16. Victoire's Slip
They were silent. The Duke walked to the fireplace, stepped into it, and studied the opening.
He came out again and said: "Oh, by the way, M. Formery, the policeman at the front door
wanted to stop me going out of the house when I went home to change. I take it that M.
Guerchard's prohibition does not apply to me?"
"Of course not--of course not, your Grace," said M. Formery quickly.
"I saw that you had changed your clothes, your Grace," said Guerchard. "I thought that you had
done it here."
"No," said the Duke, "I went home. The policeman protested; but he went no further, so I did
not throw him into the middle of the street."
"Whatever our station, we should respect the law," said M. Formery solemnly.
"The Republican Law, M. Formery? I am a Royalist," said the Duke, smiling at him.
M. Formery shook his head sadly.
"I was wondering," said the Duke, "about M. Guerchard's theory that the burglars were let in
the front door of this house by an accomplice. Why, when they had this beautiful large
opening, did they want a front door, too?"
"I did not know that that was Guerchard's theory?" said M. Formery, a trifle contemptuously.
"Of course they had no need to use the front door."
"Perhaps they had no need to use the front door," said Guerchard; "but, after all, the front door
was unbolted, and they did not draw the bolts to put us off the scent. Their false scent was
already prepared"--he waved his hand towards the window--"moreover, you must bear in mind
that that opening might not have been made when they entered the house. Suppose that, while
they were on the other side of the wall, a brick had fallen on to the hearth, and alarmed the
concierge. We don't know how skilful they are; they might not have cared to risk it. I'm
inclined to think, on the whole, that they did come in through the front door."
M. Formery sniffed contemptuously.
"Perhaps you're right," said the Duke. "But the accomplice?"
"I think we shall know more about the accomplice when Victoire awakes," said Guerchard.
"The family have such confidence in Victoire," said the Duke.
"Perhaps Lupin has, too," said Guerchard grimly.
"Always Lupin!" said M. Formery contemptuously.
There came a knock at the door, and a footman appeared on the threshold. He informed the
Duke that Germaine had returned from her shopping expedition, and was awaiting him in her
boudoir. He went to her, and tried to persuade her to put in a word for Sonia, and endeavour to
soften Guerchard's rigour.
She refused to do anything of the kind, declaring that, in view of the value of the stolen
property, no stone must be left unturned to recover it. The police knew what they were doing;
they must have a free hand. The Duke did not press her with any great vigour; he realized the
futility of an appeal to a nature so shallow, so self- centred, and so lacking in sympathy. He
took his revenge by teasing her about the wedding presents which were still flowing in. Her
father's business friends were still striving to outdo one another in the costliness of the jewelry
they were giving her. The great houses of the Faubourg Saint-Germain were still refraining
firmly from anything that savoured of extravagance or ostentation. While he was with her the