The Best Mystery and Detective Stories HTML version
The Man with the Pale Eyes
Monsieur Pierre Agénor De Vargnes, the Examining Magistrate, was the exact opposite
of a practical joker. He was dignity, staidness, correctness personified. As a sedate man,
he was quite incapable of being guilty, even in his dreams, of anything resembling a
practical joke, however remotely. I know nobody to whom he could be compared, unless
it be the present president of the French Republic. I think it is useless to carry the analogy
any further, and having said thus much, it will be easily understood that a cold shiver
passed through me when Monsieur Pierre Agénor de Vargnes did me the honor of
sending a lady to await on me.
At about eight o'clock, one morning last winter, as he was leaving the house to go to the
Palais de Justice, his footman handed him a card, on which was printed:
DOCTOR JAMES FERDINAND,
Member of the Academy of Medicine,
Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.
At the bottom of the card there was written in pencil:
From Lady Frogère.
Monsieur de Vargnes knew the lady very well, who was a very agreeable Creole from
Hayti, and whom he had met in many drawing-rooms, and, on the other hand, though the
doctor's name did not awaken any recollections in him, his quality and titles alone
required that he should grant him an interview, however short it might be. Therefore,
although he was in a hurry to get out, Monsieur de Vargnes told the footman to show in
his early visitor, but to tell him beforehand that his master was much pressed for time, as
he had to go to the Law Courts.
When the doctor came in, in spite of his usual imperturbability, he could not restrain a
movement of surprise, for the doctor presented that strange anomaly of being a negro of
the purest, blackest type, with the eyes of a white man, of a man from the North, pale,
cold, clear, blue eyes, and his surprise increased, when, after a few words of excuse for
his untimely visit, he added, with an enigmatical smile:
"My eyes surprise you, do they not? I was sure that they would, and, to tell you the truth,
I came here in order that you might look at them well, and never forget them."
His smile, and his words, even more than his smile, seemed to be those of a madman. He
spoke very softly, with that childish, lisping voice, which is peculiar to negroes, and his
mysterious, almost menacing words, consequently, sounded all the more as if they were