|About the Book|
An excerpt:Fantômas.What did you say?I said: Fantômas.And what does that mean?Nothing.... Everything!But what is it?Nobody.... And yet, yes, it is somebody!And what does the somebody do?Spreads terror!Dinner was justMoreAn excerpt:Fantômas.What did you say?I said: Fantômas.And what does that mean?Nothing.... Everything!But what is it?Nobody.... And yet, yes, it is somebody!And what does the somebody do?Spreads terror!Dinner was just over, and the company were moving into the drawing-room.Hurrying to the fireplace, the Marquise de Langrune took a large log from a basket and flung it on to the glowing embers on the hearth- the log crackled and shed a brilliant light over the whole room- the guests of the Marquise instinctively drew near to the fire.On this particular winter evening the good ladys guests included several habitués: President Bonnet, a retired magistrate who had withdrawn to his small property at Saint-Jaury, in the suburbs of Brives, and the Abbé Sicot, who was the parish priest. A more occasional friend was also there, the Baronne de Vibray, a young and wealthy widow, a typical woman of the world who spent the greater part of her life either in motoring, or in the most exclusive drawing-rooms of Paris, or at the most fashionable watering-places. But when the Baronne de Vibray put herself out to grass, as she racily phrased it, and spent a few weeks at Querelles, her estate close to the château of Beaulieu, nothing pleased her better than to take her place again in the delightful company of the Marquise de Langrune and her friends.Finally, youth was represented by Charles Rambert, who had arrived at the château a couple of days before, a charming lad of about eighteen who was treated with warm affection by the Marquise and by Thérèse Auvernois, the granddaughter of the Marquise, with whom since her parents death she had lived as a daughter.The odd and even mysterious words spoken by President Bonnet as they were leaving the table, and the personality of this Fantômas about which he had said nothing definite in spite of all the questions put to him, had excited the curiosity of the company, and while Thérèse Auvernois was gracefully dispensing the coffee to her grandmothers guests the questions were renewed with greater insistence. Crowding round the fire, for the evening was very cold, Mme. de Langrunes friends showered fresh questions upon the old magistrate, who secretly enjoyed the interest he had inspired. He cast a solemn eye upon the circle of his audience and prolonged his silence, the more to capture their attention. At length he began to speak.Statistics tell us, ladies, that of all the deaths that are registered every day quite a third are due to crime. You are no doubt aware that the police discover about half of the crimes that are committed, and that barely half meet with the penalty of justice. This explains how it is that so many mysteries are never cleared up, and why there are so many mistakes and inconsistencies in judicial investigations.What is the conclusion you wish to draw? the Marquise de Langrune enquired with interest.This, the magistrate proceeded: although many crimes pass unsuspected it is none the less obvious that they have been committed- now while some of them are due to ordinary criminals, others are the work of enigmatical beings who are difficult to trace and too clever or intelligent to let themselves be caught. History is full of stories of such mysterious characters, the Iron Mask, for instance, and Cagliostro.