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Page:Gaston Leroux--The man with the black feather.djvu/13

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HISTORICAL PREFACE

THE SANDALWOOD BOX

One evening last year I perceived in the waiting-room of my newspaper, Le Matin, a man dressed in black, his face heavy with the darkest despair, whose dry, dead eyes seemed to receive the images of things like unmoving mirrors.

He was seated; and there rested on his knees a sandalwood box inlaid with polished steel. An office-boy told me that he had sat there motionless, silent, awaiting my coming, for three mortal hours.

I invited this figure of despair into my office and offered him a chair. He did not take it; he walked straight to my desk, and set down on it the sandalwood box.

Then he said to me in an expressionless, far-away voice: "Monsieur, this box is yours. My friend, M. Theophrastus Longuet, charged me to bring it to you."

He bowed and was going to the door, when I stopped him.