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THE CONFIDENCES OF
THE INVISIBLE PRISONER
ILLUSTRATIONS <y ADRIEN MACHEFERI
|f=_==3|T ABOUT FOUB o'clock, one afternoon,
H Farmer (loussot, with his four sons, re
turned from a day's shooting. They were
stalwart men all five of them long
t 1 . _jj of limb, broad-chested, with faces
tanned by sun and wind. And all five
displayed, planted on an enormous neck and shoul
ders, the same small head with the low forehead, thin
lips, beaked nose and bard and repellent cast of coun
tenance. They were feared and disliked by all around
them. They were a money-grubbing, crafty family;
and their word was not to be trusted.
On reaching the old barbican-wall that surrounds
the lleberville property, the farmer opened a narrow,
massive door, putting the big key back in his pocket
after he and his sons had passed into the orchard.
Here and there stood great trees, stripped by the
autumn winds, and clumps of pines, the last survivors
of the ancient park now covered by old Ooussot's
One of the sons said:
"I hope mother has lit a log or two."
"There's smoke coming from the chimney," said
The out-houses and the homestead showed at the
end of a lawn; and, above them, the village church,
whose steeple seemed to prick the clouds that trailed
along the sky.
"All the guns unloaded?" asked old Ooussot.
"Mine is n't/' said the eldest. "I slipped in a bullet,
to shoot at a kestrel."
He was the one who was proudest of his skill. And
he said to his brothers:
"Look at that bough, at the top of the cherry tree.
See me snap it off."
On the bough sat a scarecrow, that had been there
since spring, and that protected the leafless branches
with its crazy arms. <
He raised his gun and fired.
The figure came tumbling down with large, comic
gestures and was caught on a big lower branch. There
it remained, lying stiffly on its stomach, with a great
top hat on its head of rags and its bay-stuffed legs
swaying from right to left above some water that
flowed past the cherry tree through a wooden trough.
They all laughed. The father approved:
"A fine shot, my lad. Besides, the old boy was
beginning to annoy me. I could n't take my eyes
from my plate at meals without catching sight of
They went a few steps farther. They were not more
Vty yards from the house, when the father
uiddenly and said:
ns also had stopped, and stood listening,
Is like moans from the linen
. And Mother 's alone!"
Suddenly a frightful scream rang
out. All five rushed forward. There
was another scream, followed by
cries of despair.
"We're here! We're coming!"
shouted the eldest sou.
As it was a roundabout way to
the door, he smashed in a window
with his fist and sprang into the bed
room. The room next to it was the
linen-room, in which Mother Ooussot
spent most of her time.
"Good Lord!" he cried, seeing her
lying on the floor, with blood all over
her face. "Dad! Dad!"
"What? Where is she?" roared
old Goussot, appearing on the scene.
"What have they done to you,
"Run after him! . . . This way!
. . . This way! . . . 1 _n all right
. . . only a scratch or two . . . But
run, you! He 's taken the money."
she stammered. ■
"He 's taken the money!" bellowed
old Goussot, rushing to the door to
which his wife was pointing. "He 's
THE SEMI-MONTHLY MAGAZINE SECTION
taken the money! Stop thief!" he yelled once more.
His sons followed him, and a mad steeple-chase
shook every lloor in the house. Suddenly, Farmer
Ooussot. on reaching the end of the passage, caught
sight of a man standing by the front door, trying to
open it. If he succeeded, it meant his safety, his es
cape through the market-square and the back lanes
Interrupted as he was fumbling at the bolts, the
man lost his head, charged at old Ooussot and sent
him spinning, dodged the eldest brother and, purified
by the four sons, doubled back down the long passage,
ran into the bedroom, flung his legs through the
broken window and disappeared.
The sons rushed after him across
the lawns and orchards, now dark
ened by the falling night.
"The villain 's done for," chuck
led old Ooussot ''There 's no wiv
The two farm-hands returned, at
that moment, from the village; and
he told them what had happened
and gave each of them a gun:
"If the rat shows his nose any
where near the house," he said, "let
fly at him. Give him no mercy!"
He told them where to stand,
went to make sure that the farm
gates, which were only used for
the carts, were locked; and, not till
then, remembered that his wife
might perhaps be in need of aid:
"Well, Mother, how goes it?"
"Where is he? Have you got
him?" she demanded.
"Yes, we're after him. The lads must have col
lared him by now."
The news quite restored her; and a nip of rum
gave her the strength to drag herself to the bed, with
old Ooussot's assistance, and to tell her story. For
that matter, there was not much to tell. She had just
lighted the fire in the living-hall; and she was knit
ting quietly at her bedroom window, waiting for the
men to return, when she thought that she heard a
slight grating sound in the linen-room next door.
"I must have left the cat in there," she said to
She went in, suspecting nothing, and was aston
ished to see the two doors of one of the linen-cup
boards, the one in which they hid their money, wide
open. She walked up to it, still without suspicion.
There was a man there, hiding, with his back to the
"I'm all right ... But run .. . He's taken the money." the stammered
"And then, did he go for you!" asked old Ooussot.
"No, 1 went for him. He tried to get away.
"You should have let him." £
"Why, what about Ihe money.'" f
"Had he taken it by then/"
"Had he taken it! I saw the bundle ol bank notes
in his hands. I would have let him kill me sooner. . .
Oh, we had a sharp tussle. I give you my word.
"Then, he had no weapon .'"
"No more than I did. We had our lingers, our
nails and our teeth. Look here, where he bit me. And
I yelled and screamed* Only, I'm an old woman.
you see. . . I had to let go of him. . ."
"Do you know the man?"
"I'm pretty sure it was old Traiuard."
"The tramp ! Why, of course, it '■ old Tlaiuard."
cried the farmer. "I thought I knew him, too. . .
Besides, he's been hanging round the house these last
three days. The old vagabond must have smelt the
money. Aha, Traiuard, my man. we shall see some
fun!* A number-one beating in the first place, and
then the police. . . I say, Mother, you can get up
now, can't you? Then go ami fetch the neighbors. . .
Ask them to run for the gendarmes. . . Look here,
the attorney's youngster has a bicycle. . . How that
Nodded over a decanter of
old Traiuard van
ished! He's got
good legs for his
age, he has. He can
run like a hare!"
Ooussot was hold
ing his sides, reveling
in the occurrence. He risked nothing by waiting. No
power on earth could help the tramp escape or i&VS
him from the sound thrashing thai he had earned.
Presently, however, one of the sous returned, look
ing rather discouraged, ami made no secret of his
"It's no use keeping on at it, for the present. It *s
pitch dark. The old chap must have crept into some
hole. We '11 hunt him out tomorrow."
The eldest son now appeared, quite out of breath,
and was of the same opinion as his brother. Why
not wait till the next day. seeing that
the thief was as safe within the
"Well, 1 '11 go myself," cried old
Ooussot. "Light me a lantern, some
Hut, at that moment, three gen
darmes arrived; and a number of vil
lage lade also earns up to hear the
The sergeant of gendarmes was a
man of method. He first insisted on
hearing the whole story, in full de
tail; then, he stopped to think; then,
he questioned the four brothers, sep-y«|
a lately, and took his time for reflec
tion after each deposition. When he
was told that the tramp had fled to
ward the back of the estate, that he
had been lost sight of repeatedly and
that he had finally disappeared near
a place known as the Crows' Knoll,
he thought once more and announced
"Better wait. That old Trainard
might slip through our hands, amidst
all the confusion of a pursuit, in the
dark; and then, good-night, every