The Mystery of Orcival
If there had been no crime, at least something extraordinary had taken place at the
chateau; the impassible justice might have been convinced of it, as soon as he had
stepped into the vestibule. The glass door leading to the garden was wide open, and three
of the panes were shattered into a thousand pieces. The carpeting of waxed canvas
between the doors had been torn up, and on the white marble slabs large drops of blood
were visible. At the foot of the staircase was a stain larger than the rest, and upon the
lowest step a splash hideous to behold.
Unfitted for such spectacles, or for the mission he had now to perform, M. Courtois
became faint. Luckily, he borrowed from the idea of his official importance, an energy
foreign to his character. The more difficult the preliminary examination of this affair
seemed, the more determined he was to carry it on with dignity.
"Conduct us to the place where you saw the body," said he to Bertaud. But Papa Plantat
"It would be wiser, I think," he objected, "and more methodical, to begin by going
through the house."
"Perhaps-yes-true, that's my own view," said the mayor, grasping at the other's counsel,
as a drowning man clings to a plank. And he made all retire excepting the brigadier and
the valet de chambre, the latter remaining to serve as guide. "Gendarmes," cried he to the
men guarding the gate, "see to it that no one goes out; prevent anybody from entering the
house, and above all, let no one go into the garden."
Then they ascended the staircase. Drops of blood were sprinkled all along the stairs.
There was also blood on the baluster, and M. Courtois perceived, with horror, that his
hands were stained.
When they had reached the first landing-stage, the mayor said to the valet de chambre:
"Tell me, my friend, did your master and mistress occupy the same chamber?"
"And where is their chamber?"
As he spoke, the valet de chambre staggered back terrified, and pointed to a door, the
upper panel of which betrayed the imprint of a bloody hand. Drops of perspiration
overspread the poor mayor's forehead he too was terrified, and could hardly keep on his