two dear friends of mine to attack this case from opposite sides. But for some very excellent strokes of luck, it might have resulted most unhappily for all concerned. Hereafter, should Monsieur Duvall and his wife serve me, it must be together, or not at all." He turned to Grace. "I feel that I owe you both a great debt, my child, for having once again so rudely interrupted the course of your honeymoon. What reparation can I make? Ask of me what you will."
"Anything?" inquired Grace, laughing.
"Anything." The Prefect bowed gallantly.
"Then I demand your promise, Monsieur, to visit us at our place in Maryland, before the end of the year."
"That," exclaimed the Prefect, as he bent and kissed her hand, "would be the most delightful way of paying a debt that I could possibly imagine."
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