10. Guerchard Assists
Leaving a policeman on guard at the door of the drawing-room M. Formery, the Duke, and the
inspector set out on their tour of inspection. It was a long business, for M. Formery examined
every room with the most scrupulous care--with more care, indeed, than he had displayed in his
examination of the drawing-rooms. In particular he lingered long in the bedroom of Victoire,
discussing the possibilities of her having been murdered and carried away by the burglars
along with their booty. He seemed, if anything, disappointed at finding no blood-stains, but to
find real consolation in the thought that she might have been strangled. He found the inspector
in entire agreement with every theory he enunciated, and he grew more and more disposed to
regard him as a zealous and trustworthy officer. Also he was not at all displeased at enjoying
this opportunity of impressing the Duke with his powers of analysis and synthesis. He was
unaware that, as a rule, the Duke's eyes did not usually twinkle as they twinkled during this
solemn and deliberate progress through the house of M. Gournay- Martin. M. Formery had so
exactly the air of a sleuthhound; and he was even noisier.
Having made this thorough examination of the house, M. Formery went out into the garden and
set about examining that. There were footprints on the turf about the foot of the ladder, for the
grass was close-clipped, and the rain had penetrated and softened the soil; but there were
hardly as many footprints as might have been expected, seeing that the burglars must have
made many journeys in the course of robbing the drawing-rooms of so many objects of art,
some of them of considerable weight. The footprints led to a path of hard gravel; and M.
Formery led the way down it, out of the door in the wall at the bottom of the garden, and into
the space round the house which was being built.
As M. Formery had divined, there was a heap, or, to be exact, there were several heaps of
plaster about the bottom of the scaffolding. Unfortunately, there were also hundreds of
footprints. M. Formery looked at them with longing eyes; but he did not suggest that the
inspector should hunt about for a set of footprints of the size of the one he had so carefully
measured on the drawing-room carpet.
While they were examining the ground round the half-built house a man came briskly down the
stairs from the second floor of the house of M. Gournay-Martin. He was an ordinary-looking
man, almost insignificant, of between forty and fifty, and of rather more than middle height. He
had an ordinary, rather shapeless mouth, an ordinary nose, an ordinary chin, an ordinary
forehead, rather low, and ordinary ears. He was wearing an ordinary top-hat, by no means new.
His clothes were the ordinary clothes of a fairly well-to-do citizen; and his boots had been
chosen less to set off any slenderness his feet might possess than for their comfortable
roominess. Only his eyes relieved his face from insignificance. They were extraordinarily alert
eyes, producing in those on whom they rested the somewhat uncomfortable impression that the
depths of their souls were being penetrated. He was the famous Chief-Inspector Guerchard,
head of the Detective Department of the Prefecture of Police, and sworn foe of Arsene Lupin.
The policeman at the door of the drawing-room saluted him briskly. He was a fine, upstanding,
red-faced young fellow, adorned by a rich black moustache of extraordinary fierceness.
"Shall I go and inform M. Formery that you have come, M. Guerchard?" he said.
"No, no; there's no need to take the trouble," said Guerchard in a gentle, rather husky voice.
"Don't bother any one about me--I'm of no importance."