17. Sonia's Escape
"One of M. Formery's innocents," said Guerchard, turning to the Duke.
"The chalk?" said the Duke. "Is it the same chalk?"
"It's blue," said Guerchard, holding it out. "The same as that of the signatures on the walls. Add
that fact to the woman's sudden realization of what she was doing, and you'll see that they were
written with it."
"It is rather a surprise," said the Duke. "To look at her you would think that she was the most
honest woman in the world."
"Ah, you don't know Lupin, your Grace," said Guerchard. "He can do anything with women;
and they'll do anything for him. And, what's more, as far as I can see, it doesn't make a scrap of
difference whether they're honest or not. The fair-haired lady I was telling you about was
probably an honest woman; Ganimard is sure of it. We should have found out long ago who
she was if she had been a wrong 'un. And Ganimard also swears that when he arrested Lupin
on board the Provence some woman, some ordinary, honest woman among the passengers,
carried away Lady Garland's jewels, which he had stolen and was bringing to America, and
along with them a matter of eight hundred pounds which he had stolen from a fellow-passenger
on the voyage."
"That power of fascination which some men exercise on women is one of those mysteries
which science should investigate before it does anything else," said the Duke, in a reflective
tone. "Now I come to think of it, I had much better have spent my time on that investigation
than on that tedious journey to the South Pole. All the same, I'm deucedly sorry for that
woman, Victoire. She looks such a good soul."
Guerchard shrugged his shoulders: "The prisons are full of good souls," he said, with cynical
wisdom born of experience. "They get caught so much more often than the bad."
"It seems rather mean of Lupin to make use of women like this, and get them into trouble,"
said the Duke.
"But he doesn't," said Guerchard quickly. "At least he hasn't up to now. This Victoire is the
first we've caught. I look on it as a good omen."
He walked across the room, picked up his cloak, and took a card-case from the inner pocket of
it. "If you don't mind, your Grace, I want you to show this permit to my men who are keeping
the door, whenever you go out of the house. It's just a formality; but I attach considerable
importance to it, for I really ought not to make exceptions in favour of any one. I have two men
at the door, and they have orders to let nobody out without my written permission. Of course
M. Gournay-Martin's guests are different. Bonavent has orders to pass them out. And, if your
Grace doesn't mind, it will help me. If you carry a permit, no one else will dream of
complaining of having to do so."
"Oh, I don't mind, if it's of any help to you," said the Duke cheerfully.
"Thank you," said Guerchard. And he wrote on his card and handed it to the Duke.
The Duke took it and looked at it. On it was written:
"Pass the Duke of Charmerace."
"It's quite military," said the Duke, putting the card into his waistcoat pocket.
There came a knock at the door, and a tall, thin, bearded man came into the room.