The Mystery of the Yellow Room HTML version

Chapter 16
Strange Phenomenon of the Dissociation of Matter
"I am again at the window-sill," continues Rouletabille, "and once more I raise my head
above it. Through an opening in the curtains, the arrangement of which has not been
changed, I am ready to look, anxious to note the position in which I am going to find the
murderer, --whether his back will still be turned towards me!--whether he is still seated at
the desk writing! But perhaps--perhaps--he is no longer there!--Yet how could he have
fled?--Was I not in possession of his ladder? I force myself to be cool. I raise my head yet
higher. I look--he is still there. I see his monstrous back, deformed by the shadow thrown
by the candle. He is no longer writing now, and the candle is on the parquet, over which
he is bending--a position which serves my purpose.
"I hold my breath. I mount the ladder. I am on the uppermost rung of it, and with my left
hand seize hold of the window-sill. In this moment of approaching success, I feel my
heart beating wildly. I put my revolver between my teeth. A quick spring, and I shall be
on the window-ledge. But--the ladder! I had been obliged to press on it heavily, and my
foot had scarcely left it, when I felt it swaying beneath me. It grated on the wall and fell.
But, already, my knees were touching the window-sill, and, by a movement quick as
lightning, I got on to it.
"But the murderer had been even quicker than I had been. He had heard the grating of the
ladder on the wall, and I saw the monstrous back of the man raise itself. I saw his head.
Did I really see it? --The candle on the parquet lit up his legs only. Above the height of
the table the chamber was in darkness. I saw a man with long hair, a full beard, wild-
looking eyes, a pale face, framed in large whiskers,--as well as I could distinguish, and,
as I think--red in colour. I did not know the face. That was, in brief, the chief sensation I
received from that face in the dim half-light in which I saw it. I did not know it--or, at
least, I did not recognise it.
"Now for quick action! It was indeed time for that, for as I was about to place my legs
through the window, the man had seen me, had bounded to his feet, had sprung--as I
foresaw he would--to the door of the ante-chamber, had time to open it, and fled. But I
was already behind him, revolver in hand, shouting 'Help!'
"Like an arrow I crossed the room, but noticed a letter on the table as I rushed. I almost
came up with the man in the ante-room, for he had lost time in opening the door to the
gallery. I flew on wings, and in the gallery was but a few feet behind him. He had taken,
as I supposed he would, the gallery on his right,--that is to say, the road he had prepared
for his flight. 'Help, Jacques!--help, Larsan!' I cried. He could not escape us! I raised a
shout of joy, of savage victory. The man reached the intersection of the two galleries
hardly two seconds before me for the meeting which I had prepared--the fatal shock