Read CHAPTER XXIV - “V-E-N-G-E-N-C-E” of The Sins of Severac Bablon , free online book, by Sax Rohmer, on ReadCentral.com.

At half-past seven on the morning following M. Levi’s visit the Count de Guise opened the door of 59b Bedford Court Mansions to that eccentric old art expert.  M. Levi was accompanied by his partner, a tall, heavily bearded man, who looked like a Russian, and by two other strangers, one an alert-eyed, clean-shaven person in a tweed suit, the other a younger man, evidently Scotch, who carried a little brown bag.  These two would commence an inventory, m’sieur being agreeable.

Entering the dining-room, with its massive old oak furniture, de Guise, who found something uncomfortably fascinating in the eye of the partner, lighted a cigarette and took up a position on the rug before the fire, hands characteristically locked behind him.

“This is the Greuze,” said Dr. Lepardo, pointing.

The Count, with the others, turned to look at the picture.

Click!  Click!

He was securely handcuffed.

With an animal scream of rage the Count turned upon Lepardo, the vein throbbing on his temple, his eyes glaring in maniacal fury.  He sought to speak, but only a slight froth rose to his lips; no word could he utter.

“Sit down in that chair,” said Dr Lepardo.

With a gurgling scream de Guise’s fury found utterance.

“Release me immediately.  What

"Sit down!"

De Guise ground his white teeth together.  The pulsing vein on his brow seemed like to burst.  He dropped into a chair, trembling and quivering with passionate anger.

“You-shall-pay for-this!”

“My friend,” said Lepardo, turning to the man who had carried the bag, “this gentleman”-nodding at his companion in the tweed suit-“would like to hear who you are, and for what you visited Moorgate Place last evening.”

“I am Lawrence Guthrie,” explained the young man, “and yesterday, much against my inclinations, but to prevent Graham’s exposing the state of my affairs to my father, I was forced to leave with him, as security for fifty pounds, a Turkish yataghan worth considerably more.”

“Stop!  When I came to your Bart’s last night, what did I tell you?”

“That Graham had been murdered with my yataghan.”

“Well?”

“You said that the crime looked like the work of an old hand‚ for the murderer had worn gloves.  You told me that you had recognised‚ in one of the victim’s most important creditors‚ a notorious French criminal‚ Andre Legun

The Count, deathly pale, his throbbing forehead wet as if douched, drew a long, hissing breath.  His eyes stared glassily at Dr. Lepardo.

“By what means?”

“By certain facial peculiarities.”

“Rule 85.”

“And particularly by a vein in his left temple‚ only visible when he was roused.  You had secured‚ by a trick

“Article Six.”

“An imprint of his thumb upon a cheque.  This you had compared with certain in your possession-and forwarded to Paris.”

“Unnecessary, but a usual form.”

“You had secured from the grate in his study a pocketful of ash, some scraps of torn leather-bloodstained-and some few other fragments.  These you and I spent the night examining and arranging.  Amongst the ashes was a patent glove button, also bloodstained.”

“What have I yet to find?”

“A pair of boots.”

“I depart to find them.”

Dr. Lepardo quitted the room.  Count de Guise followed him with his eyes until he had disappeared.  No one spoke nor stirred until the brown old doctor returned, carrying a pair of glace kid boots.

He placed them on the table beside the bag and pointed a long finger at a gap in one row of buttons.

“Scotland Yard can complete the set, Andre,” he said with grim humour.  “In this bag are the results of our examination.  In your grate are more ashes and fragments for the English Home Office to check us by.  In this bag is a complete account of how you came to Moorgate Place, knocked at Gottschalk’s door and were admitted.  I do not know how you had meant to kill him, but the yataghan, left on his table by Mr. Guthrie, was tempting, eh?  You then commenced to collect certain letters and papers, Andre.  You tore from his private book the page containing your little account.  Then you tore out others, to blind us all.  You had begun upon the letter files when you were interrupted by one entering with a key.  That was fortunate.  It was file G you had commenced upon, Andre.  And one of the torn pages was G. So I knew that you were a G, too, my friend.  With what you took from the safe and with the letters and other papers, you slipped down the back stair you knew of into Copthall Avenue.  By my great good luck, and not by my skill, I get upon your trail.  But by my skill I trap you.”

The prisoner, whose handsome face now had assumed a leaden hue, whose eyes were set in a fixed stare of horror and hatred, spoke slowly, clearly.

“You talk nonsense.  You taunt me, to drive me mad.  I ask you-who are you?  You are not Levi, you are some spy.”

Dr. Lepardo, or M. Isidor Levi, removed a grey wig and a pair of spectacles and seemed by some relaxation of the facial muscles, to melt out of existence, leaving in his place a heavy-eyed man, with stained skin and thin, straggling hair.

De Guise, as though an unseen hand pushed him, stepped back-and back-and back-until a heavy oak chair prevented further retreat.  There-like a mined fortress, hitherto staunch, defiant-he seemed to crumble up.

“The good God!” he whispered.  “It is Victor Lemage!”

“Andre Legun-Chevalier d’Oysan-Comte de Guise,” said the famous criminologist, “Paris wants you, but London now has a better claim.  So, when I have stolen back my cheque from your pocket-book, I hand you over to London.”

With the bravado of the true French criminal, Legun forced a smile to his lips.

