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Cherchez la Femme
by [?]

Robbins, reporter for the /Picayune/, and Dumars, of /L’Abeille/–the old French newspaper that has buzzed for nearly a century–were good friends, well proven by years of ups and downs together. They were seated where they had a habit of meeting–in the little, Creole- haunted cafe of Madame Tibault, in Dumaine Street. If you know the place, you will experience a thrill of pleasure in recalling it to mind. It is small and dark, with six little polished tables, at which you may sit and drink the best coffee in New Orleans, and concoctions of absinthe equal to Sazerac’s best. Madame Tibault, fat and indulgent, presides at the desk, and takes your money. Nicolette and Meme, madame’s nieces, in charming bib aprons, bring the desirable beverages.

Dumars, with true Creole luxury, was sipping his absinthe, with half- closed eyes, in a whirl of cigarette smoke. Robbins was looking over the morning /Pic./, detecting, as young reporters will, the gross blunders in the make-up, and the envious blue-pencilling his own stuff had received. This item, in the advertising columns, caught his eye, and with an exclamation of sudden interest he read it aloud to his friend.

Public Auction.–At three o’clock this afternoon there will be
sold to the highest bidder all the common property of the Little
Sisters of Samaria, at the home of the Sisterhood, in Bonhomme
Street. The sale will dispose of the building, ground, and the
complete furnishings of the house and chapel, without reserve.

This notice stirred the two friends to a reminiscent talk concerning an episode in their journalistic career that had occurred about two years before. They recalled the incidents, went over the old theories, and discussed it anew from the different perspective time had brought.

There were no other customers in the cafe. Madame’s fine ear had caught the line of their talk, and she came over to their table–for had it not been her lost money–her vanished twenty thousand dollars– that had set the whole matter going?

The three took up the long-abandoned mystery, threshing over the old, dry chaff of it. It was in the chapel of this house of the Little Sisters of Samaria that Robbins and Dumars had stood during that eager, fruitless news search of theirs, and looked upon the gilded statue of the Virgin.

“Thass so, boys,” said madame, summing up. “Thass ver’ wicked man, M’sieur Morin. Everybody shall be cert’ he steal those money I plaze in his hand for keep safe. Yes. He’s boun’ spend that money, somehow.” Madame turned a broad and contemplative smile upon Dumars. “I ond’stand you, M’sieur Dumars, those day you come ask fo’ tell ev’ything I know ’bout M’sieur Morin. Ah! yes, I know most time when those men lose money you say ‘/Cherchez la femme/’–there is somewhere the woman. But not for M’sieur Morin. No, boys. Before he shall die, he is like one saint. You might’s well, M’sieur Dumars, go try find those money in the statue of Virgin Mary that M’sieur Morin present at those /p’tite soeurs/, as try find one /femme/.”

At Madame Tibault’s last words, Robbins started slightly and cast a keen, sidelong glance at Dumars. The Creole sat, unmoved, dreamily watching the spirals of his cigarette smoke.

It was then nine o’clock in the morning and, a few minutes later, the two friends separated, going different ways to their day’s duties. And now follows the brief story of Madame Tibault’s vanished thousands:

* * * * *

New Orleans will readily recall to mind the circumstances attendant upon the death of Mr. Gaspard Morin, in that city. Mr. Morin was an artistic goldsmith and jeweller in the old French Quarter, and a man held in the highest esteem. He belonged to one of the oldest French families, and was of some distinction as an antiquary and historian. He was a bachelor, about fifty years of age. He lived in quiet comfort, at one of those rare old hostelries in Royal Street. He was found in his rooms, one morning, dead from unknown causes.