“It is finished, Victor,” he said, dropping his affected manner and speaking with an exaggerated low Paris accent.  “I am glad it was you, and not some stupid policeman of England who took me.  Well, who cares?  I have had a short life but a merry one.  You know, Victor, that my misfortune in being the son of an aristocrat has pursued me always.  I have such refined tastes, and such a skill with the cards.  You recall the little house near the fortifications?  But the inevitable run of bad luck came.  One question.  Why”-he glanced at the Russian-looking man with something like fear creeping again into his bold eyes-“why do you hunt me down?”

The black beard and moustache were pulled off in a second by their wearer, revealing a face of severely classic beauty.  Lawrence Guthrie stared hard.

“Mr. Guthrie,” said the whilom Russian, “behold me at your mercy.  You know me innocent of one, at least, of the sins ascribed to me.  I am Severac Bablon.”

Guthrie hesitated for one tremendous moment; he looked from the handsome face of the most notorious man in Europe to that of his companion who wore the tweed suit, and whom he knew to be H. T. Sheard, the well-known member of the Gleaner staff.  His decision was made.  He stretched out his hand and took that of Severac Bablon.

“You ask,” said the latter sternly to Legun, “why we have hunted you down.  I answer-first, in the sacred interest of Justice; second, because you imputed your vile crime to me.”

“What!  To you?  No! never!”

Victor Lemage’s eyelids lifted quickly.

“Spell vengeance.”

“V-e-n-g-e-a-n-c-e.”

“My friends,” said Lemage, reaching for the wide-brimmed hat of Dr. Lepardo, “I all but have spoiled this, my greatest case, by a stupid blunder.  I have an early call to make.  Advance your packing in my absence.  I shall shortly return.”

And so it happened that Mr. Julius Rohscheimer, in Park Lane, was just arising when his man brought him a card: 

    Detective-Inspector Sheffield
    C.I.D.,
    New Scotland Yard.

Rohscheimer, who looked as though he had spent a poor night, ordered that Inspector Sheffield be shown up without delay.  Immediately afterwards there came in a tall, black-bearded man, wearing blue spectacles, an old rain-coat, and a dilapidated silk hat.  The drive, though short, had been long enough to enable Victor Lemage, secure from observation behind the drawn blinds of Severac Bablon’s big car, to merge his personality into that of another man, distinct from Dr. Lepardo-unlike M. Levi.

“Who are you?” blustered Rohscheimer, changing colour, and drawing a brilliant dressing-gown more closely about him.  “Who the blazes are you?”

Ssh! I am Inspector Sheffield-disguised.  You will excuse me if, even here, I continue to impersonate an eccentric French character.  You place yourself within the reach of the law, my friend.  You lay yourself open to the suspicion of murder.”

Julius Rohscheimer swallowed noisily.  His flabby face assumed a dingy hue; his eyes protruded to an unpleasant degree.

“Here, upon this, my card, write the words, ‘Vengeance is mine.’”

Rohscheimer rose unsteadily; his puffy hands groped as if, feeling himself slipping, he sought for something to lay hold upon.

“I swear

“Write!”

Rohscheimer shakily wrote the words, “Vengence is mine.

“No ‘a,’” cried Lemage triumphantly, “no ‘a’!  Of all the stupid pigs I am he.  But I had not given you the credit of such nerve, M. Rohscheimer.  I had forgotten how once you lived the rough life in South Africa.  It is so?  I did not think you had the courage to write-though wobbly-those lying words in presence of the dead Gottschalk.  Why did you do it, you bad, foolish fellow?  The yataghan already was stuck in the desk, eh?  That Legun is a fury when the blood thirst is upon him, when the big vein throb.  And you saw the blank paper?  Yes?  Or you feared that you-you-the mighty Julius might be suspect?  Yes, a little?  Principally you hope that this will spur the police and that he will hang.  You prefer that the real one-who slays your partner-shall go free, if he can be blackened.  You throw sand in the eye of Justice, eh?  Well-you have influence; you shall use it to get yourself made Scotch-free.  Very good.  You will now write in a few words how all this is.  That or-I have men outside.  It is a public removal to-Good, you will write.”

At about that hour when, at thousands of breakfast tables, horrified readers learned that Severac Bablon’s Arabs had committed a ghastly crime in Moorgate Street, a cart drove up to New Scotland Yard, and two green-aproned individuals both of whom would have been improved artistically by a clean shave, dragged a heavy packing-case into the office, said it contained curiosities from Bedford Court Mansions and was for Inspector Sheffield.

When, half an hour later, the unwieldy box had been opened, out glared a bound and gagged man, upon whose left temple there pulsed and throbbed a dark blue vein!

Detailed evidence proving that this was the murderer of Gottschalk, his record, his measurements, his thumb-prints, his boots, a number of tubes containing scraps of stained leather, a number containing ashes, and all neatly labelled together with a written confession, signed “Julius Rohscheimer,” to the authorship of the words “Vengeance is mine” were also in this box.  Finally, there was the following note: 

     “DEAR INSPECTOR SHEFFIELD,

“I enclose herewith Andre Legun, the man who murdered Paul Gottschalk, together with sufficient evidence to ensure a conviction, and completely to exculpate myself.  I claim no credit.  We both are indebted to M. Victor Lemage, who not only has surpassed his own brilliant records in the conduct of this case, but who kindly assisted me to carry the result of his labours into the office at New Scotland Yard.  We both regretted our inability to see you personally.

     “SEVERAC BABLON.”